So!! I read/saw where ABC had remade Dirty Dancing. What? Why? Those were my actual reactions to this ‘news’. As actual news right now [OMG just shoot me in the face with a nuclear warhead, please] seems to be a bit, um, ahem. I see that Abigail Breslin, of Little Miss Sunshine and Nim’s Island fame, will play the part of Baby. Huh. Okay. I can’t seem to find who will fill in for Patrick Swayze’s sexy, sweltering, holy crap can that guy dance, Johnny Castle. I still don’t know. I have no urge to even google it. None.
Personal note: I watched the original and only Dirty Dancing with my mother and grandmother. It has special meaning to me. I know it’s quite shallow and blah blah, but it’s also a fun movie with some great dance sequences. It’s one of those lightning in a bottle movies, that no one should try and remake, recapture or make shitty sequels to. M’kay???!!!!
So, ABC advertises ‘You’ll Have the Time of Your Life’ and flashes some names. Debra Messing is about the only one I remember. Oooooh and Bruce Greenwood, poor sap who seems to get roped into a lot of teenybopper crap. [That remake of Endless Love. Remember that? It’s okay, no one else does, either.] And I know who Abby Breslin is. I’m a bit curious and wondering why Dirty Dancing would be three hours long. I feel a bit of gentle nostalgia suckering me into tuning in for this ‘new’ DD.
So I watched it. And Idedicated my soul to Satan to avenge myself on the powers that be that got this dreck onto the small screen where innocent and guilty alike were forever harmed by it. Yeah, that’s the actual reaction I had. I went out looking for a crossroads, carrying a fiddle and dragging a goat along behind me in case Satan demanded some sort of animal sacrifice.
Um, I like Breslin. She’s a competent actress. However, here, in the DD monstrosity that slimed the ABC airwaves for THREE FUCKING HOURS, she seemed like one of those people reading a statement from their captors, with their eyes constantly flicking toward the gun held on them that we can’t see. She tried. She really did. However, her Baby came off as a twelve year old, not a ready to take on the world powerhouse to be that Jennifer Grey infused the original Frances ‘Baby’ Houseman with. Now, I might be projecting a wee bit; Grey might have actually played Baby in a perfunctory manner. I can utterly believe Grey’s Baby taking on the establishment and her parents for Johnny…I vibrate between derisive laughter and ragestrokes watching Breslin’s Baby stumble about like a hostage told to read the lines or else.
The dude taking on Johnny Castle…um. Eh. I don’t remember much about him except he TRIED REALLY HARD to act tough. And I don’t remember thinking, at all, ever, that he could dance. Was that actor a dancer? Any dance training? Uh…? So when he and Breslin smashed themselves together in the dirty dancing sequence– where the dance kids are shaking their tail feathers to someone SINGING THE DAMN SONGS because covers of those originals…ugh, Satan, help help!! Anyhoo!! When Breslin and nameless New Jersey-esque wannabe “dance”, I had to look away. It was like watching a baby chick get molested by a dead rattlesnake. That makes no sense, but hey, go with it.
Poor Breslin did the can’t dance stuff so well! Too bad she can’t actually dance. Why someone cast her in a movie all about DANCING…? I don’t get it. Did no one watch the rough footage of this and go, hey, we might need to get an actress who can dance? Breslin does fine in the overly emotional scenes. She seems sixteen, not twelve, in those scenes. Where she’s upset with daddy and…can’t remember any other scenes where she had to be ‘upset’. It all just blurs together in a scarlet mist! With a lot of spluttering cuss words escaping my clenched teeth.
Oh, the whole abortion thing was kept in. And the ‘writers’ fleshed out Lisa, Baby’s sister. Who has a ‘friendship’ with one of the black kids at the resort. No, this far more interesting and actually quite timely issue doesn’t get explored much beyond…they sing a song together for the talent show. That abortion angle, also, gets used to hurry the Baby-Johnny pairing along…kinda like in the original, but still. Penny doesn’t go to jail for getting an illegal abortion and Robby, who knocked her up and left her to sink or swim, doesn’t get his recommendation from Dr. Houseman. [Call the Midwife had a show on a desperate woman performing an abortion on herself and the consequences thereof– she nearly bled to death and had to face the police over it. If you want an actual glimpse into what women faced in the past on reproductive choices. Or you can ask older members of your own family. As they have stories to tell.]
