I consistently don’t know where I am or what day it is. Each day can seem a week long and it is really disorienting.
HOWEVER! We just got to Phoenix, NY after leaving Sylvan Beach on Oneida Lake at 6am. It was such a cool place! It’s this sweet little beach town so we spent a lot of time on the beach and bopping around the Cape Cod-style main drag. We also picked up a good frisbee and a volleyball. When I saw everyone hitting the ball around (we didn’t have a net) I got all excited and jumped in and T said, “Of course Victoria wants to play; she’s a jock!”
…I did marching band and musicals in high school. And admittedly, I was also a really intense dancer, but this is definitely the first time anyone has ever lumped me into the jock category. I just started laughing at him because it’s so weird!
A few days ago, we spent the night at Lock 20 in the Erie Canal (no idea where it is) and there was a big beautiful crane. Our video guy has been wanting to get some shots of me a C hanging off of something other than the truss, like a bridge or tree (which I’m not in favor of thankyouverymuch). R agreed to set up a lyra for me and we got some really beautiful footage of me doing some improv. It was so nice to be in the air for the first time in two weeks and I got beat up in the most wonderful way. Got a few photos, too!
R was really excited about filming as the sun set…right at the end he caught the gorgeous pink/purple light behind me as we wrapped up some slow motion and tight frame footage.
Fairly soon (in a few hours?), we leave Coxsackie!
I realize that my last post was full of sadness, which was absolutely accurate, but lately there are also things that are lovely!
At our show on the 4th, one guy got all pissed off and started yelling and getting aggressive at our sound operator (who, it’s worth knowing, is an incredibly intense Italian and a force to be reckoned with). Cops ended up dragging him off, though clearly he didn’t represent the majority of the town since we got a lot of apologies from everyone. One lady (the police chief’s wife, I believe? She is also a classically trained actress and trained with Martha Graham [yay!]) circled us all up after the show and had this whole little speech for us that boiled down to her saying that we’re great. She felt (as does our director) that if we’re chasing people away with the message of the show, then it needs to be said.
The kind words were definitely appreciated. And some other old hippie guy informed us, “You guys are just like Pink Floyd!” I admit I’m not 100% sure what he meant by that, but he was really enthusiastic and I like Pink Floyd, so it must be a good thing!
These last few days have been a mellow breakdown. We took down all of the truss, which was a much easier task the second time. I think part of it might be that the turnbuckles weren’t as stuck and a huge part of it is a decreased fear of dangling in space. ALSO, as it turns out, “when in doubt, give it a clout” is actually kind of useful advice. Sometimes you do need to just bang on a thing to make it cooperate. WHO KNEW?
You know how when you’re mopping you have to plan out your route so you don’t mop yourself into a corner? You always have to mop yourself into the doorway, otherwise you walk over your newly cleaned floors and that’s annoying. Taking down the truss is the exact same, except that instead of walking across newly mopped floors, the outcome is there is nothing at all underneath you. J and I spent quite a bit of time mapping out which cables to undo, followed by which grates to take off so that the final things we undid wouldn’t send us plummeting into nothingness. And we did this successfully! HOORAY!
Yesterday we took down the mast which takes a long time but actually isn’t a lot of work. Mostly we just stood around actively ready to help out as L lowered the whole mess on the winch. The main mast and the spree end up closing up on deck kind of like a fan. I don’t know how the mizzen came down; they did that when J and I were dealing with the truss.
And hey, re: interpersonal relationships, things are going well! Yay! Evidently, the big processing actually helped. Hooray! Photo celebration!
So, you know Mohs scale of mineral hardness? It’s what judges the scratch resistance of various minerals where things that are higher on the scale can scratch things lower on the scale, yeah? On a scale of talc to diamond, right now we’re at a topaz. I think. Actually, those scales are always tricky (like pain scales at the doctor) because I always assume it can get infinitely worse. (Well, Mohs scale is pretty darn straightforward…not so much with the subjective. Calcite is just never gonna scratch orthoclase fieldspar and that’s that. No amount of debate or theoretical situations is gonna change it.) Like, even when I’m in so much pain I can’t breathe or think and I have ceased to be a human and I’m internally screaming for death, I assume it can get worse. Afterall, I’ve never been drawn and quartered. Or had my nails pulled out. Or-wait, stop, this is not the conversation I meant to start.
MY POINT BEING: It can always get worse, right?
Sooooo what does topaz look like?
Looks like that. Hardy har.
