Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Theatre Junkie Lifestyle, and Reviving Ophelia.

I treated myself to a three egg breakfast today, maneuvering through the vast number of cars out, with people looking for last minute gifts. I've struggled to write the last two days, feeling a little achy and a little down, but this is always the way I feel at Christmas. A friend, Billy, invited me to another friend of his 's house, but I may just stay in, read and write. 

It is cold here today, so it does feel a little like a winter's day, like Christmas. I'm anticipating this Sunday, when I can move into the apartment, and my final 'bohemian' stay here in L.A. I was in good spirits two nights ago when I made the decision to just do the play I came to do, today I'm a little down about its loss. The writing goes tough, but I don't believe in 'writer's block', for me, its always more about procrastination than anything, about 'getting to the mountain'. Once I get to the page, I never have to wait very long before there is something coming out. Although I do a lot of re-writing, I generally write in sequestered jags, which I am trying to change into a more consistent way of approaching the writing. Writing this blog is helping lots with that transition--being consistent is healthier than sequestering and writing for sixteen or seventeen hours. 

I've moved six times so far this year. At the beginning of the year, I was living in a little guest house in downtown Phoenix, and then moved to an apartment with my brother while I was going through the 'end of my teaching career' change. Then I moved to Boulder, into room number twelve, 'my home away from home', for the last twelve summers. After that, I moved down into Lower Boulder and my Dad's trailer where I wrote the bulk of this play. Then it was Kent's for a couple of weeks in Calabasas. Now, here I am in Silver Lake, getting ready to move to West Hollywood. I've had to drastically reduce my inventory, which really isn't to hard for me, as I have very little attachment to that many things.  The things I am attached to always come with me. My guitar, which has always been the only really expensive item I have. (Its a 1979 Martin D-18 which I've had since it was new. there have been exactly five times when I went to sell it to pay rent)  Of course the 'writing machine' and a printer, cowboy hat, several cowboy shirts, and I found a western cut coat in a thrift store that I bought for seven dollars. What else. A belt buckle that belonged to my Dad, my old black briefcase, and of course, a sleeping bag. For me, these are the tools of the trade. I forgot to mention during the moves, several stays in motel rooms, (usually Best Western or Econolodge), a couple of stays at Cheryl and Steve's, and a two nights stay in the back of my truck. I didn't mention the truck,  a theatre junkie's life blood. I can pick up plywood, black paint, and  two by fours at Home Depot. I can pick up that old chair I need for Down Stage Right. I can pick up bails of hay for the festival. I can pick up tumbleweeds, garden tailings, and filing cabinets. There is one item that is currently in Phoenix which I am also very attached to,  my filing cabinet filled with play bills. There are hundreds of them. Someday when I'm a very old man, I will catalogue them and remember each of those productions. In the filing cabinet, there is also old plays, the first drafts of work, old love letters, old pictures, and a thousand beginnings of songs and poems. If I should go before my time, folks, therein lies the majority of my work and life, reduced to a filing cabinet. I remember the 'bohemian lifestyle' with my mother. As we moved to another place, I sat between the boxes of writing that she carried with her, me wondering what 'in hell' we were doing with all of these boxes of paper and words. Of course, that was before the days of computer documents and drives. Before the micro-chip, when a letter was still written on paper that was selected with pride. 

The hardest part of this play I'm working on is going to be the section on Women. Because I grew up in a very austere lifestyle in regard to things, the prospects of me finding that 'soul mate' become more distant. I valued books, writing, and little things that I had 'experiences' with. Because I have not been wildly successful in a material sense, it makes me a poor prospect for 'manning' a family and a 'settlement'. I languished in a romantic haze for days after I would have an affair with a book or writing a play. I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. When I read Hemingways's story in 'A Moveable Feast' about him betting the last of his money on a horse race and winning I thought it was manna. When I read about the ascetics in Kazantzakis's 'Report to Greco' eating only the sacrament in caves, I thought I would dash off the Greece. Each play I rehearsed and opened was always an opening to another kind of world. Another way of understanding what we are experiencing as humans. When I opened up a theatre and took a vow of poverty. I remember the night I did that... it was my secret and gave me a sense of power I would not have had, but at what a price?  I've always said that my relationship with theatre is the only one that ever really worked.  It worked because I never stopped loving her. I never stopped looking for the next place we would travel. The section on 'the women in my life' is difficult because there is so much pain associated with it. I love women but only know how to sustain relationships that connect me with theatre, conversations, and romance. I picked Ophelia in Hamlet as my role model. How messed up is that? I somehow see her as the perfect woman, however, because of how gravely she is affected by the course of her life. I remember seeing the title of a book, 'Reviving Ophelia', and being captivated not by the book, but by its title, 'Reviving Ophelia'. How can I keep her from drowning? How can I learn from the tragedy of Hamlet and change the trajectory of her life? I think I've always had relationships with women that were 'one foot in the door, and one foot out'. I think I was always trying to revive Ophelia, but in reality I could barely even save myself. I couldn't save my Father in the end, I can only revive his memory.  I suppose in a sense, none of us can save ourselves in the end. I wrote of my mother, "She writes like alcoholics drink..." and yet I am doomed to a similar fate. My only hope is that Ophelia will come when I least expect it, and she will have learned to swim. She will have the same poetic trajectory she has in the play, but she will survive. She will see the value of something that is prophetically inspired, but oh so humanly flawed. She will know the value of a good sleeping bag, and the power of a great book. She will have learned to stand up to her parents, and value and understand their histories. She will be beautiful, but of a beauty that clings on a heart, for in each photograph of her, she is never the same. She will have a profound sense of irony, and can live on the road, a trailer, or a mansion. When the money is gone, she will know the value of a large soup pot, and old warm clothes. She will have faith in the future rather than the ambition of a vision. She will know unconditional love, and the value of a history that is always pining. She wears strange but pretty dresses, loves God, but you will not find her in a nunnery. She writes short lyrical poems,  and sings songs in inappropriate places. You will find her in flower gardens, in book stores, thrift stores, and places with old furniture. When she cries, it is soft like rain, and then softer still, like she may fall off the earth. She loves the pounding water of the river, but only because it travels to the sea. Her hands are strong, even though her fingers look delicate. She is the character de la tragica, but with purpose. When she dies, she will fly straight through the clouds and stars, and each one will remember her passing... and her name. I will write a book, 'Ophelia Arrives, Ophelia Survives, Ophelia Lives... 

