Sunday, July 31, 2011

Memories, journals, being alone, Krapp's Last Tape

I've been spending, it seems, a lot of evenings alone. Sue, when she's not working her two jobs, one of which takes her out at night, has been doing a lot of yoga in the evenings. Right now she's on the Cape taking care of her mom who just had surgery and she's visiting with friends while she's there. Thursday she leaves for Canada for about a week. School is keeping me busy, but not so busy that there aren't moments when I look around and wonder, Hey, where'd everyone go?

You--I--fall into old patterns, and I don't necessarily like that. Don't like living in the past, though I've been thinking a lot about that lately, mainly because I've been reading and researching a lot of scripts and the lives and works of different playwrights including Sam Shepard and Tennessee Williams. Thornton Wilder, too. Those writers and their work took up a lot of my time and energy a while ago. You, that is, I can't help but read those scripts and think, well, when I was saying this I was downstage right and here I crosssed to center and then she...

Or why the hell didn't I see this particular subtlety or nuance in the writing then? It's so obvious. Yeah, well...

Or how embarrassing what that?

I was thinking this morning about what it would be like to have no memories at all. What would a man be like if he didn't have any memories, or purposely chose to forget them? I know I've jettisoned so much of my past--for good reason, I think. I remember one day I just piled up everything in my living room that she gave me and picked it all up and threw it in the dumpster. A big pile of stuff. Most liberating day of my life. You--we don't realize how memories and feelings and emotions cling to things. Like dust. Or mold. And it affects us.

And when Sue and I were moving into this apartment, this place, this space that is so much a home for me, a place with wonderful memories and a place for starting over and a place so filled with warmth and laughter and love, when Sue and I were moving here I filled two garbage bags with stuff from my past, just cleaned out drawers of old theater programs of shows I was in, pictures and memorabilia and all sorts of crap. Mostly because I didn't want to move it. And, truth be told, I just wanted to clean house, too.

Memories. Where was I? See, when you don't have memory, it's not only hard to know where you've been, but where you're going.

Oh yes. Spending nights alone. I write. When I'm alone I write in my journal, the thoughts that rattle and buzz in my head that I'd normally just spew out to Sue and then they'd disappear. I usually write in my journal first thing when I get up. I'm still in that dream state and my head is in both worlds. And then I leave my journal open for over the course of the day I'll jot things down. Memories. I even post the time with the date. I do that because once my thoughts came so fast sometimes I was posting in my journal at thirty second intervals. Can you imagine your brain going that fast? That out of control?

I don't do that so much now--writing first thing--now that Sue and I are together because our habit is  we sit on the couch in the morning drinking coffee and talking. It's my favorite part of the day, drinking coffee, slowly waking up, seeing Sue and having that intimate time together.

But when Sue's not here, I'm like a hoarder hoarding my memories and thoughts. It's not a bad thing. It's a record. I've been doing it for years. Since I was around thirteen, really, when a student teacher I had for English at Woodward High School, Miss Harbert, told us to keep a journal. What did I know? I went home and started writing what was going on in our house and what I was thinking and doing. Looking back, it's a wonder Social Services wasn't called in, all what was going on in our house and what I was doing after hours. But it taught me the value of writing, and keeping memories.

Some people hate that I do it. Exes, for instance. In an argument I can call up my journal and say that at such and such a time this was going on. ("Yes, but that's your interpretation, it doesn't mean it's true.") But it's the one place I'll allow myself to live in the past. To face the past and what I've done and how I've lived. Someday I might have an evening like Krapp's Last Tape. Look it up if you don't know what I'm talking about. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tweet This

I was emailing an old friend, Craig Moodie, whose new children's book, Into the Trap just was released today, and I told him that I tweeted the news, "for what it's worth." Then I commented that I can't believe I lived to see the day that the word, "tweet" is a verb.

First, Craig's book can be found here. And here's his blog. (If you think I'm a crusty old writer, get a load of his mug.)