Marge, Baby and Lisa’s mummy, and Bruce Greenwood, [I cannot recall Dr. Houseman’s first name, and if I don’t vomit this all out in one go, I will hate myself until the end of time] are having marital problems. They work them out, of course, with a SONG. Because…DD is now a MUSICAL. No, really. People burst into song now! That soundtrack from Dirty Dancing gets turned into unremarkable cover versions that just lay there and ask us to quietly dispatch them before they escape and do real damage.
Yeah, I’m all over the place here, so bear with me. DD starts off with Baby, about ten years after the events at Kellerman’s, attending some Broadway show entitled, wait for it, DIRTY DANCING, with, I assume, Johnny Castle either in it or involved with it somehow. We then flashback to Baby and her family arriving at the resort…and end
[SPOILER ALERT. LOOK AWAY]
the three hour bloated atrocity with Baby telling Johnny Castle his choreography was great, or good or not as bad as she’d heard it would be. My ragestroking had kicked in at this point, so I might have heard stuff that didn’t actually exist outside my tiny red world of WHYYYYYYY. Also…to totally kill me off, what other reason for tacking on that five minute evisceration– Baby’s husband and child come flapping down the theatre aisle and we get the most awkward moment ever filmed between the twelve-year-old yet looking Breslin and the why am I here again Johnny Castle-lite non-stud. My eyes!! My brain melted! I thought Manos, Hands of Fate, had thoroughly topped my list of Worst Movie Ever Made. Nope!! I would cheerfully watch Manos and kiss its greasy, awful frames with a glad heart after sitting through three hours of Clean Dancing, the Advertiser’s Special Cut.
Oh and the sex scenes…How they managed to take what was truly a celebrated journey of a girl’s journey into womanhood at the hands of a relatively nice seducer [Shhh, from those of you giggling in the back! Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be. Any Gilmore Girls fans??]…and turn it into an awkward, laughable, cringe-inducing spectacles…sigh. It became too hard to believe that these two, Baby 2.0 and Johnny 2.0, felt anything at all for each other but relief that they would get a paycheck after this was all filmed. He crept over into creepy older man territory. [As Breslin, indeed, seemed very much a baby here.] I never got that from the original pair. Grey and Swayze seemed well matched; she might have been eighteen and he not eighteen or anywhere near it, but she also didn’t seem a child. They seemed matched and equal in a way that the new pair of Baby and Johnny did not. That’s as close and as personal as I want to get with that topic.
There was no spark at all between NewBaby and NewJohnny; that was the biggest crime of all in this ill-conceived reworking. Would new casting have fixed this problem and created a brand spanking great new version of DD? Probably not. There was a reason the original movie worked. Why it soared into the stratosphere. The late Eighties and what was going on. Reagan, conservative values, racial unrest, still fighting the Commies, everything old is new again, no good dance movies since, what, Flashdance? What a feeling! I can have it all! What a feeling!
The chemistry of the two leads. Jennifer Gray and Patrick Swayze! And stories coming out that they ‘didn’t get along’. Ugh! They got along fabulously on screen, so whatever went on off camera fucking helped. Maybe we’ll get an eight hour miniseries from Ryan Murphy on this called– Baby In the Corner, The True Tale of Swayze and Grey.
The dancing…yeah, there was actual dancing in the original movie. Fun, sexy, outrageous [at that time, hello] dancing that made those watching go wide-eyed, a bit squirmy and fall totally in love with Baby, the minute she stammers out, “I carried a watermelon”, when Johnny demands to know why a guest has to crash the off-duty fun of the staffers. Because she was us and not us at all. Awkward and then a dance maven who gets to stand up for something. [Admit it, you’re not a crusader or that good at dancing. Admit it!!] Oh and, those watching, they just go all goofy when Johnny plucks Baby into the middle of that crowded dance floor among the other staffers grinding away…damn. When he’s teaching her to dirty dance and we’re totally getting why Baby finds Mr. Castle a bit intriguing. Yeah, we’re totally with her. She can’t dance, yet…but we see she can dance, with a little instruction and a little gumption from her own sassy self.
Yeah, you don’t get that at all from Baby 2.0.
NewBaby has no gumption! None. There’s nothing there at all. A director or a team thereof, told Breslin where to stand and sit and she stands and sits.
Now!! Was the original DD one of the bestest movies ever made on planet earth? Of course not. Does it have an undeniable charm and some truly fantastic dance sequences? Yep. Did Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Ginger Rogers and so forth, take dancing to the next level decades earlier? Fuck yeah, fellow babies! You want to watch dance masters and mistresses, old MGM musicals for the win! Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, for one. That barn-building ballet alone, wowsers! And West Side Story, hello and goodbye. And…there’s a list. Everyone can argue the merits of their fave dance-heavy movies on their own damn blogs.
