— From EF —

Cats don’t acknowledge property lines.  We have four ferals (all neutered, OK?), and I think of them as “mine,” especially the two that will allow themselves to be petted.  They know where the food bowl is, and the water, and I’m sure that if they made maps, those locations would be prominently noted, but I’m equally sure there would be no boundaries.

So I see His Majesty sitting in the empty car-park area of the next-door neighbor, and I say, “What’s he doing there?” And then I think, well, that’s dumb, how would “there” be any different from “here” for him?

I’ll go miles, sometimes hundreds or thousands of miles, to visit a friend, and walking up to their door feels familiar and comfortable.  So why do I hesitate to walk up a neighbor’s driveway and introduce myself?  The feeling of otherness starts as soon as I set foot on their driveway.  It’s their turf, not mine.  The cat couldn’t care less.

There’s a sharp curve in the road across from our house, and many’s the time some exhilarated driver has failed to round the curve and shot off down the steep slope or fetched up with a hearty whack against the utility pole.  And in the middle of the night all of us in the neighborhood don coats and grab flashlights to go see if there’s some way we can help.

And for a brief time, we’re mingling, we’re actually neighbors in a neighborhood.   And if the damage is severe, as it was last fall with one utility pole snapped clean off and taking four others down with the weight of the wires, we have the excuse of the trucks and the workmen to gather and chew the fat for days.  It was even suggested, that time, that it would be cool to have a rural block party in broad daylight some time.  Hasn’t happened yet, but who knows?

Every year, unless we just don’t have the cash, I go to visit our daughter in Tuscany, and then I make my sacred rounds to Bretagne.  I go to Carnac and Quiberon and Belle Isle, and I don’t know a soul there, nobody knows me.  But in some deep way I feel the earth knows me.  I feel the ley lines.  It’s my neighborhood.

How do we define this?  I think it’s a crucial question, as we move into a time of diminishing resources and conflicts over them.  When our well pump failed and it took a while to get a new one, the well guy suggested that we run a garden hose over to our next-door neighbor and hook up our hose bib to his hose bib.  It never occurred to me that our whole house could get water that way. We asked, and it was OK, and it worked. There’s a metaphor for you.

Back when we had a radio show, Hitchhiking Off the Map, we interviewed a wonderful poet-activist-teacher, Cesar Cruz.  One of his lines is still bright in my mind:

I’m thankful that birds don’t carry green cards.

 — From the Fool —

The big deal now is National Security. We need some.  We spend big bulges of bucks, but we just stay scared.

I guess we need to stay scared.  Armies are job-creators.  People go out and get shot and somebody else gets their job.  Plus, more people want guns than solar panels.

With no terror, who’d watch the news?  How could politicians get our attention?  Fireworks?  Puppet shows?

Terror works like fiber in the diet.  Too much, you clog up.  Not enough, you can’t poop.

But are we doing enough to keep us terrified?

The Injuns had their day.  Then the Brits and the Huns.  The Nazis were big for a while, then they made a few bloopers, but the Russians and Commies filled the gap.  Then they crapped out too.  How long can we rely on the Islams?

We need a big think tank.  Get some terrorists we can rely on, who are in there for the long haul.  The Climate Change stuff might do it if the storms are big enough, but it’s hard in a tornado to figure who to kill.  Maybe Asteroid Avoidance.  Those things are out there, and they killed the dinosaurs.  We could take all the billions we waste on educating little dummies and sink it into atomic bombs for rocks in the sky.

That’s one idea.

Point is, we need to stop depending on foreign imports of terror.  Raise domestic production.  Promote terror-sufficiency for America.

 — From CB —

We have a long-time friend who’s made a life career of theatrical match-making, first on a community level, then internationally — promoting exchanges, touring, partnerships, usually among artists outside the realm of the big hits, big buildings, or big cities.  A weird, magical entrepreneur.

Recently he visited us, with his young assistant in tow. We talked at length about his current projects in Hungary, Russia, Austin, etc.  The talk worked around to an occasional San Francisco event where theatre artists gather to talk about their art and the culture they live in — not about promo or grants or capital campaigns.  That’s unusual: few people go into theatre to make bucks, but once you’re there, you’re focused on survival, scrounging for the tools to work your craft.  At theatre conferences, serious talk about Art and Life is mostly confined to panelists making speeches.

It’s even rarer to speak of each other’s work with any degree of honesty.  We’ve all devised our strategies for navigating that moment of meeting a friend who’s involved in a show you didn’t like.  Hard to be honest, even harder to be useful — why offer a critique when the show’s near to closing?  And yet I know how valuable a peer’s genuine response can be.  Even if it’s totally wrong, it forces you to look at some element with fresh eyes.  It’s like a patient describing a symptom, though it’s for me to make my own diagnosis and prescription.

We’ve had great experiences in “listening sessions” with radio producers, playing a piece and getting excruciatingly detailed feedback.  Likewise in two fiction-writing circles we’re part of.  Not so easy to do that in theatre, except for play readings. In conversing with our friend, the idea emerged of a “shapers’ forum,” where directors or solo performers or ensemble actors — anyone with a hand in shaping a work — could present his/her ideas to a circle of peers, for a round of no-holds-barred brainstorming with an ad hoc creative team.  I’d love to see that happen.

And I’d love to see it happen in other spheres.  Crowd-sourcing for ideas of social action, for the life of towns and cities, for a friend who’s utterly baffled about what to do in life.  Is there a way to offer the gift of caring response without demanding that it be accepted?  Is there a way of opening to receive another’s thoughts?  Is there a way to focus our tribe on making a magic that works?

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© Bishop & Fuller 2014

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