Yeah, but it also looks like a lot of changes. We’ve had a couple folks head off because of visa things and family circumstances, which means we’re currently short two actors. Also, it’s been pretty hard to get gigs, so we’re scrambling a bit but are set for a gig in early August, which brings us to what is really hard as an aerialist specifically: training. We’re gearing up for a pretty long sail, which means C and I need to figure out how to train when we don’t have a truss or deck space, not to mention a studio. Running (when we have access to land) and ground conditioning will only get you so far; a month without getting in the air is going to leave me utterly useless, especially on vertical apparatuses where I struggle anyway. We’ve sort of figured out a solution to hang from a point that (I think) doesn’t come down, but it’s still not very clear or high, so we can’t do drops or anything. But still, being able to climb will help.
Also, I’m supposed to be working on a lyra act…buuuuuuut I haven’t figured out when I’ll have the resources to do that.
You know how when you’re camping for a while and you come home and you’re like, “Ohgodyes a bed! Ohhhhhhhhh running water. OHHHHHH it’s hot!” We’re in the camping part. Except that the zipper on our tent is broken and it’s raining.
Anyway. The boat’s been doing a lot of processing feelings and stress and somedays are better than other days and other days are really really bad, and then other other days I get to talk on the phone with people I like and then when I get back to the boat C informs me that there’s a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer for us and I love her so much I could explode.
Also, special shout out to her rocking her one arm hang on rope during our show…and I missed it because I was sitting on the truss staring at the massive blood red moon and fireworks that were going off. #allthatglittersissuperdistracting #ohhhhshiny
Yesterday I had a great day off with B and R. We got to go to B’s friend’s parent’s house (on the lake!) and go swimming and I finished my book (The Late Mr. Shakespeare, definitely recommend) and we ate some reaaaaaally tasty food and it was so nice. The lake was unbelievably clear; I swam down to the bottom and was weaving in and out of the lake weeds and could see so clearly! Here’s hoping someday I grow gills and can just stay under for as long as I like.
There is a waterfall that many folks went to yesterday and there is talk of returning, which I am supremely interested in. (Because yes, on my day off, I just wanna get off the boat and in the water.)
Oh also, there’s a neat old opera house here which is abandoned and falling down, but the new owners let us in to explore and it was beauuuuutiful. Really grateful for that.
Anywhoo. So things are pretty tough right now. I am thankful for the lovely moments and from the support of C and from the sweet words from my people at home. There will be easier times. There might be harder times. But hey, I’m bouncy. I rebound quickly.
Sometimes you’re cruising up the Hudson staring at green trees and water and you’re so happy you just wanna smash your face into your friends because you love them too much to show affection like a normal human.
Right, so there’s that. Also, there are a few visa complications, so three of our people have left in the last 48 hours. That’s really frustrating because a) I like them! I want them to stay! 2) they’ve been really stressed out and lastly) we are now short on crew. (Plus, apparently it causes inconsistent ordering systems.) I mean, we’ll likely see them again at some point or another, but we will miss them all the same. :\
Being here in Hudson has posed its own difficulties as well. Obviously we had the drive shaft issue coming up, so we were a little behind, which means that when we arrived we had to go into overdrive to put things together…..and then it rained. Forever. Out of our four planned shows, only one of them cooperated weather-wise. (Ah, the joys of outdoor theater.) We threw in a make up show last night, but again, weather was supposed to be a pain, so we ended up performing inside a tent that was leftover from the summer market. It was…different. It kind of threw me for a loop to -at 4pm- hear that I’m going to be improvising the whole show on the ground. (Because obviously we have nothing to rig from.) We pulled over a few set pieces, like the hacksters’ cages and the torture cages, and pulled in a few lights and managed to get a sound system working. (Our sound designer has been crazy sick for two days and can barely get up, not to mention trying to be cognizant enough to run a complicated show.) I have to say, it ended up being a pretty decent set, and I worked hard to keep an open mind about what what’s actually possible versus what I think is possible. The results were somewhere in between.
There were about 50 or so people in the audience when we started, though by the end all but about 6 of them had left. And of course, since it was in a tent, that’s an hour and a half of ground work for us aerialists. There was a part of me that was like, “C’mon girl, you’re a dancer, make it work,” but ultimately, it wasn’t a really fulfilling show for me. I don’t personally like (and I speak exclusively as a physical performer at the moment) improv as a performance tool. I mean, I love it when doing contact improv with people because it’s a game and it’s play, or using it as an experimental tool during act creation, but it doesn’t really do it for me when I’m in front of an audience. The thing I love about performing is the surrender. It’s what happens when I’ve trained so hard that my brain can give in and completely trust my body. My whole mind goes quiet and it feels like standing on stage in an empty theater looking out at rows and rows of empty seats. It feels like the space between inhaling and exhaling, and it stretches on forever. A great performance for me means that I wasn’t thinking; I was just a body giving everything a body can give. I was arms, legs, muscles, nerves, bones, joints, and space. It’s so peaceful and soothing, and it’s a way to lose myself while also being my most authentic self.
