Risk. . .

—From the Fool—

Lots of times when I don’t think I’m being funny I turn out to be funny. And times when I think I am, I’m not.

It might be where people are standing, so if you see me from the bright side I’m funny, but shadow side it gets pretty desperate.

These days you can’t tell if somebody thinks he’s being funny or not. I guess we try to develop a talent for deniability. Plus, there’s lots of people who are armed against any misunderstanding. My uncle Ed used to do a big laugh if he said something funny so you knew that you’d better chortle it up if you knew what was good for you.

Serious and funny have a lot of definitions. It’s like love and money. It all depends on more than is dreamt of in our philosophy.

 —From EF—

I was thinking about my responses to seeing live theatre, and suddenly “circus” popped into my brain-pan. Specifically, the difference between high-wire work and trampoline gymnastics. I love the goofy ebullient joyous flips the trampoline makes possible, and I am highly entertained. I like being entertained.

High-wire is entirely different. Something crucial is at stake, and every moment is intensely present, but also intimately linked to what is to come. I remember holding my breath during most of the film Man on Wire. Would I call this being entertained? Yes, I would, with another vital dimension added.

Most reasonably well-done theatre is entertaining and I am happy that it exists. Trampolines for everybody is a good thing. But I wish there was more wire-walking. Do you know what I mean when I say that in the latter case, everything is connected, and everything comes electrically alive from the previous moment, and something is at risk?

Yes, we all know that the lines have been written and memorized and directed, but in the moment, they are kicked into our awareness by what happened a nano-second before. You can almost see the lightning bolts, whether it’s comedy or tragedy. OK, I’m exaggerating, and an audience doesn’t really want to be electrocuted or exhausted. But for me, I want to know that the interaction matters.

I saw a short piece from Dell’Arte’s Slapstick at a theatre conference years ago and then saw the rest of it via film. Funny? Entertaining? It was all I could do to keep my skivvies dry. And every single damn moment came uniquely from the moment before. The physical acrobatics were so extreme that if somebody lost concentration for a moment there would be a trip to the E.R. They were on the high wire, and they took you with them. And when you realized what the plot was dealing with, how dark and how painful, they still had you right there.

Lenny Bruce could do that for you too, and so could a clown like Dimitri, so it doesn’t have to be a play. But whatever it is, I am happiest when it holds me in the palm of its hand and leads me, second by second, to its destination at the other end of the wire.

—From CB—

Some day I’ll be toast. Or more accurately, some day I’ll be burnt toast. Most adults would agree, except those who expect to be raptured.

But as brainy anthropoids, it’s possible to carry two utterly contradictory thoughts in mind simultaneously. It’s almost a requirement for living past the age of two. In this case, it means a full logical understanding, based on Daddy’s funeral, that we’re mortal, and making big bets that we can subvert it.

The key is in symbolism. We can charge the machine-gun nest if we visualize the flag waving in front of us or the symbolic death of being thought a coward. We’ll shoot ourselves in the head for getting an F in Geometry rather than suffer the brain-blast of failure’s humiliation. Symbolic thinking makes us the most glorious, most hideous species on the planet.

The lust for money, lust for power, lust for fame, lust for lust—many sources, I imagine. But I can’t help feeling that much of the dynamic is a weird perversion of the universal survival instinct. If I can only accumulate enough bucks, enough clout, enough trophy pussy, enough column inches in the press, I’ll survive. If the rest of my species crashes and burns, it’s their problem: the survivors are those who’ve honed their insanity to Olympic heights.

I think it’s possible somehow to comprehend fully that you’re mortal, that you’re a temporary test model, and at the same time to try to keep chugging as long as you can. I’ll enlist medical science and music and lots of green vegetables, and that’ll have to do.

###

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Comedy and the Cat Bowl. . .

—From the Fool—

I almost got hit by a truck. Not really a truck, a pickup really, but he thought he was a truck. I had the Walk sign but he ran the red. White pickups are the ones to watch out for.

Fools get no free passes. I jumped out of the way and said some words under my breath. The First Amendment says you can say what you want, and the Second says it better not be too loud.

But I wondered why did he do that? Red means you stop. Even if just for a Fool. And pedestrians have the right of way. And God said, Thou shalt not kill. We take exception to that if there are oil fields involved, but I don’t even have a car.

