Archive for March, 2013|Monthly archive page


In Circus, Dance, Drafts, Music, Revision on March 31, 2013 at 9:10 am

In some venues – bars come to mind – off stage consists of a cramped space in the stock room. In those instances, you tend to hide your wallet or other valuables under a case of empties and you rely on another performer to apply your makeup, if you  happen to use lipstick and eyeliner.

Not so at the local forum. True, the dressing room seemed to shrink once all the performers were in it. But the main question was, and remains: why did the architect not provide better access to the stage? Yes, the access works if you go straight from the dressing room to the wings. However, if you happen to be in the audience, you must migrate from there to the back door through the main exit; race through the rain; down back steps cleverly designed so you must step over a curb, onto a small step, then onto a larger one (no lighting provided); shake the raindrops out of your eyes; file up to the wings; then, begin your performance as if you weren’t winded or dancing in squishy shoes.

If I add that our migration from the audience to the stage reduced the spectators by a good third, I’ve ended the gripes about last night’s show. The performers and the public had a great time. The finale on Riding was a Bic-waving moment. I can barely move this morning because of various muscular aches. No problem: walking down to the market then back up again should set those right. (The same held true in Lisbon: when you think you can’t walk another step? Rest for five minutes, maximum, then walk some more.)

What else? Rap sounds great in Italian. The rapper’s two little girls were in a rapture, the tiniest one dancing in front of the stage and turning to me every so often to say: “c’est mon papa!”  and hugging herself from the delight of it all.

I managed to read through part of work-in-progress at some point before trying to get a lift and discovering my phone has died. No phone means no interruptions from people intent on selling security devices to the elderly, right? Oh, this is Easter Sunday, they wouldn’t bother me today.

Allez. I move now or the muscles will lock into the sitting position.

Sounding good. But…

In Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision on March 30, 2013 at 8:58 am

Bleary-eyed doesn’t begin to convey the feeling. The amazing part: the minute you throw yourself into the performance , the performance carries you – not the other way round. (Until you collapse from exhaustion, of course; but that part happens tomorrow.)

Did a run-through in the main hall at Le Rugissant, somewhere around midnight. With the company’s director doing his appraisal. His way: when he likes, he starts by saying something like “super”, “génial”. Pause. Everybody hangs there waiting for the “but”. Sometimes, the “but” never comes or he says: “Not for tomorrow night. Keep it like that for now. But for the next concert…”  He gets up and demonstrates a move or does a pantomime of the type of energy he has in mind.

After which he pulls out a case of top-grade beer, we do a mini-collapse, and start singing all the numbers we won’t be doing on stage tonight. The rehearsal hall is in an old tannery. The roof leaks. It did so in a rythmical patter last night. Something like the tic-ou-took-ou-touk-ou-doo-too, tic-ou-took-ou-touk-ou-doo-too back-up in Cumbia Soledad.

Daily living. Some reading from the top on the draft. Another run-through at 2 a.m, sound balance around 5. The first act goes on stage at 7. Not sure if we go on second or third.


In Drafts, Local projects, Revision on March 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

Ode to a bus driver:

Hail to Thee of the 704!

End of inspiration for ode-writing. I’ll call it A Message of Sincere Appreciation instead. Yesterday’s  bus driver on the 704 :

– greeted passengers with a genuine-sounding good morning

– when queried on return schedules, he provided up-to-date and valuable information not available online (i.e. a change in the hours); this insured the passenger’s return to her point of origin. Much, much, much appreciated

– answered the passenger’s sincere merci,monsieur with a genuine-sounding avec plaisir and

– (I saved the best for last): he did not turn on the dreaded, blasted, tinny, screechy broadcast featuring two hysterical radio announcers and their so-called musical offerings. Passengers were free to commune with their thoughts or their travelling companions; or take in the rain-drenched scenery; or listen to their own musical selections, whether uploaded on an external device, or stored in the internal hard drive.

I communed with a few travelling companions of the internal kind. One of them, intent on explaining to another the full particulars of events leading up to the slaves’ and gladiators’ revolt in Capua back in the year 73 before the Christian Era. The character didn’t mention Kirk Douglas in the role of Spartacus; he did open  up new perspectives on his sons’ attitude to their family heritage. (As a sidebar, it also had me wondering about the role Octavius played in the slaying of Julius Cesar on the Ides of March some thirty years later; this may or may not prove useful for story purposes).