Where was I in this rage-induced scream against the dying of the light?
This movie, obviously, means something to me. I watched it, for the first time, in the dorms at Eastern Oregon University, then called EOSC– Eastern Oregon State College. A roomful of eighteen to twenty-somethings, enjoying the hell out of Baby’s journey. We catcalled and hooted and laughed and cheered. I later watched DD with my mother and grandmother and assorted family when my grandmother spent her Social Security bucks on a brand-spanking new VCR. We rented, yes, Dirty Dancing, from the local video store. [Remember when you could rent movies from an actual store?? Oh how technology doth make fools of us all.] There’s a giant gob of GoodTimesExperienced attached to Dirty Dancing, that have nothing whatsoever to do with the technical, or artistic merits of that film.
I won’t get much more maudlin than that.
To sum up this all over the map screamwhine of a ‘review’…IT SUCKED BALLS.
I’m not the only one to hatewatch this new retelling of DD, either. It wasn’t just me! Apparently, I was one of five people to actually make it all the way to the end. Most gave up twenty minutes in. Oh and Peg Bundy sang Fever. [Or Gemma Teller, for the Sons of Anarchy fans.] She was the older desperate ‘bungalow bunny’, who paid Johnny to make her feel like a natural woman. Yeah. [As I’m a Sons of Anarchy fan, watching her on SOA and then watching her sleep her way through the ghastly shitbird that was DD actually made the little hairs on the back of my neck raise up. I felt them. Rising up. They were trying to warn me to find something else to watch.]
I’ll end this with my FB post:
Um. What the holy flippety flip was that Dirty Dancing remake? I think the Apocalypse is actually nigh. Why?? Why would…I just can’t…I can’t even form…ugh…I can’t…I have to pretend, now, that I didn’t watch it, I have to pretend now that no one took DD and turned it into…that. [Was there actual dancing in that thing??Why can’t I remember any dancing?? MY BRAIN DOESN’T WORK ANYMORE.]
I need some homemade dandelion wine and my VHS copy of the actual Dirty Dancing. Dance, Patrick, dance!
There’s a dove nest in the small, twisted up old cherry tree. Or plum tree, it could be a plum tree. Right now I can’t remember what sort of fruit, if any, it produces anymore. It breaks out in fragile pink blossoms that the bees and wasps make love to for a week or so and then…I can’t remember what little hard fruits gently swell into place and then drop to the long grasses the lawn mower misses. There are two doves, and now, two eggs. White and perfect, in that badly constructed temporary home. The dove astraddle that nest explodes through the tree every time I pass too near. I try not to disturb the two expectant parents; what if they abandon their little trove of future babies? And we have no cats and the two dogs seem supremely indifferent to two nervous doves who’ve chosen such a bad place for their nest. I could ‘use this for a story’. It’s what I do. I use the most mundane, ordinary crap for ‘stories; or use truly harrowing personal abysses for ‘stories’.
But I stop at that truly honest reveal. I am self-censoring. Making it ‘nice’. Shying back from the deep wells of anger and rage within me that never get emptied. Shying back from the deep recesses of love and hope and want that crush me into bloody foam and make me wish for death. Some sort of peace. Any sort of peace. I’m supposed to be a writer and ‘lay my soul bare’ for public consumption. I’m supposed to be a canapé platter for the reading public to nibble at. Instead I’m blithering on about dove eggs and…
I’m not digging into the rich rotted earth of my soul. Oh my. Except it’s what I do. I just don’t actually share what I find. I pretty it up. I add a coating of candy and apologies and sarcastic retreating. I don’t wish to be seen.
Ah, so that leads to, of course, a self-promise to put those delvings in the rich rotted earth of my soul [OMG, how precious…See? I use sarcasm to deflect and blah blah blah. As if my two readers didn’t know that. As if!] Which, will of course, not be kept or kept far better than I will not figure out until much later and so forth and so on. Mushrooms will sprout from the rot. Flowers will unfurl their fragrant petals above the eye-watering fumes of my personal earth. [That’s rather a gross and indecent image there. Yowza!] I will not be afraid.
There it is!! FEAR. I am AFRAID of exposing my soft underbelly to the knives of the world. I’m afraid of being gutted, eviscerated, de-intestined. [That’s not a word, but it just bumps off the tongue like a clumsy joyous dancer bumps about a stage during a community theatre’s production of Hamlet! the Musical!. I’m quite sure there is a musical based off of Hamlet. No, I’m not going to google that.] If I let the reading public read my actual take on this, that, the other…or let them know how deeply and awfully I feel, I bleed or I hurt…well, Armageddon time, of course. The whole shebang comes down. Or, worse…I get ignored. Or people go, oh, that’s cute. Or people go, oh, you’re just being a drama queen. Or…yeah. Fear. It’s a bitchkitty. It claws the inside of your face.
