— From the Fool —
I saw this guy on TV they say is the Expert. He tells what’s going to happen if it does or if it won’t and why.
He talks fast. Nobody understands him so we don’t have to worry but according to him he’s got it under control. Sometimes he says why lots of people will die if we need them to and we do so they do. Nobody we know.
I wonder how he finds out about that stuff, or if he just chases it down the road like a chicken to hear it cluck. I guess an Expert studies to be an Expert. But I study between my toes and still can’t figure what happens there.
Mostly he says a few words over and over. That makes us remember. Don’t know what it means, but we can say the words a lot so they glue together. That’s an Opinion then, and we all need at least one Opinion to cover our delicate parts.
The Expert tells us a good Opinion so we can have it.
Oh boy. It all takes brains. Nobody ever agrees what side their nose is on. The right wing is shedding its feathers and the left wing flaps in circles while the bird stays aloft by farting hard.
We need an Expert on Experts to tell us who’s the Expert. We need to run tests on an Expert to see what makes him rattle. We need to ask him who he is, to see if he knows.
One thing sure: this Fool’s an Expert on Fools. That’s for damn sure.
— From CB —
It’s two hours on the bus into San Francisco for my dental clinic appointment, but it costs half what it would cost in the little town I live in. In a dental chair in Sebastopol, I could look up and see a picture of a mountain stream on the ceiling. But on the bus I can read, learn lines, study Spanish, and sometimes write.
Today, as the bus crosses the Golden Gate, a phrase comes to mind. It’s perfect for the novel we’re working on. I need to make a note. I’ll soon be at my stop at Civic Center, so it’s not worth booting up my laptop. I pull out my steno pad and dig in my bag for a pen. Not in the side pouch. Not under all the junk. Shirt pockets? Pants pockets? Nothing.
Okay, I’ll just remember the phrase, and when I get to the neighborhood of the clinic I’ll pick up a pen somewhere. Just remember the phrase. I catch the Muni bus and look at the other passengers’ shoes and sandals and handbags until it’s time to get off. Imagine that old lady tying her laces every morning.
I’m off the bus. The convenience store where I might have scored a pen is now a Jamba Juice. Someone must have made significant money for coming up with the name Jamba Juice. I walk through the Medical Center buildings. I can get coffee, flowers, six varieties of fast food or a haircut, but nothing that makes marks on paper. I could go to the bathroom multiple times.
At last I see a pharmacy. They’ll have pens. No, dammit, the pharmacy is a pharmacy — they have drugs. I glance over the non-prescription shelves. Miraculously, I spot a narrow shelf of sundries. Batteries, sunglasses, candy bars, Kleenex — nothing remotely literary. Ah well, that’s the culture we live in. Hopeless, I ask the clerk, “You don’t by any chance have any pens or stuff like that, do you?”
He reaches under the counter, brings up two ballpoints. “We give these away.”
I am blest. I rush out, sit on a bench at the bus stop, pull out my notebook. The phrase? The phrase?
Now I’m flat in the dentist’s chair, the drill screaming its tiny scream at my numb incisor. What was that phrase? The goddamnchristalmightysonofabitching phrase?
I’ll remember it when I’m older.
— From EF —
Old friends are special. I don’t mean those who are long in the tooth, although given my age, a good many of them would qualify. (Me too, except that I’ve developed self-care habits that produce squawks of disbelief from dentists. If you want my secrets, just ask.)
No, I mean those folks whose very flicker of presence in my mind creates a rush of warmth, an almost aromatic presence. I find that this grows stronger as time goes on. I just got an e-mail from one of these, an astonishingly creative theatre-maker whom I’ve known for decades. I first saw this man doing a reverent and obscene one-man version of The Tempest at a TCG conference in 1986, and I fell irrevocably in love. He wanted to get to Gifts on Friday, and the idea that he would take a taxi if necessary made my eyes go zing. Our wonderful host found him a ride, and we celebrated together.
And there’s the actress/creator from Zurich, a friend since 1979, one of the sacred stops on my annual European circuit. This woman’s spirit is so strong that this happened: a drugged-out vandal leaped onto her balcony in the middle of the night, forced entry, and was meandering down her hallway when the noise woke her. Erica was still grieving the loss of her mate, and the intruder had put Zbigniew’s bowler hat on his head. So here she is, a slight woman standing stark naked at the end of the hall: “You have no right! You have no right! You put that back!” And she frog-marches him downstairs and out the door, after which she collapses, trembling. Only then.
And there’s my high school German teacher, upon whom I had a massive crush. We’ve taken up a correspondence of late, and I have drifted downstream with him as he started a remarkable blog and then lost his beloved wife of more than fifty years. It has been an extraordinary experience to read how he has coped with the aftermath.
And the lovely woman who was my bridesmaid, my only high school friend. In the confidences we have exchanged I discovered that she was subject to as extreme a maternal abuse as I was. That discovery only intensified my admiration for the career she made in social services, giving comfort and possibilities to damaged souls.
And my “intentional siblings,” my two redheaded friends who share a birth-sign with me. One was an incandescent actress in South Carolina in our Hecuba who went on to become a mainstay in our Theatre X and beyond. The other was a young performer in our company who shifted into a career in the use of touch in healing and has made a huge difference in many lives.
And more than anyone else, CB’s mom, who became the warm, unconditional maternal figure I never had. This lady was a stem-winder all her life, someone who jumped into a flivver with a girlfriend and drove from Iowa to Los Angeles when women didn’t do that. Her life was about courage and endurance and love. The fact that I can no longer put my arms around her doesn’t mean she doesn’t put her arms around me.
What about Mary Fuller? My birth-mother? In recent months I have gotten tantalizing clues about possible family, but no contacts have provided anything conclusive. Mama, you were there for me in 1940, and I won’t ever stop looking for links to you. The most intimate and most invisible bond.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2014