Finding the Fun in the Setting Sun

The soaring soul...

The soaring soul…

“One morning you wake up in Yuma, Arizona in this thing called a motorhome. The phone rings it’s a receptionist, she’s calling to confirm your appointment with the plastic surgeon.”

While on stage the topic of the golden years of our lives needs to be approached carefully. Cliché is an epidemic hazard. As we approach this period in our life several surprise events often preface the lives of the stubborn and willfully blind.

There is the midlife crisis. Do you do anything or do you continue doing what you’ve been doing and chuck the whole notion of aspiring to remake a better more fulfilled self?

There are divergent responses to this chapter in life. By the time I had remarried I had opted for a bumper to bumper overhaul. I didn’t want to repeat the same patterns again and again. I figured the idea was to refrain from saying and doing the same things I had done and take a fresh approach. The fresh approach was simple. Try to do wholesome and skillful things. Had I been doing this all along, then that might not have been much of a change from my earlier years.

Besides the midlife crisis there is the no small matter of what work you have been doing. If it is close-sourced you will feel dead ended, retirement will be appropriate, and relieving yourself of the work that doesn’t infuse your life with passion is helpful.

If you work is your passion you may approach this period of your life with the promise of further productive vocational decades.

“Your wife is doing her impression of you when you first met. She’s fiddling with your buttons, tugging at your zipper, nibbling at your neck.

She keeps telling you how sexy you look. You think she’s in denial.”

The children are out of the house, but they are never gone. You live in the wake of those years. I’ll stick my neck out a bit and suggest many of us abide in a satisfaction and fulfillment from our work as parents. Good work as parents, good relationship with yourself, whether single or married now, and sensible relationship with your vocation, whether retired or you continue to work make up this terrain.

The golden years are fascinating. We know ourselves so well now. We seldom suffer foolish unfulfilling relationships of any kind at this point in our life. We are busy. There are not many decades left. Whatever unfinished business there is to do, it is time to get those temporal and physical things done. In my case it is about the finishing touches on a near four decade career on stage and equally fascinating career as an author. Many of you know me for my work on stage, but in fact I know myself as a lifelong writer and novelist. More of you will come to know more about this part of my life as well. It is about those last long sailing voyages on my calendar.

And there is this routine I’m putting the finishing touches on. The routine briefly visits this stage in life. And it must touch it with the spaciousness and compassion that is its hallmark. We only get here by chance and if we are wise we will make good use of its spirited richness. That is why they are so golden.

“You come to appreciate the spiritual meaning of the word: “emptiness”, it fits exactly with how you feel about your 401k.”

Hot Spring Honeymoon Front Cover

Click and Get it Here

 

“The notion that sex equates to love being predominant is a hard train to catch if it isn’t really going anywhere. As a matter of fact sex, or sexual attraction seems to confuse every character in the book at one point or another, making for some very funny side trips.”

Fun and funny novel about lust in the dust of a small town in Nevada

 

 

The Well Paid Truth Tellers…

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Nowhere to Go Nothing Anyone Can Do

 

It was close in Scotland. Then today I read that about one quarter of all the citizens in the USA feel that they would be better off if their state seceded.

Anyone paying attention can see that we have a problem. It seems democracy is on a collision course with free market economies of the world.

The criminality in the banking sector has resulted in exactly zero convictions. They remain dangerous. Everybody knows what dangerous means now.

At the same time powerful corporate interests have mounted campaigns to lower their taxes, reduce worker’s rights, and to defund social welfare programs.

I’m talking about unemployment insurance, disability insurance programs, healthcare and social security. Much of this list was once deemed to be part of a prudent grand bargain between capital and labor. No more.

That consensus has been torn up and corporate interests have bought votes that aim to strip the workers of the protections they have long enjoyed.

