Chick and Charlie—Friends Forever

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(Part of the essay originally appeared in The Huffington Post 5/25/16)

I didn’t meet Charlie until I was an adult, but he and my father Anthony, known to his friends as Chick, were friends for fifty plus years. My father talked of many friends, like Frankie, Dinky, Danky, and Applehead. But when he was on his deathbed, Charlie was the one to whom he directed his dying wish. “Please promise me you’ll take care of Mimi.”

Mimi was my mother, Marianne. She was married to my father a week shy of 50 years. In hospice, my father had my sister Angela purchase a 50th Anniversary card for my mother and asked Angela to make sure my mother received it in case he didn’t make it. My parents had a tumultuous relationship, at least from their five kids’ perspectives. They argued all the time. My mother expressed on a daily basis, “He drives me crazy.” Yet when he passed, she was broken.

Charlie was the first person outside of the family that I saw in the hospital when I stood by my father’s bed. Across the room, his face looked redder than usual. Charlie liked his drinks. When my mother saw him, her trembling arms reached out to him. They embraced as he kept his view on my father, who lay with eyes half-open, heart still. I wonder if Charlie was thinking about my father’s last words to him. He called Charlie on the phone earlier that evening. He removed his oxygen mask and said in a weak voice “Charlie, it’s Chickie…ah, I’m not going to make it Charlie. Thank you for being such a good friend, and look out for Mimi.” Maybe Charlie was thinking about the times they stayed away from their wives for days playing poker, or the times they played baseball scraping elbows and knees in a concrete parking lot in downtown Troy. Or their fishing escapades on what they called “The Dirty Old Hudson”. The river in which General Electric dumped their toxic chemicals. Charlie had a half a century of memories with his friend Chickie, but  perhaps Charlie was thinking about the one memory where my father most likely saved Charlie’s life.

Charlie had had three bypass surgeries, and in the last surgery he was close to losing his leg. He spent ten days in the hospital. When he was released, my father and mother picked him up to take him home. On the way, Charlie asked my father to stop at Stewarts, the local convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. My father turned to Charlie and said, “Charlie, if you ever pick up another cigarette, I’ll never speak to you again.” On that day, Charlie stopped smoking.

Almost five years have passed since my father’s death. Living across the country, I try to call my mother weekly to hear how she is doing. I hear about Charlie and her going golfing, attending birthday parties, winning the Veteran’s club lottery and splitting the money. I recently asked her how Charlie and my father met. She answered in her high-pitched New York accent, “They were in a gang together…not the kinda gangs like today with guns. They used their fists.” She added, “Charlie was always getting in fights because he was always sticking by his friends no matter what. Even if he was smaller than the other guy, he still fought them, if it was for his friends. He was like that—loyal.” Before I hung up, I said, “Well, I’m glad you have Charlie, and that you are enjoying his company.” She replied, “Yeah, but he drives me crazy.” 

Highly-Sensitive Kids Can Win an Oscar

Are you the parent of a shy child?

Have you thought of enrolling your offspring in an acting class, thinking that maybe it will help sweet Jane, or little Joey, come out of their shell?

I say, “TO HELL WITH THAT!”

Last year, I was performing on stage and audience member came up to me after the show.

“Wow, you were really crying in that scene. How can you cry  so easily?” he asked.

I said, “Crying is not hard for me. It’s the NOT crying that is the hardest of all.”

We both laughed, but it was a painful truth. I could cry several times a day if I let myself; there are plenty of reasons on an average day. My son could do something that makes me proud, and I cry. An elderly man is struggling to cross the street alone, and again, I cry. A stranger helps an elderly man cross the street, and I still cry. My friend wins a directing award, and I blubber. Her competition wins a directing award, and there I am, blubbering.

When growing up, all I could think of is how I felt emotion and how others were feeling emotion. I was a feeling machine. Of course, it was a blessing and a curse. I constantly wanted to cry because of a someone’s actions towards me, or others. If they said something hurtful, I was deeply affected. If they gave me a compliment, I blushed. There was no hope for me. Acting was the only thing I could do without looking crazy.

If you are “shy,” you are possibly introverted and might have some social anxiety, whereas a “sensitive” person is someone who perfectly fits the role of an actor. The sensitive person is usually extremely empathetic, is super aware of their emotions, as well as other’s emotions, and are drawn to sensory details.

Make sure you identify your child’s shyness correctly, and if they are in fact, sensitive, let’s not look to fix them. Instead, celebrate them for being empathetic. Encourage them to expose their feelings. Reward them, and tell them sensitivity is a gift. Put those babies in the spotlight so others can feel what they are feeling. And if we are all walking around crying because of it, then so be it. Happiness is highly overrated and perhaps narcissistic.

September Online Writing Course

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September  2015

Online Writing Workshop

Antioch University Los Angeles

Instructor: Andrea Tate

https://i2pregister.antiochla.edu/product/personal-essay2/

Take Control Of Your Essay Revision

Learn ways to self-advocate and stay in the drivers seat of your personal essay. Drive your car, and look for the street signs that will get you to your destination—publication.

September 8 – October 6, 2015

CLASS DESCRIPTION

Most writers accept revision as an integral part of writing. Yet for others, the revision process is not intuitive forcing them to rely on an editor or fellow writers in workshop for input. However, a writer you can lose focus of a piece when getting feedback. Without the intention of doing so a critic might push their agenda onto an essay.

Even if you decide to depend on colleagues and editors to edit your revision, it is important that you hold the reins. In order to have control over your revision, a writer needs to have a straight forward system for self-editing.  A check list of what goes into a successful essay is good way to make sure you have covered all the elements that could make or break your essay.

