About That Insecure Creative

“A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.” – Hugh Howey*

If any of my more regular readers got the idea that perhaps I was obfuscating a hidden agenda behind the seemingly innocuous postings of three successive morning “gratitude lists,’ then I must concede.   That idea is sound.   While trying to hold everyone at bay by posting my gratitude lists, I have secretly been absorbed in the task of cleaning up both the lyrics and music to The Oracle Sequence at the end of Act One of Eden in Babylon.

This is something that I can and must do. When I wrote that sequence, though I was “on fire,” I was also quite hasty in places.  And I knew it at the time.   I knew it — but I buried it beneath the sense of fiery inspiration that I permitted to delude me.  I found thrilling the mere fact that I was finishing the Act at all.   Add to that the sense that I actually stood a chance of finishing it in a dynamic way — a way that would intrigue and delight the audience, and give them all something to talk about during intermission — and believe you me, I was overjoyed.  So overjoyed was I, that I readily overlooked the rough spots, vaguely expecting myself to patch them up later (that is, if I remembered to do so, or even decided to bother).

But then, after I had the great revelation reported earlier, I found I could no longer overlook these glaring errors.  It was time for me to perform the logical clean-up, and not to feel bad about myself in the process.   So I set about to do so.   But I kept getting snagged.   Snagged, for reasons that themselves seemed trivial, if not maddening.  Maddening, in the degree of power I rendered them, despite their insignificance. 

For example, I gave one verse of very quickly spewed, poorly written lyrics to three of my strongest supporting characters.  If those had been real life Actors, playing those characters, I’d feel as though I had dumped on them for assigning them those lousy parts.  All three of those characters, as later developed in my second complete draft are worth more to the world than the lousy lyrics I threw down on them. They’re my babies — I need to bless them with better lyrics.

Sad-alone-cute-girl-playing-guitar-sunsetNot only that, but in my haste, I took no thought as to what keys all these different characters should be singing their bits in the Sequence.  Right after the verse I just mentioned, for example, the ingénue Taura begins to sing a solo to the main theme of the song “Oracle.”  All the lights should be lowered and all the previous frenetic conflict be dissolved, as she begins to sing this song of spiritual calling.   It needs to be her defining moment, where she sings to her guitar, as they all are gather in Nature, in the Outdoors, beneath the Stars.  This is only her second solo in the show — and it is the first one that features her voice en masse before the multitudes, rather than restricted in a romantic setting between her and Winston alone.  Obviously, this crucial performance of hers should feature her voice in its optimum range.  But alas, as I just now have confessed, I took no thought for such a practical matter, so infused was I with the creative fury at the time. 

As a result, Taura winds up having to sing this theme in the key of G, with notes much too high for the contralto whom I have intended her to be.  I cursed myself.  “What an oversight!”  I exclaimed.  Yet at the same time, I recall having furiously sped from one section in the sequence to another, overlooking every peccadillo in my path in the spirit of honoring the long-awaited arrival of the finishing of the first Act, which arrival now loomed imminently on the near horizon, a virtual, visible certainty of a happy event to come.

So I consoled myself with the memory of past faith.  I figured that if I had faith beforehand — way back when — even as I plowed over every glaring error in my path like a bulldozer — I could probably summon up that same faith, and use the present day as an occasion to atone fully for my earlier carelessness, and craft the End of Act One in a manner befitting a musical of this caliber.  

When I began to exercise this renewed faith, the landscape brightened considerably.  True, the lousy lyrics were the devil to replace.  Moreover, I had to change the key in that section, in order to create a key that could easily modulate into a better key to spotlight Taura’s voice during her solo.    But  then, with renewed faith, I realized that I need not be enamored to the music itself in the section where the lyrics fell short.  I now could write new music along with the new lyrics, and make that section more transitional, and less overt.  Ah!  It all began to come together, at last.

And it continues to come together.  What is the difference?  Only faith.  Only being open to new and better gifts from that great Beyond whence all ideas are formed.  And people may mock me and scoff, if indeed they pay any attention to me at all.  I hear their imagined voices already:

“Will you never stop messing with this thing?
It’s been years now, Andy!
Get off of it! Get real!”

It puts me on the defensive, to have to answer to such objections — real or imagined.  I want to say I’ll stop messing with it when somebody finally picks it up and decides to produce it — and not a minute before.  But that’s a line of malarkey – blatant baloney and balderdash.