Occasionally there will be a thought that drifts into my quiet room:
but it dissipates leaving that complete beautiful silence again.
Improvising is less fulfilling for me because there’s too much thinking:
“GAH! Don’t trip!”
“What am I doing??”
“Do I have anything clean to wear tomorrow?”
“Creepy creepy gnarly grarrrr”
“Make sure to open up to the audience”
“Oh man my thighs are burning” (seriously…an hour and a half of twitching/creeping around in a low squat? Oof, yo.)
“That was graceful, stop it”
“Where am I going next?”
“How can I interact with this person? Oh shoot, they turned away from me and don’t know I’m being scary at them so they can’t react”
“Gah, the cage isn’t squishing. I need more cake. Hrrrnnnnng”
“Man, my sweat is really really salty.”
“What is that guy photographing?”
See? TOO MUCH THINKING. No good. No peace.
Anyway. Sometimes art feeds you. Sometimes it eats you. Last night was a draining one that left me feeling like a husk, rather than full and clear. But some shows are like that, and that’s okay.
There were good moments, of course. Highlights were the Mammon masks, for sure. They have these massive puppet heads with glowing eyes that looked fantastic in the dark tent. At one point, I looked back at them and it was just six pairs of eyes floating toward us and it was super cool. Plus, L’s lighting was really good, especially considering it was pretty much off the cuff! And the scene where we torture Xaraine felt really powerful; she brought her A game and whereas usually we are above her and squishing her in a compression cage, this time we were beside her looking at her face-to-face, which was really intense.
This morning I woke up supremely comfortable. I took a super hot shower last night and scrubbed myself pink and I slept forever and woke up this morning with my pillow in the best spot and my covers all wonderful without being twisted up and when I rolled over, my hair was soft and clean against my cheek and I just felt good.
“I don’t think I have the words to accurately describe how much I love this. Last night, we arrived in Hyde Park (just across the river from New Paltz)”
Oh wait, quick interruption. So we left Brooklyn (went past the Statue of Liberty! Beautiful view of the city! Pictures!)
Right, so we left Brooklyn which was all well and good, except right after we passed under the George Washington Bridge, one (or two?) of our drive shafts broke so we did this fun little aimless drifting in the water until we managed to get to Yonkers to find replacement parts. We spent the night there, which was pretty lovely!
OH! And also! We’re not actually sailing. The last little part of the truss stays up (and blocks the sail) so we motor everywhere. It’s a little disappointing, but *shrug*. I’m on white watch, and we go in 4 hour increments. So far we’re not doing any night sailing because we’re all n00bs, but apparently we’ll get to that point eventually. In the meantime, we generally set off ~6am (depending on the tides/current) so the first watch is 6-10, then 10-2, then 2-6, then maybe 6-8. While on watch there’s nav(igation), bow (making sure we don’t hit anything), helm (steering), and floater (dishes, bringing drinks, checking in with everyone). I don’t love being a floater, but any of the other three are really fun! The wheel is surprisingly challenging, so usually 30 minutes at the helm makes your arms burn. Navigation gets easier and means you get to stare at maps for ages, which I’m a big fan of. Being at the bow has the advantage of a great view, getting to play with binoculars, and (if I’m alone) I get to sing to myself. I mean, granted, I could sing to myself anyway, but lemme tell you: there is a reason why I’m an aerialist/dancer. So I generally do most of my singing alone in cars, or with people who sing as badly as I do (or worse). So having a little alone time means I get to sing to myself as much as I want without being self-conscious!
HOKAY. Back to the journal.
“We ate the most incredible dinner, thanks to B and E, who made this amazing cheesy pesto pasta that exploded in your mouth when you bit into the penne. Plus, we got some fantastic apple pie in phyllo dough, which was sweet and buttery and absolutely perfect.
“I’d been itching to go swimming since…well, since forever, quite honestly. After dinner (oh, and a walk in the rain with C!) I sat on the dock reading and dangling my feet in the water. This guy P, who runs the marina, rocked up in his jetski and was like, ‘Hey, where’s that girl who wanted a ride?’ and not being one to miss and opportunity, immediately I just go, ‘ME! I want a ride!’
