Sunday, October 24, 2010

Inspiration



It can be an elusive thing to a writer. Sometimes painfully so. I’ve been fortunate of late, in that I haven’t had to struggle (beg, plead, make pacts with supreme beings whose very existence I seriously question) to find it. We’ve certainly had our ups and downs over the years, not to mention periods of downright estrangement. But somehow, sooner or later, we’ve always managed to reconnect and rediscover what it was that brought us together in the first place. Like a good friend, you sometimes may not see them for quite a while, but when you do, it’s just as it was before – and the time in between evaporates.

When inspiration is not around, however, it can be devilishly hard to seek it out. Of course, you can always sit and patiently wait in the hope that it shows up. Or you can try to cajole it out from wherever it’s hiding. I have a number of methods for doing this (besides the tantrum-like approaches mentioned above, which tend to be a last resort prior to a full-blown existential crisis).

Not a lot compares, however, to the inspirational journey my friend Aldo recently made: The Camino de Santiago. In case you’re not familiar with it (which I wasn’t before he decided to undertake it) the Camino de Santiago (or “The Way of St James” in English) is a series of pilgrimage routes in Northern Spain, all of which will eventually lead you to Finisterre, which, as you’d imagine, is “The End of the World.” It’s a long, rough, hard journey, with just a few hostels scattered along the route to provide you with some basic accommodation and sustenance before you set off once more. I can hardly imagine anything more inspirational and spiritually rewarding than undertaking such a trip – setting off on some dusty road with little more than the occasional painted arrow sign or scallop shell image to guide you along. No cell phones, no emails, no television or any of the seemingly endless distractions we’ve come to accept as normal life. What a powerful release of the mind that must be.

And so I ask myself, if I undertook such a trip, would I return with an expanded mind, full of inspiration and insight into the meaning of my own existence? And if so, how long before I slipped back, like a lazy recidivist, into my old ways, with all their cyber connections and petty life concerns?

No, I don’t think I’ll ponder that. I’d rather believe I’d come back a changed person. Not suddenly administering alms to the poor or anything. Just more centered. Yes, that’s nice.

So, well done, Aldo, my hat’s off to you…even if it is a little off-center.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bad Drivers



I currently have a play in production, put on by a great group of theatre practitioners based in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Can I say that again? The Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. I don’t know why, but I really like the way that sounds. Anyway, I really wish I could get over there to see it, but at an almost six hour drive from here on highways that seem to be increasingly littered with lunatic drivers, I’d probably never survive the journey. Not to mention that I’m still recovering (in the nastiest way) from a bout of the flu (thanks to my trusty flu shot last week).

So here’s to all the terrific folks at the Independent Theatre Collective…in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia…break legs, guys!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Rest in Peace



I was very sad to hear of the passing of Tony Curtis last week. Another loss from an ever-dwindling pool of movie stars of the Golden Age. I was, however, further saddened when I read an interview with him from a few years back in which he lamented the fact that he’d not done the sort of important work he felt he should have during his career, and that he felt the studios had never given him his due in casting him in such films. I found this rather sad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it smacks of a certain sense of entitlement, which is an unappealing trait. I understand that he came from a time when the studios would groom, guide, and essentially have total control over your career, but I wonder how hard he really tried to get those weightier roles that he thought should have been his. Then, as now, big names still had to fight for certain roles, no matter how popular they were at the box office. If they weren’t considered right for the part they had to prove it. And so I couldn’t help wondering, as he looked back on his life with so much regret, how vigorously he actually went after those parts, and whether his own insecurities in his abilities had held him back in that regard.

I also felt it unfortunate that he could look back on a career like his and not find the pride and sense of accomplishment in what he had done, only the disappointment in what he hadn’t. “Sweet Smell of Success,’ ‘The Defiant Ones,’ ‘Spartacus,’ ‘The Great Race,’ and of course ‘Some Like it Hot’ are terrific films that any actor should be extremely proud to have been a part of.

Anyway, rest in peace, Tony Curtis…and thank you.