Not All Who Wonder Are Lost

A one-act play

ACT 1

(Older woman enters from the right, sits in a chair facing the audience and loudly exhales)

Ever have one of those days when you can’t decide whether it’s better being Girl Friday or Boy George?

(pause)

Or maybe Girl George or Boy Friday?

(laughs)

Most of what I am about to tell you is true, some are tales. You decide. I spent my salad days in Chiggers, Idaho. Living life hollowed out, locked and loaded is not for me.  We all deserve better than being prisoners of war in our own skin. You can be different there, but it has to be the right kind of diversity, like muteness or perpetual genuflection.

In Chiggers, we have the devout, the future burn-in-Hell hoi polloi whose mortal sin is not ranting every blasted second about Jesus and the Aryan Brotherhood. For the longest time, I truly thought the latter was a gay group,  sporting all the leather, the tight jeans and such.  I remember chatting with one not-so-bright new recruit, convincing him that he could only eat the beef of alabaster cows, that all other bovines were of mixed race and therefore forbidden. He looked at me kind of funny but then mournfully asked about the origin of chocolate milk.

Oh, I must confess that, yes, I was once a Calvinist back in my famous potato state days. Those rants about total depravity and limited atonement were attractive for a while in a punkish sort of way. But Calvinists run a very tough sect. Anyone who would complain that Jesus was a showoff, well…

Then I had a Catholic phase but it was too much of the saints and the aints for me. Plus, the fixation on metaphoric cannibalism gave an eating disorder.

Nevertheless, I got out alive and headed to New York City to soak up the cultural life. Manhattan was the land of museums, libraries and educational opportunities which I desperately needed.  It was time to learn and smooth my rough edges.

Initially, I had to do a bit of everything in order to get by in Manhattan. Now please tell me why there is a laudatory response when a guy says that–

(imitating a deep voice)

“Oh, he’s industrious and hardworking”–but conventional wisdom translates such a phrase about women into she’s Jezebel-ing spread-eagled in Times Square.

Anyhow, early on I wrote a novel titled “The Brotherhood of the Traveling Boxers.” when I pitched it to various publishers, there was perpetual confusion about whether I was referring to the underwear of gay men, pugilism unity, or a pack of peripatetic dogs. I later found out someone lifted my concept and got rich after making a few changes. When I gently inquired about the possibility of royalties coming in my direction, well, so much for talk about the divinity of sisterhood, Ya-Ya or no Ya-Ya.

Soon the musical lure of Greenwich Village was calling my name. I met Dylan, Baez, Dave Van Ronk, you name it. One time, Bobby dialed me up and said he had writer’s block and couldn’t shake it. I told him to move

(laughs again)

No, I sang him a verse from a song I was writing then

(pretends she is playing a guitar and sings extremely nasally):

“My ass is on fire and I’m peeing blood
my doctor is babbling like Elmer Fudd
so forgive me Father if I have sinned
noshing at the breast of Heather Prynn…”

Bobby stopped calling after that.

And yes, I did marry once. It was to a man named Dooley Noted. What attracted me was dear Dooley possessing the ambiance of a Puritan circumcisioner and that’s a rare trait in the Big Apple. We soon had triplets: Hickory, Dickory and Dock. Yes, we shortchanged out middle son from the get-go. Dooley had quite the thing for Mother Goose. Back then, reading him nursery rhymes was the literary equivalent of Viagra, Cialis, Thor’s Hammer, you name it. But at age 45, Dooley ran smack dab into a mid-life crisis and came to an unfortunate end after a long fall off a wall.

You know the adage that with age comes but I don’t think that’s necessarily always accurate. Some people seem born thick and refuse to shave it down. Others are crushed early and never able to heal their wounds. Here’s a little something I worked up decading the typical life span:

“At 20, you have a certain je ne sais quoi, a spark. Life is a series of imaginary vivid starbursts about masterpiece achievements to come. The possibilities are endless and each is phenomenal. You dive in headfirst to a mix tape of “Climb Every Mountain” and “The Impossible Dream” and attempt to better the world.

Come the 30s, it’s life on hold if you have a kid or kids. Or if you, ahem, married one.

As for the 40s, settling settles in. Too often what once was so important recedes to a distant, intermittent crackerjack.

In your 50s, it’s “what the hell happened?”

The 60s, oh the 60s. It’s a prelude to the battle for satisfactional supremacy between bowel movements and naps. Mortality begins taking repeated punches at you and, unfortunately, some connect.

Yes, life begins so promising amidst striking colors–bold magentas, marigold yellows, entrancing blues, even in Chiggers. As time passes, our elasticity declines, and pits and cracks appear. We begin to perceptively fade, with grays enveloping us and our original bulb of brilliance dimming. Desperate to break the aging encryption, we fruitlessly thrash about, trying this and that remedy. Last comes the panorama of complete white until the light goes out and what is individually us becomes extinct.

Fred Rogers co-wrote that last part with me.

And afterwards, so many seem to want to be boxed up and deposited underground. Not me. We live in a box, drive one, and work in one–that’s enough hemming in. My late friend Dottie was ambivalent but eventually chose a casket although first she donated her brain to science. Dottie always had a knack for thinking…outside the box.

(laughs)

While I’m not Hindu, when I’ve bought the ranch I’m going out with a funeral pyre in Central Park, a Burning Woman Festival of sorts. I can already see the local Fox News headline back in Idaho: “Former Chiggers Heathen Burned at the Stake.”

(laughs)

Now my paramount resentment is others thinking they must be gentle in my presence because I have some decades on me. We should honor facial lines, bless the gray and celebrate the sag. I’m not fragile. I’ve survived so many knockdowns with the scars to prove it, and learned from them. I made an effort to educate myself with classes and lectures at the 92nd Street Y, the New School, and the New York Public Library. and I’m going to keep doing so until they have to prop me up.

I’ll leave you with my long-time mantra: a taut stomach is fine but a taught mind in better.

Birth to death

Yes, he successfully conquered water
turned vintner with a spicy zinfandel
the masses at the miracle collective
believed the finish kept their deaths at bay

He a Mecca born and bred commando
the purveyor of the peaceful sword
his preaching saved huddled masses
while infidels brutalized his words

Yes, from stony Jerusalem to sandy Mecca
the spectrum of deeds belied their beliefs
safe harbor for true followers dimming
perverse sanctuary for killers and thieves

The seeking of the everlasting life policy
call it upscaling the forever vacation
just say the magic words in the correct ear
for just-in-time personal gentrification

But all remains ashes to ashes, dust to dust
passports unstamped for angels-on-high camp
life is truth and lies, pleasure with pain
amidst lonely flickers of humanity’s righteous lamp

Let’s call our end what it is — an endless rest
from a life lived both holy and hell
identity and actions fully legible and owned
at the very last tolling of the bell