Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Precious Perspective

I wish to be always at the point of discovering.

DB - The Vagabond

Good day citizen of the world.

One of the nastiest tricks we play on ourselves is making an assumption. I know someone who is fond of the phrase "To assume, makes an ass of u and me." If there is a set of three things, x (A+B+C) and A and B are true, it is easy to assume that C is also true and that therefore x is true. But we may discover that C is not true. Then what? We are surprised.

An actor has to deal with things called "discoveries." A performance is real life for everyone involved, but the play is not. It's fiction. It resembles real life, and the closer it does that the more entertaining it is.

The actor deals with perspective, which is different from an artist's perspective where the sizes of things in relation to each other can determine how far they are from the viewer. For an actor perspective is about what the character knows and what he doesn't know. Though the actor knows how the play ends, the character does not and hence the actor can't play the end of the play.

The various events that occur during the working out of the plot must come as discoveries, as surprises to the actor, if he is playing the role correctly.

So how does the actor accomplish that and be believable? One way is by making assumptions. He assumes he knows what's happening or what's going to happen, and he may mentally talk himself into it, he temporarily brain washes himself one might say, that is the artistry. so that when the unexpected happens it's a surprise. It may be an event, an arrival of someone or just a vital piece of information. Whatever it is , it's a discovery. Within the course of the drama his life is changed to some degree, sometimes drastically.

The portamento into our real lives is to avoid making assumptions, so that discoveries do not affect us in any drastic way. In fact, a better approach is to look for those surprises wherever we are.

I think discoveries come about in three ways: past, present and future.

Future discoveries are the ones you can realize if you stay alert and not make assumptions about things, and if you experiment and investigate. Turn over the rock to see what's underneath it, take a walk in the woods, if your in a restaurant order a dish you've never had, don't assume you're not going to like it. Go into a book store and open a book on something you know nothing about. I remember talking a friend into reading "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Pirsig. He didn't want to read it because he assumed it was about motorcycles.

I also remember going into the Museum of Modern Art in NYC when they were renovating it. The paintings were up on peg boards and primitively displayed. As a result a lot of people stayed away. But I turned a corner and came upon "The Piano Lesson" by Henri Matisse. It's now my favorite painting. I thought it had been painted specifically for me. (I still think so.)

Present discoveries are about things that are right there in your life, right now. They are in the attic, the bottom drawer of the dresser, the trunk, or in my case, in the big white box under the window. I was looking for something one day and came upon the Appalachian Mountain Club Trail Guide which prompted me to write about my hike up Tremont Mountain (see Knuckle Knowledge 9/07/08). It was a joy to discover and relive that adventure.

Past discoveries are perhaps the most personal. Those are discoveries you made about yourself that have become lost or transformed by life and other people. What was it that you knew when you were a boy or a girl that you have forgotten about? When it was clear that my life as an actor was put on the shelf I tried to remember what I wanted before that ever came about. I always loved music, but as I realized I had little talent in that direction I didn't give it much time or energy.

Then I remembered how I used to entertain my friends by telling stories. I literally rediscovered myself as a story teller. So now I write stories.

There are a great many things, too many to number, in everyone's life waiting to be discovered and rediscovered.

DB Vagabond Journeys

Appreciate yourself.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hard Horizons

Hard work without talent is a shame, but talent without hard work is a tragedy.

Robert Hall

Welcome to the fable of the tortoise and the hare.

In my career I had the great pleasure of working with some very talented performers and entertainers. The best ones were those who took their work very seriously. They were the ones who took the script or the songs home every night and went through them finding new levels of meaning and expression, They were dependable, original and very interesting to watch and work with. They defined art and life.

Unfortunately, I have also worked with those who had talent and not much desire to work on it. Those people were not interesting to watch for long and any originality was not often enough to be applauded. The sad fact is that talent unaccompanied and unsupported by hard work eventually, almost without exception, falls into repetition and predictability. The musician, whether classical or rock. who doesn't pick up his instrument in the morning and practice, doesn't last long.

