When I was a wee lass, I would look forward to the day that my fresh new Highlights magazine would arrive in the mail. Highlights was always the gift of choice from an Aunt until I became too old for Highlights and she instead started sending me $5 gift certificate books from McDonald's. I don't even remember the last time I spoke with my Aunt, but I'm sure that whenever that was I wasn't fond of it because the conversation most likely would've been about "how no man would fall in love with me because of my posture" or "how my Mom was going to go to hell because she was a baby killer" which translates to "pro-choice" in the Aunt's mind.
But man oh man. Did I ever love the Highlights magazine. Glossy cover of some grand environment: a fair on a river bend, a circus in a tulip field, a space ship landing on a planet made of gum drops and peppermints. My heart would jump with joy when I saw its head poking out of the mail box. My semi-small hands would swiftly grab the periodical of fun from its temporary abode and rush to the back bathroom where I would lock the door and sit on the toilet to read..... a ritual that is still performed today when a Newsweek or fascinating piece of junk mail arrives.
First, I would peruse the craft section to see what sort of wacky inventions they would propose to my young mind: Bird cages made out of old milk cartons, pine cones smeared with peanut butter and puffed rice for squirrel-watching bait, evolved paper towel rolls that served as telescopes. When that was done I would then turn the pages to reach the joke section and always sigh after reading the lame jokes that were sent in by Mitch Peterson, Age 8 or Samantha Holkinebobski, Age 11. Apparently, Mitch and Samantha had never learned that a good joke must contain one of the following words to appeal to the young reading audience: "boob," "poots," "air biscuit," "virgin," or "heck." After the let down of the joke section, I would flip to the Hidden-Picture-In-A-Picture section and try my damdest to find an umbrella or a spoon that was interlaced in a fucking awesome pen sketch of a magical forrest where two elves were having tea on toadstools. But those damn Hidden-Picture things were so fucking hard and I would usually give up within two minutes of beginning my search. (Which explains my never volunteering for any sort of search team. 1) I've never been asked to be on a search team. 2) I'll give up and predict that whomever I'm searching for is most likely laying naked and dead in a ditch somewhere. 3) I'll forget what I'm supposed to be looking for and start trying to find spoons and umbrellas.)
Then, I would read the Goofus and Gallant comic. Jesus Christ on a stick, I loved Goofus and Gallant. Goofus, with his rebel bangs and sly smirk. Gallant with his proper sweater vests and helpful, pursed smile. They seemed to live in some sort of parallel universe; totally unaware that somewhere out there there was someone else in the EXACT situation that was making an opposite choice and dealing with the consequences in their own fashion. I secretly liked Goofus more than Gallant. I thought he was much cuter and always sympathized with his predicaments. I always figured that if I ever met Goofus in real life, he would fall in love with me and I would be able to change him.
But, alas, he was only a cartoon character and the day of a chance meeting would never find its way into my calendar.
Since then, however, I've always had this feeling in the back of my mind that there's another LadeeLeroy out there in some parallel universe. She's in the exact same situations I'm in and she's making the opposite choices that I make. I often wonder how Parallel Universe LadeeLeroy is doing. Part of me bets that she's fucking sitting on a mountain made of money and praise while the other part of me knows she's most likely just sitting on a plastic patio chair she found in a dump and now calls it "Home."
There are times in my life that I ask myself, "Am I being a Goofus or a Gallant?" In other words, "Am I being a Complete Bitch With Awesome Hair or am I Treating People The Way They Should Be Treated?" Last night was one of those times where I drove away thinking that I might have treated a situation in a Goofus sort of way when a Gallant sort of way would have been better.
Let's put this in Goofus and Gallant's universe shall we?
Goofus and Gallant are in a show. They both love doing theater and enjoy performing on the stage. Great people perform on this stage with Goofus and Gallant. The blocking is unlike anything Goofus and Gallant have experienced. All around it has been a new and different type of challenge for both Goofus and Gallant.
Every night, Gallant goes home and falls fast asleep knowing that he has done his best in interpretting his character. He is aware that he still needs to make discoveries throughout the run of the play, but overall, he's pleased as punch with his performance.