I came up with a number of possibilities, in terms of the driver’s primal urges:

  1. He didn’t see the light, or he was colorblind, or he hated the color red because his grandma wore ruby red lipstick along after it was appropriate.
  2. He felt traffic laws restricted his Constitutional rights, given that his pickup was just as deadly as a shotgun. Plus, the Constitution says nothing about traffic lights.
  3. Red was communist.
  4. His dog—part mastiff, part German shepherd—was running 30 mph in the back of the pickup to keep up with it, and couldn’t stop in time.
  5. I looked like a Democrat.
  6. His girlfriend had left him and he wanted to kill anything that moved.
  7. If he scored, the YouTube video might go viral, fragments of Fool flying into the distance, and if that happened his whole life would change. He didn’t care how.

My friend Ernie said, “Maybe he’s just a dickhead asleep at the wheel.” That’s possible, but I don’t like to think bad of people.

 —From CB—

Several weeks ago I heard an interview with a stand-up comic, and realized I might learn some things about writing from an immersion in study of this form. And so I’ve viewed a half dozen comedy specials, with more to come. And indeed, there’s much to study: exposition, setup of the premise, the rhythms of phrasing, word choice, transition, surprise, and what comprises the performer’s unique “voice.”

What strikes me so strongly, though, is what they all (four men, two women) have in common: dick jokes, pussy jokes, and unbridled rage at life’s most trivial irritations. Nothing entirely unique in that: Aristophanes, Rabelais, and Shakespeare gave us a healthy dose of each, though perhaps in different proportions. Lenny Bruce was relatively unbridled, but I don’t recall any ten-minute riffs on the finer points of butt-fucking or wiping babies’ asses. I wonder if their Netflix contracts specify a specific number of minutes on specific topics.

Comedy has always been heavily based in transgression, and as mores change, the bar goes higher, until at last it’s like trying to squeeze the last blurt out of the toothpaste tube. In a different storytelling medium, Cormac McCarthy faces the task of one-upping himself progressively over 300 pages of human degradation, but once he gets to the halfwit eating turds, there’s not that much further he can go. He does manage, mostly, to make it cohere, to make the atrocities relevant.

But my problem with the dick and pussy jokes I’ve been hearing is that they just aren’t funny. Well, they’re funny in the sense that in junior high just saying “dick” or “pussy” was funny, but I’m somewhat past that. I’ve noticed in these specials an editing technique: at intervals, when the comic goes to the most “transgressive” feces-in-pussy jokes, the editor cuts to audience response, groups of pretty girls laughing uproariously. I guess it gives us permission to laugh at pre-puberty stuff: Well, they think it’s funny, so it must be.

Or maybe my response goes deeper. For someone to get up and rattle at me for an hour, I need to feel they believe what they’re saying—or at least playing a credible character who believes it. That they have a genuine stake in what their subject. With these people, mostly, whether they’re riffing on their girlfriend’s quirks or the challenge of single-ply toilet paper, I just get the feeling that they’d rather be talking about other stuff, but this is what sells to thirty-somethings who’d like to be back in high school.

Much more to be said, and I need to think a lot more about the “rage” component, as a lot of my own joking stems from a firm-rooted rage. What occurs to me at the moment is a sense that “Know what you laugh at” is a pathway to “Know thyself.”

—From EF—

We have feral cats, in varying numbers. In 2000, when we finally got into this house, we didn’t know we had feral cats, but it soon became obvious that somebody who lived under our backyard deck was devoting herself to producing kittens. We subsequently named her the Momcat.

By early 2003 we had succeeded in live-trapping two successive litters and availing ourselves of the local free spay-neuter program, but the Momcat was still untouched and still resolutely fertile. She could con any trap we put out, until the day when I jury-rigged the trap’s trigger and ran a cord through the window of the back bedroom. I provided sardines, went to the window, hunkered down, and waited.

It was a marvel to watch. It took her fifteen minutes to do a ninja sneak into the cage and past the trigger-pedal, and when the last inch of her tail was inside I yanked the cord, watched the gate slam shut, and let out a steam-whistle yahoo that could be heard in Cotati. She got fixed, grumbled and swore, and went back to living under the deck. We now had a tribe of six neutered females, and that’s the way it stayed for years.

Since then, we’ve lost the Momcat and all but two of her immediate descendants. However, a sleek and arrogant black ex-tom has moved in—whom we named His Majesty—and finally came The Nemesis.

