LITTLE BOXES

The obsessive blog of Jamie Leonhart

“I tweet, therefore I am” April 8, 2009

Filed under: General musing — jamieleonhart @ 7:09 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I’m back with OCD  in tow.  Yes, I’ve been working on “letting go,” “living in the moment,” etc.  But man, it’s hard.   The latest and greatest manifestation of all this is pregnancy.  Yes, for those of you who don’t know, I am almost 7 months and growing.  And it’s awesome.  True definition of awesome. (As in “inspiring awe: an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like.”)  It’s also one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done.

I know that there are many people in the world – maybe even you reading this – who truly “listen” to their bodies.  Tired = sleep, pain = slow down/change position/back up a step, etc.  Then there are the people like me, who can hear what their bodies are saying, and usually choose to ignore the warnings.  But pregnancy has made the selective deafness much more difficult.   So while for the past 6+ months I have tried to do everything that I normally do (except run): teach lessons, play shows, write, audition and work, go to shows, visit friends, etc… I finally realize that I can’t.  For the first time in my life since infancy, I am napping.  With some reluctance, but nonetheless, I am doing it.

So all this brings me to the mantra I would have if I could/would take it in — “slow down” (probably accompanied by “be quiet.”)  And how fewer and fewer people seem doing this.  And I’ve decided that Twitter is a “master player” of this distraction.   Descartes’ famous philosophical statement has been updated to “I tweet, therefore I am.”  We are the trees falling in the forest, and are desperate to be heard.  But what are we saying? Are we creating the written equivalent of white noise?  What would happen if I didn’t know who just had their morning coffee, who has a headache, who just crossed the street…Would I or they be better or worse off for it?

I also find myself judging the “value” of the Twitter.  I want to know about a good show someone’s seeing (and do share that info on my Facebook page) but I don’t care about that coffee or the crossing of the street.  And again, if no one knows about the street crossing or drinking of the coffee, do we still feel like we’ve done it?  Does the value of the act diminish?

You might be asking, “Why then, Jamie, are you blogging?”  And the real answer is that I want to be heard, joined and met AND I feel the need to explain it all in more than a line.   Simple?  Not sure.  Easy.  Not even.  My last blog was August 2008.

So as I slow down in the last few months of my pregnancy, I will write.  I will write complete thoughts.  I will explore ideas.  I will ask for thoughtful feedback.  At least that’s my goal.

xx

 

Cell phones and ipods and bikes, oh my. August 10, 2008

Filed under: General musing — jamieleonhart @ 6:25 pm

I have many things to blog about – some more recent than the topic of this post, but I still come back to this as the most relevant.

A few weeks ago I went for a run, something I do from time to time. My preferred route is to meander through the picturesque streets of the West Village, then to the path/park between the West Side Highway and the river, then eventually home.

I will pause for a disclaimer (though I know many of you shun the practice): I have a Blackberry and I use it. I am not portraying myself as an innocent in this story, more instead as someone whose eyes opened a bit wider on this particular day.

Back to my story: As I ran down the streets, I noticed that just about every other person was either talking on their cell phone or reading/writing a text message. Barely anyone looked at anyone else. It seemed that no one even cared to look at anyone or anything. And it struck me at that moment just how strange/estranged we’ve become.

We leave our home computers for work computers, our home phones (does anyone have one anymore?) for our cell phones, our work computers/phones for our Blackberries and iPhones. We Twitter and chat, we text and blog (guilty again), but do we ever stop? It’s almost as if we don’t/can’t/won’t function without being connected to people who are at a distance, but we no longer effort to engage the people who are right in front of us. Why is this? Is it that we are purposely keeping ourselves distant while keeping up appearances of being open and accessible, or is it that we no longer can discern the difference?

Running through the streets on that day, without my trusty Crackberry, I felt the lonely distance between myself and the others on the street to the marrow of my bone. I felt the frustration of saying “excuse me” every 20 paces as I navigated through the unseeing crowd. And I know, at times, that I am one of “them.” And that makes me feel sad.

