Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dog & Cats & Homework & Websites

(I wrote part of this last night and then part of it this morning and that's why the time-line might seem jumbled.)

Today is a day of re-entry. We flew home last night, getting in around nine p.m. L.A. time. The reality of the fact that I’ve been gone for 12 days set in. Not only piles of mail, but Mulan has homework that hasn’t been done. Her teacher sent some homework off with us to do in New York. I would say we’ve completed… about half of it. And it’s really my fault that I hadn’t made her finish it.

That’s funny, me saying, “made her finish it.” Because homework these days, as any parent I know who has a child in public school can attest, homework isn’t about THEM doing it, it’s about sitting with your child for hours on end and talking them through it.

Mulan has about… oh, I would say a half an hour to forty five minutes of homework a night. She is in first grade. She is reluctant, however. And that makes homework take about an hour to an hour and a half. All I’m saying is that this homework thing is kicking my butt. I never had my parents help me with homework, unless I needed something big typed up when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Mulan is six and one of her spelling words this week is “anarchid.” ANARCHID.

Also, I put our dog, Arden, into this schmancy Kennel while we were in New York. And when we returned to Los Angeles, my old cat, Val, showed up. I have always had outdoor cats. I’ve always been a bit lackadaisical about my cats. Sometimes they didn’t come home for a day, or even two. And then they did. At one time I even had four cats. Three of them lived to be over 16 years old. And the three of them died within a month of each other about four years ago. But Val was left. And when Arden arrived on our doorstep (he was a stray) he chased Val off. I thought they would work it out, but Val is rather timid and didn’t stand her ground. Or maybe she was just smart, because Arden seriously hates cats. And squirrels. I have seen him tear a squirrel’s heart out in front of my eyes.

So Val went off and I imagined she found some other home. Because I would see her, once every two weeks or so. And she looked well fed, even chubby. And sometimes I would hear Arden chasing her out of the yard. Every so often I would give her a pet and wonder which neighbor was now Val’s owner. Or rather, her feeder. Who was getting Val’s little fluffy head rubs against their ankle?

This must make me seem so irresponsible.

In the meantime, Arden took over our life. He is active and needs at least an hour of rigorous exercise a day. He is overly protective of the house, in my opinion. Anyone who comes to the door is greeted by a crazed barking maniac of a dog that any reasonable person would think would kill them instantly. And that’s good. Except when it’s bad. Like children, he scares the bejeezus out of children. Also, I can never have the front door just open casually anymore, because I have to worry about Arden rushing out.

I came to really like Arden. Even love him. It IS irritating that every time I get up out of a chair, his claws scrape across the tile floor and he begins to hyperventilate in anticipation of a… possible… could it be?… walk! And mostly it’s just that I have to go to the bathroom, or answer the phone, or get a tissue. Okay, I’ll admit it, he’s seriously irritating.

I like lazy dogs. I like big, dopey dogs. I like dogs that lie about all day and drool in one spot and then look up out of their haze. I hate the subservience of dogs. Or rather the eagerness of dogs like Arden. I like, I’m temperamentally more appreciative of the aloofness of cats. I like that you have to work a little bit to get their attention. I like that you can ignore them and they can ignore you.

But still, I love Arden.

I really do.

Anyway, when we came home, Val was at the door. And we let her in. And she’s been hanging around. Sitting on the table while Mulan does her homework last night. Sitting on my lap while I chatted to my boyfriend last night. Purring sweetly in the chair next to me while I read. Rubbing against my legs while I give Mulan a bath.

I miss her! But I can’t have both of them.

I called the Kennel and they are keeping Arden another week. This gives me time to think. Mulan wants Val to stay. I am shocked at my own lack of feeling about Arden. But maybe in a few days I will miss him too. Hmmm… what to do. What to do.

My new website is taking longer than expected. It should be up by Wednesday. But then, the merchant people who do the credit card processing for the CDs won’t be ready until Wednesday too. And then, Thursday, the list of 500 people who are on my pre-order list will be shown where to buy the CD. But then – Fresh Air said they will rerun the interview I did this weekend and have my website listed for people who want to buy the CD. So that means that the 500 people will probably only get a one or two day advance chance to buy them. Which wasn’t how I intended this to work. Agh. Also, I want to try to get as many people to buy the CD in the first two weeks as I can. Because, since it takes four weeks to order more CDs, I can accurately judge whether to order more CDs for Christmas. I have no idea what going on shows like The View (especially since I have no idea how that interview will go, whether it will be like – one minute or ten or fifteen minutes) will generate in terms of interest.

I got thousands of emails after the Fresh Air interview. Thousands. Frances, my assistant, is sorting through them. Some of the letters are so moving. I wish I could read them all. I intend to.

