Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Repost From December 20th: Three Wills to Power: Violence, Wealth, Knowledge

I was reading this post today and thought it relevant enough to repost:  Violence begets violence, a lesson we never seem to learn. 

December 20th. 
Today has been a good day so far. It's five days before Christmas, and in spite of the horrible tragedy of last Friday, the country is moving forward discussing issues that have long needed discussing. I'm still looking for a job, but many people have come forward with ideas and have even gone so far as sending me job applications. I have filled them out. I am still looking however, but as always, I am always expecting my ship to come in, and keep my left eye on the sea. 

Although I've noticed I've lost a couple of friends because of my gun posts, I'm used to that, and as I have mentioned, I've gotten to a point in my life beyond trying to be a people pleaser. I try to speak from my experience and from my heart. I submitted a post in regard to my own feeling towards guns, and was so very stimulated by the response I received back. I tried to quantify my views, and because people did respond, I was able to express myself in diverse ways, that I think made some sense. When I sold my guns, I didn't do so with the intent of feeling liberated when I did, it was just something that happened afterwards. My post was not to state that I think everyone should go out and sell their guns, it was a personal revelation that happened when I did. I had to sell them in Austin, because I was broke and in need of groceries. For years, I realized that the gun beneath my seat created an anxiety that disappeared after it was gone. The saddle rifle that belonged to my Dad was much harder to part with, however, when I sold it, I felt as though I let go of a part of him that created anxiety. Personal experience. I had a friend with children who would not part with his because of a general protection ideology, but at the same time, another friend felt just the opposite, that with guns in the house he feared for a possible accident in regard to his children. This did point out very different points of view that both made logical sense.

Because I come from Utah, and because I was brought up around a culture where guns where the same as shovels, a valuable tool, I keep and value many of those friends and family who know that rural sort of life, and to me, the need for a good 30-30 saddle rifle did and still makes sense to me. As I pointed out, when we rode the mountain or went down below pushing or gathering cattle, there was no thought of gun control. A rifle was essential, and there were no debates about gun control. In the same post, however, I have been in situations where a gun was almost the end of me, and as my mother attested, I was abused and made to play Russian roulette with an abusive step-father. That was as real as it gets. I really don't think that gun control would have done anything to change that particular situation, other than the fact that he had a gun, and quite possibly obtained the gun legally and in a way that I don't expect the laws to change much. And I really don't advocate them to, because this was a situation that stemmed from an abusive alcoholic. Most violent gun murders that occur from domestic violence occur from substance abuse issues, and I don't think either side of the issue would argue this fact.

Being someone who has always tried to look at the optimistic side of my life, as I grow older with the examination of it, the fact remains that guns and violence have always been a part of its fiber. This latest occurrence has allowed my mother and I to discuss this part of her life, (with me in it growing up) in a way that I believe has been healthy and therapeutic. She has been able to express why she made the choices that she made in bringing these violent men into our lives, and honestly? I really do understand it. The wonderful thing is that she and I were able to talk about it, and bring light to it.

For those of you who know my plays, many of them are rife with violence. That was a life that I knew and saw, I wrote what I knew. If there was criticism of this work, it was usually in the guise of critics who did not understand, (or want to understand) that this is a part of many peoples' lives, and to bring it into the theatre and examine it was not something that many wanted to do. However, the actors that were a part of these plays were always cognizant that this was not just something I made up, but there was an authenticity that gave them wonderful parts to play. Blackout Blues, C&W, Blue BabyThe Pig Hunter, Bohemian Cowboy, all plays with guns and violence. In fact, there is no practical reason why I should even be alive, given the circumstances that were often a part of my life. I can tell you, having to pull the trigger with a gun to your head with a bullet somewhere in the chamber is not something that you forget about. Being assaulted in jail and hospitalized  from the brutality of two violent murderers with no one to stop them stays with you…forever. If there is anyone of us who has had a life's experience that might advocate the necessity of always having a gun on my person, I can tell you, it is me, and yet I choose to let that part of my life go because of the violent energy that goes with that kind of protection. I am always struck by the idea of many of the advocates of guns comes from those who would advocate a Christian God, and the very real hypocrisy that comes from gun advocacy, if your beliefs are authentic, why not allow for your God to protect you from all forms of evil, including the loss of your life from a gun? And, yes, I do know all of the arguments that ensue from this question, free will, God helps those who help themselves,etc. My point here is that unless you have real life experience to make your point, or have the intellectual prowess to be logical in your arguments, they so often appear to be hollow.

