Please give a warm welcome to special guest-poster, the fabulous dramaturg, style icon, and my Lovah: Ramona Ostrowski!
I was recently chatting (well, gossiping) with a friend about a mutual acquaintance who was moving in with their romantic partner after dating for what we both considered to be a shockingly short amount of time. “Buy a piece of furniture together!” my friend said, distilling the complexities of combining two lives into one space into a succinct and perfect test of compatibility.
John and I completed this daunting and emotionally-fraught task when we first moved in together, because we needed to buy a piece of furniture that could serve as seating in our small living room and as a place for a guest to sleep. We passed with flying colors, no tears, still in love, and currently have a lovely little loveseat whose arms fold down into a twin bed.
Six months later, it was time for us to buy a new mattress. The double bed we were sleeping on wasn’t terribly old, but it was made of metal springs which meant that whenever one of us got in or out of bed, rolled over, coughed, etc, the whole thing would move and make noise.
Now, I consider myself to be a relatively easy-going person—there’s not that much I can’t get used to eventually, and I generally think I’m a pretty chill and flexible girlfriend. But I need my sleep. I crave sleep. I love it so much. If my lifestyle allowed it, I would happily sleep for eleven hours every night. I’m barely functional when I get eight. I’m also a pretty light sleeper, so the thing I love is elusive to me. It doesn’t seem quite fair.
All of which is to say, I was not happy whenever I was disturbed by John getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, or waking up at 6am to write, or tossing and turning because he couldn’t sleep well. I was starting to feel resentful. I’d lay awake, staring at the inside of my eye mask. After particularly bad nights, I’d get up still annoyed at him. The answer seemed clear: a new bed was necessary.
Things were complicated, though, by his new passion for eco-friendly products. You can read more about our process in his post, but I will just say that it was certainly tricky to find something in our budget range that met both of our specifications.
Making the bed decision was also a lot more emotional than the futon choice. Many mattresses have very long warranties. So the decision wasn’t just, “What do we want now?” but also, “What will we want in ten years? Fifteen years? Twenty years, in some cases?” That was part of what drove us to a queen size—though we were pretty fine in our double, there’s gotta be room for the eventual puppy!
The extra weight of The Future hanging over the decision (not to mention the substantial cost involved) made conversations tricky, so we often had to take breaks from talking about it when we (well, I) would get overwhelmed.
After much independent research, spreadsheet-sharing, and conversation, though, we were really excited to land on EcoTerra. It was hard—we got to a point where we were reading so many customer reviews that the good ones became meaningless, and the bad ones became terrifying. One of the reasons we actually landed on EcoTerra is because, as a new company, there were less reviews—less people to talk us out of it, basically. It’s not the most logical way to make a decision, but having less information kind of allowed us to trust our gut. Eventually, the natural latex foam on top of individually wrapped springs (to minimize motion transfer and noise) just felt like the right choice.
When the mattress arrived, we immediately loved it. It is so much softer than the old one, but still supportive, and without that almost stuck feeling I sometimes get from mattresses that are pure foam—this still has a bounce to it. I’m still usually aware when John gets in or out of the bed before me, but it’s a much less disruptive experience—I’m able to note it and then quickly go back to sleep (and quickly forgive him…most of the time).
Overall, I think we learned a lot about each other and how to work together through this experience. We learned to clearly express our priorities, and to respect each other’s. In the realm of making eco-conscious purchasing decisions, we learned to do research and not take companies at their words. Many companies claim to be “eco-friendly,” “green,” etc, but the actual definitions and methods vary greatly.
Stay tuned for a wrap-up of our next big decision: adopting a dog! (Once it’s published on the internet, we can’t go back.)
I’ve been reading a lot in researching this project. Maybe too much.
But there is a lot to absorb: the science, the predictions and projections, but also what’s happening elsewhere, and how all of these factors interact to produce results. I’ve studied the history of how Boston reacts to disasters, and sought for light amidst all the tragic estimations.
Something I’ve been drawn to repeatedly is the idea of the village – even if mobile – and how people are drawn together amidst cataclysm. Despite narratives otherwise, disaster tends to bring people together: strangers help one another. Regular life routines are disrupted and everyone re-sets, their priorities re-focus: imminent needs are tended to often with a priority placed on helping others meet their needs: food, shelter, health.
I’m reminded of a Tuesday afternoon at the beginning of the century. I was living in Santa Fe with no TV, no access to news. I worked late nights and slept until 11 or noon. I checked my email and received a note from a friend who lived in NYC (it would have been 2 or 3pm his time). He wrote to say he was ok, happy in fact. He had spent the day at Central Park, where many people seemed to converge. Strangers were holding hands, buying each other ice cream and hot dogs. Someone brought a radio and someone brought a guitar. Friends who didn’t know each others’ names held hands and sang songs and danced. Someone fell in love. Someone offered a place to stay for the night.
It was hours later that night – when I went to work and saw the images on TV – before I understood what happened on that morning of September 11.
I am also reminded of a Monday afternoon in Boston a few years ago, and how, when it felt as though the very soul of the city was attacked, the citizens closed tightly together around that hole, like new skin growing over a wound to keep out the bad.
Stories I have often been drawn to in fiction or film show people – families, extended families, adopted families, and strangers – coming together in the midst of horror. I’ve returned to many of those stories as I dream up this play.
Here are a few that have impacted me hugely:
John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath – the story of refugees from America’s last great climate disaster, a family that embraces others despite distrust and worry. I have the added memory of this being one of the first plays I worked on. A production is very much like a family coming together amidst disaster: it is a group of often strangers, working towards a single goal, setting aside selfishness to achieve something remarkable together.
Harry Potter series: is there a better contemporary story showing the power of adopted families? Name one, I dare you.
Voltaire’s Candide: a young man and his friends travel the world in search of heaven or truth, and find neither. What they do find is that the simple togetherness of people you care for, and the simple means of working to meet each other’s needs, might be the closest thing to heaven we have access to. With this work, I have also the memories of Mary Zimmerman’s production of the Bernstein musical, which the Huntington put on in 2011. It is still the highlight of my theatre-going career. Hearing a note from the final song fills me so immediately with joy and hope that I tear up, I think of sprouting roses, and I prepare to try again to be a better part of a community.
As a writer, I return to music over and over for inspiration. For every play I make a playlist. Sometimes I’m drawn to the story of a song, sometimes just a mood or tone in the sounds.
For Martha’s (b)Rainstorm, I’m drawn to a wide range of things. I’m thinking of what music might sound like in the future, which in my gut means songs that aren’t in English, songs that have a melange of sounds from different places: globalization and migration expressed through an array of instruments.
Some keystone bands are Gogol Bordello, which takes the Gypsy folk music of Russia/Eastern Europe and cranks it with an American Punk rock attitude; also Debo band, a Boston-based Ethiopian funk band.
Also: an exciting range of Apocalypse Pop exists (A-Pop-Calypse?): music expressly about destruction or the end of the world. Often these songs are full of joy and energy: they are about love, celebration, the exuberance to be found when there are no more questions or doubts. Here are a few of my faves:
Modern English: I Melt With You
R.E.M.: It’s the End of the World as we Know It (And I Feel Fine):
Nena: 99 Red Balloons: