“I Have Many Skills…” or, The Xena Quest

[DISCLAIMER: Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you that I don’t own Xena or Hercules or anything Renaissance Pictures has produced, and in fact have absolutely nothing to do with them either way. No copyright infringement is intended.]

Well hello there, intrepid fans and awesome people. I wish I could write more frequently than once a month, but I apparently lack the ability. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just not that interesting? I don’t know. Either way, I appreciate you tuning in when I can manage to get a post written. It means the world to me.

Which brings me to the topic du jour: Have you ever seen Xena: Warrior Princess? You know, that campy spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys that lesbians really love? They both used to air back in the 90’s and then they were in syndication for awhile, and then at some point, they spawned a prequel called Young Hercules, a kid’s show starring a teenage Ryan Gosling (who is unfairly dreamy in it). Well, some of you may know that I have this…thing…with chronology. As in, I need to watch all the parts of a thing in the order in which it was intended to be viewed, or else I feel uncomfortable. I didn’t do a lot of TV watching in the 90’s as a result (I watched a ton of cartoons and stuff, but I couldn’t watch things like Buffy), and I never experienced more than a passing glance at the aforesaid camp. Now that the internet is a thing, however, I can watch whatever I want in whatever order I want, no matter how obscure. Which means, in a roundabout way, it’s catch-up time.

I’m not quite sure when it happened, but a few years ago, someone showed me an article about Etruscan warrior women and it had a (really, really great) picture of Xena attached. My immediate first thought was “Oh my God, I love Xena!” before I realized I had never actually seen most of the series. I just knew who she was through social context. I decided that I should watch the series the only way I knew how: by looking up a suggested viewing order and following it. Now, because Xena is part of a bigger universe, the order I chose starts at the chronological beginning, with Young Hercules, through Hercules TLJ, and then TLJ and Xena kind of alternate. I intended to watch it all the way through.

What can I say? I’m a bit crazy.

I’ll be real, though, it’s kind of a lot to take in. I’m on my second time trying to get through it. The first time I tried was while I was in Italy. I got halfway though Hercules TLJ and only a relatively little ways into Xena itself. (That can be blamed in part on the terrible reception involved in getting the episodes, which could only come 4 at a time, most of the time.) I’m now giving it another go, and I’m still about halfway through the Young Hercules phase. I anticipate getting through the whole running order and probably watching the whole thing again in the future.

But why? you’re probably justifiably asking. Why even bother?

Well, because of the Xena Quest, of course.

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Oh hey, look. I tied in the title. I probably should have started with that, actually. Oh well. Better late than never, I guess.

Way back when my friend sent me that article and I remarked that I inexplicably loved Xena, that same friend told me that I seemed like Xena. After all, I was a strong woman and I reminded her of some of the other strong women she looked up to. And to that end, I also kind of looked like her. After all, I had brown hair with bangs, blue eyes, and I was almost 6 feet tall. And you know, come to think of it, I might as well be  Xena.

I decided to oblige her.

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Admittedly, I did it for myself, too. I had never seen the show, but everyone knows who Xena is. She’s a strong woman warrior who takes no shit and has many skills. Who wouldn’t want to be that?

At this point, though, I wanted to point out that I had no intention of actually changing anything to look more like her. I have something of a sensitivity about my weight and my entire history up until this point (childhood bullying, a lifetime of being told nothing but how fat I am, rebelling against The System that has decided I’m “less than” because I have a fat body) has made it so that even just the idea of losing weight is almost traumatic to me. Seriously. I cry sometimes. So before anyone asks what my goal weight is or anything like that, just know it’s not really like that. I want to focus more on the learning and the skills. I have a natural aptitude for that, and I want this quest to lift me up, not make me feel like a failure. I’m aware that learning these things may alter my body just by virtue of moving it more and using it differently, and I am totally A-OK with that. I look forward to it, in fact. It’s not the idea of my body changing that scares me. Believe me, I’ve pined for a thinner body many a pre-pubescent night. It’s the idea that someone is making me change my body that upsets me. As though I’m doing it for somebody else. That does not sit well with me. I love my body no matter what, and that means that when it gets thinner and more muscular, I will love it then, too.

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It’s times like this that I get down on my knees and thank the gods, so to speak, for the internet. Thanks to the internet, I was able to find that suggested viewing order I mentioned above, all the episodes of all the shows, including the super-obscure and hard-to-find pilot-features not available on the streaming programs, several well-compiled wikis with all the information I could ever want on every character, episode, and reference, and, most importantly, a list of every talent Xena exhibits throughout the entire series.

The first time I looked at the list o’ skills, I was pretty sure I could actually hit most things on it. Granted, some of the things on it are physically impossible (growing extra limbs, being a shaman, rising from the dead, etc.) but everything else seemed a crash course away from reality. I took up handstands during my first go at the Quest (while I was overseas) and I realized that just a handstand, never mind all the other acrobatics I wanted to try, would take anywhere from 6 months to a year, if and only if I practiced like a motherfucker to get there. I’m not afraid of hard work, mind you. Never have been. But I am acutely aware of the fact that none of us have that long on this Earth and I always worry about wasting time I don’t have. (I’m aware that time will pass anyway. I never said it was a logical fear.) Not to mention that some are doable, but more trouble then they’re worth…

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Yeah. Like that one.

