It’s been a strange week with freaky weather. Tuesday I holed up, watching a bunch of Gloria Swanson silent films via the Netflix “view now” option. Man, she was a real master of low-key nuance. She could convey a whole series of internal events with just a couple of movements of her eyes. Interesting that such a sensitive and natural actor would enjoy working with such a stodgy director like DeMille who was a “big picture” man, figuratively a well as literally. I understand many actors hated him because he never gave them direction. But maybe Swanson enjoyed the freedom to insert her own interpretations. Clearly she was a strong personality, making intelligent decisions concerning her career even while in her teens. I get a sense she never put up with anyone’s bullshit, yet no one ever seemed to have called her an asshole.
Wednesday was more productive. I managed to wash a load of laundry and get it up on the line and back down during a sporadic break in the rain clouds. I also managed to sneak in a fifteen mile bike ride deep into the south side without encountering rain. But after that early afternoon period, all bets were off. It came down heavy now and again while I was at my desk at C4 sending out pleading requests for Luminaria film submissions, and also revamping my website. The skies, however, decided to smile on me as I drove to URBAN-15 for a Luminaria steering committee meeting. But once I made a break for the door–just as the meeting was nearing a close–the rains were hammering down. I was already running ten minutes late for a meeting with ST Shimi at Joe Blues over at Blue Star. As I scrambled through the URBAN-15 parking lot towards my truck I was pulling my jacket over my head to keep the soaking to a minimum. And that’s when my bike bag holding my laptop slipped off my shoulder. Shit. I picked it off the ground and ran to my truck. What should have been a four minute drive to Blue Star took quite bit longer. The rains had my visibility down to maybe fifty feet. The other cars on the road were crawling. By the time I hit the Blue Star complex the rain had stopped. But, dammit, the water, in the parking lot, was about ankle deep. I slogged quickly and made it to Joe Blues no worse off than any other submerged rodent. Perhaps I should have asked if they had some cocoa, but I’d recalled Russ raving about what a wonderful dirty martini they make. I got one of those. And Russ was quite correct. It warmed me up much better and much quicker than hot chocolate.
My plan is to do a short experimental film with ST Shimi hooping (dancing with a hula hoop) on the limestone blocks of the low-water crossing between the Blue Star Arts Complex and my neighborhood of Baja King William. Shimi seems down with it. And I hope Siggi Ragnar is still interested in bringing his expertise, aesthetic, and aerial camera into the mix. This project will serve several purposes. The two most important purposes to me will be: a.) a stand-alone experimental film, and, b.) a polished work-sample to accompany my future proposals for “River Quartet,” a larger project, for which I hope to find funding.
It was great spending some time talking with Shimi. Even though I’ve never really spent any time conversing with her, I have seen many of her dance and acting performances, as well as her work hosting the W-I-P, and other events at the Jump-Start Performance Company. Also, she’s a “friend” on Facebook, and we all have had those moments when we feel we know someone quite well who we have never spoken to. That Shimi’s smart and funny was no surprise; but I learned that she, like myself, has very clear opinions about much of the San Antonio arts and cultural scene based on her personal experience. She’s very plugged in. Anyway, I’m looking forward to working with her on this film, and I hope it leads to further projects, as I have always loved collaborating with massively intelligent and creative people.
Other than this river project, I also have, in the works, in the hopper, my Luminaria proposal. “The Confrontation Box.” I was playing with this idea last year, but I was overwhelmed by the paucity of my technical skills. I needed to hard-wire a proximity sensor to trigger a randomized digital video player which would play off a computer or DVR onto a monitor or a digital projector. However, I’ve scrapped some of the tech bullshit. The plan previous called for the audience (one at a time) to stick his or her head into this box and activate a TV screen of close-up video footage of an actor laying down some shit on you; in essence, confronting you with his or her ideas…perhaps concerning your shortcomings. Very intimate. You pull your head out–the sensor programs a reset. When the next person sticks in his or her head, a randomly selected clip begins the confrontations afresh and anew. So, this year, I’m making it damn simple. I’ve got a box. And in this box is a monitor, a DVD player, and speakers. You stick you head in. The video is on a loop. Twelve actors confronting you with six different scenarios–demanding, bitching, confronting, whatever–and the whole piece lasts maybe three or four minutes. The audience (taken one at a time) can peek in for this intimate experience for seconds or minutes. Leave when you’ve had enough abuse. And, even if you are enjoying the experience (you insignificant worm), please don’t stay beyond a single three minute loop. There are others waiting their turn. Or so I shall hope.
So, in the next week or two I will be contacting a dozen actors who I know can do an effortless job playing mean. I can only hope that Evie A. Armstrong is available. That woman can play a harridan and still have you fall in love with her. And, well, I know of others. You know, some of the quiet, closet bitches…and of course those who are more overt. This city’s acting community is fill of you guys and gals. Yeah, you’ll be hearing from me.