From her long-haired gray fur I surmised that she’d probably come from the Momcat, but she has a unique personality. I would have named her Passive Aggressive, but The Nemesis was easier to say. His Majesty wanted to rule the roost at the common food bowl, and everybody else kept their distance.

Not the Nemesis. She would come sit Sphinx-style six feet away, paws folded, totally passive, and look at him. He couldn’t stand it, but there was nothing he could do. He’d lunge and scrap, and five minutes later, she was calmly hunkered down, looking at him. Eventually it got so bad that I’d see her literally a foot away, and he’d pretend not to notice. I loved her style.

Lately, I thought we’d lost her, because she’d looked really arthritic and debilitated and then disappeared, but here she is again. What remarkable recuperative powers. I have seen her with a big patch of her flank torn back, as big as the palm of my hand (raccoon fight?), and watched as she reassembled herself.

Feral animals do that. They survive hideous calamities and heal themselves without our help. I relate to that nowadays. I rest and tend my incision and let time take its course, and without my instructing or managing anything, my body calmly repairs the massive invasions that have enabled my two hip replacements. I don’t have to tell it what to do.

I wish we could understand that Gaia is the source of the Momcat, and that left to her own devices, she could heal herself. Instead, we declare ourselves the masters of How It Works, and fiddle, often with dire results.

However, my body is healing itself, and I am holding out hope for Gaia.

###

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Struggles. . .

—From EF—

“There appears to have been a struggle.” That’s one of my most cherished Facebook memes, headlined by “my style of housekeeping.” I am in emergency mode again, since tomorrow I get my right hip whacked and won’t be trying to wield mop and broom and vacuum for a while. And then just about when I become capable, we’re taking off for Europe. I can’t tolerate welcoming a house-sitter into a gnarly mess.

It’s never been one of my best-honed skills, but starting with the marathon run-up to opening King Lear, and then touring it nationally, and then getting hip replacement #1, the proverbial hand-basket is parked outside the door. At the ripe old age of 76, it’s time for me to learn how to deal with some periodic professional household help.

There are lots of lists with excellent recommendations for people, and I have a couple of friends who do this for a living. I think I need to start by asking one of them how to cope psychologically. After all, it doesn’t make any sense to precede a helping visit by a two-day marathon of cleaning.

Well, I could start by asking a friend who shared a Geisha day with me—hard to get closer than that. Years ago, we were at a gathering where one of the guys was feeling pretty morose because his birthday was coming up and it didn’t seem as if anybody gave a damn. By chance, she and I shared a glance and started to giggle, discreetly enough to avoid causing offence.

Later we talked and plotted and then invited the dude for the birthday present of all time, the total attention of two ladies celebrating his existence. We wined him, dined him, washed him, massaged him, etcetera, and it was a hoot. And it gave a special new level of bonding to the friendship between her and me.

So if I could partner with this lady in that kind of enterprise, I think I could reasonably ask her to assist me in getting over myself. I’m gonna do it.

—From the Fool—

I’ve had trouble sleeping. I get there okay unless my head itches as if my hair is growing too fast but then I try to think slow thoughts that get me bored and I go to sleep.

And then I start dreaming about walking someplace to catch a bus but I don’t know where it stops and so I just keep walking for blocks past banks and car dealerships and that’s really boring so it’s restful.

But then it’s the hallway at school and I’m looking for my locker but I forget the number. I know there’s something in there that I need, like walking past the banks. I know I must be way out of school for years and years but the smell keeps pulling you back.

Then finally there’s a door. I open the door and it’s little kids. It’s Mrs. Little’s kindergarten and it’s Election Time which is right before Cookies Time. They’re electing Kindergarten President. The big issue is a little girl named Orpah who’s lying flat on the floor. The question is what to do. Should they tell her “You can have two cookies” or should they kick her in the head or maybe let the janitor sweep her up?

But one of the candidates was this boy who looks big for his age, about two hundred pounds, and he jumps up and yells “Fire!” Pretty soon all the little kids are yelling “Fire!” and you could tell who’s going to win and rule kindergarten. But it’s hard to sleep through the yelling.

So finally Mrs. Little yells, “That’s enough, children!” and they all sit down and she tells them to get their rugs and lay down and be ashamed for ten minutes. Which is then more peaceful but I can’t stop hearing the big enormous jumbo little boy yelling “Fire!”

Maybe tomorrow I’ll check out what’s happening in Second Grade.