I have also worked with those who had little or no talent. Some of them had good training and got by on that. Some just admitted defeat and walked away. But others would dig in and work at it, and seemingly get nowhere. After days of mediocre work they would suddenly show up with something real and good. It didn't happen by accident.

Are you a tortoise or a hare? If one has talent and works at it, that's great. If one has no talent and works at it that is also great. Remember the tortoise crossed the finish line first.

If one has talent and does not work at it, it's a tragedy. Unfair in all it's ways.

Guaranteed Growth

Guaranteed Growth

If you are not too large for the place you occupy, you are too small for it.

President James Garfield

It seems we are all under a moral obligation to grow, to make our world, our universe expand to accommodate a bigger existence. Only we rarely know that until we are forced up against the walls and ceiling of the place we "occupy."

I have learned certain skills and crafts in my life by being forced to jump in the water and being willing to lose sight of the shore for a time. Now, in my retirement, I have asked myself if I am willing to peer out of the nice, snug, tidy rabbit hole again and see what's out there.

There is an entry in Nutwood Junction for January 17 on the topic of boredom. http://nutwoodjunction.blogspot.com/ Nobody should ever be bored, (unless they want to be, which is a pity). But when boredom sets in, I think it's a sure sign that we have grown too large for the rabbit hole. If there is nothing more to do in here, why not get out of it.

Of course, the computer gives one the ability to peer out of the hole and look around without leaving the physical safety of the hole. But it doesn't provide the safety of new ideas for the mind to discover. And without that risk the deterioration of the brain, overstuffed with safe thoughts, is in danger without knowing it.

I'm reminded again about the toad who crawls into a hollow rock to escape its enemies and that feeds on whatever bug happens to pass the hole. It keeps on growing and one day it is too big to leave the rock. It's stuck in there for the rest of its life.

So I keep gathering knowledge that i can grow into until I'm too big for it, but I won't stay inside my rock or my rabbit hole. Not for long anyway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fecund Fancies

Fecund Fancies

The world has changed from when you first discovered it.
Time to rediscover.

DB - The Vagabond


"The more things change, the more they remain the same." as the old saying goes. And I suppose it's true. But the outward examples of things remaining the same certainly do look like change and newness in so many ways. Try to explain to a child what life was like before TV, jet travel and touch tone phones.
One of my earliest memories is having my mother point up to the sky for me to see an airplane flying. In my childish, but prophetic, imagination I thought it meant that anything could fly.
I have witnessed the development of many things: from black and white TV (which wasn't black and white at all, but various shades of gray) to color. From getting a live operator when you picked up the phone to punching in the numbers, My grandmother used to yip with a minor fright every time the phone rang. There were no phones when she grew up.
One Christmas a few years ago I flew to LA. It was 25 degrees and Winter at Newark Airport when I left. A mere 6 hours later it was 65 degrees and Spring when I arrived at LA Airport. Something there is in me that still has trouble adjusting to that.
As I write this I'm sitting in front of a computer, and when I press the right button it will go to your computer. When I was a kid such a thing was only a Buck Rogers fantasy.
Now we face possibilities that are Star Wars fantasies. We will colonize on other planets. It will happen. The fact of a surgeon in one place diagnosing and performing an operation on a patient in another place through satellite communications, and computerized robots is a fantasy, but it will happen. The ability to control the weather to the extent of preventing things like what is happening to the Gulf coast area right now is a fantasy, but it will happen.
Thee are many such things I could list. But the point is not only the discovery of what is, but delight in the discovery of what's possible and what's going to be. We have come to a point now in the world where what's to come is so much closer to us now than when I was a youngster. Or as Yogi Berra once, oh! so wisely and eloquently, put it "The future ain't what it use to be."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Anxious Advice

Anxious Advice

Not giving up is a hard but necessary thing to do.

