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?
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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Bishop & Fuller 2016