Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Almost drowning doesn’t count

In Animals, Drafts, Music, New story on July 31, 2013 at 7:06 am

My sixty-seventh birthday in September. A few other people in the loose bubble I call “my crowd” also have September birthdays. One of them will premier a new show that month. Therefore, the party needs to happen early in the month. Party?  I’ve decided to hold one.

Simple? Please. Let’s start with venue. My place: not suited to the kind of vigorous singing and dancing that often break out when several people decide they’ve had enough sitting around. Who to invite? Everybody, and let the dice roll and fall as they want. A lot of snip-snip amongst the crowd. You talk with this one means you’re against that other one. Or you go on seeing both parties in a messy estrangement: who can trust you? Or: you refuse to let somebody’s bad mood (or your own) define once and for all who and what the person’s all about.

Crowds. In fact, circles upon circles, some with overlap, some without. At the moment, I seem to be persona non grata with someone who was all smiles with me only a few weeks ago. Someone else who’d been ignoring me with pointed deliberation decided I’d survived her personal litmus test. And so on.

Who will show up at the party in September. Which of the couples will have broken up or reconciled? Who will be those who’ll have vowed to never, ever, ever be on speaking terms again? Who will be the new kid in town, trying to read the signals and understand the jokes?

Last night, after keeping a promise to myself, I sent one of my sisters the Swimming Song by The McGarrigle Sisters. What will happen to the parcel I mailed; how it will be received. I’ll know when it gets there. In the meantime, I’ll go on singing the Swimming Song, and work at failing better with a new story than I did with the previous one.

In case anyone hasn’t figured it out yet: I’m one hell of a stubborn donkey. One among several of my most endearing traits.

Any simpler would get boring

In Animals, Drafts, Food, Hautvoir, I Ching, New story, Synopsis on July 30, 2013 at 6:32 am

Messy? You tell me:

The lobster paella’s cooked. The man doesn’t have an oven mitt. No problem, he’s only going to grab the pan off the stove and swing it on to the table. Ah-ha.


Wouldn’t you know it? One of the  lobsters? Still as ornery and as blue as the day it first became a lobster.  Escapes over the edge of the pan, and trots off (skitters, to be precise), trailing cooked rice, tomato sauce, and bits of red pepper stuck to its shell. Disappears under the kitchen armoire and – zioup! just like that – into the next room.

The man’s still holding a burning pan full of cooked lobster and rice, remember. He does a complicated dance step – something like spinning on a surface the size of a dime – and manages to land the pan of paella on the window ledge. Where it morphs into a jar I’ve seen in another location involving paella. Which is something of a giveaway concerning the real-life origins of the dream.

The dreamer wakes with the knowledge one feisty lobster has survived ordeal by paella pan and now hunkers in the next room. Catching the beast should involve a mighty rodeo. Let’s call him/her The Lobster That Wouldn’t Stay Cooked. Let’s state further that said lobster is a new story in the making. This being the case, the cooked (and, no doubt, delicious) paella with cooked and savoury lobster is now at eating temperature. Wonderful. Let’s call it the finished story. Great.

But in the awake world? The writer still hasn’t figured out how to get the formatting done. You know, the f-f-f-f-eature that allows to drop in writer’s name and story title on the top right-hand side of each page?

Frustration is my Destiny.

In clicking on categories, I’m reminded I once wrote something called The Crab Walker; I now have The Walking Crab hunkered down and ready for me, except the crab is now a lobster. (The cooked one? Saffron in the tomato sauce. Paella to be eaten with a spoon. Dixit Rosa: “What’s the point of making the sauce delicious if  you cook it dry?”)

The day off then what next syndrome

In Animals, Hautvoir, Local projects, New story, Revision, Synopsis on July 29, 2013 at 5:54 am

We glomped on an assortment of old blankets and beach towels. Watched the children wade in the water, climb trees and act silly. We glomped some more. A healthy portion of the glomping time was spent trying to remember at least one of Demis Roussos’ greatest hits. We failed. (I just looked them up; not one of the titles started up music in my head. Fame. Ah, me.)

Prior to glomping at La Bancalié, I found my first customer for the workshops starting in September. Given the sociable nature of the first customer, I expect her to round up a few other participants. Given the town in which I live, the writing we’ll produce won’t have much to do with dreams of prizes, Pulitzer, Goncourt or other. Befriending a good old writing instrument; ignoring the internalized grade school teacher yelling you’re no good you’re no good you’re no good, baby you’re no good –  or yelling back. Acting silly on paper. Trying out different ways to play with words. A lot of the people I know and like are as scared of words as they are of vagrant dogs. They give their fears different names; most of them boil down to the you’re no good playing in their head.

One of  yesterday’s glompers stared out at the lake. “I like nature,” he said, “if there’s not too much of it.” He visualized a large and ugly collection of low rental housing towers on the opposite side of the lake and felt better about the scene, then and there.

We’d forgotten all about someone else who was supposed to join us. He showed up on his own. Swam for so long, we almost forgot him all over again. Even with all of us at water’s edge yelling “we’re leaving now!”, he kept on swimming. So we had to stay a bit longer in case he got swallowed by a catfish overnight. He came back. We cheered him. Then, we went home.