Doves! This started off as some innocuous post about doves, their nest and their two fragile white eggs. And went into ‘writer barely freaks out about obvious shit’. Oh look, sarcasm used to deflect. That’s so original! Oh look, sarcasm again!! My rich rotted earth soul sighs and another mushroom growing in that creative compost rolls its spores at me.
There was a line in the television miniseries, Feud, where Joan Crawford confesses to her long-time companion and maid that she doesn’t know who she is when she’s alone. That’s me in a damn broken nutshell. I’m still not sure what face to wear when I’m alone. Which is far too honest to keep writing about so I’ll end there. And go write a short story no one will copy and paste into their barely read literary ‘zine. Rejection of my painful little fumbling words, it just doesn’t seem worth it at all anymore…
But the doves, I hope, will continue to foster their eggs and hatch their children.
I’m out of resilience. Plum out. Nada resilience. I sit down to rewrite my resume to apply for jobs, jobs that already have a thousand applicants apiece, and wonder, why am I doing this again? Why am I bothering? Maybe I should have become a nurse, they always need nurses, they don’t need failed poets. Nobody ever needs a poet. I should probably write this all down in some masturbatory rhyming couplet. They can read it at my funeral. I’ll be cremated, it’s cheaper than a real burial. My mother was cremated because it was cheaper. She would have been fine with the cremation, I’m not being nasty. Poor people have to be practical about costs above all else, cause a single penny can fuck you three ways of sideways nowadays. See? I told you there’d be more cussing. But uh…what’s holding me back– is this picture of my dad finding me. But not so much anymore. Not so much since yesterday…
But I’ve been waiting for the good things to happen for years now. I’ve been patient. I send out resumes, I act nice, I go out of my way for my friends when I can. Is that why I never get anywhere? Cause I wait? Cause I try to be as small as possible, not make any noise? I even write polite poems. About nature and waterfalls. Nothing profound. I’m not profound. At all. I never let myself be. I write pretty, shallow poems to please everyone and they please no one…
I’ll never be a mom. Or a wife. I’ve spent my life in school, working crappy jobs, waiting for the mail, or lately, the emails that don’t get sent. Or the emails that say, sorry, we don’t want your shallow crap, good luck not being a writer, ever. Don’t you wish…rejection letters were honest? That the editors would just say, plainly, once and for all– you can’t write. Try marine biology. Or dead animal removal, I hear they’re always hiring. I would so love to get that rejection letter! I could finally stop wishing, hoping, waiting, dreaming! I could stop all that crap. It would be so nice. I could finally give up and move on, whether it’s nursing school or a razor blade. This being in limbo all the time, waiting for dreams to come true…it’s cruel. Believe in your dreams!! Hang in there, someday it will happen, my friends keep saying. They have houses and lives. They have money in the bank and go on vacations. They have children. A couple even have grandchildren by now. I have…nothing. I have nothing to show. No awards. No college teaching position, just until my book gets published crappola. I didn’t mean to get on this, God. I didn’t mean to get all…maudlin. Is it peaceful when you die? I think it is. I think…I think it’s when you finally stop waiting. When you can stop being so tired. When you stop trying to save dying baby birds. When you stop sending off submissions and stop expecting great things. When you can just…just let all that shit go at last. Amen. Yet. Yet I don’t want to give up. I’m stronger than this. I’m stronger than this push in my head to kill myself. I’m stronger than this stupid, awful, crippling depression that has lived in me since I was thirteen. I am stronger than this! But not if they die. When they die! I’m still here. That has got to count for something. Baby birds die. Some of them live. And they learn to fly. They don’t care about pleasing anyone…
I read that popular book, once upon a time, about women running about with wolves. Remember it? Clarissa Pinkola Estes authored it. Guess what? I still like it. I like the idea of the wild feminine. That aspect of being female that’s free, fierce and fabulous. Free of culture, free of expectations, free of limits and you-should-be. That little girl who leaves the path and discovers…so many thing she didn’t know or was told she had to fear. I believe we’re getting into motif time. Into mythology and what it teaches us. That sometimes the wolf will devour us and we will enjoy it. That sometimes life slicks us with fire and wonder and sorrows so profound we cannot return to our previous shapes. That our bodies belong to us, what a strange and frightening notion to so many…That we can laugh as loud as we want. That we can laugh and laugh and laugh.