I wrote about Craig's work sometime ago, too. He and I met way back in the corporate world--many lives ago for me. He's still hanging in there, has a beautiful wife, two kids, and home.

But tweeting. One of my professors, a dramaturg, kept saying that the old model of the theater is gone--where you send in a script and if they like it it's produced--and that now to succeed now in the theater you have to be "part of the conversation." That does make sense; that people who know you and who know your work are more likely to produce it. But that means you have to follow God knows how many Twitter accounts, blogs, Web sites, and I don't know what all. To be honest, it's comes across like a full-time job, and I think for dramaturgs and artistic directors it's a great thing to do. But if I'm tweeting and blogging and Facebooking and surfing, I'm not writing. And now there are new social networking sites coming out, like Google +, that's making me choose what to call people: friends, family, acquaintances, people who I barely know and can't figure out why they're still on my Christmas card list I guess it's simply laziness or something else deep-rooted that I'm too tired or scared to figure out. 

So if I'm part of this conversation I'm not part of the real conversation, the conversations that my characters are having. It's enough to make this writer want to spit. 

It all kind of seems as ridiculous to me as that section in Huckleberry Finn where Jim is being held in that shed in the back of Tom Sawyer's uncle's house, and Tom has him writing on tin pans and carving things and throwing them all out the back window because that's what the romantic, swash-buckling heroes did that Tom read about. I feel Tweets and root-a-toot toots are just as silly sometimes, as I try to write something witty and pithy in 140 characters or less.

But then, I do wonder if I'm not a Willy Loman, left behind by the world and on my own, just trying to get by on a smile and a shoeshine. (BTW, I know no one would ever say that, but I love that line.) I know I'm not exactly like Willy. I believe in hard work and talent more than charm and a handshake, but I will admit I do it all with an underlying feeling of desperation that I'm still swimming against a tide that will still sweep me into oblivion.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Stay A New York Playwright...Or Anything Else For That Matter

There was this post on that was making the rounds among the theater makers that I'm hanging out with, more hanging out online than anywhere else, but that counts, doesn't it? Right? An online relationship is just as good, if not better, than a real face-to-face one where you actually have to do all these annoying things like, well, wait for your turn to talk while the other person goes on and on and on about, well, God, I don't know because I'm really not listening. Or feign sympathy because the other person's cat died.

(Ok, all that was a joke, meant to for the style of the writing. If your cat just died I am sincerely sorry. No, really, I am. And whatever it was you were talking about, I really am happy for you. Really, I am.)

Anyway, where the heck was I?

This post about the sacrifices that you have to make if you want to be a playwright. It's good, dead on, and I found myself nodding my head because it nails some real-life things, like flossing and brushing your teeth because you can't afford a dentist. If I'm home all day writing and doing the laundry and baking bread and doing all the things I do to try to keep some semblance of order in our little home, I'll brush my teeth maybe three times during the day because I can't afford (time, energy, money) to have major dental work done.

But this post also got me thinking that anything you really want to do takes that kind of sacrifice. Sue and I are wanderers. It's one of the really strong bonds between us because we both love--love, I tell you, love--to travel. And more importantly, we love backpacking. We love the local buses and local restaurants and just soaking up culture that otherwise is sanitized in a Marriott or a Hilton or a big tour bus. In other words, we travel cheap, but when it comes to travel it still can be expensive. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of parallels to being a playwright and a backpacker.

No one believes me, but we have financed quite a few trips now on spare change. That's right. We have a cookie jar that we throw our spare change into. And we also throw in the money we might have spent. For instance if I'm getting a cup of coffee and that piece of marble cake for $2.50 looks so good, I ask myself if I really want it.  And then I think of our stock saying in that situation: $2.50 will buy a lot of beer in Mexico. Well, maybe not a lot of beer in this case, but it will buy a beer in Mexico and so I pocket the change and when I get home I chuck it in the cookie jar. You'd be surprised how much money you can accumulate by living like that.