E.B. White wrote “Here is New York” in 1949. In it he writes about the majesty and mystery of this city and of how it is a place where you can be both lost and found. He writes about the random connections, the energetic spasms, the irrepressible desire that the city stirs. He writes, “New York is the concentrate of art and commerce and sport and religion and entertainment and finance, bringing to a single compact arena the gladiator, the evangelist, the promoter, the actor, the trader and the merchant. It carries on its lapel the expungeable odor of the long past, so that no matter where you sit in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds, of queer people and events and undertakings.”

We, “connected” in this funny cut-off way, are missing E.B. White’s New York. So, I challenge all of us to sit and take in our surroundings, objects and people alike. To walk a block or ten without talking on the phone or checking that very important text. To breathe in the history of the city, and of that person next to you, and then maybe, just maybe even share a smile.

I’m off to do that with the lovely Ms. Normyn right now. I hope I see you on the street, and that you see me too.

** the iPods are lesser offenders, but still are relevant to the disconnect. And don’t even get me started on the bikers on the sidewalk…

 

R-U-D-E June 28, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamieleonhart @ 5:27 am

Hmm. A few things have occurred over the past few days that I’ve wanted to write about, but this one is the most present. Others will leak, I’m sure.

Today I was getting a manicure and pedicure (don’t judge) at my favorite spot in NYC – if you want to know what it is let me know. There were four 20-something women having pedicures when I arrived. This is a small salon, with only four pedicure and four manicure stations, so they were taking up the whole back of the room. And they were loud. LOUD. And somewhat cheery and trying to be a little bit “cool,” each one subtly trying to simultaneously impress and best the others. Eventually I was with two of them in the pedicure area, and they were LOUD and pseudo-complimentary to one another, saying things like, “Oh my god, that color looks AMAZING on you – I totally couldn’t wear it, but it’s perfect with your skin. You are SO daring!” Eventually, we all in our own time made our way to the front of the salon for manicures. All four women were reunited, some being painted, some drying, and the din began again. “This summer is TOTALLY about “short shorts” (a color).” This continued for a while, until 3 of the 4 girls had to leave. The intention of the fourth was to get a French manicure (for those of you who don’t know, it’s traditionally a nail painted to look very “clean” — white paint is applied to the tips of the fingernails, and the rest of the nails are given a pink coat or painted with sheer polish that is colored either pale pink or very light beige. Dying to know more? Go here: http://www.frenchmanicure.com/fm/ ) Nowadays it’s been given a spin, and any colors will do. So this girl had already had her toenails painted yellow and was going for an unconventional french manicure – white nails with a yellow tip.

I overheard her saying that the contrast of yellow on white wasn’t great enough for the fingernails, and shifted her focus to doing the French style on her toes, and asked the esthetician to do the job. The esthetician, who had been working patiently and carefully on this woman, informed her that it would be an extra $10 above a regular manicure/pedicure to do this.

Here’s where it gets good. The chirpy smiling la-di-da aura vanished into thin air. This woman got pin-drop silent and put on her sun glasses. For 10 minutes she sat there, pouting. Then it came out. Every word she had been forming in her mind. “I don’t understand – it’s not a big deal – you just have to paint some lines on my toes. Can’t someone else do it – can’t she (motioning to another esthetician who was working on someone else) do it? I was supposed to have it on my fingers and SHE messed up all the polish in the beginning.” Even with the false accusations flying, it became clear that the women at the salon were not backing down, so she started with this tactic, “I’m the client, and I am not happy. I came with someone from a magazine – she brought me, and I am totally unhappy. Why can’t you do this simple thing? It’s ridiculous.” The esthetician explained that although her manicure and pedicure had been paid for by one of the other women, she hadn’t specified that it was French (more work for the esthetician) so hadn’t been charged for one. And they would gladly do it, but she would have to make up the $10 difference (note: that is all she would have spent on a job that is 6x that amount) And she did nothing. Just pouted and became increasingly uncooperative and unresponsive.