I’ll stop messing with it when I’m finally tired of it, and when I finally abandon it.  That’s the naked truth, unveiled.  I pray this happens before someone picks it up, and not after.  If it doesn’t happen till after, I could be hell on any production staff unfortunate enough to have picked up my baby while still in the womb.  Let’s hope for an on-time delivery.  In my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

(* The Hugh Howey quote comes courtesy of  M. C. Tuggle — a blog well worth the read, by the way.)

Another New Development

There’s been another new development — possibly even a breakthrough – insofar as my goal to produce the new musical Eden in Babylon is concerned.  

It looks like there’s a very strong chance that the University will permit the use of their Theater Arts students in a reading of the script, to be held at some point after the 14th of January.   

This came about when my assistant Danielle asked me if I had ever thought about simply walking into the Theater Arts Department with a hard copy of my script, and asking if they had any ideas as to how to expedite a work-in-progress production.  I had to tell her honestly that the thought had never crossed my mind.   For one thing, I really didn’t have a script with which I was completely comfortable until a little over a week ago.   Nor was  the first coil-bound copy of the script created until six days ago.   So it seemed like an idea whose time was ripe.

The reception I received at the Department office far exceeded my expectations.  The Media Relations Assistant turned out to be a wonderfully warm and supportive person.  During a very pleasant and informative chat of about a half hour or so, I was advised of the Department philosophy: 

“Plays are not meant to be read —
they are meant to be acted, directed,
and produced.”

So while they would not read my play further than a quick skim, I was assured that if I sent them a email letter of intent with script attached, my email would be forwarded to all undergraduate and graduate Acting students in an effort to encourage their involvement.

group-reading-2The MRA also told me that my having a large cast (27) would actually work to my advantage in this context, because students are typically much less intimidated with the larger-cast projects than if, say, it were a cast of two.  She said that they generally are enthused about the large group effort, and eager to participate, free of charge.

Because I had been expecting anything from a cold shoulder to a run–through-the-ringer, I found the brief encounter to be a catalyst to further inform my path.  It occurs to me that I might as well take the vocal score to the School of Music and ask the director of the jazz choir if there are any singing majors who would like to sing on a demo recording of the project.  it can’t hurt.  And who knows?  They might even work for free.

In general, I don’t feel the sense of postpartum that I felt last March after having given birth to such a huge baby.  At the same time, I know a few things about my bipolarity as it can manifest over the long-term.  If for no other reason than to stave off another period of deep depression and artistic frustration, I think it behooves me to optimize the current energy — and strike while the iron is hot.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

 

“Get a Job!”

The spot where I used to sit on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley was in close proximity to a pub where Cal students would often become intoxicated.  I usually left before this could happen, but occasionally a drunken fellow would emerge in the daytime.

One day I was sitting there quietly, lamenting as usual the fact that too many people were approaching me telling me where the organized meals were, where the shelters were, how to get government “crazy money,” and so forth.  It tended to depress me, because I obviously knew all that stuff already.  What I wanted was some cash and some food for my stomach, so I could smile at them before they moved on.

But then this drunken guy came out of the pub, even though it was only about two in the afternoon.  He was making loud abusive comments toward women, and generally seemed pretty disgusting.  Of course, I probably seemed pretty disgusting too — just the sight of me sitting there — even though I wasn’t saying anything.  (As you know, if you’ve been reading me, my whole gig was to never open my mouth, and simply sit there, holding up an informative sign.)

Eventually, the young man staggered his way toward me, and stopped in front of my sign, staring at it silently, as though dumbfounded.

sign

Lifting up his eyes after what seemed an eternity, he then began to stare directly at me for an even longer eternity. Finally, he spoke.

“Get a job, man!!  Get off your butt!   Get a hustle!!!” 

He then staggered off of my spot just as sure as he’d staggered onto it.  I watched him stagger away, and once he was out of sight, I turned my head and saw another young man.  This new fellow, obviously more sober, was laughing.  Whether he was laughing at me, at him, with me, or with him — I cannot say.   Whatever the case, he apparently found the situation amusing.

I decided to break my rule at that point.  (That is to say, I opened my mouth.)

“You know what?” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“He’s right.”

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Somebody Gave Easily

Lately there has been a gnawing sensation within me that a critical part of my story has been left out. I’ve been wanting to relate a certain turn of events that occurred in July 2016, after I had left Berkeley, but before I had moved up to Idaho. It may explain why it is that I am so passionate about what I am writing, and why I now know that my life has meaning.

