Daily Archives: November 12, 2007

The Things We Do

I did a strange thing this weekend.

As a preface, back around 2000, I wrote a play called “Altered States of America,” which was both a comic and serious look at America’s love/hate relationship with drugs, and, I suppose, with my own inclination for getting out this crowded, cluttered head once in awhile (a passion in my younger years that caused me a little trouble and provided a ton of pleassure).

I dedicated the play to Hunter S. Thompson, Warren Zevon, and Ken Kesey, and, within two years of its 2003 production, they were all dead. I sent a copy to Warren when he was literally on his deathbed. I sent copies to Thompson and to Kesey’s widow. I never expected replies, never sought them. I just did what I thought was right, to pay a debt for inspiration and for bad advice that often turned out well. It was a damned good show, great cast, some moments of beauty, others of (I think) sharp satire–at least some laughs. The production got decent reviews, but it was scheduled at the wrong time of year, the ticket prices were too high, and audiences were low. I’d go home each night after every show, sit on the back porch, and play “Wild Horses” over and over until I could go to sleep.

There’s been a lot of talk about Hunter lately. A couple books have come out, and factions are lining up between them, literary battles breaking out. In other words: he’s still riling people up. But I had these unsettled, deeply personal, and unresolved feelings regarding the guy; so, as I think a kind of exorcism, I made a movie.

It’s very simple, just some photos of Hunter off the net that warp and change in time to Pearl Jam’s “Man of the Hour.” It ends with “In Memoriam” then fades to black. It’s clunky and crudely done. I can’t do anything with it: I don’t own any of the rights to the photographs or the music. I wouldn’t want to do anything with it. It’s something for me. I made it, and I watched it, and I let loose a little bit of what had been floating in my head.

It was, in short, a personal endeavor, and this is as public as it will ever be.

S


Brick, Mortar, Memory

It must be winter: I’m listening to Leonard Cohen again.

Who was it who wrote something like: “…we are all boats beating forward, ceaselessly borne into the past?” James Joyce? No, Fitzgerald, from “Gatsby.” I can’t remember the quote exactly, but I can see that flotilla of rowboats on a flat green river, and I can feel my own boat wobble in the current.

Our entire economy is built upon buying things. In some way, that’s what provides and fills the larder, yet when the current finally carries you away, those things become inert boxes and odd objects, stripped of memory and resonance, in drawers someone will one day have to empty.

The common bromide says live for the moment, even though we can live nowhere else. But memory (or nostalgia) and hope (or worry) distance us from the present.

Perhaps architects are happy. They do their work, and their imaginations become part of our mindscape. Doctors, for all the good they do, ultimately lose. Lawyers, soldiers, and police we frankly need only when things go awry. Teachers transmit ideas, which do last, then release them, like caged birds, to go where they will. And the clergy, whose whole business is predicated on the eternal, operate solely on faith, which is all any of us really have.

Sometimes I think the restaurateurs, distillers, and tobacconists give the most to our present, even as their wares draw it away.

And the artists? We have the promise of the architects, but the odds are long. In that way, we’re closer to the clergy. Our job is just to shape and color what we ought to already know. Amusing (I think) to remember the many times people have said to me, in one form or another: how I wish I could do what you do.

It is winter.