“He laughs and tells me to go grab a life jacket and in barely a minute I was buckling one on and settling onto the back of this jetski. Soon, wind was peeling back my eyeballs and I was laughing into the wind and water. It felt like flying and I was so wholly consumed by happiness it left an ache in my chest like cheeks after laughing. And after he brought me back (and gave rides to a bunch of others) D sat to read with me. (She was reading a book by the same author I was reading.) Even as it started to get dark, we both kept wishing we could be in the water, and once we both said so out loud, we, giddy with freedom, stripped and there was the most beautiful moment of hearing the shushwhump of extra clothes hitting the deck and the slap slap slap of our feet running toward the water and then my toes curling over the edge as my knees bend, hands up and reaching for the water, arms carving the air, feet pushing and soaring free, eyes closing as the water rushes up to my hands, deep breath and then I’m swimming and laughing and spinning around to see D flying into the water. It’s moments like that where I feel like my most pure self. Being underwater reminds me of who I am.
“We spent ages laughing and splashing in the water and luring others in too. Once we finally pulled ourselves out, D and I sat on the dock wrapped in our towels with water dripping down our backs. Suddenly, she just starts laughing and laughing and soon I was laughing too and I don’t even know why. After forever, our cheeks hurt, our abs burned and the rivers of our hair had mostly dried up. I felt scrubbed new in my heart.
“Late that night, a few of us pitched some tents and slept outside. I fell asleep wrapped up in my friend’s arms, listening to the rain coming down on the tent…and woke up in a puddle. We eventually gave up and skittered back inside to sleep in our dry bunks.
“This morning we had several hours off while we waited for the tide to come in. A little entourage of us headed up the river a little bit to find the rope swing. It was too shallow to use, but we also found a bunch of uncomfortably large bones. A few ribs, a hip joint, a scapula, a femur, and pieces of sharp-toothed jaw. My guess is a coyote. The river was wonderful and the current pulled us along not unkindly. It was a glorious morning.
“Now we’re en route to Hudson, NY, where we should arrive around 8pm. Tomorrow we’ll start setting up for Wednesday’s show! The river truly is beautiful, as the northeast is wont to be during June. If I could spend forever on a boat performing circus, I should always be happy. This is absolutely what I need to be doing right now and I am so thankful for every moment. I am so happy. And of course, I miss the ones I love, but I can go confidently knowing that they are excited for me too. And that they will always be there when I get back. I’m so grateful for friends with adventurous hearts who are always supporting of voyages.
“I am so fortunate. So very fortunate.”
We got to Hudson! Hooray! Everyone spent the next two days working like crazy to get set up for the show. I had another flare up which was less fun and laid me low for a few days, but I’m finally doing loads better today. And good news/bad news, even though we were supposed to open last night, I didn’t miss a show! There was an electrical issue, so we couldn’t start. It’s super frustrating, but ultimately, I think it’s good; everyone was incredibly tired and rushed and this gives us a little extra time to pull ourselves together to give the best show possible. Plus, I think we have Sunday as an optional make up day?
Sometimes (often) I feel like I have no idea what’s going on. I’m getting used to it, but it’s definitely taking a little bit of adjusting.
Oh, also while we were heading up here, we went past Sing Sing Prison and West Point! (Man, this post is just all over the place, isn’t it? And this, kids, is why you make outlines before writing essays. Sheesh.) Both were really beautiful from the water. Also, I keep wanting to talk about the polar bear I saw when I was at the bow, but as it turns out, that was a dream. BUT IT FELT REAL.
I’d also like to just have a grateful moment for all the beautiful hearts on this trip with me. I really appreciated the love and concern coming from every angle as I was flat out. Everyone wanted to offer support and help and though I can’t totally remember everything (pain and meds make for a lousy memory), it was really touching to have people poking their head in my bunk to see if I needed anything, whether it was more water (including purified water when I guess I started going on about how the water was all wrong? Man, I get spoiled), or some crackers, or a hug, or a quick pat. As with any place, the people make the home and I am surrounded by some absolutely incredible people.
This is our last day in Brooklyn! We set off in less than 24 hours. Everyone is really excited to get moving and our next destination is Hudson, NY. We’ll leave at the bleary eyed crack of dawn and then begin our way up the Hudson River, stopping around Newburgh, NY for the night before continuing on. Shows are free at 9 from June 24-27th. Bring blankets & chairs!