—From CB—

Walking through our local Farmers Market today, I find the walkway blocked by a small dog, or rather, a small-dog extension. As a slight, gently-bent woman scans a potter’s offerings, her pet—a small rat terrier or a tall rat—is checking out opportunities at the chocolate stand across the walkway. Between lady and dog stretches a long elastic leash.

A humane restraint for the dog, but a challenge to anyone—myself at the moment—who wants to waltz down the walkway. I shuffle one way, the dog shifts cooperatively, maintaining the blockade. As the creature’s human companion contemplates the stoneware, I try various strategies of circumvention, subvention, supravention. At last weighing my options for a surprise punt, I picture a wee fur-ball lofting over the vendors’ tents.

But I simply ask, “Ma’am, could you reel in your dog?” and she replies, “Oh, sorry” and complies. I feel bad for the slightly guilty lisp in her voice, but I proceed.

What promotes the free will and entrepreneurship of one creature risks impeding the pathway of another. The balance of wills is the human art of politics, though at times complicated by small rambling dogs. As it happened, the woman didn’t scream at me for speciesist insensitivity, and I didn’t squash the mutt, and we both walked forth to a day rife with possibilities. May we all find such balance in future encounters.

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Trees & Punching People in the Head…

—From EF—

They were dead, so they had to go. The damn beetles got them. Two no-longer-majestic hundred-foot pines that anchored the southwest corner of our homestead. It took the tree crew two days, six guys wielding chain saws with assistance from a bucket rig, a chipper, and the industrial-strength tongs that are part of a log truck. Now we suddenly have a lot more light and space, but I can’t help grieving a little.

The most startling moment for me was when both trees had been reduced to twenty-foot limbless columns, and the time had come for their felling. First comes the face cut, a precision wedge that will determine exactly where the trunk will fall, and then on the back side, the hinge cut. As the saw was completing the face cut, it must have hit an area of the core that had a deep red color (even though not a redwood,) and the stream of sawdust suddenly turned bloody. That’s what it looked like.

When the first tree had fallen, I went close to look at it, and saw the rings of red wood. And on the cut face of the fallen trunk there was a long gush of sap, weeping.

But it had to be done. These poor old dead giants could have dropped limbs on some passing car and ruined lives. At least we had the skilled help of people who really know their craft and work as an impressive team. When Jimmy climbed the second trunk to set the tie-line that would be winched to start the fall, it was worthy of Baryshnikov. Spurs on the heels of his boots, a padded chain-belt wedding him to the tree, up he went, and at the top, he set the tie-line. He played out the length needed, swung it rhythmically right, left, right, and when he knew he’d got it, one last whip to the left that carried the line right around the back of the tree and into his waiting hand at the side. I whooped and applauded.

Now it’s quiet, and the yard is full of space and light. I mourn the trees whose time had passed, and I praise the men who worked as a team to take them away. In a few days, I will present myself to the skilled team at the hospital who will take my right femur, whose time has also passed, and who will give me my old stride, full of space and light.

 —From CB—

I’m building a large desk in our rehearsal studio. It’ll be a nook for writing when I need to isolate myself. While I’m measuring and cutting and screwing and sanding and painting, I can imagine what a profound difference this will actually make in my writing. Once I sit down to it and put my fingertips on the keyboard, I’ll assess what further measuring, cutting, etc., etc., needs to be done in my head to bring it up to optimum pitch.

 —From the Fool—

Some candidate said his opponents said bad things about him. That doesn’t happen much in politics, I guess, so he got mad about it. Said he wanted to punch them so hard it’d make their head spin.

Which raised lots of questions to be debated by guys in neckties and gals in hairdos on the news. Would their heads really spin like they do in cartoons, or was he making a promise he couldn’t keep? Did it show his resolve to punch out our enemies in a fight fair and square, or would he drop a bunch of atomic bombs? Did it show he had a sense of humor or that he didn’t? Was he telling the NRA that people shouldn’t get shot if they could be punched in the head? Would he punch ladies in the head or just guys? Would he have to get drunk to do it? Would the Marine general punch him or just kick him in the butt? Would opponents say more bad things after the punching?

In fourth grade I punched Archie. But he punched back, so I didn’t do any more punching.

The good part is, I guess, he makes you think. More than you maybe want to.

###

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Pack Rats & Cannabis. . .