To provide some background, I left Berkeley, California on the day that I received my monthly Social Security check for July. On that day, I bought a laptop. Knowing that four laptops had been stolen in a three year period in Berkeley, and that I was a known “mark” for the thugs and gang bangers who hung out by the local rapid transit station, my plan was to silently leave town before anyone caught wind of my acquisition.

The city where I landed on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula was a small town of about 25,000 composed almost entirely of upper-class Caucasians. I selected it because it was noted for a low crime rate and a peaceful aura. However, it wasn’t particularly friendly toward outdoor homeless types, and after the second time my sleep was interrupted by an officer of the law, I agreed to be transferred from my spot behind the local library to a shelter about twenty five miles South of there, in a more industrial neck of the woods.

At first, I was very impressed with the shelter. They had a number of programs designed to help homeless people get back on their feet and regain self-esteem. It was, however, assumed that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict, and daily twelve-step meetings were required. Still, I acquiesced.  I think twelve-step meetings are great, in general.  The only thing that bothered me was the assumption that I needed one. 

About five days into my sojourn at the shelter, an unfortunate turn of events took place. In the Men’s Barracks, where I slept on a bunk in close proximity to about twenty-five other men, I caught a flu.  I went to the hospital, where I was told I had “viral bronchitis” — which I’m pretty sure is just a fancy name for a high-follutin’ flu.  I definitely do not have bronchitis in any other sense.  In any case, I was given the usual stuff, and told to “rest in bed for ten days.” 

But when I went back to the shelter, they told me that because I had a contagious disease, I could no longer stay at the shelter.  This disturbed me.   After all, I had obviously caught the flu at the shelter.   So I was not the only person there with a flu.  Half of the guys in the barracks were coughing, sneezing, and wheezing from all their cigarette smoke anyway.  Here I’m this guy with an unusually strong immune system, who had caught exactly two flus in the past fifteen years, works out, doesn’t smoke or drink — it very much upset me that I was being reprimanded for my honesty.

So I went back to the hospital and explained what happened, hoping they would let me in to recover.  But at the hospital, I was told that they couldn’t show any special preference for me, just because I was homeless.  

“I know you have the flu, Andy, but let’s face it.  Homeless people come in here trying to get an overnight stay all the time, for all kinds of reasons.  If I were to let you in, I’d have to let in the whole lot of you.   I’m sorry, Andy, but that’s just the way it is.”

A rush of numbing fright consumed me.  I suddenly realized that I was going to have to fend with this flu outdoors!  I’d seen homeless people die overnight after catching a flu!  I feared death – but I was too young to die — and generally a very healthy, fit human being.   But what could I do?

Throughout the next five days, my condition worsened.  I was sneezing, and often visibly perspiring.  The driver of the all-night bus stopped letting me inside the bus at night, because all the other homeless people who used the bus as a sleeping spot were complaining that I might be contagious.  I told him that viral bronchitis is only contagious in the first two to three days.  But this was to no avail.

Then one night, something came over me.   And this is why I now know that my life has meaning.   I was walking by the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, wondering where to sleep that night, when suddenly I dropped down on my knees and screamed at the top of my lungs.

God!!  If there is Anybody out there, I don’t care Who you are, or what your Name is, if you can feel me, where I’m coming from, please — I do not care about drug addiction or alcoholism, or mental illness, or being a lazy bum or a slacker or a slouch – I care about Homelessness!  Please put an END to twelve years of totally unpredictable, totally unreliable, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, ANYTIME ANYWHERE HOMELESSNESS!!! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –
AMEN!!!!

Granted, it was an impulsive emotional outburst, and I’m sure any theologian worth their salt could easily chop holes in the wording.  But I felt an eerie sense of calm when I got back up to my feet. 

I looked around.  The night was still and quiet.  My spirit was overwhelmed with the clear feeling that Somebody had heard that prayer — and that Somebody would honor it.

A couple days later, as the symptoms of the flu subsided, I remembered an associate of mine, a now retired music teacher with whom I had worked when I was still a sheltered elementary school music teacher making a modest living on the Peninsula, before all this homelessness ensued.   He had earlier said that if I could choose a spot outside of the State of California where the rents would be cheaper and I could conceivably live off of my Social Security, he would spot me the one-way ticket.

