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The Writer Callus

22 Jul

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I miss school.

…Not the institution, you realize…the study that goes with it.

I miss reading and writing endless essays. I miss the notebooks, chicken scratched thoughts scribbled and outlined through a text until it comes out looking like a theatre script, mid-rehearsal. I miss the debates over themes and content. I miss mining all the layers that literature can hold in simple sentences printed on a page.

As an adult, all my reading and study has derived from pleasure, not pressure. I take in the books I know like the back of my hand, because I love them…I’ll occasionally read a light fiction easy-read because it was once recommended. But when I have no class to go to, no paper to write, no actual “reason” to dig into something like a slim novella of poetry and really break down what in the hell they mean…I just don’t. I’ll read it (maybe) and take what I want, what I took at first glance from it, then move along. But there is a loss in doing that…the “study” of writing as an art. Beyond plot.

…I miss that.

And so, I’ve taken the cue from m’next show, as Rita, to put myself through the paces these next two months. Apart from studying the script and character, I’ve a whole load of additional works to consume…pieces, and authors, and works of art which are sited within the script. I’ve charged myself to retrace Rita’s footsteps…to follow her path of discovery, with some of my own.

…It’s been two days at work, filling the down time with googling, and printing, cutting and taping, collecting reading lists and quotations and poems and paintings, and massing them into a black Piccadilly notebook, to be translated and studied later. Every literary reference, every author, every theme listed out in neat lines, a mass of poems printed, and liner notes begun. Of the three hours wherein not so much as a phone call rang through the office today, I secured three monologues (with attending dialogue) into my brain, and wrote themes on twelve poems from Dylan Thomas, William Blake, Henrik Ibsen, Roger McGough, & Oscar Wilde.

…And in the words of Rita herself, “It was FUCKING FANTASTIC!”

My hand written scribbles cover pages and pages, the side of my hand marked with lead from adding side notes to theme ideas, and that callus…my old friend on the rest of my middle finger, has re-dented in supplication from the constant pressure of a pencil.

I am back! That nerd-kid who would spend hours, over-writing by three or more pages, every essay she had ever been charged to write out. The kid who, (because of necessity) was forced to become a pretty decent editor, getting to the meat of the matter, tapping into the veins of a piece or a character…which would become that essential theatre tool I’d carry with me, for ever and ever. That kid who eats up language styles and word choices like its ice cream, who’d rather get lost in languidly profuse imagery, in a specific smell explained in words, in a world entirely fictional yet familiar, than almost anything else.

My brain is hungry as Rita’s, and I’m so thankful to have this extra time, this extended rehearsal period, to really dig in and build her piece by piece, poem by poem, book by book. In case you’d like to knock along with me a bit…here’s today’s list:

* And Death Shall Have No Dominion – Thomas
* The Sick Rose – Blake
* Gone – Ibsen
* You and I – McGough
* Let Me Die A Young Man’s Death – McGough
* Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night – Thomas
* Survivor – McGough
* The Blossom – Blake
* The Clod And The Pebble – Blake
* The Grave Of Shelley – Wilde
* In The Picture Gallery – Ibsen
* The Survivors – Ibsen

…Lots more to come.

*joy!*

~D

Thousandth Firsts

4 Aug

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First formal night of rehearsal for 39 Steps tonight. In keeping with the ongoing number of “firsts,” it was exciting, and nerve-wracking and industrious.

…There is something about first breaking the cherry of blocking…how the director works it, the actors take it, the SM supports it, and by the end…how the projection of an entire process of an entire show, somehow hangs on it.

…For better or for worse.

For the record: This show is gonna be ” for the better.” You should prob’ly buy tickets ahead.

It was said.

…And now: goodnight.

~D

Bed & A Book

14 Apr

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Bed for me, and a book.

…It’s been like pulling teeth to get up the energy to blog this past week, and tonight is no different.

Tired.

Don’t wanna.

…I feel I’ve spent plenty of time being articulate on stage, frankly, and shouldn’t have to beat my head against a wall at the end of a long week to do it some more in type.

…Also, I have very little to contribute to your amusements at this point. 

Or maybe I have, and I need to sit and hatch ’em first. 

…Which means you’ll have something to look forward to, tomorrow.

We hope.

…Really engrossing things.

Like:

…What actors are really doing when they are s’posed to be sleeping, on stage.

…The kind of things we whisper, when we need silent filler talk.

…What real foods the fake foods are made of.

…How many tattoos Mr. Frank has under all that long underwear.

…How to cover: choking on prop food, fucking up a line, your wig falling off.

…The correct way to fight call: cutting a cake, killing off a cat, undertaking a tickle war, and stealing bread.

…What’s written on Miep’s shopping lists.

…Where props go to when they magically disappear.

…What to do when: the audience talks back, a cell phone goes off, your clothes aren’t set, the cat goes rogue.

…Blatant husband kissing.

…Scream-projecting for the Sunday crowds.

…Sweat-swapping.

…Ventriloquist-swearing.

…Zipper malfunctions and other clothing nightmares.

…How to go from spinster to claustrophobic Jewish mother, in one three-second hand-squeeze.

…And much, much more.

~D

Kids. Theatre. Art.

14 Mar

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Stumbled on a Tumblr last night, linking to others that, all-collected, formed most of a young cast and their experiences of putting on this show.

…Totally fascinating…reading their processes in raw-thought form, thrown out there with zero editing of  their emotions and frustrations as they fought to balance out school schedules, homework, dating, rehearsals, finals and wrapping their heads around the history of the piece.

Written in 2006, these back-and-forth tagged Tumblrs and blogs are free-formed by High School students, who by now have most likely graduated College and gotten married, and started having children of their own.  Which is kinda mind-blowing, even not having known the kids personally…only because of the knowledge that they have this forever-record of that point in their lives, written down (much like Anne), which others can read and experience, further mirroring the book and show itself.

Really intriguing thoughts, actually. 

…Some in simple questioned innocents, some with down-and-dirty sleeves-rolled-up research, some likening their own personal experiences to Anne and their own characters…and some just excited by the whole process.

The thing that really got to me though, was the point…totally individual to each…when they “got it.”  The point where the full weight of what the show and this girl’s experiences were all about, actually sunk into them…and how each of them dealt with it.

Personal. Raw. Specific.

…These kids, through ART, were given a new way to access and view something from history that they already knew about since middle-school.  That restriction of: “this is a book about a teenage girl, in Amsterdam, in WWII,” was suddenly (and in some cases emotionally violently) altered for them once the process of physical “empathy” was put into place.

To read about a girl from the far-past, in a place they could not recognize, and had no tangible relateable association with at first glance…had limited a lot of them at the book’s first reading. Some were embarrassed by it’s pubescent topics, some shut off by the distant time frame in which it was written, some by the country they didn’t recognize…or the Politics they couldn’t understand…while some did actually take it personally and to heart. But the range there was wide.

…Through the process of ownership in their roles, though…you can actually SEE that begin to change…and the kids changing with it.

What they start out writing about in an off-hand remarks, early in the rehearsal process, begins to change to a kind of hungry obsession over time. They begin pulling out quotes from the script, and matching it to the diary…they write mini-bios, and suck up European political history like sponges. They become in awe of the magnitude in the numbers…which are no longer just “numbers,” but for the first time begin to represent actual “people” to them, now that they are actually portraying one of them…each with lives and families and homes and dreams of their own. They begin to question, and get angry, and become activists for a cause which now has become as real to them as anything they may have to deal with in their current day-to-day lives. They build genuine affection for their “characters”…defending their deeds in posts, and against Anne’s words…and explaining WHY they think and act and say the things they do.

…They become totally engrossed, as the posts move along…building not only on their own, but commenting on one another’s in debate, and agreement, and camaraderie.

And it is fucking FANTASTIC.

You see: THIS is what “Art” does.

THIS is why it is so essential, and why it’s disappearance from our Schools is so completely devastating.

“Art” is not just a “hobby.” “Art” isn’t an “extracurricular activity.” “Art” is “Humanity.” Straight-up. It is our one point of access to all that it is (and ever was) to be human. And without it, we are sorely damaging our future potential…and in severe danger of repeating our greatest mistakes.