As I've said before, my Facebook friends' list is very diverse. Although very recently, I did de-friend someone who posted a photo of Nazis pushing dead jewish people into a trench and advocating that these Jewish people could have somehow been saved if there had not been some sort of gun control. These kind of arguments and posts make you look really ignorant, I am sorry to say, because the variables that occurred in this situation have nothing to do with the current condition we are in, or even for those who were killed and experienced unspeakable suffering at the hands of the Third Reich regime. This kind of rhetoric and these photos do nothing to further the discussion, and in fact, makes me a little frightened of the extremity of your view. (If you read this) 

I had another person post that he just purchased his new glock ten millimeter, and felt much more comfortable with this weapon on his person. The only reason I gave this person some respect was knowing that he had recently served in Afghanistan, and although his comments were very aggressive, I at least respected some of his arguments. People who have been to war, and have seen war, I've noticed have two very different points of view on the subject. Either they take a road of a very real understanding of the devastation that a gun can cause and wish to put guns down forever, or else they continue to be at war with the rest of the world, albeit a quieter form of war. The arguments of gun control and the issues it creates in America, (which is the third most violent gun death country in the world), I understand the issues are diverse and complicated. Although I would have to say that I am a pacifist when it comes to war, I also consider myself a very knowledgeable person on the history of war, and there is no question in my mind that WWII was a war that was a very necessary war, no question. Without the American Revolution, we would not be a country. I even understand the need for WWI. The Civil War breaks my heart, but I understand why it had to be fought. War is a condition of mankind, always has been, and I shutter, but believe that although we would love peace and are more progressive in our thinking that we've ever been, my personal thinking is that war will eventually kill us before a comet or the Mayan calendar ever will. War and violence are part of our collective consciousness, and it continues to evolve. The day will come when the weaponry we have will blow up our planet, even though I would love to think otherwise.

I do believe that mental illness is an overwhelming variable in the rash of school and public shootings. I'll save that discourse for another day, but I will say this. There are three main components to the will to power. A will to power is also part of the collective consciousness of mankind. We all have it, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. We would all like to believe that even in our quest for supreme humility, that this is not a will to power, but in fact, it still is, in an altered form. All power can be summarized in three ways. Violence as a means, Wealth as a means, and Knowledge as a means. Whatever power you wish directly or indirectly to obtain, comes under the guise of these three entities. Would it not be wonderful if Knowledge was the ambition of our aspirations to achieve it?  For if we did, violence and the aspiration to wealth would not be so easily or wishfully sought. We would have a much better grasp on how to save ourselves and live a more harmonious life. I've always said this, and believe it more than I ever did, if instead of increasing the defense budget, we doubled the education budget in our system. If we did this, many of the issues we have with violence would begin to subside. Education is the key to many of the issues we face, and the responsibility to ensure that it is available to everyone in our country. In fact, I would go so far as to say, this would be a law I would support in an extreme manner. I'm not talking about propaganda and a brainwashing, I'm talking about the highest degree of education that mankind has achieved thus far. Knowledge is that power component that exists, but should exist sevenfold. As an educator, I can honestly say that I KNOW there have been moments in my teaching career that I made a real difference. Can you imagine if the best and the brightest in every field were getting $100,000.00 per year to impart what they know? If programs were expanded and we became a country who would wage war in the world with our knowledge? Just a thought…

Guest blogger: Gerry Hitt: In the aftermath of the extreme violence in Boston we ask ourselves, what is the purpose of people who do this?/teach a lesson?


Although I consider myself fairly left, and a democrat, I had to post this because of the parallels it makes, and the deep consideration that there really is powerful 'right thinking'. I disagree with several points here, but it's writing that does what great writing can do, change a perspective. It would be interesting to hear what you think.

Gerry Hitt's note post:

I am imagining the mindset of the bombers who must have been familiar with what happens when a bomb goes off that kills or injures a number of innocent people.  They undoubtedly thought America needed to realize there were people in the world who resented the relatively peaceful cities of this country as compared to the war torn countries where war has been waged by our country on distant shores.  I can imagine it could be the retaliation for seeking out and killing bin Laden as well as for as many more deaths of Al Quida as could be possible in Afghanistan.  

Or possibly someone with emotional ties to Iraq could have become incensed by all the violence that continues to plague that country.  I think well, what is the mindset in this country that might open the door to such attacks on the innocent in our own country.  The retired President Bush says he still believes in his war on Iraq, even though the consensus finally became that he gravely overextended our country's ability to wage war, both on the Al Quida in Afghanistan and on Saddam Hussein and Irag, another Bush President's arch enemy in the Gulf war.    

I am just reading a book now called "The New Leviathan" by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin.  The sub-title is 'How the Left-Wing Money Machine...Shapes American Politics...and Threatens America's Future."  Having been a long time reader of a newspaper, Arizona Republic, and perceiving it as moving further and further to the left, these authors' contentions ring a bell with me.  David Horowitz also wrote "Party of Defeat" about the Democratic party voting for the war in Iraq (if reluctantly) and then turning on President Bush with a vengeance as no WMD were found and the war seemed less and less defensible.

I saw a leftist leaning press attack Bush viciously for this, even though they had not fought against this war which I did not believe at the time Bush should have started.  Not because Hussein was not a tyrant, but because he was an aging tiger who had not done serious harm in recent months, and without absolute proof of WMD a preemptive strike on Iraq seemed a case of overkill.  