It’s Friday night. The rains have given rise to hordes of mosquitoes. Some have managed to sneak into my house. And just when I gave a little yelp of satisfaction from having slain one of the little blood-suckers, I spied another in my peripheral vision as she slyly prospects her way towards some nether region of my ample, unguarded flesh. This is driving me nuts. I have neither bee-keeper suit nor can of Deep Woods Off. Dammit! These domestic mosquitoes have succeeded in chasing me out of the house…maybe this is a good thing; otherwise, I would have pissed the day away watching silent era adaptations of Jules Verne’s adventures on Netflix online.
But I got out there and took in a bike ride to Espada and back, dodging the thick mud-slicks which had flowed across the bike path from the recent monsoons. It was in the upper sixties, and that’s pretty damn chilly for me. I had a strong wind at my back for the ride out. That means the northern cold front is still pushing into town. I took a break behind Mission San Juan and walked along the levee. About a dozen snowy egrets were ambling about in the flood plain, poking about for things to eat. There were also three huge blue herons down there who were being more vocal and playful than I tend to expect from the species. They’d occasionally take wing (alone, or in groups of two or three) and make a large circle and land back at the shoreline, crying out with their nasal coughs. Quite a sight.
Back home, after a shower, I remembered what had chased me out earlier. Fucking mosquitos! I grabbed a coffee can full of coins that sits on my kitchen counter. I bid adieu to my mosquitos and headed to the HEB on Nogalitos, because I was pretty sure I’d seen a Coin Star machine near their self-serve pastry racks. I’d finally used up all my loose cash generated from the Fort Worth book show, and I was kind of afraid to look at my bank balance. And so I plundered my piggy bank. Not bad–my Café Bustelo can had been stuffed with over 47 dollars in change.
Now that I was flush, I made a pit stop at my neighborhood Pik Nik and order some 75 cent tacos. I went home and had my late lunch while answering a couple of lingering emails and making a phone call concerning a potential paying video gig (the only hint of such work in over a month).
It was getting dark and beginning to cool off, but the mosquitoes were not yet affected (below a certain temperature mosquitoes don’t feed, but that magic threshold hadn’t yet materialized). I got in my truck and drove to the Dollar General Store. I needed a couple of 9 volt batteries. I hate 9 volts. They are inexplicable expensive. And, even though I know they make rechargeable 9 volts (and I believe my little battery charger can accommodate them), I have never seen them for sale. (True, I could order online, but when I have the money, this never occurs to me.) The only reason I use 9 volts is because of my pair of wireless lavalieres. If I’m using both, that’s four batteries in all. Each lav has a transmitter and a receiver. I’m playing around with only one this weekend, so I’ll be okay with two batteries. When I walked into the Dollar Store I was all turned around. They’d rearranged the shop. The place was now stuffed. The aisles are too damn tight. And not just for fat bastards like me. I doubt the place could pass an inspection. Surely these new tightened aisles can’t be ADA compliant. But on a high-note, there’s a new young employee, and she has the coolest sea turtle tattoo on her upper arm.
Now I’m back home and the mosquitoes have bedded down for the night. All I have to do is make sure not to turn on the heat tonight.
Oh, right, I don’t have heat.
Damn. I’d better figure this out before I get too deep into November. Winter’s coming.
In 2007 I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). It’s a silly grassroots approach to writing advocacy. The premise is that during November wanna-be writers can commit to hammering out 50,000 words. Yes, this is short for a novel, but it’s also a doable goal for people with honest bill-paying day jobs. Now, I have to display some serious chagrin in the admission that I was unable to make the 50,000 work goal two years ago. I had a nice novel concept. And I hope to finish it–maybe I’ll get back to it next year. I sort of stalled in my daily word count in the second week and wasn’t able to catch up…I think I managed about 28,000 words. And even though the manuscript shows promise, I haven’t added to in since.
I didn’t doing anything for 2008. I was too depressed watching a dear friend of mine fighting for his life, and this sort of creative stunt nonsense seemed beyond puerile.
This year, however, puerile doesn’t seem like such a dirty word.
I’m taking the NaNoWriMo challenge.
My project will be “Presumably the Remnant of an Ancient Infection,” a collection of interconnected short pieces which build to a cohesive whole.
I’ve been working, in a half-ass manner, for maybe six years on this project. I’ve placed over a dozen short pieces on my blog/website. And I’ve generated quite a few other unfinished works attached to this project. Added to that, my stalled 2007 NaNoWriMo project, “The Cucuy Club,” is part of that same universe.
My plan for November is to walk away from these hundred or more pages already written about this realm and start from scratch. Strap in and hammer out at least 50,000 words from this quasi-autobiographical surreal magical realistic slipstream universe. I mean, why not? It’s the San Antonio I live in every day of my life as it is. If I start fresh, there will be (I’m hoping) a tighter integrity of voice and narrative focus throughout the whole.
So, here’s hoping I don’t crap out (like 2007). I plan to be posting some highlights. And if any of you who’ve stumbled on my blog are planning to do NaNoWriMo this year, drop me a line.