Archive for September, 2011|Monthly archive page

First Person, Second Person, Third

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision on September 30, 2011 at 5:50 am

Gearing up for the next read-through; this one, from a greater distance in my own mind. Bits of story already aggregating around characters that don’t appear in this first story set in the fictional town that mirrors some elements of the one in which I live these days.

The two strongest moments in the madness that was yesterday: the woman who said “my hand never remembers how to do it” while I coached her in forming the letters of the alphabet (I’ve given her basic scripting exercises to do on squared paper, so she’ll get a notion of how much space she must allot to each letter.) The fifty-three year old man whose eyes went from the three tenses of the verb To Be on one white board to the three persons singular and three persons plural notions on the other.  “There is thought behind this,” he said. “A system.”

We then discussed why the three persons, both in their singular and plural forms; why the first is “I” (without whom nothing else could be perceived); how the “We” is a collection of “I’s” sharing a point of view, or disputing it. How, of necessity, the  “I” and “We” need a  “You “(tu) and a “Youz” (vous) with whom to interact, or argue. How “He, “She”, “It” out there, over there becomes a “They” we either envy, admire, fear and/or all those at once.

The man lost his job three months ago, when the tannery for which he worked closed down. He’s been in a deep funk. Yesterday, he packed up his notes, his pencils, and his homework. “Thirty-five years in this country,” he said. “You tell me illegal immigrants are entitled to schooling? You say M is now in special classes at the Lycée? I want the same. I’m going to fight for it, if they won’t let me in.”

I promised to check if the Lycée accepts adults.

On my way to the gendarmerie

In Circus, Hautvoir, Revision on September 29, 2011 at 6:41 am

Bottom line, it may be the only thing that works.  I’m talking about when you are physically tired beyond tired, and must keep going anyway. A form of indignation or call it burning anger; call it whatever you want. The certainty you are busting your gut for nothing but nobody will stop you from doing so. Why? Because you either bust your gut for one illusion, or fall asleep in your rocker, dreaming of another.

The kid says he doesn’t want to go back to Bangladesh; he doesn’t want to get smuggled out of France and on to his final destination in London, either. Whether he is slow-witted or not still isn’t clear; he’s not learning French all that quickly. Not enough to write someone’s food order down, convey it to the kitchen, and come back with the proper dish, that’s for sure. Yet, that is his present-day ambition + one girlfriend good to go.

I have no idea how to end the story. None.  That’s all right. The burning indignation is with me; I’ll call that The Force, and see where it takes me.

Photo grabbed on my way to the gendarmerie; it summed up yesterday. Works just as well for today’s post.


In Circus, Hautvoir, Local projects, Revision on September 28, 2011 at 5:59 am

All the talent was local, last night. At least, all the artists performing at the opening of the Season live here or in neighboring towns and villages. The reason for the influx being one of the two standards: the previous waves of new arrivals came because of the jobs; this latest wave came because of available space on the cheap. Space in which to set up  rehearsal halls, film studios, recording studios, a circus school, coop ventures…

The “new crowd” performs mostly for other members of the gang. On the whole, the earlier settlers are wary of them. With time, the new arrivals’ children will consider the town their own. They were everywhere, last night: crawling under the chairs, rolling on the floor, going onstage to invite the audience to “Resistez à la Dictature des Voitures” (Resist the Car Dictatorship).

First meeting, this morning: at the local Youth Protection Home for a performance assessment on other new arrivals – the stateless kind, dumped here by those who make a living out of grabbing the money and leaving the “merchandise” to fend for itself.

In many ways, the town’s old-timers are as much of an oddity as the new arrivals – their way of life, fast disappearing, along with the stories they tell.  Lots and lots to work into other takes on the fictional town they all inspire. How does knowing that play on the final writing of the final scenes in the revision? Good question.

On my way to town…

In Hautvoir, Revision on September 27, 2011 at 6:45 am

Ending this story feels more like finding the  right place for a pause, or a halt. The way you’d stop during a hike; say: “this is a good place to eat a bite”. Rest up a bit; take in the morning’s adventures; decide which of the paths you’ll explore next, on your way to…

Fact is, destinations may seem like the whole point to the journey. But when you stop, and pull out the food you bought in the previous place; rest your legs and consider the view in front of you while chewing on it; talk or don’t talk with your hiking companion, if there is one. Clean up, pack  up, and get moving again; the destination is the excuse. Even assuming there’s a major revelation awaiting; or a deadline with consequences as in Around The World in Eighty Days? Or nasty types hot on  your trail?

