I used to do a lot of theater. Designed in my twenties, moved to directing in grad school, shifted to directing and writing. It was all about being the one telling the story, and I kept shifting jobs until I started to feel like I was the one who got to choose the story, not fill it out.
Back in the early days of doing tech for the local community theater in high school, I started off in lights and moved into sets. I don’t remember the show that we were working on, but I do remember that the script called for a big storm.
Sound is the great, under-appreciated design component – in theater and film, both docs and narrative features alike. Sound tells us where we are without saying it out loud. Its atmospheric. Like lots and lots of theaters, we didn’t have a sound system so much as a boom box hooked into some speakers on stage. There might have a been a reel-to-reel deck in the storage room. For this show, we decided to go old-school. We fastened some 1×4 lumber at the top and bottom of a long thin sheet of metal, hung it from a beam and attached a pull-rope at the base. Voila, a thunder sheet. Make that steel roil correctly, and you can get the long rolling distant thunders. No major claps, but distant rolling. Right.
For whatever reason, it wasn’t hung up for tech. I think something had broken, because we’d had it up for testing, then it was down, so here we are, trying to get ready for an audience, and my friend Michael is in the house, calling out the words, “Crash! Boom!” every time thunder is called for in the script. Up in the light booth, we nearly wet ourselves laughing.
I’m all set to get started writing today and Word crashes and I discover I’ve lost 4-5 pages of writing from yesterday. Boom.
This never would have happened if I’d done it old school and written it all out by hand.
I am now trying to get motivated again.
Lisa and I don’t argue a lot, and it gets heated even less frequently, but when we do and it does, there’s a very short list of things that make us go boom. The biggest one by far is Who Said What When.
This is not just a question of Being Right, although that does play into it. Of course it plays into it.
More to the point, the issue of whether I said thing X or Lisa did thing Y becomes a function of memory. I remember you saying this. She remembers me doing that. The reason why this gets to be a big deal, I think, is that both of us have pretty good memories, and having a good memory becomes an Important Thing in and of itself. We don’t like it when something comes along and shreds a bit of that self-perception, especially when it’s true. I could be reasonable about this – a good memory doesn’t mean a perfect memory, after all. And I often am. But then Being Right gets involved, blah blah blah, instant crabbiness.
I joined a martial arts school last night, and last night was my first class. I did not vomit (though it was touch and go toward the end), I did not fall over, I did not make a huge fool of myself. I worked my way up to a blue belt years ago in grad school, and find myself now in a pretty great place. I’ve got all of the mental lessons of my old school, and none of the muscle memory. There is very little for me to re-learn at this stage of the game. I’m a white belt all over again, and this is okay. It’s good, in fact. White belts are supposed to be incompetent. If a white belt is sparring with someone and the other person gets hurt, it’s not necessarily the white belt’s fault – I’m a newbie! If a black belt hurts someone else sparring, that’s another matter – that’s someone who’s supposed to have control.
Failure is okay sometimes. It should be okay in school – isn’t this where you’re supposed to be learning?
The first failure of Anthony’s that I know of came when he could no longer work. Shouldn’t he be making money, helping support the family? Instead, he’s become a burden. No one said this to him – he thought of it all on his own. And why wouldn’t he? Why wouldn’t any of the rest of us come to the same conclusion about ourselves in the same situation?
I’m not okay when my memory fails a big test – a small one, no big deal. I’ve had brain blanks as long as I’ve been alive, and someday soon I’ll be able to claim “senior moments,” even though there’s nothing particularly senior about them. I’m okay when I don’t execute a good front kick, even if it bugs me. It’s the fundamentals that I don’t want to fail at. I want to be a good writer. I want to be a good friend. I want to be a good person.
But I’m not all of those things all of the time.
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.