Sunday, March 25, 2007

Dream

Dream

I arrive at a seaside town. It is an American town but it could be on any coast. The town has a very east coast feel to me. Maybe that is just because of the location of the sun in relation to the coast. In no particular order I do the following.

Try to avoid getting my car impounded.

Take a brochure from a sandwich pamphleteer. The brochure is for a local market selling foreign foods and goods. I pass the market, and a disquieting feeling overcomes me.

I debate the wholeness of the food and the durability of the goods inside the market. Also, I get the sense that I am being surveiled by someone or something. A dread of the covert. A distrustful notion.

Every person whom I attempt to ask the name of the town, avoids the question. They are pleasant, cordial, some seem familiar even though I can’t recall there faces. Actually in don’t know if I can even see there faces. As if a magnet were attached to my chin and my chest making it very uncomfortable for me to look anyone in the face.

I try to coordinate myself by taking note of the various hotel chains in this beachside community. But it doesn’t matter I quickly get totally turned about and now can’t find where I parked the car.

It is a road trip which makes it even more important to find the car.

I do go into a grocery/drugstore. All the packaged food has been opened and then returned to the shelves. I really want something though. I am extremely thirsty and hungry. Someone is looking for me inside this store. Someone I don’t want to find.

As I wander the streets I see a beautiful girl. She reminds me of Maria Sharapova. We don’t say much before she has to get in her car and drive away. She looks at me in her rear view mirror and makes the call me sign with her thumb and pinkie fingers. She speeds off but a piece of paper with her number flies out of the driver side window.

Here there is some sort of obstacle that gets in the way of me getting the paper. I relent, remembering that I have to find my car before the impound occurs. Then I scold myself, I am possibly aware that this is not real, but I tell myself that if a beautiful woman wants to connect with you, you should everything in your power to do so.

I go back to where the piece of paper was. Somehow I now have her on my cell phone. I call her. She remembers me. She didn’t think I was going to call. There is an awkward silence. I tell her who she reminds me of and that I think she is very beautiful. She doesn’t know how to respond. She knows that I am only visiting her town and must leave as soon as I find my car. Despite this, she hopes I will call again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lost

I am not yet lost.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful though.

Just getting lost.

The thought of it soothes.

Once lost, I would be in no rush to be found.

Just let me collect some rust like a penny that slipped out of your pocket when you when camping in the Rocky Mountains.

Or let my edges soften like your favorite postcard used a bookmark in the old hard bound copy of a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel you love but years later still have never seemed to finish.

I can gently fade like the label on a can of beefaroni, your favorite growing up, that was misplaced in the back of cupboard, and now waiting… waiting… waiting for that perfect sometime in the future when you will savor it as a second childhood.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Thomas McGuane's Panama

The narrator of this book speaks/writes in what I would describe as a sort of short hand frenetic masculine investigation of the minutia of his personal loss. His words serve as a slightly inebriated or surreal magnification of his regret, his quixotic pursuits, his isolations. The verbosity swerves from distancing to fascinating. Sometimes it is hard to judge which way I feel about it. Still I keep turning the pages to see what sort of Florida Key collage environment and the prose that it inspires that comes up next. Often I'm rewarded with something like this quote...

She was sitting in front of me, and put her hand up inside herself thoughtless as she talked. I considered the wonder of things that befell me, convinced that my life was the best omelet you could make with a chainsaw.


Its total freedom is both the source of its allure as well as the reason your brow furrows. It is a maze, but a rewarding one. It's like finding a line of Bukowski or hell even Spillane as if it were a beam of light prismed through an REM song. Here there is a whiff however faint of whatever Hunter S Thompson was smoking in his wilder moments. As the story unfolds, it feels as if entire pieces of the story are just discarded or forgotten or ignored by the narrator, but the voice of the narrator remains uncompromisable. He is a man that you want to know better, but who finds himself constantly caught in some sort of trap of circumstance baited by his love of women, his need for confrontation with anything false. The omissions are the sort of omissions that the narrator would make. His segues are the exact sort made by the lonely, intelligent, and unhinged.

I'm really intrigued so far by the book. I can't wait to read another of his books.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dennis Covington's Redneck Rivera

Why is it that I'm reading more books about the South now that I've left the South than I did when I was actually in the South. It is probably because, from a distance I can mythologize my experiences, fabulize, the terrain, the people, the trees. Soft and low sweeping mountains covered with limb and moss and chlorophyll are majestic yes, but when you see them every day they can lose relevance. When I had trouble paying my bills in Atlanta, I would dream of black boxes in Chicago and New York. When I have the same trouble in the north, I think about the seeming, emphasis on seeming, ease of Florida and Georgia.

