Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Slow Years

The Willy Loman Arts Spectacular, Part III

Small correction: despite yesterday's Rambler title, all of the events described below happened on Friday. And we are still on Friday, because I can't seem to find any way to compress this narrative. Perhaps if I were ever taught something about brevity being the soul of wit, but have you met my parents? Seriously, I should have my father leave complimentary voicemail messages for all of you. Then you will know what it is like to grow up the son of people who never get to the fucking point, already. I was doomed from the moment the doctors smacked my bottom to clear my lungs.

The overuse of italics and boldface? That's all mine, though.

So: I'd printed myself a list of nearby campsites and just-in-case motels, from (where else?) Google. And time was a factor, since the clouds were back and I really wasn't sure how long it would take me to set up the tent. Really, really wanted to get the tent up before the rain came. Nothing worse than a wet tent.

First place on the list? Straight up RV park. But there was a place just before it on the road that - while also catering mostly to RV's, was small, on a nice enough lake, and had one spot far enough away from the rest of the sites that I could at least kind-of-sort-of feel like I was camping like an adult. On the hill. right next to the bathroom, you know. So I could go pee-pee in the night in the toi-toi if I had to.

After some fumbling - and a surprisingly adept bout of knot-tying to secure the separate rain-flap - the tarp went down, the poles and pegs went in and the tent went up. Then I strung my guitar*, with strings that were also acquired back in Brattleboro (which was starting to feel like a mission prep before a round of Ultima, or something), and went back to the Bread and Puppet to share in their communal dinner. And I started to feel that unease again - the one I get when I'm in a large crowd of people, all of whom are part of an entity and I'm on the outside.

And then, since most of the interns were rehearsing for the night's show - and, again, on the basis that I'm a big, lumpy guy with nothing better to do - I ended up washing dishes.

Now, hand-washing dishes is something I really enjoy. The whole zen aspect of it, the tactile pleasure of the hot water and the feeling of rubbing my thumb over the squeaky-clean dishes. But, of course, the dish-washing at B&P followed some pretty specific homesteader guidelines. One washer, one rinser, someone else dries and puts away, someone else brings in more to clean. There's basins of money-saving Octagon soap and iodine in the rinse water. There's scraps that need to be set aside for the pigs, and coffee needs grinding, and people who've spent three very close weeks together gossiping and laughing and, etc.

Still an enjoyable experience, but I definitely felt like I had two left hands, and it really got me thinking: Jeez, the standards here must be pretty fucking high if what's generally regarded as about the lowest shit-job there is - the kind of job you can get with a fake SSN and no questions asked beyond 'can you start tomorrow?' - if I'm feeling like I'm doing the whole thing wrong, somehow. Good thing I have my art degree and my career, because I don't think I could hack it out there in the highly specialized world of communal dishwashing...

After that, it was Showtime! Shuffle into the barn theater - with kokopelli burned into the facade and quasi-Greek bas-relief on the insinde. Then the dancers came on. And an hour later, when it was over, I dropped $50 into the oversized papier mache Uncle Sam donations hat, and went off to deal with my newly acquired and growing sense of anxiety and unease.

Kate again, obviously pretty beat, but we went to the basement of the big museum barn to view the work that Rebecca was doing on their project - an autobiographical performance piece detailing some of the extremely lame foster homes she'd found herself in before meeting up with Kate and her husband Noah. From there, we went up to the kitchen where there was cake for the performers, and my building anxiety and unease doubled. I'd brought in my sketchbook to show Kate some of the Vomit Comics, which, at John's suggestion, I'd started to think about putting together in a mini-comic. Mostly because I was thinking of doing the cover as some kind of print - lithograph, screen, etc. - and I figured since Kate is the studio manager for Wesleyan University and has a masters in printmaking, I could hit her up for some advice and maybe a couple of hours in the studio to try my hand.

Her alarm at this concept was pretty palpable. Did I, she asked, have any idea how involved a process it was? Well, no. That's why I'm asking for advice. Maybe, she said, I should go do an internship somewhere? Well, I don't want it to get out of hand, I'm just so tired of most of my work involving computers in one way or the other, I want to have a little fun trying a real hands-on, stinky technique. How about? No.

I realized that she felt as if I was casually saying that I was thinking of going to war, and maybe she could show me how to drive a tank for a few minutes?

Well, no cool hand-made covers for the Vomit Comics, then. Fuck.

Then, I did something odd: I started to give unsolicited advice to Rebecca about music. Which would have been fine, except I'd forgotten that I was talking to a girl who'd come through some pretty repressive environments and also gone to study guitar at Berkley for a year, before leaving in a depressed state, and putting aside her guitar. Now, she was into singing, and had even formed a band with Kate and Noah, but had put that on blocks because of performance anxiety and what have you.

Aha! I thought. Here's someone I can help! I know what it's like to be so demoralized by my own work that I just set the heavy burden aside, and then coming back to it. I also know a lot about song for, composing, performance, etc. Let me spread my wares for this girl, that she may learn from my experience.

Stupid idea. I mean, I love nothing more than to talk shop with other artists and musicians, and the way I've learned to do it over the years is to proclaim my opinions and let others whittle away at them. Sadly, Rebecca had no previous experience at dealing with Dave in Blowhard Mode, so did what any sensible person would do: backed away slowly, in shock.

Finally, I just went with my first instinct of the night and got out of there before I could damage that poor girl any further.

But I left thinking: boy, that crowd of people in the other room looked like they were having fun...

Next: I risk a temporal paradox by writing about my Friday night on a Saturday!

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