The McManual

Blogging my little heart out in poetry and prose.

Month: June, 2009

Free and Alive

Hi!  I have the St. Dominic’s Trio song, Free and Alive from their album Switch stuck in my head.  This is probably because I listen to it in the car all the time.  I really like that album.  I think that if my novel is ever made into a movie starring Sandra Bullock as Joan, (ha ha) Free and Alive should be the song that plays when we first meet Arlen/e.  Really.  It would fit so well.  I also love the last song on the disc, I don’t know the name off the top of my head, and I’m not willing to run to the car to get it, but I think it would be a good one for another part of the movie – it’s about spending your life either looking forward to the best day in your life or looking back at it.  Joan spends some time doing that…

So today was another day at summer school.  Everyone was exhausted.  I think about half my students went to Pride.  I tell ya, the young people are going to change things just by being who they are.  🙂 🙂 🙂  So good.

I’m having a little tiny bout of writer’s block again.  It was another big day for the blog yesterday – 55 views.  Probably because I tagged it up like crazy with phrases like Gay Pride and such.  I think it’s great that people read it, but now I’m feeling like I didn’t write enough.  Guess I’ll always feel that way because there is a limited amount of time.

I did get three comments from members of the Minnesota Atheists.  I think it’s cool that they are consciously trying to put out a more positive image of Atheists.  I started the road to recovery from Cathoholism  when I was 17, but I was hesitant to call myself an Atheist.  First off, because it was such a radical change – I had been pretty into being Catholic – and secondly because Atheist sounded so negative to me at the time.

After a while, though, I found that if I said I was an agnostic, many people would question me on whether I knew what the term even meant!  I think we need to transcend the question of god altogher and just focus on here and now, helping our fellow man, and leaving the world a better place for the next generations.  If we spent the energy we spend arguing about religion and put it to a better purpose, we could probably get a lot of good work done.


Pride Day

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be writing my memories of Michael Jackson today, but the only thing I have is that my cousin had the Thriller album, and I loved it so much that I got my parents to buy it for me for Christmas in the seventh grade.  And one of my other friends had his pictures up in her locker.  She kissed his picture, and I remember being shocked.  I think kissing a photograph is very intimate.  Silly, since it’s one way, but that’s how I still feel.

What I am actually writing about today, after the non-related intro paragraph, is Gay Pride in Minneapolis.  As you may know, it’s set mostly in Loring Park, across from the Walker Art Center.  I love that area – Loring Park, the Irene Whitney bridge and the Sculpture Garden serve as the setting for the climax of my novel, Someotherville. *ahem, still seeking representation*  There’s something about Loring Park that is just very comfortable.

I can’t say that I had any Earth-shattering insights, it was just a nice day where I met a lot of nice people. I was especially gratified to see that there were at least three booths specifically for Transgender people.  I have had the honor of serving several Transgender students over the years, and I’m glad to see that their community is being served by at least a few non-profits.

I also thought it was great that such a wide variety of Minnesota was represented.  Corporations, small independent artists, churches (lots of churches.) and in the middle of religion row, a booth from Minnesota Atheists.  A man was holding a ‘hug an Atheist today’ sign.  I was so happy to see him that I did run up and hug him.  So did Jay.  The people running the booth said that they were working hard to present a positive image of us.  It seemed to be working.  We are definitely joining that group.

I also saw students and old friends, signed about a dozen petitions, picked up great resources for future students, walked through a well-done exhibit about the history of homosexual persecution and ate a falafel.  It was a great day.  We are still waiting until Gay marriage is legal in Minnesota to wear our wedding rings, but Jay and I held hands alot, and for once it felt like our Gay friends were free to do the same.

I have to close now, but a big thank you to the organizers of Minnesota’s Pride events this year – it was really great.

Wondering where to go with my novel.