Goofus, on the other hand, comes home and pops open a beer. As he turns on the television he sips at the bottle, not paying attention to whatever is on the screen. Goofus feels like shit. Goofus knows that he's missing something in his performance but he doesn't know what the hell it might be. Goofus finishes that beer and leaves the bottle on the coffeetable without a coaster as he gets up to get another beer. He sits down with his shoes on the couch and looks up at the ceiling and wonders what the hell he can do to feel better about his character. Maybe if he tries harder to be in the character's metaphoric shoes and feel what that character feels he'll be able to figure out what sort of connections he's supposed to make. Goofus passes out on the couch and spills beer all over his mother's throw pillows.
Oh! It's the next day of the show. Gallant is busy performing on stage. He's not worried in the least, for he has memorized his blocking and has all of his lines and delivery down pat. Every gesture occurs on cue, every dramatic moment is executed perfectly. Gallant isn't even aware of his technique because performing is second nature to him and he gladly takes his bow at the end in a polite matter.
Uh-oh. Goofus is now on stage. Goofus is doing something that the director has not told him to do. He's taking his time with his delivery and waiting for the synapsis in his brain to identify all the situations that his character encounters. What is Goofus doing? Is Goofus actually trying to be realistic in this play? Is he trying to actually feel? Oh, Goofus, you know that's not what you're supposed to do. Just memorize your lines and your blocking and do it the same every single night without question. Don't do this new approach in the middle of the play, that's not the proper way to be in a show and your director will be upset. But Goofus does it anyway. Goofus tries to figure out what his character needs to do in order to carry out a suicidal fate. Oh! Pauses! Damn you Goofus, don't you know that there's no time for pauses in this play! If pauses were in this play, there'd be an intermission. But there is no intermission in this play Goofus, so fuck your damn feelings and just get the fuck through your lines so everyone can take a bow at the end. When Goofus bows, he feels ashamed for reasons unknown.
Meanwhile, Gallant is backstage greeting his friends and accepting compliments with grace. He makes eye contact with the director and gives a polite nod when she says that everyone needs to stick around for notes.
Goofus, on the other hand, is backstage talking to strangers. Strangers with apples and razor blades in their pockets. The strangers don't say anything to Goofus about his performance and thinks it's because he sucked. Goofus makes eye contact with the director and takes in a breath of nervousness when he finds out that notes are going to be given.
Gallant takes a seat as close to the director as possible. He is eager to find out what the director thinks of his performance. He pulls out his notebook and pen and sits up straight to be in the best listening position possible.
Goofus gets a beer from the concession stand and sits as far away from the director as possible. He doesn't get anything to write with because, even though he feels shitty about his performance, he knows that this director won't give specific notes to that will help him so why even bother.
Gallant is pleased when the director tells him to keep his performance fresh. He writes this note down. He is overcome with happiness when the director points her finger right at him and says, "You need to pick up your cues." This makes Gallant feel appreciated.
Goofus is incredibly put off when the director says that the performance isn't fresh. Goofus knows this is the first thing the director has even said to him in the last week and a half besides required polite "hey there"s. Goofus feels like this director hates him. Goofus feels vibes coming from her every time he gets near her, so he just chooses to stay away. Goofus almost swallows his own tongue when the director points right at him and says, "You need to pick up your cues." Goofus wants to scream and cry at the sametime because he feels like this is the most general, unhelpful note ever. Yes, yes, yes. Goofus did take his time tonight but that was because Goofus was trying to figure out what his character wants and feels on a deeper level. Goofus is so pissed because he's really been trying so very hard to understand and to do a good job and hasn't gotten a single word of praise or encouragement from the director since the show opened and he's really starting to lose it and being pointed at is something Goofus hates. HATES because it brings up deeply buried incidents from the past where he'd been pointed at and it triggers an instant emotional reaction and Goofus tries to take a deep breath but can't and wants to take a swig of beer but can't because his throat is tied up in knots of anger and disappointment and sadness and Goofus raises his hand when the director stops speaking and says, "So.... is that it?" in the most unpolite way and when the director says, "Yes.," Goofus stands up with his cool hair and says as he walks away, "See you guys later."
