"Life can only be understood backwards,
but it must be lived forwards."
--Kierkegaard

Thursday, March 26, 2015

1996

1996. When I step into the classroom next week, ready to use my hypertext tutorial as text/resource, I'll be doing what I wanted to do 20 years ago - and couldn't.

My first class. Evening. A student rushes up: "I couldn't find the textbook in the bookstore!" Panic. "How do I get the textbook?"

Relax. Everything is cool.

Or is it?

A class filled with older students, rushing here from their jobs. I feel a foreboding.

I ask, How many here went on the World Wide Web recently? From the front row, What's the World Wide Web?

My turn to panic. Another question. How many here have email accounts? Less than half the class.

My class can't access the tutorial! I have to print out web pages and make a course pack.

Then print on demand publishing hits the scene. I turn the course pack into a book. A real book! But I keep adding to the tutorial, the dynamic beauty of hypertext. I use the book with handouts. Finally an expanded edition to incorporate them.

A commercial publisher sees it, wants a commercial version. Great! A doubly real book.

But it's all linear, not hypertext, copy and pasted from the tutorial. The tutorial is superior - and I can prove it. I make it a commercial product, to rave reviews and testimonials. A good income - until it becomes incompatible with new versions of windows. I don't find the time to update it.

It gathers cyberdust on my computer. When I retire, I return it online with free access, my gift to future students.

And next week it's deja vu all over again. But now my students can access the tutorial.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

1987, 1991

1987, 1991. In my wilder, younger days of serial monogamy, two relationships were sabotaged early on by daughters unhappy with mom's decision to be with me. I owe each of these worried daughters thanks.

The women I was with were very different, as were our circumstances. In those days I generally was too busy writing and partying to chase women. But sometimes they chased me, each of these on a fool's errand.

The first was an actrrss in several of my hyperdramas. She thought I was a genius, which was nice; that I drank too much, which was true; and that she would save me, which was delusional. But before we got together, I had to referee a comic hassle: an actor playing opposite her in my hyperdrama, which I also was directing, had fallen in love with her and had begun hassling her. I spent a lot of time with them individually and together, trying to keep their on stage romance alive but cooling down the one-sided one off stage.

It was during individual meetings with her in this context that she confessed her feelings for me. Soon we were living together in her house.

Daughter thought she was nuts. By appearances, she was supporting me since I was home while she was at work. In fact, I had grant money in the bank. Daughter invented a reason to crash with us for a while, and we didn't get along. Mom was put in the position of choosing between us and of course chose daughter. Thank the gods!

One afternoon I came home from something or other to find my belongings in boxes on the porch. I phoned a buddy and that was that.

The other separation was uglier. This woman was a drinker, a regular at one of my bars. She also loved theater, seeing most of my plays during my decade of fame. She was going to our local chef school. When she graduated, she decided to take me home with her to Seattle, where she owned a home in Kirkland. It was time for me to be a star in Seattle.

None of this came out until later. From my point of view, a foxy woman was inviting me to live with her in Seattle, where I could continue work on my Chekhov hyperdrama and stretch my bank funds farther. I had abandoned traditional theater and had no interest in traditional theater in Seattle.

None of this was known to her yet. We partied together without sharing these details. In the meantime, daughter was bugging mom that this all looked crazy to her. Why wasn't I making the rounds of Seattle theaters, pitching my work? Daughter thought I was using mom.

The first Gulf war started. Watching bombing on live TV, I was outraged. I was bad-mouthing the President. She was shocked. What was I, a communist? She was a red, white and blue conservative Republican, which had never come up during drinking and fucking. Ha ha ha!

Once again, I phoned a buddy and was out if there.

Dear daughters, thank you for making these diasters short and manageable.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

1971

1971. My real education as a playwright began on a Sunday afternoon in the early 1970s. I met with the playwright/professor, Dean Regenos, I would study under. He'd asked me to drop by my most risky play at his apartment.

He already knew about me. I'd switched programs from fiction to playwriting. I was already publishing stories in literary magazines and reviews in national publications. My first one act play had placed third in a national competition.

He said he wasn't sure he had anything to teach me. He wanted to find out. Give me something that takes chances, he said.

I expected to drop off the play, maybe chat a while and leave. I gave him MY TOWN, YOUR TOWN, in which the Black Panthers overthrow the Wilder classic and give the actors new sctipts, a device used a decade later in another play. A colleague of Joe Papp loved it but couldn't get the boss interested.

