Tuesday, 21 February 2012

About Me, Part 37: Castles In The Sand

Back during the summer of 1998, a friend (the one I had met at the Sogyal Rinpoche talk a couple of years before that) suggested the name of a photographer to me; I had become interested in modelling and wanted to put together a portfolio. I met with him over the 1998-99 holiday season to talk over some ideas for photo shoots. I did the first of those shoots in January of 1999, then another, outdoor, shoot that June. In September, he came over to my new apartment to show me the proofs; I made my choices and he went away to create portfolio size prints. In February of 2000, I got the courage up to apply to a couple of modelling agencies, portfolio in hand. Not long after, I received rejection letters from all of them. I began to feel that this had just been some kind of brief infatuation with the idea of modelling rather than an authentic desire to enter the field. My interest and portfolio fell by the wayside. By the spring, I had forgotten about it entirely.

There had been no lack of things going in my life, despite my emotional dip. I dj'ed the 1999 Christmas party at the Mastery house, probably the best of all of my gigs there, amazing considering that I did it while battling a flu and fever. I got to bed at five am. In January, I signed up for another spot in a Mastery variety show. This time, I was going to do a 1930s act, lip-synching a Josephine Baker number called "You're Driving Me Crazy". In the wake of the dissolution of my modelling goal, I became very interested in performing, both in drag and in drab. Besides the show, I signed up to be an extra in a film being directed by another member of the Mastery community. I was also to be a principal in a whodunnit film made by another friend from the Mastery, using much of the same crew as the first film.

The cabaret act went over well; I had been coached through my rehearsals by the director of the second film. I spent alot of time at a local vintage clothing store try to find the right outfit. The right one had had gold coloured sequins and was a straight, no hips 1920s dress. I did my nails in gold and had period make-up done as well. The prep that went into it paid off and I was juiced to do another show as soon as there was one.

The following week, in April, I was in the first film as an extra, playing a member of a support group. To this day, I am thrilled that they used one of my reaction shots, me nodding at the main character's realization. I remember a few of the crew remarking on how "deep and thoughtful" I looked in it. The film went on to be featured at the Vancouver International Film Festival that fall. The film was just under a half hour and had taken a full week to shoot in many different locations. The second film that I was in, filmed over the Victoria Day long weekend, I played a female make-up artist, and a possible suspect in the main character's murder. That film was shot in a house just a few blocks west of Main street; the laneway house was used as the make-up room. Craft services served food out of the kitchen. The murder scene was shot in the bathroom where the main character was killed in the bathtub by having an electric toaster thrown into the bathwater. One of the few scenes I was in was a sex scene where one of the other suspects and I are having a very torrid episode. Hot? Yes. The whole film was shot over a weekend. The week after the filming ended, we had a wrap party for the cast and crew. I was so impressed with the make-up job done on me that I hired one of the make-up artists to work on me at my next Miss Penny show.

It was at St. James Community Hall in Kitsilano and enlisted a few of my friends to perform with me; we were Penny and the Nickelettes, a classic girl group and our number would be Darlene Love's "A Fine, Fine Boy". Best of all, the friend playing the "fine, fine boy" would be dressed in male drag. The act was a hit and, although the audience was smaller than it had been at previous shows, this was my favourite of the Miss Penny Fairview shows to date. At the time, I started to have big ideas for where I could take this act and began to look around for interested parties who wanted to become part of performing troupe.

Through all of this, I was also in the Mastery Choir in both seasons in 1999-2000. By the time of the spring concert, I was ready to take a break from it. Not long after the concert, in June, I went to party hosted by the men's group in the community at a very large old house in Shaughnessy, just up the street from where I lived. The theme was "come as a mythological character". The house was packed with guests as was the huge lawn and garden surrounding it. By nightfall, the dancing in the living room, first to 60s frat rock and then, to African funk was great ... and given the pot cookies making their rounds, very trippy. I walked home feeling quite light and I remember putting on headphones and listening to Josephine Baker do "Dinah"; it sounded like she was at the bottom of a mine shaft. I was still a bit dazed when I woke up, in bed, in time to see the digital numbers on my alarm clock/radio morph out of golden eggs. I was truly spooked by that and have not gone near a substance since then.


By the middle of 2000, much of the 70s revival had faded; folks were now moving on to the 80s. I had no truck with the decade in which I had suffered so much and decided to sit this out. I also left the 70s behind, but began to listen to more 60s pop and soul. Something was changing about the newer generation of music listeners. Gone was the open-mindedness and eclectic tastes of the 1990s replaced with the jaded, prejudiced and narrow niche tastes of the 2000s. I went my own way, but I found myself at odds with my peers, particularly in matters related to dj'ing parties. When I brought some CDs to a house party in Port Moody in February, I found the following morning that they had been tossed into the bushes. In July, after a screening of one of the films I was in at Pacific Cinematheque downtown, I was set to dj the director's fortieth birthday party. I brought the same kinds of music that had always worked at parties at the Mastery house. The mood that night was much more hostile. Half the guests loved what I was doing and the other half hated it and let me know. I had just been asked to play "good music" with no specifics. Also, there were people crashing the party and beginning to harass some of the others who had been invited. A guest who was drunk and crying had locked herself in an upstairs bedroom was inviting "friends" over by phone. There was only so much I could take of the hostility however, and decided to pack it in. As if one cue, another guest leaped in to replace me. The whole situation left me feeling quite bitter after that. I shied away from dj'ing for six years after that night. When I went back to help clean up the house the next day, I said nothing and just helped sweep the patio in the scorching July sun.

In the weeks after the party fiasco, my mood, in the middle of a bright, hot summer, tanked. The crying, the paranoia and the isolation intensified. This time, I knew it was not seasonal affective disorder. I sought help from my doctor and she prescribed a low dose of Effexor which I began taking promptly. I needed to talk with someone, but felt very alienated from most including many in the Mastery; I felt that I could no longer trust them. Long held feelings of inadequacy and freakishness overwhelmed me. I called my high-school friend in Ontario (she was now living in Guelph) and spoke to her for a while. I was touched and relieved when she said that I could call her anytime. I felt that I was taking care of business by seeking help. My medication was raised a few times that summer and I began to feel progressively better. By the time I assisted a Mastery workshop in August, I felt that I was on the mend emotionally. I also set about looking for a new therapist. I neared my thirtieth birthday with some hope that I could find some stable emotional ground from it continue to come out in many ways to those around me.

To be continued ...

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