Gallant leaves the theater feeling refreshed and renewed. He found a rebirth in the director's notes and loves that she kept it general because that means she trusts him enough to find these ways to freshen up his performance on his own. He's also floating on air because the director pointed at him. Him! Out of all the other people that were around him, she chose him to point at because she wanted to let him know that she was thinking about him. Gallant loves to be pointed at. It makes him feel recognized. He fastens his seat belt and drives straight home where he pulls out his script and finds new moments in the dialogue that he had previously never seen.
Goofus walks out the theater door and chunks his beer into the trash can that sits next to a box of recycling. He gets in his car and squeezes his steering wheel as he screams, "What the fuck ever." As he drives away his brain is not focused on the road, but instead is reeling with responses he could have said to the director during notes. Responses like, "Well maybe YOU need to pick up YOUR cues." or "Well maybe YOU need to keep YOUR performance fresh." Goofus gets even angrier because these responses suck. Goofus knows that she's just doing her job. Directors are supposed to give notes. Directors are supposed to be concerned with the play's freshness. Directors are supposed to tell actors when they're not doing well. But Goofus just wants to scream because Goofus has a hard part and is doing the best that Goofus can and Goofus did make some new discoveries last night and was actually pretty damn pleased with these new discoveries. AND GOOFUS IS JUST FUCKING PISSED OFF BECAUSE GOOFUS WANTS TO GET IT RIGHT AND WANTS TO HAVE THAT MOMENT WHERE HE'S ON STAGE AND IN SOME SORT OF VACUUM WHERE EVERYTHING AROUND HIM JUST DISAPPEARS AND THE MOMENT BECOMES CLEAR AND CORRECT AND MEANINGFUL AND ENDORPHINS RUSH TO THE BRAIN BECAUSE OF THIS ARTISTIC ORGASM BECAUSE THAT'S WHY GOOFUS DOES THEATER. But this hasn't occured for him yet and he's slowly giving in to the idea that perhaps this may be the first time where he won't get that sort of rush on stage which makes him feel sort of bad because he loves the people that he's on stage with and he loves the production company he's performing with and he loves this character and he's just fucking frustrated and can't get his mind to shut the hell up.
Gallant takes a hot shower and puts on his fresh pajamas and curls up in bed. He falls asleep and dreams of volunteering in search parties.
Goofus comes home stinking drunk after spending too much time at a bar. Goofus wants to take a hot shower but can't because Goofus' boyfriend forgot to pay the gas bill. Goofus peels his clothes off down to his Victoria's Secret underwear and tries to fall asleep but can't because he's got the spins. Goofus lays drunk and awake and stares up at the moving ceiling. Goofus reflects on the day's events and says to himself, "If I fall asleep that just means I have to face tomorrow." Goofus weighs the points of not falling asleep. Goofus thinks about getting up and forcing himself to puke so that he won't have the spins any more but decides against it when he realizes that he does not want to end this day with puking. "If I don't puke, that will be one good think about tonight." Goofus does not puke. Goofus just falls asleep instead and dreams of nothing.
Gallant wakes up the next morning and takes a jog. He then comes home and eats a complete breakfast. Gallant grabs his "To Do" list and begins on task #1 "Save the world from Evil." He gets on that.
Goofus wakes up the next morning with a hangover. He brushes his teeth without circular motions. He goes to his computer an updates his on line journal because that's just the selfish kind of guy Goofus is.
If you're an actor, you understand this type of situation. You want to be professional and take it all in a professional manner, but at the sametime you're an actor because you have alot emotion in you and sometimes you take things in a personal sort of manner. And that's all it is. Tonight I have a show and I'm going to pick up my cues. I'm going to 'make it fresh' without 'trying anything new that fucks up the performance.' I'm going to be polite and professional and not take it personally.
And then I'll come home and hang my sweater vest up properly on a wooden hanger and look at my "To Do" list.
To Do List:
Item #2: Figure out the formula for a harmonious life.