I am not for violence or war unless the attack is so severe it would be impossible to expect the general populace to respond any other way as was the terrorists' attacks on the twin towers, resulting in so much loss of life as well as these two huge buildings.  At the same time, however, that the leftist leaning Democrat party used the Iraqi War to try to destroy Bush's credibility along with the Republican Party's they were supporting their own violent solution in legalized abortion by saddling the Democratic party with a pro choice platform, bound to alienate registered democrats like me not to vote for my own party's pro choice candidates any more.  The violence of war in Iraq the Democratic party now protested, but drew a blank when the support of legalized abortion was questioned, not only by many in the Republican party's more bible based constituents but by Christians in the democratic party. 

This is when we began to see a suppression of free thinking on the left which the authors, Horowitz and Lakskin, contend in this book "The New Leviathan" was done through big money, very big money, from the billionaires like George Soros, and giant tax exempt foundations we had come to believe were benign, until they began to be controlled more and more by left wing thinkers.  They also accuse the big universities of going left as infiltrated by professors who had a big influence on young students like Barack Obama at Harvard.  

I have been reading columnists across the land for years as printed in the Arizona Republic, New York Times, Boston Globe, and other big newspapers across the land and I contend that these columnists have succumbed to the pressure in order to keep their jobs and influence.  Fame becomes just as necessary to the famous as money to the very rich.  People tend to start supporting anything to keep their names well known and in the public eye.  Which is why they failed to report this troubling move to the left.  They would not even acknowledge it, a good way to become unimportant to that newspaper over night.  In other words, fall into line, or lose your job, as well as big money and fame.  

And that is why in our land today, a big trial is going on in which an abortionist, Gosnell, is accused of murdering many babies after they were born, simply because it was an easier way to do a late term abortion. Gosnell became the go to abortionist for late term abortions in PA just as Dr. Tiller did in Kansas.  Sibelius who is head of Health Services under Obama was the democratic governor of Kansas who supported Dr. Tiller.  She is the helping architect of Obama's health plan, with abortion I presume still being viewed as a woman's right.  

So we can see that democrats have now become very selective about what truths they support, abortion being a violent solution not one of them.  Instead it is a 'woman's right' and that is the way you better view it if you write for a left wing newspaper.  Which so many are now days, with billionaires having thoughtfully brought up such newspapers so they can control what is written in them behind the scenes.  

Yours truly did not make the cut as the subject of a story in the Arizona Republic for these reasons.  They were not going to do a story period on an abortion protestor as active as I am on the Internet.  I do not have fame or a big salary to lose.  I live in poverty and am thought to be therefore harmless.  But I brought the Arizona Republic to its knees, forced to kill a story on me for no good reason because I think and I can't be bought.  Sorry no news here.  We aren't interested.  

I do know this, violence is wrong, bombing innocent people is wrong and so is killing human beings in the first stages of life.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Buffalo Continues to Manifest

As one gets older, and comes closer and closer to facing the inevitable nature of mortality, there are many variables that come into clearer focus. The coincidences that occurred in the past, become less and less amusements, but in fact, expand to become something that one begins to pay acute attention to.

About three weeks ago, I wrote a poem to many of you, (and will repost), BUFFALO HEADING NORTH, that came in a mad flurry of words and thoughts that expressed the way that I was feeling, that nature was running its course, and that there was indeed an inevitability of the break down of the body and mind. Through the poem, I realized that as is the nature of the animal kingdom, the herd would either cull out the blight, or protect it, depending on how important the herd deemed wisdom over physical break down.

For several days, I was obsessive about the poem, because it expressed so much of my frustration and fear of losing my place in the herd. With buffaloes, as it is with many herd animals an injury can mean certain death, and often does, if the injury becomes a liability.

For many years now, after I had my hip operated on, I have felt the gradual pain and break down of both body and mind, watching a limp grow more pronounced, feeling my back begin to also carry pain, and not knowing what was happening. Although now I understand more of what was happening to me, instead of finding my place in the herd with shear physical energy, I have sought to make a transition into becoming important to the herd through finding the wisdom of experience. The first traces of isolation, however, occur because those with physical prowess are going to continue doing so, those with health are going to pair up with the many that can run with the wind, and those without slowly begin to find themselves falling behind. An injury that doesn't heal itself becomes a liability, and the situation is compounded if you were one with once great physical energy, that you did in fact, once lead with the same prowess you now only see in others.

In my case, since I never had children, (but always wanted them) the instinctual loyalty and closeness one gets as a result is not available to me, so I have to rely on family members that are still amongst the living, but even that closeness begins to subside. And that's just the point of fact, EVERYTHING begins to subside. How could this happen to me? How can I even begin to explain? 

Opting to begin making music as a way to counteract my ability to physically work all day and night, I am also realizing how very precarious that is as well, even though I can do it for a few hours a day, it is not exactly optimum pay, especially when one has fallen so far behind. Still, I really do enjoy it, and most recently, I found the perfect place for me, and, I have to tell you, it is the BUFFALO who is leading me.

