Archive for June, 2013|Monthly archive page

Making sense

In Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Revision on June 30, 2013 at 8:10 am

Of all the reading I did yesterday, the most useful in immediate terms: Boris Cyrulnik’s  Sauve-toi, la vie t’appelle, borrowed from the médiathèque. Combining his personal experiences and his training as a neuropsychiatrist, he does a fabulous job on the topic of memory. What we remember,  how we remember. What we share with others. What others make of our words. How we modulate our words, depending on how the listeners react.

Making sense. Creating sense out of a welter of contradictory bits of information, or events too confusing or overwhelming for a straightforward narrative.

Hard work. Scary, at times, absurd at others. False starts, dead ends, “the mute speaking to the deaf”, as Cyrulnik writes at one point.

And yet. We are stories.  Stories as shields. Stories as hiding places. Stories as theater. Stories as gifts to ourselves and to others.


Leaving the comfort zones

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision on June 29, 2013 at 7:45 am

She’s a slow walker; so am I. She smokes; I don’t. We had just walked away from a young artist’s explanations about the origins of his creativity; the conceptual gridwork on display; not to mention the contextualized nature of the installation. Asked to explain this last bit (contextualization), it turned out everything he used in the installation was found on the grounds, or under them. He didn’t bring in a single thing from anywhere else.

She rolled up yet another cig; hacked and hacked. “Where’s the passion, that’s what I want to know,” she said.

One of the advantages of living alone: you accept invitations into worlds other than your own (or you settle down in front of a TV set, maybe, except I don’t own one.) Visiting worlds other than your own can take you to places you find odd and/or disturbing. You meet people who find you odd, disturbing or despicable in ways you can’t begin to analyze (but must investigate). You listen in to conversations – wacky, trite, pretentious, boring and/or funny. Watch a bit of your contribution to the mix float out with no takers.

Sit in drizzling rain on a bench, outside the open window to a kitchen where five men discuss the Meaning of it All. A book on the small table in front of you. A history of the pianoforte, translated from the German. You turn to the open window. Hand the book to one of the men, to get it out of the rain. Recognize him as the pianist in a trio called Anticyclone.

What stays with you? The verbiage of a twenty-year-old, keen on displaying his command of four and five-syllable words? Or the unexplained venom in someone’s eyes, in response to your smile and your “hi, how are you?”


All the in-between time

In Animals, Circus, Film, Hautvoir, Music, Revision, RLB trivia on June 28, 2013 at 5:57 am

No time for much of anything, this morning. A bus to catch, a lawyer to meet in another town, lots of time on waiting in order to do things for which I have no taste, but must do anyway.

The oddities. The unanswered questions. The doubts. All the bits that don’t fit. I’m talking here about real life. In story, some of them get squeezed in or magnified or morphed into something that does fit some purpose – dramatic, humorous, inspiring some emotional response other than constant bewilderment.

In dream, a small black dog (a local denizen serving as template), breaking through the gate and dashing my camera down on the concrete. I woke up, walking down the winding stairs of a living space in Montreal to get some sense of the damage done to it. In real life, a local film maker showing up at a meeting last night with her repaired filming camera. Holding it on my lap for the drive home.

Finding the time for what matters most. Having to fritter so much of it on things that don’t.


9:22 am : enough to drive a body nuts.

I check the posted bus schedule three times for good measure. Walk down to the bus stop with some lead time, just in case. Discover a new bus schedule posted on the square, but not on the website.

The good news: I get my day back for writing purposes.

The trying part: not for the first time – far from it – I get the sense I entered life on the up-ramp to the wrong side of the road. Makes for interesting times figuring out why all those other drivers are honking and waving their fists at me. Even more interesting ones, trying to cross over into the lanes I should be travelling.

Lord, give me strength. Lord, give me loads more patience than what I first set out with.

When I start praying to entities in which I don’t believe, I’m running on thin reserves indeed.

Stage props

In Animals, Circus, Current reading, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision, Theater on June 27, 2013 at 7:01 am

Poor crocodile. The dreamer woke just in time to save him. He was mistaking himself for an underwater torpedo aimed at a large ship. Speeding to his demise the way cartoon characters stretch out as their speed accelerates before they go splat flat into the ground.

I’m not having an easy time of it with this draft.

Although the writing makes for slow reading, the slow reading makes for interesting finds. I’m referring to Joël Cramesnil’s La Cartoucherie une aventure théâtrale. The decisive encounters, such as the visit of New York’s Bread and Puppet Theater at the Nancy Theater Festival in the late sixties and early seventies. The movement away from conventional theater halls into street theater; transferring the split-screen experience to venues where several scenes are played at once, the audience moving at will from one to another and building a personalized story instead of sitting through a set piece.

Is any of this useful for immediate writing purposes? I don’t know. You explore a lot of dead ends in a lifetime; in writing, as much as in any other venture. Lose the trail. Follow a promising lead that peters out. Stop. Look. Listen.