So, that brings me to Covington's Redneck Rivera. The jacket promises the sort of ragtag redneck geek show that one would imagine in O'Connor, but the story Covington tells is a much subtler one about how those in the south pursue the American Dream. How the American Dream for most is still over the horizon. How even today in the USA some have to protect their dream not only in the courts but also with brute force. It also is story of how the Dream itself is probably our most prevalent inheritance from father to son. Even if that dream bankrupts one, the dream will remain and will drive the son onward.

Covington's father left him a small piece of land (small in southern standards, only a couple of acres). When Covington goes down to appreciate his inheritance he is met with a hunt club that have fenced up all access to the land that is rightfully his.

Reading this story took me back to days when my own family lived off dirt roads in Florida.

Where the kids used to climb trees to avoid packs of stray dogs while waiting for the school bus,
where a redneck bully actually tried to run me over with his car and almost succeeded by inches,
where once a lost bullet ricocheted off a tree in our yard,
where we raised and slaughtered our own pigs,
Where we discovered that those same pigs could be vicious carnivores,
where my dad had built a small fort for me in our enormous backyard,
where cutting the grass was a weekend affair,
where my sister and I had made our own pathways through the section of the side yard we referred to as the jungle,

Those people in the book, not so over the top or outlandish as comic book characters but still weird and unusual. They were so much like my people back then on the edge of the Florida Everglades.

The Palm Beach County Rabbiteers
The Goetz who had 2 trailers welded together into a T shape on their land
The uncle, nephew, cousin, whatever of theirs who bathed in the man-made pool in the front yard and tried to chase down a stray horse on foot instead falling all over his own drunk ass. -Are you OK? -God damn it! Yes I am!

Snakes and storks and tree climbing. Covington's book somehow brought all that back to me. And from my apartment in Chicago, I can wax nostalgic for all those long gone days, I might even pick up head back there. But after about a week, I would dream of leaving there and coming back here. It's not so much that the grass is always greener. It has more to do with wanting it all.

Wanting it All!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Harry Crews A Feast of Snakes

The author Harry Crews has been on my radar for the past few months. I picked up some American gothic novel that's cover compared the contents to the work of Jack Kerouac and Harry Crews. Hmmm, who is this Mr. Crews I thought. Then when I went to the Georgia Writer's Hall of Fame to look up information on Lillian Smith, there was Harry Crews again. Not only that they had a short description of his work
"a dark chronicler of human vanity and folly," an artist in depicting "the world of the misbegotten, the freaks and misfits and malcontents in whose strange doings Crews is able to locate a genuine if quirky humanity."

Now I knew I had to find out more about him. When I went to the library to look up some of his work, I found a book entitled A Feast of Snakes that starts out like so
She felt the snake between her breasts, felt him there, and loved him there, coiled, the deep tumescent S held rigid, ready to strike.

I were seduced. Suddenly, I found myself creeping through Mystic, Georgia. I don't know if there really is such a place where they are about to have their annual rattlesnake roundup.

This book takes Flannery O'Connor and holds her up against the bureau by her throat. The cast of grotesques are combustive, frightening, fascinating. To describe some of the most potent of the scenes could almost belittle it. Crew's most absurd, lyrical, and horrific images would easily become stereotypical caricatures in another's hands. But Crews manages it. He gives weight and muscle and sinew to these misbegotten, forgotten southern poor. His story and his characters would be tough to know in real life, but he gets you inside them and he does it with subtly. I think this is one of those books that I could read over and over again.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Write Club exercise


(We see a female usher standing by the red curtain leading up to the cinema balcony. She is lost in thought, slightly frowning. She is the CITY SISTER. The conversation that follows is a recorded telephone conversation between her and her COUNTRY SISTER. The scene on the movie screen is almost exactly as narrated by CITY to COUNTRY.)

CITY
The storm gathers and the wind blows the door to his balcony wide open, catching the lampshade like a sail knocking it over. The rain drops speckle and then drench us. I looked at his eyes; his face now wet seemed handsomer than ever.
(She holds for a dramatic pause.)

COUNTRY
And then, did you kiss?

CITY
His tongue became a typewriter

COUNTRY
Oh my!

CITY
Every keystroke a quick kiss. Still he was gentle, even if amateur.

COUNTRY
Listen to you?!

CITY
What?

COUNTRY
Even if amateur? Would you prefer a professional?

CITY
A professional kisser…perhaps.

(They laugh)

CITY
Stop interrupting. So his amateur lips are moving across my face and my neck. The attention is intoxicating till I feel a little prick

COUNTRY
Stop right now!

CITY
No, no, no! It’s his teeth

COUNTRY
His teeth?