It is very odd how sometimes the very obvious, right there in front of us, is so often lost as well. I started a job at a large and beautiful restaurant and saloon, Bill Johnson's Big Apple, but before I started, I had been in there many times to look at the saloon, noticing all the old photos and posters on the wall, etc. How odd now to realize that the place I picked to put the stage was right beneath a great buffalo head, however, I didn't even notice it there, even though I noticed everything else in the place! In fact, I built the stage, placed the stage and played for two nights before I DID notice it, and that because someone posted a photo of me playing, with buffalo head above me! Why I did not make this obvious connection, I don't really know, other than perhaps some kind of denial that it existed and was pointing me in the right direction. As I said, the obvious is sometimes lost to us, and in my case, as lost as it could be. Then people started saying, "Wow, Raymond, look at that buffalo right above your head!" Perhaps my reluctance to notice it was also to enhance the impact it would have when I did notice it.

So, writing a poem, BUFFALO HEADING NORTH, and then re-writing compulsively on the poem until present, and then getting a job where I am playing music right beneath a giant buffalo head, well, coincidence? See what I mean? How readily we are to deny and somehow explain away its existence. How do I explain away this great coincidence? How do I get around the fact that there are plenty of places in this world where I could have found myself playing music that did not happen to be below a buffalo. See what I mean? It isn't scary really, its more of a how do I honor it? How do I explore the depth of its meaning?  Shall I start the religion of the Great Buffalo? Well, some of this is worth looking into—I started by reviewing the poem and what I know about buffaloes.

Symbolically, its probably the most revered and meaningful of the animals in North American, and much of that because of its history. Without writing about its history, (most people know that) I will write, however, about my own history with the buffalo.

I think my connection with the buffalo started as a young child. In Boulder, Utah, the town that my family is from. I was always mesmerized by The Henry Mountains, a mountain range west of Boulder. I remember looking at the mountains as a child, and was further intrigued when I discovered that The Henry Mountains was the home of a buffalo herd, one of the few places where a buffalo herd could be found. The other thing I learned about the Henry's was a gold strike that occurred there in the late 1800's, for a child, buffaloes and gold strikes do all kinds of things to the imagination. Over the years, my intrigue with the mountains maintained the posture, they were like the mountains that watched over Boulder.

(flash forward to four years ago)

There were three sightings of a buffalo in Boulder. One in Salt Gulch, one in Upper Boulder, and finally, one in The Draw, which was on the other side of town. I remember being instantaneously empowered by the story that was told around town by the people. A story of a buffalo sighting spreads fast in a small town. And then, when I found out the buffalo was killed by the local police and the game warden, I was devastated. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'm sure that I wrote about it, but this morning, I could not find the post over the two hundred and sixty that I have posted here. But I know its there. There is more history of the buffalo and my life, but for now, I will tell you that the symbol of the buffalo has great significant meaning. I do remember telling people as a playwright, the one person show, the one person play that a playwright must write sometime in his life is called The White Buffalo. It is the play that is the hardest to find and to write. The buffalo has always turned up symbolic in my vocabulary, it's' meaning and the 'why' sometimes a mystery, but it is there.

Now that I know how to do links and am incorporating them into my posts, rather than explain the symbolism of the buffalo, I will let a link do it for me, Buffalo meaning and symbolism, but I will post the re-written poem of BUFFALO HEADING NORTH. In my search for meaning and survival, the universe has given me many things to contemplate in my quest, but can I hang onto this? Can I begin to teach others how to find spiritual significance in the sometimes vagaries of life? Perhaps my prayer and my way to recovering my health must be given to the buffalo. I've never been one to give into the pretentiousness of latching onto a philosophy that belongs so completely to Native Americans, but how can I sit here and deny this path? How can I deny that I once directed Jere Luis's play, THE LAST BUFFALO and connected to it so completely that I actually believed I  became a shaman for awhile to get people into see it on the side of the highway? I need to start paying closer attention to the buffalo, perhaps many of us should, for me, it may be life or death. I recently read that "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…" Perhaps the teacher has appeared, perhaps I will follow the buffalo and become one myself as I seem to be manifesting.

Come, buffalo, come…

Buffalo Heading North

By Raymond King Shurtz

I. Introduction

I could not rise today.

I felt so good the day
before I even climbed  
the mountain!
I was manifesting foolish
youth, striking stars
with sticks, laughing
like Butch and Sundance
on the rocky trail
pulling iron on old bones
roping mesquites 
with simple ease
I secretly carried
the bottle of lightning
in my pocket I took
from storms long ago—
capturing them in the
that place between
life and death.

I was a buffalo then—
but then you think 
me foolish to play 
upon these eventide
words of yesterday—
the truth is in the story 
my friend, and stories
are never free. 

I will tell you of my buffalo days. 
I smile to myself in my own 
Recollection—but truth is a 
flighty lover at best. 

II. Buffalo Days

Ten years hence 
I climbed and leaped
like my brother
the fleet footed gazelle
muscle memory
took me to the top!
The wind had cleared!
The sky nary a cloud!
The color of the bluebird,
floating on late winter
breezes for me! For me!  

I looked to the The North!
The North! And Summer! 
Where the grass is thick!
Where the Henry Mountains
loom like the horses of
giant Paiutes riding 
for the hunting grounds! 
Where the snow water melts! 
Aaah, the cool taste of life
where the calves bellow
The sweetness
of new born breath.

