Thursday, January 5, 2012

'The Mythology of the Mind'

This is the first December I can remember making it through without the feeling of some crisis looming. I let the days slip past, one after the other and didn't think too much about it being December. December has always been the 'trouble' month, as I'm sure it is for many. It seems to fall into two categories, those who love December and those who loathe the memories, the financial burdens, family conflicts, and the rest of the pesky little contrivances. Rather than dwell on the memories, I tried to just live in each day and calm my mind, and now its over.

So, that brings me to January, the month of new beginnings for so many. For me, it's more of another starting point, not so much of new beginnings. January is always a good month for sending out plays, query letters, and communications of all kinds. People seem to be fresh and ready to read. October and November were months that I tried to get some plays in shape to send out. I'm a little disappointed that I slowed way down on the novel, for I had a good head of steam going. I'm still excited about its prospects, but at least I have enough written to send off as a sample. I don't know what's going to happen if someone writes back and wants to see the whole novel. I guess I'll have to do three weeks of non-stop writing. Jack Kerouac wrote 'One the Road' in four weeks, but he had the benefit of writing on Benzedrine, which I refuse to do. I always thought that writing on drugs or drink was somehow cheating. I was surprised to learn that Tennessee Williams (in his own autobiography) says he wrote his greatest works under the influence of some kind of chemical to keep him going. I lost some respect for him, even though his work is still astonishing.

Thanks to my friend Chuck and David Barker, I've been able to see several plays the last couple of months. I'm always amazed that no matter how good or bad the play is, I'm always enthused about it, the passion for theatre is still there after all of these years. Further, it seems that I'm seeing it in a depth I hadn't noticed before, as if its one giant painting that is moving around and talking to me. Today, I'll walk into a theatre and start directing a play, 'Lorca in a Green Dress' for Teatro Bravo. No matter how many times I direct a play, there is always that underlining fear that I will get there and have no idea what to do or say. Directing is always the perfect analogy of faith. No matter how many times you do it, it seems as though you walk in knowing nothing. Maybe that's the key, 'blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." And, truth be told, I'm directing a play written by a Latino playwright with mostly Latino actors. The playwright, Nilo Cruz, however, is a master playwright and fairly young, which makes me realize how very dated some of my own plays are. And then that makes me think of the burden of writing more plays that have 'ahold' of the times we live in now. I can remember writing plays and having that thought in my head, that I needed to write plays that can last twenty or so years.

I did spend a good part of November sending plays out to various companies. With the internet, it makes it so much easier to send out plays, but I've had to have Chuck help me change them into pdf files. In the old days, there was the query letter that you had to send, wait weeks for an answer as to whether you could send your play, then make a hard copy of the play, with another envelope to receive the rejection, which so often was the case. I haven't heard anything back from the plays I sent except for one. I could tell it was a form letter, so I answered it. I answered it tersely, because it was a form letter with all kinds of mistakes and that 'false' unfortunately, that many form letters contain. It was kind of fun to write a rejection letter to the rejecter.

This has been a great fall for playing music. Even though I haven't been playing and writing songs like I have in the past, I have a regular Saturday night gig at a very nice Thai food restaurant that keeps my chops up. Knowing that you are going to play in front of an audience once a week is a good motivator to keep playing. Even though I'm not playing all through the week, I still try to take one new song in to play. Although last week, I put a four-piece band together to play New Year's Eve, so there were four rehearsal sessions. I think it went really well. I built a stage for the restaurant, and although its small, it works really well. So, New Year's Eve, we pieced together audio equipment and played for three hours. It was fun. Although I like to do the solo show, playing with other musicians is always good practice. Didn't we always learn that as children? "Play well with others?"

I have some decisions to make this month. I've been trying to negotiate a theatre company project in Boulder, (Utah not Colorado) but after last summer, I'm trying to decide whether that is where I want to be for the summer. I had a great many revelations concerning my relatives that I won't get into here, suffice to say that I discovered that I am definitely not a part of the immediate family. The only way I can explain it is when you are a child and you grow old enough to realize that your mother and father are not the perfect people you thought they were. The fantasy about them you build up in childlike innocence comes tumbling down, brick by brick. Perception collaborates with perception, and there you are, confused and feeling alone. Fortunately, I had friends that I didn't know I had, who know my foibles and love me anyway. As a result, I have been able to rebuild things that I thought were lost, and hope that I thought would never return. Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

I have also come back into contact with an old friend of mine from the gymnastics days, Dave, who has come through in a big way. We had several years training gymnasts together in an amazing gym. One of the first things he said to me when we met was that gymnastics was never the same after I left. I was immediately lifted when he said that. Sometimes, I think its good to 'not know' the affect you may have on a situation, for in that place of humility things may be happening that you don't realize. If you knew it, they many not be happening at all. We were in our twenties then, in the best shape of our lives and full of action. We could fly through the air with the greatest of ease, and that was our fantasy of 'running away and joining the circus', in fact, we learned things that circuses had never thought of. We were invincible and could fly…

So what happens when our bodies can no longer fly? I suppose we have to fly in our minds and in our dreams. I know the writing helps, it helps the mind focus and move on to other tricks, even if the matter our bodies are made of can not soar in the same way. I often have dreams of those gymnastics days, when my body is young again and can do the things I was once able to do. Dave and I use to push each other to master new tricks on the gym floor, gymnastics was the sport of the Greeks, and now, perhaps we will just have to think like the Greeks. The downside of being older for me is the many injuries I sustained during that period. Its not that I don't walk like a normal man, its just that I have so many places in my body that were never fixed then. I have a sore neck constantly, an old tear in my bicep, a thumb and a foot that were broken, (never went to the doctor) and most dramatically, a hip that is made of titanium. That is the price of flying. Being currently free of pain medication, although it gives me a clearer head, means that I have to be in a level four or five pain level every day that I get up. When I've been chastised for being on pain medication or taking a couple of shots of whiskey in the past, the only think I have to say to you, (and you know who you are) is that you don't have to live in my body. In my twenties, I was fearless with my body. I'm sure the bulls I rode then also had an effect. Luckily, there were not too many car wrecks. The right side of my body, where the titanium holds up my leg is the worse. For some reason, my nerves seem to reject the metal, and so they jump and let me know they are not happy. To my detractors, please don't tell me what I need.

So, my transition continues. I've noticed that for some people, their transitions are barely perceptible, they seem to ease into new phases as gently as a butterfly takes flight. For me, my transitions are difficult, and take years to perfect. The third act of my life is slowly coming into vision, but its still blurry and filled with some blight. But I will get there, God willing, and in the meantime, all I can do is stay alive…

1 comment:

Have Myelin? said...

Your description of December, I relate to.

I never thought about plays becoming "dated". I guess they do... or do WE become too modern, I wonder?

Life is a series of transitions. That is all it is, it seems.

My best to you.