For this story? The ending is still about the pause before they all stand up again; wipe off the crumbs, and move on; at least, that’s the feeling this morning. Also: a sense of the place itself, a bit like a camera moving back for a panning shot.


Just another look, really, won’t take a minute…

In Film, Hautvoir, Revision on September 26, 2011 at 6:11 am

Of course, I won’t. But the temptation? To call in sick – bellyache, touch of flu, undisclosed mystery bug felling me? Tremendous. The Itch, is what it is. The Itch to ride from p 253 of the draft right to The End. More than an itch; it’s almost at the whimper stage. “Just let me open the draft and…” – “No. You have the other blog to put online, the dog is the one about to whimper, and you have a full day of work cut out for you downtown.” – “I’ll just pull up that one piece, OK? I promise. I won’t…”

No. I know what will happen if I do. The only part of the movie I saw yesterday where I could relate in full to Michel Petrucciani was the moment when he said not  playing the piano was worse than breaking his bones doing it. Of course, I’m sixty-five, and he died at the ripe old age of thirty-six. Had he survived longer despite his illness, he might have learned to say “no” to his nervous system, at least from time to time. Or maybe not.

Truth, whole truth, and nothing but?  I would not make it to The End today, even if I were to lie to my employer. I’m so happy with the whole lot of characters, I’m like the third gaffer assistant on location: the film director may want to get the crews home, and the producer out of his hair; he may be dying to move on to the fun part of cutting and editing the rushes into the real thing shimmering in his head. But the third gaffer assistant? Is in heaven. Wants to stay there.

Allez. A quick indulgence for a look at the teaser on the film (will keep me away from my draft). Then, the other blog or the dog first, whichever whimpers the loudest. Then, the job. Then, the rush home for lunch, dog, draft. Then… Allez hop.

From the top, again

In Film, Hautvoir, Revision on September 25, 2011 at 7:06 am

Haven’t seen the film yet; don’t know what I’ll think of it, but interesting films don’t come that often to this town; so, it’s a date. At five, today, au Cinéma Les Temps Modernes, place du mail, Graulhet.

For me at least, there’s a specific moment in the waking-up process that’s best observed with care, as I would a dismal neighborhood through the window of a train. Getting off at that station? Been there; done that. Neither the neighborhood nor my spirits were much improved by the visit. The “trick” being to latch on to the unexpected; whatever impels a break in the flow of predictables, especially the infernal inner monologues about personal failings, past, present and future. Catch that glint of good humor over there. Laugh at my own pompous self-importance – if only to give myself the right to laugh at everybody else’s.

Sometimes, I feel my life in this town is just another episode of stepping off a train, somewhere in Europe; this apartment, just another temporary shelter – albeit, a more comfortable one than others I’ve known. Once I get over the temporary slump that so often occurs in the waking-up process? The hunt is on for the missed connections in the crazy world of the unexpected.

Reading from the top? Again? You bet.

Small, small towns

In Hautvoir, Revision on September 24, 2011 at 6:13 am

They share several characteristics with families. Typecasting, for example. So-and-so always buys this type of bread, and not the other kind. He or she has never been the same since… (fill in the blank.) I can’t believe he/she would go out with him/her/them. And so on.

Some people thrive in the hot-house atmosphere generated by small, small towns. Others chafe at the expectations placed on them; how do they  stay free in a small town? As free as they would be while travelling abroad, for example? How do they escape the typecasting – or do they let it stand as a decoy while they go about being who they are, somewhere on the fringe or outside the mold of what people make of them from their shopping habits, their acquaintances, their habitual hang-outs or strolling patterns?

How do people deal with rejection in a small, small town? With humiliation? How do they deal with the tension between the need to belong, and the need to escape prying eyes, nosy neighbors and the set piece the lady at the library reels off every time she catches sight of them? How do they deal with tragedy? How do they deal with the unexpected or the fantastical?

“Je ne suis pas ce que l’on pense” the song says (I’m not what people think I am). Yet, we are, in many ways, especially when we like what they make of us. How do we go on exploring the unknown parts of our own equation? How do we keep the story vital and fresh, from start to finish?

“Hark. Who Goes There?”