I have forgotten that boldness lately. My thoughts are chaotic. Clustered around a sad plastic tree, limp little ornaments I try to pass off as something more than resigned fury. I rip off masks, so I tell myself, yet there be walls, trenches, and moats beneath. My defenses have become legion. My fur, as they say, is worn on the inside. Yet I never range about in my wolf form to howl love songs to the giggling silver face of the moon. I am huddled on that fabled path, always the caterpillar, never the goddess. No metamorphosis seems to be forthcoming. I’ve forgotten every miniscule victory; every hurt allowed to break inside my soul like a rotted egg, every hurt, every last little tiny hurt.
And there she is. That brazen girl stepping into the wild timothy, seeking the source of that chattering water-over-stones melody…
SHE ENTERS THE FOREST
She enters the forest, this girl. This bold girl with her living heart. Stay on the path, they warned her. Stay on the path or you’ll be lost. Come home and we’ll sing to you the old songs you know and smile to in your sleep. But I want to be lost, she said. I want to wander in those trees and pick bluebells in the shadows of the beeches. No, they shuddered at her. Return home to the niceness of warm soup and pretty tasks performed and completed and started all over again. But I wish to see the chuckling brown stream I can only hear. I wish to sniff its waters and catch turtles sunning on rotting logs. That water running over my ankles as I chase frogs to their muddy heavens. That welcoming water that calls and calls to me. Stay on the path, they screamed. Or something bad will get you. They touch her with kind chains and kiss her face with breath that stinks of sweet dungeons.
She enters the forest and turns her head to the right where a shadow slips from tree to tree. Her breath enters the world tasting of salt and blood and bone. She pretends her breath tastes of bread and butter and nice little corners full of tidy small dreams. I will try to please them, I will try, she thinks. Shadows in shadows in shadows. Each step covers her feet in dust and twigs. That stream chuckles. She can see the cerulean hint of bluebells just there oh just there. I am not a good girl. She smiles over her shoulder toward the anxious eyes awaiting her return. Forgive me, I think I’ll need forgiving. I think this is unforgivable. I hope so.
She lets the shadows walk at her side. Her hands run over the rough bark and pluck the wild timothy strands to fill the savage little spaces of her heart. She crushes the cups of the bluebells on the forbidden skin of her thighs and she laughs she laughs she laughs. It’s just flowers and skin, she tells the shadows. My skin is mine, it’s my skin it’s mine. That chuckling stream welcomes her and the sunning turtles pretend she is nothing to fear.
The wolves come for a drink. She tries to become a shadow, oh that she had stayed on that path oh that she had stayed hidden, that they were right. The wolves come for a drink and she hides, scented with timothy and crushed bluebells and gentle chains
until one bites her so gently teeth chuckling teeth chuckling yes and she lets her world oh the world she invented mingle with the crushed bluebells on her thighs and she drinks from that stream and remains to wander in that forest as they look for her to this day.
Trigger warning: this will not be about theatre, plays or writing. Proceed.
I thought of an actual ending for a play I’d thought [finished]. As plays are never finished, nor is any piece or parcel of writing. I have to say that, it’s in a contract somewhere. I imagined my characters simply performing a walk-out on hell’s rules and regulations. Taking off through the [audience– as in hopping off whatever stage this makes it on and heading off up the aisle…] and exiting that way, after probably a few quippy words and some interpretive dance inspired by man’s inhumanity to man. Because it’s THEATRE, man!
So, I added that just a bit ago. That ‘new’ ending. I’ll now have to go back through and ‘set it up properly, goldarnit’. So the ending doesn’t come out of left field and people are going, WTF, and then writing me barely polite rejection letters instead of the polite rejection letters. I won’t get bitter about that, I’ve already been bitter as an old moldy lemon for several posts now about rejection.
Oh and this week, my great-uncle died.
Heart attack. They revived him, got him to the big fancy hospital in Boise and then…he crossed the cosmic bridge to the Great Whatever. My aunt, years ago [a different aunt, not married to my great-uncle] had a dream. Where all the relatives that had gone on sat around this table, drinking beer. They were happy and playing cards and drinking beer. Even my grandmother, who hated beer. A message from Beyond? A mere wish that those who had died are still somewhere Out There doing what they did when they were yet alive? A mere hope that those who have died are okay and not suffering or lost? I don’t know. My faith, these days, is at low tide. It washes up on the mythical beaches of this god or that one and then crawls back out into the formless sea of the abyss itself.
