Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Good King Dirk

In Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Now playing in a theater near you, Theater on July 31, 2012 at 7:03 am

The title is there so the girls running the ditty  in my head will stay put  until I get back to their concerns. One of them decided Dirk was the name of Hamlet’s father. The ditty: later.

The book. The bad book that sends you ballistic. Everybody needs at least one. Mine came gift of a visitor who’d picked it up as possible reading in an airport. This may suggest a certain type of book which this one isn’t. This one is the… words fail. They fail except when I pick up the book, open it at random and – boom – it’s carnaval day at the racetrack.

Decency forbids I mention the author’s name. I’d probably slink away in shame were I introduced to this distinguished linguist. At any rate, it would take all the fun out of adding mock-ups and silly lampoons on the Chapter headings; completing his wispy were-it-were-so sentences; and providing my own answers to his endless quest for the why to the wherefore of the meanwhile in the whenever  the… the… (we’ll get there; take a deep breath; no, with your head in the paper bag or  you’ll hyperventilate; better? he’s better but he can’t spit out the word just yet.)

I came close to disposing of the book the humane way i.e. donating it to the médiathèque without so much as reading it. T’would have been a shame. I have boxes of crayons out just for this book. I have characters fighting one another for the privilege of savaging it. A feeding frenzy. Awful things lurk in men’s hearts; as for women’s, scenes of unspeakable horror await if you don’t knock on the door first.

Ah me. Good King Dirk. Yes, coming.


In Drafts on July 30, 2012 at 7:05 am

First, a long rant to clear some of the cobwebs before even attempting anything else. (The rant is done; hopefully, this moves on).

The most insidious lies: the ones you don’t even call that way. The self-evident, as served up by your environment, and well-assimilated by you. Why are things the way they are? Because they are the way they are. The guy next door says something else? The guy next door doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And so on.

Some tautologies are easy enough to crack. For example, the other guy’s. The ones in which you happen to live? The ones from which you draw your own nourishment? Ah. Now, we’re getting to more interesting stuff.

What does it mean: to move on? What do you move on, what do you leave behind? What’s worth carrying, what should you chuck and forget? In the stuff you throw out, what’s the one thing you keep on remembering – meaning, the one thing with real value? Not the value of making you regret throwing it out. The value of living on as part of the real luggage. Something you don’t need to carry in a bag, and you  don’t have to worry about losing or forgetting somewhere.

For each of the characters, what is that one thing?

Leading, Following

In Drafts, Food on July 29, 2012 at 5:11 am

There’s always that risk. A character doing or saying something that leaves you stranded or shocked or dissatisfied. An entire story being something you set aside with embarrassment  or manage to lose somewhere. I “lost” my first pair of glasses as a child by slipping them into my coat pocket, the bottom of which was unstitched. No, I didn’t go so far as to unstitch the lining; just happened to slide the glasses down the chute. Kids don’t think much about the cost of glasses, or family finances. Even less so when the glasses are ugly, and everybody in school is making fun.

Back to school. In school. So much I want to understand, and don’t. The characters. Why they show up. Why they say and do; why they refuse to say or do.

The word Alep keeps coming back to me. Because of the town being in the news for all the usual, horrible reasons? Yes.  I hesitate to check the headlines because of the letters a, l, e and p strung together.

I don’t know the town. For me,  Alep conjures up a Syrian restaurant that is (was?)  on  boulevard Jean-Talon; it has (had?) an annex next door called Le Petit Alep. The food was poetry; maybe it still is. Yes, if I were the character I left in such a funk last night, I would probably take myself to Le Petit Alep upon re-visiting Montreal. If only I could remember the name of that mixture of ground walnuts, bread crumbs, harissa, pomegranate syrup that was part of the mezze platter.

After Le Petit Alep, I would wander through the Jean-Talon market; find my bearings somewhere between the vendors, their produce, the people. Find the thread, the thought, the image leading to the next, and the next, and the next after that.


In Animals, Drafts, Music, Now playing in a theater near you on July 28, 2012 at 6:14 am

You’re supposed to close all doors and windows when lightning strikes or thunder rumbles. I shut down all connections to the computer; no point in losing everything just for the hell of it. But I opened the French windows wide for a view on the show last night. Made even more spectacular by a running frieze of purple clouds on the horizon. The lightning was of the horizontal type, zigzags high in the sky; precious little thunder.