And HERE is a prime example.

…Written by school children, grown now into adults, who BECAUSE of “art” experienced something so palpable that “History” became alive to them, “Politics” became important, “Numbers” meant more than mere addition and subtraction, the “Written Word” jumped off the pages at them, and “Science” in the research, reason and attempt to understand why and what it all meant, became totally essential to them.

…And yet, with all of that put together, it STILL could not hold the realization of the emotional strength and repercussions that actual “embodiment” had on each of them. The power of empathy…of PUTTING YOURSELF into another’s place…of FEELING the fear, and hunger, and pain, and sadness…of MAKING IT PERSONAL…it changed them, not just as “children” or “students,” but as HUMAN BEINGS.

…Once taught empathy, education, the difference between right and wrong…passion for history and learning…you can’t un-teach it. You can try, attempt to mind-wash and assault the brain all you like. But if given a good, strong, root to grow…early on…I don’t believe there is anything that can break that. Or the spirit it infuses, like Anne’s, to fight for your right to it.

“There are no walls, there are no bolts, no locks that anyone can put on your mind.”

…It was something Mr. Frank once told Anne, and something she often went back to as a form of solace, a comfort, an outlet…a form of expression.

…Because any form of educated obsession, release, curiosity, excitement, empathy…is a kind of art.

Because SHE was encouraged to release herself in it, we have her diary today. Because those kids were encouraged to release themselves in it, their lives were changed. The same way that mine constantly is. And Meryl Streep. And Picasso’s was. And Steven Spielberg. And Maria Callas. And Leonard da Vinci, and Stephen King, and Gertrude Stein, and Albert Einstein, Billie Jean King, and Stephen Hawking.

…So really, what I’m saying is: people learn and become inspired in so many different ways…going on to inspire and educate others, likewise. I’d like to assume you’d want every opportunity you can grasp onto, to make sure your kids get every option to become the best that they can be…as people and parents of their own children someday.

If you already practice an art of your own, there’s no need to tell you this, but if not: Listen up. I promise…it isn’t just a flippant accessory to life. It is a necessity. It’s brought us our greatest humanitarians, and thinkers, and doers we have ever produced as a human race. It breeds intelligence. It fosters hope. It counters depression, and fear, and anger.

It belongs in our schools.

…If only, to dust off the tired words in old textbook pages, and make all the other academics and political concepts and histories and numbers and sciences more real to the people who will be running this planet some day.

Think about it.

~D

Lessons From Behind The Bookcase

10 Feb

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Nose in the books, while streaming Netflix and every bio anything I can find for research on the show.  Playing real people, (and well known historical figures at that), makes the homework so much more specific. There’s a lot you have to get right, preconceived notions of who they are, what their contribution was in the whole of the story.

…This ain’t m’first rodeo in these matters.

I’ve played historical figures before on a number of occasions and I think what most people don’t realize is that these actual people (or what we have come to know of them as “characters”), are usually known for their one or two-dimensional most popular traits and factoid bases. This makes it a danger to research, flesh out, and mount as a total well-rounded “human being” because people are going to want the thing they THINK of as “that person” not necessarily the TRUTH of that person. And at some point, you have to decided just where that line resides and IF you are willing to cross over it or stay in the comfortable little valley, that the popular opinion is going to insist is gospel truth.

Am I confusing the hell out of you yet? Here, I’ll give you an easy example:

Lets take Marilyn Monroe.

…Now say, you were planning to portray her in a production. What does that mean? Where do you prep for that? What information are you going for? This is a totally iconic person, whose physical image is emblazoned on our culture in a very specific way, who has a cannon of work under her in a very specific style, who was notorious for very specific lifestyle choices, and died in suspicious circumstances which have never been explained. We know all that. And I mean “we” as a collective of pop-culture-aware consumers of the product that was (and still is) “Marilyn Monroe.”

…This means that any S.O.B who chooses to undertake her as a “character” has a gigantic, impossible-to-live-up-to laundry list of “dos” and “don’ts” that MUST, MUST, MUST be included and achieved in the portrayal of her in said production, and against which, everything that is spoken, and every move that is made, will be judged upon.

An “ideal” of what it is to be: “Marilyn.”

…Only, any idiot, (or self-respecting acting artist) would know…it takes a hell of a lot more than that to flesh out a whole realistic “human” into a production. Sure, you can take the lazy way, the easy way…the two-dimensional route…and nail it, and please plenty of people who don’t know any better and don’t want to. But that’s not your “job” as a performer. Unless your gig is literally: Impersonation.

…But “impersonation” is not what I’m talking about. That’s not what an actor is doing in the case of taking on the portrayal of an actual historic person. Your job, is to open that person up, beyond what is conventionally known of them…to dig in, get dirty, and find something there that makes them go from “historical iconery” to “relatable humanity.”

Least, that’s the way I see it.

If you want “Marilyn Monroe” as the product that is: “Marilyn Monroe”…watch her films, buy her posters..by all means, enjoy the hell out of it! She worked really hard , to package that deal and make it for you. She did her homework too and knew what it was that her fans wanted and gave it to them. But for a performer to portray her, is NOT the same job that Marilyn did. Hers was to give you the product you wanted. The performers is to show you the process of what it was to make and “be” that.

…Do you get what I’m saying here?

…So when you undertake…say, one of the eight people who hid together for over two years, in a tiny attic in Amsterdam, in order to save their lives…you have a choice to make. Do you give the audience “The Character” that is that person…that we have come to know of them…or…do you give them: the person?

Now, I haven’t even had so much as a first table read on the show yet, so I can’t answer what the Director is gonna go for, in this. But what I know from the performer’s standpoint…from the person who loves history and respects this subject of it beyond words…I know what I expect from myself, and it’s more than just the text in play format is giving to me.

Because it has to be.

…And it’s more than just Anne Frank’s diary is giving me. Because it has to be.

…Which is strange, because most would think of it as the ultimate in source material for these matters. But here is the craziest thing I’ve realized while reading it for the millionth time, these past few days:

One reads “The Diary of Anne Frank,” from Anne Frank’s perspective. No big surprise maybe…it’s meant for you too. That’s the point. But have you ever once attempted to view it from another perspective? Not your own, but from one of the other people?

No.

None of us have.

No matter how many times we read it.

…But when THAT is your homework, something glaringly obvious pops out at you: It isn’t “fair.”

Every fight is one-sided.

Every bickering is someone elses fault.

Every hurt is purposeful.

Every irritation: expanded on.

Every argument: honed and crafted from one point of view, onto paper.

…And this beautiful historical document that we have always taken as 100% pure documentation of absolute truth, and heartbreaking frustration…is that in many ways…but NOT in ALL of them.

…Because, she was a 13 year old girl, who wrote in her diary, all of her frustrations and foibles, without edit or consideration of the fact that most of the time it was written in heated circumstances in order to air her frustrations and yell out loud the things she couldn’t in actual physical life.

THAT WAS HER JOB.

She was 13!

…That we have taken it all as Gospel truth makes sense, she was there, she recorded it, raw and unvarnished and with incredible detail. But it was also one-sided. It was also in angst, and despair, and fury, and frustrations, and desires, and hopes, and irritations.

Unlike the work and realm of “Marilyn Monroe,” she wasn’t making a “product,” she was airing her personal feelings, never in a million years suspecting that her words would become a representative voice of millions of people, to billions of others, for all of time. Had she been given opportunity of completing the edit of her diary and submitting it to a publisher herself after the War, who knows what might have been ultimately altered and seen from other perspectives with less fury and more even balance to it all?

Perhaps the unvarnished parts of it, are what makes it so exemplary to begin with.

…But the long way to the point I’m trying to make here is: I am undertaking to portray “Mrs. Van Daan”…a very human and real person who once lived an entire life before her time in the Secret Annex in the Attic, and one who died very shortly after being torn out of it. And all we know of this woman, as culture, as students of history, as activists of humanity, as people who love literature…is what was recorded about her by a 13 year old girl, forced to live in ungodly circumstances with her, across two years of time.

