I was on my way to my friend Lisa’s wedding at the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July. Standing by the railing on the ferry, I excitedly watched Lady Liberty get closer and closer, as I scanned the shoreline for the red, white and blue balloons marking the location of the ceremony. Moments later, I was gliding past the statue, her green patina fading into the distance. I’d accidentally boarded the ferry to Staten Island, and by the time I returned to Manhattan, there was a mile-long line of Nikon-toting tourists in Magnum P.I. shirts. The Liberty Island ferries were sold out for the day.
Yes, every wedding has at least one village idiot. That day, it was me. Little did I know it would foreshadow the 25 years to come.
The story of my life has been one of missing the boat – literally and figuratively. I was steered toward a small women’s college and missed the boat to the Ivy League school of my dreams (Cornell). Never having a date (or even a slow dance) in high school or college, I missed the catamaran to young love. Was I a late bloomer? I don’t think so. I like to say I bloomed, but no one picked me.
After college, I arrived in New York City with my arms up in the air, belting “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” but the theater world was oblivious to my arrival. I was ready to live the exciting life of That Girl, only to find that there just weren’t any parts for short, chunky white girls who looked Italian, but talked like Fanny Bryce. I wasn’t pretty enough for a lead, a good enough dancer for the chorus, or old enough to play someone’s mother. So I gave up and went to journalism school, missing the barge to Broadway.
I’ve missed many a boat in my day … the boat to supermodel looks, world travel, even fertility. And I didn’t even come close to nabbing a ticket on the pontoon to the sexual revolution. Sweet 16 and never been kissed? I was 20. It was a snowy night in Times Square with a gay friend who was still trying to figure out which way he leaned. Shortly thereafter, he found the man of his dreams and AIDS became a household word.
I’m queen of the boat missers. I’m the girl who always starts and never finishes. I buy books I never read, art supplies I never use and clothes I never wear (because I plan on dieting into them, of course). I still haven’t tried the Billy Blanks CDs that came to me monthly six years ago with a lose-weight-or-get-your-money-back guarantee. My Sensa expired two years ago and still sits in its shrink-wrapped box. And in college, I started knitting a sweater that I finally just unraveled, placing the expensive, nubby yarn in my yard sale.
I once auditioned at The Comic Strip and got asked back for open mic night, but didn’t return. With no idea that comediennes actually wrote and memorized routines, I ad libbed mine, with sweaty palms and shaky knees. The idea of a repeat performance was so terrifying, I never went back. Comedy might have been the sailboat to my sitcom.
Life for me has been a string of incredible beginnings. My screenplay needs a third draft, but I have no idea how to fix it, so it’s been in a drawer since 2006.
Seven years ago, I took a beginning quilting class and started a set of placemats. To this day, I’ve only made one, but have an impressive stack of carefully cut and measured strips.
I’ve written pieces of songs in my head … and a long-outdated sitcom spec for Suddenly Susan that I couldn’t get read by an agent. I have paper napkins full of ideas – at least three of them million dollar ones that I don’t know how to execute.
Eighteen years ago, I tried to become a humor columnist and sent samples of my work to 100 newspapers and syndicates, many of which responded that I made their editors laugh hysterically, but regretfully, they weren’t hiring. So I have drawers full of unprinted, now-dated vignettes.
Add that to my 30-year idea for Broadway’s next big musical that is currently being executed by someone else (crap) … movie theaters with cushy seating and bar service that I envisioned more than 20 years ago (double crap) and 28 years of novel research on a turn of the century mass murderer recently featured in a bestseller (Crap! Crap! Crap!).
So this is the year I clean up my act … let go of baggage, finish what I’ve started, throw out what I don’t want to finish, and reinvent my life. Right here, right now I’m getting on the ship.
I once got a fortune cookie that read “An excellent time for dusting. Start with a few old dreams.”
So here it is:
Dream #1 – Become the next Erma Bombeck.
And so it begins.