Don’t bury the lead.
Unless you can hide it in a wondrous pot of image and absurdity that leaks out into everyday life from the secret places of our being. It is in that golden bucket all narrative forms into a something. To me, plotting comes as a dividend from the search for pearls in among the filth that we must subsequently shuck in a utility sink to learn their value.
It is dirty business that is for sure.
But it is in the reassembly of what the haul came from that I find the most joy. There’s a Mister Potato-head-like freedom in putting back together what was broken with gold paint that makes a singular umami which sometimes…. can outweigh the drab of the world and maybe hold an audience in stillness for a moment or two. Truth must get snuck up on; like a deer in the woods and doesn’t like the sound of power tools and foreman crying out above the fray where a plot turn should be. The scenic route has always been my way.
Maybe this elliptical nature of mine comes from my experiences sanding houses and stripping lead based paints to see what lay beneath years of poor paint choices in my apprentice years while the oldies played from work place stereos plugged into power strips in empty garages.
It comes from pretending to be sick to skip out on the family pilgrimage to Shakey’s in order to dig through a scarf cabinet and hall closet in the foyer in search of the great mystery of all that came before me.
It comes from masterminding the Great Public Golf Course Raid of 1989 when my two best friends and I mounted our Huffy dirty bikes, slipped past rent-a-cops, braved the toxic cocktail of the Little Calumet river, low crawled across the fairway of the fourteenth hole, and waded into the water hazard that straddled the back nine of River Oaks Golf Course to reclaim all that we had lost in our shortcomings as golfers.
After telling ourselves all about the bodies that Al Capone must have dumped there, and radioactive fish angry with being bombed on by retired foursomes in plaid daily for twenty years, we were spurred on by the indignity of losing ball after ball to this moat of shame. We wanted to restore justice and were willing to wade into the unknown to find it. Our faces painted black, we borrowed from cat fishers and practiced the art of noodling for golf balls by first wading into that dead sea of iniquity and then plunging our arms full into the muck and filth — and deep into the darkness we pulled out none other than … Pinnacles. Neon Pinnacles. The gold standard of them all. And buckets of them. More than we could carry.
We felt like Viking kings the whole ride home and when we split up our bounty and went our separate ways, we were comforted by the fact that we would never pay for a golf ball ever again. Ryan claims, to this day, that is indeed… true. And he is a once a month duffer and has been for nearly thirty years.
I think any structural composition that lasts cannot be pre-fabricated without being turned inside out and pissed all over first. Things that surround these dreams of passion are merely meant to be scaffold, till the passion and dream itself can hold its own weight and withstand the elements of time. When the keystone of the cathedral is carefully set in the final arch, magic begins and it takes on that life of its own. Maybe that was what I was looking for underneath all those layers of paint for fifteen bucks an hour, in that treasure chest that sat beside the door of my home as a child where winter lived during summer, or at the bottom of that bottomless lake… my key stone to lock it all into place.
I have always been a retro-fitter. My plots feel more like sausage casing than linear directions. This kinda direct experience of story takes away the varnish and lends an import of authenticity in a way nothing else can. I get bored otherwise. How many times did you find something of value you forgot you had when you lost something else you didn’t really need and drove yourself nutso looking for it…? That is the shape of comedy and drama to me. Everything else can be run through a copy machine. I have tried to be something else, but I cannot. My fingerprint is what it is. I kinda like to spin myself around in a daze and them fumble around in the dark for the light switch. In the end, what I’ve learned about studying my stroke the way golfers or baseball players do, is this; I like to think of narrative as a treasure map that leads to things we have had in our possession all along and didn’t know it, till we dug into the muck. The map can’t be written till after we got lost in the woods and somehow found our way out by luck, having the proper gear, and the mercy of favorable weather.