We don’t even know when she died, where she’s buried, who spoke with her last, if she knew the fate of her family.

…We know only second-hand stories of her marriage and youth from those told in the Annex. But I am about to spend from now until the end of April, undertaking the life of this woman. She may not have been the most famous inmate in that Annex in Amsterdam, but she matters. She matters more than just details from a disgruntled diarist. And yet its my job to live up to the reputation she’s been given, while also trying to reason why all her vanity, and stubbornness, and flirtations, and complaints were justified…from where they came, and why.

It isn’t easy to try and work against “iconery.” And that’s what I have ahead. Maybe not on so specific a level as a “Marilyn Monroe”…but it is there, nevertheless. I need to figure out how to ride the line that Anne set, seventy years ago…yet Auguste van Pels deserves…as a person who lived through this hell…to be represented in as fair and rounded a light as I can manage.

Such an honor to be trusted with something like this, shouldn’t be taken lazily or lightly.

…I love, love, love my job 🙂

~D

Still Hawt, At 200

28 Jan

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There’s this man I know…well, a lot of us do. 

…He’s all sexy, and moody, and opinionated, and strangely prefers women with a brain in their head, and the occasional bout of reason and thinking. 

…He’s excellent to argue with: a fitting bite to his tongue and such a frustrating air to his assured “rightness,” that you just wanna punch him sometimes, all the while knowing it’ll end up turning into just the greatest make-up-sex EVER.

…He’s been a guest star in many a fantasy,  in many a genre…hell, even the Zombies can’t keep away.  His passport has been stamped by every country, where he’s been taught to speak in every language across the world, making him a legitimate International Playboy on a level that Hugh Hefner only WISHES he could attain. And though he managed to live comfortably, naughtily, seductively in our pretty little heads for generation upon generation…they finally managed to find his actual physical perfection of representation in mortal form, only within the last several decades…(which the Queen later wisely knighted.)

Then, as now, he lives on…in our hearts and before our eyeballs, sending massive ‘uuts’ shivers down our spine and within our nether regions…whilest book clubs continue to worship him, and Lit Majors continue to reason with him, women continue to pine for him, and men continue to be compared to him as one — if not THE — most romantically fierce and frustratingly sexy piece of man-meat (with fortune and title), ever to walk the earth.

And today, he turns 200.

200!

200 and still spanking our emotions and desires harder than whoever-the-fuck is number one right now in ticket sales…(and who will soon be completely obsolete and forgotten.)

Two Centuries of popularity that has only grown wider. Think about that, friends, and drool your way through the rest of the day…as I know I won’t be the ONLY one pulling out a well-loved BBC version of “P & P” tonight, to pay undieing honor to The Man…and the Woman BEHIND him: that deliciously devilish, Miss Jane Austen.

…As a lesser artist, (but an artist, none-the-less), I have an aching curiosity about what she might be thinking were the Austenian founder, here with us today.

How could you possibly perceive that your novel would go on to become such a living, breathing, growing thing. A thing taught in Colleges, studied by scholars. A thing used in historical references and self-help love-books? A thing that Hollywood (whatever the hell that will one day be) is constantly grabbing at as a “sure thing” win in an industry where NOTHING is “sure” at all…ever. A thing that brings honor to your home country, and ridiculous horror spin-offs from others. A thing which created whole new genres of fiction-spin-offs and fan-fictions. A thing which everyone has heard of, even if they have never read or seen it.

…A thing that can secretly fix any heartbreak, and which is your automatic go-to on a sick day, a rainy day, and prob’ly (if you could swing it) every day in between.

Look what you MADE, Jane Austen! When-your-first-edition-started-selling-two-hundred-freakin-years-ago-to-this-very-day!

LADY POWER UP, FRIENDS!

Tonight is Mr. Darcy night!

…Let us all pour out a delicious glass of our favorite “something,” and either join up via bubble bath and book, or eat him up with our eyes on film…giving thanks to the creation of a favorite lady-author, and that little book called, “Pride & Prejudice!”

Here’s to making it a world-wide fetish evening that puts Valentine’s Day to shame.

…Dunno ’bout you, but I’m in.

~D

Rogue Cracker

15 Jan

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I am speaking about a Ritz on two books in my bedroom, which has nothing at all to do with race relations, so just chill out.

…Periods make me do weird things. 

I blame the hormones. 

…And also, the badly timed cramps. 

Inevitably, they have me up anywhere from 3 to 5 a.m. trolling the cupboards for easy nibbles so I can take pills for the pain, then roll around the mattress with a heating pad, trying to gain some kind of relief.  Put that together with chocolate and salt cravings and it explains why once a month, my house looks like the Easter Bunny hid a bunch of shit all over the place and bolted.  I have chocolate Digestives in the living room.  The kitchen is sporting scones. The bar has some kinda nuts (“various.”) And my bedroom has a single Ritz cracker…resting between Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South,” and “Sylvia’s Lovers”…which is directly next to the Jane Austen twins of “Persuasion” and ”P & P.”

…I just thought you should know.

…There isn’t room on my bedside table for it (apparently) as that is where the giant tub of Pamprin, and fuzzy water lives (together with an antique framed pic of Gram, a writing book void of all script, my alarm clock, an antique Tiffany lamp with duel pull chains, and a bud vase…with no bud in it.) 

…Also in the general region, just to the side, a stack of books (in case I get brain starved in the night?), on a small shelf…including those I am borrowing at the time and have yet to get around to ever reading.  Some I’ve started, and just never finished.  All: I have sworn to “hurry up and read” at some point in the not-so-distant past.

…Really, all I have to do is look at the stack of them and I get overwhelmed.

Here is the list:

A Kate Hepburn Bio (On loan from L.M.)
“The Mists of Avalon” (1/3rd in, by demand of Marty)
“The World of Downton Abbey” (Last BD gift from JM. It was delightful, you should pick one up)
“Complete Novels of the Bronte Sisters” (Christmas 2011, from Ma, mostly as a joke, it weighs in at roughly 11 tons)
Ken Follet’s “Fall of Giants” (1/4th in, and can’t remember a damn thing…but the last one I read was courtesty MK and I liked it)
“The Collected Stories of Noel Coward” (Delicious.  Both times.)
“Allen Ginsberg Selected Poems, 1947 -1995” (Good lord, do I still have that book?? I need to get it back to S!)
“Beat Collection” (Ditto)
“The Moonstone,” by Wilkie Collins (I actually can’t remember if I finally read it or just watched the movie, which was why I wanted to read it)
“Three,” the Lillian Hellman triplet autobios (they’ve recently come much in handy again 😉 )
“Salt Dancer” by Ursula Hegi, (Another MK read, daddy- issue novella…liked it)
“Oscar Wilde and the Game Called Murder” (Gyles Brandreth does a brilliant mash-up of Holmes and Wilde solving cases to grinning delight)
“The Irish R.M.” (Because I miss it sometimes)
Ken Follet’s “The Key to Rebecca” (Any time you wanna build on Du Maurier…be my guest)
“Charlotte Gray” (Espionage and WWII?  Why yes, and thank you)
“Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey” (Cuz I’m not obsessed or anything)
&
“The Fry Chronicles,” by Stephen Fry (Which should come with a Thesaurus and serviceable Oxford dictionary, though delightfully fun to read out loud and giggle at)

…And that, my friends, is only the one at the head of my bed.  I still have clumps all about the room separately.  Cuz I’m an addict.

…With a very obvious eclectic taste.

…Which further explains the craving for strawberry ice cream, Tillamook cheddar, and salamie I’m having right now.

But, instead of ALL of that, I’m gonna go catch up with “Downton” episode 2, at last…and see what Edith is up to.

~D

Two Pages

10 Dec

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…Am so close to being off-book, that I wanna throw a party. 

…Not a big one, but big enough.

I must celebrate  the fact that even before we’ve finished blocking, I’m two pages from flinging the script out of reach whenever I’m on stage.  This will help immensely, and most of all tomorrow…when we’re booked to block the entire final reveal scene which is just reams and reams of emo monologues in quick succession.

