Today I have that edgy feeling that happens right before a project really starts. As I've said before, no matter how many days I've lived through at the start of directing a play, there is always that sinking feeling of "What if I really don't know what I'm doing and people find out?" And then I get in a room full of actors and artists and the spirit moves over me like a baptism. It's not really like riding a bike, its more like getting in an airplane with the compass set for Alaska, and hoping that the weather, the instruments, and the fuel gage are all in working order. Because the play deals with the death of Federico Lorca, (a Spanish poet and playwright) I already feel that I have some identity with the character. This weekend, I watched a very cool documentary on the Spanish Civil War. The nature of the war is so convoluted, its hard to follow exactly why everything in the country fell apart, but in the end, it was all about the nature of several political factions losing power. Its interesting to note that several times in history, democracy has failed a culture, the most noted was the failure of the German culture immediately following World War I, democracy spun the society in the direction of Nationalism, and well we know what happened after that. As I sit here in the back yard of the quiet serenity of Phoenix, Arizona in a relatively calm state of the nation, its mind boggling to read and think about what happens during revolution and civil war. Millions of people die for the lack of common sense. I know there is much more to the equation than just common sense, but I wonder sometimes where God is in all of this killing and terror. I wonder what the end game even is.
Saturday night was a banner night with the music. Starr, David, and I played our twelve songs together while people dined on Thai food, and then I did two sets as a solo act, singing mostly my own songs. It's a little strange to be on a tiny stage singing 'Your Cheating Heart' while people are eating Thai cuisine, but I also notice the juxtaposition of the two somehow fusing together to make it work. I remember living for a time in the East Village in NYC, and often going to a restaurant called Mugsy Chow Chow. As if the name weren't strange enough, the cuisine was purely Italian, with abstract paintings on the wall in the manner of de Kooning, and then the very steady sound of honky-tonk music from the forties and fifties. Somehow, it all worked together to create a hybrid that gave it a genuine original experience, so, when I have the thoughts come into my head that I may be playing the wrong music in the wrong place, I remember that experience, and the images, tastes, and sounds, all seemingly making sense.
Although I have no grand notions of being the 'breakout' country performer of the year, I'm noticing that the experience is what makes it worth the subtle discomfort of a disapproving public, as if I should have a real job, a real house, and a real mortgage and family. It's possible that these thoughts are a fabrication in my own head, but I still sometimes doubt my penchant to spend so much of my time making music and writing. Over the years I've noticed the changing nature of a public when confronted with live performance, as if it makes them a little uncomfortable to be in the presence of people standing up with instruments playing, 'Crazy' while they eat. In a society that is becoming increasingly electronic and isolated, the live experience between audience and performer without a 'buffer' is more difficult to win.
As I get older and write more, I've also noticed that writing to examine with a relative honesty also makes people uncomfortable. I've written several letters recently that get terse replies, as if I'm making some kind of attempt to justify my life, or to excuse my foibles, or establish a point of argument or debate. I usually write not to find excuse with my sometimes destructive behavior, rather I write to try and analyze it for a point of change. My God change is difficult! I often feel like that planet I saw in a universe documentary, 'Weird Planets', that was careening through space without a sun to orbit around. Gravity it seems, didn't have the sufficient power to pull it in, and so there it goes, trying to find the end of the universe. I've taken the time I've had recently to study many of the things that I seemed to have been left out of growing up in an educational system that seemed void of gravity for me as well, with good reason, as we did move around to many a solar system that found me looking for my orbit. Now, as I look back, I believe I was unusual in my ability to observe the planets and the sun that was trying to give off light. I think I became a teacher because I could never find that sun with the gravitas to pull me in, or one that cared to. I was not the child that one would notice with a particular set of skills that a sun would care to have me orbit. I was more of that rocky oval planet who gave off some very definite radiation. Okay, enough of the solar system metaphors, you get the picture…planet careening through space looking for a sun.
I've also been recently examining and thinking a lot about past relationships with the women in my life. As my planet circles back through the lost plain of relationships, I've been so fortunate in that all the women I've had substantial relationships with have all been remarkable women. There isn't one relationship I've had that I'm bitter about, in fact, the universe gave me PLANETS. Again, (I said I wouldn't use the planet metaphor but again, its such a good one I hate to waste it), it seems that I had no experience or desire to stop the traveling and build a steady orbit. Lately, I've been thinking that I may be able to do it, but alas, the light of youth, the faith of potential, the career building trajectory to settling in a nice retirement with a notion to hike, read, and prepare complicated meals have seemed to have passed me by. For some reason, my value system never included the amassing of objects that would make me more comfortable. Even more so than ever, all of my earthly possessions would fit in an army duffle bag. That doesn't exactly send shivers amongst available women, (well, not the right kind of shivers). It seems that I made a much better lover than a steady competent nest builder, (Although I know how to use tools.) For the first time in my life, I haven't given up on the notion of a relationship, but I don't worry about it so much anymore. For a time, I convinced myself that being a single man who could manage my life was the first priority, and then the real lifetime relationship would come. Then I believed that I could find someone with some of the same things I valued. However, an examined life is one that spends the whole of it wondering what it does value. So there you have it. I remember times when I felt ashamed of being a playwright, hiding the fact that this is what I did. The music I never really hid, I just didn't talk about it so much. So, here I am, in the post middle of my life, with a few crates of plays, and old guitar, and a few books. I can assure you, these things don't fall into categories on dating sites. Anyway, as uncomfortable as it is to discuss these things, perhaps something will come of it, in the meantime, I need to spend a few hours preparing to run a first rehearsal. Its sounds so…arty… strange entry…strange planet.