One contemplates the nature of the gods when someone you knew since you were knee high to a grasshopper disappears from the world. You have those requisite Deep Thoughts. Where do you go? Where does the essential essence that is you…go? Does it go anywhere? Do you travel to some far distant green shore? Do you find those you’ve lost? Are you reunited? Do you just end? All those selections offered by religion and philosophy. Are they all true? Are none of them feasible? What if we chose wrong in life? What if. What if. What if.
I rather hope it’s like my aunt dreamed that one night.
That those we love are somewhere enjoying themselves. That they’re warm and it’s summer. One of those perfect early summer days before it gets too hot and the air, it smells like cut alfalfa and a lawn just mowed and sunshine. That there’s iced tea and ice cold beer and laughter. That the stories flow like wine from a good bottle. Those old stories told so often you have them memorized but you can’t wait to hear them again, those old stories of family misadventures, of family misfortunes and family comedy stylings that no one outside your family would ever find amusing yet recognize as their exact same story. Oh my gosh, we’re just like that, too! That moment of recognition that others have their stories, too. That the food is good wherever they are. Real good. Dripping with memories that get written in the air. That someone you love laughs and eats from a bowl of black cherries, spitting pits at a dog not seen for nearly fifty years by anyone in living memory. That there’s a seat for you and you can slip into it and get dealt a hand. That someone will slide you a glass of ice cold beer or ask if you want tea and then go on with their story about the time Joe and the dog, Stranger…that time. That time. And the touch of a hand on your shoulder and the whisper of a summer wind in the cottonwood. And you’re just happy to be there. You’re just happy. Just a plain, simple happiness that doesn’t demand anything of you. You’re just happy.
I think ole Jim has joined that game and is telling his favorite stories. And listening to the stories he’s not heard for ages now, laughing at all the right places, shivering when a shiver is called for, expressing disgust when disgust simply has to be expressed. I think he’s enjoying himself and gearing up to tell all his ole favorite tales and listen with a happy resignation to the tales told by those he’s not been around for years. And it all sounds new and it all sounds old as dust, it’s that long day that stretches into eternity itself. Just a long, peaceful day that never ends until time itself flickers out like a tired candle.
I hope. I hope it’s something like that…whatever’s after death. It’s rather simple and simplistic. The hope of some child hoping Christmas will live up to the hype at last. Someone I loved is gone. And the world rolls onward.
Oh. I didn’t mean to get into this. I didn’t mean to meander over into some dim little corner where a hope sign blinks fitfully. I meant to write some brittle tripe about some play I’ve birthed forth, not get maudlin. Remain light-hearted, not become a lead-footed philosopher spouting ten cent slogans on sale for a penny at any local community college.
Maybe I will dream a little dream tonight. And get to sit in on a game of five card draw, with my mother to my left, my uncle in front of me, my grandmothers…my grandfathers…telling stories, laughing at all the right places, shivering when a shiver is called for. Smiling at me and urging me to bet it all, bet it all, why not. And I’ll fill my inside straight and my mother will beat me with a full boat and my grandpa will tell about the time he sailed over the equator and…
If you’re a fan of Gilmore Girls, you probably still won’t get that title. It was one of the folk songs people were singing when the town troubadour guy got a gig with Neil Young…Anyhoo!!
For those of you playing at home, breathlessly awaiting news from my camp, moi finished her full length play! YAY!!!!
Sers-ssly. [Say that as if you’re a character on a CW drama set in the Middle Ages where everyone has their teeth and great skin and gym-honed bodies.] It’s two acts. 90 some pages. Pretty, professional-looking title page. Seven characters, all gals. No men. Hey!! Twelve Angry Men is all guys…or is it? It is!! I just checked. There are other plays with all male casts. Why am I on this…oh. Back to me me me now. My play, the Honest Women, is, ah, let’s call it a comedy.
Now, the first act is pretty conventional. Some women, in hell, trying to figure out why they’re in hell. Blah blah. There’s the sassy receptionist lady, Laura, who does everything she can not to actually help anyone! There’s Ulva, who’s smart but not a doer, per se. There’s Lejay, the firebrand and agitator. There’s Manda, the conservative mouthpiece and poor, gentle Ima, who’s Canadian. And two guards who don’t have lines…yet. But who wander back and forth through the landscape for no reason at all! Because when I wrote Act II and gave them actual purpose, I went back and added them into Act I.
Now, Act I ends with a soap opera-ish flourish. I had an abrupt, rather ‘normal’ ending to the first part of my not at all magnum opus and, as some of you might know, one of those ‘ideas’ attacked me. What if the lights came back up real sudden and we see the actors scrambling to get off stage and…? Ding ding ding!!!