DB - The Vagabond

There have been many occasions in my life when from someone else's perspective it seemed that I was giving up. But in fact I was letting go of something in order to grasp something else, as one has to move off of a comfortable foothold on a mountain side in order to hoist one's self up to a higher level. And the motivation was always a constant search for identity.
Having grown up poor I came into the habit of accepting anything that came my way that would pay me some money. The problem with that is that I soon found myself labeled as one who did whatever I was doing at the time and that therefore I was a janitor, dish washer or night watchman. The mistake is to classify one's job as one's career. I discovered some amazing people while doing so-called menial labor. One night watchman that I knew was getting his PhD in Russian literature at Harvard, one of the janitors was a violinist and another was an authority on 18th and 19th Century European furniture. Those were careers. Checking basement door locks and mopping floors was a job.
I wasn't surprised to find those people in those jobs, after all I was one of them and I knew I was only there to make a buck. Years later I used to joke: "The reason I'm an actor is because that's what they keep paying me to do." There was more truth than humor in that remark. I never had the luxury to pick and choose my roles. I had to accept work in substandard productions with directors I didn't respect just to pay the rent. But all the time I was pursuing a higher identity.
One day my brother took me out in his sail boat onto Long Island Sound. When we got some ways out I looked around and saw that we were completely surrounded by water. I admired the ability of the ship to float upon it and the way the water came up to embrace the ship, the way the sails grabbed at the wind and the way the ship moved forward with determination. I remarked about it to my brother and he told me that one day he had brought one of his clients out for a sail and when the man could no longer see the shore he panicked and needed to go back until he could. So my brother had to turn the boat around and head for the shore until the fellow was comfortable again.
I left a job as a radio announcer which was at the very pinnacle of my specialty as a classical music announcer. Everyone thought I was crazy. How could I walk away from such a high paying job, one with important listeners and a high standing in the world? The answer was clear to me. I was safely in port, but I wanted to sail.
The other announcers I knew were men and women who were just where they wanted to be. To go on the air everyday knowing that tens of thousands of people heard them was a gentle thrill. And I admired and respected them for it. But it was about that time that I heard the Paul Simon song "One man's ceiling is another man's floor" and I realized that I was bumping my head on a ceiling. It wasn't that what I wanted was better, more noble or more important to the world, it's just that it was different. Everyone has their own mountain to climb. I have a different mountain and I'm still climbing it. And my real identity is within my grasp if I keep climbing. I really believe that. And it can't necessarily be found on the stage, in front of a microphone or a camera, in a paint brush or at the end of a mop handle, but it might be found in any one of those places as long as the search goes on.
My journey isn't greater, grander, more colorful or more important than anyone's. It's my own journey. It has taken me across the water, under bridges, through valleys, into big cities and small towns, back stage and on stage, from one end of the country to the other, into libraries and book stores, concert halls and night clubs, along beaches and up mountains, into bedrooms and out of them again, through long winters and boiling summers, into courts and out of them again, into long lines at the bank and long walks in the woods, into fightsand flights, into certainty and doubt, into companionship and solitude and into some small collection of wisdom. My journey isn't any better than yours. It's my journey. It's a different journey. It's a vagabond journey.
Tags: not giving up, sailing, acting, menial labor, identity, classical music, radio announcer

Basic Beauty

Basic Beauty

The best reason for doing anything is the joy of doing it.