And yet, with all that, here I am doing it again. Only this time, I’m narrowing down the list and only choosing two or three of the more memorable attributes. I think ultimately what I’d like to do is be able to make appearances as her. I’d love to get myself a battle costume, go to a convention, and be able to bust out a standing backflip anytime I wanted. But that’s more of a “cross that bridge when we get to it” kind of vision. So what bridge am I at now?

I’m glad I asked.

What I’d like to focus on right now and for the following year or so is this:

  • (The obvious precursor is a general sense of well-being. I’m not going to go straight into all this stuff without feeling like I can handle it. I, however, get to decide what that means for me.)
  • Acrobatics – For me, this means just handstands for right now. I want to reassess when I get to the full handstand, but right now, I’d love to move on to things like flips and splits.
  • Dance – Strictly speaking, Xena isn’t a master dancer, but she has done some dancing in a handful of episodes, and dancing is very important to me in my own life. That’s where I’m starting. I’m already taking ballet lessons at The Studio: A Dance Center for Adults (and soon, hopefully Belly Dance with Katie from Vadalna!). The fella has also agreed to get me a membership to Datura Online, where Rachel Brice will be able to kick my butt from the comfort of my own home.
  • Martial Arts – I learned that all the actors studied a type of kung fu for the show, but that, had Xena actually lived, there would have been a martial arts technique available to learn in Greece during that time. I’m not terribly interested in learning how to do the two-men-enter-one-man-leaves dance, so kung fu it is. After I get a bit more financially on my feet and have got the dancing stuff under my belt, I plan on going to Bruce McCorry’s in Peabody. This will include hand-to-hand and then will (hopefully!) eventually turn into sword work as well.
  • Yoga – I think she only does this in one episode or so, but I think yoga is a very important part of being healthy. It’s a different approach to health. The quieting of the mind, the lengthening of the spine, the ritual, etc. I’ve already been doing it (badly) for years, but I always come back to it.
  • Singing – She only sings when she feels moved. As singing is a big part of my life and I’ve already had a little bit of training, I don’t plan on training in it right now. I’d love to go back to training with my amazing teacher Linda Balliro, but I will have to put it off until later in the quest. Time and money are factors. But know I’ll be singing and thinking of Xena!
  • Military Tactics and Education – This one isn’t on the list, but I thought it was important as I watched the first few seasons during the first Quest. She has studied war both on the field and on paper. I’m generally a peaceful person and I’m very much not a warlord. I think to really understand how brilliant a warrior has to be, I need to study tactics. I have a copy of The Art of War, and I’m hoping to also get myself a copy of Henchmen of Ares.
  • The costume! – Enough said.

The first step, as I mentioned above, is a general sense of well-being. I’d like to address that for a second. First thing’s first, I need to get back into running (for the endurance factor, and because I find it the most zen of exercises). One of my rather dreamy goals for this year is to do the Mudderrella obstacle run in October. I’m not sure I’d be able to get myself in shape by then, but it doesn’t offend my brain as an end goal, and I think the idea of a sporting event designed to be a safe space for women is just peachy.

I’ve already began a small feel-good ritual just to get my creaky bones moving in the morning: I do a short wrist warmup I learned from Gold Medal Bodies, followed by a 5 minute Sun Salutation more or less every morning. I try to follow it immediately with handstand practice, but sometimes I’m starving by this point and can’t wait to eat any longer. Handstand practice is comprised of me doing inverted wall planks while checking my posture and breathing and seeing how long I can hold it for. Right now, my top time is 25 seconds. Once I get to 60, I can work on making the incline steeper, until I’m fully inverted. I might start adding some regular floor planks to my ritual (as one of the awesome people at Theatre KAPOW is doing), but I haven’t done that yet. I’m trying to be easy on my poor wrists, which have both been badly broken in the past.

And that, ladies, gents, or whatever you are, is the Xena Quest. To recap: watch Xena, be a badass, learn skills. It’s like it was made for me.

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Thanks for sticking around until the end! I realized halfway through the writing of this entry that I never officially announced that I have recently been invited to be a guest member of Vadalna Tribal Dance Company! Here’s proof! This is a big part of the reason why I am really stoked about getting back on track here. I’ve been noticing that my body doesn’t like the cold weather, what with all the old injuries flaring up and the not wanting to leave the house because I’m afraid I’ll slip down the stairs and all that. I know I say this a lot, but I really need to get back on track, especially with some of the projects I’m hoping to be a part of this year. I really don’t want my body acting stupid to be the reason I get left behind.

With that said, I have some great things coming up! I’ll be acting in Punishment Without Revenge by Lope de Vega with the Upstart Crows of Salem, and I’m working on 3 or 4 things I hope to get produced sooner rather than later. These things are:

  • a weekly or monthly open mic
  • a podcast production of The Last Flight of Victor Zoran, a radio play I wrote. We’re still looking for sponsors, if you’s like to advertise with us! Send us an email at fiddleronthmoon@gmail.com.
  • a super secret show I’m not ready to talk about, but I promise it’s happening soon.
  • getting my shanty group, Letters of Marque, off the ground and back in the dirt where it belongs.

What about you? What are you questing for?

 

With all my love,

A presto,

JW