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 you’re Boy George or Girl Friday?

(pause)

Or maybe Boy George and Girl Friday?

(laughs)

Now, I don’t mean to brag but windows see through me because I am the most fascinating woman in the world. You haven’t seen me perform in television commercials so allow me to present my verbal résumé in order to back up my assertion.

I spent my salad days in Chugwater, Wyoming and found it true that prophets are never accepted in their hometowns. Jesus and I are tight on 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 community. You see, it’s acceptable to think different there, but it has to be the right different and better not be done by a woman.

I got out mostly intact—the nature was beautiful but the nurture was an IV testosterone drip—and headed to New York City to learn more about life and the world outside Wyoming. Manhattan was the land of museums and libraries, and I needed that infusion. I thought I had a certain way with words holding down the best salon in Wyoming, and it seemed like most everyone in New York City, at least on television, was very verbal.

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.

I eventually got a position—do not snicker—taking dictation for the editor of the New York Post. I learned quickly to either offer boffo headline quips regardless of your position—remember “Headless Body in Topless Bar”?—or be sent packing. I’m no high society hobnobber, but it frustrated me to no end that the majority of our readership, even if given a first edition of “La Comédie humaine,” couldn’t tell the difference between Balzac and a nut sack.

During that time, and it has apparently been lost to antiquity, I authored “The Brotherhood of the Traveling Boxers.” Can I call it a book if it never appeared in that form? When I pitched it to various publishers, some were confused whether I was referring to gay men’s underwear, pugilism unity, or a dog act within a circus. I later learned a usurper borrowed my concept and got rich after making a few changes. When I gently inquired about receiving royalties, well, so much for 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 ‘em. One time over the phone, Bobby told me he had writer’s block and couldn’t shake it. I told him to move two blocks over.

(laughs again)

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.

Oh yes, I must confess I was once a Calvinist, back when I was in Wyoming. Those rants about total depravity and limited atonement were attractive for a while in a punkish sort of way. But Calvinists are a very tough crowd. Anyone who would complain that Jesus was a show-off and really needed to tone it down…

(entire body shivers)

I was also close to becoming a Protestant and I will tell you why. Addressing someone as Parson sounded hip. But the religion wasn’t.

(pause)

At least the way I interpreted it. Some people think they are masters of their universe when they aren’t even a player in their own sandbox.

As for Catholicism, it was too much of the saints and the aints for me. The fixation on eternal bleeding just became morbid.

And yes, I have previously been married but now I’m dispossessed. It was to a man named Dooley Noted. What attracted me was dear Dooley possessed the elocution of a Puritan circumcisioner. We had triplets, Hickory, Dickory and Dock. Yes, Dooley had quite the thing for Mother Goose. Reading him nursery rhymes was his Viagra back then. However, I eventually discovered he was running up someone else’s clock on the side so I became a savant at alimony.

Now I have reached what I’ll call a certain number of years. It is said that with age comes wisdom but I don’t think it’s necessarily always a twofer. Some people seem born stupid and make it a point to dearly hold on to that anchor. Others always offer unasked-for advice when their lives have been lifelong trainwrecks. It seems to be men mostly.

Okay, here’s a little something I wrote about a typical lifespan. I sent it off to “The New Yorker” some years ago but never heard back. Damn that William Shawn.

“At 20, you have spark. Life is a series of starburst dreams. The possibilities are endless and each is phenomenal. You dive in headfirst to a mix of “Climb Every Mountain” and “The Impossible Dream” on repeat, and attempt to change the world to conform to your vision.

Come the 30s, life is put on hold if you have a kid or kids. Or if you married one.

As for the 40s, settling settles in. It starts happening with your body too. What once was so important recedes to being a distant crackerjack.

In your 50s, you ask yourself, internally of course, “what the hell have I accomplished and where did my drive go?”

The 60s, oh the 60s, are a never ending battle for satisfactional supremacy between bowel movements and naps. Mortality begins taking repeated punches at you and, unfortunately, some connect.

Life begins so promising amidst vivid colors, even in Chugwater. As time passes, our skin wrinkles, our hair grays, and our original bulb of brilliance dims. Desperate to halt the inevitable decline, we fruitlessly thrash about trying one remedy or another. Finally, a panorama of white envelops us until the light goes out and what is individually us is extinguished.”

Believe it or not, Fred Rogers co-wrote that last part with me but never wanted attribution.

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 Nettie was among the casket choosers although first she donated her brain to science. Nettie always had a knack for

(laughs)

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. Just think of the consternation when the fire truck pulls up and begins their investigation. I don’t know what the Post headline will be but it should be a doozy.

