Monday, October 31, 2011

Some Things to Think About

Not new to many, I suppose, but always worth a look now and then.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lost: Turtle

I guess I'm a writer. No matter what I do, I'm thinking about writing: going back to work on something I've started, starting something over or starting something new.

Last weekend we went to a wedding in Westchester County, NY -- Chappaqua, to be exact, where the Clintons have a house. We arrived early on Saturday and Chris indulged me by joining me on a drive over to Ossining, to see if I could find John Cheever's house on Cedar Lane. I've been working on a one-man show about Cheever, using his own words from his stories and novels, letters and journals, but it's been difficult to find the story and the structure. Still I soldier on, and I thought if I saw the house where where he had lived it might give me a jolt. Of some sort. I've seen pictures of it and fully expected to be able to find it, to pull over for a few minutes, maybe even catch a glimpse of Cheever's widow (in her 90's now) who would come down the lawn to the road and, on learning why I was there, ask us in for coffee or a drink, show us around -- "Here's where John would do most of his writing... This was his favorite chair... Those were his slippers; would you like to have them?"

Suffice to say none of that happened. But it got my mind going again, unwinding, going back, restructuring in my head the material I've put together. I'll get it one day and the whole thing will come pouring out.

Likewise I saw a production of "August: Osage County" today at the Arden Theater in Philadelphia, a gorgeous production with an array of wonderful performances in a play that's brilliantly deceptive. As I left the theater I was awed by the mastery, the humor and insight of the writing. Yup, that sure did deserve a Pulitzer Prize! But ultimately, after a few hours to think it over, and to read a dissenting review of the original Broadway production, I found it left a kind of bad taste in my mouth -- I'll be glad to share with you why another time -- and I think, ultimately, it's a bit hollow at its apparently brilliant core. And my thoughts went back to another play I've started that I now think I have a better handle on. Thank you, Tracy Letts. So I won't write the big, gay farce -- it'll be funny, for sure, but a little dark, too and it will have heft and hopefully people will come away with something to think about. Of course, I have to write it first, but at least now I have a handle.

Meantime, I might turn back to a little poetry. I pulled out a manila folder full of old poems from my days in Los Angeles, when I was part of a group of writers that took part in regular readings at A Different Light Bookstore on Santa Monica Blvd. in Silverlake. Sundays at Seven, it was called. Some of us wound up being published in a little collection of work with the same title, and when I came back east I was invited to take part in a reading at A Different Light in Manhattan. My selection: a poem entitled "Lost: Turtle". I just read it again after a long time and it is, I think, rather fine. Let me know what you think.

Lost: Turtle

Out here where houses are solid and wide
and the trees, celadon and bottle-green,
scrub the sky, on a telephone pole a sign:
Lost: turtle.

Printed in a father's hand,
exasperated father
whose promise of replacements --
puppy, kitten, neon tetra --
meet son's small voice upraised
like a little fist: No! No!
Another will not do, and so:
Lost: turtle.

Forever, I'm afraid,
plodding and unnoticed as an old waiter,
in the shrubs, in the tall grasses
fizzing with insects.
Lost. Turtle.

Yet son sleeps soundly, fists unfurled
as father, empty glass in hand
sits on the dark edge of a bed,
feeling for an instant what the boy feels.
It grips his heart and makes him shiver.
It is hope. And it is in the house.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Circadian Rhythm Disruption, or The Sunday Blues

And here it comes again: the days are shorter, I'm getting up in the dark and leaving work in the dark, and Saturday has its share of activity, and Sunday starts with a big pot of coffee and Sunday news shows and that "I'm going to get back to that (fill in the name of your) project today!" 

Then it's checking e-mail and having something to eat and the end of "The Shining" on TV, a brief nap and then... it's after 3 p.m. and the light is changing outside (where you haven't been all day), but it may not be too late to get something done. 

But it is. Yessir, it's Sunday afternoon. Again. And right on time come The Sunday Blues.

It's something I've been experiencing for years -- okay, decades -- and for the longest time I thought I was alone. Then today I decided to Google "Sunday afternoon blues" and discovered page after page about this disorder and its possible causes. (In addition to other blog entries about the malady, some poetry, even music: The Jack Rabbit Slims and even Eine Blues-Interpredation nach einem Jam-Track im Double Trouble Style, which is pretty good.) But there was also an article from the NY Times called "It's Sunday Afternoon and Here Come the Blahs", which includes a number of scientific/medical/psychological theories about the causes of TSAB, including one from as far back as 1919 by a Hungarian psychiatrist, Sandor Ferenczi, who noticed a weekly resurfacing of repressed memories among his patients.

There's also information about circadian rhythm and how the electric light bulb disrupted centuries-old human sleep patterns, and theories of seven-day rhythms in humans, internal clocks resetting, and so on.

But there are also plenty of quotes from just folks (mostly women who are reportedly the most affected by TSAB), all of whom describe exactly what I'm feeling right now. E.g. Rory Stockel who works for HBO and says "I know part of it is anxiety about the coming week... But it is also a lonely, empty, sad kind of thing that grabs me every Sunday about 3 o'clock." 

There was once a female comic, whose name I've forgotten* but whom we'll call Mary, who used to tell stories about her everyday life and then ask the audience "Have you ever felt that way?" At which she'd pause and then say "No, Mary, just you." For years when I talked to people about my Sunday blues and asked if they had ever experienced the phenomenon, they would shake their heads "No" and I'd think, "No, Fred, just you."

But it turns out that once again I find I'm not alone. Still blue, but I have company.

*In my search for the name of this female comic, I came upon the website of a woman I'd forgotten about, Maria Bamford (her website is here) who I recall being hysterical -- and the memories are correct. In one of the clips on the site she says "I never really thought of myself as depressed as much as paralyzed by hope!"

Maybe that's it...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Home again, home again...


It was a wonderful week. It's over. It's going to take a while to come back to earth or "real life", whatever that is.

Meanwhile, lest I share TMI (as the kids say) look here for an album of photos from the trip.

Have a wonderful week!