The so called tax inversion game is illustrative. Burger King goes from Florida to Canada to lower taxes. From a pure business point of view it apparently is in their best interest. But, what about the money to fund the Pentagon, or the well educated workers who come and go to work on the paved highways, drinking safe clean water and breathing fresh clean air, where do the revenues for providing such things come from?

All of this isn’t an accident of tax policy it is a feature. The feature was put into the code by lawmakers paid by lobbyists that fund their election campaigns.

And there you have it. One quarter of the people in the United States know damn well what has happened. Citizens United has only confirmed the out in the open bribery and corruption. The conservative majority on the Supreme Court is all bought and paid for by the Federalist Society.

And that my friend’s is why so many of us are fed up and giving up.

Fifty-eight of fifty-nine representatives of Scotland are in the opposition party with just one representative caucusing with the conservatives and David Cameron. Cameron has set policy without regard to what the vast majority of the people of Scotland want and instead has done the bidding of the City of London. Scotland is fighting for the workers and the social compact long ago agreed to while Cameron’s party work with the City of London to dismantle it.

They do this work because they are paid to do it. It might be they believe they are doing the right thing, but it is hard to know when so much of what they believe has been so well funded.

“Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the “well-funded” truth so help you God?” Now that is an oath even a banker could swear by.

 

 

Writing Comedy…

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It is all in the words…

After working on three novels, some 340,000 words, work that spans seven years, I’m trying to distill the essence into one hour. Someone has to do it. I spend seven years working on three novels and a reader will be done with all three in 30 hours, more or less. In some sense I am engaged in a reverse engineering operation. Plucking out pieces of literary work and making a show.

 

Show is made of routines, transitions, bits and gags. It is a line by line process. We have to account for pace. The performer has to visualize what an audience will see. You memorize, rehearse, try them, adjust them, and finally you’ll emerge out the other end. It’s called a show.

 

And since I’m basically a variety act guy, having devoted 40 years to the non-narrative show I am embarked on the paradoxically challenging effort to do the non-narrative/narrative show. Not so much a story within a story as it is a journey tangled amidst the web of storylines.

 

And that is what I’m thinking about now. How to navigate this terrain, part narrative, part non-narrative, part literary and part spoken word, I feel like I’m on the right track because I feel a degree of dread and fear. That’s good. That points the way.

Let that Sink In

Mersey Hot Spring 267AAASmall

 

Two Times as Much Fun

We do not come into this world. We come out of the world like a leaf from a tree. I like that. We are not part of the world we are of this world. We belong.

Writing long fiction is based upon everything that might be part of what happens within our lifespan. We are born and we die, in between is life. Life is where fiction comes from.

In particular I do want to know where my characters hearts are drawn. Who do they love? What is their sex life about? At least so far I’ve wanted to account for how the main characters love.

I find the economic circumstances absolutely indispensable. Where are they? What are they doing? What forces are bearing down on them?

I want there to be some place where I can allow the characters to appear and reappear. In my first novel the place turned out to be a van that the character lived and traveled in.

Characters do have a psychological framework, but I prefer to construct my characters on the basis of what they want. What shortcomings they arrive in the story with I prefer to hold gently, it is part of the human condition, the shared humanity. They are not broken and don’t need fixing. They are thirsty, hungry, or attracted to someone and want something to eat, something to drink, someone to love. That’s enough of a fix to be in right there.

Write what you know. I like this advice. We can’t know everything about what motivates someone to act. We can guess that like us they may be happy or suffer. We may know they want or can’t have something no matter what they do.

And perhaps finally there is a lot of fun to be found in putting characters into situations that an author might imagine and finding out what they might do. How will they react to getting what they want? How will they feel about giving another character what they want? They aren’t the same thing, or are they?

A sexual farce explores reversals and revelations. Sex is next to nothing in fiction whereas seduction is nearly everything… Let that sink in.

