Tuesday, June 30, 2009
2. Make enough money in my life to be healthy and happy
3. Compose a ballet and see it produced
4. Go to Europe for and extended time (i.e, as a non-tourist)
5. Write a play and see it produced
6. Learn to play guitar and piano
7. Get a college degree just for the sake of it
8. Write novels I want to write, (sans fear of recrimination)
9. Grow happiness and thwart anger
10. Watch all of my children grow to be happy, however that may happen
11. Reconcile my differences with family members
12. Own a summer camp somewhere
13. Buy Corrine an incredibly beautiful and unique ring
14. Give Fallon and Gabrielle away at their weddings, if they choose that path
15. Be the one they turn to
16. Act in a motion picture, if only for one scene
17. Be remembered for the writing, not the celebrity
18. Understand myself
19. Attend the Oscars, Tonys and Emmys just because
20. Get back to the days I was filled with inspiration and joy (1985? 1986?)
21. Be quoted by people after I'm gone
22. Inspire someone
23. Less cynical
24. Stop comparative living
25. Buy a house on the coast and wake to the sound of the Atlantic
26. Write and sell a screenplay and see it produced
27. Meet a famous world leader upon their request
28. Understand religion
29. Bring value not contempt into the lives of others
30. Provide solutions not derision
31. Travel the US
32. Be interviewed on television for doing something great
33. Expel the demons of the past
34. Be understood and taken seriously as a person and an artist
35. Tread lightly
36. Understand my dreams
37. Be the example
38. Strip away pretension
39. Appreciate the value of the lupine given to me more than the wild one in the field
40. Exalt my achievements rather than discount them
41. Write a poem that is published
42. Learn to appreciate a compliment
43. Eliminate regret
44. Open my heart more
45. Sit with my children at a Red Sox game
46. Give someone a fortune
47. Teach my children to do what they love now, and do it forever
48. Know beauty when I see it
49. Give a child a family who didn't have one before
50. Chalk it up to their ignorance, not my ineptness
51. Get in shape
52. Fight for it more when it seems a lost cause
53. Celebrate their youthfulness
54. Understand what makes me blush
55. Give her the love she deserves
56. Appreciate myself
57. Have faith in the words
58. Learn art appreciation
59. Expand my tastes in food
60. Understand wine
61. Be a citizen of this world, not the one I think it should be
Monday, June 29, 2009
I've been in a few shows, as an actor, and only one other as director. I've seen enough to know the difference between a terrible show, a mediocre show, and a hit. Never Too Late was a hit. We had Eight shows with eight nearly-full houses (we seat 100, and the number dipped below 70 only once.)
The audiences were responsive, appreciative, and fun. No stinkers. No sleepers. None of those audiences that for whatever reason left their collective sense of humor at home and scowled through the whole show. (I've suffered through shows like that. It felt like sitting in a laundromat on the hottest day in August).
Someone who is associated with OHMPAA (Oxford Hills Music and Performing Arts Association) who has produced and acted in and directed numerous shows, said it best. There's no science to it. There's no way to know, until it's all over, how a show will be received. He produced arguably the best OHMPAA show three years ago. With what many believe to be the best musical talent we've ever staged.
And it was a bust.
Corrine and I went to see it and went away thinking we had somehow been transported to Off Broadway. It was that freakin good.
They only sold 400 tickets. That's less than half the total available.
They produced a Neil Simon show this past winter and it fell flat. Neil Simon!!
I had never heard of Never Too Late. But, reading the script, knew it had the potential to be very funny.
After the first night of rehearsals, when I had very few show, I worried we would have no show and I would be the first director in OHMPAA's illustrious history to shut down a production before it even began.
Second night of auditions, I hit the lottery. With a female lead who had never had a lead and who hadn't acted on stage since music was purchased on something called "an album".
My male lead had never been a lead before.
My second female lead was 15 playing a 24-year-old.
But, it worked out. We had a couple full houses, and a few near-full. We made a profit. We put on a show that audiences left still laughing about.
I couldn't be happier with how it all came out in the end.
Friday, June 26, 2009
This is Friday Fragments, a bunch of unrelated thoughts and events that have occurred to me or at me or near me this past week. Mrs. 4444 over Half Past Kissin' Time is the originator of this cool idea. Check her out. She's wicked.
# Corrine and I watched 3 Days of the Condor recently. The main character's name is Joe Turner, who makes a reference to Dick Tracy, the detective. Joe Turner is my uncle. Dick Tracy is Corrine's uncle. Just a coincidence, or a sign that, in 1973, the movie's producers knew Corrine and I were fated for each other? Hmmm? Come one. You know it's freaky, don't lie.
# I never thought my grandmother, who is in her early 90s, would outlive Farah or Michael. Are you shitting me? I was not a Farah girl. I liked Kate more, maybe because I never had a thing for blonds. And, I am NOT ashamed to say, I was a huge fan of Michael. He was and will always be one of the greatest entertainers of this or any other age. His personal weirdness aside, his departure is stunning and sad and pathetic.
# Griffin turns a year old today! Dude! You've got to be kidding me. He's walking, he's teething, he's dancing, he's amazing.
# Today, I head to Farmington for a Course Selection Day at the university. I meet with my advisor, get a tour of the campus, and pick classes. I'm cautiously excited. Excitedly cautious.