—From EF—

I confess, I’m a pack rat, a junk junkie, a collector of all kinds of weird crap. When we moved from Philly, most of that stuff went to the dump, and for a while the simplification felt really good. Yes, when I need to invent a doohickey to facilitate some piece of theatre magic, I miss my stash, but by now the call to create doohickies has slowed way down. I think I’m feeling the call of the dumpster again.

A not-unrelated habit is being reluctant to pitch out edibles, partly ingrained from decades of living on a pretty tight budget. My cupboards and my psyche have developed corners full of unidentified objects, and this is not a good thing. The cupboard is easier, I’ve made a start, and it feels very very good.

Six jars of totally unidentifiable jam? Out. Empty glass juice jars, the kind with the quilted necks that make them handy to grab for a long drink of water — good. But who needs eight of them? Out. That extra lump of wasabi from last month’s picnic, no. The jar that looked like lemon curd but wasn’t . . .

You get the idea. It took the two of us to keep the momentum going, and another day we’ll tackle the fridge, then the freezer, then the giant stacks of big towels dating back to the olden times when we had way too many people in our hot tub having way too much fun, and so it goes. Thank god some of it has went.

Some day before I croak, I will learn how to prevent the kind of selective blindness that results from not knowing what the eff to do with something. I can’t deal with it, so I don’t see it. When I was in high school, my folks had a friend who owned a hosiery company. One Christmas he gave me sixty pairs of nylons. When we were living in South Carolina and I was technically an adult of twenty-five, I finally stopped pretending that I would ever untangle that snaky mess that occupied a whole dresser drawer. Out. Damn, that felt good.

Could this process be adapted to elections?

—From CB—

For me, the hardest part about writing is isolation. As an actor or playwright, yes, there’s private work, but then there’s rehearsal with your colleagues, then the direct, immediate response of your audience. Many moments of retreating to your closet and giving one more frantic squeeze to the toothpaste tube of your brain, but then you emerge to go back to work with your fellow fools.

For the fiction writer, until you get to the point of readings, fan letters, and cashing big checks at the bank, it’s something you do in your closet and shove it out under the door. Then what? One of our short stories was published in a literary supplement of the Chicago Tribune—tons of subscribers. Did anybody ever read it? I have no idea.

Odd to talk about writing alone, because I never have. I started writing plays with the kids running underfoot, in short bursts between sorting bulk mail, running off to rehearsal, or snatching ten minutes on tour. And I’ve never written solo. Elizabeth has collaborated from the get-go, whether as improviser, story-crafter, editor, line-by-line hassler, or the actress I’m writing for. That continues, and will.

Yet now I feel an intense urge toward isolation. To mine something hidden. To reach what’s unreachable. The hours I spend each morning writing at the coffee shop or the library, amidst the babble of my species, is, oddly, the most isolated part of my day—I’m never more alone than at parties—but unless I’m in midst of a swarm, I need a cocoon.

So now I’m preparing a space for the purpose: one niche in our spacious rehearsal studio. It’s a matter of designing it, building it, painting it, lighting it, acclimating to it—all the while not really knowing if it’s what I need or just a good excuse for procrastination.

And it’s all a crapshoot. One doesn’t readily make a radical switch between art forms in one’s mid-seventies and expect to build a new career. We’ve had five short stories published and scores of rejections of our four novels, with a fifth lined up to the porta-potty. But we’ve done nutty things before, and with any luck we’ll have between five and twenty-five years to pursue the folly often referred to as Life.

—From the Fool—

Now they have medical cannabis, which is good for you. Not like the old stuff that’d turn you into a rock’n’roll sex fiend and be gateway to the fatal stuff like Twinkies.

I thought I should get some of that. I wake up a lot at night when I do too much politics before bedtime.

I went to get a card from a pot doc, which they call a doctor that gives you a card for a hundred bucks. He said, “Okay, what’s wrong with you?” “I need pot,” I said. “Okay,” and he gave me a card. I went to a shop where a world of possibilities opened before me and raised consumer confidence.

You could get stuff with more of This and less of That or more of That and less of This, and a variety of delivery systems. You could get some scumbled-up fluff for a pipe. You could get an electric puffer. You could get candy. You could get a tiny bottle of goop with a dripper. It was a challenge.

I got the pipe and the stash and took it home. But I’ve never smoked. I didn’t have the lung scab you build up with cigarettes, so I coughed my brains out—at least the brains available at the time.