What this article says to me is that if you really want something bad enough, there are sacrifices you're going to have to make, and many if not all of them are going to be in the materialistic world. That world is such a suck of time and money and energy. And you just have to decide what you really want in life, and then put all your resources towards it. Including your dental floss.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Danger: Things in mirror may be closer than they seem...

This just landed on the screen behind my head. It's crawling around now and but it's not making any noise at all after it's initial landing.

This thing reminds me of my pickup truck. I love my pickup truck--a 1997 Ford F-150 long bed with a Super Cab and a gas-guzzling V8 with over 180,000 miles on it. (The politically correct crowd can now be excused from the rest of this post.)

I call it my white-trash pickup. No one, and I mean no one messes with me on the road. It's old and dented (though girlfriends and ex-wives have put in the really big dents) and it basically says, I really don't give a fuck about your brand spanking new BMW or your SUV that is too big for you to drive. When I want to change lanes, I put on my blinker, and if people don't get out of my way, if they don't have the courtesy to let me in, or are too self-absorbed to notice or care there are other drivers on the road, I just start to ease over, and you'd be amazed how people get out of your way.

I got a sneaky suspicion that's the way it is for this critter. I don't think too many things mess with this guy.

I'll Make A Deal With You

It's been almost a month since I weighed in here, and really haven't been a consisted blogger in a long while now. Mea culpa.

I know, I know, readers want new content every day, but I have the age-old suspicion of many writers in that I wonder if I have enough to say every day. It's not that I don' t think I don't have anything worth saying; oh, Lord, I've never had that problem. It's that I wonder if I have enough to fill up a blog every day. I think it's the curse of our age that 24/7 cable networks have ruined this country. I remember when CNN was started. Good Lord, who can fill up 24 hours with news? Well they sure did, didn't they? Actually, I don't think they have. It's a lot of useless commentary and rehashing of old news and making news where none is to fill the space (every hurricane season, for instance) and bring in the advertisers. Let's face it, there are few people on the earth who are that interesting.

But try telling them that, right?

But for the folks who I know are interested in what I'm up to (yes, I know who a lot of you are; it's the Internet: You can run but you can't hide) for you I should be adding more to this space. So I do know there are people who are Googling my name and this blog and checking in from time to time. And when you visit you can at least see my Twitter feed to the left. (Extra points if you start following me on Twitter.) And to my loyal friends and fans and those folks who are simply hoping that something bad has happened to me, I say, Hola!

Things are intense with school. I'm hopefully finishing up in about a month. I'm in the middle of the summer session, where they take 15 weeks of work and jam them into six. The upshot is you can really chalk up the credit hours and they charge about a thousand bucks less for the class. The negative is it's 15 weeks of work crammed into six weeks; you honestly think your head's going to bleed.

I'm in the second half of the summer session and the only thing that's standing between me and graduation is French and two ten-page papers and two oral reports. If you don't think that's not a load you're not seeing it from my perspective.

And then beyond that? Well, it's wondering what I can do with this Masters. Boston University hired me again to teach creative writing in the fall. I'm very excited about that. I had a great group of students in the spring who I loved meeting once a week. That class was in the CAS--arts and sciences. This fall I'll be teaching in the Metropolitan College, which would be BU's night school if BU had a night school. It's geared more toward working people, with classes in the evening. Again, I'm very excited about meeting a new group of students.

And there's the big question of how can I get my plays produced. I think it was Tennessee Williams who said a play's not a play until it's on stage. It's interesting to see English grad students in drama classes reading scripts, and reading them like they'd read a novel, and saying they are reading plays. With a script you're looking at a blueprint, not the building. You read scripts and watch plays. There's a huge difference, and as soon as you wrap your brain around that you've suddenly got your foot firmly wedged into the stage door that was about to slam in your face.

Phew. Okay, remember those ten-page papers I mentioned earlier? One's due this Thursday. I'll try to write more on this space. I know I've made that promise before. But here's the deal, it would a whole lot better for me if a few readers would drop a comment now and again. It would let me know I'm not howling in the wilderness. And isn't this whole Internet thang supposed to be about conversation? So...join the conversation.
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