— From the Fool —
My uncle Cecil gives me lots of advice because that’s what he thinks uncles do and because his own kids know better than to listen. Mostly it’s about women or cars, which he’s expert in, having had two divorces, half a dozen fender-benders, and three vehicles repossessed.
But this time was different. He cornered me at Aunt Halimah’s funeral when they were serving ice cream with hot fudge and gave me career advice.
He was a little off the mark because he thinks Fool means a stand-up comic, but I can be more foolish sitting down. Most people can, in fact. That’s why they have big padded office chairs. But I nodded and that got us past the hot fudge cooling down.
His point was, I need to brand myself. That gave me the willies but he said, “No, not like a cow, but like Starbucks or Pierre Cardin or Chuck E. Cheese. Project an image that sells. What kind of Fool makes it big?
So I could go lots of ways. There’s cuddly and twinkly. There’s really obscene. There’s why don’t girls like me if I pick my nose on dates. There’s girls have a right to pick their noses too. There’s did you ever notice that people are stupid. There’s I’m an asshole so love me. Possibilities abound.
But I like to go different ways. If you walk only one direction you’re eventually gonna walk into a wall. And Uncle Cecil is probably right if I want to get famous. But if I did the smart thing then I wouldn’t be a Fool.
And as far as career — Uncle Cecil sorta branded himself as a drunk and that didn’t help him a lot.
— From CB —
I have never been near war, except to finance it. Well, sure, as a kid I lined up my lead soldiers — Army, Marines, cowboys, Indians — and blasted them with clods. And I had the Korean War comic books with square-jawed leathernecks standing against swarms, masses, legions of fanatic driveling Commies. And I registered for the draft when I had to, got my deferments on schedule, and voted for candidates who were anti-war who then did it anyway. Now I read the news of the chronic hemorrhoidal distresses in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Congo, and every other place where guys have bucks to buy guns, and I watch the roilings on Iran and the opening moves — just for good position on the board — of a 2030 championship match with China. So I may qualify, at least homeopathically, as a veteran of war.
This comes to mind as we begin work on our new novel Akedah: The Binding. The sacrifice of Isaac, set in present-day California, inspired in turn by a Wilfred Owen poem. Not about war directly; more about killing as made inevitable and morally flexible by our culture. As reward for Abraham’s willingness to murder his child, God promises that his progeny will be myriad as grains of sand and stars in the sky. And so I wonder: is the corollary that he has sown the world with descendants willing to sacrifice children upon command?
Original Sin, we’re told, arose from muddled newlyweds having a snack despite the ban on picnicking in the park. Killing is wrong, we know from Cain’s disgrace, but disobedience far worse, as witness the punishments wreaked upon the Israelites whenever they spared a Canaanite city from mass extermination. If the order comes down to set the knife at the throat, obey. Certainly it’s pointless to dwell on the ethical shortcomings of myths sprung from a desert tribe competing for water rights and arable land in a lethal neighborhood. The question is, have our forefathers, in these myths, bequeathed us life or syphilis?
— From EF —
My social life, a.k.a. getting out and seeing people, has become downright bipolar. We do get out to the gym for a short workout six mornings a week, but that’s not exactly a convivial event. Then our working hours are at home, and we spend our mornings solo, ever since CB discovered that his best shot at concentrated writing is to sit at the library. Sometimes I feel we are apprenticing to be hermits.
Ah, but the highs are really high. Yesterday we had a walloping good time at a dear friend’s birthday party, yakking with a whole lot of other dear friends, catching up on news of all sorts, being startled at how much we hadn’t known about. Swimming in that gentle surf of voices, settling into one close conversation after another, moving easily and freely from thread to thread — wonderful.
For years after we moved here, our home was the site of many gatherings: theme parties organized by friends with big ideas and small homes, affinity groups doing workshops, improvisational theatre jam sessions, you name it. Our big studio got a real workout, and the effective sound-insulation we put in during our radio days made it possible to crank up a good dance environment without getting the neighbors steamed. The hot tub in the backyard gazebo was a great asset, though after piling thirteen folks into it there wouldn’t be much water left the next day.
Time passed, everybody got older, free time got scarcer, money went thataway for a lot of us, and it all happened so gradually that it took a very long time before I thought hey, where did everybody go? Sure is quiet around here . . .
Then all of a sudden we’re off on tour, and life becomes a whirlwind of contact, a crazy pinball machine where the bumpers are hugs and the high score lights up with applause. It’s a wild boogie, eventually it’s over, we come home and recover, and quiet sets in again.
I’d like to create a nice easy middle ground. Call somebody up for no reason and say “Let’s have a cup of tea.” Have a couple of folks over for dinner without making a production number out of it. Look at the local events calendar and go out more. This is not rocket science. Let’s see what happens.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2015