As for my brief early-morning exploration of life as a bit of seaweed, it proved valuable in unexpected ways when the day turned into a fascinating display of ways in which things can screw up. The bit of seaweed’s message being: you may as well relax and soak in the sights. For all you know, you may be on the verge of getting stuck in a whale’s plankton filter – or of discovering an exhilarating ride down a stream of delight. Who’s to know ahead of time?

the next thing, then the next, then

In Drafts, Local projects, Revision on March 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

6:50. Bus leaves at 8:22 from the square. Hope the bus driver’s less bleary-eyed than I am. Hope I’ve got the return schedule right this time; that would be a bus leaving Gaillac at 13:23 or 13:25.  Hope the production house in Lebanon didn’t go belly up because of the delays in getting them their money transfer. And so on.

Next pit stop for story: tomorrow between the morning meeting and the evening rehearsal, if the energy holds out.

There was a delicious moment back there, half-way between sleep and awake. All was well. A bit like being a strand of seaweed, floating along on tiny ripples. A brief reminder the universe is unfolding, exploding and reshuffling its pieces as it keeps on doing, whether it should or not.

The bully within

In Drafts, Music, Revision on March 27, 2013 at 7:38 am

The dream: awful. A nightmare, in fact. The best part was waking up to discover I wasn’t about to serve as witness and co-conspirator to a brutal killing. (Not that all killings aren’t brutal; but some call out for the qualifier with greater force than others.)

The writing: didn’t go well. Not much went well  yesterday. One of those days where you rely on acquired habits to serve as stand-ins for spontaneous behaviour both in real life and in fiction. The way even actors must rely on technique, at times. Sad to say, not all performances leave the audience transformed and the actors humble and grateful for their time on stage.

Fast-forward to now. This is marathon day. Seven people to coach between ten a.m. and five p.m. (or eight? I forget – too many scheduling changes). Rehearsal ended way past midnight last night. Patience frays – at least, mine does – when there’s too much to do and not enough time in which to do it. Or when there’s too much to do and someone decides that’s just too bad. They’re on holiday; or they’re not working the next day, plenty of time to gab and gossip between take after take on a song. (The actual time spent in warm-up or singing: always a blessing, sore throat or no.)

At the second coaching session yesterday, things came to a hairbreadth of the two girls moving from verbal to physical  attack on one another. One of the girls mentioned a boy’s name – one common enough in their age group. The other girl assumed she knew the boy, and made ready to pounce. For the second day in a row, I had to  yell; then, turn the yelling into a ha-ha moment, and get the two of them to laugh along. Earned me a smile like a break in the clouds from one of them. Sometimes, brief smiles come at a high cost.

Which goes part of the way in explaining the nightmare. I wish I had more time available for story today, but I dont. The rest of the week doesn’t look too promising either.

The Secret Ingredient*

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision, Story material on March 26, 2013 at 8:27 am

I awake to long-ago memories of my first official outing as a Ministerial Aid. The occasion: a panel discussion on the various ills befalling Québec’s educational system. My job was to sit up on stage and take the rotten tomatoes hurled at the government by the opposing sides in the debate. Except I didn’t understand my job yet. I thought I was there to becalm the troubled waters. To show earnestness of understanding and depth of commitment to all things good.

At one point in the fray, the man sitting to my right turned toward me and, in language both more exalted and more direct, told me to stop making an ass of myself. I was there to make a showing for the absent Minister, and provide assurances he’d receive the message I’d convey back to  him, along with the traces of rotten tomato gracing my person.

What a let-down. There I was, dreaming of a full educational reform brought on by the strength of my enthusiasm and of  my commitment to fostering good will toward men (yes, women, children, plants and animals too).

The most pressing educational question in my mind, this morning: will the boy start pummelling me if I keep on   insisting he apply his mind to providing the answers? He’s worked himself into a one-trick act. It consists in mimicking the adult’s words, expressions and intonations until the adult flies into a rage and declares him un-teachable. He’s managed to get himself thrown out of school that way. Has exhausted the patience of the Big Sister assigned to help him at home (and who ended up doing his homework for him). My patience is now down to a one-hour session per week. At the fourty-five minute mark last night, I raised my voice. Shocked the staff at the new venue. All the staff, except for the cleaning lady who promised to bring in one of her seven children this afternoon. She patted my shoulder and said: “My boy’s doing well. Getting seventeen, eighteen out of twenty on his exams. You need to see some of the good ones, from time to time.”