But first, I have to be (and thrilled about being) a chaperone with Mulan’s class today when they visit a nearby museum. And it’s Halloween.

Also, I can’t stop thinking about Bookboy’s comments on my last blog. Or the quote he posted. I wish I could stop my life and just muse over how we all frame our perceptions about reality and then seek to confirm our perceptions and at what point we change them based on what types of evidence. This area is super interesting to me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

After one of my shows this week, I had a moment when I was standing with -- not only a nun and a rabbinical student (they were not together, just standing together) but also with a small group of ex-rabbinical students who had stopped their intended religious trajectory (they were orthodox Jews) because they were gay and they had been forced to chose between their sexuality and their faith. I wasn’t sure if those people were atheists or just alienated by their particular religion.

In any case, that moment after that particular show is my take-away image from this trip to New York. The nun blessed me. Which was partially shocking to me because I had sort of made fun of a priest blessing me during my show. I think it’s what those type of people do when they don’t know what to say next. In any case, I liked this nun, nonetheless. I can’t help but like those fresh-faced beaming lit-from-within nuns. And she was one of them.

The rabbinical student argued with me that I had gotten the Jephtheh story wrong. In my show I tell a story about how in Judges a character named Jephtheh tells God that if he can win a certain battle (I think it’s against the Ammonites) he will kill whoever greets him when he returns home, as a burnt offering. And that the first person he ends up seeing is his daughter. And after he allows her to go off into the woods for two months to mourn her virginity, he kills her. By lighting her on fire.

The rabbinical student argued that Jephtheh didn’t promise he would kill a person. When he said whatever greeted him, he meant an animal. And that it was customary only to kill animals in sacrifice. And that he didn’t kill his daughter, he told her to run off into the woods and then he didn’t kill her.

I was beside myself. I thought I must have gotten the story wrong. I mean he was a rabbinical student and I was an actress and what if I had exaggerated this story that much? I apologized and promised to immediately look it up.

And I was right. Jephtheh does promise to kill “whoever” greets him. As far as I know, “who” is referring to a person. And he does kill his daughter. In the story, his daughter actually begs him to kill her, because he must keep his promise to God. I’m sure this is told this way to make it less sadistic.

How does someone sit and listen to their teachers rationalize and explain away and blur over the more difficult stories of their sacred texts? I don’t get it. But then, as my boyfriend pointed out, I was one of those people at one time. Why did I accept that? And my answer was that I wasn’t studying the Bible so closely, and then when I did as an adult, I did question and finally reject it. But I accepted it earlier because it seemed like the people teaching me about it were smart and kind. And I liked them. And I wanted it to be meaningful. And l looked for only that evidence that confirmed what I already wanted to believe.

Anyway, these are the kinds of encounters that makes me infinitely glad that I came to New York to do the show.

On of the gay ex-rabbinical students told me that when he went to his superior and told him he was gay and how could he deal with this – the rabbi told him that he should sacrifice his sexuality the way Abraham had to sacrifice his son, Isaac. And that after several years of trying to do this, the ex-rabbinical student said he felt the sacrifice was much to great. And that Abrahams test of his willingness to give up what mattered to him most – his son, was a one shot deal and then when he proved his loyalty he got to still have his son. But this person said he would be having to turn away from his very nature every single day for the rest of his life. And that was too much. And for what reason? Finally this man left his religion and has had no contact with his family for over ten years. What a sad, sad, unnecessary result.

Anyway, I tell this just to give you that image of me standing there with the current rabbinical student, the former rabbinical student and the nun. What great moments this show has afforded me. I was so happy, in spite of the tragic aspects to some of those people’s predicaments. Being “Pat” on Saturday Night Live did not give me moments like that.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

WOW. All those comments. I can’t stand it, it’s so fantastic. I can't even begin to respond to them right now. But I read them all, including the long one from the depressed person. Lordy, lordy.

The Harvard show was really fun. I got to do my show in this amazing place: Sanders Theater. It was like doing the show in a Cathedral. The inside of the theater is all wood. It was really an honor to perform there.

The 500 Club will get their emails to be able to order on Tuesday. And then on Thursday or Friday, assuming everything is moving along, it will go up for the public. I am so excited!

I am still in New York. I have one show to do before I head home. I am really beat. Tomorrow morning I have an interview for that PBS show, “Religion & Ethics.” And that’s before I do the show at 11 a.m. Then head home.

Tired, tired, tired. I am so thrilled that the daylight savings time-change is tonight. That’s what is going to make tomorrow work.