Cooler air, this morning. Whatever will be is already, somehow. An anthropologist –  apologies, I forget your name, Sir. Start again: an anthropologist coined a term to describe the world view of Australia’s initial settlers. They live in everywhen, he said. Past, present, future don’t only co-exist; they are the same stuff, interacting. A human’s job: to keep the stories alive and growing. Imagine someone experiencing such a worldview for the first time. Imagine that person searching for ways to describe the who, what, when, where etc. It  can’t be as simple as writing up a newspaper coverage of the weekly meeting at the local Rotary Club.

Reading, writing, painting, discovering. More space than you ever thought existed. More surprises than you ever thought possible.

Still. Listening to music other than the one stored inside my head? Would be nice, except the computer glitches every time  I try an access to youTube or to the music stored on my hard drive. Neither everywhen nor technology always flow in predictable patterns. I’ll figure out the problem and solve it? Maybe. Maybe not.

As Seen By

In Drafts, Theater, Visual artists on July 27, 2012 at 7:15 am

Each pregnancy is different, they say. Same with drafts. The biggest difference with this draft: the time element. Long stretches of it, unscheduled, save for the obligations relating to the dog and to basic issues – shopping for food, preparing it. Many of the bits of writing I would dash off during a work day, I don’t. Or they don’t go beyond the scribbling on a piece of paper because the story is proceeding at its own pace. As if the story read the scribbling over my shoulder: hm. interesting. we’ll see, the story says. Exactly like a parent, busy doing something mysterious – at least, in the eyes of the child rushing up with something so so so important in need of everyone’s attention now.

Even the characters have to heed the change of pace. Used to a certain way of doing things. A certain rythm. A certain way of stringing events together to arrive at their destination – be it a physical one or a conclusion concerning the facts, such as they are.

Long stretches of quiet. A scene ends; I have no idea where the story will  pick up next. A strangeness to it all. How things relate to one another.

A different process when time isn’t something you check on a clock.


Travelling Alone

In Drafts, Food, Now playing in a theater near you on July 26, 2012 at 7:21 am

Seeing yourself through the eyes of others:

If this is Greece, we’re in the last days of September or the first in October. The boat won’t sail for Israel for another few days; I don’t want to stay around Athens or the Piraeus. Not enough money left, too many people milling around, including pickpockets who zero in when someone looks different from the rest of the crowd.

The train is a small local number; the kind that chugs as it climbs into the mountains. Save for three foreigners, the passengers are mountain people heading back to their villages after shopping or visiting relatives on the coast.

Food time. The locals dig into straw bags or suitcases. Pull out foods wrapped in clean towels – bread, hard-boiled eggs, cheese. The woman sitting in front of me lifts out a beautiful bunch of grapes, extends it in my direction. I take a few; we exchange smiles. She turns toward the North American couple sitting across the aisle; extends the grapes. “Oh wow! wow! Thanks!” the woman says with a huge smile. Grabs the bunch, and settles down with her companion. They loudly proclaim how great the natives are while chomping away on the goods.

For a moment, the woman stays frozen with her hands still extended, then settles back in her seat. The man sitting next to her offers her a peeled egg. I pull out my remaining apple and my pocket knife; slice it into segments. Share what I have with the two people facing me.

I didn’t offer any to the folks pigging out on the woman’s grapes. Sometimes, if you want to see yourself in action through other people’s eyes, it’s a good idea to travel alone.


In Drafts on July 25, 2012 at 7:16 am

In this rough draft, there’s some story struggling for expression, and lots of stream-of-consciousness stuff – personal history, specific memories triggered by some emotion or lack of same. Some of the more factual of the memories prove useful – the equivalent of pep talks the writer gives herself in slower moments. Others clog up the process or drag it back to a previous story.

This one. This story. Things stated. Things implied. Which doors to open; which to leave shut – these always exerting the strongest pull, of course. Think of the forbidden tree in the garden of Eden; think of the tiny key in the Bluebeard story.