I just got some good feedback from a good friend of mine about Someotherville, and I now feel fairly confused. I was really surprised by her feedback – she loved the parts about Joan, didn’t like the story within a story at all.
At first I was slightly defensive because I was hoping that the two stories would meld together in the end, and it would be obvious or feel inevitable that it had to happen the way it happened. But this was not how my friend felt about it.
As we were talking it through, I remembered that the part where she really didn’t like it was the same part where I didn’t know what to do next, and so I pulled something extreme out of the hat. I think that at the time of writing it, I had it in the back of my mind that I could always change things and that it would be best if I just forged ahead.
But now I am second guessing whether I could go back in and change the story within a story to either have more details about the secondary characters *which I should do because I do go on about how secondary characters are pivotal, and we often end up caring about them more than the main characters* or whether it was a poor choice for the story within a story, since it’s so weak – I mean, who really cares about a spy story? Cold war stuff is completely played out – when it was the 39 steps or whatever, it was fresh because people didn’t know what was happening or why. Now it really is a stereotype, a stock story. Alias…dollhouse… and those are just recent examples.
There’s only a certain kind of friend that can tell you that something you wrote is gimmicky. But now that it’s said, I guess it is a little. It was a quick fix for a long term problem, and it shows.
So not to be too mean to myself – that’s not what I’m trying to do – but I’m trying to convince myself that i do need to dive back into this pool – it can be better. Arwin, Cece and Katrina need to have more substance before they will ever seem real to people. I am heartened by the fact that someone thought Arwin seemed real. That makes me happy.
Now I need to tend to the rest of them. Maybe it’s a matter of pride, I really had thought I finished a book in a month, with only needing minor rewrites. Now if I go back in and make major changes, that is no longer the case. Yeah. Pride is foolish. Do I want this to be something that is read and cast aside as being mostly really good, or do I want it to be better than that?
Obvious answer. So now I know the task ahead of me – I don’t know how I’m going to do it – or whether I should do it – funny…I just had a moment of feeling exactly how Joan felt – she didn’t know if she should write her project either, but she felt compelled. And I feel compelled. So there you have it. The adventure begins again.

Back to My Regular Blog

Hi there. So I wrote about Ivan, obviously I loved the play – going again Saturday BTW, unless they have sold out. And I got about 50 hits on my blog when I’ve never had more than 2 on any other day. And it made me feel nervous.

Never mind that they just wanted to see what people were saying about the play – it was my thoughts, my writing, and all of a sudden, writer’s block happened.

I sat down to write again last night, couldn’t get past the first sentence. Again this morning. I think it’s funny – I’m taking myself too seriously. I was considering writing about how theatre makes me feel alive, how worthwhile it is even though people seem to go to less and less of it… myself included. I go to twenty times more movies than plays. And I like plays!

Anyway, I know not everything I write will be interesting to more than a couple people, and that’s fine. I just like writing. I like how the keys feel under my fingers. I like the feel of a pen in my hand. So here’s a regular blog entry, you one or two readers…*I wouldn’t mind if you dropped a note once in a while, dear reader. 🙂

Ok, so I now have the choice of erasing this or publishing something very boring. Heck. If you’re reading this, you know what I chose!! Sheila

Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe – Theater Review

I had the pleasure of seeing “Ivan the Drunk and his Terrible Tale of Woe” on Saturday.  If it isn’t yet June 21st 2009, you haven’t missed it yet.  You should go.

The set is beautiful and cleverly transforms into layer upon layer of dream-like sequences and settings that Ivan recalls from life and returns to in his memory.  The memories are surreal – it’s not a strictly linear play – and the interaction between the music, setting, and acting/dancing are evocative of intense emotion, often with no words for minutes at a time.  Some of the scenes are nightmarish; but it is always clear that they are based on events from his life.  At no time does it seem completely random – the action is grounded in a reality, even though we as audience members only have a minimal sense of the reality, it’s clearly there.

There are light hearted moments, too, as Ivan talks to his burden, which he quite literally carries around with him.  The physicality of Paul Herwig leaves no doubt from the very opening moments that this burden is taxing.  I wondered, though, whether he would be able to share his burden with someone else if he would allow it.  He wouldn’t allow it, and thus we saw several examples of his loved ones being shut out of his life.  This is painful to watch, as it is a depiction of an emotion that many of us have felt – perhaps it is a universal emotion – of not being trusted with someone else’s pain.  The other performers, every one seamlessly controlled yet fluid and accessable, each have moments of physically embodying the hardships of enduring Ivan’s distrust.

I don’t even have a word for that kind of rejection – the pain that accompanies the knowledge that a loved one would rather choose to carry their burden alone, whether it be alcoholism, drug dependency, post-traumatic stress, mental illness, or any number of other sadnesses.  That kind of rejection doesn’t get talked about much in our society – and here is a play that articulates it beautifully – subtly, the other characters throw bruised look and a walk away – Ivan watches in horror as he realizes he has shut another loved one out – but unable to do anything but hang onto his burden for dear life.

And you get the sense that life is dear to him – even after all of his struggles in the war, after nearly being killed, after killing (in more ways than one), he wants to live.  He seems to wish for things to have been different – in one of his memories, he alienates one family member, and then has a memory-do-over and tries again, only to alienate another family member – and so on.  He can’t get it right, because he can’t rewrite his memories into falsehoods.  So we see the pain and hurt and degradation.

