Sunday, November 30, 2008

Drinking and the Muse...

Today I met with the Dikowski family at Canter's, the famous Jewish Deli on Fairfax. For three days I've been developing a cold that I can't shake. When I arrived at the Deli, I broke into a cold sweat, embarrassing because I was all at once sicker than a dog. I think its been getting used to the dampness that is California. I'm surrounded by vegetation, which is beautiful but keeps everything damp and cold. Yesterday, I finally bought a little space heater for my room, which helps, but can't tell whether the heat is making thinks worse. I remember when I was in the hospital, (the last time) I couldn't get warm for four days. They told me they kept the temperature down to kill germs and kept giving me blankets.  Its not the first time I've been sick and laid up by myself, but it compounds some of the loneliness. I'm not vying for sympathy, just reporting what I'm feeling. Last night I went and met The Palmers, (cousins) for Andy's basketball game. I was sick there as well, but held it together. I've been loading up on Vitamin C, trying to just take things a little slower. It was entertaining and uplifting to see family members, and I enjoyed watching a live game. 

Yesterday, I went to the 'Artists in Sobriety' A.A. meeting in Hollywood. I sat down next to a woman who "just happened to be a theatre producer..." just like that, after years of doing theatre and never meeting 'a producer', I go to an A.A. meeting and the first person I meet is... well, just that. It was surreal, as we started to talk, I realized that I had also become exactly what she was talking about as well, it seemed a startling revelation. When there is an absence of what you need, in life you seek to create it, in Los Angeles, it already exists. There is a company here that she works with called 'Theatre Planners', an actually company that works with people to help them put their shows in theatre spaces. I e-mailed her some of my history, and she forwarded my e-mail to a publicist she knows who will do all the media relationships, of course there is a fee, but there is a price to pay for everything.  As if this wasn't enough, the A.A. meeting had a chorus, a band, and a full Thanksgiving dinner. A.A., L.A. style. I will be going back, there are probably a multitude of projects with the genesis found at an A.A. meeting. I remember Robert Altman's movie, 'The Player', Tim Robbins, (a movie producer in the movie) is making a call from an A.A. meeting. He tells the person on the other end of the line that "This is where all the deals are being made in Hollywood right now..." That line popped into my head immediately.  Still, I'm not looking for a movie deal, just assembling a team to do some vibrant theatre. 

Last night, I slept fitfully, but I had a flying dream. This is a good sign from the sub-conscious. Not only was it a flying dream, but the flight was as fast as I've ever had in a dream. Probably some because I'm sick, still, I woke from it exhilarated, even trying to sleep to get it back. Usually my flying dreams hover slowly above the ground as I bump into tops of trees and navigate electric lines. This was straight, very controlled flight, a VERY good sign. Still, with all of this, tonight I had the impulse for a 'shot of whiskey', purely medicinal, still, its not an option...  I say that all the time, "It's not an option..." Its interesting how those impulses come so instantly, and then we are left putting the thought away the best we can. I think some of it had to do with watching 'Factotum' late last night starring Matt Dillon as Henry Chinaski, Charles Bukowski's alter-ego. Bukowski has probably been responsible for countless relapses, his own as well as countless others--his material so adeptly romanticizing the drinking muse. I once had a relapse after reading his novel, 'Hollywood', his writing easily leads to a drunk. Back in my own drinking days, I always wrote after coming off short or long binges, I think to prove that with all the guilt that alcoholic drinking comes a strange desire to fight back with anything that brings back to balance what you've lost. Creativity attempts to justify the addiction.  I did some of my best work after these periods, still, I never wrote well if I was drinking. After years of paying attention to writers with (drunken tendencies), most of them wrote while sober or at least hung over,  its really difficult for me to write while drinking, and I think its hard for anyone chemically impaired. I know that Kerouac wrote in an out of drinking, but he also used amphetamines to lift him back up. Although I like 'On The Road', I sometimes feel like he cheated by using speed to write. Well, I guess we all have our rules, although it may be deals we make with ourselves to put a drunk to sleep. So many worshipped Hunter Thompson, but I felt the same with his writing, that he was writing from an impaired  place, anything to get him going. Cheating. Try writing stone cold sober when you'd rather be drinking, then you have something you can place hope in. I had a good friend in the gymnastics days who I admired for his expertise on a tumbling floor, until I learned he trained with speed and cocaine. I thought, "Jesus, I could get at least that good if I was buzzed on benzadrine and coke all the time. I lost most of my respect for him. Cheating. My rules.  Still, I understand the addiction and the dark places that writers and artists go to create. My own writing is filled with drinking and violence, much of which I don't really identify with anymore. I will correct by saying that I don't believe that the authentic addicts and drunks who create intentionally do it for the muse. At a certain development of the addiction, creativity only becomes a device for possibly saving your own life. And then, a cycle develops that is very difficult to leave. Nothing short of full behavior modification will arrest the cycle. This is hard work.  No one sets out to become an addict so they can be creative. The reason people associate creativity with addiction is because its exploitive. The world certainly has its share of excellent writers and poets who are not addicts. The addicts are the ones we hear about because of the tragedy that begins to associate itself to their lives.  Train wrecks should be avoided at all costs, but we as humans certainly like our wrecks. I used to illustrate the point by asking my students what happened to them when a fight broke out at school. No student will tell you that they walk away,  even the most disciplined student will walk to the fight. Creativity is that paradox. Attempting to walk away from the fight. Success in doing so is so difficult to master. Tomorrow begins a new attempt to watch the fight and walk away, and knowing when to do so. Goodnight. 

4 comments:

Gerry said...

Interesting entry. I was wondering about your meeting. As a mother I am concerned about your cold. You had better nurse it better, by staying inside and warm for a couple of days I know how restless you get. And connecting is almost vital for you for survival. But still you are to another place. I guess it has been rainng down there, but when the sun comes out it will be warmer than Utah. So hang in there. Mom

Pamela said...

How interesting to meet that lady at your AA meeting. I'm glad you did!
I hope you feel better soon. It doesn't surprise me you've caught a cold. The stressors of moving to a new city can really be such a challenge. Take it easy for a few days so it doesn't get worse.
Take care, Pam

annk said...

Raymond, your body needs less stress, that's for sure. I could't believe that you would hit Thanksgiving Diner at AA. You are home! (sorta) You seem to psyche out your connections. Amazing. Your family's thoughts are with you as you wander the downtown streets of L.A. We have been there, so can relate at least to your location and sense of being alone in a very big world.
Keep flying straight and true. You will happen. Even Bukowski's increasing fame lends some direction. Hang tough in this very tough world.

Joss said...

Speaking as an recovering addict, currently my inner muse as an artist is numbed from my previous use of methamphetamine. I created many pieces of art and wrote many poems while spun out of my gourd, i don't feel like i have any creativity since being sober. I'm still searching though, i haven't given up hope to find and take my creativity back as a sober being.