DB - The Vagabond


I've always been an analytical artist as well as a practicing one. A stage manager, once said to me, "Why do you talk about it so much? Why don't you just do it?" The answer was that I enjoy talking and thinking about it.
Ten or so years ago I became intrigued about the subject of "entertainment." What is it that enables someone to stand on a stage and do something such that hundreds of people will forget everything else and watch and listen. What is that magic? I knew I had it myself but I couldn't identify what it was.
So in my spare time I decided to see if I could understand it by seeing as many entertainers as I could. I went to operas, Broadway musicals, night clubs, orchestra concerts, jazz concerts, rock concerts. I watched singers, dancers, magicians and clowns. I saw people performing in huge arenas and concert halls and on street corners. Some were better than others and some had the unmistakable magic of the entertainer no matter what they did. But I still couldn't define it. Well, I kept searching and a day came when I finally saw it clearly, in a most unlikely place.
Damrosch Park in New York City is a place with a band shell. It's an outdoor performing area in Lincoln Center. It seats 3,000 people. I played there once myself as host of the Du bonnet Chamber Music Festival. In the summer they would book in various artists to perform - three different groups, one after another.
One afternoon a friend called to tell me that Liam Clancy was scheduled to appear there that evening, he and his wife were going and would I like to come along. I thought that would be fun so I did.
Liam Clancy was part of the famous Clancy Brothers Irish folk singing group. When it broke up, his brothers Tom and Paddy went their separate ways and Liam formed his group. But this is not about Liam Clancy.
He was second on the program following a young folk singer I didn't know, who was okay. When Clancy's group was finished my friends wanted to leave. But just at that moment Liam Clancy said "Stick around because you've got Percy Sledge coming."
Now I'm a classical music lover. I'm not a great fan of R&B/Soul. There's nothing wrong with it, I just never went seeking it out. But Percy Slege was almost an American institution. I didn't know he was still alive, much less still performing. So I begged my friends to stay and hear him, and we did.
He came out and stood there in a white suit, in a spotlight, with a microphone, backed by The Uptown Brass (a high quality Harlem big band) and sang. And he was riveting.
The place was overflowing with spectators. In fact, my friends and I were nowhere near the stage. We were way at the back, sitting under the trees. But I couldn't take my eyes off of him. I and thousands of other people were completely engrossed.
He sang all of his famous songs, including "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" and "When A Man Loves A Woman." During that song there was a musical bridge where the band played and he didn't sing. Instead he spoke about tthe song, and without bragging, but with a sense of the enjoyment of the privilege, he listed all the great capitals and countries of the world where he had sung that song. And just before the musical bridge ended he said "and New York City."
I will never forget that moment. It was like sunshine suddenly bursting into my heart and my head. I saw it. He loves his songs, he loves singing them and he loves singing them to other people for their pleasure and enjoyment. That's entertainment! It's as simple as that. And I knew it all along.
Thank you Percy.. Thank you forever.

Tags: analytical actor, entertainment, Damrosch Park, Lincoln Center, Liam Clancy, Uptown Brass, Percy Sledge

Cheerful Calendar

Cheerful Calendar

It's no use wondering what to do with your life.
You're doing it.

DB - The Vagabond
Autumn is my favorite season of the year. It's the most interesting and most festive season.
It begins in late summer when the days are warm and the nights are cool. Most of the stormy season is over and most of the bugs have done their deeds. Crops are fecund and harvest is near. The leaves are lush and green, soon to be set on fire with yellows, reds and shades of amber by nature's miraculous power.
It's the season of celebrations: Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Columbus Day. There were Italian kids in school who always got Columbus Day off, so naturally we had to make fun of them the next day, out of envy of course, just as we made fun of the Jewish kids when they got a day off.
Halloween was a big night for all of us kids back in the days when it was still safe for us to go out on our own. And we pulled tricks, tooth picks stuck into front door bells, hastily drawn crayon marks on windshields, etc. No spray painting the dog or other nasty things. Those things came along later with the razor blades in the apples. Halloween ain't what it used to be.
My father was a Veteran of the First World War and even though he had passed from the seen my mother always wanted him remembered on Veteran's Day.
Thanksgiving meant a visit with Aunt Emily and Uncle Stanley. Stanley was a painter, a successful one. They had a nice big apartment in New York City. Emily loved to cook, so Thanksgiving meant the whole family sitting around the big dinner table while Emily feasted us. Later they bought a farm house in upstate New York. So we all drove up there. Emily would have been heart broken if we didn't.
So now the leaves have turned to brown and fallen on the streets, sidewalks and back yards. We would run down the side walk, kicking the leaves as we went. The men would rake them up into piles and there would be bonfires.
The road side vegetable stands with their corn on the cob, pumpkins and other autumn harvests were about ready to close up.
The sky is getting dark earlier, The days are cool now,the nights chilly. The wood is in. The fireplaces are blazing. Animals and things have been moved to other quarters. It will soon be December 21 and the winter festivities will begin.
Tags: Autumn

Developmental Device

Developmental Device 9/26/08

There are orbits in life,
prepared and in place,
for things that have not yet appeared.