All the while, though, there is a sense of healing, too.  Perhaps it’s in the very beauty of the movement, the imagry, the music – but one gets the sense that Ivan does have a poetic soul.  You wouldn’t know it from his ‘tchotchkes,’ his baudy little soldier rhymes, but he must have, if the events in this play are going on in his mind.  The reasons for his pain, the contents of his burden, are slowly unpacked for the audience to see and feel – we get both sides of the rejection and pain, and realize that as personal as the rejection is for the other characters, it is a double-edge sword that hurts Ivan as much as them.

The play has no breaks – no intermissions or even black-outs, and Ivan is on stage the whole time.  There is physical and verbal comic relief, but it is closely tied to the tragedy, and by the end, as an audience member, I was physically tired just from watching and paying as much attention as I could.  In empathizing with Ivan, I had a sense of relief and anxiety for him as he approached the final scene.  I was glad to see how the resolution of the final minutes was uncompromising in maintaining Ivan’s reality, yet found a way to articulate joy and beauty in the process of life, even a tragicomic life such as Ivan’s.

In the end, I felt spent and sated – I felt trusted as an audience member to understand and interpret the action in my own way, and, surprisingly, I felt closer to some parts of my own life that have been difficult for me to process in the past.  Something shifted in my own way of thinking about rejections that I have experienced and family members whom I have not understood – maybe some room for compassion has opened up where there was only pain and rejection before.  Regardless of my personal emotional reaction to this play, I feel I can confidently say that it touches a deep chord of humanity and will give you a lot to consider, whether you have direct experience with someone like Ivan in your life or not.

An Afternoon on the Farm

Two hour van ride, carsick in the back.  My family, actively a family, even during mundane tasks. Not like some families- mine loved to be together.  Playing games and laughing.  Listening to Dad’s jokes.

The only time we got upset was helplessly watching cars pass us in the left lane – admonishing dad, Step on it!  Step on it.  We’d wail like greek mothers upon learning a child was fated to die.The farm was like no place else we visited – even a gentler purgatory than the one we believed in.  Illisium fields, had we ever heard of such a place, we would known we were there . Timeless, detached from space – country road C wound by like a thread back to the rest of the world = a world easily forgotton as a we walked back and forth on the gravel road from the mailbox to the farmouuse – Dad maintains that it had electricity in the end, but that’s not my memory of the place.  Farmhouse.  Still with it’s original tarpaper sides

Looked crooked as though it had been dropped by dorothoy’s tornado.  No ruby slippers, though, I checked.  Just field after field, on Grandpa’s poorly farmed farm.

With nothing to do, mom would say Go Play!  And we would.  Trounce out to what must be the center of a field of hay, my brother and sister and I would use our forearms to press down the grasstalks, forming mazes to crawl through.  We marveled at bugs and flies, stalks that bulged with baby insects frightened and fascinated us.  Our skin grew tan in the unending golden sunshine, and we didn’t run away from anything.


Falsifying my way

through reality

to a reality

that better suits me

Fake it till you make it

How will I know

when I’ve got it made?

humid as hell

People say it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.  But on a day like today, there is no heat.  I mean there is no humidity – only heat.  Heat and a dry, cooling breeze.  This breeze is the raw breeze of an emotion  –  the planet in turmoil, not unlike my turmoil – dry, no tears.  Save the refreshing rains for another day.

Dry, scorcher thoughts chafe each other in my mind.  A dessert.  No, a desert.

The sun beats down, wind shoos it away, but it doesn’t go anywhere.  Like how thoughts can chase away other thoughts, but the problem still radiates down from on high – from on high?  That’s not exactly true either.  If I want to get this right, to track down how I really think, I have to admit that the beating, heated energy my thoughts try to whisk away comes from somewhere other than outside.  Inside.  What’s it called?  If I name it will it go away?  Sure it’s not too dull?  It’s called guilt and shame, just like evryone has.  You, too, I’m sure.

Sorry I Really Can’t

Sorry I really can’t.

I could try to think

of some sort of

existential excuse

my soul is in a downturn

my life is too taciturn

my energy won’t return

all your efforts my brain will spurn…

that’s why I can’t write today.

🙂  Sheila

If I Take the Time

If I take the time

to write small

and with good penmanship,

maybe that part of me

which is always in hiding

will come out to play.

Maybe she’ll kick out some rhymes

she’ll be ahead of her times –

you know she’s always there

but a true, complete sighting

is very rare.

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