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Archive for the ‘Local projects’ Category

When nothing works out as you’d intended

In Absurdlandia, dreams, Local projects, proto drafts, Rejection, Uncategorized on July 19, 2016 at 9:02 am

lots of ways to chip away at someone’s self-confidence. Lots. Anonymity allows for lots more. Add the “hark, who goes there?” factor to it and  you can do a mighty fine job – something like the psychological equivalent of earth tremors. Is the ground moving? Will it grow to a rumble? Will your entire life’s work crash or dissolve or pale into insignificance? Are you being overly sensitive? Is it all your own fault anyway, etc. Upbringings rich in guilt education make for extra-favorable ground to self-inflicted doubt. Fighting the paralysis when it creeps in – how best to.

Move the limbs. Move the fingers. Refuse, refuse the verdict – be it self-administered or someone else’s take on who you are, what you mean, why you said or did not say, why you did or did not do.

The world’s a crazy place and not about to get saner.

Tenir debout dans le chaos. Just because it’s your life and you’re not about to be handed another.

How this will translate in fiction? No idea. None. Right now, the whole project feels as lifeless and useless as a dead fish left to feed the flies under a pier. I’ve no doubt this too shall pass, because that’s what feelings do. Pushing out and out, and out some more. Taking time out to say hey, me, whereto now? Nothing works out the way you expected, does it?

Whereto now.

Vacuum filled with bits

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, Local projects on July 18, 2016 at 7:44 am

I’m pulled away from my morning rituals by the sound of the vacuum cleaner downstairs. The boy is back and he’s decided he’s in the mood for housecleaning. Which is a lot better than being in an angry and surly mood, granted, but so much for morning, noon and evening rituals.

Moving over to a friend’s house for a week of dog sitting, among other community services. If life choices were like cafeteria offerings, this summer wouldn’t feature as my automatic reach-for-your-favorite.

Will I get back to fiction some day? Maybe, but in the meantime life is being pretty intrusive.

 

Frustration – dealing with

In A post to keep afloat, Absurdlandia, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts on July 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

Such are the ways of internet that I learn of grief and carnage further south here in France from an email received from Canada. The grief and carnage (and looming rage, revenge and so on): undeniable. But I have more immediate and local concerns centering around a group of teenagers – and one in particular – so you might say that, for the moment, the immediate looms large enough to counterbalance the further down the road.

The title summarizes the predominant feature in the inner landscape this morning. Frustration at not getting through to a frustrated teen ager. Of the group, he’s the one most at risk of falling in with the wrong friends. The one most in need of structure and of someone playing the role of a father figure or older brother. Obviously, I am neither of those.

Unseasonably cold weather. The proto draft on chill too, for no other reason than the impossibility of maintaining the breathing space in which to let the characters out to play.

Magpies chattering outside. Recollections of a long-ago dream in which my former mother-in-law and grandmother to my child instructed me on how to deal with all those dangers at my door and windows. Concentrate on one object, she said in the dream. Even as someone jimmies the lock on your door, concentrate on one thing and one thing only.

Breath, for example, the empty space between intake and out take. The space where potential likes to hang out.

 

Street arts and smarts

In Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 9, 2016 at 9:02 am

best to concentrate on details at the moment. As soon as I widen the frame, the view gets too depressing. The ugly stuff doesn’t go away, nor does the awareness of it. But the ugliness doesn’t need any help from me in its propagation.

The noise from the late-night band ended past one AM. Basic chords repeated ad nauseam to a pounding drum beat. The audience loved it and kept asking for more. Not the finest moment in the history of this town’s street festival.

There’s an off-festival venue this year, in the inner courtyard of one of the schools where I do (or did?*) coaching. A group of caravans, a large she-goat, Celtic music, puppetry – from the most elementary to the more accomplished. In the more polished category, Rêves d’une poule ridicule gets my vote. I’ve seen the show evolve from its first – hm – embryo? The mock strip-tease of a chicken getting plucked and groomed for the plunge into the stew pot is now the pièce de résistance in a thirty-minute show with great miming and acting by the three comedians and great musical support from their accordionist. A show that works for kids and grown-ups alike.

