Monday, December 29, 2008

I Got Somethin' ...

The title of my last post was I Got Nothin'. At the end of it, I mentioned that I was going to see Jenniffer Weigel's one-woman show on Sunday and mused that maybe I'd have something to say after that. Well ... grab a beverage. And a snack, maybe. And while you're up, grabbing a blanket and a pillow probably wouldn't be such a bad idea, either. I wrote what follows about 2:45 a.m. on Doreen's couch. Let's amuse ourselves, shall we, at what passes for writing from me in the middle of the night.

This blog post woke me up.

I am a newly minted insomniac. I am also crashing on Doreen's couch tonight and I never sleep well when I'm not at home. I was going to bring my laptop. But I didn't. But I now realize how much I need a keyboard available to me. I am writing this – gasp! – longhand. In a small black notebook that I keep in my purse.

So, as I was saying, this blog post woke me up. I looked at my phone – 2:43 a.m. – and tried to go back to sleep, but this blog post kept coming through, one potential lede after another. Writers write, it turns out, even when there's nothing on which to write at hand.

So I gave in after many minutes of mulling, after trying to Zen out my mind, after thinking this thought: "Thank you in advance for allowing me to sleep for several more hours." Keep reading. You'll understand.

Sunday afternoon, Doreen and Angela and I went to see "I'm Spiritual, Dammit!", Jenniffer Weigel's one-woman show based on her book Stay Tuned: Conversations with Dad from the Other Side.

A brief bit of background for those of you who hail from someplace other than Chicago: Jen is the third generation of broadcasting Weigels. Her grandfather founded Channel 26 – Weigel Broadcasting – and her dad, Tim, was a sportscaster in town for as long as I can remember.

Tim died, too young, seven years ago after battling a brain tumor. When he died, I remember thinking about my fried Rick. Tim and Rick were close, and I was sad that Rick had lost another friend. Gene Siskel had died a couple of years prior to Tim, Mike Royko a couple of years prior to Gene. It seemed like Rick was always saying goodbye to someone dear. While I'd seen Jen on TV, I didn't think about her losing her dad as much as Rick losing a friend. I knew Rick. I didn't know Jen.

Last year, she published Stay Tuned. Doreen told me about it. I added it to my never-ending list of books to get around to reading someday.

Many months of somedays later, the book still on the list, Doreen forwarded an e-mail about Jen's show with the following note added to the top:

"OMG - do you want to go with me????"

Doreen loves punctuation. And she is one of my close friends because we share an appreciation – a respect for, a belief in – the realm of "other," "woo-woo," if you will.

Some people are very five-sensory. In their view, if they can't see it, hear it, touch it, taste it, or feel it, it doesn't exist. And some people are like me and Doreen. And Angela.

Here's my take on all things metaphysical: Everything is energy, energy that exists at different frequencies. Some of us are able to tune in to some frequencies that other cannot. Maybe some people don't believe in anything outside the physical realm. Maybe some people don't know those frequencies exist. But they do.

The next time you run across a channel that's fuzzy with static, move around the TV. The picture will change relative to your position to the set. We're all antennas that way. And some of us are antennas for other signals, as well.

As part of my recent commitment to follow whatever paths the universe places in front of me, I instantly agreed to go with Doreen to see Jen's show. And then Sunday rolled around, and for a moment, I thought about not going. But then my brain gave me a little shove and told me, "Beth, you need to see this. There's a message waiting for you."

And so I went.

"I'm Spiritual, Dammit!" is being staged at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Jen's show takes place in an intimate space. I was happy it was so full on the Sunday afternoon after Christmas when many people were clogging airports and roads, not taking in theater.

She stepped through the darkened space and took the stage. As she spoke, I marveled at her ability to remember her lines. I know that they're all her stories, but they're stories performed in a particular order, in a particular way.

Now, those of you who know me know: I am a sap. As Jude Law says in "The Holiday," "I am a major weeper." There were many weep-worthy moments in Jen's show. She, however, to my great amazement, kept it together. Not only did she remember her monologue, she delivered it with the perfect blend of the personal and the professional. Her eyes welled up but she kept going. And her pacing never let things get maudlin.