Regenos took the script, gave me a beer, told me to wait and went upstairs.

I was a nervous wreck when he returned an hour later. He said he was still shaking, it was so powerful. But yes, he did have something to teach me. I made the play almost impossible to produce. I had much to learn about stagecraft, writing for actors, and the practical limitations of theater.

And so my education began.

Dean kept trying to get me to act. I resisted. But at my next stop, Salisbury State College on Maryland's Eastern Shore, a semi-retired former Yale Drama School professor, Leeland Starnes, shamed me into acting under his direction. I had major roles in Our Town, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, A View From The Bridge.

And so my education continued.

By the time I landed in Portland in the late 1970s, ready to bring my small town Northwest characters out of my short stories and onto the stage, I was in the right place at the right time and ready to boogie.

And so the 1980s became my most "visible" decade as a traditional playwright.

posted from Bloggeroid

Friday, January 23, 2015

1961

1961. My three years in the Army Security Agency, 1959-1962, were a major turning point in my "coming of age" as an independent adult, and eventually as a writer, and no year more important than 1961. This was when I bonded with my best friend and soul brother, the late Dick Crooks, who introduced me to "God's country," the Pacific NW, which would become important in several ways. Dick also sold me on "the romantic view of the artist," for which I'd come to pay but never quite regret.

Dick and I spent months driving the back roads of western Germany before his family arrived to join him. With several bottles of fine German white wine, we'd find a secluded place to park with a view and Dick would tell stories: of growing up on the wrong side of the tracks in Orofino, Idaho; of his dream to write the Great American Novel and why writers were so important, especially his favorites Thomas Wolf, James Agee, John Steinbeck; of jazz equally important (he couldn't carry a tune), King Pleasure, Billie Holiday (seeing her live). He was passionate, speech driven by superlatives, and if you didn't agree with his tastes, then fuck you. He was older, more experienced in the world, and I was mesmerized, a sort of disciple.

Dick never became a writer. He didn't have the discipline. But when I became a writer, I found good uses for many of his stories in my work.
It took time for him to embrace this turn of goals but eventually he came around, proud of my success. He died too young, sober but miserable, not fun to be around in his last months. But I am filled with better memories of our friendship, over 40 years of them. I treasure them, I laugh about them, I cherish the good fortune of my debt to him.

My novel KEROUAC'S SCROLL covers this territory.

Friday, January 16, 2015

2015

This clearly is a year of transition: finding our post heart attack rhythm; selling the house and adjusting to a new home; finally putting some demons to rest; dealing with inevitable surprises. I remain blessed.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

1958

1958. The highlight of my short football career at Cal Tech happened in the spring and summer of 1958. QB and co-captain of the 0-4 freshman team, I went out for the varsity.

This was not a football school, and the freshman and varsity teams used different formations and systems. I'd been a T quarterback. Now I found myself in a single wing, coached by the 1948 coach of the year, UCLA's Bert LaBrucherie (sp?), who had been slaughtered in the Rose Bowl and fired. This was a version of retirement for him. But I was being coached by a former NCAA coach of the year!

I did well. LaB had me playing both QB, a blocking back in the single wing, and tailback. I did well enough to be written up in Street & Smith's Football Digest, a national magazine with regional editions. Way in the back, even Cal Tech football was listed and I was mentioned as a top prospect coming from the freshman team.
As QB, I sometimes became a receiver. I blocked, received, passed, ran. I had a great time.

But then I injured my leg. That was enough for me. LaB made me feel like a quitter. I ended up transfering to Cal Berkeley in 1959, with Linus Pauling making me feel good about it.

8 months later I joined the Army. I played flag football through my service, loving the game again.

posted from Bloggeroid

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

1965

1965. One of the wonders of the world is that I drank and drove for 30 years and nevet got a DUI or even a warning. I suppose it helped that I never drove fast. But very lucky indeed.

New Year's Eve brings one incident to mind. Big party. LA suburbs. Leave party just before sunrise. Wife passed out (not H). Driving as carefully as possible. Then ... what the? what are these little trees doing here?

Stop and get out. I've been driving down grassy area separating one way streets, dodging recently planted trees! Never noticed driving over curb to get there.

Okay. Down over curb to street, continue home. no other incident.

Imagine a cop seeing that!

posted from Bloggeroid