CITY
His is so lost in the passion, that he starts biting at me.

COUNTRY
That’s too much

CITY
You’d think so, but I have to confess…I liked it.

COUNTRY
No

CITY
Yes. I did. So know I can feel his teeth and his tongue and his hairy arms as if they were everywhere at once. He’s biting and begging and I’m blinded by the reflections of moonlight piercing the stormy night sky. Then he bites the buttons of my dress and…

COUNTRY
Tell me you didn’t

(CITY sister laughs)

COUNTRY
So you didn’t?

CITY
I wish I could have seen your face.

COUNTRY
(A touch upset now)I can never tell when your lying or telling the truth anymore

CITY
What do you mean ‘anymore’? You never could.

COUNTRY
Well, if you didn’t…then what did happen?

CITY
Nothing

COUNTRY
He didn’t try anything more forward?

(Pause in conversation. The Usherette moves toward the baroque wooden carved column and looks sadly and longingly at the movie screen.)

CITY
There wasn’t even a he?

COUNTRY
Wait? What?

CITY
There wasn’t a date

COUNTRY
You didn’t go out with the cinema owner’s son?

CITY
I don’t even know if the cinema owner has a son.

COUNTRY
But

CITY
Don’t be so gullible. It didn’t happen. None of it

COUNTRY
It was so detailed. It sounded so…

CITY
I stole it

COUNTRY
It was a lie

CITY
Not a lie. I stole it. It happened to Jane Greer in last week’s picture

COUNTRY
Sis! I want to know what is happened, what is really happening

CITY
Really, really truly?

COUNTRY
We’re all worried. Aren’t you seeing anyone? Anyone at all?

CITY
Sure. Last week I was out with Robert Mitchum every night. The week before that I was painting the town red with Dick Powell, and then it was George Raft…

COUNTRY
When are you going to abandon these ridiculous fantasies?

CITY
Sis…

COUNTRY
There are plenty of boy’s left here. If you came home there’d be ample time to meet someone and fall in love

CITY
Love? A man isn’t always the answer.

COUNTRY
That’s just more fantasy talk. Sis…come home

CITY
I am home

COUNTRY
No! You know what I mean

CITY
I’m happier here OK? I know you can’t believe that, but I’m happier here!

COUNTRY
When are you going to realize? Too late? After you’ve lost your looks and hit rock bottom?

CITY
Come on! What do you know about rock bottom? Trust me, this this isn’t rock bottom. It’s no where near rock bottom

COUNTRY
I lose so much sleep worrying about you alone up there. No family, no one to protect you. We hear stories about single girls in the big cities. Horror stories

CITY
That’s ridiculous. I should come home to avoid the horror stories? If you think your world is any less horrible than mine, you need to grow up! Open your eyes!

COUNTRY
I think you’ve lost hope.

CITY
I haven’t lost all hope. I’ve just brought self delusion to a near stand still.

COUNTRY
I just don’t want all those terrible things to happen to you

(On the movie screen, we see Bela Lugosi stalk his prey. The usherette moves away from the screen back to her original position by the red curtain.)

CITY
Everything terrible you’ve ever thought up or saw or read in the paper…eventually everything terrible happens to you. To everyone. You’ll know loneliness. You’ll know hunger. If the Indian doesn’t tear off your scalp, eventually the worms and the alley rats will.

COUNTRY
That’s it?

CITY
Yes. Sometimes lonely. Sometimes bored. Except every other Friday night.

COUNTRY
A new picture?

CITY
Yes. Till then it’s avoidance, anxiety, fear…but in the movie house we are all looking at the same thing. That gives me…something

COUNTRY
Comfort?

CITY
Maybe. I don’t know.

(Something stirs behind the red curtain. The usherette goes and looks up the step toward the balcony. There she sees the image of Bela again. The silhouette of a huge fat man in a suit steps into the image and obstructs the view of Bela. The man puffs on his cigar looking down at the usherette. The man unbuttons his vest. He rubs his belly and then slaps his belly. He drops his cigar which rolls down to the bottom of the steps where the usherette stands. He looks down at the cigar. She bends over to pick it and looks back at the silhouette of the fat man who folds him arms at the top of the stairs…waiting.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Playscript Daytime Fragment Number One a.k.a. Personal Apocalypse

Daytime Fragment Number One

(Two well dressed men seated at a desk. One of is wearing a BLUE SUIT. The other is wearing a BLACK SUIT. As the lights rise, they are looking at each other. BLUE goes for his coffee cup and raises it to his lips for a drink. As BLUE does this, BLACK replicates the same action with his own coffee cup. BLUE notices and stops drinking. BLACK knows that BLUE notices. BLACK sets his coffee cup down and opens a manila folder. He arranges the sheets inside and waits until BLUE sets down his coffee cup. After both coffee cups are no the desk. BLACK begins asking questions of BLUE.)

