Thursday, June 28, 2007

Back to working on the occurs to me that this blog is full of half-finished projects. Not surprising, since so is my life. Whatever happened to that Gee's Bend quilt I started months ago, after seeing the exhibit in a museum? Still in progress, I have a date to go over my friend Beth's house next week and work on it.

I did three more pages of what C calls recititif (is that how it's spelled, or does it have another syllable or two in it?) that operatic kind of sung speech. Very fun. I'll finish the scene today. Also, I quizzed G at our tennis game, about chants he sang in the Navy. He said they had chants for marching, chants for running, chants for disassembling and reassembling their rifles.

Both G and C know how to take a gun apart, clean it, and put it back together. I have fired a gun exactly once--at a target, in Alaska, which I missed. Got a sore collarbone for my efforts. The mystique of guns eludes me.

Some chants, courtesy of G: "I don't know but I've been told/Russian pussy is mighty cold." (It was during the Cold War.) And: "I don't know but I've heard said/Air Force wings are made of lead./I don't know but I've been told/Navy wings are made of gold." Apparantly, there's rivalry between the different branches of the military. If anyone reading this blog knows of any military songs or chants, please write and tell me.

Questionnaires continue to trickle in--thank you! to everyone who filled one out. Now I have to write up a book proposal for the project. Some of my friends report that the questionnaires brought up feelings of sadness; writing about unrealized dreams. James Baldwin said, "In order to have the lives we want, we must first be honest about the lives we have."

I saw Hurly Burly, a play by David Rabe, with Marci last night. It is indeed virtuosic, the language that tumbles out of every character like machine gun fire or Niagara Falls, or any unstoppable force. Just torrents of dysfunctional, colorful, provocative, obscene, musical verbiage. Torrents. And the despair of the characters is well-drawn, and it's an actor's dream, because each man is so well-delineated (the women a little less so.)

But that's just the thing--everyone talks the same way, which leads me to believe, of course, that it is really David Rabe speaking. And it's all drug-fueled, alcoholic dysfunction, more floried and dramatic and scary and sad and grotesque in each succeeding scene--for three hours. I didn't want to stay until the bitter end as I'd left my car at West Oakland BART, so I snuck out after the second intermission and before the very short third act. It makes me glad My Hot Tub with Andrea is just a one-act--no need to hit people over the head with language just because you can.

My friend Nike wrote me some very good feedback on the hot tub play, feedback that makes me want to reenter the script and have another whack at it, get a few layers deeper and more risky with the characters. Meanwhile, the guy who is going to direct Saying Kaddish in Michigan in January, Chris Bremer, wrote and asked me to write a few more little scenes. And C is kind of architecting the musical, thinking of scenes and requesting I write words for them. I can't wait to hear some of the songs and musical settings he's composing.

G and I played a good hard game of tennis today, bright and clear and hot. We weren't as stellar as last week when we had just watched a Billie Jean King documentary and were all inspired to play the best we've ever played, but we ran each other up and down the court and sweated and cursed and exulted.

I love summer!!! I love C being free and happy and relaxed, I love the late light afternoons and balmy evenings, and the dry hot tennis courts.

I am reading Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, about Dr. Paul Farmer, the doctor who went to Haiti and established a health clinic for the poorest of the poor there. This book is kicking open doors in my memory: Haiti, the smell of burning shit that pervaded the streets--peasants burn dung, they burn whatever they can find for cookfires, now that so much of the island has been deforested.

Barefoot women with heavy loads on their heads, their dresses open completely in front and nursing babies hanging off their long breasts. Naked little children, the chickens and goats wandering in the streets, the skinny men harnessed to giant sledges like mules, every muscle and tendon and nein in their bodies swollen as they pulled and strained and pulled impossible weights, their hearts visibly bursting out of their bony chests.

Every sentence in the book reminds me of the road not taken--I could have stayed working with Haitians, could have married a Haitian, as Farmer did, could have settled there or in Miami and worked as a translator, English teacher, health instructor, counselor. Instead I abandoned that line of work and came home to write and teach poetry, do theatre and live in English speaking culture. I live in a big house with good plumbing instead of a small shack. I drive everywhere instead of walk, I am safe and comfortable and protected and published. It's not a bad life, not a bad life at all. And yet...

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