I tried the puffer. You charge it from a USB port, which is weird, and the end lights up when you puff. I got a big snootful, which would’ve put me to sleep if I could’ve wheezed more softly.

Tried the candy: just let it dissolve in your mouth, they said. So sweet that my teeth shrunk back in terror.

Tried the drops: dribble on your tongue, let it absorb, and frisk off to Dreamland. It tasted so awful I never got to sleep. Next time, I thought, maybe next time mix it with cat poop and that would taste better. My sister suggested plum butter, but that might not have enough zing.

Progress is never easy.

###

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Necessary Tears. . .

—From EF—

They say that long-wed couples gradually come more and more to resemble one another. Maybe. I’m still five feet two, and I think anybody could tell which of us is which, but in one department we’ve become well-nigh indistinguishable. If one of us has read something that moves us and we want to read it aloud to the other, there is no way in hell the reader can get to the end without busting out in tears.

I know this happens to other people too. In our local oral tradition salon, if somebody starts with the words “I went out to the hazel wood” we know we’ll all be soggy by the time “the silver apples of the moon, the golden apples of the sun” comes round. Yeats can do that to you.

The best writers can deliver lightning-bolts of empathy, leaving the reader awash in an experience of oneness that can be disorienting. After living with messages that divide, enrage, and terrify, it can be scary and sometimes painful to get plugged back into the multiverse by surprise. I remember a time when my heart had given up on theatre, although the carcass was still on the job. Then I saw Complicite’s production of Mnemonic, and in the midst of my wild applause and tears I was amazed to feel pure rage. I’d had my non-belief shattered, and the heart had to get back to work again.

Once, back in our early days of touring, an audience member said, “Your work is so political.” “No it isn’t.” “Yes it is.” “Well, OK, you’ve outed us.” We’d been careful to avoid labels and catch-phrases, but it’s really the essence of political writing to put the absurdities of human behavior out there in a way that gets to “Oh God, that’s me.”

I fall into a funk from time to time, envying those who can run for office or lead movements. Theatre. Fiction. Art. In today’s crisis times, isn’t that playing in the sandbox? Just now I read an essay by Barbara Kingsolver, “Jabberwocky,” and she nailed this dilemma. The essay was too long to tattoo on my forehead or to read aloud to Conrad, so I just put a bookmark in the right place and handed it to him. Ten minutes later, he walked into the office in tears, and I knew she nailed it for him, too.

“. . . There are truths we all know, but can’t make ourselves feel: Slavery was horrible. Love thy neighbor as thyself, or we’ll all go to hell in a handbasket. These are things that cannot be said in words because they’re too familiar to move us, too big and bald and flat to penetrate our souls. The artist must craft missiles to deliver these truths so unerringly to the right place inside of us we are left panting, with no possibility of doubting they are true.”

—From CB—

This is a time of scraping in the dust, rearranging pebbles. Other times, I’m making great leaps, whether it’s writing a new piece or sorting out crap in the shop, but now it’s all slow, slow minutiae.

Our front yard is divided in two: one side a mad variety of clumps, the other a lush bed of moss. Both are beyond me. Right now the focus is on the moss, invaded both by baby tears—cute little buggers that they are—and a kind of scaly lichen. It’s easy to spend a half-hour on my knees picking out six square inches of invaders with the point of a paring knife, while the rest of the half-acre goes to hell.

Back to the keyboard, and I’m doing the same, right now with the 7th draft of a short story, 8,000 words, and what seemed just fine in the previous draft is now overgrown with little green spidery ovals and scaly lichen. I’ve been radically re-editing a bunch of stories, pausing in the final edit of the most recent novel and back to Chapter 3 of an earlier one. A positive feel in the sense that this all comes from great progress in learning the craft of prose fiction but lacks that adrenalin rush of inspiration that, however rare, feels so good when it comes.

Meantime, apples are falling from our apple tree, and I love apple sauce, so there’s the daily hour of peeling that seems to stretch into the future. Most of them are bruised, so each yields only a small bit of apple for lots and lots of chopping. I listen to music, to the news, to the dull grind of my brain, and I know I’ll love this stuff when I bake it in my muffins or mix it with yogurt and walnuts for lunch, but right now it’s a bloody bore.

Clearly, my complaints are ludicrous as one considers the great majority of humanity who, if they’re not starving in a ditch, are working 8-12 hours a day with exactly the same degree of boring repetition, as they try to avoid heat stroke or a blade that’ll lop off a hand or a stray cluster bomb or a simple lay-off. But I can’t entirely give up on my complaints: they’re like little brothers & sisters I need to baby-sit or a line of cute ducklings that follow me crossing the road. Frail things, but mine.