And I love New York. Tonight I was at Grand Central Station and it’s just so gorgeous. I miss living here.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This morning Mulan and I are taking a train to Boston. She is still sleeping. I have been letting her stay up really late while we’re in New York – basically I’ve kept her on west coast time. Poor bug, I’ll have to drag her little body out of bed and into her clothes in a minute. She’s such a stage-baby. She likes to play in my green room while I’m on stage so she can see me during the intermission. And then she plays with her dolls while I’m doing interviews which just breaks my heart at the same time that I’m so glad she’s there and learning how to navigate herself through this world of such unpredictability and people. She’s having such a different childhood than I had.

Anyway, I did the Fresh Air interview yesterday. It was lots of fun for me, because I am a huge fan of Terry Gross. We spoke for over an hour. When I left the NPR offices over on 2nd & 43rd I walked back to the theater slowly and sipped my coffee and I was so happy. It was clear and the air was crisp and people were bustling about. Oh how I love New York. There is just no place like it.

By the time I got back to the theater-apartment, I had a call from Janet (my publicist) that Fresh Air was going to put the show on the air tomorrow! OH NO! The new web site isn’t up yet and people can’t order the CD yet!!!!! Oh gawd. I was so upset. I thought it would be on in the next couple of weeks or something.

I got Eric (my web guy) on the phone and he rushed up a preliminary Letting Go Of God site only. It has the release date as November 2nd. When I saw it up, I had all kinds of tweaks I wanted to make – the print is too small, it seems too girly, things like that. But in any case, the new site is up well, the part that has to do with Letting Go of God.

Yesterday Janet and Frances (my assistant) sent out over 60 CDs with letters to various magazines and TV shows. We will see what happens.

I am really excited to see Harvard today. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to see. I wish I could get a glimpse inside the Lampoon, but I don’t know if that will be possible. We had a mill of Lampoon writers coming through SNL. I have this image in my mind of some old building, with dark worn wood, cigar smoke all around. It’s probably not really like that, but it would be fun to get a real image to replace it.

On Sunday I’m going to do an interview with that PBS show Religion and Ethics. I cannot wait! Wow. That’s like a dream. I always would see those shows and want to be on. Now I’m going to get to!

I hope we are sold pretty well for Sanders Theater. I actually have no idea how many tickets have been sold. I do know that the Fresh Air that features me will air in Boston today, before the show. Maybe that'll help.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Well, the new website design goes up in the next few days. I am so excited to get that old design off! I really like the new design. We are already talking about further designs too – because now I want more sections in it, for example, I want a whole area where people can talk about their own loss-of-faith stories.

Things are going well here in New York. The house was packed last night for the show, just packed. I almost felt sorry for the people in the first row. They were so crammed in next to the stage, I could almost touch them. Really, they were like two feet away from me. There were even a lot of “Uh huhs!” “Mmmm hmmms” during my show, like it was a revival meeting or something. Wild. And really, really fun.

I have booked a couple of interviews that I’m really excited about. This morning I am doing an interview with Terry Gross, the host of Fresh Air. To me this is just… just the most exciting thing. She interviewed me about eight years ago, after the release of “God Said Ha!” I am such a fan of hers and I listen to Fresh Air regularly. I'm not sure when the interview will air.

Then, on December 5th, I’m doing The View. It’s kind of funny to me because I mention the View in my show. I don’t know if they will realize that or not. But I don’t care, because I am so happy to get to be on that show too! (My mother will not know if she should be mortified or proud. I’m sure she will be vacillating back and forth.)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Well, today I got reviewed in the New York Times. It's a very nice review, but the picture. I want to throw myself in the Hudson over the picture. I look like I scream at people for two hours, "HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BELIEVE IN GOD???!?!?!?" Wow.

But my friend Dan Karslake just called me as I was being driven back to the apartment I'm staying at (I had to do an interview for a special that NBC is doing about Saturday Night Live, the early nineties) and said, "You are the toast of the town! And yes, the picture is horrifying, but you look young and thin. Even if you look really, really, REALLY angry."

The anguished, angry atheist. That's the picture.

I promise not to obsess about the picture. Sometimes you just can't take the actress out of me.

Mulan and ma and I are off to the Natural History Museum today. Yesterday we toured Brooklyn from the second story of one of those busses. It was AWESOME. I lived in Brooklyn for two years and I learned all kinds of things I didn't know. I am so into these tours now. I'm going to take the ones in L.A. when I get back.

Monday, October 23, 2006

I am in New York doing my show, Letting Go of God. Tonight I’m doing something different: I'm at Joe’s Pub with Jill Sobule. My mother is in town with me, helping to babysit Mulan while I am on stage.

Yesterday I had a matinee and afterwards my mother and Mulan and I went on a tour of the city on one of those Grey Line tours where you sit on the second story of the bus. I really didn’t want to go. I have lived in New York for years at a time. But it was super, super fun. I mean I am SO into it now. Today I’m going to make Mulan take the Brooklyn tour.

