Monday, August 24, 2009

'Jesse James and Shakespeare'

I guess its time to start writing again. In two weeks, I'll be heading to San Francisco for five shows of  'Bohemian Cowboy'. For some reason, its very hard to take out my script and start studying for the next leg of the journey. Maybe its the subject matter, or maybe its because looking at words and memorizing them over and over again is just a damn hard occupation. Looking back at the shows I've done, I'm feeling the strain of all the preparation, the emotional toll this show has on my heart, and the memories I have of both the show and my father. When I conceived the show, I didn't have any idea how hard it would really be to do--idealism verses reality. Still, its something I have to pursue, at least for the next year.  

The other day, I visited Mason and Lillian Lyman, a family I was very close to when I was growing up in Escalante and Boulder. The father, Dale Lyman, had just died and I didn't make it to the funeral. (found out the day of.) Of course, All of the sons, (there are four of them) were the 'bad' boys in town, but still, very good natured, its just those boys  were doomed to be outlaws. Mason just finished 9 months in prison, for parole violation after another long stretch in jail. Stacy, his older brother, (and one of my buddies) is doing hard time in North Carolina. Lillian told me that Stacy is on kidney dialysis three days a week in prison, and will probably not make his six year sentence. As I looked at Mason and Lillian, sitting around the tables, my mind started riffing on all the memories I had with 'these boys'. We drove the highways and back roads as fast as we could, consuming all the beer, whiskey, pot, acid, and speed that we could, believing that we would either die or live forever. Lillian told me the story of the FBI and the SWAT team who came into her house with weapons drawn, firing them in her small, modest, Escalante home. A man named Two Tall Dave was shot in the melee, so hard to believe this happened in a house I had spent so many hours in. I had just been reading the story of Jesse and Frank James in a 'Gunfighter' book, and was struck by the similarity, even though Jesse's mother was hit with a grenade that blew off her arm. Its so sad to see a family so torn asunder by law enforcement, which happens frequently these days. Mason seemed glad to see me, and seemed eager to go fishing with me if I would agree to be seen with him in my truck. I told him I would be glad to be seen with him anywhere. There was a look of hope in his eye. We shared so many memories, so many wild trips and so much laughter. And yes, its true, there were times when we looked at each other and wondered whether we would live through the night. I don't know how either of us survived. I had to find Jesus to stay in this world, and he found, I guess, his genes, the tough Lymans, no way to kill them, constitution like alligator skin. 

Tonight, I taught my acting class, Shakespeare monologues, topping it off with my mother's play, 'Happy Hello, Sad Goodbye'. It was a great combination, the old mixed with the new. I'm always surprised that I know so much about Shakespeare, it has taken most of my life to figure out his plays, and as I finally did, it was a spiritual experience. I now understand why he is considered the genius he is--from witchcraft to forbidden love, he had a vast understanding of just about every theme we like to call 'universal', and still, underlined with such an understanding of the human condition. I remember feeling so stupid going to his plays, struggling to understand them, going again, and again. And then life happens. You go to one of his plays, and the spirit of a dead father appears to Hamlet, and there you are, caught up in all of it, crying at the parts that touch you like only God can. I'll never forget, waking up and hearing the voice of my own father's ghost, and making the connection to Hamlet, after I had seen three productions of it in the year after my father disappeared. How could someone write a play that had this kind of depth? I equated it to Christ, and the genius of christianity, Shakespeare had this same genius, this same capacity to understand human beings. Perhaps Shakespeare is my savior. I recently went over the Cedar City and saw Henry the Fifth. I was amazed by this play, this history, this connection to God. The history of it suggests that God rallied the English to defeat the French while outnumbered 100 to 1. Its pretty remarkable, and when you see the play, and listen to the dialogue between the players, it suggests a miraculous intervention. Even if the history of it was not true, how can one write a play that brings these ideas across in such a powerful way? 

I'm a little depressed today, maybe because I have that creeping sense that I've somehow wasted some of my summer here in Boulder. Enough has happened that I could write a book, but its still somehow not enough. I better get to work on the script, San Francisco may bring me some luck, I'll need it, I'm down to sixty dollars in the bank account. 


Gerry said...

Inspired writing. I enjoyed it so much, son. In early years I might have felt great anxiety reading about your days with the 'wild boys' but I think those days are gone. I too grew up with 'Tuffy' Lyman and his brother Kirk, 'bronco buster', and Lincoln who was driving truck when he was 12 and never went to bed before midnight as a child. If you blog for no one else please blog for me. I am so thankful you lived to tell these tales. Mom said...

So am I. My Lyman was Lincoln who refused to wear mask (too tough), so filled his lungs with cement... and Rolain with her Lyman kids, but Old Amasa and Rosanna Reynolds whose dad was Tom's great grandpa were tough as nails.
I am glad you are around to tell your tales. ...and we are around to enjoy them.

Chuckh said...

Hey, Raymond, where in SF are you doing your play? Hope you are well. Life is a struggle no matter who you are or where you go. It's the ride that counts, I guess. I lost my dad and struggled to give life some meaning. I haven't found the answer except that as long as we are here, there are things worth experiencing, and if you are lucky enough to find something that pulls your happy cord, then you are rich indeed. Too many folks live that life of quiet desperation in an unhappy place, or struggle with health issues. My best to you.

LaRena said...

The Hall boys loved those wild Escalate Lymans too. I always wondered why they couldn't just hang out with mild mannered easy going, non-destructive kids. When Lucinda joined our family and went to Utah she liked Mason a lot. (Don't know if that's why she choose that same for her son) Anyway I am very grateful that you could all live through those times. i always felt if I could just keep everyone alive until they were twenty-one all would be well. I don't know why I thought twenty one was a magic number. I do all of you developed some caution around then. Except maybe those tough Lymans. Anyway may God bless all the wild boys.

DB said...

Raymond, it's so good to read this entry of yours. The miracle of Henry V is also the miracle of Shakespeare. It's the source. Many people miss the spirituality in Shakespeare and go looking for the Good Housekeeping Seal. I once worked with a director who wanted to change the ending of Othello. The actors didn't let him get away with it.

I bought my complete plays and poems from a bookstore in Harvard Square when I was a mere lad of 17. Now I'm 70 and it's still with me. It's in serious need of rebinding but I won't let it out of my hands.

May you break legs in San Francisco.


vooman's voice said...

I just got an E-mail for San Francisco Cronical and they want to interview me before my poetry reading on Sept. 13. If I can I will put a plug in for your show.
I tried to get to you on with my reading, but the flyer had been made, but he said you could read a poem or two or sing. Jazz happens after the reading. I did that once before a year or so ago.
Aunt Linda

Jeanette Griffin Braithwaite said...

Raymond - What a great read! Thank you for taking the time to share your stories . . . I'm big on "saving our stories" as well. I was Doran's age and Wendy was my best friend. It's crazy where life takes us . . thanks for bringing us "back home." Loved it. Jeanette