But I have walked in to many snows.
And there was the three days
stuck in barbed wire
the deep hole I didn't see
the twist to free myself
the showdown with Gorr of
the Canadian heard,
another blow to the leg and shoulder
and,then, the fire, Oh, the fire! 

This morning did I sleep? Did I dream? 

Pain shot down my leg
Like the jack I wanted
To throw back
In my dry throat
with the cold spring water
of my wild days
to lessen its fire
to make me forget, 
the human part of me

I dreamed it during
The night, it burned
going down, as if I was
one of the ancient ones
of my collective ancestors
feeling the sting

of the fire water

Pain is not a cover
Pain is not a lover
Pain is a price of
A life lived like 
a young buffalo—
much too reckless
taking chances,
fighting with vigor
that was never asked
of me—but Oh!
I had wings on the wind
I had strength in my legs
I had my Grandfather
who stood in the sacred circle
A stoic who would die 
The natural death
protected by the young ones,
never to be left behind.

It was the last trip North
I faced the stumble
the withering of flesh
Oh, God! forget me not
lest I feel the
deep pain,
the gradual limp of doom.

When the limp arrives
nature whispers,
as if the news were 
part of living, part of dying
part of buffalo words

danger has arrived too soon.

The eyes of
my comrades gradually
begin to look away—
retreating from the
sparkle that once
peered into my soul.
"Sorrow,"my brother,
we know. "Fear". 
We will do what we can.
We cannot make
promises though,
what can we do? 
Shall we hold vigilance
this winter? 
Shall we buy you some time
in wooded thickets? 

Maybe I'll head to
The summer pastures—
I smile, I look towards 
the great Navajo mountain
I think—maybe the green
grass will keep the wolves
At bay, perhaps they will not 
notice the wound
as I stand solemnly
in the thicket

I'll find some cool mud
To stand in, maybe I'll
Smile and tell stories
Of a hundred moons
To the young ones

Perhaps I'll survive there,
Until the snow comes
And the stories end- 
when the calves 
spring 'neath mothers
steamy haunches
for the rocky trails

Aaah, maybe one more
season,  maybe two,
with luck and the
random notes
of nature. But
I'll not pray!
prayer is for the
great bear, the eye
of the eagle-the corpses
of bones along the 
brush of trails.

If do survive, it will
be because I've rested well
or because I still know things,
things that only one buffalo
could possibly know.
Or if one, just one, will 
knock at the door of 
kindness with mid-life
strength, and I will tell 
this one story that 
will remain in a buffalo's

Will that be enough for
Other buffaloes?
The young ones?
The weaker ones?
The ones who lost
both mother and father?

I will make it a glorious summer,
I will touch the small ones
And if it's there I'll leave my seed
to an old sweetheart, perhaps start a
family I once longed for between
my singular journeys.
Why did I stray so far from the herd?
Why did I feel so different,
after all, wasn't I a buffalo too?
I'll romance this year, hide my leg with
charm and wisdom, maybe we will find
each other after so many years.

The Wolf is so near, he has
been watching me for years. 
all he needs is for me
To run out of independence—perhaps
I'll stay in the middle of the herd,
perhaps I can control my longing
to be alone. He and I have been
playing this dangerous game
for so many years.

Neither of us forget.

The wolf does not care for my stories,
perhaps he does have empathy
for my pain, and he will relieve
My suffering—and maybe he will
render my end with a short bite
To my neck, it could be worse…
Yes, It could be worse.

2/28/13 copyright by Rshurtz 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

World Quest, Charlie Foster, A Play About Swimming and Theatre

Charlie Foster, A Play About Swimming and Theatre

After seeing a production of CHARLIE FOSTER last Friday night at Metro Arts, I was motivated all over again to try and get this play out into the high schools of American and beyond. Since the Newtown shootings, something in me has changed, as I'm sure something has changed in all of us. Of all the shootings, violence, and mentally ill incidents that happen in our country, there was something about this one that really struck something deep, like a death occurs in your family that you can't stop thinking about.

After watching President Obama's speech yesterday in regard to the bill on background checks, I was also struck by the magnitude of the issue, and the fact that although ninety percent of the population is in favor of this bill, there is a good chance that it will not even get a vote. Something very disturbing is happening when something with that kind of popular support cannot get through because of the power of one lobbying organization. It seems very evident that we are becoming a country that is controlled by the lobby of big business, and NOT the American people.

I also watched a discussion of this matter by a group of people who have been effected
by gun violence, many of them parents of children who were lost to school shootings. I was moved by one expression that came up over and over again. "Our lives will never be the same." So, time, and no matter how much of it passes, the loss of these parents of their children has changed them and the trajectory of their lives forever. What about the rest of us? How many children have to die before we reach a tipping point?