Which left me with an actual cliffhanger to Act I!
Oh I had such fun writing this play. I wrote it in about a week. Which is fast or slow, depends on your own playwriting speed, my darlings. [Some people write like two or three pages a month. Some write twenty pages an hour. It DIFFERS.] I had that title for ages before I found the right set of words to go under it. I started a short story. I started a short play. I did not attempt a bad poem. I didn’t even consider a fiery essay about how fugly it is to be a girl these days. If you’ve dared go near my blog, you’re probably secretly relieved I’m not writing more essays. Orderly lining up of thoughts and ideas, yeah, that’s…yeah. Squirrel! [I still laugh at that dog in that movie, ah. Ah!]
I made up these names. Ulva, Ima, Lejay, Manda. I had Tara as well. Then I forgot I had a Tara and when I went back to check something on my cast list…went, oh, I forgot to add Tara into this and oh dear, combined her and another character and…so, buh bye, Tara! [Yes, yours truly forgot she had named a character.] ‘Tara’ became Ulva. Well, got absorbed into Ulva. Which is not that interesting but I feel I should attempt some sort of total disclosure here. For a play that probably won’t ever see the light of a badly attended stage reading somewhere in the outer burroughs of Boise, let alone a real city. [Joke. It was a joke. Calm down.]
Yep. You write a play. You get all moist and happy. And…then you send it off and wait. Or you gather your friends [if you have any] and do a reading or try and stage it. But getting strangers to take a gander at it and take a chance on it…that’s akin to winning those fabled Irish sweepstakes. Now, granted, I did get a hit on another play of mine, Beatrice and the Puppies, a few years ago, down in Texas. Texas seems to really like my stuff. As does Florida. Oregon, not at all. Texas and Florida, you betcha. It’s the nature of the business. You toil in obscurity and utter poverty, unless you have a trust fund or a ‘real job’, such as international Illuminati banker for the globalist elite or perhaps dead animal removal technician. You get a bright spot every so often– someone gives you a ping back to something you sent off ages ago. Hey, we almost like this, you’re a runner up but we went with someone else but we still like your collection of words. [I have seriously gotten praise-rejection letters/emails like this. We love your stuff, keep writing and sending it in, yet we totally don’t want to go near your stuff with a ten foot pole right now. Hugs and smooches!]
I will give you an example of that: As you already know, we all get the dreaded rejection letters (myself included). The ones that start with “We appreciate the opportunity to read your work” or “Unfortunately, your piece is not the best fit for our magazine.” Instead, I want you to know that we value your work, support you in your work, and read it multiple times.
We were unable to select your work because we only had a few slots to make selections for, out of the hundreds of submissions that we received this period. So, we really focused on the pieces that fit our literary philosophy. We want everyone to know exactly what kind of work that we are looking for: clear, concise, short work that uses familiar language.
Your work did not lack in craft or depth, and I ask that you not think of this rejection as a judge of your merit as a writer. Instead, I personally ask that you send more work during our next submission period. Until we meet your work again, keep your creative spirit flowing!
[[The above is an actual rejection email. This is why everyone should avoid the arts and go into running guns for terrorists, dog grooming or farming.]]
So, why write plays? I don’t know. I have no answer for that crap. I just write. I’m a masochist. Hurt me, world, hurt me.
Wow, pipes cleared now. Back to the Honest Women. See?? This is why I don’t write essays for a living or for a hobby or to help me deal with all the damn voices in my head talking at the same fricking time. Must be a lady, must not cuss. Can I get a fucking amen for that one, boys?
Act II– has a decidedly different flavor than Act I. Yay! It’s rather like Into the Woods. Which is a combo of tales twisted together and everyone gets a happy ending– even the Witch gets to be youngish and pretty again, though she loses her powers. Those that deserve it got punished. The stepsisters, for instance. If you have no idea what I’m talking about or have never heard of Sondheim’s Into the Woods–GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW. Not the movie version that came out, either. [Meryl Streep was good, James Cordon was enjoyable but they took out everything that made that play work so well on a stage. For instance, they made the two princes nicer. No!! NO!! That second reprise of Agony gone! God damn it, why??] The stage version, with Bernadette Peters as the Witch. That one. Now, why am I blathering on about this…oh, yeah. So! My play, tee hee, has a very different style-wise Act I versus Act II feel.
