Constant Havoc

Yes, I thought about this stuff before I put it here.

Tag: writing

Love

What is love? I’m not sure I know.

Google defines it as “an intense feeling of deep affection” as the noun and “feel a deep romantic or sexual attachment to (someone)” as the verb. Definitions are often sparse, and these leave me wanting more.

Does love have conditions? If I have great affection for a person but I dislike one aspect a great deal, do I love that person? If I meet a man whom I find attractive and want to pursue, is my lust love? Is it a kind of love? Does love vary?

I might be arguing semantics. I’m not really sure what I’m doing.

I have a friend I’ve known for 15 years or more. We know each other intimately. I share my deepest thoughts with this man. I love him. I love everything about him. I love his artistry he displays at work. I love his sexual forays that he describes to me. I love his quest to inject meaning into his every moment. I love his pain. I love his faults that creep in every once in a while. I would fight for this man. I have no fear that our love might falter.

I love my children. They are young adults, and I am very happy with how they are maturing. I can say authoritatively they are genuinely good people. They each evince high standards of behavior. I would die for them. I would not think twice about it.

Those two are love. I have no doubt of it.

I want to know that quality of connection with a man.

In my meditations every morning, I remove the layers I accumulate throughout the day. First, I take off a thick layer I gain from simply walking around and interacting with the world. Next, I take off the layer I build up around myself each day to protect myself. I go within and remove the layer around something that’s in my core. Perhaps it’s the layer I create to hide myself from myself. Finally, I unzip the layer I build around my heart.

In meditation, I completely expose myself to the Universe.

When I continue meditation, I move through a landscape of love. I end up walking through a wall of light coming to a place of immense love. From here, I can go even higher. Yesterday, I did just that, and I removed even another layer ending as a shining beam of light.

I want that with a man. I want to be that exposed.

Pure openness.

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Yes

The initial sound requires one to open the mouth inviting the engulfing vowel that reaches beyond itself to accept the final consonant that doesn’t seem to end the word. No, the end trails off into an emptiness the speaker is asking to have filled.

Memories

Eruption

Greek helmet

Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ son Achilles

Homer, The Iliad

My lungs become bellows, and I release words. I regret nothing said. I was in a safe place and with people who like me. My thoughts are my own. I am a kind, generous, understanding man.

What you heard was honest. I can’t control how you interpret what you decide you heard.

I don’t even care.

Anger has a place, and I felt it. I used it. I am done with it now.

I forgive me.

“You?” Not my problem.

Casual Conversation

Cable car in San Francisco's Union Square

Cable car in San Francisco’s Union Square

I walked up as innocent and excited as any this-is-my-first-day-on-the-job I. Magnin employee could be. The late fall air in San Francisco filled my head with vapors better than any coffee high. The cable thumped and sang beneath the street.

She lay in wait.

I was dressed in my best: charcoal gray wool pants, a silk sport coat, a plain white Oxford-cloth shirt with a button-down collar, and a brown and black faux-regimental tie that might still nestle in a bag somewhere under my bed. Nah, possibly gone to Goodwill ages ago. All that covered by a London Fog coat.

She was short, dark hair, mid-thirties I’d say. None of her dress flashes back now. Too many decades intervened. Glasses? Yes, maybe glasses. Clear, fair skin and dark eyes. No makeup to remember. Plump.

I glanced to the hilltop, looking for the cable car.

“I could drop dead any minute they say.”

Pivot. Eyes wide. A full step back. I reply, “Good morning?”

“The doctors, you know. They say it could happen any time.”

“Oh.” A look up the hill.

“Waiting for the car? It’ll be here any second. Where are you going?”

“To Union Square.” Still not used to talking to strangers in The City.

And rescue crested the hill, clanging and wrenching its way down to us. I wrestled my wallet out of my pocket ready to brandish my fresh MUNI pass, my ID that I belonged in The City. The car thumped and almost shrieked to a halt in front of us, and I stood aside allowing the lady to climb aboard first. I followed and flashed my pass.

I found a seat far from her and imagined my coat was warm.

But is it ever cold in San Francisco?

I mean, apart from out in the avenues in June?

Living Abroad

from here to there

from here to there

I had the great fortune to live abroad for quite a number of years as a young adult. I called Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Australia, England, and France home at one time or another. Reading travel writing is one of my favorites, and I get the most pleasure from what experienced writers have to say about their jaunts. I like both fiction and nonfiction when it comes to stories about life overseas.

Graham Greene wrote often about the many different places he visited. He is well known for The Quiet American, and I have a couple of favorite quotes from the book.

[Americans] were so charming, and I wanted to send them home too. (Part 3, ch. 2, 2)

Americans abroad need protection. We’re too cute for our own good.

“Perhaps you ought to have been a priest.” [Thomas]

“I didn’t read the right authors for that — in those days.” [Vigot] (Part 3, ch. 1, 1)

Reading plays an important formative role for all of us, and perhaps it’s a bit different for those who ruminate over words. I was marked and changed by Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. The words, characters, and ideas of the book invaded my head at a young age. My university English professor, who guided me through Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, asked me why I’d thought I could read such a tome. My quick, youthful and honest reply was “Arrogance.”

Mark Twain traveled, and of course, he wrote.

The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak, now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own heart when I shall have finished my travels. Innocents Abroad, vol. 1, ch. 23

Of course, I am a consummate ass and a proud one, too. There’s such a wide world to see, and in the twenty-first century, it takes very little to become a consummate ass. Join us.

