— From the Fool —

I ran into my friend Joe, who had a big dog till the dog tore a chunk off his butt. He was at the flea market, checking out a table of lampshades. I hadn’t seen him for a while. I asked him what’s new.

“I might throw my hat in the ring,” he said.

He was wearing a baseball cap with BUCKS printed on the front. I didn’t know if that was a team or how much he paid for the cap. He saw I was confused.

“I mean run for President. You start by throwing your hat in the ring.”

That seemed like a good idea. He couldn’t get elected wearing that cap. It did give him the common touch, but his hair stuck out at the sides like a frazzled bath brush. Wall Street would never trust him. Get rid of the cap.

A couple weeks ago I thought about doing it myself, but decided not to. You have to wear a necktie all the time. And comedians make jokes. Even Fools get their feelings hurt. Joe doesn’t have that problem. His wife tells him he’s a no-good asshole every day, and it’s like water off a duck.

“So how do you see your qualifications for Leader of the Free World?” I asked him, not sure if I wanted to know.

“I got an open mind,” he said. No doubt about that. “And I’m one of the people.” No question. “And I’ll keep us Number One.” He was making an airtight case. “The government pisses everybody off, always sticking their nose in your business, so my pledge as President is not to do one goddamn thing.” I could believe it. That’s what got him fired at Walmart.

I felt proud to know a serious candidate. “So why are you checking out lampshades?” I asked him.

“It’s my anniversary. I’m giving the wife a lampshade. Family values, right?”

I’d say he’s got a fair shot at it, if he gets rid of that cap.

— From EF —

I was drowsing while listening to a Beethoven string quartet, and suddenly I found myself smiling in anticipation: here comes the puppy. There’s one movement that prowls around outside the door, whines briefly, scratches the door a couple of times, and then comes bounding into the house, jumping joyously on big puppy feet.

I hadn’t thought of music as a living creature before, with shape, musculature, intention, and a life-span. Wow. Yes, it starts as an idea in a human mind, and if it’s classical music it gets written down, but it’s still only a static potential. It isn’t until it’s heard that it takes on life. Human beings play it, human beings hear it, and the music itself becomes alive.

Like any animal, human or otherwise, it has a beginning, a progression, and a conclusion. Its color, speed and timbre change from moment to moment, rarely the same, but it’s always that particular individual. In its presence, responses vary from listener to listener. Some developments are so damn clever that they make me laugh out loud, while the listener in the row behind me wonders what was funny.

Could we view ourselves as musical works in progress? Somebody has an idea, and then we get born. We spend the entirety of our lives changing, discarding spent cells and replacing them with new ones. Some cells come with the original package and stay that way (the cerebral cortex, for instance), while skin cells cycle about every three weeks. And that’s just our physical apparatus. Our intentions and emotions and life experience continually change us, although we retain the same Social Security number.

And at some time, we will conclude. But like a piece of music, there are those who will remember, and can “replay” us, with whatever themes and harmonies and rhythms were strongest for them. I am grateful for the changes. It would be pretty bad to enter on a huge diminished ninth chord and then just blare that one out for the rest of my life. I am pleased by the notion of listening to the music, letting the melodies go where they will.

— From CB —

A Facebook post about an anxiety dream brought my own menagerie to mind. They’re rarely of genuine danger. Even when I’m driving our old van and the brakes don’t work, or it insists on going 30 mph in reverse, or it’s up a road so steep that it’s bound to flip over backward, I never really sense physical danger. I’m more concerned with the passengers understanding that it’s not my fault. Though, being the dreamer, it is.

Certainly I’ve had the classic actor’s dream: going on stage without knowing my lines or without even knowing what play I’m in. But in recent years that’s transmuted into being a director unable to gather the actors for rehearsal, or rehearsing in the corner of a room where others are partying, or directing a cast where no one knows I’m supposed to be the director. At those times I’d welcome my childhood monsters.

These days, the monsters are hidden in scenarios of dislocated boredom. We’re packing up, moving, but it’s all junk or unwashed dishes or boxes of clothing I’ve never seen before, and it has to be cleared out in an hour, but it won’t fit in the car. Or I’m walking across a city toward a specific destination, but the streets don’t go the way they should, and I take a shortcut through an enormous building and wander through the floors till I wake up. These dreams have all the emotional depth of stale bread, and yet their compulsion is real.

It’s been a long time since my college-prof dream. In reality I earned a Stanford Ph.D. and taught for five years until we took a left turn to independent theatre. But for many years I dreamed that my degree was invalid because I’d flunked an undergrad math course, and everything thereafter was fake. (In fact I got a C, but I didn’t flunk it.) Sometimes that meant I went into guilt-ridden denial; sometimes, that I went back to sit among the kids and try to pass it; sometimes, that I woke myself up. That persisted long after I got out of the teaching game. I kinda miss it. It was a good dramatic situation, which Strindberg used in A Dream Play and Bergman in Wild Strawberries. If you have no distinct title and position, it’s hard to generate intense melodrama.

I should be thankful that my dreams aren’t spiced with all the terrors available in the marketplace today, but I don’t really need to be told once again that I’m rootless, incompetent, nonfunctional, lost. I think I’d take a few short rides on nightmares if I could also, now and then, take a night swing through the joys that so often fill my waking hours.


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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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