# I have come to the conclusion that I have a persecution complex. You know, where I think everyone is dicking me around and I'm not getting any love from anyone. It comes and goes and it really brings my mood down. It works like this: I have dreams at night in which real people in my life dog me for this or that; during the day, I think about this person or that person who dislikes me (for real); and at other times, my blood boils at the various times in my life when someone I know has insulted me. Why does this happen? When am I going to just let go of the haters? When am I going to just face the facts: I'm human, and to err is human, and that I cannot go through life putting myself on trial, and acting as my own defense attorney?
I think I am a nice person, a worthy human, with flaws. I have a temper, I am moody, but I also have a soaring spirit. A giving heart. A mind toward the happiness of those around me, not their despair. I wish for the success of those who hate me. I put my family first in all things, but I also selfishly steal hours at a time alone so that I can pursue my art.
If I have failed you, I am sorry. If I have hurt you, I did not intend it. It was not with malice, but self-preservation, that I made decisions that altered your path and the perceptions of others.
# My daughter told me she thought Corrine was attractive. I'm not sure why, but after I dropped her off, on the drive back home alone, I felt like crying.
# The title of my autobiography, so far: "What Is and What Should Never Be"
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
But in my dream, it was a hit, so I suppose I should be proud. Right?
Andrew Whitaker, the main character, and Purple, are both becoming more clearly defined. I like them both. I understand them better, which makes the ending painful for me. I can feel resistance building in me. To avoid writing what happens. It makes me sick.
I worry about little things while I write, I noticed. And I wonder if this is the key to my numerous blocks: the little worries ensnare my creativity.
For example, Purple goes to the local thrift store to buy clothes from the 60s and 70s. She alters them to fit, and also to make them relatively current. (In my mind, Purple - who is 17 - is a throwback to the days of Hippies. She loves the style, loves the music, etc.) So I went to Google and searched things like "Hippies" and "Hippie clothing styles" and "Pot-smoking free-love Woodstock"
Found lots of porn, as usual. But also stumbled upon what I was looking for: BOHO.
Apparently there's this "new" fashion craze happening that follows the bohemian look (thus BOHO) and I'll be damned if the photos I saw didn't remind me of Purple Holly.
But here's my little fear: how the hell am I gonna write about a girl who alters clothes? I don't know the first thing about fashion or alterations. I know, research, research, research. I can do research. But, my fear is, will it sound authentic?
Little fears like that.
Like, am I coloring my world correctly? Skies are blue, grass is green (or brown, if dead) fire engines are red. Yada yada yada. I get it. But I don't want to use cliches. I want the story to vibrate through the use of ever sense. And color is a biggie. Corrine reads my stuff, and she says it's spot-on. I suppose I'll have to list her as "technical expert". Maybe she'll model BOHO for me? Smoke a reefer. You know, to help me get the full effect.
(DISCLAIMER: Corrine does not smoke reefers. That was what we in the writing business call "A LIE IN ORDER TO GET A CHEAP LAUGH AT THE EXPENSE OF SOMEONE ELSE")
I've asked a few of my very closest of friends, Corrine, and my older children to follow along as I develop the story. I write a scene a day, and post it in a private blog. But I've turned off the comments because I don't want to know what they think. That sounds ridiculous, I know. Why create blog, invite them to it, and then deny them the chance to make a comment.
Well, I like the idea of having an audience to write to. When I work each scene, I am thinking of my little "reading committee", helping to spur me on toward each new entry. A guilty pleasure of mine, to know that eyes are on these words. It forces me to continue.
The scenes are rough. This is, of course, the first draft. Some things will not make sense. The writing is not 100 percent fluid, yet. You can read one scene one day, and the next day the tenor of the writing will be just a slight bit different.
But this is the writing process. The readers are getting a glimpse of it in its raw state. I'm dying to know what they think, of course, but knowing would influence the writing. And you should never, ever write under the influence.
Corrine can get loaded all she wants.
(see? told you)
Monday, June 22, 2009
The matinee was at 2, which meant we all had to be there at noon, which meant I had little time in the morning, and little time last night really to share with my children.
I was treated to breakfast and Fallon, Harrison, Gabrielle and Griffin were there. And of course Corrine. Gabi and Griffin both love drinking those little creamers you use in your coffee. Fallon and Harrison used to drink them too, when they were little.
The show went off really without a hitch. The fourth and final performance before a three-day layover before the final four performances this week. I can't possibly be any happier with the performances or the audiences. They both have been great.
Last night, Corrine made supper on the grill. Steak, seasoned potatoes, stuffed mushrooms, and corn on the cob. I got to eat only the mushrooms and potato.
Griffin threw a fit (he's teething and it's causing all kinds of pain and fever and runny nose...) and Gabrielle awoke from a long in a mood. A bad one. I took her in my lap and sat with her while she ate, and to allow Corrine, Fallon and Harrison to eat their suppers.
I didn't mind. But it did piss off Corrine. She went to all that hard work to give me a Daddy's Day supper and I didn't eat.
But frankly, Corrine makes supper every night. Not just Father's Day. I would rather her eat first, for a change, than have to drop everything for the two littlest.
I'm not looking for an award here folks. But honestly, I am blessed to have Corrine, someone I don't have to ask anything from because she gives of her all, constantly, and with little recognition. If you're a mother or a wife, you know what I'm talking about.
And besides, it was Father's Day. Shouldn't I get to decide to watch the screamers so that the others can eat for a change?