A Few Thoughts on Acting

In an interview published in 1961, Jose Ferrer said, “I like to tell the author’s story. That’s the satisfaction of acting to me.” He stressed relaying the playwright’s narrative. He did not address the issue of absurdest theater in what I read, but I came away with the clear sense that the play’s the thing.

What is the actor’s responsibility to the script? Can it be as simple as to breathe life into it? An actor takes written words and transforms them into an oral medium. He gives them voice. If he’s any good, he may even give them life. But a lot happens between the first reading and the performance. Words spark imagination. Words inspire the actor to feel. A whole range of physical reactions stir the actor to create. And it all starts with words. Words. Words.

In another part of the interview, Mr. Ferrer described memorization as the most unpleasant part of the acting process, and I agree. There’s a tyranny of the script, and it makes me ask about the choices the author has made. Hamlet gives us a brilliant speech about his inept handling of his dead father’s wishes in “O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!” The words fight to get off the page and fly about the theater firing the passions of the hearers. Hamlet is chastened by the Player’s tears for an unknown Hecuba, while he himself toils with the knowledge of a dear murdered father.

Yet, when we see him next, Hamlet is lost in “To be, or not to be…” A good actor has to be responsible for the transition from one to the other. There must be a world he occupies where objects and events lead him from shouting to hesitation. What can the actor accomplish between those two disparate speeches to arrive from the passion of one to the pathos of the other?

The author only sets down what is absolutely necessary to advance the plot. Any extraneous speech, line, phrase, or word has to be struck from the page. While we can write reams about the difference between these two speeches and how inappropriate their timing may be, we have to assume that Shakespeare set them down on the page in sequence for a reason. In Olivier’s movie of Hamlet, he interposes the scene with Ophelia between the two. I think he does a disservice to the writer.

As Mr. Ferrer said, the actor is telling a story, one written by someone else (except on very rare occasions). The actor is not an editor. He is a vessel. He is the important transporter of the playwright’s words, delivering them to a receptive audience, hopefully, in a dynamic and correct manner. He exists to animate what is on the page.

“Never May the Fruit be Plucked” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

tomatoes

Never, never may the fruit be plucked from the bough

And gathered into barrels.

He that would eat of love must eat it where it hangs.

Though the branches bend like reeds,

Though the ripe fruit splash in the grass or wrinkle on the tree,

He that would eat of love may bear away with him

Only what his belly can hold,

Nothing in the apron,

Nothing in the pockets.

Never never may the the fruit be gathered from the bough

And harvested in barrels.

The winter of love is a cellar of empty bins,

In an orchard soft with rot.

In this poem, four lines are almost repeated save one or two words. Importantly, those changes are verbs. There is something in the action that the poet wants us to look at closely. In the lines beginning “never, never…,” plucked becomes gathered, and in the lines about the barrels, gathered becomes harvested. The ideas in the words rhyme. It’s interesting that she chose only 3 verbs to play with. Plucked. Gathered. Harvested.

Plucked has joy in it. Spring laughs.

Gathered begs multiplicity. It is full.

Harvested is final. Ripening completes.

And in the end, in love’s winter, nothing is stored but rots where it hangs or lays. The ripe, full joy comes to an inedible sour sweet stench.

Reading Opening Lines

Published 1973 by Jonathan Cape

Gravity’s Rainbow. Published 1973 by Jonathan Cape.

A screaming comes across the sky.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon opens with that sentence. I like the simple, declarative structure. Sound takes on the active role. Something that we see as normally passive and received becomes the actor, the mover. It does so in a medium that is painted with adjectives to adorn it with meaning. Here sky stands alone. It’s not stormy, blue, clear, cloudy, or even star-studded.

And how does sound relate to this empty sky? It comes. Of all the ways it could have passed, ridden, approached, or appeared. The whole idea has been stripped to its essence, and in those naked words, a glimmer of what is to come is born.

Opening sentences carry enormous responsibility in books. They have to inform the reader about the subject of the book, and good ones subtly set the tone. Great ones make the astute reader stop and stare. The line quoted above is one of those. It announces to anyone interested enough to consider it that the following book is going to be loud enough to fill an empty space. Gravity’s Rainbow roared into literary space in 1973 and has been the subject of study, adoration, and derision ever since. It happens to be one of my top 5 favorite books.

Another great book also opens simply. John Steinbeck’s East of Eden starts with “The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.” At first glance, the sentence is almost boring, until you consider the elements. There is a name, and there is place echoed from the book’s title. What follows in the story is a wrestling of name and identity in place that grows, anchors, and frees.

I read books. I can tell a lot by the opening line. I’ve read some pieces in which I knew the entire plot by the first sentence, and I’ve read some that needed a lot of work on that one little sentence.

My favorite opening line of all time comes from a little book with a big title, Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett. While it’s very good, no, the book did not win the National Book Award. That’s not what we’re here to consider.

What does the opening line say?

Lightning sought our mother out, when she was a young girl in Brown County, Indiana.

There it is. It’s got sentient natural electrical weather. It’s got the maternal role juxtaposed against the promise of a youthful girl. And it’s got place. I love that the moving inanimate electricity searches for the girl. It injects just a note of paranoia. But it’s in the past and in a seemingly unlikely place. The book goes on to fulfill the promise of this opening. It’s got bad weather and women and an odd place little thought of by people except those who live there.

When I browse bookshops, I often read the opening lines of books. I rarely look at what the cover has to say. The verbiage written on the dust jacket is advertising, but the opening line is there to hook me. It’s there to compel to read what follows.

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