A wrinkle in time

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I put my foot on the first step of a staircase and reached out to flip a light switch.

A simple gesture. One I had done literally thousands of times before. But, six years had passed since last I flipped this particular light switch.  I stood on the steps feeling as if I was caught in Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Wrinkle in Time. I had been here; then I was gone; now I was back and it was as if six years of my life never happened. Time had wrinkled and I was back on the staircase leading up to the editorial offices of AntiqueWeek and The Auction Exchange. This had been my home for more than 20 years.

However, I left the job in 2011 to pursue a career in animal welfare as a dog trainer at a humane society. Through a series of unfortunate events (you can read more about that here) I became unemployed in October of 2016. I then started my own dog training business and am doing really well. I was not looking for a new job. I could pay my bills and was able to put money in my savings account.

But, when I got a text message from my previous boss at AntiqueWeek asking if I would be interested in coming back to my old job, I was intrigued. I was also conflicted.

Quite a few people gave me grief when I stopped job hunting and began pursuing my own business as a dog trainer and animal welfare consultant. But, Liam Neeson is not the only person with a very particular set of skills. I had a background in running a small business (antique shop) and I knew lots about marketing from my job at AntiqueWeek. I also had a strong relationship with six years worth of people in animal welfare who were happy to send clients my way. May 28 will mark the six month anniversary of my news business: Connie Swaim Canine Behavior Services.

I love my dog training business. I love the clients (well I love most of them). I leave every consult with the hope that a dog now has a better life because of me. And I’m good at it. I rarely toot my own horn; but it turns out the force is strong with me in terms of canine behavior problem solving.

Ah, but that intriguing text message asking if I wanted my old job back. When I left AntiqueWeek; it had nothing to do with being unhappy with anything specific. It was more of a feeling that after almost 25 years in the same place I felt stuck. I had traveled the world (well at least Canada, Mexico and England); I had hosted a party for the appraisers of the Antiques Roadshow. I lectured at conventions. My job let me travel to countless cities across the U.S. to cover antique shows.

The job was also heavily tied into my feelings about my parents. Mom and Dad were antique dealers when I first went to work for AntiqueWeek. They were ESTATIC when I got the job. Dad especially said he could not imagine a better job in the world. My parents and I went to shows together. Mom sometimes went with me when I traveled out of state to events. For 20 years my parents and their business partners owned an antique mall in which I had a booth. I also helped run the shop a few times a year. My Dad wanted nothing more in life than to retire; get an RV and travel the United States antiquing. When he died suddenly at 62; our antiquing world changed. Mom and I still went antiquing; but it was Dad who really loved it the most. Then when my Mom died; every time I stepped in an antique mall I thought of my parents. Suddenly antiquing wasn’t as fun as it used to be. I would see an antique teddy bear and start to buy it for my Mom. Or I would see an old cast-iron toy and reach for my phone to call my Dad.

I just felt lost.

When I got the opportunity to work in an animal shelter; I decided the time was right for a new adventure. I do not regret it at all. It opened up a new world for me. The culture was as far away as possible from my job at AntiqueWeek. There were no daily reminders of my fun times with my parents. I parted on good terms with the publishers of AntiqueWeek.

When I got the text message I could hear my parents jumping up and down for joy. Which is how I found myself on that stair switching on the light.

I have to say it is the weirdest feeling in the world to go back to someplace after being gone for six years. In a way it is as if I never left. Then, I will find someone new in an office who wasn’t there six years ago. Or I find that I go and look for something and it isn’t in the same spot. However, most people are still in their same offices and there are only about 10 new people who weren’t there when I left. The vending machine has become more progressive and carries iced tea now. But, when I open the computer I still see the same folders I created years ago when we first went digital. Some of the software has changed; but it is basically the same. The instructions I got turned out to the same instructions I had written out six years ago for my replacement. She had kept them and added in changes. She said she hoped I could follow my own directions.

I can wrinkle time and see myself at 26 climbing these same steps (although when I was 26 I could run up the steps, now I slowly pull myself up). I can see myself through the years wherever I go in the offices.

It felt good to be back. I even spent two hours in an antique mall and was happy again rather than feeling nostalgic for all that I had lost.

I am also keeping my dog training business. It turns out I can do both with a little flexibility.

I am truly one of the luckiest people in the world. I have always loved every job I had and now I get to do two things I love.

Time to walk up those steps.

At the stage door

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“Life upon the wicked stage

Ain’t ever what a girl supposes.” – Showboat

 

I have loved musical theater for as long as I can remember. My parents went to a play on their honeymoon in St. Louis in 1959. All of our records were soundtracks from musicals. Yes, I was a very odd child.

My parents were also involved in Parke Players a local theater group. They put on a melodrama each October during the Parke County Covered Bridge festival and a play in February/March during the Maple Fair in Parke County. Dad was always behind the scenes building sets; mom was a great singer and actress and she had many parts through the years.

And there I was, the hopeless romantic who knew every love song from every musical.

I was so excited when I got parts in a play. I was a street urchin in A Christmas Carol. I

GN-11connie

Me in 1979 Gay 90s Review, Parke Players. I  loved this costume. 

got small parts in some of the Melodramas. I laid behind a couch for much of Blythe Spirit so I could make things move for the spirit. I ran lines with my mom. I BEGGED to go to any cast parties (Dad always said NO).

