LONG STRANGE TRIP
My whole, long life has felt like a long strange trip, yet these last four years really have been doozies. 1984 meets "The Handmaid's Tale?" Weimar Germany meets "The Road?" There've been times in the past year, since this pandemic came upon us, when it felt as if all my clinical clients were losing their minds in this pandemic. I wasn't far beyond them. The recent election of Biden in the United States, and the miraculous development of vaccines for Covid 19 in record time seems to have provided us with a bit of rest for now, a quieting of urgency and fear, if you will,. But when you allow yourself to think about it, still feels as if the apocalypse looms, because the movement toward fascism, the pervasive disinformation and the unrestrained lust for power by least one political party in this country (and around the world) has increased fear, exploited tribalism, and detached a large segment of the population both from reality and from basic support for democracy.
Beyond the immediate problem of all that, some scientists are
warning that SARS Covid 19 was only a practice pandemic, and virtually all
scientists and every sane person knows that human caused climate change is a threat to all humanity and the planet. (Really interesting article in The Atlantic magazine about this recently:
So, given the impending apocalypse and my own advanced years, why not conquer my fear and write a blog that includes some of my shorter creative work?
Writing for me has over this last, weirdest year has been a kind of respite from all the bad news, and has always been respite from my own insecurities and self-doubt. Writing brings me into a zone that's uniquely meditative, creative, confident and hopeful, no matter what's happening in my life or in the world--I mean the process of writing, not its other aspects, like publishing or getting things produced. For the latter, you need the hide of an elephant and the soul of a child. In the sense that I still do have great wonder and curiosity about the world, I suppose I have the soul of a child, but my hide... well it's pretty thin, though a whole lot thicker than in the past.
Oddly, the pandemic has been something of a boon for both my creative spirit and for moving my creative work into the world, despite some setbacks. Here's a rundown. The film I've co-written adapting my first novel for a German producer seems bound for a Netflix original movie, which is amazing!
I started painting in acrylics and finished a short story I really love entitled "THE DREAMKEEPER'S TESTIMONY." It takes the reader forward (well, not much forward) into world roiled and ruined by climate change, told from the point of view of only a few traumatized survivors, including the narrator, one Edward Pawel Zielinski, age 78. As the story opens, the first one I've ever written in second person (which seems the logical choice for so traumatized a character), Edward and his wife have survived another of the monster hurricanes that constantly ravage their abandoned neighborhood. Zielinski has no idea why an old codger like him has evaded death for so long, when so many millions have not. All he knows is that he's been recording his dreams--an average of 3-5 dreams a night for the last 63 years--and he has the distinct feeling that he's waiting for something other than death.
I swear I've been thinking about this story for 20 years, and it was the pandemic and Trump that got me to its completion. I've now begun the process of trying to have the story published, hopefully in a decent literary journal. Usually what I do with short stories I've written over the years is send them to one or two journals, get rejected, and then give up and put them in the proverbial drawer (well, the metaphorical computer drawer). I'm determined that this one will see the light of day, in some damned fashion or form. Maybe I'll self publish all of my short stories in a book.
Due to the pandemic, a reading of my play, FIVE DAYS FOUR NIGHTS was cancelled; a potential production of the play seems on permanent hold, though a Brooklyn based theatre group, Quarantine theatre, recently did a lovely zoom reading, and the last few weeks I've been working on a screenplay based on the play.
Weirdly (though happily) my short play, TIME WARP, won the 2020 St. Louis Actors Studio Neil Labute New Theatre Festival. (Unfortunately there wasn't a Labute festival in 2020, nor a production, unlike in 2016 when I won this same prize the first time, for another play. )
I also wrote a wicked funny monologue, called "I'm Leaving You," which a wonderful actress named Eileen Lawless brought to life as part of my theatre workshop's last zoom festival.
I've started working on a performance piece called MOTHERS, based on poems I've written over the years about child loss, and incorporating truths I've heard from bereaved mothers in my grief groups and private practice. I think I started the piece as an homage to a personal era that has now officially ended. For many, many years, in my clinical social work practice, I facilitated three bereavement groups (two for parents and one for spouses) and I recently decided to give up the last of my groups. (I'm still taking clients in my private practice.)
I guess the creative muse has struck again.