Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Playwright's Exercise: Spill It On The Floor and See What We Got

Well, it's 2012 and that really doesn't mean anything to me, but I am finding my life shifting and since I'm having a dickens of a time coming up with a project that will occupy my soul for at least six months or a year, I'm finding myself writing bits and pieces like this one. I've been writing in my journal, just putting fingers to the keyboard seeing what comes out, trying to get a bead on what's really bothering me or getting me excited. That gives a writer a pretty good indication of what he or she should be writing about. That's pretty much what I'm going to be doing here. This post is more for me more than it is for you (sorry to say that, but it's the truth.) I just want to see what's in there, and by writing to an actual audience, I'm interested to see what I'm brave enough to share. You're about to get a snootful of the flotsam and jetsam of my life as it pours out of my brain like tipping over a bucket.

Work is coming along but it's still difficult. I graduated at the end of August and it took me about eight weeks to land something. I knew I was going to teach creative writing at BU, but I needed something more. Sue and I live cheap, real cheap, but sometimes it gets down to the bare bones and that can be scary. I had a few nibbles, some that looked really promising, and by that I mean they were conveniently located or paid a lot of money but I knew by the end of the gig I'd be spiritually bankrupted. Then Boston College hired me, and as Sue and I like to always point out, things do always seem to work out. I worked there one other time for a different group, and loved it. This proved to be the same experience. I can't say enough about how wonderful it was to work for Norma and her staff, and be around all the wonderful, fun, intelligent people who work in stewardship. Norma was a sane, sensible manager, and you can walk in the place without checking your morals at the door. Just as a comparison, I just got word yesterday that a company was looking at me and the feedback was, we're afraid he has too much experience. Okay, maybe I'm gun-shy, but to me that's code for he's old. I know I play the age card sometimes (others might say a lot) but until you walk in my shoes I suggest you believe me. Age discrimination is alive and well in corporate America. It is not only tolerated, it seems to be fostered. 

The downside to working two jobs, though, was my entire life was put on hold. By the end of the day I was too knackered to even go to the gym or pick up my guitar. I got fat and sloppy. And it seemed like I forgot over half of whatever I had learned in music. Big, big resolutions for 2012 are get into the gym after about a year and a half of no exercise at all, and picking up the guitar and working it. I mean, playing scales, doing the grunt work that makes you a better musician. I've inherited my father's stomach, which basically means I look like I swallowed a basketball. Not quite, but it could get there. He had a large, round, hard stomach. I could get there if I let myself go. This to me is a silver lining. If I've inherited the bulk of my father's genes, it means I won't die of cancer in ten years, following my mother.

Musically, just today I signed up for a basic ensemble class at Club Passim. I'll be studying with Kimber Ludiker and Austin Nevins. I could have taken a more advanced class, but I want to hang out with these two hip, cool, talented people; I think I can actually learn from them and I've learned in theater (and in business, too) to hang out with people you like and get along with.  Kimber is an awesome musician. She's the fiddle player in Della Mae, one of my favorite bands of recent.  Scroll down on their site and there's a pic of her. I want their song, Blessed Hands, sung at my funeral. (Besides Tom Sawyer, and I the only person who continually plans his funeral? I doubt if a lot of people would show up, so I want to maximize the tears.) I play their CD all the time, and if were the olden days (and someday these will be the olden days, too) it would have been said that I was redigging the grooves on the record. And who can go wrong with a guy whose first name is Austin?

And I'm seeing more sweat equity at the gym. Thankfully, I'm not that out of shape. What seemed to affect me even more than inactivity because I'd walk everywhere on campus, including up and down five flights of stairs in the library, was that bout of spinal stenosis that hammered me last fall. I think there was a little nerve damage done, and I'm just a bit unsteady on my feet, not a good thing for the mountains when you're hopping from rock to rock on a slope. So I want to drop a few pounds and tighten my stomach up, and also get some coordination back. I want to be back in the mountains this summer. It's been way too long, mostly because of school and Roberto, the Wonder Aussie.