In this class you will learn ways in which you can take control of your revision. The goal is to give you a simple roadmap to guide your edit before it undergoes outside critique.

Andrea Tate, published essayist in Role/Reboot, A Daily Dose of Lit, Bleed, and a former editor of Lunch Ticket Literary Journal, will guide you in developing a revision system that allows you to self-advocate during the revision process.

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.”—Colette, Casual Chance, 1964

PERSONAL ESSAY: Let’s Get Personal

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FEBRUARY  2015

 Online Writing Workshop

Antioch University Los Angeles

Instructor: Andrea Tate

https://i2pregister.antiochla.edu/product/th/

The personal essay is an intimate journey in which the writer is exploring a nonfiction subject of interest. The success of a personal essay is dependent on the writer’s ability to create  a universal appeal. In this four-week course, students will identify how and why a specific personal essay appeals to a larger audience. Students will create a list of essay topics and together we will choose one of those topics to begin developing into a polished essay for future publication.

 

A State of Mind: Embracing the Process of Essay Writing

 

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Last week I traveled from Los Angeles to Montana, and while I peered out the window watching the landscape change from state to state, I realized the journey was much like writing an essay.

When I begin a new essay, my mind is a jumble. Things are moving this way and that way. I head towards something, but I can easily exit. I have a destination, but in the beginning, I can’t even find the starting position. It’s the same with the Southern California freeway systems. They head toward every direction. There are on-ramps, off-ramps, slow downs, and accidents. When the freeway is finally moving, I feel as if you might make it to my destination.

As the traffic in my mind clears, I begin to see the road which is flat in the first draft, but it is moving forward and that’s what’s important. I drive through the barren desert but again, I’m still headed towards something. By the time I leave California my first draft is finished. I read it, and realize now I can shape it into something literary. This is the fun part. I’m now in Las Vegas, Nevada—it’s play time!

The second draft is where I do most of my editing. It is rough in the beginning and similar to the landscape of my next state, Arizona. There are rocky areas yet I can see their beauty unfold. I’ll change my verbs and make them more interesting. I’ll move paragraphs around and direct my readers to my main idea. And as I keep driving forward, I get closer and closer to my destination. At the end of the second draft I am ready to have someone look at it; a mentor, a colleague, or editor can now see what I can’t see.

When I leave the desert geography of Southern California, colors surface in Arizona, and Utah. New shades of red, orange, and pink give way. When writing, this is what I get from having my work viewed through another set of eyes; my eyes are now open to see new colors.

Idaho is  where the life of the essay begins its labor towards birth. Idaho offers some of the most challenging landscapes in America: numerous mountain ranges, canyons, and forests. Here I climb. Here I make my way through the terrain and trees. When I come through in Montana, the essay is born. Montana means mountain in Spanish. I have climbed the mountain. The essay is complete. I have scaled its terrain. The essay is now ready to bear witness, after moving from state to state.

It’s a process, but the process is worth waiting for, so embrace it fully, it works.

When Dependence is a Good Thing

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On July 4th,1776, thirteen colonies declared independence from Great Britain and later formed the United States of America. Independence Day is now a federal holiday in the United States.
Independence is a tricky state of being for it can be a good thing or a bad thing. Writing is an independent profession, but for many of us we are better served not to be “too” independent. When involved in a writing community, we can share our writing and receive valuable feedback. It’s vital that we practice decorum while writing to all audiences. Being part of a diverse group of writers can help each of us to find those blind spots that may happen when we are autonomous.
Over the last two years, I’ve been working on my MFA in Creative Writing. During that time, I was part of a multifarious group of writers and had the opportunity to workshop my writing. It was a luxury. It was a luxury because I realized I can’t go back to being an independent lone writer in a room: I need my tribe. Whenever I’m about to submit a new piece of writing to an editor, there is a pause.
DO NOT PUSH SEND. DON’T DO IT. DON’T DO IT.
There are instances when I can’t help myself. I push send without seeking feedback. I’m stubborn at times. I don’t want to hear I need to write another revision. Sometimes I want to be the Lone Ranger of Writing.
But, being independent won’t serve me as a writer, for if I do publish a piece as the Lone Ranger, who will celebrate with me? I don’t want to be the person who sets off their own fireworks with no one witnessing. Besides there is always a chance, I will hurt myself. I need my friends to drive me to the emergency room—and then laugh at me when the time is right.
Today, I am writing alone in my office wondering if this piece has any blind spots. Before publishing, I will not just cross my fingers, and I will not just hope that I didn’t write anything off-putting, incorrect, or plain dumb. I will depend on my writing community, and ask: “Hey writer friends, how does this look to you? Am I being a jerk here, or does this ring true to all of you? And, by the way, if you don’t have any plans on the 4th, come on over to my BBQ. We are having a variety of burgers: meat, veggie, dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free. Significant others and dependents are welcome!”

Andrea Tate is a monthly blogger for Lunch Ticket. She was recently published in the online literary journal, A Daily Dose of Lit, as well as Bleed, a literary blog for Jaded Ibis Press. Her story “You” was published in the 2013 anthology for Extracts. Andrea has served as a Creative Nonfiction Editor and Assistant Editor for Lunch Ticket. This year she will teach the on-line course for Antioch University Los Angeles,  Let’s Get Personal-How to Write a Personal Essay. An advocate for theatre arts, Andrea directs as well as teaches after-school enrichment in the greater Los Angeles area. This month, her new essay, “A Real Live Baby” will be published in Role/Reboot Magazine.

 

ON WRITING