“Ha-Ha!,” says I to the helpless beat-up, tear-stained, finger-printed, note-scrawled, mint-colored Dramatist script sitting here beside me.  “I am soon to retire you back to the mines, where off-stage picking and chewing takes place.” 

…”No more juggling you and props in-hand!”

…”No more turning one too many pages, or losing my place, mid-fight, and having to stop everything to find it again!”

…”Soon!  Very soon!  Tonight, in fact…it will all be a thing of the past!”

…Which gives me now a little less than five weeks in dedicated play time.  Off stage, will still be mining it’s notes and contents…and making more of them, but the fact that the only part about this entire acting experience that I don’t like, is practically over with now, makes me wanna do a virtual happy dance, and sock the air repeatedly. To the Rocky theme.

(I do so, here.)

***

In Other News: Our Seasonal slowdown at work, since Thanksgiving, is now being marked in a race run by banana slugs.  $200K down in three weeks, as our contractors start raking the area for little house repairs and bathroom renovations, to make ends meets.  Happens every year, and has obviously given me lots of time to focus on show stuff. But, with the dark outsides, and constant rain-rain-rain, and no one around the office even to grab the occasional contract, or load a truck…it makes for very long days. 

Epic.

…Like you could stream an entire miniseries on Netflix in the background and STILL not fill it.

As welcome as this sounds from where I’m sitting right now, (after so much new contract rush this year, and all these lines I had to learn), in about two-weeks max, I’m gonna be pacing the lobby floor.  Because you can really only do so much “quiet-but-still-need-to-be-here,” at a time.  At some point you just can’t take anymore webisodes, your eyeballs start to burn from reading so many books…in 8-hour chunks at a time…staying awake becomes what you are actually in fact, getting paid for…and you have nothing at all to even bitch about in your blogs anymore.

A travesty.

…But it’s December.  And that’s how we roll in the Brothel industry.

…So I guess I’ll go back to that one book then. 

See you tomorrow. Same time, same station.

~D

Word Fairies, On A Walk

17 Sep

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A walk.  To battle the  Monday-after-Vacation, gross obeseness of crud.

…There’s this walk I take, that we call “the loop.”  It’s the long circle that takes you down the full length of the north-end neighborhood, and round to the point, looking down on Old Town, rising up from the sea. I usually take it when my brain is too full to negotiate actual directions and choices. It’s easy because it never wanders too far from itself and always comes back home again…like a good dog. Which is really convenient when you’re clearly too busy talking to yourself like a schizo, about all the things you didn’t get around to today, but need to, and how the associated reporting materials will be filled out, and in which order.

…Also, the ocean is good to focus on after a rough day. (If you let yourself.)  It’s calming, somehow.  Maybe because it’s bigger than anything that could possibly be bothering you at the time.  Maybe because it’s so “in your face,”  that you can’t help but get sidetracked by it.

…Sorta like how you can trick a kid outta crying if you give ’em something new to focus on, instead of whatever it is they first wanted, or was taken away, that they can’t have now.

I totally know how that kid feels, today.

Those bastards stole my vacation goodness away…and I was pretty ticked about it. 

…So clearly, after work was done, (and my car payment was made), “the loop” was in order. 

…Anyway…the point I was getting at is: mid-between casa de mi, and the beginning of “the loop,” is this house:

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About once a week, they print out a poem, short story or anecdote in bulk, and plop it in that little plastic holder bolted on the post and driven into the ground, just on the corner, there. I dunno what the owner’s story is…I frankly don’t think anyone does.  And not too many people take the souvenirs, but I know I’m not the only one who stops to at least read ’em.

The rule is: it can only take up one page. 

…So far, that’s the only quantifying identifier in content or theme. And it has become an addictive reader board, like a fortune cookie’s guts, housing who even knows what words of wonder, day-to day. The top black flip-up cover says, “take one”…like those realtor get-ups you might use to sell a house.  Only this one is used to sell you “thoughts” instead.  Sometimes they’re goodish ones.  Sometimes not. Sometimes I wanna write a note back, and pop it in the box, for the Word Fairies.  Things like:

” I liked the one about the dog.”

…or…

” Sylvia Plath isn’t always totally depressing like I thought

…or…

” This one hurt my inside parts.  But that’s okay sometimes.  So, thanks.”

…Also, I wonder if they take requests?

” Maybe less Politics please…”

” Can you find something about sunshine for the next one?  It’s been raining for six solid weeks…”

” Have you ever considered limericks?  I’d suggest a good Dottie Parker…”

Regardless…its always nice to have some clean, warm air…to hear the sound of sprinklers and dog pantings and runner’s tread…and watch the sun set out over the water.  Its nice to have words like these in my head, other than the chanting of “to do” lists for tomorrow, and the balancing of my checkbook.  Those things can wait.  But a hard-earned piece of goodness and mental rest after a long day, cannot.

…So: “Thank you, Word Fairies.  Keep up the good work!”

(Here are a couple, most recent…)

***

Poem: “The Clearing,” by Gregory Djanikian
from “The Man in the Middle” (Carnegie-Mellon University Press)

**”Poetry is an act of generosity.” ~ Don Skiles**

And something will happen:
You will stand at the edge of a field

hearing the wind-skirted
leaves of the trees, and you

will try to remember
the woman you almost married,

though her life will spiral
like a hawk away from you,

and you will want her,
as deeply as you’ll want

the hawk to settle on your fist,
or the wind to empty

your eyes of grief for all
you’ve renounced to become

what you now are, but
nothing this day will claim you,

neither hawk, nor wind, nor lover,
and you’ll sense how your past

has seduced you through the years
to this field, this reckoning,

to, finally, this poem
which you will write by learning

what matters is not the words
but the unlabored

breath through which
they’re spoken and given up,

like hawks, or lovers
or this life you keep on revising.

***

Poem: “You should at times go out, ” by Elizabeth Daryush

You should at times go out
        from where the faithful kneel,
visit the slums of doubt
        and feel what the lost feel;

you should at times walk on,
        away from your friends’ ways,
go where the scorned have gone,
        pass beyond blame and praise;

and at times you should quit
        (ah yes) your sunny home,
sadly awhile should sit,
        even, in wrong’s dark room

or ever, suddenly
        by simple bliss betrayed,
you shall be forced to flee,
        unloved, alone, afraid.

***

~D

Literary Excuses

16 Sep

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Today I finally finished Jenny Lawson’s laughtrack to her life, and realized that aside from a spectacular session of reader’s theatre that The BFF and I entertained one another with, over Whiskey and cigars the other day…it was the first book I’ve finished reading in prob’ly upward of three months.

…That shit is ridiculous.

…And I totally know whose fault it is, too:

The summer.

J.J. Abrams.

And you.

…The reason I haven’t finished a damn book in so long is because there is sunshine out there…and that almost never happens in this state…and I NEED to freakin’ be out in it, every second that I possibly can

…And when I’m not outside, I am prob’ly glued to “Alias” for the first time…wondering how in the hell I have lived this long on earth without finding out that J.J. Abrams is prob’ly the magical movie “third” in writer-imagination-kickassness, right after Sorkin and Whedon. But no matter how excited I get about it and wanna tell someone, they’re all like, “Uh. Yeah. Everyone already knows that, dumbass.”

WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THIS, YOU GUYS?!  I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!!

…My next reason in actively forsaking the written novel/history/biography/NY Times Best Seller, is that I’ve been glued to the fucking computer since first opening this blog. 

For some reason I thought it would be a great idea, and not at all stressful, to blog every single day…whether I happen to have something to comment on or not.  Which has already gotten me into a ton of sticky wickets due to the fact that (in case you aren’t a full-time reader)…my life ain’t all that spectacular. 

…If I had to compare apples to oranges, I’d say that’s exactly like doing a one hour stand-up improv routine, every. single. day. I have no idea where the material is supposed to materialize from, but I’m standing here on the damn stage…with the mic on…so I better just come up with something…and kinda quick…cuz I have to do this all over again, tomorrow.  And since you all are in the audience, (and keep insisting on reading it), I figure you’re basically enablers. So really, it’s all your fault.