CHARLIE FOSTER is not a play about a school shooting. It is not a play about mental illness, rather, it is a play that focuses on the death of a teenager who no one cared about until he died. It is about a teenager who wanted nothing more than to fit in somewhere somehow. The play covers the incident of his death, and how he was perceived. I wrote the play for several reasons, but my main reasoning was how cruel high school can be, and how peer pressure can change the actions that are contrary to our instincts, which for many, it is to be kind and caring to everyone. While growing up, my mother always stressed the importance of being kind to those who were less fortunate. I didn't have the best home life either, but there was lots of thinking happening around me at home, and lots of testing of human kindness and values. Although I was troubled in many ways as a teenager, I was also a leader, and had the capacity to influence those who followed. For much of that period, I moved easily between groups of people, and remember being kind to the kids who were obviously picked on and abused. For whatever the reason, I could sense that what I did and said could make a profound difference to that Charlie Foster kid. That kid who was dirty, poor, and probably abused at home. But there were times that I adhered to the mob mentality, and understood what a powerful lobby it was. When I was a freshman, there was another kid who was literally roping these kind of disenfranchised kids, with a lasso, and dragging them to the ground. I stopped it, but not before that dreadful fight after school which cost me a bloody nose and two weeks of suspension. How could I explain to the principal that I was protecting other kids from a bully? I couldn't, and even if I did, it would have cost me much more later. Yes, high school is cruel indeed, it's like being a fish in the ocean, all of us, swimming to survive, and the sharks are so ever present. The rest of life is similar, but we do learn somewhat how to survive without getting totally swallowed by the sharks, or do we?

I also wrote CHARLIE FOSTER with the input of teenagers I was teaching. What were their concerns? What did they think about in regard to other students who were struggling? I was fortunate in that the five years I was developing the play I was working at an art school where many of these troubled kids found themselves—for the very reasons the play addresses. Kids whose parents had lost some hope about what to do with their child. Kids struggling with their sexual identity, kids who had been in trouble, either with drugs, abuse, and many of them autistic. Once I learned to listen instead of  just teach, I was met with an understanding that was profound. I would bring in pieces of writing, watching and listening to the reactions of each of them. That is why it took five years to write, because I wanted none of it to be wasted. I learned that teenagers are often opposed to things they do, but all it takes is one charismatic kid who is in trouble to take a whole lot of them down a perilous road. Or one kid who is NOT charismatic, who is in more trouble than anyone understands. As a teacher, I did learn to treat and teach both kinds of kids, and CHARLIE FOSTER was a play that I used many times to address both of these kinds of kids, as well as being fearless to bring about the thoughts that teenagers often think about. They fear and think about death in a way adults often deny. They think about what will happen to them if they take a wrong turn. They think about each other, and how it would be to walk in someone else's shoes. They wonder who will help them navigate through the thoughts that arise in them. Many of those thoughts they keep to themselves because they believe that no one else thinks them. They wonder what will happen, how they will navigate through this world. CHARLIE FOSTER doesn't answer all of these questions, but it does allow for the thoughts to arise, to critically think about the big questions in life.

As I said earlier, Newtown did something to me that I can't quite arrest. I suppose it is
urging me to somehow take action in a way that I have learned how. I miss teaching, and do believe that I belong in a classroom. After ten years of teaching, I came to a place where I could not understand what was happening to me, and why I could no longer teach.  Now that I know that much of it stems from a metal hip still on the inside of me, perhaps when its gone, I can entertain thoughts of teaching again, but perhaps in the meantime, I can bring attention to a play that can answer some of the big questions that teenagers ask. It's interesting to understand, how one can work on something for years until it becomes a polished piece of art that can make a difference, and can guide it through the proper channels to capture the attention of an audience, and still remain stalled at the starting gate as CHARLIE FOSTER remains. I've thought of the many reasons this could happen. Could it be that the play reveals too much truth? Are the questions it asks not classroom appropriate? I've thought about that, and have come to believe that in this present age, the classroom is the only place some of these questions will EVER get addressed. And, it is risky for a teacher to bring up matters of life and death, but haven't we reached a point where we must to keep our kids from killing each other? It's a brave new world, and teaching has become a profession that demands that we raise the questions that are residing deeply within our children.

My brother Dan came over yesterday and we discussed all of this, and we are ready to get the word out there. He has a website called Deep Magik, how to write a fantasy story He is teaching me how to maximize my need to write about it, and we are in the process of developing a website where this can happen. Charlie Foster needs to play in our high schools, of this I am convinced. I only have to see another Metro production of it, and watch the reaction of the audience to know that this play can help lend a hand of things that we all need to be discussing with our kids, they deserve that. They deserve honesty in the classroom to become honest themselves, and they deserve to be taught that loyalty and love is not just something that is taught at home, if it were, we might have far to little of it. This play can help.

We have discussed doing a touring production of CHARLIE FOSTER, perhaps in the fall, when we have raised the level of awareness in regard to its power. I'm not saying this to advocate the brilliance of the playwriting, for this was a play that was developed by the kids themselves, I was only the scribe that was fortunately in the right place at the right time. CHARLIE FOSTER, A PLAY ABOUT SWIMMING AND THEATRE can be purchased at Dramatic Publishing, Dramatic Publishing, Amazon,  Charlie Foster, A Play About Swimming and Theatre or a few other book outlets, and its worth the read, I think, and really worth the discussion that ensues because of it…

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

When Music Goes Interstate/Supporting Musicians From Everywhere

I re-read this morning and was so moved by it I wanted to re-post. Written by my mother, Gerry Hitt. Some great history of my Dad. 

