Sunday, December 6, 2009

'The Book of Sub-Text'

After returning to read several of my earlier blogs, (to find out my state of mind) I had a delusion of grandeur moment at three in the morning. There is so much of this adventure that I haven't been able to share, and so much of it that falls in to the category of 'sub-text', which in itself is not so bad, still, there is a part of this adventure and 'backstory' that I need to write about. I need to write the book on this story, including the play and where the play actually came from. Because much of it is auto-biographical, it is a great 'jumping off point' to see if I have something to say. At the half-way point of a life lived, it becomes apparent that writing about that life becomes a fixture of thought. There is also a practical side to this idea, the possibility that I may have to end this particular 'mad-cap' road trip, and return to the general work force. Although I'm somewhat dismayed by this prospect, it will probably become necessary in the near future. It will become necessary for me to at least have a 'creation' that I can hold onto.

Years ago, while doing a play in NYC, I remember lying on the cot I was sleeping on in my friend Kurt's apartment in the East Village and thinking, "Man, this is really hard..." Don't get me wrong, I loved the struggle, sometimes in life we are asked to 'endure' certain decisions we make to get to another place. Funk and Wagnal's definition of endure: The ability to remain. I've always loved this definition. While taking the small amounts of the money that I had, (much of this credit cards) and investing it in wood, luan, paint, screws, and various other materials to build out a theatre space in an apartment to do this play, it appeared to me that I was blinded by my vision. 'Blinded and appeared' are interesting word choices for this paradox, I know, but this passion for what I had to do was unstoppable. I found myself breaking down any practical thought as to how I would live, the vision of the play became everything. During this period, my hip had already deteriorated to the point of living with chronic pain each day, exacerbating an already grueling process. Because the 'apartment' theatre was on the fifth floor of a walk-up, everything had to be carried to the roof, (where the construction took place) and then taken back down a floor during the assembly. The play, 'The Fish Must Die' was the one and only 'farce' I'd ever written, and it did become a 'must see' in the apartment theatre, Theatre 4S. In our possessed state of passion, we had unknowingly created a minor 'cult' theatre space, (partly because it was illegal) and partly because the play and production had a raw feel to it, and there were only sixteen seats in the space, so it wasn't hard to create a demand for 'seats'. Each night, after the show, I would lay down once again in the theatre that had to be 'turned back into an apartment space'. (that was also part of the vision. We also had delusions of putting our 'build out your apartment into a theatre' business into motion, for a thousand bucks, you too could have your apartment turned into a theatre), and I would think again, "Man, this is REALLY hard..." The irony is it might have taken off, except the NY Times did a story on the theatre, (with a full picture of Kurt and his dog, Zoe) and the owner of the building read the article and evicted Kurt. I returned to Phoenix afterwards, finding it difficult to explain this 'craziness' that possessed me. Thus began a ten year period of teaching theatre to high school students, (which I really loved) and probably the most stable part of my life.

I relate this story, because although Austin is not the same trial, each place and time has its own set of circumstances to be 'endured'. It may at times seem like a dream to the outside world, (and in many ways it is) but the work is hard and lonely. Still, the adventure is another chapter in this 'Bohemian Cowboy' evolution, and the work is satisfying. As I get up and six-thirty in the morning to take 'Baby' for yet another walk, I think to myself, is there an end to the worry that goes with this territory? Now is a time when I need to be watchful, as not to fall into any kind of self-destructive behavior, which is another reason for writing the book. The last three evenings, I've been re-reading Hemingway's, 'The Sun Also Rises'. (I abandoned 'Remembrance of Things Past', by Proust, it made me claustrophobic). One thing I always notice about Hemingway's writing is his mastery of dialogue in his books. The dialogue of the characters drives his writing, which I really like. I always thought if you took many of his short stories and removed the prose, it would be quite easy to create a play.

This is how the book begins, as the play begins.

"My father has vanished into the desert,
I cannot find my father's boots or his felt hat.
I cannot find his western shirt of the wrangler jeans he wore,
I cannot find his bear claw belt buckle or his soft white handkerchief.
My father is still in the desert."

On the seventh day after my Father had disappeared into the desert, I was being prepped for surgery to have my hip replaced. For six years, I had tried to ignore the stabbing pain in my side, choosing instead to hike the peaks in Phoenix, Arizona, five times a week, believing that eventually, this act of discipline would lead to its complete healing. I had no way of knowing that my hip had always had a tiny deformity from birth, and there would be no 'quick fix'. After moving through a series of doctor's and consultations, I finally accepted what I had been denying for years, and found a surgeon that could operate on me the first part of December, of 2005...

What do you think?


Gerry said...

Since I am the blog 'mother' who goes immediately to each new blog entry so as to encourage that person that this action (blogging) is worth doing I am often the first to comment. Oh, I see LaRena has made a new entry this morning (check it out--Winter of Life) Anyway, I think an entry of this sort is much needed at this point. More explanation as to why you are in Austin, and some idea of what you might be doing next by way of a dip into the past to explain similar journeys you have made. I do think that when changes are necessary that is when a person's moods are most apt to swing to the extreme but it is good to keep in mind that change brings its own reward and the effects of great effort to create art are never lost.

Anonymous said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again, WRITE THAT BOOK!!


TJ in Boulder said...

Raymond -
Compulsion: Psychology - a strong and usually irresistible impulse to perform an act,esp. one that one that is irrational or contrary to one's will.
Obsession: the domination of ones thoughts by a persistent image, idea or desire.
Irrational: deprived of sound judgement/good sense.
Perhaps these are all components of the defination of artist, as it seems that those who we revere for the ability to persevere in the face of adversity to produce something new and unique, if genuine, are to some degree mad. Don Quixote is admired and ridiculed for his desire to live in his own world of tilting at windmills. We, your audiance, love you for being unique, but I wonder if we truely appreciate the cost to you. Or, the pain of your slide back into the reality of economy and the world of bills, food, transportation, housing, etc.
God bless the artist! said...

I also say, write the book! Keep on blogging, but write the book during slow times...I am writing this thing of mine one more time! It will never be finished. I say write the Play..put it to the world, defend yourself..write the might sell...write the song...and sing!

Chuckh said...

As I read about your adventures, I am reminded of my stint in a traveling children's theatre group. We set up and broke down the sets, packed them in our cars and drove up to 50 miles to perform for elementary school kids. We got $35 a show a piece, and often performed one or two shows a week but sometimes had more. I was always broke, car broken down, lost car keys, ill health, it took a toll, but taught me also what it takes to do this sort of work. We climaxed that season with staging the play in a mall. No one could hear us and we laughed our way through the performance. I was playing Tom in “Glass Menagerie” at night during this, for which a reviewer said I gave an “uneven” performance. I walked around crooked for a week, explaining to everyone that I was being, “uneven.” Sometimes I wonder if my knees had not given out, what else I would have done? But the arthritis kept me from more of those kinds of adventures...If I had the time and money and will I would follow you with a documentary crew myself. I think it would make a very interesting documentary film. I had a teacher who wrote a best seller biography about his early life and the role theatre played in it. He became a dresser at an early age and met and worked with many stars. It shaped his life and made for very interesting stories.
We all have a story to tell, so I say go for it. Yours would be more interesting than most, I suspect. You have told me some stuff that I found very amusing…

Connie said...

I wish you had closure..not knowing what happened will always eat away at you...but it has taken you on a journey of your has made you strong and determined..that in itself is a good thing...