turn, turn, turn

A few months ago, I decided I couldn’t consider myself a playwright anymore. Though my desk houses a little orange plastic box full of index cards scribbled with story ideas, potential titles and bits of dialogue–a box I add to on a regular basis–I hadn’t done any real playwriting in a few years. I just wasn’t moved to open a Word doc and make that blinking cursor cruise across the page.

To actively call yourself something, it’s a good idea to actively be doing that thing.

(I’m not talking about meeting people and saying, “Hi. My name is Crystal. I’m an Aries, a dog lover and a playwright.” I’m talking about internal definitions. The way you place yourself in the life you’re living.)

There was relief in no longer being a playwright. I didn’t have to keep torturing myself about not having a project percolating. When friends asked if I was working on anything, I could say with conviction, “I’m not writing plays anymore.” My lone full-length had two great productions and a much-needed learning experience production, so there was a sense of completion. And it was okay.

Story shouldn’t be forced. It should knock on your door in the middle of the night demanding to be let in. I’m a believer in what Mr. Bukowski says about writing:

if you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

I waited patiently, but no one arrived. I turned the porch light off, turned on my sound machine and went to sleep.

Then this election entered the picture. This ridiculous, infuriating, absurd shitshow of an election. I saw friends get in fights on Facebook with their friends and family that I’m not sure they’ll be able to recover from. With each passing presidential “debate,” I watched our country slip further and further into a pool of tepid, flat Budweiser America, with only a raft of soggy Cheetos and a copy of Playboy to hold on to. Each day brought a new low, when I thought we’d already dented the basement floor.

That’s when I heard a knock at the door.

too early to start drankin’

So I guess I’ll do an end of the year post instead. Here’s some random shit I noticed this year.

When you see your people after a long time apart, it almost makes your heart explode for the first couple of moments, then it’s like no time has passed and you settle into a delightful groove. When it’s time to leave, the tears show up to say goodbye too. It’s hard, but maybe not as hard as the first time. Maybe.

In the nine months we’ve lived in Pacific Grove, I’ve heard only one driver honk their horn. That driver was me.

I’ve spent much more time walking and much less time in San Francisco than I expected.

There are almost no bugs here.

People are very comfortable openly smoking pot in California.

The first time I went hiking by myself in Big Sur, I alternated between worrying an animal would attack me or a person would knock me on the head and steal my shit. This is a change from living in Houston when I only worried about a person knocking me on the head. Eventually I’ll only worry about animal attacks or falling to my death off the side of a mountain. (Contrary to what Kerouac’s buddy says, you can fall off a mountain.)

When you see comedy outside of Texas, you find out that comedians make fun of Houston.

Recently we were drinking wine on the porch when we heard Taps being played (at the Defense Language Institute). A storm was coming in, a “Pineapple Express” from Hawaii, and the wind was blowing a different direction than usual. The next morning, I got up early to photograph the big waves and heard Reveille. Here’s an article about PG that mentions the different things you can hear, depending on the wind. When we got back from Houston a couple of nights ago, I heard the ocean in the darkness. A fitting welcome back.

This is my favorite paragraph from a post I didn’t publish this year. It was too bitchy, if you can imagine that.
This guy had spent the weekend in Big Sur, but he hadn’t really been there. This place of respite. This untamed wilderness. This edge of the world, west of the west, final frontier. I picture him standing at one of the many breathtaking vistas, one hand holding a pre-paid cellphone fruitlessly searching for a signal, the other holding a Coors Light while he desperately tries to connect with civilization to tell them what a wonderful time he’s having getting away from it all.

Here are some accomplishments from 2014 I’d like to remember: saw my first full-length play produced; puked four times off the side of a whale watching boat; started working from home and not wearing pants; moved across the country in a fit of middle-age crazies; fell on multiple hikes in multiple parks; saw otters, seals, dolphins, whales, pelicans, sea gulls, black squirrels, hawks, one bobcat and a dog parade; learned to make kick-ass cheese enchiladas; hung out with my family in California and Texas; packed our shit so well that literally not one thing broke on the trailer ride out here; didn’t hit any of the pedestrians that walked out in front of my car like baby deer; and, finally, nine months in, am happy to report that my heart still beats a little faster every time I look at the Pacific.

Here’s to a healthy and happy–and not too bitchy–2015 for us all. See you on the other side.

Stella is ready to party
gotta go – Stella is ready to party

the play

(I would have written about this experience sooner, but I came home from Boston to a sick dog, Dali, who is hopefully on the mend now.)

It’s hard to describe the emotions you feel when you see a production of your work, especially if you’ve never seen it staged before. It’s an ass-puckering combination of fear, excitement, fuck yeah!, potential humiliation, existential angst and gurgling intestines. Or maybe that’s just me.

Other than the Science Fiction Theatre Company people, no one knew I was in the audience until after the show. So I was able to eavesdrop. It was no surprise to learn that some folks found the abundance of semen in the play (yeah, that’s right) to be a bit disgusting. Good. My favorite thing other than the laughter was seeing people bend over and clutch their heads in embarrassment/horror about what was happening on stage. If they didn’t care about the story, they wouldn’t have been reacting. At least, that’s what I’m going with.

The first night I was there a physicist came up to talk to me, and the night before that an astrophysicist who discovered something related to Uranus (no joke) saw the show. In addition to a couple of theatre blogs, a local science fiction writer reviewed the production too. So there was interest from those communities, and they must have gotten headaches from my shitty science. I did do some research when writing about dark matter for the first part of the play but took huge liberties with it later on. Which I can do because this isn’t my thesis.

Actually, maybe it kind of is.

Let’s talk about the cast. Holy shit, they threw themselves into this ridiculous play. I can’t imagine a more game group of people. There are lots of awkward/inappropriate/gross lines, and each was delivered with no shame. Right on.

I can tell that Cait Robinson, the director, ran a tight ship because the show was pitch perfect all the way through. Set changes were flawless, tech was right on time and not a line was dropped or altered. Though I was tense when the lights went down, just a few minutes into the show I relaxed. They had this bitch on cruise control. After a while, I quit thinking the lines along with them and just watched the story unfold. There was a lot to see. I wish I lived closer to this theatre company so I could see all their work.

(image by Kyle Perler)
Matthew Zahnzinger as NURSE and Kathy-Ann Hart as ASTRID (image by Kyle Perler)

Hoping to get a few more pictures so you can see a little bit of the show and the rest of the cast. I took a picture of curtain call with my cellphone (bad theatre behavior), but good (theatre) manners keep me from posting it.