I had a good time down to the Duck and Decanter from around 4-5:30 listening to Raymond play.  He sang a few songs last night that Dean, his dad, always sang, so it was like Utah visiting Arizona for a little while as he sang, "Heartaches" and "Drink my java", I thought all he has to do is turn up the connection a little stronger and you could swear his dad had come back to life, a stronger touch of the blues, because Dean was a blues singer without even trying.  There was a deep sadness in his inner being he always used to tap when he sang certain songs.  I associate him with the song, "Me and my Shadow" because he sang that more than once in a way that made my heart ache because I could hear the years of loneliness and longing in his voice every time.  I have hesitated to ask Raymond to learn that song because Raymond is such a sociable outgoing guy who can always chase the blues away by connecting to his friends or to his mother. 

Dean never had a mother, or at least one not on this earth.  Of course one gave birth to him and he had a few precious memories of her before she went away, victim of pneumonia that used to part a lot of people back in the days of no miracle drugs.  I never got used to the tears that Dean could always evoke in a few who knew the story when he sang "I'll have the last waltz with Mother."  Tears came to my eyes every time I heard him sing it because I knew the only place he was going to have the last waltz with his mother was in heaven. 

I always associated her death with another sad death of a mother, who was Dean's mother's niece, her brother Reese's daughter and Dean's first cousin a few years older.  Aseneth and her husband's car broke down on a wintery day when they were crossing the top of the mountain between Wayne County and Escalante.   He got out to go for help, and after waiting a long time, she wrapped her tiny baby snugly in all the blankets she had brought with her and started off on foot herself.  They found her lying over her baby, frozen to death.  Her brothers carried her to a truck to bring her home, but the baby survived to be raised by her grandparents.

Out of the effects of such deaths, the blues were born. The children left behind were never going to be as happy again as other children.  The blues left their mark on them as long as they were on the earth and separated from an important figure in their lives.  

Dean had another nickname he earned in high school which was "Frankie" and he learned a lot of Frank Sinatra songs because he had been associated with this singer while he was still so young.  I remember one night I left the dance hall while everyone was busy dancing to go to a cafe to see if a guy I liked was coming to the dance.  I was shocked when I came back to hear Dean's voice blaring out from the dance hall, "I didn't even know she was leavin', some sweet talkin' tomcat took her from me--"  The guy I went to check on lived next door to the dance hall, and had followed me home to get ready for the dance I thought, but he must have heard that song because he never made it to the dance that night.  He must have thought it would be wiser for him to stay home.  We used to dance a lot in those days, and so these 'affections' sprang up from time to time. 

What was so funny is Dean started singing, "Blue Hawaii" and I started coaching him to sing it even more romantically than he was doing.  He slowed it down, and I screamed with joy and said he had to sing it that way the next time he sang "Blue Hawaii" but there was no next time until his second wedding, and he sang "Blue Hawaii" to his bride who was living in Hawaii.  He must have been a big hit, and she probably did not know that I coached him to sing that song in that beautiful way.  

His oldest son Gary's favorite Frankie song he likes to sing in karaoke bars is "Summer Wind."  I love how he sings that song.  He would make his dad proud.  I had Gary come over  for a karaoke night with Pierre, when I was with him.  Pierre loved to sing Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs and I had a bunch of them on karaoke discs.  Gary and Pierre both sang Frank Sinatra songs that night. 

But Gary had his first hit song when he was still a child.  His dad coached him to sing "I am a child of God."  He was quite sharp with him, which I thought gave Gary's delivery a poignancy it might not have had without his dad being so hard on him.  Gary must have been praying a little bit during that song that he would do it right.  

Raymond was only five when I divorced Dean so he did not get to sing with his dad for a long long time. He was in his thirties before he ever really got the chance to sing with him.  Pole Griffin, his first cousin, was Dean's singing partner until he died.  Pole learned to play the guitar so he could accompany them.  I used to love some of the songs they sang together like "Harvest Time."  They harmonized on that song so beautifully.  Dean could harmonize with anybody.  

Pole died of cancer and eventually Raymond stepped into the empty space he had left and became his dad's last singing partner.  I recall them having some jam sessions with a guy next door to where Raymond lived then in Phoenix.  He had a band.