She was, after all, talking about her father. But she was also talking about the man most of us knew for his jovial delivery and, um, unconventional taste in jackets and ties. Her show has a lot of laughs. And I love her "mom" voice, the sing-songy, syrupy-smooth, "Hi, honey, it's mom ... . Love you. So proud of you."

As for the message that was waiting for me? There were two. The macro-message: I am not alone in this quest. Jen and I are on similar paths. We don't have identical backgrounds, but we share a media bent. We're about the same age. And we both want to forge our own independent futures, but we're both prone to succumbing to the safety of "real jobs." The micro-message: I need to believe in who I am and what I want. Others can offer perspectives and advice, but none of it will matter or affect me until I can embrace my truth myself. Oh, and I need to figure out what I want. That's first.

After the show, after the lights came up, after she discovered that a good part of the crowd was part of her stepfamily, Doreen introduced herself (she and Jen had been trading e-mails) and then introduced Angela, with whom Jen chatted for a moment, and then me. Annnnnd cue the weeping. Oprah calls it "the ugly cry," that moment when your face crumples and any composure you had whooshes right out the door. I suspect Jen sees that fairly often. She was very sweet. "Have you experienced a loss?" she asked, kindly. I tried to talk. I managed to get out, "I'll e-mail you."

I bought a book. She signed it and included her e-mail address. As we left, I told her that a friend of mine died a few years ago but that he'd recently started communicating with me. Which shouldn't make me weepy. I think it's cool that I can chat with Charles. But I'd just been telling Angela about Alex. Alex, one of Charles' daughters, told me recently that she'd been missing her dad terribly, more than usual, and that she'd said, "Dad, can you send me a sign that you still love me?" And that was the same weekend that Charles and I had our first chat. I turned out to be her sign. Her dad's messenger.

Jen talks about James Van Praagh in her show a lot, how he told her that those on the other side communicate with us in many ways. The signs are all around us. It's up to us to recognize them.

Though that left me to wonder all over again: If they're with us all the time, are they with us all the time? Is Charles there when I go on a date? Not that it's of great concern to me, as I go on a date about as often as I vote for president, but well, don't you sometimes wonder if someone's watching?

I do.

Jen's show runs through February 1, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $25. Call the CCPA box office at (312) 733-6000 or click here to buy tickets online. I'm posting this link to my Twitter and Facebook pages. Please Tweet it or share the URL with anyone who might be interested in her show. It's absolutely time well-spent.

Once I stopped writing this post, I started reading her book. Jen and I also share a writing style, very conversational. As I was reading, I was thinking about the book's core question – "What happens to us when we die?" And then I thought to myself, in terms of appeal, "This book should be as big as Jeff's book
[The Last Lecture]" just as my eyes fell on Jen's birthday: October 6. The same day as Jeff's.

Oh, one last thing: In her show, Jen talks about shifting our thinking from what we want and need – what we lack – to thanking the universe in advance for what we have, even before we have it. Parking became her experiment. In her car, she would say, "Thank you in advance for the parking spot exactly where I need it." The first time she tried it, it worked. The second time, ditto. Third, fourth, fifth. She kept a tally on a piece of paper in her car. I won't tell you what number she hit before she stopped counting – go to the show to find out – but this morning, as I left Doreen's to make a cookie delivery, I said, "Thank you in advance for the parking spot right in front of Kurtis Productions." Then I realized that I didn't specify which spot I wanted, but I really wanted the end spot right across the street from the building. So I held that thought, turned the corner, and, well, I don't have to tell you that my spot was waiting.


Blogger Doreen said...

it wasn't THAT long, unless of course I am a speed reader - LOL.

Really people - the book and the show are both ...

Need to separate them - the book is a primer for non-believers from a journalist (prove it to me) point of view.

The show takes some stories from the book and adds a little embellishment. BUT - to hear her voice telling the stories really drives home the sincerity of it all for her ... and ME!

4:36 PM  

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