DB - The Vagabond


The Rosetta Stone is a stone tablet from about 200 B.C. It is written in three languages; Greek, the demotic language common to Egypt and Hieroglyphics. It was buried and lost for many centuries until it was discovered by some French soldiers around 1800 in a small town called Rashid, or Rosetta, and taken to France.
People had been trying for several hundred years to decipher the hieroglyphic language. Then in 1822 Jean Francois Champollion discovered the secret by comparing the three languages on the stone and ushered in a whole new field of study.
The Rosetta Stone is almost like a dictionary because the same thing was written in all three languages.
Just as the code for deciphering the Rosetta stone was sitting there in front of scholars for a long time, the marvels of our lives were already there in code for someone to translate them. Though chemists can combine them, physicists define them and engineers build things with them, no one has invented raw materials, basic ore. They sit there waiting to have their secrets discovered.
And so too have the inventions that we use. The concept of the automobile was always there, so was the law of aerodynamics. Breaking the code of human genetics has enabled us to understand and predict human behavior and conditions. We have learned and are still learning to understand the languages of wind, sunlight and water.
The concept of a space ship was always there in it's own special hieroglyphics, it just needed to be translated
I think there are so many marvels we can expect to find: improved physical ability, mental and intellectual ability, social, economic and political stability world peace, greater works of art and literature, travel faster than the speed of light, teleportation, translucence, telepathy and increased spirituality. Marvels will continue to appear as if by magic out of nowhere. The rosetta stones are there. The translation is all.

May you always be surrounded by amiable companions.

Elder Effervescense

Elder Effervescence

Old folks are people who have been young longer than young folks.

DB - The Vagabond


One beautiful summer day when I was about 40 I was hiking up Middle Moat Mountain in New Hampshire. The timber line is quite near the base so that when you come out of it you are looking up at an open rocky trail. I had my shirt off, my back pack on and I was feeling good. I looked up ahead of me and saw two people coming down. As they got closer I could see that they were two teenage girls. We nodded as they passed me. And I heard one girl talking to the other and she said "Yes. I still see him. But he's old now, he's almost 20." I felt like saying "Come here girls. Let me tell you something about being old." But I let them pass.
The following winter I was directing a boy-meets-girl musical for the high school. The boy had a line which read "She makes me young again." But he kept getting it wrong. He would say "She makes me feel young again," which was cute but not as funny as the real line. I kept correcting him, but still he kept getting it wrong. So one day I told them the story of the two girls I met on the mountain side. Then I asked him "How old are you?"
"18!? You're almost 20. You're old! You're over the hill, You're past it. It's all over for you. Down hill all the way from now on. I can already see the gray hair and the wrinkles. Can you make it with a cane, or do you have to use a walker? I'm sorry, but 18? You're old."
Everyone laughed.
Then I asked "And what does she do to you?"
"She makes me young again."
He never got the line wrong after that.
Tags: Old folks, Middle Moat Mountain

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fair Findings

Fair Findings

Eat an apple every day from the tree of wisdom
and plant the seeds in someone's garden

DB - The Vagabond


September is almost over. And that means the end of Vagabondisms for a while (Whew! What a relief.) Oh, they will pop up now and then.
Today's quote defines my life in many ways. Especially now, in my senior years, when I have so much time to read and think about things.
The odd thing, I've discovered, is the strange reactions one can get from sharing things. Quite often an original word of wisdom, or a new way of seeing something, or a refined idea or even a clever or funny remark about life will be met with scorn or disbelief. "Where did you hear that? You couldn't possibly have thought of that yourself." And sometimes it's resentment, as if I'm trying to ridicule someone's lack of understanding. Often I'm just ignored. All I'm trying to do is share something with someone.