Naturally.

…I keep waiting for the inevitable anxiety attack that this will bring on, as the days pass, and I start rehearsals on top of work. Which leaves only about enough time to take a shower, eat one meal a day, and schedule my pooping time (because I can’t “poop” just anywhere, you know…and that takes some serious navigating and preplanning.)

Meanwhile, rehearsals start this Saturday, and I have no idea how I’m gonna make all this fly.

…Which is not to say that I don’t enjoy the challenge it presents: the fact that I often have to just pull a theme outta my butt and run with it, or mix up the media presentation a bit, or figure out how to spin something that is still a bit too raw at the moment, into something we can all laugh about less than 24 hours later…when you’re reading it from your phone, while undertaking your morning after-coffee BM.  (A lot of you do, and you know it, and I’m totally okay with it. Really.)

…Anyway.  What I’m getting at is — this isn’t just a “chore” thing.  Only sometimes it is.  Like when I’m tired.  Or grumpy. Or traveling.  Mostly it is an enjoyable clean slate for the day, on which to scribble upon.  But I DO miss a paper book in my hands.  And I DO need to make more time (somehow) to continue to study from them.  And I DO have lines that need learning.  But I DO think I can fit it all in.  And this is my accountability clerk, jotting it all down in ink (is it still “ink” when in type on a screen?)…so that I will remember my pledge and uphold it.

It may be something as simple as streamlining. Less words per day from my brain, in order to have time to soak up others’.

…Which I can live with.

What I can’t do is another three months and only one novel checked off the “read” list from the three-zillion-and-one piled up beside my bed, waiting to be next. 

Don’t forsake my education…even while I practice what I’ve learned.

I need both.  All the time.  It keeps me centered. And focused.

~D

Austenian Thoughts, On A Holiday

15 Sep

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I feel like I should work extra hard on today’s blog, on account of just breezing through it yesterday.

…I’m gonna do the weekly blog challenge, write up.  The one where you have to write in the style of a favorite author.  Only I’m gonna take it one further and do it while still narrating in the essay form.  And I want it to be a ridiculous juxtaposition. So I’m gonna pick a wildly opposite writing influence and run with it. In short: What would SWAL sound like if Jane Austen was penning it?

It would sound like this:

***

I cannot help but wish I had not lost the funds once supporting the allowance of a servant.  This morning, it was I who was left to set the tea to steep and pick the eggs.  A bothersome business, when all which you desire is to rest, uncorseted between the bed linens…stretching upon occasion at your leisure.

After breakfast, a walk about the grounds, perhaps. The day is still crisp, yet the sun is out, winking through the clouds now and then.  A piece of blue sky is surly somewhere to be found.  It would do me well, I think, to chase it.  I have only this and tomorrow for the remainder of my Holiday.  A Holiday vastly having depleted of its time. 

…Were I a Gentleman, none of such limitations would stand before me.

Of no profession, I would occupy myself between travels abroad for great lengths of time.  Not merely for the sake of “travel,” mind you, rather for the purpose of experiencing the finer opportunities afforded to one who establishes themselves in pockets of friends, old acquaintance and new.  A fortnight here or there, in country seats outside our own…a sail across seas tossed lightly in a variety of climates.

To picnic beneath an ancient tree whose seed pods float every now and then to rest on the very same blanket which I too use.

…Or a Tuscan sun, shining brightly…it’s heat soaking up into the terracotta roofing tiles, and piazza stones in the square.  English Manor gardens, manicured neatly into designs brought forth perhaps one hundred years before this.  Seedlings which once grew, as that one fallen from the picnicing tree, rising now to this magnificence…offset by fusias and lavenders and great bouquets of rhododendrons, reaching outwards in every direction.

I should like to touch a Grecian stone, entertain a Spanish siesta…walk an Irish rock and peat path, once again.

…If I were of another sex, in another time, with means to accomplish these efforts as my sole earthbound duty, I should be most exquisitely content.

However, it does seem that I am not any one of such things.

I must face, as I have done…with the absence of servants and coming end of Holiday leisure…that soon I must needs return to daily occupation. Of serving others in the stead of their serving me.  I must face the dawn’s early hour, and chill of dew’d air, to travel outward, taking reins of my own small carriage which will draw me swiftly toward the lot I must bare in life. 

…Questions, ever questions, and tasks will be demanded of me, and I shall complete them as is my duty.  But I shall not draw even the slightest rise of contentment at their accomplishments.  For my life seems often anything but the showing of an artistic effort when once completed.  In that, at no time may one gesture with affection at a day’s work-end, as one would toward even the simplest of paintings upon a wall:

“This, I have accomplished,” I may, with satisfaction, proclaim.  “This I have made.”

…A substantial object which once was a mere blank canvas, and now breathes color and light and atmos throughout your day-to-day lives. 

Should I need to wake every morning, endure ice chills in winter, fingers stiff with cold, hours of wakeful unrest, worry over color mix, or stroke placement… and ration my evening’s candlelight due to price of wax thought far less precious than a stock in canvas…I should do so willingly.  If such were my occupation for life, even a Holiday would take less precedence.

…Such is not the way of things, however.

No brush or pen stroke supports the means of which I live at present, and for that, I must acquiesce to find my living elsewhere.

…So too must you yourself, I fear.

…It was for such purpose, in which a “Holiday” was thence first bourne, I think. To give us rest and peace…and to dream.  For dreams too, are of high importance.  To aspire, in our heart and minds, toward a time and place wherein this is all but a means to something finer

Some call it Heaven. 

Some, another word or world wholly separate from this.

For me, I call it: “What can be, should we but strive hard enough to attain it.”

…An ideal which aides to sooth the burn of your contemporary circumstances, whatever they may be.

“This too shall pass,” quoth words in a promise we are all too familiar with.

…If only such application could include all, but the passing of Holidays…

~D

Kitsch-tastic

12 Sep

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Today was more or less an R & R day, spent primarily in p.j.’s til 2 P.M. We only got dressed (in the end) so we could walk off the “breakfast” we ate, in order to have room for the fuck-ton of homemade spaghetti sauce simmering on the stove at Ma’s in the meantime.

So what did we do with all the other eighteen hours of our day?  

…’Member camp as a kid? 

I never went to the summer variety, or anything organized around a specific extracurricular task…like band, or choir, or Girl Scouts.  All I remember was 6th Grade Science Camp. 

…I remember climbing Heart Attack Hill, and standing over a puked-up owl pellet with tweezers, picking out all the little animal bones and rebuilding them again. (Mine, of course, were always headless.)  I remember getting up at the butt crack of dawn thanks to an obnoxious alarm bell going off like the kind they sound in prison movies, and taking freezing cold showers on cement floors, being shifted in waves of various classes studying all the really exciting science kind of stuff…like watching green grass turn brown, compare river rock to fossilized lava, and looking at dead bugs under a microscope.

…After dinner, (and singing ten or twelve camp songs around a bonfire), we’d break up and retire to our cabins, smelling like singed hair and burnt logs.  Then, we would get ready for “lights out,” wait for the den mother to kick it for the back room, then spend all the rest of the night gabbing our asses off about nothing at all, only cuz we weren’t “supposed” to…well into dawn.

…And that is the reason we slept until nearly noon and did absolutely nothing with our day.  Because when you add Puff and me in the same room, we will talk until 5 A.M. like prepubescent little girls, about anything and everything in the world.  And we’ll add in rainbow sprinkles to the mix, by things like, “Why Coach and Prada bags are essential, ” “what the hell keeps a Jimmy Choo on your foot,” “why we always like men who are not available, but don’t want the ones we’ve got,” and “our undying love of kitsch movies, especially in period, space and/or featuring drag queens.”

Today we’ve been mixing all of the above, in nonstop, unending natural evolution from one topic to the other…and most while movie-underscored by people wearing plastic tuxedos, going to “are you gay, we can fix that” camps, alien animals in space, communal swingers in 70’s San Francisco, serial Bear Queens, and French Divas in heightened fifty’s couture doing singing strip teases while murdering people.