In Film, Hautvoir, Revision on September 23, 2011 at 6:40 am

The dream is made even funnier because the bit of dialogue I committed to memory consists of seven words: “Monsieur Sarkozy serait venu pendant la journée …” (Eight, in English: “Had Mister Sarkozy shown up during the day…). Wardrobe-wise, I’ll have to improvise; nothing in mine matches the look the film maker wants. Today is a screen test; I’ll scare up something before leaving at nine.

In the dream version, the dialogue ran for several pages. It was a straight tennis-game type of exchange. A (first character) gets B response (from second character) leading first character to say C, and so on. Except one or the other character always muffed a line or a word. It was back to the top each time – a close parallel to one of my teaching experiences yesterday, now that I think of it.

The woman’s voice. Her gold tooth. The concentration in her eyes as she tries to grasp the meaning: of the squiggles on the white board; of the sounds I am making; of the underlining under the final letter; of my holding up one ballpoint, and pointing to the word “stylo“; of my holding up two, then several ballpoints, and pointing to the word “stylos“. The hard work of holding her pencil at the right angle to produce lines on her paper; to shape squiggles approximating those on the white board. The slow smile starting in her eyes, first, when the concept lands and takes root. The plural of livre (book) is livres (books). And so on.

Her voice. As if her vocal cords had been damaged. She speaks in a strained whisper – a whisper so expressive I know I have to find the right words for it. I hear the whisper; there’s a whole life story in it.

Now: “Monsieur Sarkozy serait venu pendant la journée …


In Hautvoir, Revision on September 22, 2011 at 6:31 am

Yesterday, in late afternoon, when it all got to be too much, I repaired to this spot – all that is left of Graulhet’s first cinema. The “movie house” consisted of an outdoor sign on rough planks announcing Le Ranch (still visible on Place Bosquet), and this open space giving out on a piece of lawn facing the back wall of a factory. The projectionist sat in the small booth at the top of the stairs; the public sat on wooden benches on the lawn and watched the moving pictures on the wall.

The hardest moments to weather are the ones when something you’ve done with an open heart comes back at you, and you must ask yourself how best to make amends for any hurt you may have caused, while not demeaning yourself nor accepting to be tarred with someone else’s interpretation of your motives and intent. I do that best by finding a spot where no one can reach me; writing down whatever wells up; then finding something else in that spot and in that moment that carries me on to the next moment, whatever it may be.

In story, I’m moving ahead in something of the same way. The only other ingredient at my disposal right now is the attitude implied in the title. In my understanding, true brinkmanship isn’t about adopting a stance and refusing to budge from it. It’s about knowing what you stand for, and not budging from that. True brinkmanship is a Troy Davis, fighting the death penalty right to the end because he knew himself to be innocent. True brinkmanship has nothing to do with bombast, with shouting or with chest thumping. True brinkmanship is a Jean Jaurès saying: “Courage is understanding one’s own life… Courage is loving life and looking at death with a quiet face… Courage is going toward the ideal while understanding reality.”

Courage is also laughing when everyone else tells you there’s not a damn thing to laugh about – and doing so for that very reason. (Yes, this is all way too solemn; the absurd awaits just outside my door this morning, not to worry it will catch up with me soon enough.)

Pass The Hat

In Circus, Hautvoir, Revision on September 21, 2011 at 5:31 am

This for every other morning just like now when the League of Small Stuff is at its finest. The Big Stuff? Either you collapse, or you take a short break before forging on. The small stuff is something else; like fine-grained sand wearing you down, day after day.

The photo: five hundred or so alive ones, stepping all over their own despondency, their own tiredness, their own sadness, sorrow and/or grief to offer a proper send-off to a friend. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps me going is the absolute certainty the universe doesn’t give a shit. Sometimes, it’s the absolute certainty that announcing I Exist is the one thing nothing and no one can keep me from doing, one way or another.

Earlier in the march, the stilt walker leaned against a pole to re-adjust the padding under the straps allowing him to dance above the crowd. Later he and another stilt walker did the boogie-woogie by graveside (minus the shoulder and hip throws, they really need to improve their act.)

Sometimes anger keeps me going. Bottom line: it doesn’t matter what the emotion may be, although I much prefer mirth. The main thing is to crawl, climb, slug, beg  or laugh my  way through the small stuff that hurts and hoard every crumb of the small stuff that keeps me going. Such as the post office worker yesterday, as I was mailing  yet another letter to yet another administrative graveyard for the living. “I saw the photos on the blog,” she said. “They made me proud of us.” From which I gather she was one of the five hundred at the march for Lucien on Saturday.