"Everyone knows actors and actresses are a vain, ignorant group who only read the sports pages and visit the beauty parlor, who primp and posture and are only concerned with how they appear to others. He says he reads philosophy? Don't believe it. He's just grandstanding, putting on an act, trying to make us think he's smart."
Underestimate me and you hurt me. Overestimate me and you hurt yourself.
I'm an artist. Only a true artist knows what that means. There are a great many things I can't do. I defer to scientists, athletes, doctors and others. But I do know the things that I can discover and determine on my own. And why not share those things with other people? It is a joy and privilege for me.
I have shared some of my experiences as an actor, not to brag, but to find examples and metaphors for life lessons. When I first began to uncover the ideas, the truths behind things I thought I had been blessed with a wonderful opportunity to explore every cave and summit and see what I could find.
I have found that, while there is no wisdom in the plow, there is in the plowman. More than we know. More than he knows. And that there is no music in the cello until the musician draws his bow across the strings and then only if the music is already in the musician. These may seem like simple truisms, and they are, but they point to a great and fundamental fact of our existence. It is the pursuit of the understanding of that fundamental fact that is my principle activity now.
The bites from the apple are healthy even if the apple is a little sour sometimes (and please don't make any lame jokes about worms).
Exploration, curiosity, observation, concentration, imagination, challenging standard ways of thinking, speaking and doing things, originality, persistence, expectation of discovery: these are the tools of this baffled vagabond as I go through the orchard and along the road.
I intend to keep chewing apples and planting seeds for as long as I can. It seems to be what my life is about.
Thank you for reading this entry.

Throw love at them. If they throw scorn back, throw more love and duck.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Guarded Garbage

Guarded Garbage

The reason why the bag is heavy
is that there are too many illusions in it.

DB - The Vagabond
I have often embarrassed myself to realize how many times and in how many ways I've managed to delude myself about things. It seems like an unavoidable trait of the human being to make up a fantasy, call it a reality, believe in it and then live his life accordingly. Our lives are filled with more myths than we can even imagine. Where do these illusions come from and how do they make homes for themselves in our thinking?
Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result has been defined as stupidity. So is habitual thinking if it keeps producing unwanted burdens. I watched a member of my family struggle for most of her life with illusions about herself, her future and her kids. Nothing went the way she wanted it to and yet she kept insisting to herself that it eventually would. It was very sad to see her try to hold onto things that represented a life she once had but would never have again. It is harder to let go of the intangibles: ideas, theories, beliefs, persuasions, memories, then to let go of things. The things that held those illusions for her were gradually discarded, but some of the illusions lingered on. And they prevented her from fearlessly embracing the realities of her life and finding happiness.
That's the severe problem with illusions; they simply disguise themselves as truth and hide reality in their smoke screen. They make us believe that things are the way we want them to be or will become that way. They cloud things up so that we can't tell the difference between the possible and the impossible. In other words, we can't tell the difference between what is an illusion and what isn't.
There is no other way I know of to dispel illusions without desperate acts, than to pick carefully through my thinking and examine everything, hold it up against the light of reason, compare it with my past, weigh it against my current circumstances and determine how much I cherish it. It is not easy. I know I will hold on to things longer than I should, but knowing that alone helps me face the time when they need to be discarded.
One of life's hardest tasks is to know which of your cherished dreams will never be fulfilled and to surrender them graciously. There is no doubt it can bring tears. But the tears will clean the slate so that better dreams can be written on it.

Do something remarkable today,
then appreciate yourself for doing it.

Heavenly Hieroglyphics

Heavenly Hieroglyphics

Potency is always enjoined with the elements.
The universe is pure act,
it only seems to be chunks of things.

