Saturday, March 20, 2010


My first memory of waking up from a nap: my brother, Eugene, bursting into the house in his wheelchair: “Aw, kawaii desu ne!” (Japanese for “Oh, you’re so cute!”) Me, bottle in mouth, curled up on the couch. Life was good.

In high school, my favorite naps were five minutes long, before leaving the house for dance class every day. And of course, the best were the immoral, ill-begotten naps during the films in history class.

In college, there was the most-of-the-day nap, the one you took after you stayed up all night cramming for a test and then went out for breakfast.

A few years ago, I was shooting ER during the day and the film, “Mighty Joe Young,” all night. I’d leave ER around 6 p.m., go home, grab a bite, kiss my husband and my kitties and go to the MJY set around 7 p.m., work all night, napping in between shots, leave the set around 5 a.m., go home, shower and head off to ER at 6 a.m., work all day, napping between shots, leave around 6 p.m. and start all over again. Those were fitful, short, dull naps, not refreshing at all. I had one day off when I went to the health food store and asked the clerk for something to give me energy. “Bee pollen? Do you think that would work?” I asked. She looked at me like I was insane. “How about some sleep?” she scolded. Luckily that only went on for a couple of weeks.

Working on ER, I napped every day at lunch. Get up at 4:30 a.m. to be at the set at 5:30 a.m., work until I dropped at lunch time, stagger to my trailer, plop onto my couch to nap. Among the many things the crew of ER taught me, one of the best was that there was no shame in napping. Lucky for us, we were working on a medical show. At lunch, the set was a hushed, darkened nursery, crew guys and gals asleep on every gurney.

Types of naps:

The Morning Nap, when you get up super early and can have the luxury of going back to bed for a few minutes.

The Lunch-Time Nap. (See ER above.)

The Mid-Afternoon Nap. At your desk, in a chair or on a couch, fully clothed. Being fully clothed is a very important part of the Mid-Afternoon Nap, it helps you feel like you’re getting away with something. Of course, a swimsuit and a beach towel are the seaside equivalent of clothing, which counts if you’re lucky enough to be taking your Mid-Afternoon Nap on a beautiful beach somewhere. Then you’re REALLY getting away with something.

And there’s my favorite, the Quick Nap In Front Of The Television, after dinner, before bed. You are fully clothed (see Mid-Afternoon Nap above), you have yet to clean up, brush your teeth, get the kids ready for bed (according to my friend, Mai), get your things ready for work the next day. You’re gearing up for that last big hustle and bustle before the …

Ultimate Nap. Bedtime.

Of course, these naps aren’t to be taken all in one day. I’m all for self-care, but even I admit that would be too indulgent. And you risk the dreaded Over-Napping Headache, when your brain is fuzz and you think you’re developing early-onset Alzheimer’s: “Besides Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger, you know the guy who starred in that movie with them, he won the Oscar, oh God, what was the name of that movie?”

Napping implies you’re doing something naughty, luxurious, lazy. Doing something selfish, just for yourself, by yourself, isn’t regarded as productive. Yet, sometimes I think we get sick so we can take legitimate naps, because somehow it’s okay to take a nap when you’re not feeling well.

I say naps are good. Naps are necessary sometimes. Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Bill and Hillary Clinton, all famous nappers. I catch my forty winks proudly with all of them. Of course, there are those who look disdainfully at me and say, “I don’t nap. I can’t fall asleep during the day.” And to them, I say, call me lazy, call me a sloth, call me anything you want, I really don’t care. I’m not ashamed to take care of myself, to honor my need to, um…yeah…you know what? I’m a little tired. Let’s resume our conversation in a half an hour or so. After I take a nap.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art for Art's Sake or This Guy Art is a Big Fan of Mine

We went to the Walt Disney Concert Hall to see Joshua Bell. The hall is stunning in its beauty and design, completely overwhelming.

I saw a documentary about the famous Frank Gehry, the designer of the Disney Hall. He would walk around his massive studio, filled with assistants and designers, pick up pieces of cardboard and bend them into different shapes. He would tape them together and leave them on tables, like my cat leaves his little paper sculptures around the house. Then the designers and assistants would scurry over and begin the execution of his designs. What struck me was his ability to create without fear. Just create. No self-doubt. No wracking insecurities. And at his level of success, people clamor to help him achieve his vision. I admired his ability not to let his previous accomplishments choke him. I’ve seen so many artists, actors, writers and musicians reach a certain level of fame and freeze, unable to create anymore.

I’m creating my own art every day, but I don’t have assistants following after me, picking up the little crumbs of my creation. Except for acting, music and dancing, the rest of the art I do--writing, directing, drawing--is only for Art’s sake. Does that mean the art I haven’t been paid for yet doesn’t exist? Most of the time, I feel extremely grateful that I have been making a living as an artist for so long, yet I'm not so famous that I fall under the pressure of extreme public scrutiny. I'm grateful that I can call myself a working artist. I’m grateful that some of my art is only for Art’s sake, for my serenity and peace of mind. My cat and I can make our little works of art and still get rewarded for our efforts.

Of course, it’s dangerous to compare Frank Gehry’s outsides with my insides. There will always be someone more successful or less successful than me, someone better or worse than me. And who knows how Frank Gehry feels in the dark of the night, when he stands alone at his window, worrying about whether or not he can create, whether or not his brain and his body will help him perform, whether he will ever get another chance to indulge in his art? Because designing the Disney Hall is a once in a lifetime experience. Motivating myself as an artist is a daily activity. And a gift.