Photographica: Late Afternoon and into the Past

Late Afternoon, Modish Building, Portland, Oregon

Late Afternoon, Modish Building, Portland, Oregon

A late winter afternoon–after a stretch of rain, the air still thick. Winter in the Pacific Northwest often limits you to shooting detail, given the long overcast stretches. But, when it clears, it gives you this full, rich light and color more akin to the semi-tropics, plus long shadows. Maybe the moisture content in the air; it somehow bends the light.

Here we have the golden hour plus: the warm light tinged with winter blues. The photo’s seem some post-production work, mostly to render it the way I saw it. Or at least how I remembered it. There’s no telling how far that can stray. Memory’s it’s own kind of filter.

The site–the Modish Building in downtown Portland–holds a special meaning for me. My first play–Controlled Burn–was produced on the fourth floor, in a sort of underground art gallery, with the artists squatting on site…not us, we came in as guests. Very punk, man! Kind of. They did throw some great parties. They also had limited gear available. The sound system was fantastic, and there must have been 50 cues, but our lights consisted of slide projectors and flashlights with colored gels over the lenses (and a silver plastic balloon that served to create a very cool watery effect). We took our set up in a rickety industrial elevator than ran so slow that you could reach out and touch the wall as it passed. We called if the David Lynch Memorial Elevator. We had to bring audiences up to the fourth floor in batches of ten. Luckily, the fire inspector never visited us.

With time, you learn. Back then, I had no idea. I remember Kyle Evans (who helped found Pavement Productions) and I attended PATA auditions when looking for actors. We knew nobody in the theatre community, nobody knew us, but they treated us as equals, and we ended up working with some very cool people like Sherilyn Lawson, Marty Ryan, and Catherine Egan (as a shamanistic dancer).

That’ll be 25 years ago this coming September. First play. Birth of Pavement Productions (I certainly had no idea that would last for 18 years). And my first review–the Oregonian compared me to a young Sam Shepard. They also said the play was kind of a mess–really, it was more performance art–and dubbed it “Uncontrolled Burn.” And thus the pattern: the critic give, and critic taketh away. Still, they couldn’t have made me happier unless they’d compared me to Beckett or Ionesco.

Funny that the piece really was a series of interconnected monologues, and I’m currently playing with a series of interconnected narrative poems–which could be performed as a series of monologues. I don’t know whether that means the circle comes round or I just have a limited number of ideas.

(Shot with a Canon 70D, 18-55mm zoom lens, processed in Adobe Lightroom.)

P.S.: This marks my blog’s 500th post.

Wild Horses

When I finish writing this, I’m going out, watering the flower pots on the patio, then taking a stroll around the garden to see who’s blooming. And I’ll have another cup of coffee. Not because I need the energy to survive another crushing, mad day, but just because I like coffee.

We put Pavement Productions, my theatre company, to bed last night. Sold out house, had to turn people away or risk a fire code violation. Good party afterwards. Loaded up the chairs and music stands into the big red pickup truck I inherited. Just as we got home, it began to sprinkle lightly. It was warm, a soft rain, and it was very, very quiet. Later, I went out on the back porch with the headphones and the Stones. I was going to smoke a celebratory cigar, but it just seemed too much, so I had a single pipe instead. Listened to “Wild Horses,” which I remembered playing over and over after the heartbreak of producing “Altered States of America,” a show the cast, crew, and I were very proud of and loved very much…as audiences seemed to as well…those that saw it. But there were too few of them, despite good reivews, and we took a bath, and, on Pavement’s profit-sharing model, for the first time in my producing career, I wasn’t able to pay my people. It was the most exquisite agony, like a protracted death, and I’d hear those lines:

I watched you suffer a dull aching pain
Now you decided to show me the same
No sweeping exits or offstage lines
Could make me feel bitter or treat you unkind
Wild horses couldn’t drag me away
Wild, wild horses, couldn’t drag me away

And I would cry. Sometimes. I’d play it until I was finally so exhausted I could sleep. But as I listened to it last night, it was like the soundtrack of a free-form film playing in my mind’s eye, images from shows past, friends faces–really wonderful irreplaceable friends, laughs at mistakes and the surreal moments that pepper life in the theatre, and the raptures of lights turning to magic, the perfect sound cue opening new levels of meaning, and actors, in the moment, finding their souls.

I know I dreamed you a sin and a lie
I have my freedom but I don’t have much time
Faith has been broken, tears must be cried
Let’s do some living after we die

The song sounded so perfect, so beautiful, that it washed away its past connotations, and a cord, taut and twisted, loosened. When the song ended, I shut off the CD player and just sat, listening to little but a light breeze, a barely audible rain, my own breath, distant traffic.

Everything was all right. I went to bed. Slept deeply. Woke up to a gentle overcast. Sat up. Took a deep breath. The world had kept turning, both the same and altogether new.