Speaking of Bob, he's on his last legs (literally, he can't get up the stairs anymore and has a real hard time going down them.) I grab his hind legs and we have a wheelbarrow race up the stairs. He has hardly any control over his hindquarters, and no control over his bowels, which can get pretty gross in the apartment. It going to be my job to give him the shot, but I'm just not ready yet. Everyone around me, doesn't want the responsibility. I know this is a process. Just yesterday Sue said she wishes he'd just die in his sleep, but he won't; he's still too strong for that to happen. My wish is that the people around me would back me up when I say it's time, but no one wants to that. The hard truth is he's crippled, even though there are days he's happy and alert, even puppy-like. He goes in and out, up and down, and in the meantime, dog shit laced with Lysol smells horrible.

But when it comes to Bob, it's impossible not to draw a comparison between him and any of us who are getting old. What's going to happen to us when we get inconvenient, because truthfully, the bottom line is that's what he is, though trust me, it's a colossal inconvenience. Try the other day, seven degrees outside and he has shit all over him from lying in it and it's too cold to hose him off. I know so many people who silently worry about their future.

I'm not going to touch politics or the state of our country, though I think that's the thing I'd really like to write about, or at least tell a story set against the backdrop of a dying empire. Yep, that's how I see it. And I'm watching all my liberal friends do their typical knee-jerk because most of them don't own houses, have never been laid off or been in fire financial straits because, in this country, that's what really strips off the veneer of our society. When you have to make hard financial decisions in your own life, you start to see who the government and the financial markets (tied to corporations) couldn't care less about any of us. Until you've had to scrape to buy food or pay the heating bill, life has been way too easy on you and you're basically flying blind right now in this economy. They don't see how Obama is no different from Romney, who happens to be the Republican front runner (barely) and how Obama is just following the policies of Bush. They don't want to go there, because they haven't had to. It's easy for them to follow their old ways and beliefs, but what this country needs is someone to hit the ejector button. Democrats and Republicans alike are tainted. That includes Obama, Paul, Romney, Clinton, and anyone else you want to name. I've been bringing up Ron Paul a bit online, not because I support him, but because he's the only politician right now who is saying the things people don't want to hear. Then liberals do exactly what conservatives do: fall back on their doctrine or on something he said ten years ago, which means anything he says is tainted today. I don't understand people who just won't listen, period, to everyone and everything. It's like listening to Christians quote the bible. And it always reaches a point where I just glaze over and want to run away. I said to Sue, though, the only thing that's stopping me right now is how the #ows movement came about, and there are people who realize the system is broken--everyone from Obama on down. I'm not sure what to do next, but that's the start right there: If you just accept that even your favorite liberal politician is just as corrupt as Newt Gingrich, then you've just anted into the game. Before that, it's just the same old mess.

I'm growing my hair. Actually, it's more that I'm not going to a barber and therefore my hair is growing. I've gotten some compliments. Right now I can feel it tickling the back of my neck, and it's long enough so if it gets in my way I just tuck it behind my ears. I'm doing this because I'm tired of going to barbers to whom I say, I want to keep it long, and they say sure, then pull out their scissors and take a big hunk out. I had a great barber a few years ago then she quit. After going to a number of people, including Sue's hairdresser who is a woman and we figured she'd understand how to cut long hair, I got tired of shelling out twenty five to thirty bucks with tip and walk out looking uglier than I did when I walked in. It dawned on me if I want long hair to stay out of the barber and just grow the damn stuff, just like I did when I was a hippie. Hair's like writing, if you want it, just grow it. If you want to write, just write.

The bread machine actually walked off the chopping block today and hit the deck. I'm thinking this is the sort of news my aunt Marcella would have written. "The dern thing walked right off the table right onto the floor," she'd say. Now that I'm not working full-time (and my next gig will involve some work at home) I'm back to cooking. I love cooking and I like it the same way I like gardening. It gets you involved in your food, in your health. I baked a semolina bread today. When you make it yourself--bread soup, sauces, anything that doesn't mean opening up a package and firing up a microwave--it gets us back to a more natural way of living, which I think is necessary for people to have. And it tastes better and it's better for you, though I don't use "natural" ingredients because they are too hard to find and too expensive. It's gotten so only the rich and elite can eat healthy in his country, but I do the best I can.

I think that's about it. Thanks for listening, if you've read this far. This was helpful to me as a writing exercise, and eventually I'll be posting something at my other blog. Hopefully it will be good news, though there is a reading of one of my plays coming up in about a month on Cape Cod.

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