Reading through; checking for typos, margins, etc. A paper print-out?

The morning after the show

In Circus, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, Synopsis, Visual artists on July 28, 2013 at 7:12 am

We talked about her trip, of course – her first time in North America; New York and Montréal.  My recollections of times spent there. Her reactions to those same places. The professional quality of the young actors in a Broadway musical that left her astounded. “You realize X and Y would never make it in New York,” she said. Which lead into a discussion of – among other things – the relative merits of the French systems vs the North American ways of funding the arts; and talk about immediate futures. Her moving on to full-time management of a local theater group; the prospects for the ongoing existence of the association she’s leaving and my own questions about the viability of said collective.

Writing, painting, dancing, music making. The doing. The messiness involved. The ups and downs. The so-so reviews; the scathing put-downs; the thundering silences. The doing, and doing, and doing.

Of course, my closest friends here knew I was writing a piece of fiction. I’d never mentioned the title I use for it before last night. Standing outside in the rain while the band played; talking with a musician who’s a month away from a pre-premiere – a public rehearsal, if you like. She repeated the title a few times. I watched her face. She said something so fine, it gets stored in those places where you keep the better nuggets you peek at, from time to time.

Rain. Cooler today; a blessing. Whether it will clear enough for a planned outing in late afternoon, I don’t know. The market; time spent with the story; giving it time to resonate in me so I can say what’s best to say about it to all or sundry who may want to know.

Notes from items not listed on the agenda

In Dance, Local projects, Music, Revision, Theater, Visual artists on July 27, 2013 at 7:21 am

A comment by one of the participants at yesterday’s meeting. We were talking about someone else. Someone for whom all those in attendance experience a good measure of affection and a fair amount of annoyance.  The annoyance springing from a stance this person adopts in all circumstances.  His trademark, so to speak. One participant says: “But don’t you think he plays the curmudgeon, knowing that’s what everyone expects from  him?” – “Maybe,” someone else answered. “But you play the same attitude all the time, you end up forgetting it’s an act.”

The rest of the meeting – the annoyances, the breakthroughs and the absurdities that erupt when conversations take off in all directions: all of these will provide fodder both in daily life and in fiction. The comment recorded  in the first paragraph holds my attention for the moment. You play the same attitude all the time, you forget it’s an act. Meaning you act as if the attitude were the basic truth about you in all circumstances. As if you were The Curmudgeon or The Ditzy Blonde or The Thinker, The Healer, The Candlestick Maker or The Adulterous Woman Jesus Met at the Well.

Puppets. (Part of the discussion at the meeting involved space requirements for the making of, drying times and clearance space surrounding half-finished ones, storage space, etc.) Character traits and attitudes. Physical features and costume. Names.

The unending pulls and struggles between polar opposites. The challenges you take on. The ones you avoid. How and why.

Let us turn our thoughts to cooler climes

In Revision on July 26, 2013 at 6:06 am

The heat yesterday. Reminded me of a day in Rome, then of another. The first, while on a three-month solitary trek through Europe; the second, on my way to a meeting with colleagues. The airline had lost our luggage. Spent four days wearing the same skirt. The heat was such, the rayon lining on it disintegrated. One of my colleagues’ eyes – and some aspects of his personality – inspire bits of a fictional character. But all characters start off as bits and oddments of people known, or seen or remembered for one reason or another.

More heat. The air hasn’t cooled down overnight inside the apartment. The heat now the main force and presence to contend with. There’ll be a broiling descent down to a meeting thrown into the mix, this afternoon. Man, not letting the heaviness take over? One massive struggle.

When energy allows, I settle the books in the new layout for the work space aspect of my home. Where I had them sorted out by the writers’ country and  language, I’m now grouping them by subject – history, sociology, poetry, etc.

What started out as a revision for typos and repetitions has turned into something else, of course. A closer look at the characters, for one. I wish the heat weren’t so oppressive while I zoom in on them. They all could use a bit of a lighter touch. Hard to achieve when the best a ventilator can do is a remix of the overheated molecules I’m sharing with my dog.

Church and Party influences in the slogan-type title here. At least, the chapels were always several degrees cooler than the classrooms. Let’s see. More self-hypnosis: cool, ice, fresh breeze – oops, not that cool,  with pleasant scents thrown in please – plus a bit… ah. Perfect.


In Radio, Revision, Synopsis on July 25, 2013 at 6:38 am

This time: Will I, won’t I make it through my own self-produced obstacles. I don’t know. The mood, not great, this morning; that part, familiar enough. Self-doubt, self-deprecation, self pep talks that don’t cut through the massive self-wall sending back the opposite of the inner cheerleaders’ and coaches’ – not to mention real-life friends’ –  rah-rah-rahs.