…Honestly, we are one Joan Crawford/Bette Davis movie away from completing our collective Top Ten Greatest Hits list.

Oh, yes.  We’ve made a “list.”

…Besides being the natural accompaniment to our general discussion topics, it also provides an often fitting punctuation mark to a completed sentence, idea or thought. The plots are ridiculous. The costumes are worse (therefore automatically fabulous.) Everything is covered in plastic, animal fur, or laytex. Alien sex is totally acceptable in primetime, if you do it with Lucas Film anamatronics. Every female fight starts with hair pulling and ends in epic “accidental” lesbian make-out sessions. And its totally normal to get naked, snort coke, smoke a doobie and rent a commune-like apartment in 1970’s San Francisco from a transsexual Olympia Dukakis, when you work for a Republican Advert Exec.

TOTALLY normal, you guys. Laura Linney just did it, while I ate breakfast.

…THIS is why kitsch is important, people. If nothing else, then to service us ridiculous scenarios, with epically kinky titillations that you COULD NOT GET AWAY WITH, if you tried to put it across with a straight face. Which is the secret reason people use to excuse the fact that they read those craptastic “50 Shades” books.

…Professionals, like Puff and I, (and everyone who really knows anything), fully recognize what a piece of shit those books are in comparison, however. Though they try to gain the same audience appeal, it is not at all the same thing.

Kitsch is preplanned with love and care and dedication. Kitsch has “standards” and “art design” and the plot lines make you want to laugh and gorge on more, like a king-sized candy bar. They don’t hold you in horror, mid-chew, making “what-the-fuck” faces, continually turning to the front jacket where it insists it is a, “#1 New York Times Best Seller,” no matter what kind of Twilight Zone episode you think you are in.

“She can’t POSSIBLY think this is legit ANYTHING,” you insist. She has no idea about the lifestyle, or sentence structure or dialogue-play. Is it a joke? Is it tongue-in-cheek? I don’t understand.

Is it the same audience She is attempting to gain? Does she actually write that poorly, or is she doing it on purpose, “ironically?”

After a lengthy discussion on a book neither one of us could stomach getting past the second chapter of: Puff and I are actually stumped on this one. It actually IS bad enough to land in the kitsch category, but not good enough to be legitimate in it.

…A butt-raping, sadistic, wealthy millionaire owner of a major corporation, who nominates some virgin chick to be his dungeon Sub, and is secretly glorified for this instead of plastered all over the newspapers, is NOT the same thing as “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Farscape,” “Mommy Dearest,” or “8 Women.”

Its just not.

…First of all, they have way fucking more class. Second, they are more realistic. And third, they aren’t some 20-something’s fetishized S & M naive idea of never-experienced lifestyle, written in the language of teenager.

She MUST have meant it to be Kitsch-tastic though. She must. No grown person would put that kind of book out there, and NOT think to themselves (every time they cash a check), “Haha! Suckers! Just wait for the next trilogy! It’ll be bestiality with sex monkey Architects, in space! Written in crayon! From the perspective of a nine-year-old! And you’ll totally eat that shit up! I’ll win the Pulitzer, even! And use it as a bookend for my First Editions shelf. To be ‘ironic.'”

…Full circle, friends.

…And these are the kind of things we talk about.

For eighteen hours.

The end.

~D

Ah, Wilderness!

20 Aug

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I grew up around a lot of nature.  And not a whole hell of a lot “else.”

When people ask me about where I came from, I reference them to Yosemite.  Its a National park, people have actually heard of it, and know it resides in California…”somewhere in the middle.”

…I grew up in an armpit town, slightly west of there. 

The county itself looks pretty much the same in topography, and is chiefly populated by Miners, Mill Workers and Armed Guards.  It is “Goldrush territory,” and they’re still extricating the stuff like a shiny food crop, have an exorbitant amount of excess in trees (apparently), and is conveniently in the middle of bum-fuck-Egypt…so they decided that planting a third-security prison there, would be a good idea.

…I used to think it was the most unbearably boring town in all of God’s creation. And it might still be. I dunno.  I try my best to go back there as little as humanly possible, so haven’t much to go off of on that point. But in hindsight, I have to toss it up a few marks of “chutzpah.” This is due solely to the laundry list of semi terrifying circumstances surrounding it, that I always just thought of as totally normal…until talking to other people about their childhoods.

Constant mining detonation-cued earthquakes, would erupt at all hours in all seasons…without even a second thought that the San Andreas fault line was under our fucking feet.  Sticky-tack was totally the way to go when displaying any breakables…duck and cover drills were announced over PA systems at schools and work, and everyone was taught how to switch out a blown fuse and light an oil lamp from birth. It wasn’t until I moved to Washington State and lived through a “barely tremble” (which even DJs on the radios were getting into apoplexies about), that I realized the gross amounts of inherent military-like conditioning I’d undergone in childhood…calmly walking to a doorway mid-house tremble, while continuing to count to 100. Because I was “it,” and everyone else was hiding, (prob’ly under tables and behind couches, come to think of it…)

Also, the hot, rotting, urine-like smell of the Millworks, never seemed to quite keep up with the rampant forest fires in general tree devastation, there.  This would bring on the volunteer firefighting squads mostly populated by local prisoners, who were actually being TRAINED in it as a “skilled profession,” with the help of our Parent’s tax dollars.  Intermingled with the civilian population at large with only a uniform to tell them apart, I dunno if the powers that be took into consideration that within an hour under these conditions, everything and everyone is covered in head-to-tow black soot; Including the jumpers with “Prisoner” stenciled on them.

…You would hope, the people in charge would have at least weeded out the pyromaniacs among this crowd…but this would be asking a lot…given that these were the same authorities who thought it a great idea to ship out jam-packed marked minivans (driven by armed guards)  to our local Grammar School, as part of the cheap labor initiative used in building our new quad.

The fact that at any moment, the enticement may be too much to bear, and at least one of said prisoners would take it on the lamb, was almost a given.  And they did from time to time.  And there would be lock-downs.  And people would go looking for them.  But luckily for us, we must have been mailed out the stupider kind.  Because instead murdering people, molesting children, or hitting up a convenience store, taking a hostage, and beating it out of town…they’d always take the road least expected. 

…Like the guy who stole the prison van, and left it parked outside his grandmother’s house…found, hours later, sitting at the table eating milk and cookies.

…Or the one who walked off, mid-a fire, escaping out into the wilderness, turning himself in two days later — a hobbled, broken, bleeding, hysterical mess — on account he was apparently from a city, and had never been in “nature” before.  (It was also rumored he’d been sodomized by a wild animal at some point. I dunno if that part was true or not, but he certainly looked like it.)

I happen to know these stories, (btw) because my Mother worked at said prison at the time, and would bring them home, as reported and laughed over while eating their lunches, served them from hair-netted convicts who liked to point out that the macaroni salad was especially good today cuz they’d used a “special ingredient,” but wouldn’t tell anyone what it was.

…This all adds up to some seriously questionable circumstances when you think about it…but because it was my kiddome (and it was all I knew)…it never really occurred to me at the time.

At the TIME, the most sick and twisted part of my existence, was the fact that despite my pleadings, and melodramatic claims of child abuse…I was constantly being forced against my will into the great outdoors. Because my mother was a camping sadist from hell, who’d inherited the gene directly from her father.

Nature.

Fuck.

…With all that dirt, and weeds and grass.  With all that sky and sun…and so much air you could practically drown in it.  The bugs lived out there! And like little Kamikaze assholes, always dive-bombed their way into your cup of juice and bit you in places you could never reach to scratch.

As if day trips weren’t bad enough…Mom’s favorite summer past-time torture, was to drive out into the wilderness every fucking weekend, point at the rock and pine-needle strewn land, and claim “this spot” as our new horn of plenty. She’d spike a pole in the ground, throw a blanket over it and begin walking around in big strides, getting drunk on air, and proselytizing about how, “This was the life,” and “people in cities just don’t know the real deal” and “aren’t we lucky to live here?”

