Friday, January 01, 2010

I am, in general, a List Queen. I make to-do lists every week or so. I celebrate every new year, fresh start, new beginning I can--Rosh Hashana, Chinese New Year, all Solstices and Equinoxes, new moons, you name it. If there's an excuse for a clean slate and a nice list of projects to be accomplished, there I am with my colored pens, drawing it up. It certainly beats the hell out of actually doing the work itself.

So I tried to think of new year's resolutions for 2010. But the truth is, I don't have the heart for it. My friend Genie Zeiger has died, too young, in Massachusetts. My sister sent me the beautiful front-page obituary from Western mass yesterday, with Genie';s lovely smiling face on the cover. Genie was a sweetie-pie, a poet, enthusiastic and tender and eager. She was sixty-six when she died but very youthful the way artists are, no matter what their chronological age.

So her death and carla's health, and the economy and the state of the world in general. I saw another artist friend at the year-end "Circle Sing for Life" celebration; you get in a circle with other people and sing for hours and hours. Linda Tillery, another one of my artist-heros whom I am proud to call a friend, was there leading the circle for a couple of hours. Afterwards she talked with my friend mary and me. "Two thousand and nine was just a turd of a year," she said. "Let's hope two thousand and ten will be better."

I had to agree. Even though great things happened for me personally this year, they happened against the backdrop of terrible things happening for other people, including some of my loved ones. And there's the overriding tension not knowing if our teaching livelihoods are secure or not. Unless some kind of miracle happens for the California state budget, i don't actually see that situation getting remedied in the next twelve months but I hope I am wrong.

Meanwhile I still have plenty of goals (as opposed to resolutions.) I plan to finish the next draft of The Recruiter, finish the book proposal, publish the next book of poetry, apply for some grants, write more, write better, all that. I'll always have lists of goals. But resolutions? Only two: drink more water and be kinder. To myself as well as to everyone else. The rest is commentary.


We've had quiet holidays...I've been reading Anna Deavere Smith's wonderful book, Letters to a Young Artist. It's really inspiring--she's really inspiring to me as an artist and an intellectual. I love her long-running inquiry into the state of the American character via the language we use. I sit fascinated in front of my computer when I should be writing, listening to her interview with Bill Moyers (google it! It's worth the thirty minutes!!) I want to study with her, to sit at her feet. I would happily carry her bags, pick up her take-out, wash her laundry to know what she knows. But it's clear, from her book, what she knows--it's what carla knows as well, what all the artsists I admire know: hard work.

Joy too--fun, too--but also, unremitting practice and discipline. I was delighted to learn in this book that ADS is a committed swimmer, (like me!) and that she also does yoga and vocal exercises daily. I think the demands of work in the theatre, when met whole-heartedly, constitute one of the most complete trainings a human could ever get. To be an excellent theatre-worker, you have to know about your body, intimate; you have to know how to train and work with your physical and vocal potentials and limitations.

You also get an unending education in history, literature, sociology, philosophy...Deavere Smith is so erudite that even reading a relatively simple book of hers sparks my mind by osmosis. As I read her book, I began to understand more deeply what my play The Recruiter is about. And this new understanding necessitates another draft, a restructuring. So here we go again.

Okay, there are more goals for the new year: one is to master a new piece on the piano, now that "Louie Louie" is solid. C is encouraging me to tackle a simplified version of a Beatles song--that way I could sing along with myself as I played. I never thought I'd learn piano in my fifties, but it's really fun. As I listened to him play the blues last night with a musician friend I wished to learn that form as well. There's really no end to it.

We saw District 9 the other night which was great fun. I love the mock-umentary style with the hand-held camera, and the goofiness of the whole thing, despite the underlying seriousness of its message. We watched the special features afterward and I noticed that the director was about twelve years old--alright, maybe thirty, tops--and that he freely admitted that he didn't really know what he was doing when he started the project but was making it up as he went along. This was all the encouragement I needed. I nudged C in the ribs. "Hey, we could make a movie!"

Later, my friend Shazam came over for New Year's Eve and we began plotting it out on a napkin at the kitchen table. Video technology is so easy, so accessible now. We could do something like the Blair Witch Project, which was made on a shoestring and has raked in millions. So maybe that's a third New Year's resolution: to finish the projects I already have on tap and then to cut loose and make our own movie...


Anonymous said...

i was recently introduced to ADS on the bill moyer's show. got her book right away and read it in one sitting. oh, my! what a totally inspirational human.

as are you. keep shining.

all best in the new year!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!