Let me finish with my prime resentment of older age: being treated differently because I’m wrinkled and elderly. A compilation of decades doesn’t imply feeblemindedness. I don’t necessarily contribute less to society due to my advancing age. I’m finally educated—thanks to those insightful classes at the 92nd Street Y and the New York Public Library—and I’m going to rage and celebrate and continue learning into that good night. Yes, it seems I have a thing for Dylans.

(stands)

My lifelong motto is to forego the taut stomach but have a taught mind. I am the most fascinating woman in the world.

Settling into Wendell Berry’s “Enriching the Earth” Bliss

I grew up on a family farm so many years ago
putting seeds into soil, the planting cycle ruled our life
harvest time the payoff but only if God graced our crop
but I ran away at my first chance, taking me a city wife

We were kids, unprepared to be bigger than our age
it failed ’cause I didn’t care which way the wind blew
then Uncle Sam asked me “wanna be in my family?”
not knowing much of nothing, I upped to start anew

I called my Daddy, telling him I was now a GI Joe
he was surprised I had chosen such a row to hoe
one of taking orders and being at others’ command
but with clarity of kill or be, it’s just you and your foe

So I settled in for 20, a long and stagnant run
a time of chasin’ women, tryin’ somehow to connect
always knowing I was bound to beat myself
living out the ancient lifelong birth defect

Now I’m out and as purposeless as my younger days
more pillar to post rambling, just like I was before
but I’m wiser on the basis of some written words
a book loaned, a poem read, a striking at my core

So I’m heading back home to work on the family farm
Dad needs some help, what with his older, slower ways
the tiller and the tractor faintly pulling at my memory
furrows in the fields and now spread all across his face

What I’ve come to see is a connection blessed be
the farmer and land being bonded in seasonal symmetry
connected to one another in a way I couldn’t see before
it’s a thread of timeless truth woven out of viability

Mother Nature, some call her a most fickle mistress
but so much less than any bastard land dominionist
I’ll hook my wagon to her and be grateful for the ride
aware of what my head and heart so heedlessly missed

Alleluia

Three women of wisdom departed from Gal-veston
bearing insight, learning scars plus a large dose of mirth
Their destination?
So would it be north of the Ganges?
Or south of the Pecos?
Well, they never were much into following, directions or otherwise
For anyplace was now truly their place
Or soon would be
Paris, Texas truly being Paris, France in the heart

These daughters of the American Revelation had quieted their internal fires
no more emulation of The Furies
Not that they would ever go gently into that good night.
Their newly adopted modus operandi:
polish their rough edges of survival,
continue seeking truths despite its varieties and beckoning detours
answer the conundrum why karma is always a bitch and never a bastard.

After enlightening the Four Horseman into turning the other cheek
by choosing to instead rep Win-Win, Peace, Cornucopia and Everlasting Life
the trio entered the modest state of Whimsy, population: depends on the day and time
A few denizens milled about.
One, a forlorn carpenter crossed the road in front of them
distributing cards reading “I build bridges, not fences.”
A slovenly lawyer turned and addressing no one in particular asked:
“where might I find the court of public opinion?”
In the corner cafe, the literati argued fervently over the divinity of the Brothers Grimm versus the Sisters Bronte,
This certainly was not Kansas.

One street over, the wise trio noticed a burned out hulk bobbing out in the water
Ambling past free range fruit pickers, a gnarled man shuffled towards them
He said, “I am Noah and some say I failed miserably
I faithfully acquired two of each but with ‘don’t ask, don’t tell, how was I to know?
Nowadays, I meander about awaiting further instruction, grabbing thunder in order to quiet the constellations.”

But a little past due, scarred voices rang into the heads of the threesome
these cries and whispers unrecorded in history books,
vocal eruptions of scorching terror and fear,
plaintive outbursts from humanity’s collective unconscious,
these were debts of horror neither dollars nor words could repay or repair
burdens borne by the innocent.

Soon, over the ridge crept a wagon train sporting a skeleton crew
From it came an overpowering vibration of cosmic energy
A townsperson pointed and quietly mouthed Truth or Consequences”
But what did that mean?
It actually was more a statement:
Those exhibiting predatory predilection
secular or otherwise
would be rendered into a void
a suspension into everpresent miasma
before eventually returning as those they harm
unless and until getting right with the purpose of life.

Facing the wagons, the women spoke in harmony:
“There is no glory in bombs bursting in air or any rockets’ red glare.
For this we know, the very hard way.
We have heard you are of true emancipation.
and not another corrosive ball and chain that poisons the magic”

There was no audible response.
The crocuses continued their dawn-to-dusk interpretive ballet
Caterpillars sang and butterflies barked
The wise trio continued: “What guides us?
Enlightenment as a springboard towards grace”

All remained silent
Then a puff of white smoke emerged from the lead wagon
The women said “yes, we were once but now are not who you seek”
That they weren’t.
Because, nevertheless, they had persisted.