I'm finding the deeper I delve into this blogging, the more honest I become. I'm learning a new writing curve, but its expensive. I'm never at a loss of what to say, only sensing the loss of losing things on the journey. I will shore up my nerve and energy now, to spend the fragile memory of Christmas Eve, sober and alive. I can feel something from long ago today, but then again, It rarely leaves me..

I wrote this song about staying in Best Western motels.

Best Western

Best Western, Best Western, I'm glad your alive,
with your plush motel beds and your colt forty-fives,
your color t.v. and your plastic cups wrapped, 
pink little soaps and the vending room snacks. 
Best Western, Best Western, I think I'm in love, 
with your fluffy white towels 
the pressed ceiling above. 

And its along way from home right now, 
and the miles we've put between us no vows,
the highway, still kickin' up lines,
and Angelica is still on my mind. 
Angelica is still on my mind. 

Best Western, Best Western, 
we'll just close the door,
three or four locks 
and I know you've got more,
I've been runnin' and gunnin' 
through people and towns,
I'm glad I can see you
between all the frowns. 

(Second chorus with bridge) 
I couldn't have done it without you, you know, 
your baby blue bedspreads--your clock radio,
its a long way from home right now,
the miles we've put between us no vows, 
the highway is still kickin' up lines, 
And Nevada is still on my mind, 
Nevada is still on my mind. 

Best Western, Best Western will you hold me tonight? 
in your starched motel sheets, 
will you make it all right? 
Best Western, Best Western, 
I'm  lost in this world, 
from places that haunt me, 
and mexican girls. (Chorus) 


Larena said...

Raymond should you need another filing cabinet to hold important stuff, Terry's is still hanging out in my garage. It is eight years January 30th,(The birthday of his little grandson) since he made his last stand in a cold Idaho motel room. I've never been able to dispense with the filing cabinet as I see him packing it's contents to the garbage can before he left Phoenix. Throwing away the many nights of work in his life. My heart broken a little for the thousandth time that day.

It is fitting that today I entertain his daughter and all the people in her new life.(Twenty for dinner) She looks so beautiful now and her efficenacy is awesome. Terry would be so proud. He'd like your treasures to find a home in his battered old filing cabinet.

Gerry said...

Hi, son, I hope lonely is not what you are on Xmas, but you can sing a sad song and think we are all thinking of you. I watched the singing video this morning and decided it was funny enough to send around. I concentrated on being comical because I know I can't sing, and Doc is both, funny and he can sing, too, so it's worth watching some I think. I am looking forward to coming to see your show. I am still saving my money for the trip. I don't know if Dan will be able to take the time off but I will go if I have to ride the bus. Merry merry. Mom

annk said...

That is quite the picture you added since this morning. You also changed color and format! I do hope Ophelia Revives although I know many suffer through Christmas.
It's a hard time for many, not joyful at all. May she help you through the days and nights. May some of your memories be bright.

Jocelyn said...

My mother used to call me Ophelia. If there are two characters i could identify with or think maybe Mr. Shake wrote about me, they're Ophelia and Juliet.

That painting by Millais and also the painting by Waterhouse, is hanging in our living room. Along with those we have two of The Lady of Shallot. Both women who lived perilous lives.

I hope you had a wonderful christmas. I just got my new laptop charger again, so i'm able to catch up with your blog.