The audiences in New York have been amazing. Saturday night, Massimo Pigliucci came to the show. I mention him in my show and quote him in his defense of evolution over intelligent design. It was great to see him again. I had met him before at a conference, but he had only heard other people telling him that he was mentioned in my show. Anyway, now he’s seen it. I was so glad.

There was a New York Times critic in the audience on Saturday. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

I think my CD ordering off my website to the general public is going to be delayed by one week. I will know more today. It’s just tricky coordinating all these things. I had no idea. But it’s all sooooooo close. I am so excited. The response I’ve been getting from the CD is really nice. And the book too. I am so happy I took a long time and made it just the way I wanted to.

My mother’s friend, Joy, came from Spokane just to see the show. She was also raised Catholic and after she began teaching Sunday school and had to teach the Old Testament, she left the church and she’s now an atheist! We got to have a spirited debate with my mother after Joy saw the show. My mother says she enjoys believing in God. And so that is that. And you know, I think that’s what most people think. I don’t feel any hostility towards my mother, in fact we are getting along better now than ever. But I keep mulling that over in my mind, enjoying believing in God. Yeah, I think I enjoyed it too. But I think you can only enjoy it if you don’t think about it too deeply or look at it too closely.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

I am too tired to write a proper blog entry. I just want to say that I am so thrilled at the responses to my last blog entry!!! WOW. I am so honored to have people saying so much! Wilbur Owen, you know I love you. And you too, Sheldon. I was glad to see you in San Fran.

This week has been horrendously busy. I was at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference over the weekend. I drove up to San Francisco with my daughter, stayed a night at Michael’s (boyfriend) brother’s (Joel’s) house (we all – Joel, me and Mulan went to the Exploratorium on Friday, it was AWESOME. The best museum ever) and then I performed my show -- Letting Go Of God -- on Saturday night at the conference for the first time in months.

On Sunday, me, Mulan & Michael went to a concert in Golden Gate park – there was a folk festival. We saw Elvis Costello do a duet of “San Francisco” – y’know - the song, flowers in her hair – yadda yadda -- with T. Bone Burnett! It was so great! Then Emmy Lou Harris came on and sang with both of them too! Then Richard Thompson came on afterwards. It was sunny and warm and beautiful and just the most unforgettable day.

I drove back to L.A., starting out from San Francisco on Sunday night, and it was really too late by the time we got out of town. I was supposed to be at a pitch meeting on Monday at NBC at nine a.m. and I got soooo tired that I pulled over at about 11 p.m., cancelled the meeting, and Mulan and I stayed in a Motel 6 for the night. The room was bare bones, not even a clock. $29.99,

But they did have a Bible!

Which got me to thinking, why not write “The Hotel Bible” ??? I would have it be the book that people really should be reading when they are in a hotel room, I suppose – distraught enough to reach for a Bible. Huh? Huh? I am very excited about it. It would be advice for coping from an expert… ME. A non-professional coper. But a good one, and one who doesn’t rely on things like the Bible to help me cope. I have been writing this in my head every moment since Sunday night at the Motel 6.

I got back to L.A. and then, on Tuesday night and Wednesday night I did shows with Jill Sobule at Largo. I have stayed up way past my bedtime for many nights this week. The show we did last night, on Wednesday, was our best. I think it’s finally coming together and we are finding our stride. Gruber – that’s David “Gruber” Allen, an actor and comedian and musician – joined me and Jill. He played piano. We had such a fantastic time. It was really a fun night. Gruber has a new show, The Naked Truckers, that is debuting on Comedy Central in January. They got the most amazing time slot – right after the Daily Show. He is so funny and talented. I really hope that show explodes and they do many more episodes.

I sold almost 200 copies of Letting Go Of God – the CD/book -- at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference. WOW. I only sold four at Largo after I did my Jill & Julia show. Hmmm…

This whole CD world is wild. Tomorrow I have to negotiate with the CD manufacturer and the fulfillment house so the CDs get delivered to Salt Lake City early next week. This whole CD endeavor is worth a book, in an of itself. I feel there is some poetic justice in the fact that the fulfillment house, just outside of Salt Lake City, is run by Mormons.

Oh my god, people, I am so tired, I am delirious. But I just wanted to post something, anything, just to show that I was paying attention. I just want to go back and read, again, the responses to my last post.

Today I went to San Diego and did about half of my show, “God Said Ha!” for a medical convention. Then I raced back to L.A. and pitched my pilot to CBS. I love the ladies who run CBS. I just want to constantly hang with them. They are so cool and funny and smart. I know this sounds creepy and fawning, but it’s such a relief to walk into a room of women in television – women running television – women with some genuine power -- it fills me with genuine glee.

I am beat. I am so tired. I can’t see straight. I will write more. At a later time when I can think.