The rest of my story I have told.  Here, there, and elsewhere.  Within forty-eight hours, I had rented a room at Friendship Square on a temporary basis.  Three days later I signed a one year lease on an apartment that would have rented for $900 in Berkeley, and was only $275 in Moscow, Idaho.  I alighted upon the city of my birth for the first time in sixty-three years — a city that I knew nothing about whatsoever, other than the fact that I was born here.   Three weeks later, I applied for a part time job and was hired — after years of being considered unemployable and mentally incapable of working in the State of California. 

I only later learned that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city on the year I was born, and that the Lionel Hampton School of Music sports a city-wide jazz festival every year here — in the town where I was born.  I only later walked through one of the city gates, and saw the city proudly proclaiming itself: “The Heart of the Arts.” 

I’m not going to ask you to believe in God, if you don’t already, after having read these words.  The word “God” after all, is only a word.  If you ask ten people the meaning of that Word, you are likely to get ten different answers.  I know what I believe, and you probably do too.

But I will ask you to believe that my life has meaning — and purpose.  If you can help me in any way to move that purpose forward, please do. I’ve been sleeping in gutters for almost half of my adult life.  That I did not die a meaningless death on the streets of Berkeley is an absolute miracle.   I have written a full-length musical about homelessness since I have been off the streets, in addition to numerous blogs, and five articles published in Street Spirit.   If you can help me in any way with the money I need to make a demo recording of three songs from my musical, please believe me:

giving-is-easy-620

That one has got to be true.  After all, Somebody gave pretty easily — once I finally, earnestly asked.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Please note.  As of October 30, 2017, all donations to this cause should be sent to my assistant, Danielle Stephens.  Donations in any amount may be made safely here.   

 

Knock Knock Who’s There?

This is either the third or fourth post that I’ve tried to create around this theme.  The other two or three, I later deleted because they just didn’t come out right.  But if I’m to move forward with my project here, I need to solidify this concept within myself, and be strong about adhering to it.  Writing about it cannot hurt, because one never knows if the reader will grasp what it is that I’m trying to do, and why I need to go about in the way that seems to be revealed to me.

In this current obstacle of not being able to find singers for a demo who will work for me for free, it’s occurred to me that there probably are some singers who would work for free, if only I could find them — if only this were the Ideal Universe.

But it’s not.  I thought about trying to tap of the church, where the Music Ministry seems to be “taking off.”  The Choir, for example, is stronger than ever.  We have a new Choir director who happens to be the new director of the Concert Choir at the Conservatory of Music here.  He and his wife were looking for a church, and they wound up finding one, with a job attached as well.  His wife is an accomplished soprano, and she’s also singing in the Choir.  The previous Minister of Music, whose name is Erika, is now free to sing in the Choir with her own very professional contralto, and Paul himself is a great tenor.  So one would think that, since it’s church and all that, maybe these people would help me out, and sing for free, without pay.

But it’s not happening.  This is not to criticize or implicate anyone, but whenever I ask somebody from the church to help me with this project, two things happen:

(1) They don’t prioritize listening to the music that I send them.  It’s not high on their list.  They say “yes” but in reality they have all kinds of other more important things to do.

(2) They wind up being more concerned about my mental or emotional state, how is my relationship with my daughter, how is my relationship with the Lord, and so forth.  Obviously.  Because they’re church people.

I don’t quite know how to say this, because I really want to be a decent Christian bloke as much as the next fellow.  But as far as my project is concerned, I need #1 and #2 above like I need another couple of holes in my head.

I was so upset at one point that I called my pastor in the morning and said that I had discovered that it was a mistake for me to be trying to draft singers for my personal project from the church.  He actually agreed, and I became less upset, because it became clear to me.  Church is church, the Choir is the Choir, and that is that.  There is something ugly about me trying to solicit performers for my project from within the church context.  It’s as though I have an ulterior motive or an agenda.

So we both decided it would be wise for me to refrain from further seeking of singers from among the congregation, and I have in fact ceased to do so.  If any of them actually like my music or are drawn to it, that would be another story.  People do occasionally want to work for me for free, but that’s usually on the basis of their somehow resonating with my music, vibrating with it, being on the same musical wavelength, and so forth.  And just how does one encounter such kindred comrades?   Well he sure as heck can’t advertise for them!   They seem to show up every now and then, as in once in a blue moon, when the “moment is right.”  

I’m not a magician; I don’t conjure up “right moments” as per incantation.  I can pray to God all I want about the matter, but the bottom line is:

THE SINGERS NEED TO BE PAID.
I NEED TO HAVE MONEY ON HAND
TO EVEN INTEREST THEM IN THE MUSIC
WHATSOEVER.

