Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page


In Animals, Circus, Contes d'Exil, Drafts, Food, Sanford Meisner, Story material on October 31, 2012 at 8:09 am

Do I start with the bear? Why not. This isn’t about chronological or geographical correctness.

A tale, written some fifteen years ago. A young bear awakes in mid-winter slumber. Does something such young ones don’t do in real life, I suppose: he wanders away from the warmth of his mother’s body and sticks his head out of their cavern. Beholds the night sky and snowy mountains in a bluish light. The moment turns him into a bear with a story. When told to a stranger last night, the story carried the power of enchantment because of the moment and of the circumstances of the telling.

On to the Baltic amber? No.  First, I’m in Denmark, thirty-three years ago. My weekly stop in a half-decent hotel for the joys of hot water and a private sleeping space. The breakfast table is a common board arrangement. I sit facing a boy of about nine; his glum parents exchange glum-sounding Danish words. While holding out my coffee cup to the waitress, I notice the boy fiddling with the salt shaker. Yes, the old trick. I look the boy in the eye, hold the shaker upside down over my plate. Surprise? No. When the cap and the salt land in a heap, I should have faked some emotion, I guess. The boy looks so disappointed.

Then, out into the streets of Copenhagen. A jumble of memories from both visits. All of them combining the same light-hearted feeling of elation. A visit to Georg Jensen’s; street art; herring; the magical shop filled with Baltic amber. A large piece of which I held in my hand, all those years ago. The memory and the stored warmth of it came back to me last night. The specific golden umber shade of  burnt sugar.

The something entrapped in resin. Animal? Mineral? Plant? I still don’t know what it was. Something magical about the sight and the shape of it. Something with a story.

Strange Lands – Descriptions

In Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Music, Theater on October 30, 2012 at 7:08 am

Appointment at 9 am.

Awake since 4, wandering through a strange  dream landscape, elements of the new story and all the strangeness related to my visit in the above neighborhood yesterday.

Photo : Eden, yes? A piece of paradise inhabited by children and adults, few of which have the mind space available to even notice. Because they’re dumb? Some of them, maybe; most are as smart as you would be, placed in their circumstances.

Many of the streets in this neighborhood have the names of French composers. Residents of rue Maurice Ravel can’t direct you to rue Hector Berlioz or Vincent Scotto; none of them ever heard of Gabriel Fauré, nor the street named after him. Kids in hoodies stand guard in front of brand new, earth-friendly buildings set in a park-like environment. They check you out: ask you to state your business, the what, the where and the wherefore. But they don’t know the name of the neighboring street.

The home schooling session: in front of a rapt (and wary) audience of four, inside an apartment overheated to the point of suffocation. Whether the boy will make good progress or not, I don’t know. I passed whatever introductory test the family applied to my attitude and behavior in their presence.

Both Cyrulnik and David Néel supplying background commentary, helpful in making my way through the strange encounters in the real world. In my case, a form of strangeness only fiction can begin to capture, because fiction is the only place I know where the dream landscapes and the “real” ones can weave in and out of one another. In theater too, of course. Yes, and in circus. In music.

All right. Appointment at 9 am.

Outside looking in and vice-versa

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Local projects, Music, Tea on October 29, 2012 at 6:50 am

The bowls of hot tea: a device for warming up fingers, while listening to someone. Warming the fingers while building the flow of words into strings of sentences leading to a sustainable conclusion.

Setting aside the howling baby and the kid throwing a tantrum inside your head, grateful for the requests: to take photos of a recording session; to help someone organize her thoughts; to plan activities for kids from ages six to fourteen. Some of them, not connecting to the notion letters strung together represent the sounds and the words they hear in speech.

A telling moment, last night before collapsing out of physical and emotional exhaustion: unaware of the fact her trip through Russia and China will turn into a fourteen year-trek due to the Second World War,  Alexandra David-Néel   approaches a mountain in China. She’s much older now, opinionated as hell (but then, she always was). The main effect of age at this point of her narrative: she travels in a litter slung on the backs of two mules. Above her: the vision of a monastery painted in bright red and green, with yellow glazed tiles on the roof, like something out of a fairy tale. She longs to go there, but the mules keep on behind the men who circle the mountain, and get lost. Finally, the expedition reaches a monastery after night fall. She sleeps. Rises in the morning; steps outside and realizes she’s standing at the top of the mountain, in front of a red and green building with yellow glazed tiles on the roof.