 

 

Princeton’s Epitaph to Democracy

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The Luxury Yacht  Karma

That Princeton Study says the elite having captured the political process going back all the way to the 1980’s. The powerful have ended democracy in the USA. The novelist is always looking for a working model of the world. Billionaires, corporate titans and their paid operatives are running riot now. This is the paid for crowd. Fox Television isn’t a political ideological operation it is an oligarchic operation. Lower taxes, less regulation and free trade isn’t a consensus economic perspective, it is an elite belief system. Privatization of everything isn’t always the way to go. Our water systems, prisons, and national security agencies are best left in the public sector. Do we really want Wall Street setting our water rates? Do we want incarceration rates set by judges drumming up more business for privately held prisons?

Creating narrative is fun. Down at the personal level, human to human, a multitude of interesting storylines can be developed. But, if we really don’t have a democracy it means the fish are no longer swimming in the same ocean that Steinbeck or Sinclair Lewis imagined. I give a lot of thought to Buddhism’s model of mind. I don’t find dreams or childhood trauma always helpful in development of a character. Similarly whether we like it or not capitalism or some mutant ascendant version of some form of economics has escaped from the regulations used to constrain its most vile tendencies and here we are left to wonder when the next shoe is about to drop. I am pondering a narrative set in the wine country, and a man who makes wine being chased around the valley by a super wealthy woman. As he explains to her, “I can’t make love to you. It would be like going to bed with Lloyd Blankfein in drag…”

Pull the Curtain Back and Take a Good Look

“Of course the irremediable bitterness in Picasso’s soul, the power of the inner sanction he felt later in life to wound and humiliate others, had to come in part out of the paradox that the paintings that brought him the greatest sums were precisely the works which had cost him the most miserable days of his life.”

Portrait of Picasso as a Young Man

Norman Mailer

road sunset

 

 

The Light of Day at End

Picasso painted realities. He made visible realms other painters had passed over and left for this artist to discover. The madness of our present moment is that a powerless majority is reduced to a kind of civic paralysis over the misdeeds and mayhem our modernity is plunging us into. We quarrel about silly things. We know if not by fact, then by intuition, that all this is a distraction. Capitalism’s cloak of deception is being peeled back and we see, we know that the system is rigged and it is enfeebling us. Our ordinary minds are so crafty, so deluded, so clever as to get us into a mess that our best minds are unable to rise up and save all of humanity from. On one edge of myself I cleave the penetrating truth and with the other edge I struggle to understand that there are no best minds or ordinary minds, there is only one mind, and it is that one collective consciousness that is at risk of harming us all. That’s got Doctor Strangelove written all over it….

 

 HOT SPRING HONEYMOON

Gretel walked across the roadhouse saloon to the bar. She had a good angle at a reflection in a window and could keep an eye on her driver.

Lark picked a song, punched the code in and out came, “If you got leaving on your mind…”

Gretel turned and went out of character, extra big, and called to Lark. “Honey, that boyfriend is done breaking your heart,”

Lark fed more quarters into the jukebox, picking more songs, swishing her hips side to side, bobbing the bait waiting for the men in the room to take a bite of the lure.

 

Sunday aboard our Sailboat

aircraft carrier

 

 

What about a gentle breeze, warm sun and our dear friends Lori and RJ aboard our yacht Sweet Seas for an afternoon of conversation? While basking in the light, dining on guacamole, eating enlightened chips… toss in a beer, a glass of wine, steady beats from our favorite  jazz station….

We do a lot of kids shows. I wrapped a weekend at BayFest in Berkeley on Saturday, a fundraiser at Indian Valley Grammar School in Walnut Creek on Friday! Where we raised a handsome sum, you see those of us that have learned how to play to kids, we didn’t just learn to play to kids because it was another gig, another revenue stream. We play to kids because it is our passion…

The world wobbles and the world gets it right. Today at Emery Cove Yacht Harbor four of us dialed in the love and did one afternoon right down the middle, we pitched the perfect game, the hole in one… and we’re ready to do more…