—From the Fool—
I have a big clock on the wall. It might just be stuck in that spot, it’s been there since I was a very small Fool. I get confused sometimes: I’ve moved around a lot and lived all over the country, but it’s always been in the same room. I can’t explain how that works.
And the big clock. My mother gave it to me before she joined the Marines. She was pretty normal and didn’t mind being a mom, but she’d always wanted to be a Marine because she liked the song they used to sing in grade school about caissons rolling along. She wanted to find out what a caisson was and maybe roll on it before she got too old to roll.
The big clock doesn’t work. It’s at five minutes till six. My sister, who’s the smart one in the family and got a college degree, said, “Well, it’s right twice every day,” but then she got mad when I said I’d heard that joke. She said I was accusing her of plagiarism like her prof did in college, but this time she was innocent. “I can think up stuff myself,” she said. I gave her a glass of wine that said on the label it had a subtle whiff of boysenberry, and she got less mad.
But the big clock was still a problem. It said five minutes till six, and I couldn’t tell if it was six a.m. or six p.m. So it didn’t help much in organizing my day. My day just sorta hangs there without any organisms. Sometimes I blame my mother for it, but it’s hard to blame somebody who isn’t around to blame, and I still miss her every Mother’s Day about five till six.
I could get rid of it, I guess. But it’s got a little porthole you see through to where the pendulum is going back and forth. It has a pendulum that still goes back and forth but doesn’t do anything, like my brother who’s rich, not even moving the hands. The minute hand is bent over, like it tried to fall off but didn’t. Sometimes that’s depressing, but my sister said it was a metaphor for survival, and the pendulum was like the beating heart in Edgar Allen Poe. She took a class in college about how to read books, so she’d be the one to know.
We’re away from home, on tour in the Pacific Northwest, and time on news and social media is limited. I catch glimpses, but don’t yet know the full grotesquerie of the appointments to come, or the already-done deals. I am probably fortunate in this matter, but when we get home I’m gonna have to start working on how I can contribute to the resistance.
I do know that I’ve had a stomach-ache nearly all the time since the Verdict. And I remember, very clearly, how I felt when we went to sleep in Nevada City with one election verdict and woke up with Bush. We survived.
The stakes are higher now, I believe, and things are moving faster. I want to do what I can to restore my center and begin to garner strength and courage. I’m so glad that we now have a couple of “days off” from the high-stakes process of preparing and performing, and those days will be spent on Vashon Island, Washington. Salt water all around, three hundred sixty degrees. An island held in Mama’s arms.
And we have been held in the gracious arms of the folks who have hosted us. The ugliness has been at a distance. Even in Portland, we were outside the orbit of frenzy. This won’t last, and we will pull our socks up and cope. But I am grateful for the respite. Thanks, friends.
Well, I voted. Other than writing a few posts and making a short YouTube piece, that’s all I did, so I’m as culpable as anyone for letting the country go down the toilet. I didn’t exactly waggle the handle: it has a self-flush mechanism.
In my outer cortex, I grok the dimensions of the disaster, and the only rational hope I can offer is some historical perspective on the human capacity for screw-ups: a guy holding four aces might still get distracted by a bug flying into his eye. The Roman Empire survived hundreds of years, even after Caligula, and people sang songs, baked bread, had birthday parties, made love in the very worst of the worst of times. Not that that’s great comfort to the millions who may be directly affected by this vast belch from the body politic.
We might take some perverse comfort if the results would somehow improve the lives of those who voted for the victors—if, say, Hispanics got screwed but the white working class actually saw a decent paycheck. I don’t see that happening any time soon. One part of me despises the deeply-cherished ignorance of the people I grew up with, and another part has great empathy—I don’t like to see them conned yet once again.
What to do? Some friends are in deep grief, some shaken to the core, and indeed some people need to plunge straight to the bottom, to feel the pain fully, in order to take the next breath. For me it’s different. My view of humankind hit ultimate bottom at age sixteen, and from there there was nowhere to go but up. I can imagine being utterly poleaxed by something happening to my mate or to my kids, but short of that, I’m an intensely armored sonofabitch. I expect the worst. I expected this worst. I don’t recommend that as the best survival strategy: it’s just that it works for me.
But even for me, the waking nightmares are real, and they don’t diminish by listening to NPR postmortems or nostrums about the need for us all to “come together.” Good idea: then what? Or that “The people have spoken.” Somehow I don’t think that’s what Whitman meant when he spoke of his barbaric yawp.
For myself, I know what I have to do is to focus on the immediate. The next two weeks of performing King Lear in Portland and Puget Sound. Sleeping, eating, writing, making love. Forget the fucking speculations on what may or may not happen, what might have, would have, could have, and who dropped the ball. The ball is dropped, it’s stomped flat, it’s a dead piece of rubber: don’t look for the fingerprints. Just tend the garden, for now.
For the future? Is there some way we can manifest Emma Goldman’s desire for a revolution she could dance to? Is there some path for a progressive movement that embraces joy, that’s not grim-faced, that’s not motivated by storms of rage but by storms of hope? Damn, I’m just a writer, an actor, and I like my glass of wine at dinnertime. But I do dream of a shining path that’s not a name coopted by murderous ideologues. And I dream strongly in the dark days.
I don’t dare ask, Conrad, what happened to you when you were sixteen. There, I didn’t ask.
No event. Just starting to understand political reality, and it hit me like an onrushing 18-wheeler.