Tuesday, July 25, 2017

9772. RUDIMENTS, PT. 23

Making Cars
When I learned  -  whatever I learned  -
about writing was about the same as I
learned about theater and acting. Just
by the doing. Back in the seminary days,
as foolish as it all sounds, the whole
ex-cathedra religion thing, for me,
had gotten taken over by the greater
rush and good-feeling of the drama
department stuff that went on there.
Guys, teen boys really, with a gay
teen-boy acting coach who also had
a Roman Collar on, doing all sorts of
weird plays and recitations on a fairly
nice  -  and not at all makeshift  -  stage.
Overhead light brackets, pulls and lifts,
curtains and scrims and all that scenery
stuff going up and down, controlled
lighting, and real audiences too. It may
have been nothing or it may have been
a lot, but I know it wrecked me up some
good. Bus-loads of screaming crazy south
Jersey high school and junior high school
girls coming in on Saturdays and Sundays
to scream at us, and our performances, as
if we were some jerky form of boy Beatles,
to them, in those very same years. Any
time I spent there was soon overrun with
all that instead of holiness and revival.
The only thing I ever gave up for Lent
was the idea of NOT having such adulation.
That was all some real cracker-barrel
dreaming, but it sure took the cake for a
year or two, and, by the time I knew what
had hit me, I was out of that place for sure.
In fact, I was on  my way back to little old
Avenel, NJ to finish off a most-miserable
slicing of a last year of high school in the
local town dump. Boy, I hated that.
Darkness and bleakness became my
categorical friends. I couldn't believe
I'd gotten dumped unceremoniously back
into a place like that. Nor could I believe
how so many of my once-kid-friends had
by then just turned into regular gung-ho
guys, doing the happy high-school shuffle,
buying into all that career and college crud,
walking about as if the days to come were
all going to be magic for them. Somehow, I
managed to remain completely unknown and
unseen to any of them. I don't know how I
managed that, but it happened. A few of
my friends from then, old guys like myself,
now, have told me, against my memory, of
course, that it had not been them ignoring
me, rather the other way around. I had become
unapproachable, walking right past them; in
a complete tunnel-vision of self, I'd suppose.
Perhaps there was more than a touch of
idiosyncratic behavior, an early form of
OCD on my part, obsessively separating
those wild, eye-high useless weeds in
front of me so as to pass through un-fettered.
I tried saying I was sorry for all that to
one or two guys, but I don't think they
ever thought my apology was genuine.
Whatever. On another note, one of the
girls from those days, seen since a few
times around, always regales me with
her stories of those days too  -  never
mentioning me at all, she just says,
'What do I remember? All I remember
is I was having sex with every  boy on
the block at that time, in all of Avenel,
and then my father threw me out.' So,
I guess it's all a matter of degrees. I
do suppose my enforced solitude made
me miss that one.
It was all for a lot of reasons, and once
I got to new York it was all forgotten
anyway. I tried washing Avenel, and
those seminary days, out of my
plastic-like skull with a steel-wool
brush. I figured every third person
I'd see walking past me had probably
come out of the same sort of situation
-  people in the city all seemed twisted
over something or other. Compensatory
behavior takes many forms  -  some sell
wishes and securities, some bet on markets
and try to buy the future, and others,
like myself, just fume and try to be
artists, or writers. Or even rioters.
It's a very disproportionate place, this
bruised, sick city : disproportionate anger,
or rage, disproportionate wishing or wanting.
So, back to writing, and what I learned,
and all. I learned the feint. It's a fake
move in one direction, and then a sudden
dart into another. A real roller-coaster
ride for the reader, who's just assumed
to be able and willing to make those
terms and jumps with you. Last chapter,
by the way (that was a feint; I'm pulling
you right now in another direction with
a head fake still towards the place we
just were), I made a quick mention
of the NY guy who came to the
Barron Arts center with that poem
'Rasta man, Rasta.' I realized only later
that it might have made no sense
to you. In the context of 1982, a Rasta
was shorthand for a Rastafarian, that
quasi-religious sect within radical
Jamaican politics, and religion too, I
suppose, which used marijuana (referred
to as 'Ganja'), as a component of the
religious tactic or rite. Very difficult
to precisely set down, but they too were
all part of that Michael Manley era's
political trouble. (Maybe in the same was
as a feint, does a theater person use, from
the stage, the uttered aside, to secreted
speech or cluing-off to the audience
(that fourth-wall breach). Monologues
and soliloquies are too formal for that,
and they consume too much of the
playwright's effort and time to be just
cast off like that). And that's another
thing, I never understood why the
person who writes a play becomes
the playwright and not just the
playwrite, or even the playright,
since, after all, it's he or she then
who has the rights to the play.
Sure is something to think about.
One last thing here, one final feint.
still in a way having to do with what 
I learned of both drama, and of writing.
I've known 2 or three people, over time,
who have killed themselves by blowing
their brains out. The first one shocks, I 
guess, and then after that it all just
becomes old hat, and pretty ordinary.
For, in the course of a life, a drama 
always gets enacted and from such 
does always come a dissolution of 
one form or another. Or, in the 
formulation of Chekov's Rule, as 
it's put, in writing a play : 'The gun 
which is introduced in Act One must 
go off in (or by) Act Three.'

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