—From the Fool—

 I didn’t sleep good last night. I keep remembering there’s an election coming, and when I think about that the nightmares start up without me being asleep.

Lots of my friends say they won’t vote for somebody that can win, cause then they’d be responsible for whatever awful stuff gets done—cause awful stuff always gets done—and they want to make sure they’re not to blame. That’s one way to think about it, I guess. Sic their nightmares on somebody else.

But so today I needed a nap. I thought, hey, no problem, just take a nap.

But before I did that, I had to feed my cat Gertie.

But before that, I had to put the squeaker back into her squeaky toy and change Gertie’s flea collar to a different part of the cat.

And before that, I figured I’d better wash yesterday’s dishes so I could get down the stack to those from the day before.

But before that, I remembered I’d forgot to pay the bills and they’d turn off the utilities and kick me out of the place and maybe put Gertie in foster care.

But before that, I had to check Facebook for death threats and check the mail to see if anybody swiped the mailbox.

And before that, I had to go down to the post office and buy some stamps, but then before that, I figured I’d better pick up a bunch of rotten plums that fell off the plum tree or else I’d track them into my car and then into the post office which is property of the Federal Government.

And before that, I realized I’d better do some actual work. But by then it was time for a beer, so I put it off till tomorrow. Maybe I’ll have a more restful nightmare tonight.

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Long Week. . .

—From EF—

In 1991 we began development of a play called Tapdancer, a surreal comedy in which an investment broker accepts a gag gift of tapdance lessons. He has absolutely zero talent for this, but he loves it. One violation of decorum follows another, and one night he climbs a tall ladder and defaces a billboard whose message has enraged him: “America Is Burgerland.” He is arrested, goes to trial (although he has freely confessed), and through a bizarre chain of circumstances, is condemned to death by lethal injection.

The day after the hero has taken action against the billboard, he expects to find the event reported in the news. No. Nada. His friend explains:

“Ken, you have been upstaged by civil tumult. Don’t you read the papers? Thursday night, man, the cops won a major victory in the War on Drugs. Goon squad raided this very notorious crack house but they go to the wrong address. The family inside is terri­fied by large beefy guys crash­ing through their door, and they call the police— Who get into a fire fight with the other police, which ruptures a gas line— Which starts a fire, which spreads, which levels two city blocks— Which does indeed eliminate drug traffick­ing in the neighborhood.”

That’s fiction, but how many times have you read about cops using heavy armaments and battering rams to invade the wrong house? Twenty-five years ago it was already an itch in our minds that found its expression in that play. The militarization of police has not slowed in those twenty-five years. Now we can use robotic bomb delivery.

I have the sick feeling that we are invading our own house, battering our own doors, dismissing the sleeping kids and aged grandmas struck by the bullets as collateral damage. In the words of the blessed Pete Seeger, “When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?”

—From the Fool—

Some guy on the Web asked me if I was an old Fool or a young Fool. I think he was winding up to toss an insult and deciding whether to pitch a curve ball or a slider. I’d said something about guns, and he felt I was casting aspersions on his personal gun.

But I tried to answer. Problem is, old Fools think they’re young and young Fools think they’re old enough to know it all, so they sorta meet in the middle.

Both types do what they can to be Wise Fools or Holy Fools, but with all these colleges pumping out M.F.A. Fools, the competition gets fierce.

It’s like my sister the hooker, who worries about the amateur competition. “The standards of immorality are sinking pretty low,” she says.

About the only way you can tell the age of the Fool is to check the hair. But that depends on what hair you’re checking out.

—From CB—

A long week.

Tuesday: Alton Sterling shot and killed.

Wednesday: Philando Castile shot and killed.

Friday: Brent Thomson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith shot and killed.

Likely, many others who didn’t rate the front page.

Saturday: Beethoven’s Ninth at the SF Symphony. When the cellos and basses made the first whispered statement of the “Ode to Joy,” I nearly lost it. There’s a pain that’s a terrible healing; a touch joyous and agonizing. From there, you’re carried by huge soaring wings, a soul at its richest.

The human ear, at its best, can hear frequencies from 20 to 20,000Hz. I wonder what’s the emotional range of the human heart?

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