***

*When your friends get ostracized, you can’t help wondering when your turn will show up. I hate it when people reveal a seamy side I only imagined they had in the fictional renditions I’d done of them. Local people. People I meet on the street and with whom the simple exchange of pleasantries isn’t possible anymore. Some line has been crossed where being right is the same as being wrong. You weren’t supposed to question the treatment delivered to kids who deserved better. You did. So much for genial hand waves and kiss-kiss at the local market. If it stopped there, it wouldn’t matter much – plenty of other people to wave at and chat up. But the back-room maneuvers to destroy people’s reputations and professional standing? Unsavory, to say the least.

***

Details. An empty water bottle where none stood before you left the house. A door double-locked where you only turn the key once because the door is so flimsy the lock is the only part of it that might sustain a direct kick.

Signs of someone else’s presence. Someone who comes and goes. Lets me know where he’s going, then goes there. Eats the food but leaves the dirty dishes (in a clever way: by leaving a few uneaten bites in the dish). A teenager in other words.

He’ll be away for a week, and replaced by a grown-up.

***

As for single or double-locking of a door: with summer windows wide open and the gitano community grilling meat, drinking beer and playing the flamenco between parked cars on Place du Château, there’s no need of locks or keys. You go by your reputation in this part of town. That’s just fine by me, no matter what local back room boys and girls dream up as put-downs to justify their part in la comédie humaine.

Yes and no

In Absurdlandia, Circus, Dance, Film, Food, Fun, Games, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts on July 8, 2016 at 8:11 am

If writing is something like your first responder on the scene, resisting the urge takes some doing. Resisting the urge to identify. But aren’t you supposed to identify. Aren’t you supposed to put the pen to paper or the fingers to the keyboard the second the urge to do so shows up?

Answer: as the title says. Yes, for the small nugget you may find in the reams of repetitious bilge a body can produce over time. Or for a try at another angle on some obsession of yours. Some need to know that won’t go away, no matter how often you tell  yourself you’ll never get an answer other than: that’s life or who knows or some other pat formula designed to chase away the pesky fly.

Except the fly keeps on coming back.

Resisting the urge? Yes. Forever? No.

***

A phone call in all the din out on Place du Jourdain last night during pre-opening events to the annual street arts festival. A woman whose voice I can barely make out. Someone I know told her to call me. New family in town, maybe I can help. She’ll call back this morning.

***

Unanswerables. France won a soccer game against Germany last night. Honking cars streamed by with folks hanging out the windows waving flags, way past midnight. In the afternoon, an eleven-year old American boy by the name of Omar asked me – if I had a choice – what French name I would give my lodger from Mali. I’d never given the matter even the edge of a thought but the boy answered for me. “Hassan would be nice,” he said.

***

The gulf between the virtual and the real, the article says in The New York Times over one of the shootings in the States,   recorded live as-it-happened.

Unanswerables piling up like overdue bills. “Tenir debout dans le chaos” – the title to a piece published in a temporary paper put out during Aurillac’s street arts festival last year. A swirl of unanswerables, like so many pieces of confetti. Catching some of the patterns they make – is that the best a body can achieve?

The fine edge. Collective joy, collective grief, sadness, anger, rage, panic. Collective. Private. The edge where one emotional state tips over into another.

***

A total change in eating habits isn’t a full-time occupation? Yes and no, when you’re out in public places with food and drink provided by others.

***

Allez, I’ve used up this morning’s musing time.

 

Limits – whose? Which ones?

In Local projects, or juice, proto drafts on July 7, 2016 at 8:10 am

Like so many other things we’re “not supposed to know”, we do know because someone spoke up. Someone decided he or she couldn’t abide with the cover-up and had to choose what to do about the secret.

