Sunday, June 7, 2009

'The Law of Poker'

Alas, today is a new day. I made two flats and that felt good. Its really been kind of extraordinary, the turn of events, but in my mind, it only means one thing, create. Fortunately or unfortunately, I've always been a 'chips are down, get rolling kind of a guy'. Maybe its a work ethic left over from my Grandfather, maybe its that vital place, (but dangerous place) where there is really nothing to lose. The next two weeks I'll prepare for the show on the mountaintop, and let the chips fall where they will. Its both terrifying and wonderful to be a 'theatre guy' in a small town, where life is hard enough just surviving, let alone being in a profession that has to be in the bottom twenty of 'ways to make a living'.  I can, however, make a hell of a flat, luan wood, drywall screws, wood glue, one by threes, skill saw, speed square, two drills, tape measure, chisel, razor knife, chalk line, and a six pack of diet coke, and you too can build a flat. I remember the first time I went to Universal Studios as a child, realizing that 'Leave It To Beaver's' house wasn't a house at all, but a series of flats put together to make you think it was a house. I was devastated for a moment, and then the wonder kicked in, it was all a ruse. It was the use of the imagination. There is something gratifying about building a set from the ground up. As I was  building them today, I kept looking at the edges of the great cliffs that are apart of this landscape, so that the ledges I built will 'fit right in' to the environment. I've build quaking aspen trees for the forest in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream', I've built a London Flat for the punk version of 'Macbeth'. I've built that gas station/store/tavern that you see in the deteriorating desert around Yuma, Arizona, for 'The Pig Hunter of Blue River'. I once built giant blue ghost trees for 'Spoon River Anthology'. I've built the desert landscape from chicken wire, joint compound, and donated sheets for 'Under The Desert'. I've made scrims, furniture, screen doors that swayed in the wind. Restaurants, benches, coffee shops, and cityscapes. I've made more props with aluminum than I care to remember, trapdoors, and things that fell from the sky. Now they have all disappeared, except in my memory. 

I left Kurt a message tonight, (he's directed many of my plays including this one), and said, "Well, I'm at that place again, where the only thing left to do is put up a play..." He also knows this precarious game, and knows the score. Its all I needed to say. While we were in Californian this last time, on the day of the opening, we were completely out of money. I've been told that I don't understand 'the law of attraction' or 'the secret', as Opra calls it, but I venture to say that I do, but it is in another context. Art is power, art is necessary, art is the only way some of us can survive. Survival is a relative term in the 'land that is STILL plenty'. We have learned to live with 'too much'.  There really isn't anything one can do to really 'be secure' in this life. Money can buy some good days, but if you live for it, it will kill your soul.  I refuse to live my life for the sake of health insurance and a big house,  I refuse to 'give up' and follow the convention, the 'law of attraction' doesn't know the value of playing a guitar for hours until the fingers are bruised to get a song that will give someone a memory or a tear. The 'law of attraction' does not know what Proust said, "happiness feels good on the body, but suffering sharpens the mind..." The 'law of attraction' knows nothing of eating a good meal that may cost only pennies. The 'law of attraction' is not a principle that MOST artists can even begin to employ, I'll take my chances at the poker table, and if it all comes crashing down, so be it. I am at a place in my life where all the cards are still in the hand,  and dammit, I'm still sitting at the table, and the cards I have look pretty good. I'll take the 'law of poker'. Put my chips on the table. ALL IN. 

God, that felt good to say. I mean no offense to the choice others make with life, I only want it to be understood that for me,  life is not the motive for the mammon, life is the motive for the journey, and the journey should be that which is good for the soul. To my friends with large houses and health insurance, don't worry, I get it. I love to go to your houses and feel the security there, I am only saying I am not built for this, and the 'law of attraction' would never take me there no matter how much money I had. Its in my DNA. I'll be fine, tonight I know that. I'll do a play, as crazy as it sounds, it will feed me what I need. 

I loved DB's comment to me where he explains the journey taken to a small theatre that no one has heard of to see the 'best of the best'. Can I achieve something extraordinary on the top of a mountain where one must have a four wheel drive to get there? The first time I went to New York City, DB, I had the same experience. I walked into a small theatre as big as a closet and watched 'The Tooth of Crime' by Sam Shepard and still can see the images, twenty five years later. The set was a dentist chair, and I swear it was one of the best shows I've ever seen. If I had not been searching for that experience, I would have never found it. One must never stop searching. Mer. 

I need to stop and go to bed. Tomorrow is another building day, a planning day, a day to savor, a day to be grateful for what I do have. I have no lover, but I have a beautiful puppy. I have no insurance, but I have a strong body. I have lost my truck, but not my imagination. My fishing pole is twenty years old and nicked and scratched, but the fish still rise. My hair is graying and leaving, but my hand can still swing a hammer, my life is good. 


caroline said...

I won't beat it any further, R. It ain't all about bigger, faster, health insurance, big house, etc. I think you do know exactly, precisely how and what to bring into your life. call it whatever law you want. 'k? the struggle is optional.

Grace said...


I am in that place in my life again, remember the apartment on McDowell that is seated between two liquor stores and a bar? The one with the bench by the front window that faced McDowell road?

I once planned a trip to Patagonia on that bench. I once had regrets on that bench. I continued to dream from that bench and wrote some of my most palpable poetry from that bench.

I am there again. I am here again. I am now on the top floor looking over the courtyard at quite the ecclectic groups of individuals.

I have 1.30 in change, in the bottom of my purse and a Jeep that now whisltes down the road with 203thousand miles on its odometer.

I've walked this path a million times and have always come out with a new story, a new perspective and a new poem to add to a collection.

I, like you, wouldn't trade the struggling for any amount of money in the world.

great post!

i love you, my friend


Gerry said...

I suppose the law of averages says if you drive Boulder Mountain roads, sooner or later a deer will come at you. But I believe that for every happening there is a path around it which I know you will find. Dan said he was coming up to help you. He is looking for a way to come now. Dante and I spent yesterday working on his first video by himself. You could certainly say you inspired him with all the improvs you have done with him over the years. You have given him confidence at a young age which you have done for your students. I was glad to see you blogging again so soon, working yourway out of despair. Blogs are good for that. Mom

DB said...

Bravo Raymond. "The Law of Poker" indeed. With me it was "The Law of the Race Track." When I wasn't working, I was at the track. People said I would lose my money playing the horses with the same mental sneer that they told me I couldn't make a living as an actor. Once I figured out that racing was about managing money and that the best horse, not necessarily the favorite, didn't have to win in order for me to make money, I made a profit. So why didn't I just settle down with the horses until I was rich? Because it's not art and it's not real life, except for the horse.

I also made a living as an actor using the same wisdom as I learned at the track. And now I'm retired with a pension from the actor's union, thank you.

You took me back to memories of my summer stock apprenticeship with your descriptions of building flats and props. Turning illusions into realities and realities into illusions with canvas, wood and gels is what theatre is and I was blessed to learn it before I was old enough to learn anything.

I'm saving this quote: "life is not the motive for the mammon, life is the motive for the journey, and the journey should be that which is good for the soul."

Thank you Raymond


Connie said...

Very interesting read.