I didn’t kiss her, except in my mind’s eye.

“We Don’t Need No Ed-yoo-Cayshun…”  Back to my thirteen-year-old friend: his brief isn’t with learning as such. He’d rather pass for a cretin than regurgitate the information he’s registered, that’s all. Which brings me back to the initial question (also applicable to one of the characters in the present story): how do you get the kid to respond with other things than obstruction and/or violence, be it verbal or physical? Do you go over the wall, under it? Do you walk away in the opposite direction to the wall? Do you send a beeping Martian explorer to fly over it? A SWAT team, perhaps.

“All in all, you’re just a-nother brick in the wall.” Says the song.

I disagree.

* No, I don’t know what it is. For the simple reason it’s never the same one.


In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Local projects, Revision on March 25, 2013 at 9:07 am

Monday morning, and the livin’ ain’t as free and easy as desired. Sigh. There’s work, for one, and all the less-than-breezy stuff attaching to it. Making a phone call to a family, for instance; one where my status has moved from good cop to main culprit. A shift that was bound to happen. Just because you understand the dynamics doesn’t mean you enjoy being scapegoat-of-the-moment. The boy doesn’t want to study; the family doesn’t want to change. Somebody else does his mail-in homework, and this earns him a favorable comment from the corrector? Proof the boy’s doing just fine, so why am I so hard on him? Besides, I keep changing the schedule, changing the venue, I don’t keep them informed, I’m not…

Etc. I’ll call later this morning about the newest change of venue. Calling early’s not a good idea. I’ll wake everybody up, adding one more strike against my person.

Change of work venue. My decision, right? Yes. Enough silliness going down already relative to the previous one. I saw the person hardest hit by the silliness yesterday. Her way of coping: writing destroy-type rap songs. My way: taking out as much of the silliness  as possible in fictional contexts. Plus, a change of work venue, since I’m no longer bound by contract to the previous one. A pity and a shame? Yes.

Ergo: long may fiction thrive. To agnostics, atheists and non-believers of my ilk, fiction serves the same purposes as churches did, back in the days when they were open to all as places of refuge. Nowadays, they’re locked of course. Only the vicar has a key, and since the vicar handles five or six parishes at once, don’t expect to sneak inside during quiet times, be it to light a candle, commune with the resident deity or commit silliness in the empty confessional or up behind the organ. Bums and hobos sleeping on the benches? Is nothing sacred anymore?  It’s all gone to the dogs, hasn’t it?

The real-life dog: same level of limping as yesterday. The visit to the vet gets put off for another twenty-four hours. Time not spent on work-related issues gets re-allocated to food shopping, plus finding the appropriate lead-in to the next scene up for revision.

Apart from which I’m in excellent spirits, although I wouldn’t mind the rain moving on to other places in need of some.


In Artists, Circus, Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision on March 24, 2013 at 8:28 am

The show at the local auditorium last night was in two parts. At intermission, the performers set up a temporary bar on their tiny stage and served fruit juice to the public. Prominent in the crowd: the small, vocal and vigorous minority of newcomers to the town – jugglers, trapeze artists, singers, actors, sculptors, painters, and their children.

The writer couldn’t have wished for a better second half to the show than the performance on slack rope she saw. Sitting in the front row, I paid attention to it the same way the jugglers analyzed every move made by the performer in the first part of the program.

At the break and after the show, the everyday-me took in some of the latest local news. A lot of it, disheartening if you let yourself drift into the main channels of dis-. Discouraged, disheartened, disenchanted, disillusioned. A crowded yet lonely neighborhood. Disenchantment has its seductive aspects. I don’t often listen to adolescent lament songs these days, but in underlying mood, they mustn’t be all that different from My Little Runaway, or All Alone Am I,  or Why Must I Be A Teen-Ager in Love – the battle hymns to which I listened at age twelve or thirteen, on a transistor radio tuned down to its lowest volume, and stuck under a pillow along with my own head. One of the songs in the movie Django Unchained has something of the same effect on me, as I discovered on the car ride to and from Portugal.