This will have to do as my humorous take on the topic of pov for this morning. Miles to go before I sleep; no mules in sight; still need to check if the free shuttle will take me to my young students this afternoon, or not. Still need to find my way back into the draft, and lead my donkey brain on to the next scene, for better or much, much worse.

Dans l’Oeil du Judas

In Circus, Drafts, Music, Theater on October 28, 2012 at 7:33 am


Sorrow of the overwhelming variety. However, as a friend said while driving me home last night: “You grit your teeth.” Which is bad for tooth enamel? True.

Dans l’Oeil du Judas. The show now runs with the precision of clock work. The actors/puppeteers: exemplary. The music deserves a recording (might get one, if the funding comes through).

In the welter of impressions from the show and from the cast party that followed: the formidable work by one of the actors. A small guy, in physical terms (a useful trait, given the cramped spaces in which the manipulators navigate). The voice and the presence he gives to the puppets? A dance going on before your eyes.

The sorrow? Happens. You wake up in tears. You can make a personal story out of them, or you can see how they might get better use from one of the characters. See how to make them seem as full of human life and spirit as the rag dolls you watched last night.

Like a kid

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Food, Theater on October 27, 2012 at 6:17 am

Fernand has a new cook. Her name is Pepita and may all  her days be blessed. The revision job almost done, there was time for lunch at l’ibère. The stewed salt cod and pimento: all such things should be. Fernand looks as if he’s wearing two minds, perhaps even three, because he’s feeding the whole Théâtre du Rugissant crowd lunch and supper during the run of the show. With hands and various others, an extra twenty people to feed twice a day since Wednesday.

I saw the show when it started out in the same location on Place Bosquet. When I walked home that night, the magnolia tree in the photo above was in full bloom. I remember stopping with the sound of the milling crowd in my back and the perfect quiet ahead. The blooms were backlit from a distant street light. Just writing it down brings back the whole memory and the smile that goes with it.

Excited about seeing it again. Excited the way a small child might be, learning she’s going to something called a circus. She’s read about them; seen pictures. There’s even a small plastic record at home in a colorful cardboard cover called The Circus. The thought of seeing a real one: as thrilling as learning she’ll be part of the cover art on the record, from now on.

This time, sidewalks in front of the flower shops are temporary gardens filled with chrysanthemums. Stunning bronze-colored ones yesterday, in front of Pollen. Plus clear yellow, snow white and plum-colored ones.

I’ll be working with the children again; starting next week, and until Christmas. Whatever happens afterward, no one knows anyway, even those who think they do.

But this morning: choir rehearsal. Tonight: Dans l’oeil du Judas, as it has evolved over the run. Going back to the tent, no longer a stranger, with the added fun of seeing the ropes, knowing what they’re for (and sharing some of the stories of how they got to be there).

Plus, the draft. Always a good, exciting sign when I wake up because a character is talking to another, and I’ll miss what they’re saying if I go on sleeping.

Saving graces

In Animals, Drafts, Local projects on October 26, 2012 at 5:53 am

The word provided yesterday’s moments of lift-off and soft landing. The word, plus a huge Leonberg.

The daze persists. Revising someone else’s work can be fun if certain conditions apply. Not the case, this time. My brain in lockjaw right now.


Save for the person driving the car last night, everyone I met was huge. In fact, the person we visited is so tall, she’s had her kitchen  custom designed. I’d forgotten the experience of a small child standing at the kitchen sink, unable to reach the faucets. The dog was huge in a wonderful way. The three nurses were formidable in girth, in language and in attitude. In appearance: say, official masseuses to an Olympic weight-lifting team? In language and attitude: oops, falling into the daze again. Suffice to say I learned more than I knew existed about the dangers of various pieces of lawn furniture. Basic message:  best to lounge clothed than naked.

The word? Ah. Alula. Who knew about the uses to which birds put vestigial thumbs? “The better to grow landing gear, my child.” Where a pilot lowers the flaps on the plane, prior  to landing? Birds raise the alula (alulae?) on their vestigial thumbs.