Performances have edged away from nerve-wracking and into the fun side of things. At several points, C and I had these little grrrrawwwrrrrrrrrrr interactions that I love. Not only does it help us stay connected (oh, fun moment of being in sync when not performing: on Tuesday we started to take things down. C and I were down rigging (being the people on the ground receiving/directing the stuff coming down) and someone up top called down to us. We both called back in perfect unison, matching words, tone and inflection. L just paused to look down at us, shuddered and went, “Oh god, that was creepy.”). Where was I? Oh right, so not only is it a lovely way to connect with my partner in the show, but it’s also fun to be a sadistic little monster thing that’s excited to torture people with its sadistic little monster friend/sibling/thing! Thursday and Sunday’s shows both got rained out partway through, which is disappointing. Thursday was a sudden abrupt downpour while we were already working our way up to the top of a rope to finish an act, and Sunday was a slow drip………drip………..drip……drip….driiip..drizzle…HELLO I’M RAIN!, so we knew it was coming and we were prepared for when the music cut.
Anywho, so now we’ve got 5 (or 3 and two halves, depending on how we’re counting) shows under our belt! Tuesday we started the break down process of turning our stage back into a boat. The biggest task that I’m a part of is getting the truss (that big platform with grating) down. Yesterday, J and I spent all day up there with wrenches and our hearts in our throats.
How does one take down the truss? Well, if you’re on the shore looking at it, the third on the right (the aft truss) comes down first, then we do the second third, which is the fore truss (on the far left) and then today we’ll take down the mid truss, which is in two long pieces on either side of the sail. So we climb up there and put up a bridle, which attaches the section we’re working on to a winch via the mast (so it doesn’t plummet when released). Then we tighten that until it’s holding a good amount of weight, and then we (carefullycarefully) scootch to the far ends to loosen the turnbuckles and detach the cables. And then we repeat for all the other cables. I was on the last cable and it was giving me some grief because it’s attached by a shackle (small U piece of metal with a pin across the top so it makes a D when connected) and the pin was still under enough tension that I couldn’t get it out. I probably spent 10 minutes pulling, using the wrenches for leverage, asking it nicely (never underestimate my powers of persuasion)(except, apparently, when trying to convince a pin to free itself), and even just (at R’s command) banging on it. It was being ridiculously stubborn and obviously it was compounded by the fact that I was sitting on the truss adding pressure to it. And the whole time, there’s this little voice rattling around inside my head going, “Hey, Victoria. So let me get this right…you’re taking down a huge piece of equipment…undoing all the cables that secure this…WHILE YOU ARE SITTING ON THE THING. YOU ARE SITTING ON THE THING YOU ARE UNDOING. THIS IS LIKE SAWING OFF A TREE LIMB THAT YOU ARE PERCHED ON. YOU ARE NOT A CARTOON. GRAVITY WORKS.” And that voice was 100% right. In the good idea/bad idea game, objectively that’s a bad idea. But we were doing it safely! Anyway so I’m wrestling with this 1.5 inch piece of metal and R points out that if I could get my weight off of the truss for a second, it’d probably come right out.
“So why don’t you try just jumping? Give a quick jump and pull it out!”
Wait. Wait, hang on, I don’t think I’ve actually described this well. Let’s take a moment so I can paint you a word picture, kay? Alright. So I’m-no. Actually, let’s give you a real picture. (View from the deck)
One leg is dangling into space. That diagonal beam is just a little too far away to provide a secure seat, so I’ve got a bar digging into my bum and my other leg is bracing me on the pole in front of me. The boat is swaying and the truss is doing a lot of wiggling since the other cables came off. Okay, so let’s pick back up:
“So why don’t you try just jumping? Give a quick jump and pull it out!”
I looked at R who was watching me expectantly. And then I looked at J, who was staring at me with what I can only assume is a perfect reflection of my expression. If it were a wine, it would be described as “dubious, with notes of incredulous, aged in a oh-hell-no barrel and with a fruity, horrified finish”. Eventually I did manage to wiggle it out. No jumping involved (thankfully).
Yesterday we got our first navigation lesson, which included learning how all the tools in the charthouse work, how to chart out our location, what to do in case of emergencies, etc etc. It looks like a lot, but I am fully confident that it’ll be a lot easier once we start. And it sort of already makes intuitive sense anyway, so that helps. Also, 5th grade geography lessons came into play! (Hullo latitude and longitude!)
Today is our last day of breakdown and then tomorrow I’m on the second watch (10am)! We’ll arrive in Hudson on Saturday! I’ll make sure to take lots of pictures tomorrow morning as we leave the city.