Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Anno Due Amore.

Today, January 15th, is the cap on what has now become two solid years of my dating the same woman. This is impressive, after a fashion, but also not. My longest previous relationship lasted almost exactly one month, and ended when she objected to my use of the word “girlfriend” to describe her. This was three years previous to the current relationship. Before and after this misfired attempt at relationshippy bliss, there were crushes and single dates and bad poetry, and women whose fingers touched the glass barrier between “friend” and “something more,” and although I would touch back, like a convict with a visitor, the partition was not meant to be broken with these women. And then there was she.

So for me to say that two years is impressive is awkward; it’s certainly impressive in terms of the potholed highway that my love life once was, but otherwise, it seems that I may have done something very strange and Done Right on the first real time out of the gate. In Western culture, the first serious relationship is sweet and wonderful and eventually haunting after it dissolves, and you’re supposed to move on, wiser, perhaps, or bitter, perhaps, or both. But I have long since stopped worrying about the dissolution. In theory, I’m supposed to be breaking the relationship up by now, because after realizing that I can be attractive to somebody, I should start getting Men Are Dogs and Grass Is Greener syndromes, start talking about wild oats that need to be sown or some such rot. But then I think about darts.

The thing about darts is that you can have two types of turns. In one turn, you throw the first dart, hit the outer ring, and adjust until you get closer and closer with the next two darts. Or you hit the bulls-eye with the first dart. While there is every possibility that I’m playing the first game, I’m perfectly happy to be playing the second.

I am sure my girlfriend will find it romantic that I consider our relationship to be akin to the second-most dangerous of drunken bar games. [1]

Yesterday I was presented with my first episode of workplace situational ethics. Without going into too much detail, I was asked by a supervisor to pretend that I hadn’t noticed a miscommunication between myself and another person. Money is at stake, because money is always at stake.

My new class is growing on me quickly. Last night I spent an enjoyable evening in a small firefighters’ bar chatting with a guy in my class about the Replacements and other bands we liked from the early-to-late punk era. I apparently won some kind of respect for actually knowing who Joey Santiago was.[2] In class, we did an exercise where we had to stare into our partner’s eyes for four or five minutes. My partner and I went about this task with a single-minded purpose, oblivious to distractions or nervous laughter, and I noticed that after staring intently into someone’s eyes for such a sustained period of time, my partner’s face seemed to change into an illustration of itself; something cold and impersonal that was bleeding itself of all meaning. It was no longer “Len,” it was “face.” It is similar to reading the same word over and over again; eventually it just looks like lines interconnected in some deliberate pattern. Try running the word “wood” through every single font and style you have available in Microsoft Word, and that’s what happens.

For reasons I am not sure of, I have started writing a darkly comic play about an aging baseball star who was once acquitted of his wife’s murder and vowed to find the true killers, but never did. I think my recent viewing of the Steppenwolf production of “Glengarry Glen Ross” may be in part to blame, since at the moment I am writing scenes for middle-aged men. “Glengarry Glen Ross,” by the by, was a very good production, although I had to fight very hard to view it on its own terms, and not in terms of the movie. But if anything, I now appreciate the film more. And although Chicago legend Mike Nussbaum did a fair job with Shelly “The Machine” Levene, Jack Lemmon’s performance will always be definitive to me. I must give major kudos to the set designers, however, whose second-act set was a thing of ratty beauty. I could not have imagined a more perfect recreation of a bad mid-1980s office space in Chicago, down to the metal desks and thin wood-sheet paneling. There were functioning fluroescent lights and water-damaged ceiling panels. It was heartbreaking to imagine its dismantling.

So far, I have kept up my resolutions. I have made renewed efforts to beat the hell out my punching bag, and I recently started the diet my girlfriend managed to lose ten pounds on; simply by removing from her diet cheese, chocolate, and alcohol. Since I don’t often consume the latter two (but when I do, unfortunately, I do to excess), I have also added fried foods to the list. I started this diet last Thursday, immediately after the sad death of Dave Thomas, so I was able to justify buying late-night Wendy’s in memoriam.

Finally, and speaking of deaths, a tip of the hat to gone-too-soon Ted Demme, nephew of Jonathan, director of such films as “Blow,” and the also short-lived TV series “Action.” I’m more familiar with his uncle’s Oscar-winning work, but I want to take a moment to single Ted out for what I feel was his most poignant piece–the video for Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar-winning “Streets of Philadelphia.” Simple and somber, the Boss walks through the titular streets in denim and leather, past its run-down and impoverished peoples, past its skyline, past the City of Brotherly Love. The genius of the piece, however, is that while the music is playing in an overdubbed track, Springsteen himself is not lip-syncing, but actually singing, listening to the music himself through a hidden earpiece. He sounds immediate and real in a way that turns what should be a soundtrack video into a heartbreaker, as if this were not a music video, but a documentary about a man who sings the thoughts in his head. In the real world, he would be a crazy bum wandering through Philly. But he’s not. So maybe the bums aren’t either.

Ted Demme was 38 and he may yet have had a truly great film somewhere within him, a signature work that people would forever associate with his name alone. It’s sad that we will never know.

[1] Billiards is the most dangerous of bar games for drunken people, being basically an opportunity for surly bar brawlers to whack each other with heavy sticks and round paperweights.

[2] The guitarist for the Pixies, who also guested on Frank Black’s (nee Black Francis) first solo album.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2002 by in Life, Love, Movies, Obituary, Theatre, Writing.
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