Sometimes my sitcom life veers off course and right onto the Broadway stage. I’ve practically been a show queen since birth, so I’m often inspired by tap dancing tunes. Here’s how bad it is: I run on the treadmill to a mix called “WorkoutShowtunes2.” Tuesday, at the Kimpton’s Hotel Palomar Dallas spiffy workout room, the lady next to me nearly came unglued as I inadvertently sang/blurted out the lyrics to In the Heights’ When You’re Home—”and that song you’re hearing is the neighborhood just cheering you along.” But I couldn’t help it. The song spoke to me in a new way as I imagined myself as the lead character Nina returning from afar while the hunky Benny sings to her about the neighborhood rooting for her success. That’s how I felt the last several days in the DFW Metroplex—my hometown came through for me in some very special ways.
First up on Tuesday was a Donna Reed inspired photo shoot clutching a faux-Oscar on the grand staircase of Dallas’ Hotel Palomar—a campy shot exclusive to Arnold Wayne Joes at the Dallas Voice of course. Then I headed to Colleyville, where one of my many mothers-in-law Cathy—in “reality” she’s Angela’s Mom—had pulled out all the stops for an Alphabet City themed luncheon. Cathy may have read the book closer than anyone I know pulling out inspired dishes like fresh baked Whoopi Pies accompanying pierogies (not a Texas delicacy I assure you), pigs n’ blanket, and even “Mrs. Buchmeyer’s Thimble Cookies” from Episode 2! Cathy has always been one of those people who understood my own familial challenges, and happily adopted me into her family back when Angela and I were at the University of Texas-Austin. I always feel lucky to call myself the “only Landon son not related by marriage.” Her friends couldn’t have been sweeter, many buying multiple copies.
Back in Dallas, I fretted if anyone would show up for the final event at the Hotel Palomar. Although attendance was low on quantity, it more than made up for it in quality. Former cast members I hadn’t seen in a decade or two surprised me with their support: the father of the Schindler kids I acted along side in my pre-teen thespian years as a Junior Player (he bought four books), and even my ex-partner Nathan (he bought three books). Best of all, my sister Pam brought my niece Robin just graduating from high school—she bought one book although I warned her about reading the episode called Babylon, although she’s off to college soon so maybe it’s good background!
There’s a song that keeps playing in my head from one of my favorite recent influences [title of show]. Heidi sings “A Way Back to Then” near the end of the show. Here’s how it begins and I think you’ll get a sense of why I connect with it so much:
Dancing in the backyard / Kool-aid moustache and butterfly wings / Hearing Andrea McArdle sing / From the hi-fi in the den / I’ve been waiting my whole life / To find a way back to then
I aimed for the sky / A nine-year-old can see so far / I’ll conquer the world and be a star / I’ll do it all by the time I’m ten / I would know that confidence / If I knew a way back to then
Heidi goes onto sing about how “the mundane sets in” as an adult and you lose site of that dream, but you then life takes unexpected turns.
And when you least expect / Opportunity walks through the door / You suddenly connect / With the thing that you forgot / That you were looking for
And there you are / Right in the middle of what you love / With the craziest of company / You’re having a kick-ass time / And being who you wanted to be in this world
You’re that little girl / With her wings unfurled / Flying again / Back in your backyard dancing / I found a way back to then.
Hard for me to say it any better than a song. So thanks Dallas, for helping me find a way back to then.