I spent the better part of yesterday’s evening with a local school principal listening to, and sharing my own, stories of kids pulled back from the brink. Her phone buzzed all the time. Mine rang once: a call from a boy who wanted to share the good news about passing his exams. He’s now a full-fledged butcher with a full-fledged residency permit. In the near future, we’ll raise glasses of fruit juice to his success.

The ones you need to tell. The stories you can’t treat like just another filler in the media downpour. A boy smuggled out of one country in the trunk of a car, then sold as a houseboy by his father – here, in France. Saved because his teacher wouldn’t take so- he’s- missed- school-so-what for an answer at Social Services. Once he’d been found, she lost track of him when he was placed in a foster home. Years later, her phone rang. A social worker said someone who kept talking about her had kept her number all this time and wanted to speak to her. He’d just gotten his diploma, wanted her to know she’d made his life a living hell but he’d decided to follow her way and get a life.  Tally up one kid with a chance at something other than violence, despair and revenge on the next generation.

Those are some of the stories that keep you going. Plus the scary ones – the ones about grownups teetering on the brink and wreaking havoc on other people’s lives. They keep you going in another way. They say: I can’t let this happen. Or if the damage has been inflicted already: what’s the way out of the mess? Not the endless replay of the tragedy or the endless repetition of a pattern – the way out and on to something else.

When the boy who was sold by his father was still in school, the principal’s superiors had insisted she “teach him” – respect, compliance, the rules of the social game. He’s lived through more than most of us can imagine, she countered, and I’m going to teach him about life? First, I’m going to teach him I won’t give up on him. I’m going to teach him I respect him and that’s the only reason I expect him to respect me.

I like her a lot. It’s too bad her house was damaged when her neighbor set fire to his own place for insurance purposes. But if this means that while they repair her place, we’re almost neighbors for a while? Fine by me.

Plus, she tells me in confidence*, the empty store below her temporary accommodations? About to open as – drum roll – a bookstore! Here in this very town!

Financial ruin and perdition await.

*In confidence, you understand. Don’t go spreading the news all over. (Scheduled opening in August, hurray hurray).

Both unexpected and predictable

In Artists, Current reading, Hautvoir, Local projects, proto drafts, Visual artists on July 6, 2016 at 8:35 am

Sorting through electronic files about local refugees this morning, trying to get some grip on my sloppy filing habits, I have to smile at the persistence of another habit: my decision to shelter the one who’s annoyed me the most – and, in all probability, will continue to do so. I’m a bit old to change some of the more basic attitudes in my makeup. In this instance, my need to understand what annoys or jars or disturbs. Plus, as Henri Michaux once wrote: don’t be too hasty in discarding your bad habits because, what will  you replace them with? (this being an extremely loose translation from the French).

***

My main problem as a writer right now: reality is proving more interesting than my fictional take on it. More interesting, and invasive too. This is a high-class piece of annoyance, obviously. At some point, the fiction writer will rebel and insist on telling it her way. So I guess I’ll let the fiction writer stew until she starts sputtering or breaks loose as she is wont to do. Beddy-bye for now, fiction writer, the door’s unlocked, you can walk in or out anytime you please.

***

So, for this next bit of living, a seventeen-year old joins me and the dog for a stretch of the trek. He’ll stay with one of my friends next week while my visitor arrives from Canada.

***

Reading two things in tandem at the moment, as I often do. The first, Boris Cyrulnik’s Parler d’amour au bord du gouffre and Kandinsky’s Du Spirituel dans l’art, et dans la peinture en particulier. 

The first part of the Kandinsky isn’t an invitation to read on. Writing in the Russia of nineteen ten, he seems quite taken in by the theosophists. My personal appreciation of the likes of Madame Blavatsky doesn’t lead me to any rush to further enlightenment. While I understand Kandinsky’s dislike for materialism of the acquisitive kind, I’m not a huge fan of mystical eye-rolling either. So why don’t I put down the book? Because it annoys me? No, because I’m getting to the good part: his reading on the language of forms and colors and his insistence on what he calls the principle of inner necessity that makes an artist’s work resonate with something basic in humans which he calls the soul. I don’t know what a soul is, but that part of what he writes makes sense to me anyway.