I listen to whatever music starts up in my head. Or to whatever repetitive word or sentence starts looping and insisting I pay attention. Right now, I’m hearing the song Silbo Gomero by Feloche. Where the whistler will take me next? No idea.

The tougher ones

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision on June 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

The tougher ones to “get” in story: the ones that come closest to the idealized image you  have of yourself or of   people  you admire. Of yourself as you might wish others to see you, for example, even if your mirror, your general practionner  and common sense tell you otherwise. You want those characters’ flaws to appear charming foibles. You want to make excuses for them. You want to believe their every intention is good, even when their every execution misses the mark by a nautical  mile. You want the reader to love them as much as you do. Of course, the reader couldn’t care less about what you want. For all  you know, the people you admire or aspire to resemble cause violent allergies in the reader.

In story, nice people raise suspicion. Why so pleasant? Why so accommodating? Why so willing to submit to the slings and arrows? What does he/she have to hide?

The squirm factor. What causes it in story? Where? Why? Who’s getting off too easy? Who’s getting hit too hard? More to the point: how much is the writer willing to come off as the nasty if a reader doesn’t draw the line between fiction and reality?

As things stand now, the character makes her first appearance while taking a life-changing decision. Why is she making it at that point? The big five-oh is looming. A now or never reflex. All right. Then what? What carries forward, what falls away, what stands revealed?

(addendum to blogpost, some fifteen minutes later): maybe, for one, this character needs to come off as a lot more clueless than what I’ve made her appear to be.

By order of appearance

In Animals, Circus, Collage, Drafts, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Revision, Theater on June 25, 2013 at 8:08 am

Shuffling and reshuffling the order of the scenes. Who comes on first, second, third, fourth. Do the stories follow in strict time sequences, or does each one take time at the pace of the characters in that specific story – like pieces of a mosaic where all the edges aren’t a perfect match. They have to be somewhat out of sync, if the characters are living the events from their perspective, and not from some privileged viewing point out in space. Slow, tricky work.

Starting next week, and through July: down to three hours of coaching per week; none in August. Three days on a magician’s workshop. Two concerts and two days of street artists’ performances downtown. Story, story, story.

The girl on the bridge, yesterday. Spends her days wandering through town. Slow of mind, unattractive of body, young. “I lost my favorite uncle,” she wails in my direction, and falls into my arms. I don’t know if she is a blood relative of the man who died on Saturday; not the issue. I pat her shoulder, say something soothing. She straightens up. “You wouldn’t have a cigarette?” No, I don’t smoke anymore, I tell her. It doesn’t do a body that much good you know. She looks confused. Laughs. Gives me a huge kiss on the cheek and wanders off to whatever will grab her attention next.

Then, the eight-year old who finally gets it, and plays Mr Macho Man, like I’m the dummy who never caught on multiplying by two means adding two every single time you up the first number.

Sure, I still laugh at other dummies. But with all the trouble I’m having getting a piece of fiction to sound right, there’s a feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood at play, even in the moments of deepest exasperation.

Still. There’s the matter of those scratches on the man’s… no, this piece of real life belongs to story.  Especially since the man’s appearance fits one of the characters; same as finding the perfect item for a costume can make the part in a play.

His name is Arthur

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision on June 24, 2013 at 6:25 am

“I don’t get it,” she said. Neither do I. Makes no difference. You cast forward in a river, don’t you? You cast backwards, the hook gets tangled in the trees. Therefore: Kadima. Davaï. The future acts in strange ways is the best I can say.

We were visiting a piece of property she owns. Part of a house her mother bought downtown. A fixer-upper. Prior to fixing up the interior, there’s the pesky matter of the leak. The leak starts somewhere in the hills behind City Hall. As they say: a stream used to run down to the river below. It still does except it goes by the name of leak, now. Women used to do their washing here, and folks used to carry home water from the spigots in the fountain. The spigots are gone; the brick arches remain. They form the base of tumble-down steps leading to a concrete slab, the makings of a future terrace. Experts expected this week for a meeting concerning the leak. (We crossed under the bridge to go back up to the street. The leak, much in evidence on the wall and the cracked steps leading up to street level. Streams are tough little critters.)

While considering the purchase of a red feather boa at a garage sale yesterday, I received a long, considered look from a tall twelve-year old boy. There followed a long and considered conversation about jazz. He’d spotted me as one of the singers he’d heard at the médiathèque. His favorite in the repertoire. It Don’t Mean a Thing. J’aime les trucs jazzy,” he said. Giving me this brief glimpse into his inner world flustered him so much, the long conversation ended then and there. (I decided against the boa; chose the print of the Tortoise and the Hare instead. The animal declaring the winner? A ferret, I think.)