…My answer to this was always the same.  I’d take up my 1500 page tomb of Russian Literature, or History on the Holocaust,  and retreat into the back-most section of the tent in abject silence.  I found out early that pleading the fifth was smartest in these circumstances, because if I complained about it even a little bit, she’d force me on a trail hike or some alternate form of holy terror.

After an agonizing sequence of checking and double checking the contents of my sleeping bag, (assuring it was free of snakes, bugs and vermin), I would properly preserve myself with an invisible shield of bug spray covering every square inch of my body (even eyelids), and commence with my reading. And I would not stop again or move from my position, except in cases of eating and peeing, until it was time to go home.

Dear Lord, how I hated those weekends.  More than seafood.  More than peas.  More than homework, even! But because I wasn’t 18 yet, I hadn’t “the vote.”  With no legal protections whatsoever, I was forced into it .  So I went.  And I read.  And tried my best to ignore it.

***Flash forward***

I now live in the Pacific Northwest.

…Of my own free will.

It is occupied mostly by software brainiacs, coffee drinkers, State workers and nature-freaks. 

Most of our land is made up of State parks, wetlands, swamps, rain forests and trails linking them via network spider-webbings and landmarks.  The population is so obsessed with partaking of its infinite varieties, that they will kit themselves out in an REI wet-dream of fleece jackets, cargo shorts, socks pulled up to their kneecaps and rock-climbing sandals…to go hiking through it, in the middle of pissing-down rain, grinning like idiots…under the mass delusion that they are “having a good time.” 

It’s become such a part of the culture here, that no one even thinks twice about it.

…And maybe, because I’ve lived here for twelve years now…maybe because I’m susceptible to any and all random and strange diseases and epidemics that happen to pass by…(like that one involving spider bites, or rashes, or every cold that makes its way through the masses.) Maybe that is why I find myself suddenly (over the long and painful evolution crossing the past twenty years), not “minding” the out-of-door experience as much as I once did. 

I’m not completely cured of it, mind you…just less “allergic.” 

Truth be told: we’ve got some cool stuff here.  It’s green, most if it. And kinda smells good. As long as a bar of soap and hot water face me at the end of the trail…I really kinda like it even.

…But don’t tell Ma that. 

…Even one whiff, and she’ll kidnap me with the Subaru, drive out to some god-forsaken mountain top, and force me to go all “Lewis and Clark” on that shit.

My childhood was scaring enough, thanks.

~D

Hauntings & Old Stuff

12 Aug

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I like old stuff.

…If we’re talking books or booze, photos or furniture, film or fashion …jewelry, appliances, houses or people…I like ’em most of all. I always have.

I was the kid who’d rather love on a hand-me-down doll with one eye and lopsided stuffing than a “new” anything out of a box. The more beat up and “used” a book: the better…and if “nature” had started to take the object back at all to reclaim it, I totally understood the feeling.

When I went to England and Ireland several years ago, I nearly exploded with too much old-stuff-awesome.  Because even the rocks, buildings, and air you breathe there, comes recycled from like a gillion years ago, B.C.  It crosses the “old” and “antique” mark into just plain “ancient.” 

It was ancient. 

It felt ancient. 

It smelled ancient. 

It looked ancient.

…I’d be standing on a heath (for instance) in the middle of nowhere, a once bogged peat land where the Celts had raised a stone circle for their protections and holy workings.  Center of this thing, it was still electrifying with the network of whatever had been infused into it centuries ago.  You could honestly feel the energy of it zapping you like those electric touch-globes they had back in the 80’s, connecting through your fingertips and skin and hair…to something elemental, base…a root network of being.

We’d take a turn in old manor houses…get lost in their hallways…or stay behind on purpose to be the only one left in a room just to feel it out a little.  Like hiccups in time, you could almost swear you could see the Lady of the house sitting at her vanity, applying scent to the  back of each ear and nape of neck.  The nursery was almost spooky with children’s giggles, nurse’s admonitions, and squeek of wood coming from the direction of the old rocking horse. 

…Sometimes (for maybe only a split second), whole dinner parties were sitting at table within the formal dining rooms…candles bouncing their light off the polished silver, under-butlers in black jackets and white cotton gloves attending in silence.  The studies still smelled of cigar smoke and gentlemen’s cologne.  The library’s books, (occupied floor to ceiling with volumes whose bindings you could never touch), once rested within the palms of hands while sunning themselves, or secluded somewhere in the network of impossibly manicured gardens.

…Paintings of previous owners would watch you from the walls, enroute exiting the main floors, retreating to the bowels of the homes where their empty kitchens were still a phantom bustle of activity, heat, food smells and ever-attending duties.  Ghost horses still live within their stalls…trees that had shaded picnics, games of cricket, and formal teas: shading you right now.

Sometimes the feelings were almost overwhelming.

…But then, I’ve always been sensitive to things like that. One part imagination (no doubt), but two parts what Gram and the Great Aunts used to call, “the gift.”  Apparently all the Kelly women have it.  Some more so than others. 

I remember stories from childhood, of experiences they had had…things they had seen, or felt, words they had heard spoken, in laundry lists of eery evokings that frankly scared the hell outta me.  It didn’t, them…they seemed perfectly at peace with it.  Basically because they had to be.  Stretching back into our line as far as we can source it, strange shit has been happening “to” or “around” our family for generations. 

…Sometimes, in the form of hauntings. 
(Any number of us like to come back and visit…which is a “comfort” I never quite understood and frankly wish they’d all cut the hell out. Also, we’re susceptible to seeing and feeling the non-familial varieties.  This doesn’t mean always in a visual form.  Sometimes it’s a voice, a touch, a breath…a general acknowledgment of “not-rightness,” followed instantly by cold sweats and the desire to get the hell outta wherever it is that we are.)

…Sometimes visions.
(Countless phone calls from my Nana would stream in at all hours, day or night, directly after some family emergency had just taken place.   She would know who was the injured party, just how life threatening it was, exactly when it had happened…and upon occasion, even what had taken place. And at least once she saved a life by it. The first words upon the answer of “Hello?” having been, “Get him to the hospital now.  Don’t wait.  It’s worse than you think.”)

…Or, prophetic dreams. 
(A car and motorcycle accident, one leg breaking from falling off a roof, a death in WWII, and one of the creepiest actual preventative stories of Gram as a little girl getting a yellow dress for her birthday, twirling too near a fire, catching light and getting burnt to death. The identical dress was in fact gifted, and destroyed, directly upon opening.)

Some were flat out spoken to.
(In most cases as a sort of “conscience-driven” inner-voice stipulating things needing to be done, or not, or fixed or rendered.  Sometimes: a literal voice, a whisper, a declarative warning. Often mixed in what I suppose you could categorize as “hauntings.”)

…And some just had the uncanny ability to read a person or a room, instantly.
(Bad things “were” or “are” done here. Something about him just isn’t “right.”  She’s hurting a lot, it’s all around her but no one is noticing. There’s something big about to happen…a lot of energy…its “full” right now.)

…Apparently, I deal mostly with the past-tense.  So I suppose it isn’t’ surprising at all that me and old things are attracted to one another.  We are lovers from the past, connecting again.

I’ll forget to actually “read” a book, I become so consumed in touching and smelling it…tracing my fingers over the signatures of it’s previous owners, trying to get a grasp on them. I can’t just “look” in antique stores, I have to skim and make contact…hold the things in my hand and get the weight and history of them in my grasp.  As a kid, I collected buckets full of rocks, and trinkets…not like other kids collect them…but because they had been hand selected, and adopted from places I had been (a camp site, a lake, a hike, a cave) and “felt” things at.  One of my favorite places to visit are old cemeteries…not for the morbidity, but the life and history still wandering around them.  I’ve been the only person in a room full of “others” I can’t see but fully know are there.  I’ve stepped into houses where bad things have happened and know it, with the kind of instant terror they can’t breed into you with the most horrifying Hollywood thriller. I get deja vus like crazy, will stop cold in a doorway or while standing on a piece of land to “listen”…because I could swear that something just told me to.