Like Into the Woods does. The happy endings we saw in Act I fall apart in Act II and it’s not pretty or nice. Which made some people not like this musical. I love this musical. [Can you tell??] I love the songs, I love the story. That’s my critical take on it. Because this post isn’t a critique of Into the Woods. It’s all about me and my brand spanking new play [a joyous romp, not an angry dirge because you can be a feminist as long as you stand on your head and get a pie in the kisser while wearing a tiny bikini and smiling a lot] on hell, women, forgiveness, and female stereotypes. My Act II sparkles and shines like a vending machine plastic diamond ring! I think it ends with the nonsense word–merp. Intrigued yet?? Do you want to sit through an entire evening watching women kvetch about the Breakfast Club, forgiveness, and American values?
As the poisonous toxicity of America right now permeates me like an army of ghost penises, leaving rancid little seed bundles in my shirking, repulsed soul.
I won’t go into a Gilmore girls season six/seven rant. I had one, I deleted it. Thank me later! A beaver ate my thumb. It’s a catchy little tune. I sing it at odd moments and then go, what song is that? And then I sit down and write snarling feminist screams disguised as romps set in hell. A hell that’s rather cutesy and non-threatening, of course. Yay!!
The baby bird made it through the night. The heating pad, the hasty scrambling for something to feed it, the toilet paper nest. Oh, did I not tell you? Yours truly acquired a somewhat newly hatched baby bird. Species, don’t know.
I am one of those folks who, yes, go out of their way to try and save wildlife and stray dogs and lost kitties. My life has been picking up stray little souls on the sides of roads, finding little feeble nestlings in the lawn and generally trying to save tiny lives others have dismissed as ‘why do you bother?’ Because something in me actually cringes at leaving something to suffer a lingering death. Or a quick awful one from being smacked by a rapidly moving vehicle. My mother also did this. I remember her stopping to help strays and little lives, too. Once a baby rabbit somehow got in our house and she tried to get it fed and calmed down. It died, being too stressed and too afraid to recover. That was the last year of my mother’s life. If you want, you can see that an omen or a foretelling. Or a warning not to try and save anything, we all die. We all die.
Except for those little lives we manage to save.
I’ve had some success with baby birds. One summer I managed to save and release back into the wild about seven or so. A robin and some tiny quarrelsome sorts that I found huddled up and freezing in a blown down nest. I raised the baby robin and wrote a short story about her. It never developed the colorful breast of the male robin, and it was too big for a starling, so I’m gonna go with it was a robin. It never got tame and as I had no intention of keeping it anyway, it got to hop-fly away. On the day I could not catch it again to put it back into the big cage it hated, that robin signaled I’d done perhaps a little good. Or not. That robin stuck about and took its chances with humans and dogs alike, and then it disappeared…but it survived, for a bit, got to grow up, and then discover the joys of finding its own bugs.
My mother once brought home a goat she found wandering about on the road. She also found a home for it, as we were not set up for keeping it permanently. It had a personality, it liked to drink beer, it head-butted whatever dogs we had at that time. I also remember this old cat named Alice who found my mother at a livestock sale– back when we were living in Southern Washington State. Where we were set up for livestock and my mother had gone to buy some young pigs. Alice went straight to my mother, meowing very loudly. Everyone looked at my mother. Who made it clear that Alice, as she later called that calico cat, was not actually her cat. Why would anyone bring their cat to a livestock auction and sale?? But Alice persisted, and as cats do, Alice adopted my mother and decided my mother was hers for life. Alice then starting bringing her kittens to my mother…who of course took Alice and her batch of kittens home. I don’t remember if she bought any young pigs or not at that particular sale. Alice proved to be a one-cat woman. She was also the best mouser this side of the Mississippi. And an ugly cat, this was not a show cat, this was an outside, scruffy, skinny, barely tolerant of anyone except my mother sort of cat. Rough calico fur, a loud voice, not fixed that I remember.
I won’t go into the Ghosts of Pets Past. The tragedies and triumphs. The assorted scruffy little lives. The bungled and the botched of wild and domesticated alike. But I will try to keep the nestling remanded to my clumsy care alive as best I can.
Don’t worry. No insanely precious stream-of-consciousness poetry is forthcoming. Yet. Yet!!
An update: This afternoon, that little life grew still. Breath stopped. The tiny peeping. I wish I could write something here profound and deep as the Marianas Trench. It lived, and then it didn’t. I buried it beneath the oak tree, beneath the carpet of old leaves, among the shy worms and the tunneling gophers from the neighboring fields. I should have made a little boat, Viking style, and let that very young life rise back up into the sky…fire and ash, the ash floating upward, upward toward that sky. I could have sailed that tiny boat, set on fire, in the deep puddles in the lane we have yet. Goodbye, little bird. Say hello to all the other birds I couldn’t quite save.