Adolescent angst and disorientation aren’t the most fun places to re-visit. Which may be a good reason why parents freak out so much when their own kids hit the irrational up-down-sideways zone. Not too many people handle adolescence with grace and ease. At one point in  his performance last night, the acrobat used his slack rope as a hammock. Lay down on it, hands behind his head, and rocked back and forth on it. Better yet, he then got back up again and played other impressive games with the laws of gravity and inertia. (He performs on a rope set about a half-foot off the ground; a wise choice.)

As for the mien and storyline adopted by the performer in the first half: no matter their political leanings or gender orientation, everyone in the audience could relate to the guy, alone in his tiny camper and giving life to the objects around him; then stepping outside to mail himself a letter he’d just penned, in which his old girlfriend and juggling partner said she was coming back.

Making something worthwhile out of the hearbreaks and failures; dropped juggling pins, broken bones, broken dreams  – all the messy stuff.

Sorting through mixed bags, you know when you find the prizes

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Film, Revision, Story material on March 23, 2013 at 8:36 am

At Les Vidéophages, last night : The longest showing ran to seventeen minutes. The shortest: one minute forty. Some duds, eliciting “m-ouais” from a few members of the audience or, even worse, protracted silence that prompted the reaction: “So; moving right along, we have…”

Too bad for the failed attempts – or, as one of them prompted me to say: “Now that he’s gotten that out of his system, I’m looking forward to what he’ll do next.”

The delightful moments: a short done in nineteen-oh-seven, called Kiriki, les acrobates japonais. (You can find it on the web. The original was hand-colored, frame by frame. The existing copy: recolored the same way from a surviving b&w original.) Two other shorts done by the pioneer film maker Alice Guy – who started as a typist at Gaumont and ended up producing more films than Georges Méliès.  Helped when Gaumont stopped asking her to do the typing first, the filming second. Shades of those years: the Alice Guy tribute put out on disc by Gaumont that places her first film contribution in nineteen hundred – four full years after her first production. Why? So as not to tamper with the well-established reputations of other film makers. And so it goes; at least, her name is out there again.

Another delightful moment, not yet available: the latest done by Letellier as director and Bertrand Lenclos as – well, as just about everything else. The documentary Mode Evasion won’t find a distributor before the Ministry of Justice clears it for commercial viewing. This despite the fact the inmates gave full authorization to the filming and distribution of the short. Actual filming took two-and-one-half days, recording a group  of female inmates’ runway experience inside the jail with professional fashion designers, makeup artists and other stylists. It was way past midnight, and I was about to leave just before it ran. I’m glad I stayed.

Revision in story: getting the right tone, the right distance, the right blend of elements. Getting fiction  up where it should be i.e. to the place of delicious enthrallment or as close as I can get it.

Oy. Almost forgot Topor’s Les Escargots, brought along to the showing by one of the local circus artists. The final scene? Delicious. Here: have a carrot.

Must be the season of

In Animals, Drafts, Local projects, Music, Revision on March 22, 2013 at 8:13 am

The signs: as clear as yesterday’s weather announcing spring, but not as pleasant. Electioneering doesn’t have much to recommend it when it comes to fostering truth and concord.

The question is anything but rethorical: how do you fight clean when the opponent doesn’t? How do you counter nasty rumors or deliberate fabrications designed to undermine reputations and foster intolerance and hypocrisy as political agendas?

Years ago, I walked away from active political involvement. I don’t regret the years I spent in the fray. Some lessons can’t be learned in books. The big question now, both as a member of my present community and as a writer: how best to live my own life, and how best to affirm my own preferences while respecting other people’s rights to do the same; how best to navigate the places where irrationality – my own or that put out by others – produces confusion, fear and suffering for their own sake, or for the sake of attacking bogus threats to Nation, Country, and Way of Life.

The scene has stayed with me for over sixty years: the lovely summer evening when I stepped out from supper with a treat for an errant dog. When I approached, he flew up toward my face. My own hand flew up in protection. I escaped with a nip and a huge heartache. I couldn’t know the kids standing around had been goading the dog with sticks. What I remember most is the tremendous dismay I experienced at the disconnect between my intentions and the animal’s reaction.