DB - The Vagabond

They say that nothing travels faster than the speed of light, We really don't know if that is true since we can't see things that travel faster. Some scientists claim that it is possible and are theorizing and experimenting with it. I heard a lecture by one who claims that the black holes in outer space can't be seen because the elements within them are moving faster than light.
They also say that everything we see is constantly in motion, if it weren't we couldn't see it. Then are there things around us we can't see? There are some scientists attempting to render something invisible by deflecting light away from it. So far they have succeeded is making it transparent. It still reflects ultraviolet light.
We know that there are sounds the human being can't hear. The overtones extend into the outer space of Sonics. They say the stars and planets make sounds we can't hear.
If there are things we can't see or hear but other creatures can, then we are surrounded by an invisible universe. Why does your cat stare so intently where nothing seems to be. Why does the dog growl at nothing in particular? When I tried to play my violin, my dog would howl as if he was trying to sing along. But what if he was only hearing the overtones and responding to them? Why does the wolf howl at the moon? Maybe it's not the moon but the sound the moon is sending out.
We can understand and utilize the law of gravity, but so far as I know no one has uncovered the metaphysics of gravity.
Those scientists who are trying to make something invisible may succeed, but one of the fascinating things they found was that even though it can be rendered transparent, its shadow is still there. Are we living with shadows, both visible and audible of things we can't perceive?
There is a Psalm that reads "He that dwells in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Is it possible that there is a fundamental deity, a principle of existence, invisible but for its divine shadow under which the entire universe dwells?
These are some of the questions I ponder. I don't have many answers, but I have a lot of questions. I defer to the scientists, theologians and philosophers for their expert theories and opinions. But nobody can stop me from thinking.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, be your own best company.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kinetic Knack

Kinetic Knack

Being a writer is like having homework
every night for the rest of your life.

Lawrence Kasdan


I write every day. I spent my working life as a performing artist. Due to physical problems I can't work at that trade anymore, so now I write. I am amused to see that Google in its profile section under "industry" has no category marked "theatre," "film" "entertainment" or "show business." So I had to go with "arts." I guess that's okay. Artists have always been considered sub-citizens by the big corporate world, especially actors (except rich and promiscuous movie stars, some of whom are not "actors" in the strictest sense of the word). I'll settle for "arts."

Somerset Maugham said that if you want to be a writer you have to write everyday. In my case I write everyday whether I want to be a writer or not. I write because somehow I feel obligated to. I don't have a publisher or an agent tapping his impatient foot, nor a teacher gleefully giving me impossible assignments. I just think that if I didn't write something and put it in my journal every night I would be letting myself down and also possibly a few readers. So I write whether I feel like it or not.

I often sit at this keyboard and know I have nothing to say. So I check the mail, go for a walk, do a little reading, ponder, take a nap (old folks do that), wake up and have another cup of coffee, while I try to put a sentence or two together. Soon I give up, hopelessly admit a blank mind and an uncreative day. It's pure drudgery. I heave a sigh over my lumpish nature and decide that I'll just leave a quote and forget about it.


Silently and suddenly, like a squirrel showing up on the porch outside the window, a thought comes to me. And then another, and soon there are a few that line themselves up in a good order, Some words pop up, a phrase or two, an example, some language that appeals to me, colors and sounds, pictures, a new way of saying something and a feeling. The squirrel becomes a deer. And then everything begins to circle around a main idea like planets around the sun, each sending out its own energy and beauty and light. The marvelous English language starts caressing my mind. I can't type fast enough. I'm in love again.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Morning Maneuver

We die daily. Happy those who come to life as well.

George MacDonald

Every day is a disaster, to one degree or another. Things explode, or they implode. Things break down and refuse to get fixed. Other things don't work right. Things don't go the way you want them to or expect them to. You tried, you failed. So what's the solution? The solution is: tomorrow.

I used to have an early morning radio program in a big city. I went on the air before most of my listeners were awake. As they came to they relied on me to tell them what day it was, what time it was, what the weather forecast was for the day, etc. I would also remind them frequently that they had another chance to do great things. I would pepper my announcements by saying "Thank heaven we have another day on our hands." Then, since I was in a big city with a lot of commerce going on I would say things like "Make that sale!" "Win that case!" "Pass that test!" "Sign that contract!"

People would often write and tell me how much they appreciated that gentle boot in the rear as they were getting ready to leave the home and head out into the jungle.

When you get up tomorrow remember that you have another day on your hands, and make a mole hill out of that mountain you made today.

DB - The Vagabond

Saturday, January 3, 2009

From the arrchives long ago.

I really just want to be a warm yellow light
that pours over everyone I love.