So, I hate to transform this introspective dialectic into yet another pitch for financial assistance, but guess what?   So far every penny that I have made to forward this project has come from guess where?  Right here.  So isn’t it only logical that I would continue to ask for money, until I actually do have enough money to take the next logical step here?

If I were to succeed in creating a demo, I wouldn’t need to hassle coming up with a greater amount of money and a venue and all that.  I would be going about this the conventional way, and I would be able to submit the musical in a complete package to anywhere in the world where there’s a theater company accepting new musical submissions.  I’d be taking my chances, as opposed to self-producing it, but it would cost much less money than it would to self-produce it.  

It’s also sort of the more — “humble” thing to do.  I mean, my musical is important to me, and hopefully it will be important to a lot of other people, once it gets off the ground.  But it’s not so important that somebody should decide to kick all kinds of big bucks in my direction to just to help me produce the damn thing.   It’s more likely that I can gradually come up with the much smaller amount of money for the singers from donations.

So, I just talked with Danielle, and her idea seems to make sense to me.  We’ll keep accepting donations until we have enough money to pay the singers.   Then, once we do, I’ll put up flyers all over campus.  This will attract people who sing, because there’s money in it.  Then I can select from all the people who responded, whose voices fit the project the best.  Then – do the demo.  Then it’s over.  Finally.  And done.

No more depression over the whole stupid setback.  No more seeking out random companionship from whoever happens to be sitting next to me at the moment, just to commiserate.  No more “misery loves company.”  No more misery, period.  Productivity.  Forward motion.  Sense of purpose.  Sense of calling.

IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY.
KICK IT DOWN.

Not sure what else to say, except maybe to ask you to take a look at my bio.  I had not yet turned sixty when I asked somebody to write that bio for me.  I still remain every bit as “dropped out” of the “mainstream” as I did when those words were written, seven years ago.  But the point is, all these people with whom I worked in the past have no reason to think ill of me or my skills.  I told them all that I was dropping out because I wanted to write — and I’ve been writing.   Would you not think that at one of those many theatres where I’ve worked, somebody might decide to produce my show?   It’s not as though they’d be receiving submissions from a total unknown, or a quack.   

Anyway, enough of this.   I gotta go figure out how to scan this receipt I have for spending $26.74 on the only hard copy of Eden in Babylon in existence.  Danielle and I are both going to save the receipts, and she’ll reimburse the $26.74 to my account once she has the evidence.   To me, this sounds right.  We’re off to a nice fresh start.  It can only get better from here, as long as the knocks are good.

Funny about those knocks.  I just came out of a situation where anybody would knock on my door, at any time of the day or night, for the dumbest of reasons.

“Hey sorry to wake you but do you have a cigarette lighter?”

“No, I don’t have a lighter, I don’t smoke, and I did not smoke the last five times you woke me up in the middle of the night to ask for a cigarette lighter.”

I’ve had it with hard knocks.  If your name is not Opportunity, from here on in, please do not knock on my door.  I worked hard to get this door.

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here 

diploma_school_of_hard_knocks

ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

                                                                                                      

 

No Longer an Island

The Medieval poet-cleric John Donne is credited with having said a number of fairly amazing things.   But the one that’s always stuck in my mind is: “No man is an island unto himself.”  I realize that this is the case, at least metaphysically speaking.  But it sure feels like I’ve been an “island” — trying to get this project happening.  

john-donne-hires-cropped
John Donne

This is why I’m going to take the liberty at this time to express how grateful I am for the qualities of  practicality and common sense that characterize my new assistant, Danielle Stephens.   As has so often been the case in the past, Danielle seems to compliment my skill set by being strong in the areas where I am weak.   But what I’m really so grateful for is that I am no longer an “island unto myself.”  

On my end, you see, it’s simply necessary that any donations to my project not go to me personally, and that they do go to somebody like Danielle.  For one thing, I don’t have any common sense at all, as near as I can tell after almost sixty-five years of fumbling through this mysterious world of ours.  And probably the most practical thing I’ve ever done is to turn everything over to Danielle.

For another thing, it seems to make sense — even to me, who has no common sense — that my personal and business dealings ought to remain separate.   This is especially the case now that I’ve moved into a more expensive apartment.  Although I’ve figured out how to manage my monthly income in such a way as to make ends meet, I don’t even want to be tempted to take money from donations intended to further the project, and wind up spending it on personal needs.

