Walking home it dawned on me just how slowly my body was moving. The pace was slower than my usual brisk gait but more than the recognition of the languid rhythm, was the clear waves I kept feeling of how this is a luxury for myself. I’m treating myself to moving slowly. Here is some cruise controlled stroll and this time I didn’t condemn or criticize myself for walking at the regular old pedestrian lazy stride.
I was a person who had all the time in the world. Techno music filling the the small courtyard of the townhouse complex where we lived. Beats shoot out of my neighbor’s window and waft over my head. The music reminded me of me on E, me on K, me on C, me on G, me on Rev and me on Weed. Then there’s me on camera dancing at the time lapsed videos of dancing with clubbers. I don’t know what other amphetamines I did, but I was always speeding along cause there’s never enough time when you want to squeeze work in a day, work out, work at your art and work your gig. This was my speedy world between the ages of 19 – 26 and the hiatus from speed lasted until I was 30 and it came back with a requirement: to look glamorously thin and be speedy.
At 19 I took an on-camera acting course with Cayle Chernin. We were asked to do an exercise that involved me doing the thing that I’d say scared me the most to do on a stage: sitting still and listening. No character and no dialogue allowed. She instructed us to get up in front of the class and listen to one of our favorite songs, and not be conscious of the class or camera’s eyes. I thought it was a stronger choice to really listen super intently and ferociously rather than passively. The actual assignment suggested we be in the moment and not pre-plan. Courtney Love’s version of Stevie Nick’s ‘Gold Dust Woman’ blared out of the speakers and into my ears immediately bringing about a swelling, all enveloping self-consciousness for no good reason at all. Rather then the powerlessness of being still on stage, I tried to feel as if she was empowering me with these lyrics. When the song disaster was done Cayle asked me why I chose that song. I didn’t realize that she kept the camera rolling to capture my response. I talked a bit about seeing her live, the way I love her band and the spin she puts on covering other’s songs. Then she played back me listening and me answering her questions. The blonde girl on the screen was speaking super slowly. Not only was I speaking very slow I used ‘dude’ and ‘man’ more than once. I sounded stoned on weed.
“Now here is the real Amy. She is far more interesting than the person who was listening to the song,” she said.
Could this be true, as in my disbelief I didn’t want to accept that the real me was a hippy. I seriously came across as a slacker pot-head no different than anyone I’d avoid at a club who wasn’t speeding along. There was an ingrained belief in me that I’d never make it as an actor if I was a lazy slacker. It was then I vowed to hide this mellow side of me who wouldn’t and couldn’t hustle or succeed. Instead I pushed all gears forward at warp speed to a more dynamic version of me.
When I travelled the next year to California, I met a drummer who lived out of his VW van. While he was smoking me some weed, he posed the question; “Don’t you ever just sit still and relax dude?” Wasn’t I fooling him into thinking I was dynamically on the move towards celestial speedy far off places never to be conquered or beat? What the hell dude?
That same year at the Chez Paree in San Francisco, Diamond sold me one of her infamous ‘pot brownies.’ Quickly I shoved the cellophaned chocolate contraband in my locker to enjoy after my shift. Determined to bring in a substantial amount of cash I zipped around potential customers tallying up all the greetings and exchanging names as ground work. There was never a night where I actually had time to sit and rest on the burgundy vinyl couch off to the side. Usually the girls who weren’t as busy or driven to hustle sat there – or so I thought. If there was something to challenge my money-making methodology and strip-club belief system it was what presented itself to me that evening. It came in the form of one ‘pot brownie’ as I ingested half just out of boredom and then came back out onto the floor. Settling myself on the couch between Anastasia and Siren, something occurred to me. Siren would look at the men noticing who they were looking at and then she’d slowly slink past the first few tables, say something to one of them and suddenly he’d be up following her to the back VIP. Anastasia followed Sirens lead in choosing another direct hit, someone I’d usually choose to work on for a few songs and then the both of them went in the back. Could it be that I was moving too fast and quickly gliding past the men when I was on the floor not letting them make any eye contact with me? Did I even want to be seen here? Therein lay my conflict. This evening I was physically unable to move fast thanks to the weed and I moved so slowly, I greeted slowly, I spoke slowly, I took it all in this new dimension, or so I believed. Not so slow that I looked like invalid, not slow enough to raise concern from onlookers I felt my drag.
Spying someone looking over at me while I was talking to one guy, I just looked back and nodded then made my exit. (I made the connection and needless to say I made my connection and goal done.)
Thankfully, this incident didn’t lead me to become a regular pot-brownie abuser, although there were enough girls on any drug you could dream of for me to try and try again. I drank my wine and was grateful that my eyes were opened to the awakening that drug provided to understand how I went against the rhythm of the club and my ego wanted to believe in just one year of hustling and stripping I’d learned everything there was to take the show on the road. I would have to put in more years and more hours to actually gain a sense of something more than just how to earn illicit dollars during stupid hours.
The following year during Theatre School class in Vancouver at Studio 58 I wasn’t comfortable experiencing emotions and feelings on stage apparently, as I later learned from my teacher Wendy. My teacher would shout, “Stop the scene!” and my partner and I would create that instant panic in the air one especially fears with any theatre school teacher’s correction.
“So, I’m asking this question directly to you, Amy and not your partner. Did you let it land?”
“Yeah, I mean Yes. I did.” Was she asking me if I heard the dialogue before I spoke?
“No. Did you take the time to be affected by what your partner was saying to you? Did you allow the feeling to sink in, so we, your audience can be taken on the journey along with you?” She waited for my honest reply.
We started the scene again from the top and I simply couldn’t let it land. At the moment when I’d begin to feel affected, I’d quickly blurt out my line. She told me to write it on the back of my hand, and to start giving myself time to do so.
Was I deserving of that time from others? Something else inside me knew that I rather not be noticed, and to not be or become affected by what others do or say, on or off stage. This felt safer. Later on in the year I’d get yelled at again for “massaging the emotion” as I was languishing in the luxury of slowly letting it land. Balance had to come from practice.
The following year I was in a club dancing in Toronto. Only flashes of light would illuminate the faces and arms around me as we all connected on some level with the assistance of E or weed or booze, but chemical drugs helped me absorb and let the music land. Was I present, or was it my hyper-consciousness in altered states creating an entire other self who could let it land? One night, blends into three nights and four days and I’d watch the sunrise from patios of strangers apartments worried that I’d never get back enough time to make up for my clubbing vacation. I’d pack work, rehearsals, shows, hostessing and meals somewhere into 24 hours without stopping. I figured the time to move slow and relax was when something happened that was good enough to grant me the strength to just rest. I never could though.
That time never happened. My life slowly became a rain-soaked newspaper – all the exciting or important headlines and images which could have been preserved were dripping, discarded, bleeding ink, blurring it all. So there wasn’t any slowing down, never, and all that was done to get somewhere else far more exciting in a rush was never experienced fully in the moment.
Some of us are going to take the time to get older before we slow down, and that’s alright. Accept where you are in whatever pace you’re moving, that’s your rhythm. I only wished I’d been less hard on myself so that I could have taken the time that I needed to just breathe and be.