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Anyone need a house cleaner? OR The Existentialist Terror of Day Jobs

15 Jul

I feel like cleaning. Like finding pleasure in making things look better and relishing the satisfaction of an easy decision (“It’s dirty? I’ll clean it!”) The results of tidying are easy to measure. And wiping things down and pickings things up is relatively mindless, so one can be mindful while doing it. I want the sense of control and order that cleaning gives.

Sadly, this is not a late-blooming sense of maturity around cleanliness. Nor is a belated drive for spring cleaning. It’s a sign that things are a bit crap right now creatively.

The past few days have been a rough slog. Last week was all show, all the time, as I rewrote and rehearsed like mad to get the solo piece ready for Monday Night Marsh. It’s a relief to be able to spend some time on other projects. And it’s a bit overwhelming as well. There are so many options, so many things calling for my attention, so many loose threads to tie off as I near the end of this cycle of six-month goals.  There is comfort in an urgent deadline and the focus it brings. Now I’m back in the land of many options, of distant deadlines but needed progress, and it’s making me scattered and lethargic.

The main project turning my mind to runny egg is figuring out job options:  I am trying to figure out what day job will best support my creative work (and eventual career.) Do I start a post-production company with my friend? Do I try to develop a product and outsource its manufacture and fulfillment (ala the 4HWW?)  Do I become a bartender, tutor, or find myself a sugar mama, er, patroness? Or should I capitalize on this urge to neaten up and hire myself out as a house cleaner? Looking at all the possible jobs and career paths means facing a forest of question marks.

All of which leaves my head feeling like a gray-carpeted waiting room at a hospital. Call me when there’s a good answer on the job front.  Until then, I’m off to scrub a counter-top and rearrange some cupboards.


Show Update

13 Jul

Just completed the debut of my short solo show “Speaking the Names” at Monday Night Marsh. It went really well. There was a great audience including several friendly faces and a strong line-up of other performers. It was great to get my material up in front of a large audience and suss out the reactions. I got more laughs than I expected, which is good. And they were with me on the entire journey. Felt real good. So I’m looking forward to next performance on 26 July 2010.

Hope to see you there.

Speaking the Names: My solo show this Monday at the Marsh Theater

9 Jul

I’m excited to announce that my short solo show “Speaking the Names” will be debuting at The Marsh in July, and I’m hoping you can join me at one of the two performances.

The show focuses on how September 11th affected those of us who experienced the tragedy from afar—via TV screens, word of mouth, the internet, etc.—and how we remember what happened.

There are two performances, and I need friendly faces in the audience both nights. I’ll be one of four performers each night.

To RSVP please click the link for the day you wish to attend (below) and add your name and email to the guest list. (Your email will not be shown to anyone else, it’s just so I can send you a reminder or update.)


I’ve had to create two separate invites for the different days. (Kind of annoying, but no event sites seem to offer multiple date options.  That said, if you’ve used Evite, I recommend MyPunchBowl as an alternative. It’s easier to use, more sophisticated, and more comprehensive.)

1st PERFORMANCE / 12 JULY (Monday)

2nd PERFORMANCE / 26 JULY (Monday)

INFO: All tickets are $7, at the door only, 30 minutes before the show. All seating is first-come, first-served.


Greg Brown gets drunk on the moment

29 Jun

Greg Brown

Greg Brown’s been known to drink too much before a set. So the audience wasn’t sure what they were going to get at Freight & Salvage last Thursday when he and Beau, his lanky backing guitarist, first sat down to play, swaying like bodies underwater. The first four songs were played like that, with Beau, a besuited scarecrow with a bobble head, slowly sinking closer to the floor, and Greg, hunched over his guitar and singing in a voice slurred and so deep the front row nearly fell in.

Though this and Greg’s heartfelt intersong patter was enough to keep us entertained, it could be said that during this first fifth of their set the two musicians weren’t playing together, just next to each other. It all fell into place on “Fat Boy Blues” a comic wail about getting a belly that had Greg moaning as his lover, “Baby, I don’t know if you’ve gotten bigger in places, or smaller in others.” From that song forward, frail thin Beau and fat boy Greg were like Jack Sprat and his wife, busy licking the platter clean with their two guitars. We were all in the same boat for the rest of the night, riding a rolling river of a set that splashed equal parts laughter and tears.

Good news, all: Greg Brown drank just enough.

It’s hard to figure out what Mr Brown does that makes his songs as powerful as they are in person. The power isn’t in his words, though he writes well—but he mumbles, shuffles, and wavers through notes and words.  Power isn’t in his playing of the guitar; he plays hot as the sun sometimes, loose nail casual others, but it’s just part of the wash and doesn’t grab you on its own merits. Power isn’t in his singing—he doesn’t try to hold a note in a pretty way.