…For the parts of this that I am “comfortable” with, it’s been a strange life of feeling like I was born out of order and don’t actually belong to this time.  People don’t always understand my consuming fascination of history and “the past,” that I am completely delighted that I have.  For the parts that freak me the hell out,  I fought it (believe me) and tried to pretend it was all a load of fantastical nonsense.  Until I couldn’t anymore.  I certainly do not “encourage” it.

…But what was amazing…what blew my mind those years back on that trip abroad, (and still does when revisiting my thoughts and dreams now and then, as it does from time to time), is that being there in those places…particularly in the oldest outer-reaching ancient parts of Ireland, it was probably the first time I was “at peace” with whatever gifts had been handed down in the bloodlines. 

It was intense, and full and populated with air and energy and presence.  It was jerking in time from then to now.  It was peaceful, then bloody, then peaceful again.  I could almost hear the people’s words in a language I couldn’t understand, and smell the fires that had cooked their suppers.  Tiny cottages and ramble roads seemed like old friends. A rock wall and I could have a whole conversation almost, just sitting side-by-side and though I’ve never in my life smelled such a thing as burning peat…the fireplaces stoked with it brought the kind of memories back that only things like lifelong Christmas traditions do.

I can’t explain the connection with things that I had there. But I “belonged” to it.  I knew that.

…Which goes back to the old man in the pub, in Avoca: a tiny village, where we sat one afternoon over a Guinness, ‘tween ongoing rambles across the countryside.

Old Man On A Stool: “Americans, is it?  And how do you like us?”

Ma: “We love it.  I’ve had this aching pain to come here, as far back as I can remember.”

Old Man On A Stool: “You’re Irish then.  What name?”

Ma: “Kelly.  How’d you know?”

Old Man On A Stool: “Because that’s the way of it.  You can take the Irish out of Ireland but not the other way ’round.  We always find our way home again, else never feel ‘right’ about it.”

Me:  “What do yuh mean?”

Old Man On A Stool: “The roots, girl.  It’s in the roots, in here. (grasping his upper gut)  Can’t escape it.  And you feel it too…don’t you?”

…Only every second I spent on the land, is all.

Being in the “old country” just re-energized everything.  Like coming back to the absolute roots of me and plugging into the network that my blood first came from…fighting battles and building this intense bond with the land, the type of nature, the rocks that built their houses, the people that lived inside of them.  I remember extreme specifics of the places we visited…far out-of-way roads we travelled.  I can remember accidental monuments and churches and villages and homes we stumbled upon.  Conversations with people we met.  Comparing separate experiences we’d had at day’s-end.  I can remember this one turn in a garden path, and that bush over there…the feel of the mossy stone with tiny wildflowers growing out of a ruin.

…When I dream of it, they are always really intense dreams…where I can actually feel the texture of things when I touch them and smell the smells.  I get totally lost in it and wake up a little sad to see I’m not actually there.  It’s very like the opening of “Rebecca,” launching into this singsong, haunting rhythm…

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again…”

And last night, I did.

I miss it.

~D

To Snark With The Best Of Them

10 Jul

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For my birthday this year, a very good friend, (we’ll call her K)…who knows me abnormally well, got me this book

…According to the Preface, it is handbook of biting wit, smartass zings, sly disparaging comments and snide remarks…which is claiming an awful lot really, as it is quite quaint in size.  This diminutive volume, is the type categorized by many as a “bathroom book,” wherein tidbits are stored in a variety of quips, slashes and barbs, edited and chosen specifically for their biting humor, their penchant for little known facts…and the amount of time identified to be “correct” for the average taking of the average poop.  I don’t really know what that means, but prob’ly something between: “sixty seconds,” and “not so long that your butt falls asleep.”

Not being one to enthrone myself in that tiniest of  tiny rooms in the house, I keep it instead on one of my stacks in the living room.  It’s fast-access for lazy moments where I don’t want to put in the effort to read a real book (with plot and all), but can’t be bothered to turn on the TV either.

…And it’s become a slipstream to a happier place. Because it’s bitchy.  And irreverent.  And it thinks like me…(only funnier.)

The real secret of this book, you see, it that it is a collection of some of the greatest verbal spars, comebacks, quips, bites, bitches, (and bastards) of all time.  I’m quite a fan of most of them, and have been for a long while.  Dottie Parker, Oscar Wilde, W.C. Fields…Bankhead, Allen, Levant, Rivers, Mason, Burns, & Benny to name a few.  Whatever mood of utter boredom and listlessness I pick the book up in, will be altered with money-back-guarantee within five minute max…because you cannot (I promise you) read the words of these masters of insult and wit, without a childlike wonder at the brilliance of how their minds are wired.

…Oh, to think of a comeback at the exact moment it is needed…and not at home in bed three hours later!  Oh, the bravado of genuinely not giving a shit who you offend in a public bout of completely inappropriate and politically incorrect banter!  Oh to be free to be sarcastic, saucy, and sharp, both hated and loved for it!

The reason these people are so uniformly revered  in their artform, is because they gave a damn enough to have a “go” at anyone, anywhere.  They were brave, they were ball-busters…and they were fucking brilliant.  Plus, they are like the best magic eight-ball of live Q & A brilliance EVER.  Check it:

Me: How old are you?

Oscar Levant:  I can remember Doris Day before she was a virgin.

Me: And how would you describe your life is one sentence?

Dorothy Parker: Ducking for apples – change one letter and it’s the story of my life.

Me: What are your thoughts about coworkers?

Bette Davis:  The best time I ever had with Joan Crawford was when I pushed her down the stairs.

Me: Uh huh…and education?

Dorothy Parker: You can drag a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.

Tallulah Bankead: –I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice.  That’s what I call a liberal education.

Me: Just out of curiosity, hows your Math?

Mae West: A man has one hundred dollars, and you leave him with two dollars.  That’s subtraction.

Me: Any particular thoughts on Politics?

Mark Twain: Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress.  But I repeat myself…

Me:  …And “Corporations?”

Noel Coward:  The higher the building the lower the morals.

Me: Do you have any thought about the “legalizing drugs” issue?

Tallulah Bankhead:  Cocaine isn’t habit forming.  I should know — I’ve been using it for years.

Me: Why do you think gossip is so addictive?

Oscar Wilde: My own business always bores me to death; I prefer other people’s.

Me: Aren’t you ever worried about what other’s might think of you?

Bette Davis: I’m the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived.

Me: Right.  I see.  How do you pick your next projects?

Mae West: Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.  I’ll try anything once.  Twice if I like it, three times to make sure.

Me: Here’s one for the “gourmets” in our audience…any kitchen recipes to share?

W.C. Fields:  I cook with wine, sometimes I even add food.

Me: And what are your thoughts on the recent health craze?

W.C. Fields: I never drink water, fish fuck in it.

Joan Rivers:  …Don’t exercise. If God had wanted me to bend over, he would have put diamonds on the floor.

Me: And how’s your dating life ?

Mae West:  I’ve been on more laps than a napkin.

George Burns: …Sex at 90 is like shooting pool with a rope.

Me: Any last words to wrap us up?

Tallulah Bankhead: Codeine…bourbon.

…See what I’m sayin’?  Genius-freaks of awesome.

…And what’s doubly impressive, is that it’s so much more difficult to do comedy than drama.  Ask anyone who does it for a living.  It’s perfectly natural to play to a house of silent patrons doing O’Neill. You get crickets performing Noel Coward, and…well…that’s about the lowest feeling you’re ever gonna feel.  There are actual deaths that are less painful.  I know.  I’ve seen both. 

…When you’re playing the verbal spar of “snark” at the level that these people do though…it’s like a shock and awe equal to any physical feat of an athletic professional.  Only it lasts longer than a mere “era,” ages better than a fine wine, and will survive as long as words are used as an instrument of thought.  Just ask Shakespeare.  He was flippin’ boss at that this shit.

Point is: today wasn’t the greatest, but this little snarky guy, just happened to be.  It “be’d” so much that it got me to dig out my “Portable Dorothy Parker” to play with the big kids at the Algonquin Table for a while. Such a fat company of word-slingers…the whole lot of ’em, with perfect aim.

…Bastards.

I love ’em.

~D

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