As for the Leonberg – thank you, dog. If ever I must trek through cold terrain, I’ll make sure to bring you along.

Allez. Revision. Her thesis advisor likes sub-sub categories of the 3.1.1, 3.1.2, 3.1.3 variety, she says. Allez, brain. Fingers? allez, allez.

Limbo, revisited

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Theater on October 25, 2012 at 4:54 am

I see the truck. I see the color (maroon). I see the color of the word CIRQUE painted on the side panel (yellow with a black outline). I don’t see the name of the circus yet. Considering I’ve got the name of the dog, and of three of the members of the circus, and considering everything else going on yesterday? Not bad.

As for today: better to complain of a shortage of hours than to wonder how  you’ll make it across the featureless stretch ahead. Yes? Yes.

Important note (forgot to jot down the page number): Alexandra David-Néel’s reference to one of the purposes in the reading of the Tibetan Bardo Thodol to a deceased i.e. helping the flurry of presences we call “I” realize which one to ride the wave toward reincarnation.  Not that I “believe” in any one religious or philosophical system; some concepts grab and hold my attention, that’s all. This one does. I can imagine the scene and it makes me laugh – the “presences” either skulking away, hoping to avoid further trouble; or pushing forward “me, me, me!”; or dithering, negotiating for better treatment in the next life, and so on.


(Photo: yes! Saturday night on Place Bosquet ! Saw the show when it first started. Even better now, they tell me. Looking forward? You bet.)

And then some

In Drafts on October 24, 2012 at 7:54 am



Three words better than none; plus five, is eight.

And so on.

Ever go trekking through the woods, and realize  you were lost?

A similar feeling. Stay with the discomfort? No other choice.

Being Ridiculous

In Animals, Circus, En français dans le texte, Music on October 23, 2012 at 7:34 am

Amour-propre. Does not translate as clean love. The expression combines notions of self-esteem and self-respect. Shove both of those a few notches: you border the territories of vanity and multiple derivatives of same.

What does this have to do with humor? Simple: you laugh when you get the joke.  Easy enough when the joke is on somebody else. When the finger points at you – ah. Now we’re gaining some altitude. “That’s not funny,” you say. Meaning: my motives/reasons/justifications are on another moral plane. Others are laughable; not I.

Which, of course, is bullshit (or donkey crap, given the photo above.)

Back to the topic of humor. What holds me back in the writing? Fear of discovering I’m pointing the finger at none other than myself. My self-esteem doesn’t like that. Ah, me; first and foremost travel companion. Best handled with a healthy dose of – derision?

Here’s the thing, though: the derision is best applied by external sources. I tend to believe my own donkey when it tells me it has no intention of kicking the dog into the far-off hills.  (The little donkey above was tethered.)

Story. Why the combination mariachi/oud-playing band in my hotel room, last night? The bunch of blue cornflowers? The luggage; the crowd of unknowns? Looked like a full-blown party. In my hotel room when there I was, trying to get some serious packing done.


In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, New story on October 22, 2012 at 5:02 am

Trickier than a firefly.

Standing at the sink, washing dishes, I get it and laugh out loud. Yes! The whole thing will be funny because of the endless misunderstandings. I imagine one of the scenes, and jot down some of its essential features.

The funny part seems to get stuck back by the kitchen sink.

The one thing I wish to achieve? Spontaneous laughter. The lightening of being that happens when humor strikes, unexpected. There you are, weighted down by all the sins of commission, omission, intention – not to mention virtuel sinlets awaiting their chance for full-blown Mortal Sin status. Something happens, and you burst out laughing. Self-importance? Poof! Gone.

Which is why achieving funny is such hard work.

The characters in this draft are still busy dancing around and shape-shifting. Let them; I’ll catch a few fireflies yet. Meanwhile, Alexandra David-Néel and her adopted son Yongden have just crossed the Dokar (at some 5,412 meters) on their way to the forbidden city of Lhassa. She’s playing the role of his simple-minded mother, her face darkened with a mix of wood ash and her remaining cocoa powder. The previous night, while sleeping in the snow, they had the visit of a young leopard. Alexandra invited him to move on; after a few exploratory sniffs, he did. Hard to explain: not for a second do I doubt her story. My only question being: was the leopard small enough to fit into a bird cage?