When all else fails and there’s no escape: move the furniture around. Real furniture in a real apartment. Let the You Are Such A Failure/You Are Such A Fool crap boom out in your head. Sometimes, there’s no point in trying to change the dial on the inner radio. Wait for the crap to play itself out with all its trebles and warbles. Sweat like a hog. Wake up to books all over the place, more decisions about where to put this, and what to do with that. Ignore the mirror. Get a grip. Go on reading through your own stuff after admiring the many ways in which other writers managed to wrestle their imps and demons to the ground. Sense of humor, huh? Hello? Calling on sense of humor. Sense of humor requested at the main desk.

Nobody else can do it for you. Finding a way to make that turn into something other than: I’ll never, ever make it on my own.

Or, if that’s impossible, changing I’ll Never Make It into something you can ball up and play with before aiming it toward the nearest real life waste paper basket, and moving on. (Waste paper basket : In dire need of emptying; in fact, overflowing at this point.)

Plus, a note in brown ink on yellow foolscap

In Synopsis on July 24, 2013 at 7:17 am

Which of Kazantzakis’ words I daubed on the wall in red paint, that day, I don’t remember. I remember the act. I remember the compelling need to see the words cover the white wall in urgent red.

The exact words by Pasternak I scrolled on to a green wall,  years later? Also forgotten, save for the fact they mentioned the glance out of a horse’s eye.

The note taped to the wall in the Jayco? A quote from Dante, plus seven words in French, by me.

The one I remembered last night – with the different spins of an additional line: the Stephen Crane exchange between a man and the Universe. Taped to another wall, years before the Jayco. The first words I saw when I woke. “A man said to the Universe: Sir, I exist! – However, replied the Universe, the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation.”

Fast-forward to last night. The man laughs. Because you think I don’t know that? the man says. You’ve got this ass backwards, Universe. I’m not asking you for anything you’re not providing me in spades already.  I’m telling you something. You listen; you don’t; up to you.

Private conversations with other authors’  takes on the universe may not be the shortest approach to writing a synopsis, although starting wide, you can always restrict the view as you go along.

Reading through notes I took while in Portugal, bits overheard from people speaking languages I understood. Plus the magnificent quote from Stéphane Hessel (20.10.1917 – 27.2.2013): “Linconvénient de la morale, c’est qu’elle est toujours celle des autres.”  Translating inconvénient by inconvenience doesn’t cut it. Think more in terms of an adaptation that says morality’s main disadvantage lies in always being someone else’s.

What do I want to say to perfect strangers first encountering this thing I call a story? What does the story have to say about itself?

The Plane Landed on Schedule

In Drafts, Revision on July 23, 2013 at 5:50 am

Anxiety. Expectation of negatives. “I promise you he’s not in trouble,” the woman says over the phone. Sub-text: I know you expect him to get into trouble, I expect the same thing, but I promise you, both of us are wrong this time. (Or, I promise you the trouble he’s in right now won’t amount to anything worth mentioning.)

Anxiety. Stage fright. In either case, a fear of other people’s negative judgment about you or yours or your work.  Or a fear about an outcome. A specific chemical reaction. Something sets off the alarm. As long as the chemicals course through the system, they induce variations on the theme of anxiety – from tiny flutter to full-blown panic attack.

Any way to modify the pattern? Yes. Several, in fact. Story is one of them. Whose story. How told. To whom. How received. The negatives: how treated. (Same questions apply to anxiety resulting from positives, except the system tends to discount those as taking care of themselves. In fact, the system turns them into negatives in a jiffy. Ah. The comfort of the familiar.)

Precious little time spent outside. Six thirty am: the sun clearing the trees; closing windows, lowering shutters. Then : Walk the dog. Read. Explore the places that surprise me in what characters do or say, be they my own or someone else’s. Do my characters have anything else they wish to add? Is the story  (not to mention the writer) ready to deal with whatever awaits – good, bad and/or indifferent?

Title: what do you mean? Whose plane? What do I need to know it landed on schedule for? You’re hiding something from me. There was a crash, and you don’t want to tell me. Who was onboard? My whole family, right? That’s what you’re… landed. Where? Whose schedule?


Rigoletto, on a fading radio signal

In Current reading, Drafts, Music, Poetry, Radio, Revision on July 22, 2013 at 7:27 am

This one is tricky. Getting the proportions right. A mother given to grand opera and grandiloquence; a tone deaf Latinist for a father, sibling rivalry, History in capital letters as official excuse and alibi to every piece of nonsense. An easy one to treat as a spoof. The mawkish sentimentality, for one.Yet, despite appearances, he’s been successful in business. Not enough contrast between the discordant elements in his personal cocktail. No trace of the one he could have been.

Several pages of the Fellini par Fellini with bent corners, this morning. Late reading with windows thrown open to the night, voices of people attempting to cool off. Persistent and irritating drone from a helicopter circling the town for over an hour. I consider comic actors benefactors of humanity, Fellini says. Bringing people carefree entertainment, good humor, making them laugh, what a marvelous trade: how I would have loved to be as sympatique as they. Laurel, Hardy, Keaton, those were my idols, and not at all Garbo, Cooper, Gable… My first encounter with the Marx Brothers, a case of love at first sight.

A difficult piece of writing from within the character. A tendency to attempt an ironic distancing  instead of letting the irony express itself without any winks or other cues  from the writer.