And I just kept thinking, “Wow, that is really something.” I don’t know how it ended, because I left. And it took every fiber of my being to not stand in front of her and tell her what a brat she was, and that a modicum of respect and decorum goes SUCH a long way. Entitlement is a dirty word.

Next up: I am guilty too. Cell phones and ipods and bikes, oh my. (another blog coming tomorrow)

 

In ? We Trust. June 15, 2008

Filed under: General musing,Uncategorized — jamieleonhart @ 6:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve always kept myself on the periphery of political conversations — I am strong and full with “emotion-based” opinion, but find that in order to argue/heatedly discuss the topics I’d like to, I lack cold, hard, supportable facts. And I think that when fact isn’t at least 51% of the argument, the word “hysteric” can be used freely and usually supported…so I shy away.

But these questions keep coming up for me. If I’m so timid to throw myself into these conversations, how can a presidential candidate’s opinion — and I stress the word opinion — about religious- or emotion-based issues be part of their platform?

And is there really a separation of church and state? And I really mean state-by-state. Living in cities like NY or SF or LA, I think there is a pull to forget that a lot of this country, the United States of America, do not have the same beliefs, thoughts, and ideas that I/we do.  And what “god” (and I mean this word to be all-inclusive) says is, in the end, the “word.”  But what is that word?  And if one candidate believes that he has that one word and speaks it louder and with more conviction than another, what will that mean for the rest of that rich lexicon?

This, I know, is an emotion based entry.  But it’s what I’ve been thinking about quite a bit.  Would love to hear your thoughts…

 

Obstacles and what we make of them April 18, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — jamieleonhart @ 1:06 pm

Michael was asked to play trumpet in the house band for a benefit show the other night, and I was invited to attend as his guest (thanks to the very generous folks over at Our Time.) This benefit was for “Our Time Theatre Company” a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing an artistic home for young people who stutter. The company members of Our Time (age 9-19) study acting, singing, playwriting, drumming, and dance with professional artists.

The benefit was honoring Bill Withers, a former stutterer, and the performances were filled with renditions of his famous tunes — Lovely Day, Ain’t No Sunshine, Lean On Me, etc. Interspersed throughout the performance were pieces written and performed by the company, accompanied at times by a handful of New York actors (Rosie Perez, Sam Watterston, Jesse L. Martin, Lauren Ambrose and many others)

These performances – from the writing right through to the presentation — were so amazing. Inspiring, humbling, and exciting.

As I watched and listened to these kids speak and sing, the former with various levels of difficulty, the later with fluid ease, I was struck by this thought: These kids were fierce, and they wanted their voices to be heard, regardless of how long it took them to get their point across. Not only did they want to be heard, but they demanded that I listen. That demand came in the form of poise, persistence and a true respect for themselves.

One young man, Andre Gillyard, spoke about having “given up” when he was 12 years old. He’d stopped speaking out in class, hanging out with his friends, going outside his home — his stuttering made him feel isolated and alone, without the ability to have his opinion heard. His mother discovered “Our Time” and through the work that he’d done with this group, here he was, speaking to all of us — telling us his dreams and frustrations. Poised, emotive, and intelligent, he stood and spoke.

So this got me to thinking about what I, as an artist, take for granted. What I fret about – what I distract myself with in order to get away from an uncomfortable situation or feeling. And I started to think that I can do better than that.

In that hour and a half, I found that I wanted to be as fierce as these kids — as dedicated as they are to having their voices heard. Thank you Our Time.