Sunday, June 21, 2009
on a cliff
in the grass
over the blue
waters of the Atlantic
a jetty reaches out
to his left
a finger of rock and trees
and his eyes
follow the direction
as if it wants
him to notice something
my father is always
looking farther out
to the far reaches
to the horizon
my father is
Friday, June 19, 2009
This week, I dedicate FF to my Son, Griffin Allan Kent Turner.
- Griffin was born, we were told, with only one testicle. Not a really serious thing, although as the doctor was saying this, he happened to throw in the possibility of cancer in men with one ball.
("Oh sure, go ahead and swim in the ocean. Just watch for those sharks!")
So Corrine and I have taken him to see a urologist, who spent the better part of an hour massaging my son's sack looking for the absentee.
She found one, but it was the opposite one the original doctor had found. There was a debate. Was it the right nut or the left? I'm standing, hands in my pockets, weighing my own and thinking "How the hell would you know? They feel the same to me" when Corrine looked across the examination room with a knowing look. ("Dude, are you in junior high? Stop it!")
After 30 minutes of the urologist groping, MY testicles sucked right up into my pelvis. Jesus fucking christ woman, FIND it, don't turn it into cornmeal. Well, we left her office knowing nothing new.
This week, we took Griffin "The Uniball" Turner to have an ultrasound. Laid out on his back, his business just hanging out there, his little manhood a mere penis and no luggage. The ultrasound technician swabbed her ultrawand (looked like a grocery store scanner) with goo and proceeded to do her thing. Rolling it over and under and around. (Griffin's smile said "Little to the left ... no no .. right there! Do you charge by the hour, doc?) The television screen behind her looked like a movie of a cloudy night. This mass of dark and gray until, magically, forms took shape. It's how I imagine the universe was created. Just a lot of hot gasses and puffy strange black clouds and then, out of the haze, a planet...then two...)
She had found BOTH balls. Rock on, big boy! Of course, looking at it on the screen, the three dark masses (two balls and his penis) looked like a skull. A very Stephen Kingish moment.
- Griff was not circumcised at birth, a decision we both made before he was born as being unnecessarily traumatic and holding no biological value. I was hesitant. My oldest son was not circumcised either, but because his mother's brothers are both hemophiliacs and since hemophilia is passed down through mothers, we could not have him cut like that. As it turned out, Harrison does not have hemophilia. HOWEVER, at the age of 13, he needed corrective surgery because the foreskin was not separating. It was a painful procedure, a painful recovery, not to mention humiliating for a kid going through puberty. I mean, come on. Forget that the doctor had to even LOOK down there. He had to do SURGERY. AND, as an added bonus, it was swollen, black and blue and felt like he had been punched. The poor kid had to wear a bag of ice.
AND as another bonus, he could in no way do anything strenuous because of where the stitches were. Read: puberty. Read: teenage boy. Read: Every time the wind blows. I mean, jesus, when I was 13, just about everything reminded me of ... never mind. You get where I'm going.
Poor chap. I felt for him. I really did.
So naturally I feared the same future for little Griff. We expressed this to his urologist, who prescribed a testosterone gel concoction to lather onto the tip of his penis to promote development.
The bottom line? My youngest has had more female hands on his unit than I have my entire life and because of the testorub, will have to legally change his last name to Holmes.
- Griff will be one year old on June 26. At 11 months and two weeks, he took his first steps. And not tentative, one or two steps, but a stroll across the kitchen floor. We knew this was coming. He has been gearing up for awhile now and only needed a little confidence.
I personally think news of having two balls and a wonder shlong was a welcome relief and he had to celebrate by taking a victory lap.
- Griff has three teeth coming in at the same time. His mother has stopped breastfeeding immediately and for obvious reasons. The problem with this should be evident. No longer getting nourishment from the breast means nothing to him. Latching on is his way of being soothed., however. Corrine, no matter how much she loves to connect that way with him, does not, under any circumstances, give a shit about his separation anxiety if it means losing a nipple.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
We went inside, and lo and behold, the little shit walked.
Across the kitchen floor! He doesn't turn one for another two weeks.
I got it on video with a digital camera. For some reason, the entire video is sped up, like a Chaplin movie. Oh well.
Anyway, let it be known that, on Thursday, June 18, at around 10 a.m., my boy took his very first (in a drunken sort of way) steps of his life.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Dan Rennie, left, playing Charles, with Dennis Twitchell, as Harry, with the now-infamous toilet between them.
We ran dress rehearsal last night for Never Too Late.
And a toilet died.
In every show I've acted in, or directed, there is always some magnificent FUBAR moment that nearly brings the show to a halt. The mark of a good cast is its ability to navigate around the mess without the audience even suspecting.
Last night, my male lead, playing the part of Harry Lambert, the acerbic lumberyard owner who finds out his 50-plus-year-old wife is pregnant, shattered the tank of a toilet. Destroyed it.
The scene begins with Harry and his son-in-law arriving home after a night of heavy drinking. Drunkenly they slur about, stumbling and joking and having a gay old drunken time.
At one point, a brand new toilet destined for installation in an upstairs nursery, is pulled out of the living room closet (put there in an earlier scene when the Mayor of the town suddenly arrives and Harry demands it be hidden from view.)
Well, in Harry's drunken state, he comes to the brilliant conclusion that the toilet should actually be placed on the front steps of the meddling, officious Mayor, to get back at him for being a jerk.
Harry stumbles over to the closet, retrieves the toilet, and brings it downstage, center, imploring his son-in-law, Charles, to celebrate with him in the christening of the toilet as an award to the mayor.
