A one-act play
(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 you’re Boy George or Girl Friday?
Or maybe Girl George or Boy Friday?
Most of what I am about to tell you is true, some are tales. I spent my salad days in Chiggers, Idaho and found it true that prophets are never accepted in their hometowns — Jesus and I are tight on at least that one
(holds up middle and forefinger together on right hand)
which only pissed off people there more when I told them that. Living life hollowed out, locked and loaded is not for me. I say 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 like muteness or full of genuflection.
In Chiggers, there are the devout, the future burn-in-Hells who don’t rant every blasted second about Jesus and the Aryan Brotherhood. For the longest time, I truly thought the latter was a gay group, you know 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 asked about the genesis of chocolate milk.
Oh yes, I must confess that 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 crowd. Anyone who would complain that Jesus was a showoff, well…
Then there was 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.
But I got out alive and headed to New York City to soak up the cultural life. Manhattan was the land of museums, libraries and so many educational opportunities. I needed that infusion. It was time to learn Balzac and leave the nutsacks behind.
Initially, I did a little of everything in order to get by in Manhattan. But tell me why a man will respond with ‘Oh you’re so industrious and hardworking’ if a man were in my shoes, but he will think a woman must have been Jezebel-ing spread-eagled in Times Square.
Anyhow, early on I wrote “The Brotherhood of the Traveling Boxers.” Can it be called a book if it never appeared in that form? When I was pitching it to various publishers, there was perpetual confusion regarding whether I was referring to the underwear of gay men, pugilism unity or a pack of peripatetic dogs. I later found out a usurper 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):
No, I sang him a verse from a song I was writing at the time.
(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 — and yes, we shortchanged out middle son from the get-go — but Dooley had quite the thing for Mother Goose. Back then, reading him nursery rhymes worked just as good if not better than Viagra, Cialis, Thor’s Hammer, you name it.
It is often said that with age comes wisdom but I don’t think it’s necessarily always a two-fer. Some people seem born thick and refuse to shave it down. Here’s a little something I wrote 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 being a distant and intermittent crackerjack.
In your 50s, it’s jeezus 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.
Yet life begins so promising amidst striking colors — bold magentas, marigold yellows, entrancing blues. Yes, even in Chiggers. As time passes, our elasticity lessens, chips 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. Then it’s a 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 but declined attribution.
And afterwards, so many seem to want to be boxed up and deposited underground. Not me. We live in a box, drive one, work in one — that’s enough hemming in. My late friend Dottie was among those choosing caskets although first she donated her brain to science. Dottie always had a knack for thinking … outside the box.
Now I’m not Hindu but I think when I’ve bought the ranch I’m going out with a funeral pyre in my backyard. I can already see the local newspaper headline back in Idaho: “Former Chiggers Heathen Burned at the Stake.”
What I really resent is others thinking they must be gentle just because I have some decades on me. Humankind should honor facial lines, bless the gray and celebrate the sag. Heck, I’ve survived so many experiences and learned from them. I made an effort to educate myself with all those classes and lectures at the 92nd Street Y, the New School and the New York Public Library and I’m going to keep on learning into that good night.
My mantra: forego the taut stomach but facilitate a taught mind.