BLACK
(Serious)Is it true that you are having an apocalypse?

BLUE
(After a little laugh) Just Me?

BLACK
(Stays serious)Yes

BLUE
No one else?

BLACK
It doesn’t appear so

BLUE
So I’m having a personal apocalypse?

BLACK
Are you?

BLUE
Am I?

BLACK
This is what the Agency is wondering

BLUE
How would I know?

BLACK
I’m shrugging my shoulders. However, the Agency thought that it should be asked. I don’t know how I would or another would confirm said personal apocalypse, except possibly that the individual in question might somehow be able him or herself to glean the difference between a temporary yet undeniable string of misfortune and or rather a spiritual or divinely assigned or inspired descent or degradation or disintegration.

BLUE
Did you say that you are shrugging your shoulders?

BLACK
I am not experiencing a personal apocalypse. I know that.

BLUE
I am?

BLACK
I am not telling you, you are. I am asking you if you are having

BLUE
No

BLACK
A personal

BLUE
No

BLACK
Apocalypse

BLUE
Stop saying personal apocalypse

BLACK
Didn’t you introduce the phrase?

BLUE
Not quite

BLACK
Regardless, the phrase bothers you.

BLUE
Yes it bothers me

BLACK
It is offensive?

BLUE
Let’s go back. You originally asked me “Is it true”

BLACK
Yes

BLUE
Quote Is It True that I’m having
(BLUE makes a hand gesture rather than repeating)

BLACK
Yes

BLUE
Unquote

BLACK
OK

BLUE
It is the quote is it true unquote part of the original question that…

BLACK
Yes?

BLUE
I’m parsing my words here

BLACK
You are

BLUE
Yes

BLACK
There’s no need

BLUE
Maybe but

BLACK
But by all means

BLUE
It’s that part of the original question that concerns me

BLACK
Concerns…good

BLUE
Good?

BLACK
Yes. Good. Concerns? That’s good parsing.

BLUE
Now I’m shrugging my shoulders

BLACK
I’m sorry?

BLUE
Is it true dot dot dot insinuates…

BLACK
Insinuates?

BLUE
Or suggests

BLACK
Yes! Suggests?

BLUE
That someone has already assumed

BLACK
I’m taking notes

BLUE
You are?

BLACK
I think I should be taking notes

BLUE
Do you need me to slow down?

BLACK
You mean talk slower?

BLUE
Yes

BLACK
I’m not having trouble

BLUE
Fine. As I was saying, the same you phrased your original question suggests…

BLACK
Yes! Suggests

BLUE
Yes. Suggests to me that someone has already assumed

BLACK
Assumed?

BLUE
Yes! Assumed that or deemed that I’m experiencing what it is you said I’m experiencing

BLACK
A personal…

BLUE
Please

BLACK
That’s right you don’t want me to say

BLUE
Who said it in the first place?

BLACK
I’m shrugging my shoulders?

BLUE
Was it one of our previous clients?

BLACK
I couldn’t say?

BLUE
Somebody here in the agency then?

BLACK
Again…I couldn’t say?

BLUE
But someone thinks this...thing. This ridiculous thing, and asked you to ask me

BLACK
I am not the one asking you anything

BLUE
That is not true.

BLACK
Yes

BLUE
No

BLACK
I’m on your side

BLUE
Why are we taking sides?

BLACK
We aren’t. Yet. But if and or when we do?

BLUE
When we do?

BLACK
I’m your advocate

BLUE
I need a minute. Give me a minute. OK?

BLACK
OK

BLUE
If you’re not asking

BLACK
The agency

BLUE
The agency is asking?

BLACK
No one in particular. Just the entity that is the agency

BLUE
The entity?

BLACK
I’m shrugging my shoulders

BLUE
Again with your shoulders?

BLACK
Shrug

BLUE
Can we table this line of talk until later?

BLACK
If that’s what you want

BLUE
It is

BLACK
Ok. Then I’m putting my notes away.

BLUE
Thank you

BLACK
You’re welcome

BLUE
Do you have my next assignment?

BLACK
As of yet there is no next assignment

BLUE
No next assignment?

BLACK
No

BLUE
Is there anything in the pipeline?

BLACK
Yes there is

BLUE
What is it?

BLACK
There’s really no need now to discuss it?

BLUE
Why no need?

BLACK
(Pause) Because the agency has informed me it won’t be giving you another assignment until it can deem beyond a doubt that you are not having a dot dot dot

BLUE
A personal apocalypse?

BLACK
You said it.