That was the start of Dean going interstate because he kept coming back to Phoenix in the winter to live with Raymond.  I recall Raymond getting him over to some noontime singing at restaurants downtown back then. I met them over there once, and Dean was all excited about getting the chance to sing in Phoenix, just anywhere. Gary Dean had started working at Pinnacle Peak when he just fifteen, and they hired some good western bands.  Gary told me during the three years he worked there he thought very strongly of trying to become a country western singer, but he was afraid he might drink too much.  He got the chance to go into construction work as an operator, so he took it.  That was a big opportunity for a young guy to get a union operator's card. Dean, of course, had been in construction, and he had renewed his carpenter's card in Hawaii and Phoenix and was working in Vegas when he retired.  He first got his card when he went to work on the Glen Canyon dam in Page. Dean was very proud of Gary's work in construction.  He told me a number of times, "Gary has made a million dollars doing construction and he never stops learning."  Which Gary didn't, going from foreman to project manager to field supervisor and then he asked to be transferred into the office to learn bidding, which he is still doing today.  He can do it all.  He can point out many sites in Phoenix where the company he was working for at the time got the job.  He 'owns' Phoenix through the construction business. 

Dean eventually moved back to Utah, but to Boulder where he and I had lived different times.  His sister ReNon still lived in the Petersen ranch house after her husband died and the ranch was sold and he lived in a trailer on her property at first and then later he moved into the house. Raymond eventually helped form the Boulder Heritage Foundation that sponsors a music and history festival in July.  Dean was excited about this festival from the beginning, I am sure thinking he had come 'home' to sing.

In the festival Raymond featured bands from Arizona where he had lived so many years as well as from Utah, and after he had toured his one man show "Bohemian Cowboy" in Austin, Texas, the fabled city where all country western musicians aspire to play some time in their lives, he wanted to form a connection by bringing Austen players to the festival.

"Bohemian Cowboy" is Raymond's sad tribute to his dad who disappeared into the desert above Los Vegas one year when he just could not wait for Raymond to recover from hip surgery in St. George so he could go back to winter in Phoenix.  Dean started to Phoenix but never made it.  He was never seen again.

But in his play, "Bohemian Cowboy," Raymond took his Dad and his music further than he had ever been before, to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin.  Some theater goers in all these cities got to see a son playing the songs of the father, and "Bohemian Cowboy" is a blues play if there ever was one.  In it, Raymond has Jesus the carpenter arguing with his dad, trying to get him not to walk into the desert and disappear.  Oh how that rang a bell to me, because so many times I had tried to talk Dean out of a suicidal intent. I staged so many dramatic interventions trying to shake him out of a down mood.  I would think he was going to end up dead if I don't do something. One time I went to see the Mormon Chaplain on the base and told him Dean was so suicidal I didn't dare stay with him, but I had to try to do something for him before I left. It was unbelievable what happened that time, with me incarcerated in a psych ward because they found out I had been in one before and they decided I was the problem not him.  But Dean was pretty impressed by me trying to get help for him and ending up in a psych ward for a week myself.  I was pretty mad.  So he was somewhat chastened, and that seemed to distract him from his ancient reoccurring intention to commit suicide. 

I have often thought about how easy it would have been for him to have died in a flaming car wreck.  I don't know how many times during our marriage I ended up in a car with him and one of his suicidal drinking buddies he seemed to find everywhere who did not care whether they lived or died either, and the buddy would be driving us around hairpin curves trying to hit eighty and past a hundred for sure in the straightaways.  How many times can you do that and come home alive. I didn't think Dean had many more suicide rides left he could survive.

And he didn't.  During his last reckless disappearing act he met up with a devil, whether within himself or in someone else, and disappeared without a trace.  Anything could have happened to him when he was in one of those moods, even murder at the hands of somebody dangerous he crossed.  That is when he would say things like, "I'd kill you in a heart beat."  It was more likely he would sober up and be peaceful again but the person he was threatening wouldn't know that for sure and some had reported him to the police for threats to commit mayhem on their persons.  But yes, he would attack if he got frustrated enough, despite of how 'harmless' his relatives wanted to think he was.  I had to divorce him before he succeeded in killing me.  He would attack me if I could not get out of his way soon enough. 

So Raymond visualizing Jesus out there arguing with Dean, well that was like me arguing with the devil that came into Dean under the influence, the voice he would echo with mad eyes that scared me.  I have listened to him for as long as an hour sometimes, cursing God. Calling God names.  He blamed God during those crazy interludes, for taking his mother.  

A boy driven mad from neglect and loneliness.  Dean and the sister closest to him in age both had their mean moments when the devil got into them and you better not cross them.  He got way past his alcoholic dad's ability to connect to him, so even though his dad lived just across the street, for the most part he just ignored those two kids.  And they burned with rage and frustration for years.  

Which is why I think this play, "Bohemian Cowboy" is universal, a blues play that many can relate to who know people who have been shattered by grief and become addicted to alcohol or drugs and hurt the ones they loved.  The play is going to be published and after that Raymond hopes to make a movie of "Bohemian Cowboy" which will really make it a universal play, crossing all state lines, to play the music of a country singer that singing the blues saved from sure death for many years.  Finally he could no longer outrun the dark figure who had haunted him all his life by taking his mother, the Grim Reaper.  

If I could just get Dean singing I always knew that even if he was drinking, if he could sing his dark mood out, he would not hurt anybody.  He would be 'safe' after we got home.  Sometimes at a party when he was singing people would be startled at what poured out of him, but those were the best of times for me with Dean belting out his blues.  Not acting out later when he got home.