Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |

Claudine Jones

How Soon

Went over to my mom's today—drop off some groceries from Costco since she does love to save a few bucks on vitamins & soup—& I noticed, not for the first time, how frail she’s getting. The usual banter is still there, but it has a blurred quality. Maybe she was just tired...I don't think so. I think she's doing that thing that signals the start of a phase—in her case probably one she won't be able to reverse.


We all shift into different phases. I'm phasing out of theater: no auditions, no new monologues, no classes, no workshops; even if I weren't actively on this course, the paucity of available opportunities would make it a reality soon enough. Hell, grandson Jake's so into video games it's hard even to read out loud to him—that's a phase, too, of course—so there you go. No more character voices for now....


One of my dearest theater compatriots from the old days has moved into widowhood; learning about that on fb took me back...whew!...back before either of us was an established mother yet.  Went out to her place to say hi one time when she & K still lived in the old converted water-tower. She jumped up from her lawn chair & yelled 'Hi! K fell out of a tree & broke his back, but he's doing fine! Come on! Lunch is ready!' & then showed me her new-born blissfully dozing in his tiny room off the kitchen.  I was newly pregnant...she had all the gory details to scare me with. 'The worst thing' she told me, 'is when they shave you; I hated that! It's so itchy!'  She always talked in exclamation points.


The mini palm tree at the bottom of the steps at mom's complex lost its pot a long time ago; it sits slightly askew in a ridiculous cracked plastic bucket of dirt.  This has deeply offended my mother: 'look—it's so ugly—it's suffering.'  I pointed out that if it were truly in extremis, as her friend B the flower seller says, then it seems unlikely that it would have so many fresh green shoots bursting out at the top.  'No, no, no...B knows these things; it's frightful [further commentary regarding landlady's evil neglect] Don't you want it? Surely you could find a place for it. Your brothers could [further logistical suggestions regarding trucks] It's so pitiful.'  I told her I do have a lovely large clay pot at present not being used, so we could plan a time to muscle it over—very heavy—re-pot the little tree & everybody would be happy, although I continue to believe, ugly or no that tree is just fine or it would be dead.  




My personal trick for dealing with any sort of down-tick is to have a back-up plan: replace A with B, as it were. I recently decided that my Amazon/Hammacher habit had gotten out of control; granted, pretty much everything I got was something I could definitely make a case for needing. However, as it turns out, you can 'need' yourself right into a budgetary pit, so that puppy had to die (excuse the analogy).  When you go cold turkey on an addiction, you do suffer to some extent—depends on how bad the stuff is messing up your system. That peculiar mood or itchy feeling or unaccountable lassitude (code for 'need a nap') is a direct result of withdrawal & you have also to remember that this has happened before &, if you’re not dead, sure as shooting will happen again.


I could still get addicted to a script on first sight & massage that baby to within an inch of its life: two-sided photocopy, little bitty binder, fine tiny suggestions & notes in the margins, color-coded annotated back-stories & this doesn't even touch triggering the whole thing to be off-book asap—with cooperation from cast & director, of course.  No, that's all great, but it's prep. It's the plunge. It's the search. It's shopping.  When it's done, there's nothing left but to trot it out & see if it works & too many times it doesn't & you have to (or wish you could) send it back to the store.


Think about it: practically everything you do has a learning curve that gets to the point where you've 'got' it; you can run that program; then you need to reach in your desk drawer & get a piece of that cinnamon gum so you won't go bat-shit crazy from the vision of the tasks that lay ahead.


Anyway, as the weeks go by & the credit card balance gets tiny & o-so-manageable, weather permitting you can enjoy long walks, light gardening & chicken maintenance & other such pastimes while the crisis has peaked almost on its own.  It truly is amazing how much time consumerism takes away from mundane pleasures. Of course, the other thing you might end up doing of which you are entirely unaware & which sneaks up on you like a goddamn skunk outside in the dark, is flat-out fall for another vice.  You assume it's harmless; then you see its stripes:  root beer, classic potato chips & a series with eight seasons.


My mom is addicted, as we all are.  She's got to have something to complain about or her day is just not complete. As I collect my check for groceries from her I count myself lucky we haven't gotten into Topics such as her Utilities (now being paid automatically, with emails sent to me), the Rent increase (already decided against her in mediation) or her Oven which continues to be on the fritz since it dates from the 60's. It's a gruesome game of Chicken: her landlady's clearly waiting for her to die to renovate the whole apartment & Ma will never give up ragging on her to get a new oven that at 92 she might, frankly, be too old to use safely. 


So, I get her Netflix list & admire that little brooch she reformulated with a bit of glue & pretty stones & she begins to panic. I'm about to leave & I won't stay for lunch—I never do, not any more, it never goes well. She shows me the wall next to the phone where she has stuck the birthday note in French that I sent her: 'it means so much...I like to see those words about me.'  She gives me a moist look; since shrunken from the exalted adult height of 5'2”, she now peers up at me like a child. 'O!' she scampers into the bedroom a few feet away & returns with a small French paperback clasped to her bosom. 'Do you know this book? It is so wonderful' she beams. 'you cannot find books like this in America.'  (I am not touching that one.) We give a hug & a two-cheek kiss & I step out onto the landing into the sun. She closes the heavy white screen door & I know she's standing there looking at me through it; I can't see a thing inside the apartment, but I can hear her faint voice: 'O, I forgot! You will help me with the arbitrage business on my oven, won't you? You know, heh heh, I'm obsessed with it...'


O, triangulation can be such a bitch.


June 2015

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2015 Claudine Jones
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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