Last night, it went off without a hitch.
Until Harry set the toilet down.
He ambled out of the closet, the toilet in his arms, the bowl between his legs, and delivering his lines drunkenly (enunciating and projecting! always projecting!) he made the tight turn at the edge of the stage to place the toilet facing front.
The idea is that he sets it down and sits on the toilet seat with his back to us.
Which he did.
And the tank shattered magnificently, this cracking, crumbling noise, pieces and chunks raining down onto his knees, down to his feet, and all over the braided rug.
And the entire audience gasped ... and then laughed.
The rest of the scene is supposed to play out with Harry carrying the toilet out the door with Charles right behind him. Them placing the toilet (off stage) on the mayor's front porch and then running back into the house laughing and dancing, triumphant in their prank.
Last night, they did all of that. Sort of.
At this point, Dennis (as Harry) is still sitting on the toilet seat, his back to us, and his head bowed over the shards and pieces of what is left of the tank. And I noticed his shoulders were bobbing, as if laughing. Dan, who plays Charles, is still very much in character, and ad libs "Oh, Dad, you did it now..."
Unscripted but hilarious and proving once again the fortune we had of casting him. As well as Dennis, because, without missing a beat, he soldiered on, hoisting the toilet while Charles picked up the larger pieces of the tank and they both exited out the front door like they were supposed to. And the audience gave them a much deserved applause.
What I didn't know - and no one did until Dennis came back with Dan - is that Dennis had sliced his hand in three places. Dan, in the few seconds back stage "planting" the toilet on the mayor's front porch, had told Dennis to hold a piece of cardboard in the injured hand and to not loosen his grip, to stop the bleeding.
And for the rest of the scene - a good 10 minutes - Dennis did that. Clutching this piece of cardboard tightly, doing his best to hide the injury.
Luckily we had a nurse in the audience, sitting up back. Without anyone knowing, she was told of the problem and hurried back stage and was able to bandage his hand within seconds of his return to the stage.
He played out the rest of the show with this great gob of white bandage, looking like the tape boxers use on their fists before slipping on the gloves.
The audience loved the show. As a dress rehearsal, it played like opening night. All of the cast were dead on, but it was saved by Dennis and Dan. Without losing their heads, they played through. Blood, porcelain pieces, and all.
After the show, Dennis went to the emergency room and had to have at least 8 stitches. He didn't get out of there until after 1 a.m.
Opening night is Thursday and we already have a replacement toilet in the wings.
But if dress was any indication of the level of commitment these actors and actresses have to making sure this show is their absolute best, then it's going to be an excellent run.
Mary Ellen, my stage manager, was of course back stage when all of this transpired, and did a wonderful job keeping the show running. Click here to read her persepective of the events.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
and wide, white hat
tip toes to a nearby puddle
a furtive look
over her shoulder
toes poking out of sandals
she can feel the grass tickling
she wants to know
if she'll be stopped
or if they'll let her
go ankle-deep into
they let her
and she giggles
girl in the summer dress
and wide, white hat
on a June day
34 months old
Monday, June 15, 2009
It rained the entire week leading up to Saturday, and then miraculously it was sunny and mid-70s all day during the party, and then yesterday it came in and started raining again.
Like the weather took a break to allow my folks to have a great day before resuming its torrent.
Not much to say about the party itself.
Except that I am so incredibly proud of my wife. She, by far, did the bulk of the work that went into this. She baked a three-tier cake that resembled the original wedding cake; she made three floral centerpieces for each table (12 tables in all); she added sprinkles of seashells - we were on the coast - and she decorated the guest book/gift cards table as well as the cake table. She even arranged a singer to belt out three 50's-era songs for my folks to dance to.
She endured the caustic looks of my ex...including a complete about-face on a walking path when Corrine was approaching.
She endured the absence of conversation from a few of my family members, who could be seen chatting up the former Mrs. like she was their long lost friend.
She endured the cold-shoulder treatment some of my family gave her own children.
She was fearful of this on the ramp-up to this day. Corrine - because of the divisive nature of my divorce, the inevitability of some to judge the manner in which we fell in love; the completely inane excuses some have used in the past to look down upon her - has worked harder than anyone I know to secure the acceptance of some, and the unfairness of it is palpable at times.
And, remarkably, everyone - to a person - I speak to has said the same two things to me, in various iterations: You Look Happier Than You've Ever Been... and She's The One You Needed.
I know of no one in my past life, before meeting her, that ever championed me, my children, my personal victories, more than Corrine. And it's so fucking obvious that it's difficult for me not to say "No duh. Now you understand why..."
The problem is, she toils in that foggy other-world known as Wife #2, laboring against perceptions fueled by rumors and innuendo and the biting words of the self-righteous.
Let me be clear. It's only a few people. A great majority of my family and friends have accepted Corrine and with open arms. In their own way, they have come around and rejoined the sane world, where adults do not hold grudges and see the beauty and potential of something rather than the ugly past.
But you know as well as I do that it really only takes one person to shred an already tenuous confidence. Especially when that person is in some way related to the one you love, and therefore, through marriage, is now related to you.
I wanted to stand upon one of the tables, crushing seashells in the process, and enumerate for everyone the things she did for this party. And, by extension, all the things she does for me and my children - her step children.
Not to cast a spotlight on her for her own glory, but to chase away those few remaining shadows cast by some who want to dog her for no other reason than to feel self-important.
It was a wonderful day. It really was.