As usual, what happened i.e. what brings the characters together in a specific place is damned important. As usual, the real question: what do they do with what they know? Where does it lead them for whatever will happen next, somewhere beyond the words The End, when the time comes to apply those to the end of this specific iteration.

(the sidebar quote this morning: “I have made this letter longer because I did not have the time to make it shorter ” – Blaise Pascal)

Street Theater (minimalist)

In Animals, Drafts, Music, Theater on July 24, 2012 at 6:13 am

Transitions of the brutal kind. Still somewhat disconnected from the usual routines, I step out with my dog at the usual hour in the early evening. Near the park, the sidewalk is crowded with cars – a quaint local custom much appreciated by walkers and by women pushing baby strollers.  Through the cars, I catch a glimpse of a man and a woman walking in my direction, immediately followed by the appearance of a dog on a leash at ground level. The two dogs experience an immediate aversion for one another. Dog on leash lunges; dog not on leash (mine) responds with a counter lunge, hackles raised and teeth bared.

Things end OK, even though dog on leash barely escapes getting hit by a car after breaking free from the restraint. I get the full frontal verbal attack by the animal’s owners, threats of police and/or personal retaliations, etc. At this point, my dog is on her leash, looking up at me with a “so, when do we get to the park?” expression. I’m waiting for the human snarling to stop, keeping as quiet as I can; anything I do or say will only make things worse.

Sometimes, all the pieces are there but the transitions from one to another of the storylines? Not obvious.

In dreamtime, the confrontation between the two dogs translates into one super-charged man boarding  a bus while passengers try to exit; a second super-charged type barrels through from the back. People trying to get off the bus, plain and simple? Just too bad.

Going from quiet writer-type with her friendly dog to hateful irresponsible mauler of other people’s animals, all in the blink of an eye? Good thing I wasn’t in a super-charged mood myself. The faces, the expressions and the attitudes of the couple giving me hell made it clear they were ready to let fur fly if I so much as budged or even said: “gee, I…”.

So Cybèle and I waited for the unknown threesome to move their fear, anger and indignation off to another part of the sidewalk. Proceeded to the park. The mini- incident may serve to trigger a transition from one storyline to another in the draft; like one of those growth nodes in a stalk of bamboo.

A treasure trove

In Animals, Drafts, Food, Now playing in a theater near you on July 23, 2012 at 12:09 pm

“Rotten catfish. Man, these folks know how to live.” (My dog’s opinion; I preferred the grilled duck, myself.)

Plus: learning how to say “him, he’s English” (meaning, English-speaking) in wolof; among other essential phrases in that language.

What else? Reams of stories (or: when one listener – my hostess – gets to sit down with another listener – myself – and talks almost non-stop until way past two in the morning.)

Writing pages and pages of backstory, under dictation from one of the characters, while sitting in the summer living room, with fresh coffee, and two dogs. It’s around six in the morning, the sun’s coming up and a small owl insists I get out of there so she can get back into her nesting spot.

Seeing a black kite up close, and a two-meter long catfish, too. Standing in a bamboo grove.

And so on. I asked to leave around noon because there was already so much to carry off for sorting and diverting into various channels.

a sunday morning in lower case

In Drafts, Film, Music, Now playing in a theater near you, RLB trivia on July 22, 2012 at 7:00 am

a morning for slow stretching, slow sipping of coffee. Two magical moments linger from last night: the light of the setting sun at the start of the party; the sky crammed with stars on leaving.

a small bit I find delightful on the Astronomy picture of the day website. “Light about this event may  not have reached earth  yet” – or something to that effect. The knowledge I’m looking up at a snapshot of an event in progress. How great is that?

That’s it? Just about. Finding the growth lines in the draft. Finding some decent bread (the baker and his wife are on holiday). Going to the country with the dog this afternoon; returning tomorrow. Big events, small ones. The children, last night: two three-year-olds going wild on the bongos; the teen-aged boys and the teen-aged girls moving in packs, like separate schools of fish circling one another then darting away; the talk – of films in progress or about to start, of shows performed, of who’s moved on from this casting agency to that other. And, this being France in July, who’s off to Greece for the holidays, who’s off to Corsica, who’s being a horrible stay-at-home by going no further than Brittany, and so on.