Sadness over the death of someone I didn’t know well, but appreciated. Part of the mix, this morning. So is the bagful of red clown noses, and the large clown doll now sitting on a stack of manuscripts in my library, after making several friends during his ride through the market place. The clown: made by a local woman. Her husband crafted the rag doll’s leather shoes. A woman passing by when I acquired the clown, responded to the call for a godparent. “His name is Arthur and I’m his godmother,” she said.  Arthur it is.

Collage – impressions

In Animals, Artists, Circus, Collage, Dance, Drafts, Film, Hautvoir, Music on June 23, 2013 at 8:27 am

The buddies from the plant? Would have had just such a band, and his dad would have played in it.Rock & Roll from the old school. Blowing the week away, playing to the dreams. You lay your fingertips on the tin surface to the outside bar: it vibrates to the sound waves. Strangers smile. A young guy with dancing in his blood grabs hold of a woman much taller than he is. They dance so well together, everybody stands back to watch the miracle.

In the car, talk about a film maker or two. One of them starting to make a name for  himself. Another still in school. A story about the whistled language from the Canary Islands. Languages. Out comes the pen for a quick scribble. We sing for a handful of people, out in a soccer field overlooking the hills. “I’m going to sing for the trees over there,” a friend says. “They’re just too beautiful.”

The percussionist for Dadou el Oued joins us for the Chant de la Paix – six minutes and fifteen seconds of suspended time.

On the drive home, we sing. Every small village has a band or two still celebrating La Fête de la Musique. Talent levels? Muy, muy variable. Decibels: on average, way too much amp. Today, some neighbors will complain. Tomorrow, some will call their local authorities. “Couldn’t sleep, a disgrace, I pay property taxes, if this keeps up…”

On the final number of the last gig, a young guy with dancing in  his blood grabbed hold of a friend of mine. They danced so well together, everybody stood back to partake in the miracle.

“For Jonas to swallow”*

In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision, Theater on June 22, 2013 at 7:08 am

This morning, the weather hovers around inclement. Tonight’s performance? Outdoor venue. Let’s take this one step at a time.

Maybe I should add the word Mess as a category. The word describes the state of the draft right now as various forces within the psyche (whatever a psyche may be) wrestle with the durn critter. The image of a match between a man and a large boa constrictor comes to mind. Some stories look cute enough at birth; others, damn  ugly but the relatives say he/she will grow into a fine specimen. This one started off as a wrestling match. A squawler. A bawler. Given to waking the parent at unearthly hours. You want a bottle? No! A diaper change? No! A hug, a lullaby, a jolly jumper? No! No! No!

In dreamtime, two people were sorting through garbage. Decent sorts; people recycle over here. Even the finest of the fine rinse out their cans, tins, plastic containers, and plonk them into one bin; their paper and cardboard in another; their glass jars, in a third; and their plastic wraps in another. One character was sorting through one end of the room. The other was going through mountains of flimsy plastic bags, and stuffing them down in a larger one.

Given the state of the draft right now? Apt. Will some of the pieces find their rightful companions at day’s end? We (the overall me + the writer) hope so for our own sake.

Meanwhile, the mystery: five minutes or even thirty seconds before showtime, energy levels so low I can’t see myself pulling it off, this time. We start on the first number; run through the repertoire. At one point, the bare feet on concrete cramp up something fierce; the voice carries on. After the third encore, walk to the backstage area, limping, then inch my way home. Too tired to eat. Rest a bit, then tear into the draft. Leave it alone when the mess stops making sense. Sleep.

Now, to find out what  happens next.

Title: a line from a song in the repertoire, written by Natacha Muet for a show by Théâtre du Rugissant called “La Peur au Ventre” (Fear in the Belly). The full line: “My song forever shall record the terrible hour when a great fish was done by Lord for Jonas to swallow.”

It not being clear this morning which, of Jonas or of the great fish, swallows the other.

Allez  hop.


In Animals, Circus, Drafts, Hautvoir, Music, Revision on June 21, 2013 at 6:51 am

Notes to myself yesterday about the story:

– too much information provided by too many characters crowding into the space; not enough breathing space for me-as-reader to take in what’s going on. If me-as-reader can’t manage, pity the poor other who never came close to me-as-writer.

– perspective (shading): getting some sense  in the text of the differences in how people act when they’re with others vs how they behave when they’re alone or on stage or dreaming.

– which of the characters are expendable i.e. their disappearance unclutters the storyline and puts the spotlight on the main purpose to it all

– what is the main purpose to it all? As best I can state it outside of story: capturing something of that elusive quality of pleasant suspension when, no matter how fraught  or silly or boring or frustrating the circumstances may be, an unexpected element comes along. That something becomes the focal point because it – animate or inanimate object – does not conform to the rules or to the conventions set in place. It generates surprise. Things aren’t what they seem, outcomes aren’t pre-determined, conclusions anything but foregone. The paradigm must shift to accommodate that element. No matter how trivial it may appear, it is   non-negotiable and non-expendable.