My parents (who are NOT a party to the aforementioned - they visit us more than Corrine's own parents do and they love Corrine) were extremely happy about all that was done for them.
I fear that this post is casting a bad light on the event. I'm not.
I'm merely commenting on the subtext that went on. The pale current that runs through our lives barely noticeably, and getting weaker as the years progress. People are coming around. But a spike in the voltage hits us every so often, like it did Saturday. And Corrine, in her beautiful way, did not let it jump her.
People complimented Corrine on the cake she baked. It was devoured. There was none left. I've never been to a wedding, birthday party, anniversary or mass-gathering in which the entire cake is consumed.
Corrine cut it and I served it with my own hands. To people who, in the past, would not even shake my hand. They've managed to come around, like I've said.
There were those who did not get in line, however. Just a few. The usual suspects. And I can't tell you how pleased I was to see that now, they are in the great, great minority. Because life is just too short to not have cake.
If you know what I mean.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
My parents celebrate their 50th anniversary today with a lobster feed on the Maine coast. Their four children, 15 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, along with 100 or more friends, will celebrate a union that has lasted for MORE than 50 years.
There is nothing more I can say.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Friday Fragments come to you every, you know, Friday, and is an idea started by Mrs. 4444 at Half Past Kissin' Time. It's a compendium of thoughts, observations, quirky opinions, things seen and heard, smelled, tasted, sat on or stepped in.
- Woo hoo! I'm an award winner! Mrs. 4444 awarded me THE prestigious FRIDAY FAVORITE FRAGMENTER award for last week's entry, specifically the one about masturbation, thus proving my father right - once again - that I CAN accomplish anything when I use my head.
- Unintended Humor Award: Last night, at play rehearsal (I'm directing a comedy for our local community theatre called "Never Too Late"), one of the actors had to use a neck tie around his waist to secure his pajamas. He's the Mayor and shows up in the middle of the night. The tie was tied in such a way that the fat end of it drooped down over the knot right at his waist. And it looked phallic. I couldn't stop giggling. I'm such a fourth grader.
- Maine - The Way Life Should Be, My Ass: My parents have their 50th tomorrow. Outside, on the coast. It's been raining all week. In fact, it's pouring right now as I write this. The weather report says it'll clear up and be in the 70s, partly cloudy. Here's keeping my fingers and toes crossed.
- My Marty McFly Moment: I would set the DeLorean's clock for June of 1991 and drive to Oxford Hills High School's graduation. I would hand Corrine, while she's marching to Pomp and Circumstance, a letter that said "In about 15 years you're going to make me the happiest I've ever been. See you then."
- Inappropriate Song to Sing to On the Radio Award: Every so often Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are" comes on the radio. It was the song to my wedding. My FIRST wedding. To my FIRST wife. The one I'm NOT married to. Anymore. My NEW wife, Corrine, is not a fan of it so much. Sorry honey. Old habit. You know you're the only one for me. And that I'm not reliving anything, it's just that he's my range. And I have a plate in my head.
- My Theme Song This Week: Paperback Writer by the Beatles. I'm back to writing fiction every day and it's a great feeling. It's my Prozac.
- Movie Quote of the Week: From Broadcast News. Aaron Altman, played by Albert Brooks, is a television news reporter who carries a torch for news producer Jane Craig, played by Holly Hunter. He's trying to talk her out of falling for pretty-boy, airhead news anchor Tom Granick, played by William Hurt.
And if things had gone differently for me tonight then I probably wouldn't be saying any of this. I grant you everything. But give me this: he personifies everything that you've been fighting against. And I'm in love with you. How do you like that? I buried the lead.- One Thing About Me You Don't Know: I once seriously considered becoming a youth minister.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
A. Supreme concentration, mixed with self-doubt, a little bit of early-morning irritation. And I haven't even started playing the game yet. Ty giggles when I swear at my Mii (my digital avatar cartoon likeness, for you non-Wii aficionados).
B. Action shot! Wii controller is blurred. I'm still not playing, I just like to make the little hand wiggle on the television screen. It's cool. I can make it pick my Mii's nose
C. WTF? look from Alyssa. As in, "WTF? Why is he holding the Wii controller upside down? And what's with the sweatshirt?" (See F)
D. Wedding band on left hand. Not sure why I put that in here. It's silver and inside Corrine inscribed the Latin phrase "Utre varnum singularum infinitum" which means "If found, please return to 45 High Street and make yourself comfortable so that you can watch me kick my husband's ass"
E. The only real nick-nacky thing in our house. It falls on unsuspecting heads of visitors, offering countless moments of fun. Ty giggles when it falls on my head and I use the F word.
F. A Winnie the Pooh sweatshirt. It's comfy. I like it. It's Corrine's. I go to the local market in it and a pair of my mother-in-law's old slippers she gave me for Christmas. They give me the 20 percent off special-needs discount whenever I do.
G. Left ear, pierced. Like the right one, but on the other side of my head. Keeps our neighbor, who is the town's Baptist minister, guessing. That and the occasional profane outburst from Corrine on the back deck in her negligee. God I love that woman.
H. Soul patch. When I shave the rest of my face, I look hip. When I don't, I look like a fraternity prank.
I. Coats hanging in our entryway. We like to play a game with our teens, called "Where's my coat?!" And Corrine, Gabi, Griffin, the two dogs and the two cats sit and watch them run around the house at the last second before school looking for their coats. Everywhere EXCEPT where the coats are hanging in our entryway. We have other variations like "Where's my shoe?!", "Where's the front door?!", and "Where's my brain?!" Griffin plays "The Entertainer" on the organ throughout.