I was in one play in college and I worked with a friend who directed several college plays. I had been to some plays at Starlight Musicals in Indianapolis, which was as close as I had gotten to professional theater. In 1982, I went to a play that took things to a whole new level.

It was in that year I saw a play in Chicago for the first time. I was in college and dating a man in Chicago and he got us tickets to Evita. I knew nothing about Evita. All of my parent’s records were the classic musicals from the 1940s-60s. Looking back I don’t even know how he got tickets. It was the first year Evita played in Chicago and this was only the second national tour of the musical.

Evita was playing at the Shubert Theatre. I was in love the second I stepped through the
door. The Shubert had opened in 1906 as The Majestic. It was a Evita

popular Vaudeville venue. It closed during the Depression and reopened with the Shubert name in 1945. The theater was beautiful. It was majestic. It had a sweeping staircase. It had glittering chandeliers and people in sparkling clothes. For a farm girl like me this was definitely what I imaged theater to be.

So many things I didn’t know. I did not know Evita was based on a real person. I had never heard of Eva Peron. It wasn’t until intermission when I heard people talking that I realized this was a play about a real person. I felt like a hick for sure. However, I had never, ever seen anything so spectacular. This was the first time I saw a stage that moved so it appeared people were moving instead of the set. I had never seen a play where the actors held a position for long periods of time to make it appear as if they were statues. It was the most amazing experience and I will cherish it forever.

I then bought ever y book I could find on both Eva Peron and the making of Evita. Less than a year later I had the opportunity for a one-month internship at the Bronx Zoo in New York. I spent one week living in downtown NYC. The average ticket price in 1983 was $30. I was a poor college student. But, someone (I still don’t know who) sent my professor money and asked it be sent to me and the only instructions were that I had to spend it something fun.

I went to three plays: Evita, Dreamgirls and Merlin. In doing research for this, I learned 1983 was considered the worst year for Broadway in more than a decade. Which probably explains how I was able to get tickets to three plays. Merlin was in pre-production and it only lasted a few months. Dreamgirls was awesome and I loved Evita on Broadway. I really enjoyed Merlin and was sad to that it didn’t last.

I still remember being on an elevator and seeing little girls in Cats makeup. I had no idea you could dress up as a character and go to a play. While it was a bad year on Broadway, Cats was the only big thing going and unfortunately, I was unable to get tickets to it.

Since then I’ve seen Evita at least eight times. It will always hold a place in my heart because it was the first.

Mom had always wanted to go to Broadway and luckily we made it a few years before she died. We had the misfortune of being in New York in August of 2003 when a power surge and a faulty computer program caused all of New York City to lose power (and we got the Tshirts to prove it). Mom and I were on a tour bus returning from Liberty Island when every traffic signal in New York City went out. Thank God the bus driver was able to get us to within two blocks of our hotel. Unfortunately, our room was on the 25th floor and mom had a bad knee. There was no way we could climb 25 flights of steps. Instead of seeing the Great White Way; we saw Times Square when it was absolutely dark. No lights anywhere. We spent the night sleeping on chairs in our hotel’s ballroom (and there was no running water for restroom facilities).

We had tickets to The Producers for the night of the blackout. Bummer. Luckily, the next morning power was restored and we were able to convert our tickets to the following evening. We LOVED The Producers. We also took lots of photos of signs saying “Stage Door.” Unfortunately, we didn’t do any tours of actual stages. One of Mom’s wishes was that her ashes be scattered on a Broadway stage. I still have the ashes. I just need to sneak them onto a theater stage at some point.  The power outage affected airlines and we were able to extend our stay in New York and saw The Phantom of the Opera as well.

Through the years I’ve taken every opportunity I can to see musical theater productions. I got to see Les Miserables in London. (Where they bring a drink cart around prior to the start of the show. I love London).

I found myself back in the old Shubert Theatre the first week of May to see Hamilton. Of course the Shubert is not called that anymore. It has the horrible name of The PrivateBank Theatre. Naming rights; evidently they get the job done.

20170506_131525It amazes me it was 35 years ago when I first found myself in the theater. It seems like only yesterday. I really couldn’t remember anything except I thought the theater seemed smaller. In 1982 I hadn’t been anywhere or seen any other professional theater. And ticket prices have certainly changed in the last 35 years. Tickets to Hamilton in Chicago were $200.

Like Evita, Hamilton is based on real people (although Hamilton is much more historically accurate). And like Evita; I fell in love. I knew the music to Hamilton. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for months. But, seeing it in person was beyond description. It now moves into my top spot as my favorite musical. I can’t wait to go see it again.

It was a bit disconcerting for the first five minutes or so. I knew the Lin-Manuel soundtrack of the original Broadway cast. The Chicago cast obviously sounded different. Soon however I stopped noticing the differences. I actually loved the actors playing Hamilton, Burr and Washington. And the actor playing King George was fantastic.

 

“There’s no business like show business like no business I know

Everything about it is appealing, everything that traffic will allow” – From Annie Get Your Gun.