Conner Oberst

I spent my life as an entertainer. As an actor, the motive was to share the talent and ability I was blessed with and the craft and experience I developed, to touch people's hearts and minds, to heal.

Now, since I can't work any more, due to illness, I am trying to do the same things through my writing. I try to share my thoughts and feelings, my impressions and lessons, and, though the payback is sparse, I seem to keep doing it.

But I'm pushed down hard with the burdens of sickness, pain, poverty, debt, threats and other troubles. And one day I will stop. It's inevitable.

One of these days I'm gonna set my burdens down.
One of these days, Lord, I'm gonna set my burdens down.
One of these days I'm gonna set my burdens down,
And carry my song away.

Wisdom's Wares

Wisdom’s Wares

I not only use all the brains that I have, but all that I can borrow.

President Woodrow Wilson

We have probably all been in those meetings where someone has an opinion, sometimes based on a personal experience or observation, and is eager to tell everyone for as long and in as many ways as possible, to the point of nauseous tedium, just to hear themselves talk. It seems that the brain stops long before the mouth.

Don't assume, however, that the person sitting and quietly listening without saying anything doesn't have an opinion and perhaps a very good one. As rare and as astonishing as it may seem sometimes, there are thinking people in the human race.

Everyone knows, of course, that children and teenagers don't have any opinions and don't think about anything but themselves. Or do they?

One day my boss asked me to put together a radio program involving some of the local high school students. I went home and thought about it, put together some ideas as to how it would work, figured out a blue print and a schedule.

Then I asked the only high school student I knew if he was interested in such a program. Since he enthusiastically was, I asked him to gather a small bunch of other students that he thought would like to do it and have a meeting with me.

At the meeting were about half a dozen youngsters. I spelled it all out for them, what the boss wanted, what I wanted and how I thought the program should operate and sound like. When I was finished explaining it all to them I said "So what do you think?"

What happened next surprised me. Temporarily ignoring me, they went into a caucus. They tossed around some ideas, agreed, disagreed, conceded and finally came up with a plan that was better than mine. So I set up a training session to teach them about radio and shortly after that the show was on the air.

After that first meeting I spoke to the boy I knew and I told him how surprised and pleased I was that they all seemed to jump in with good ideas without waiting for me to prompt them. He simply shrugged his shoulders and said "Nobody ever asks us what we think."

Friday, January 2, 2009

Persistent Plumbing

It is necessary to the happiness of man
that he be mentally faithful to himself.

Thomas Paine


One of the benefits of growing up is the liberation of being able to weigh one's thoughts in the scales of reality and results. I am weary and disgusted at having my thinking corrected by any patronizing individual whose ability to think for him or herself is suspect. I've had my acting corrected by those who daren't set foot on a stage in front of an audience. I've had my announcing corrected by those who would be petrified in front of an open microphone.

When I was in the 6th Grade our teacher Mrs. Coleman, asked the class what they liked to watch on TV. It so happened that I enjoyed watching the UN proceedings in the afternoon. They were broadcast over the PBS station with no editorial comment. Even though I didn't completely understand all the nuances of the political and diplomatic maneuvers, I was fascinated by seeing all those men from the various different countries coming together to talk about some issue. I had a map from the UN so I could see where the people came from. When it was my turn to respond to Mrs. Coleman's question and I said I liked to watch the UN, in front of the entire class she called me a liar. Not having learned, at that young age, the technique of sticking up for myself, I let it pass. But I will never forget that insult. (Wasn't that the same school where Mr. O'Conner, the science teacher, told you that man could never fly to the Moon? No further questions, Your Honor.)

Be careful that someone doesn't try to exercise some degree of authority over your thinking, Most of the authorities in the world, aren't. Even if you seem to let them, out of love or respect, retain the right to pass their words and ideas through the prism of your own self-knowledge. That's where you live, warts and all. Everything else is costume and make up.

Listening, understanding, compassion, advice and open discussion are good things. But beware you don't try to exercise a willful, judgmental, even well meaning, rearrangement of someone else's thinking. At the last trumpet we are alone with the creator and creation, and answerable to ourselves, to our own honesty.

DB - The Vagabond