J. Picture of Fallon. Her eyes follow you when you walk through the room. Fucking creepy, man.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I decided to publish my daily excerpts in a separate blog, and invited a select number of people to check in occasionally to read the progress. It's an interesting way to motivate myself. But, given my penchant for slacking off, it's a good idea.
My daughter, Fallon, sent me an email from school (she's a junior in high school) yesterday which started a brief exchange that went like this:
Fal: I know you're not looking for opinion right now, but I really like what u have so far on your blog for purple holly.I share that for a couple of reasons. First, to illustrate that I do actually communicate with my children, even my 17-year-old. And this is the form in which in typically takes. I take what I can. She's a busy girl. She's 17. And I'm not cool. I do cringe at the complete evisceration of the English language at the hands of her generation, but beggars can't be whiners.
Me: Thanks Fallon! How are you getting to KFC by the way? (she just landed a job at KFC)
Fal: walking it. haha
Me: Get a ride with Kyle! (Kyle's her boyfriend. He drives)
Fal: i would but he's walking home because his mom has to use the car today. hey, by the way.. what is your idea for purple holly? like what is your story line idea so far?
Me: The story line? Um...well. That's top secret. You'll have to keep reading :-P
Fal: Oh that's real cool. haha. didn't i have a doll named that or something?
Me: Yes. You had a doll when you were about Gabi's age and you named her Purple Holly. There is a doll in my novel. Named Purple Holly. There's also a girl in my novel. Named Purple Holly. I'm not saying anything more.
Fal: i know u want to tho
But also, I wanted to point out an example of how a story has its origins. How flimsy and fragile the idea-getting process tends to be.
So that's the story, generally speaking, without giving anything away.
Now the pieces:
- I was a journalist for about a dozen years, so I draw on my experience, particularly as a court reporter who saw stories of physical, mental, and sexual abuse against women. Real stories.
- I've lived in rural towns in Maine and Vermont my entire life, so I draw on that.
- I knew a Lucinda Jones once. We all have, probably. She's the "strange" girl in class, the one who wears odd clothes, says odd things, is estranged from her peers because of her oddity. She's the one people pick on.
- Fallon, when she was about three, had a doll her mother and I gave her as a gift. She carried it everywhere. But it didn't come with a name. We would ask her the name of her doll, and she would always say she was thinking about it. Then, one day, while driving, from her car seat in the back, she said "I know the name of my baby." Playing along, I asked her for it. "Purple Holly."
I have no idea where she came up with it, but it hit me so hard I nearly drove off the rode. Not because I thought it would someday make a great novel. It was just a lightening strike kind of moment of inspiration. I put it away in my mental catalog for future use.
Fast forward 14 years and one day I'm playing the "what if" game that all writers play. In this particular case, I was stuck on a very simple premise: why are the Lucinda Joneses of the world so fascinating? What makes them the way they are? Non-conformists, against-the-stream, happy-in-their-own-world, etc.
I loved the notion of Lucinda, but notions don't make good stories.
After a few days, though, I had a newspaper, I had a courthouse, I had domestic violence, I had a narrator who wants to be a reporter, and I also had the ending.
See? There's no magic to it. Novels come from the far corners of your experience, get mixed together, and when the ingredients flash, and you see smoke, then you know you've created something that just might be a good story.
Monday, June 8, 2009
Movies about cancer, particularly (Terms of Endearment, for example) and then there's On Golden Pond, the story of a curmudgeonly Norman Thayer and his wife Ethel, who own a camp on Golden Pond in Maine.
It's a movie about death, and the inevitability of the ends of things we love. Throughout we see images of decay and death: the screen door that has come off it's hinges; Ethel's wooden doll, Elmer, who took a nose-dive off the mantel and into the fireplace; the death of Miss Appley, the 90-year-old "lesbian"; and of course the loons. The loons are a constant symbol of lifelong companionship and when one is found dead during a fishing excursion, it becomes a symbol of the eventual demise of Norman and Ethel's companionship.
We don't see anyone die. Not like in Terms of Endearment, which has that horrible scene in the hospital when Emma Horton's children come to say good bye.
On Golden Pond has a different effect on me than the cancer movies. On Golden Pond is about a camp, on a lake, and a couple who have lived and loved for many years, but who now are faced with not having that anymore.
One of the more poignant scenes comes early when Ethel sends Norman out to pick strawberries and he gets lost at the end of their lane, a lane in a wooded thicket he has visited a million times before.
He manages to find his way back eventually, and when Ethel presses him on why he came back so damn quickly, he explodes.
I get all choked up when he gets to that part. Every time. Because I feel it for him. This bent old man hobbling down a wooded lane, looking for the pretty face he's known his whole adult life, his safe harbor. The one that makes him feel that he is still himself.
Do you want to know why I came back so fast with my little bucket? I got to the end of our lane and I ... couldn't remember where the old town road was. I went a little way into the woods, and nothing looked familiar, not one tree. And it scared me half to death. So I came running back here, to see your pretty face, and to feel that I was safe. That I was still me.
The thing is, there's a lot going on here, for me anyway. I suppose that's what makes fiction so powerful. You can relate to the really good stories on multiple levels.