***

So, back to this business of annoyance. Better annoyed than bored? Yes. Especially when annoyance is just another name for curiosity. What’s causing the ruffled feathers? What is it about so-and-so that grates so much? Why can’t you let that particular sleeping dog go on snoring?

Story, in other words. Out in “real” or in fiction.

For now, back to real I go.

Yesterday was crazy, today may be even crazier, so…

In A post to keep afloat, Local projects, photography, proto drafts, Sanford Meisner on July 5, 2016 at 8:07 am

…so I may get to drop back in here again today, or not. If free time shows up, I’ll try to spend it on the proto draft instead.

Ergo, a bit of good craziness here, as in turning on the computer this morning – in a state of advanced fatigue – and smelling the jasmine at the sight of the photo I snapped of it yesterday. Worth a share? For sure.

Smell the jasmine? Hope you do.DSCN9163

Oh say can you see beyond the Roman candles and silver palms?

In Food, Local projects, news coverage, proto drafts on July 4, 2016 at 7:51 am

Lots to do out in the world of real. For now, I pull away from the media surf with two items: the photo of a French policeman walking over someone’s bedding in yet another encampment “evacuated” in Paris. Finding shelter for one person is tough enough, I understand full well sheltering thousands is no picnic – but there has to be better ways to treat people than loading them up like garbage and dumping them like same.

The second: the only item I’m reading in The New York Times for now, an opinion piece by Roy Scranton published on July 2, 2016.

P.S. If you replace the word ‘American’, coupled to the words ‘heroism’ and ‘military’, you discover the myth holds true. The uniforms, badges and medals change, the basic notions don’t.

***

And yes, this is still about writing my own stuff – although the flow will get interrupted a lot again today, tomorrow, Wednesday, Thursday… maybe I have to revise my writing habits as I’m doing with my eating patterns.

While a silly tune plays havoc with my head

In Absurdlandia, Artists, Circus, Dance, dreams, Hautvoir, Local projects, Music, proto drafts, Theater on July 3, 2016 at 8:35 am

This is serious. Come on. Look at the mess on your desk. Look at everything you must get done before nightfall. Plus, the horrors, the miseries, the emergencies. Plus, you must take some time for yourself, as they say. Relax. Wind down. But Think Of Others! But don’t stress out. But…! and so on.

Tragedy/Comedy. An impossible balancing act? But so is the simple act of walking.

Few of us will ever push the act of walking up to the level of walking on point, one foot at a time, on overturned glasses. And, indeed, what is the use or the purpose of achieving such a level of strength, grace and daring? No purpose. The notion must have appealed to the circus artist* the same way a crawling baby decides he’s going to manage that trick of walking on his hind legs no matter how many times he lands on his bum.

Impossible. The tragedies, too deep. The comedies, too superficial. “Not funny,” say the mourners, and of course, they’re right. Except for the fact laughter doesn’t ask anybody’s permission to show up, even at a funeral. Laughter breaks forth – in churches, in schools, in hospitals. It can even break forth while having sex or visiting a sorely afflicted friend stranded in dire circumstances. How? Why? Because of something incongruous. Something that breaks the solemnity. A fly on the solemn speaker’s nose. A piece of savage wit. Anything, anything at all that interrupts the narrative and sends it spinning off in another direction.

Something silly enough to interrupt even horror?I don’t know, although some of my characters keep on trying to break through that barrier too.

For now they’ll have to take the back seat while I tackle another bout of paper sorting, laundry and house-cleaning, prior to various visits – official and otherwise –  to my humble home. (The official part happens on Tuesday. Can I greet two persons from Aide Sociale à l’Enfance with my living-room in this condition? And my kitchen? And – gad – the bathroom. Will you look at this mess in the office? )

and so on.

*La danseuse sur verre (Lucie Boulay). You can see her performance on youtube or visit this page of Le Boustrophedon’s website.