This is where Danielle comes in.   Her particular strengths are, as I’ve said, complimentary to mine.  Consider, for example, what has happened in the past week alone.  During the past seven days, I have finished my 2nd draft of the Eden in Babylon script.  (This is why, by the way, you haven’t heard from me recently.  I’ve been obsessive about making certain adjustments that had gnawed at me during the six months or so when I basically didn’t look at the script.  It took me two months to complete the revision, and in the past seven days have been especially focused toward this end.)

So I got the idea that I probably ought to self-publish it through Lulu or CreateSpace, and also run off a hard copy of it to lug around with me and show people in “real life.”  I didn’t know how much any of this would cost.  But a few days ago, before I was even finished with the revision, I asked Danielle if she would send me forty dollars out of the donation fund, where she has been patiently holding the money.

Immediately, she advised me that there would be no reason to send me the money until I had actually finished the revision and knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  I thought about it for a moment or two; and realized that she is, of course, right.  What’s the point of having her hold the money, if she’s going to send it right back to me for no clear reason whatsoever?

This is where she and I differ – in a good way.  In my mind, there is usually no difference between the forty dollars that I will “probably” spend in a “pretty good way’ at some point further down the road.  In her mind, she needs to know the exact reason for the expenditure, needs to know that it’s justified, and probably even would like to see a receipt.  

So – now that I’m finally done with the script revision, I’m going to go over to Fed-Ex, run it off, put a nice cover on it, and send Danielle the receipt.  How can I go wrong?  I am no longer an island!

I also want to express my gratitude for the two small donations that were offered within the past week.  Without them, I really couldn’t have rationalized running off a personal hard copy of my work.  With them, I feel that I am getting myself something that I not only can use business-wise, but that I can keep for myself as my own — a symbol of all the hard work I have put into this creation.  

Without your donations, and the help of my assistant, not even that single gift would have been possible.  So once again — and you know who you are — thank you for being so supportive of Eden in Babylon.  We’ll get this show on the road yet.  

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here 

can-do

ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

                                                                                                      

 

The Dialectic (Part One)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. Because I thought I knew who you were, but I thought wrong.

Q. Who did you think I was?

A. My superego.

Q. Your superego?  Why would you think such a thing?

A. Because you seem to represent my conscience, my higher faculties, always questioning everything, encouraging me to look before I leap — as opposed to my id, who has no conscience, questions nothing, and only seeks immediate gratification with no regard to consequence.

Q. And who are you?

A. I am my Ego.

Q. Why do I find this laughable?

A. Because I was wrong about you.  You have no conscience – no feelings.  You are merely a machine, generating inane questions from deep within the core of my confused and convoluted consciousness.  You are not my superego; you have nothing to do with morality or even with Sigmund Freud, for that matter.  You merely show up every now and then at times of particularly angst along my journey, and occasionally our dialogue is helpful to me.

Q. And this is why, on occasion, you summon me?

A. Yes.

Q. And this is a time of particular angst?

A. Yes.

Q. How so?  Haven’t things suddenly taken a turn for the better?

A. Yes and No.

Q. No?  In what way, “no?”

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. Can you say that again, please?

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. And who are your external enemies?

A. All those people who kept knocking on my door, trying to engage me in all kinds of nefarious activities at any time of the day or night, neighbors who were more nosy than neighborly — all of them.   Everybody who lived at Friendship Square.

Q.  Your neighbors were your enemies?

A. “Enemy” might be a strong word, but it sure felt that way.

Q. And you call yourself a Christian!?

A. That would depend upon your definition of the term, I suppose.  But yes, I do identify as a Christian, of a certain type.  So – what are you driving at?

Q. Doesn’t the Lord say: “Love thy neighbor?”

A. But that’s the whole problem!  I loved my neighbors so much I couldn’t get any work done!   Everybody wanted to talk to me, at all times – it was uncanny.   I had to escape – I had to get out of there — but now that those guys are all gone, and I’m alone, I’m faced with my internal enemies.  

Q. Loneliness, perhaps?

A. Ha!  Loneliness is for lesser men.  I’m talking about the Enemies of Art.  They’re like these — inner demons.  They surface whenever I begin to immerse myself in projects about which I am passionate.  The more passionate I am about my project, the more they try to interfere.