There's the fact that my parents, who turn 70 this year, are celebrating their 50th this Saturday. They are Norman and Ethel, just younger. And by no means is either of them close to retiring from this earth. But, they will not go on forever. They will come to the end of their own lane at some point, and not turn back to hurry home.
Then there's a couple I knew who actually had a summer camp, on Hogan Pond, and whose son was and still is my best friend. I used to spend a lot of time at that camp, and it is as close to the Thayer's in its rusticity as is possible. We boated, we swam, we listened to the pine needles tapping on the roof.
Fran and Larry, the couple who owned the camp, saw their companionship come to an end with the death of Fran this past winter. She was barely in her 60s. I spoke to Ted, their son, recently who mentioned opening up the camp for the season. The first one in Ted's life without his mother. The first one for Larry without his wife's pretty face. And it was a pretty face. For many of us.
And then there is my own mortality. It's a ways off, I would hope, but it is there nonetheless. Like for all of us. And it isn't the end part I fear. Because when it comes, I won't know. Not consciously. What I fear is the notion - the one presented in the story - of something beautiful ceasing to exist.
It's a heady reality. An idea that shakes me up: of all those strings of my life falling away - the ones that connected me in a thousand ways to beautiful things. Pretty faces all.
Friday, June 5, 2009
- I received my course preference form from the University of Maine this week. It reads like a 1040 Federal Tax Form, complete with muddled directions; a heart-felt Greetings From Farmington form letter with NINE reminders that I need to have the form to them by June 26; and the assorted assembly of paperwork, each in contradiction to the other, and therefore underscoring the imperative that I get a degree so that I can understand long forms.
- Play rehearsal for Never Too Late entered the full-run-through stage this week. This is where we run through the entire show three times a week on the lead-up to the dress rehearsal which is June 16. Out of books and on their own, the actors are now responsible for their own lines, NO PROMPTS. Two weeks from last night, we're live, ladies and gentlemen. Muahahahahahahaha.
- Griffin, who turns one at the end of the month, waves, growls, says "kitty" and puts up both hands and shrugs when you say "Where's ______?" He's flirty and handsome and a comic. To the ladies of the class of 2026, watch out!
- I woke up with some sort of rash on the palms of my hands. But no hair, so masturbating is still a safe bet. If I were to ever resort to masturbating, I mean. Does it bother you that I keep saying masturbate? They say that 98 percent of all men do it, and like, 10 percent of all women blush when you talk openly about it. But, you can make statistics say anything. And besides, who can trust a survey conducted by Vaseline? Am I rubbing you the wrong way? Is this subject matter hard to take? Oh, get a grip.
- My oldest daughter, Fallon, had a job interview Wednesday. She's 17. This is her first foray into the workforce. Did you hear that? It was seven new strands of gray hairs sprouting upon my head.
- At some point I'm going to have to see a dentist. I lost a part of a filling, and my tongue cannot leave it alone. Always excavating and investigating, it has turned the tiny hole into a full-blown cave. And now the nerve is starting to throb. Should I wait until it's infected? Should I put it off until the decay invades my jaw bone and half my face balloons up and it becomes an abscess and requires sedation?
- Corrine and I are trying to adopt, something I have not blogged about here. Her blog Buckfield's Mad Momma has been chronicling our adventures in DHHS Land. You should check it out.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Big brother you
How do you do?
Come play with me Today
For tomorrow you'll be
A busy bee
And I shall miss your stay
A moment in the grass
Is all I ask
With a ball and a little sun
Upon this hill
We'll roll until
We've had our share of fun
Big brother you
How do you do?
I know your time is Gold
But keep in mind
Your gift of time
Is a treasure at least 10-fold
So when the time has come
That green hills are done
And we've moved onto something new
I know I'll recall
My love above all
For the hill and Big Brother You
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Had to drop an old tree today that had died over the winter. I looked out our kitchen window a week ago and noticed, in the foreground of our lush acreage, a lone biddy, naked from the trunk up.
We're not sure how old the tree was. We inherited it with the mortgage, along with the pond, the two-and-a-half acres of forest, the rock wall borders and the leaky leech bed.
The tree, looking down the property toward the east, stood to the southerly side, 50 yards from the pond, 20 or so yards from the south wall, and a million or so leaves from being a sapling.
We wonder the story of her; did she have a stiff upbringing? Was she tall for her age? What was her favorite autumn color? Did she have any friends, like the blossoming apple tree up the hill? Certainly not the thicket of snobbish firs out past the pond.
My father helped, bringing with him his oily, toothy chainsaw. He angled out a thick slice of the trunk first, laboring mightily. To and fro, slicing the spinning chain through and out and through again. The saw screamed and sputtered, kicked and growled. The tree stood.
Dad went 'round the other side and cut a thin line with the saw, deep, and we then took turns hammering a wedge into the slit as a way of encouraging her topple.
A bigger saw was then employed, six inches longer and fatter and meaner. Dad sliced deeper still, pulling the saw back and forth, revving the engine, backing off, plunging it further still.
I had an up-slope view of the trunk and could see daylight through the cut on one side and the pizza-slice wedge missing on the other. In the dead middle, an inch of wood kept the whole lady upright, an aging ballerina on point.
We drove a thicker wedge into the slit and both of us in turn pounded it deeper and deeper, and slowly we began to hear cracking, as if the knuckles of her toes were popping.
A breeze came down from the west, over the top of the house, across the upper lawn and nudged her upper branches.
And then, gracefully, she tipped over and landed with a remarkable softness across our lower lawn. Pointing north by northeast, branches straight upward like a diver's arms.
