25 September 2011

The Good, The Bad, The Emotional Baggage

On Saturday I have a workshop with a woman named BT.  Eve, my clown partner has arrived the night before and decides to come, too.  I am really excited!  Excited to see Eve, excited about the workshop, excited!  The place is a little hard to find, but we do.  At the beginning, I can tell something is going to go badly for me, but I do my best to ignore this.  BT notices that my left arm doesn't straighten.  I explain, quite succinctly, that I cannot bear weight on my left arm.  I'm used to this.  I work in a physical form.  My arm is part of my physical body.  A good clown teacher will see that I know how to deal with this and let it go, but I feel BT's attitude toward me shift.  She makes too much of a big deal out of it.  Besides Eve, there are two women in the workshop.  They are older, one in her 50s and one in her 70s.  They don't really know how to use their bodies.  But both their arms straighten.  I am immediately cast as the other.  Whatever.  I'm paying for this (45 Euro) and I am going to get something new out of it, goddammit!  If I just have a good attitude, BT will forget about my arm. Right?
We walk around the space.  She doesn't like the way I walk.  Thinks I am "clowning."
"No," I say.  "That's how I walk."  I have always been told that I have a distinctive walk.  I used to feel self-conscious about it, but I don't anymore.  I LIKE the way I walk!  People recognize me by it.  It is mine and mine alone, a hard gait to forget.  People have asked me if my walk is a result of my brain injury.  I don't know.  My accident happened when I was 2.  There was no me before it.  I am a result of my brain injury, every part of me: my walk, my arm, my mind, my sense of self, my ability to fight, my independence, me.  And I don't have to medically validate myself to anyone.  I am just me, and that is it.  And that is good enough.  I have lots to offer, lots to learn, lots to teach.  But Bartushka can't see any of this.  All she can see is that I am unique.
And she does not like it.
We do some exercises, nothing new really.  I maintain my positive attitude.  Then it comes time to show work.  I set up the cake. She has a different vision for the piece.  Fine, that's what workshops are about. You try other people's ideas.  If you like them, you keep them.  If you don't, you throw them out.  I am trying all the things she suggests.  She says, "Now stick your hand out the top."  I stick my right hand out the top.  She says, "Stick your other hand out first.  It is too much for the audience to see that hand first."  She is referring to my truncated thumb.
"No!" I say, maybe a bit too firmly.
There is a pause.  "Then show it off." She says after a beat.  And I do, I waggle my half-thumb around, I stroke it with my fingers, I make it the sexiest amputation in the world.

When the workshop is over, she encourages me to come to her open stage at Scheinbar, where she has booked me to perform a mini-slot of 3 minutes on Oktober 2nd.  She booked me after seeing my video.  But I guess when she say my video, she didn't realize that I am really "other," I don't just play it onstage.  She wants me to come to Open Stage to workshop the cake.  But you know, I don't feel like giving here anymore euros, anymore cake, or anymore me.  I would cancel the gig if I didn't need the 15 Euro she was payng me so badly.  She likes the song I sang in the workshop.  I'll do that.  BTdoesn't get anymore sweat from me.

Eve and I hang out a bit, and then she has a dinner party to go to with the guy who is hosting her.  Daniel has invited me to a circus show that evening at the Shake! tent (the circus near the Ostbanhof.)  I am not sure if I will go.  I feel weird and I realize it is because I am angry!  I haven't been angry in a while, but BT really hit a nerve.  If I wanted to be treated like that, I would have stayed in San Francisco.  Since I have gotten here, I have felt safe, unjudged.  I have felt at home at the CIRCUS, for crying out loud!  I have felt accepted, like I had something valuable to offer.  Now, I am just MAD!  But I decide to go see the circus and the Israeli boys. They always make me feel good.  I can be myself.  Daniel just accepts me and Sharon asks a lot of questions.  We are painfully honest with each other.  The things he has done in the Israeli army and the things that have happened to me, they make us both sort of aliens, and we connect through this and humor.  Also, the boys and I are all Jews.  I think the three of us feel a little bit revolutionary. At the Shake compound, I go to Daniel's trailer.  He is on Skype with his mom, introduces me as "Harvey. She is Jewish girl."
I find Sharon.  "What is wrong with you?" He asks me.  How does he know?  How are we so connected after such a short time.  I try to brush it off.  "You must let go of anger.  It doesn't help."  He squeezes me.
"Ja."  I say, but I'm still mad and he knows it.
"Stop being angry or tell me why?"  He says.  He doesn't mention the third option, which is me leaving, so I guess it's not an option.  I am not ready to talk about it, though.
"Sharon," I say, "I think that we have both experienced things that we don't think the other would understand."
He nods slowly, chewing on my words.  "I understand."  He steers me to the kitchen.  "I have to clean."  He sits me down at a table.
I want to help, need a task.  I tell him so.  He nods but then sits.  We start talking.  I tell him the bare minimum.  I had a difficult time in this workshop.  His eyes light up.  "That's good.  It means you learned something new."  Then, out of the blue, "You need to learn Hebrew."
"I'm working on German right now."  I dismiss his thought, though I think it's adorable that he wants me to learn his native language.  "I didn't learn anything new.  Let's clean."  I do the dishes angrily and he wipes the stove.  Daniel comes in, starts drying.
We go watch the show for a bit.  Or, they watch the show.  I try, but am too mad.  As I'm leaving, Sharon grabs my hand, but I leave anyway.  It is a bunch of young kids from a circus school.  They are all wickedly talented.  I sit outside, write in my journal.  The boys come out.  "You miss the whole show!"
"Sorry," I say. We go back to the kitchen.
"You need to eat." Sharon tells me, handing me a plate.  I pile it with pasta and sauce made out of yams.  I eat, then go back to the dishes.  "You are still angry," he gets me to follow him outside so he can smoke a cigarette.  "I hate watching all these young people do things that I will never be able to do.  At least you have an excuse."
"That offends me, I say.  And then I tell him.  I tell him about the workshop, about how the instructor could only see my thumb, my arm, my otherness.  I tell him about wishing I were like other people until one day I woke up and I was glad I was me and I just want the rest of the world to get over my differences, because I have.  I tell him about being a kid and being in special PE.  I tell him about trying to hide my scars and then cutting off me bangs.  I tell him everything I can.  He deserves it.  After all, he told me about killing a girl point blank, sitting in a tank for five days, waiting for any Palestinian to pass, about being brainwashed, about how he has flashbacks and his mind won't leave him alone.  How sometimes his reflex of violence terrifies him.  So I tell him.
And he puts his arm around me.  "The world,"  he stops.  "When I asked you about your thumb, it was scary.  People are not ready.  You are unique.  You are different.  You are a real clown!  Some people..." He trails off.
"I'm ready!  Fuck people!"  I say. "Let's finish the kitchen."  We play music from my kitty backpack.  I sing and dance around.
After half an hour, Sharon asks, "Are you still angry?"
"No!"  I smile, and then Daniel comes in.
"Good," Daniel says, "Then let's go to Nuekölln for a beer!"
Sharon won't come, wants to wake early and study German before a meeting he has with a possible juggling partner. We hug goodbye. I tossle his hair, he plays with my pigtail.
Daniel and I go off on our adventure and Daniel tells me all about this girl he is dating who is "not his girlfriend." (Yeah, right.) I introduce him to the American phrase TMI.  He likes it.

That was all Saturday and there's more to report, like actual Berlin stuff, not just Harvey stuff, but this seems like a good place to close right now.


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