Q. Can you give me an example?

A. Well, for that, we need to revisit the Professor.

professor
(So throw a pie in my face.  I couldn’t resist.)

There was a certain professor whose unfavorable reactions to my half-written rough draft of Eden in Babylon kept rushing through my head for three years every time I tried to sit down to work on the script.   Now that I have solitude again, and am away from all the “hard knocks,” so to speak, I’ve naturally taken up the script again, thinking quite innocently that now would be a perfect time to do a second draft, polish up a few rough spots, and so forth. 

So, I sat down the other night to embark upon a very simple scouring of the script in order to return four unnamed characters to the Kids Chorus Line, after I had irrationally removed them from the script at the last minute.  For you see, the Professor had warned me about having too large a cast size – and of course a large cast is a deterrent.  The first version he saw had a cast of 56, according to his count.  I myself was neither counting nor concerned, since at the time I was aiming to submit the show to a specific theatre in the Bay Area that was requesting submissions for “large cast traditional musicals with a full orchestration.”  But this is long past.

I proceeded to whittle down the cast, doubling parts when necessary, and actually feeling quite good about the whittled version.  But at the end, I made the serious mistake of significantly reducing the Kids Chorus Line while not significantly reducing the cast size!  So I sat down this past Saturday night to return the four unnamed Kids to the Chorus line, and thus enhance the experience musically, while only increasing cast size from 23 to 27.

I had presumed this would be a simple matter.  However, it involved a technical nightmare of placing an unformatted, unpaginated copy of a script next to a paginated copy, locating all the places where the Kids had once been involved, and making the appropriate adjustments.  This challenged my dyslexia.  Moreover, as I tired into the wee hours of the night, I became less and less focused, but more and more determined not to let go until I got the job done.   That was when the Professor surfaced.

I would see a line in the show that I thought was particularly exceptional, and I would suddenly remember his scathing critique of my earlier draft.  I would fly into a rage inside my head.  I would shout within myself: “How could he?!  How could he not see how good this is??   How inspired I was!!!  Did he even read the script??”

So, my old enemy, of associating the script revision with the unfavorable response of a previous presumptuous professor of the past, had returned.  And that’s only an example.

Q. A second example?

A. My other friend, seeming to have money, and not wanting to kick it down to help me pay the singers, but dismissing my request for assistance as evidence of a “mental health episode.”   He also appeared in my mind, and I also became enraged at the thought of his classist arrogance.   Rich people are often quick to blame the abject poverty of poor people on some kind of problem the poor person has, as though I’m supposed to spend the rest of my days solving whatever problem they think has resulted in my poverty, in order to become rich like they are, and similarly blame the suffering of those less cozy than they on some random peccadillo in their personality, thus silencing my conscience. 

Q. And just who are we calling “classist?”

A.  Look, buddy.   I had to spend years sleeping in a gutter getting the shit kicked out of me, while one by one, every so-called “friend” I knew from my previous life of opulence dismissed my legitimate need for shelter by telling me to see a psychiatrist.  And so what if I do have a psychological problem or two?   I’m in my damn sixties!   I’m practically fighting Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road!   What am I supposed to do?  Spend the rest of my days trying to solve some elusive problem of mine?   Or spend my days trying to figure out a way to use my God-given gifts for the good of humanity? You can’t shovel out the darkness!!  You can only turn on the Light!! 

So – obviously, don’t you think it makes a hell of a lot more sense for me to throw my energies into  looking for singers, musicians, a venue. a crew, a cast, a production staff, and $50,000, than to keep hammering away at trying to keep shit jobs that I always lose?   And wind up feeling demoralized?  And incompetent?   Sure I’m incompetent in every area of my lifelong failure — so why don’t we start focusing on the relatively few but valuable things that I can actually manage to occasionally do well?  I am not incompetent in the areas of my expertise — I know exactly what I am doing!   I am not crazy!  I am a very talented, but spaced out, absent-minded, but ingenious, agitated, but highly determined, totally stressed out man!

Q. Fifty thousand dollars?

A. You heard me!  But this pointless dialectic is nothing but drivel!!  Let’s adjourn until tomorrow.  Your incessant questioning of everything I do or say angers me.  Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

A. And don’t you dare ask me if I am in “denial!”  If I want to hear about denial, I’ll go to a frickin’ 12-Step meeting, for God’s sake!! 

The Questioner is still silent.  

A. And I am not lazy, either!!!

The Questioner, quite wisely, remains silent.

TO BE CONTINUED