Now, she lay across the lawn, and from the deck of our house, the property seems out of balance. Where a pillar once stood we now find clear blue sky, while below, old biddy finally rests.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Which is why I reluctantly chose free verse for Purple Holly
Purple being the novel I'm working on.
Verse being a form of novel-writing that, over the past decade, is gaining popularity.
I chose it, however, because the form felt comfortable in my hands. The way it forces the writer to be very sharp in his writing and the way it evokes emotion with an economy of words.
The verse novel hit it big time with Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse's story about the Dust Bowl of the mid 30s.
It came out in 1998 and I bought it back then. That was my introduction to the verse novel. I was intrigued. I liked the story. I was at first put off by the verse.
But I got used to it. And came to appreciate its power.
Fast forward to 2009. And here I am, doing initial character work for Purple Holly when it dawns on me just how much verse fits the style and tenor of the story.
Here's an excerpt.
A woman in a black suit
Sits in a chair at the foot of my
Smiling the smile of a compassionate aunt
A vague relation at a funeral
Head slightly tilted
Dull eyes. The eyes of a woman who has seen
too much sad
I think I nod anyway. A haze
of unreality makes my
There's the hint of pain in my
side. A searing stitch
And then there are the tubes in my arm
My name is Hester Lynne.
I'm with Child Protective Services, Andrew
Hester? Did she say
The police want to talk to you
But I told them I needed to
I'm a psychiatrist, Andrew
I have to establish that you
Hester the Psychiatrist is
here to make sure my
head is not going to roll
off my shoulders
Trauma affects people in different ways
There is a window in my hospital room
through which I can see
the leafless maples and elms
down on Fair Street
The brown of the dead
the mirthlessness that
the end of October brings
before the start of snow
I want to talk to you about
what happened so that I can
state of mind
Fair Street is straight
and bordered by the naked trees
before it intercepts Main Street
with her soldierly brick and historic
I can see the clock tower of the
Opera House at the end
of Main Street
And beyond it, the ridge of
forest: denuded hardwoods, stoic conifers
Over that ridge somewhere is
Owens Mills, last stop
before the White Mountains of
It affects our memory
Trauma I mean, Andrew
It can play tricks. When someone has
been through a tragedy
I look back at Hester the Sympathetic
Tragedy ... ?
Suddenly I know what it feels like
to be high on something
There's stomach-tickling levitation
A lifting up out of reality, not fully
Toes hovering above the ground
A giddy feeling, where words seem spoken through
Yes. A tragedy
Andrew, maybe we should start with your story?
Story ... ?
A blink takes me an hour
Hester holds a sheaf of papers in her
Holding it up
You write very well, Andrew
Yes. I know
I'm getting higher, it seems, and the stitch
in my side is slip-sliding away
Tell me about Purple Holly
That's the first chapter. So far. It could very well end up not in it at all, or greatly altered. The point is, that's verse. A free-flowing, non-rhyming, chunky narrative. When it's well done, it's evocative and direct and powerful.
In some recent verse novels (written primarily for the preteen and teen groups) the verse floats all over the page, and in others, dialogue is offset to the right while the narrative is on the left.
I'm going to finish it in this form, and delay judgment until then.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Ty got glasses this year, and is hitting the ball better than ever in the local organized town league, where 10-year-olds are just learning to pitch curve balls and stop picking the uniforms out of their asses. Some anyway. Here, at home, Ty gears up for a homer.
Gabrielle's kitty, Peekaboo, thinks she's a dog. She wrestles with Samwise and bullies Gimli away from the food dish. Here, she's the master of the jungle, on the prowl. For that elusive, vomit-inducing blade of grass.
Easter, 2009. Corrine, Griffin and Nana Greene commiserate. Griffin wants to know how Nana keeps her hair that way. You know. All white and fluffy like clouds.
Fallon's Prom. I like this picture a lot. I'm not blinking, drooling, yawning, or sneezing. I like that our earrings almost match.
Lupines we planted this spring. One of a few out front. Aint it perty...?
I love Griffin's expression. Doesn't it say "You expect me to get in there? It's got Gabi's ass in it."
Griffin loves his Mommy. And the camera.
If this couldn't go on the cover of L.L. Bean's catalog, nothing should. She takes this blanket everywhere. It smells it too.
I had to ask Corrine what this was. And then I had to look up its spelling. It's a rho-do-den-dron.
Fallon, prom again, this time next to someone cuter than me, Harrison. Here, she is impersonating Carol Burnett. He's thinking "Who the hell is Carol Burnett, Dad?"
Fallon and Gabrielle. She cried when Fallon drove away with her date, Kyle. "My best friend,' she calls him. I fear for the lives of every girl Gabi ever meets. They don't stand a chance.
Fallon a la Macarena.
Alyssa, with weapon, and Harrison, weighing his options. Memorial Day whiffle ball game in our back yard. These two are the same age, and one of them is supremely competitive. Hint: it's the one with the legs.
Gorgeous meets handsome. Alyssa's prom 2009. Same prom as Fallon's. I did her hair.
Gorgeous meets adorable. Gabrielle was terrified of being held by Alyssa because, in her words, "I all dirty" If Alyssa could not pose for a magazine, no one should. And people wonder why her father is bald...
Alyssa, Memorial Day whiffle ball game in our back yard. She may not be athletic, but she gets an A for effort. (And, truthfully? She's much more athletic than people give her credit for.)