No his power comes from the whole, not the part. It’s not the singing or the playing, it’s the energy behind them. Mr Brown feels each note, lyric, strum, and moment. Sometimes his voice revs and sputters like an old Cadillac trying to get up to speed, and it’s that struggle, that push behind the note that gets you. Sunburned, thick-necked and wearing a panama hat and sunglasses indoors at 9PM, Greg plays a song just as it is in that imperfect moment, with Beau twanging along beside him, hanging in the air like someone hung his suit jacket in the closet without taking him out of it first.

And it’s a beautiful thing.

Resistance or Sometimes it feels better to do nothing

22 Jun

The week before last I was in retreat, working on my solo show (which is the main reason I’ve neglected to post here.) It was heavenly: I spent 9 hours/day working directly on the show, and the rest of the time relaxing by watching performers I admire. Spending so much concentrated time on my creative work was a gift.

Then this past week happened. As the Greek poets might say, it sucked donkey balls.

I knew it was going to be a let down, as I’d only have 2-3 hour/day to work on the show, but in the end I didn’t even manage that. A combination of work, classes, and travel, slowed me down mightily and I’ve fallen behind where I want to be.

And here’s the insidious thing: Now that I have the time to the work, I don’t want to. Even though (or especially because?) I have a class tonight in which the teacher is expecting to see progress and I want to make a good impression.

Fortunately, I’ve been around the creative block long enough to recognize this as Resistance. The idea of facing my failure to work on the show and the challenge of picking up where I left off (which seems like eons ago) is unpleasant. Worse still is facing my let-down expectations. Whenever I think about getting up on my feet, working a character or story, I immediately get a foghorn blast of “You’re nowhere near where you should be, you complete and comprehensive failure!” or some equally pleasant variation.

I’d rather do something else, like watch the World Cup, or read other blogs, or gouge out my eyes then actually doing the hard work of getting started again and accepting the piece and my progress as it is. But fortunately, I know the best solution in this situation is to take my cue from Nike and just do it. To get up, take action, and let it suck.

So that’s what I’m off to do. But I don’t like it.

In Memoriam

31 May

My grandfather was a hunter. But when he came back from fighting in World War II, he no longer hunted. He found he didn’t enjoy it anymore.

Grandpa talked about some of his experiences in battle. Certain stories were family lore, especially the tale about how his life had been saved by a small metal-covered bible my grandma gave him just before he left for service.  He went in on D-Day +1.  Crawling around a hedgerow, he was surprised by a German solider who got the gun up on him first and shot him in the heart. The bullet went clean through that bible–which sat in his left breast pocket–but was slowed by it, getting stuck in a pack of chewing gum on the other side. As a boy, I marveled at the worn bible, a hole in it the size of my pinky.

Certain stories he didn’t talk about until later in life. After D-day, he was sent to North Africa, but he didn’t tell anyone this until he was in his 70’s, maybe feeling his age and the need to get it out.  He outlined the parts of the campaign that he was involved in, tracing his movement on a map in the yellow light of my grandparent’s dining room while my dad video’d him. But it’s still not clear what happened there to make him so reticent. It obviously affected him deeply.

Several years later, when his mind had been wiped clean by Alzheimer’s, I visited him at his new home, an assisted living apartment.  He no longer recognized his own wife, much less his kids or grandkids. Like a 2-year old, he babbled constantly, seeming nonsense. But as I sat there, looking into his dimmed eyes and holding his cool, smooth, leathery hands, it became clear to me what he was talking about: He was talking about war. Even after everything else had been taken from him, those fragments of memory stayed with him somehow, in his muscles and bones. Incommunicable.

In memory of my grandfather, Memorial Day 2010.

Wild Mind: The First Rule of Writing Practice

28 May

Every weekday morning, I practice writing for one hour.  It’s a lot more fun than the scales Mrs C- had me practice on the piano when I was 5, and the aim is the same: I’m rehearsing the fundamentals.  Writing practice is my trip to the word gym, the way I keep fighting (or writing?) fit and work on my technique.

But how does one practice writing? As posted earlier, I follow the 7 rules outlined by Natalie Goldberg in Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life.  They work for me.  There are probably as many different answers to this question as there are writers, considering those who don’t intentionally practice.  Yet I suspect Ms Goldberg’s first, most fundamental rule is a necessary one for any successful practice, and that rule is,

Keep your hand moving.

Why is this important? Continue reading