Check out http://www.ourtimetheatre.org

 

Big city, small world. March 26, 2008

Filed under: General musing,music — jamieleonhart @ 5:15 pm

Yesterday I received this e-mail from my friend Abby:

“I’m sitting at McNally-Robinson yesterday after work. It’s a beautiful bookstore in Soho, with a really stellar collection of all the books I’ve ever wanted to read (and let’s be honest, the sort of place I’d love to see one of my books on display one day). I’m sitting in the cafe section with one of my best friends, Kate, who is visiting from Montreal, and we are updating each other on all the happenings in our lives. I’m going on and on about this one particular man who has managed to insert himself back in my life. This man (who I told Michael the then-latest happenings on on Sunday) has been in my life for 8 years and still doesn’t know what he wants. Needless to say, it’s exhausting and depressing and I’m getting ridiculously close to my breaking point–which is the point at which he panics and shows up again.

Anyway, this is not the point of my story. The point of my story is that I am going on about this man, and Kate is doing a good job of calming me down and advising me. Then Kate’s phone rings and she starts to talk on it, and a woman sitting next to us says, “I’m so sorry, but I’ve been eavesdropping on your conversation, and I just want to say I just went through the same thing with someone, and it took 3 years for it all to end.” I do the polite thing of acknowledging her without getting involved, until she says, “I found this amazing song that’s really helped me through it.” I’m like, oh, God, this woman is crazy and is going to hand me some weird thing I would never listen to. She says, “It’s this song calmed ‘Take Your Time’ that I just discovered and it has really helped me and that I’ve really connected to.” So, not thinking anything, I say, “Oh really? By who?” She says, “Her name is Jamie Leonhart.”

I just start smiling, and tell her I know you, and I love that song, too, and ask how she knows of it–like, does she know you? And she says, no, that she gets Joe’s Pub’s emails and usually ignores them, but had, for some reason, listened to the one with your music on it and had really connected to it.”

Wow, huh?

 

Obsessive musing #2: Me and the cover of Psychology Today March 15, 2008

Filed under: General musing — jamieleonhart @ 8:35 pm

Full disclosure: Michael and I have a rule. We allow ourselves to buy “crappy” magazines (go ahead and judge) when we travel — train, airplane, bus, camel, etc. — we get an Us or Star magazine and ogle the disorders of the stars. Why? Maybe it’s a nice break from reality. Maybe it’s a “fashion dos and don’ts” fix. Maybe it’s just frivolous idiocy. Whatever.

So last Friday I was at Penn Station with 30 minutes to kill before boarding a train. I walked over to the Hudson News to get my “fix” when I espied the cover of Psychology Today. Three out of the four cover articles (not dentists surveyed) called out my name: A+ or Bust: How Perfectionism Undermines Success, The Obsessive’s Revenge: Making Quirks Work, Desperate Love: When Neediness Strikes (this one because I run for the hills at the scent of it…) I broke the cycle and bought this magazine and was not disappointed.

A few things I learned:

1. Dreams unfold at close to real-life speed. They seem so long, perhaps, because your brain constructs a fictional backstory to provide context – false memories, basically – and later you assume that this story, too, played out in the span of the dream. (Excerpted from the article “Time Flies” by Matthew Hutson)

2. Lexicographer Erin McKean, who is the chief consulting editor of American Dictionaries, hates the word “irregardless.”

3. According to Miriam Adderholdt, author of Perfectionism: What’s Bad About Being Too Good?, excellence involves enjoying what you’re doing, feeling good about what you’ve learned, and developing confidence. Perfection involves feeling bad about a 98 (remember those?) and always finding mistakes no matter how well you’re doing. The article goes on to state that “the truly subversive aspect of perfectionism is that it leads people to conceal their mistakes.”

Gee, I wish I read this article, oh, 20 years ago. That would have been helpful. However, the next article, about using OCPD to your advantage was heartening:

Check this out: “Obsessions and compulsions drove the English language’s three most famous lexicographers – Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster and Peter Roget. Roget, a British doctor who completed his legendary Thesaurus at the age of 73, began compiling copious word lists when he was just 8. Much later, he organized his whole life into a list, dubbing his autobiography List of Principal Events.

Maybe that’s why I’m blogging…

xx