Monday, May 4, 2009

Set Another Season Free

It's getting warmer in the Santa Clarita Valley. Not like towards late April when it felt like the pre-heating of an oven and then went back down to cooler temperatures. There's no cooler temperature to go back to this time.

I don't want it to be summer yet. Didn't we just get through Christmas a week and a half ago? I don't know if I mentioned this in a previous blog entry, nor do I intend to read through previous blog entries to find out if I did, but apparently, there's a trigger that's set off either after you reach a certain age, or as you reach a certain age. In my case, it was January of this year when I discovered that the trigger had been pulled. In March, I turned 25, but before that, January began as it always did, one slow day at a time, but not too many slow days. When I was younger, January would always begin as a slow crawl. January you had to take a long hike over many mountains to get to the next day. Not anything to complain about, but it was noticeable.

This past January began like it had all those years ago, seeming like it would gradually get to February and then begin moving faster, but suddenly, it was January 26th. And then February 3rd. Followed by February 18th. March 15th. March 21st, my birthday. And now here we are, at May 4th. The Mexican workmen who have been repainting the walls near the community pool (one of two in our area, with the second, technically the first, down the hill towards the entrance) and taking care of other construction-related matters, put the chairs back around the pool today, as well as the two round tables, with chairs around those. It's time already for residents to begin using the pool again during the weekends and sometimes the weekdays? My dogs are going to be plenty bothered by that, since Kitty likes to sit in the sun on the patio ground, but hearing the noises beyond that thankfully high wall, we'll see. Then again, she might not have been so bothered last year or the year before. In Southern California, some days melt right into each other and it's hard to remember if what was done last year also applies to this year. I don't know if Kitty barked last year at any of it. Probably not.

I know the sayings and the encouragements. "Always look ahead." "Live for today and then plan for tomorrow." "Never dwell too much in the past." The past is where I hope to make part of my living, what with this book about what some actors might have done in their careers had they still been alive, but including background on what they had done. But it's criminal how January comes and then April and May barge in like flip-flopped and Speedo'd vacationers finding out about the classy buffet at an upscale restaurant. There's no point in complaining, I know. There's no way to slow it down and the years go faster as one gets older. It's not that I regret some things that I enjoyed when I was younger being so inaccessible now, such as Walt Disney World. In fact, the Galaxy Theater at Tomorrowland, where I saw many shows when I was in a stroller, has long been torn down and replaced with a high-tech stage for a show called "Stitch's Supersonic Celebration." Part of my childhood is gone and from the chatter about Space Mountain being refurbished, there may be things from there that were part of my childhood that may disappear as well.

I'm not looking for my childhood again. There's really no reason to go back to Florida. Las Vegas is where I belong now, whenever that might happen. But it's just having at least a few minutes slowed down long enough to really savor what's around me. This is the time of year when the morning light starts peeping way too early. Past 5 a.m. and it already shows. It's not even gradual and it doesn't even knock. It's already there.

On nights without worrisome winds, I'm learning. After 11 p.m., when I have Tigger do what he needs to on the patio (which simulates the landscape of Las Vegas that he needs to be accustomed to by the time we get there), and walk Kitty outside (she does do what she needs to on the patio in the morning, but it's a challenge at night and I inevitably walk her outside sometimes because I like being fully outside at that time), I look up at the stars, I look at the landscape around me, I look at the windows with lights on behind them, and I wonder. I wonder if this neighborhood existed in the late '80s. I wonder how many different drawings I can make by mentally connecting the stars to one another without thinking of the constellations. I wonder when they'll have the sprinklers on automatically in my area, now that it's getting hotter. I take those hours between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. and lie comfortably against them, like Huck Finn as he floats down the river on his raft. After 4 a.m., it's close to bedtime, so it's more of a transition hour. But these hours, there's so much possibility in them, so much to revel in, more ideal as work hours, but sometimes, I prefer to look at the sky and remember that though the days may go fast, there's still a lot to do within those days, and to enjoy.

There was an article in the New York Times on July 5, 2007 ("Indoors and Outdoors, Theater is Making a Splash"), about plays that used water, such as a production of "Romeo and Juliet" which had, as its centerpiece, "a 70-foot, 4,000-gallon pool." This is what got my attention:

"But sometimes a pool is just a pool. For “Swim Shorts” 10 writers were commissioned to create plays centered on the 25-foot-long, 7-foot-deep tourist oasis 14 stories above West 57th Street. The results include a piece featuring puppets and an alien spacecraft landing, another using a boat hand-built in Nebraska, and a renegade show in which the water stands in for quicksand. Though there’s not much time for on-site rehearsal (scheduling around hotel guests can be tricky), there’s an unmissable backdrop: the Midtown skyline on one side and the sunset over the Hudson on the other. Audience members sit on lounge chairs on the deck; umbrella-topped cocktails are served from an adjoining bar. “It’s summer,” Mr. Sherman said. “You want to cool off.”

I can do that too. After the residents are gone for the night, I can stare at the pool and the chairs around it, wondering who had been there today, who simply lounged, who dived into the pool numerous times, and what drama might have burst out. Or I can think of my own stagings. What stories could be told poolside? Who would be there in my imagination?

Time. Damn. But at least there are still options, even at this speed.

The Ghost of James Dean (or an associate)

To me, it wasn't a coincidence.

I looked over at my clock radio early Sunday morning. 5:05 a.m. I decided to finish watching "Me and the Girls," one of my favorite dramatizations of a Noel Coward short story about George Banks, a gay entertainer looking back on his life being in charge of a collection of dancing girls with whom he toured. The ending is particularly poignant, and by it, I'm convinced that Tony Soprano was indeed killed, despite the other side of the argument. I'm late enough for that train that I've fallen face-first onto the track. I know. But it came to mind when I watched George believe that Mavis was going to come see him again in his hospital room.

I finished it, and went to my DVD player to eject disc 6 of "The Noel Coward Collection," a DVD set I will hold so close and so dear to me, as it's a steady source of inspiration. Whenever I need assurance that the mountains of words in the English language can still be fascinating, I need only to put on one of these discs and I'm smiling again, mulling over the words I hear, sounding them out, spelling them in my head, fascinated at how an "l" and a "y" can co-exist without any trouble between them.

Now, my room is stacked with DVDs and books, and old issues of The New Yorker, and a bunch of writing magazines given to me by a former editor simply because he had them stacked on one shelf of his bookshelves at his desk, and I had been eyeing them for some time. Those are on the floor nearest the one window I have in my room, a window I can't open because there's no screen in front of it and there's no point in getting one now, what with the hope of moving out soon, provided Las Vegas comes calling and my parents can sell this place, which has the hopeful financial benefit of a gate at the start of the front-door walkway (no other front-door walkway in this small area has one), and a large patio which overlooks the community pool.

I use old moving boxes for shelves. There was talk of getting actual furniture for this place, but since Mom never stopped disliking this place, the thought fell away. She's right in many ways, but those ways are better saved for another time so I can actually get to the point.

I didn't even intend to look to my right. I wasn't even thinking about it. But my head drifted over, and my eyes were pointed at the tops (really the sides, but now serving as the top) of two boxes where I had stacked issues of The New Yorker that I had bought for cheap from my local library (10 cents an issue), as well as "Pandora's Clock" and "Medusa's Child" by John J. Nance, the hardcover first edition of "Walt Disney" by Neil Gabler, and DVD box sets, such as the complete run of A&E's "Nero Wolfe," "The Stanley Kubrick Collection," and a nicely made-up special edition of "La Dolce Vita." What was sitting on top of that is what caught my eye. A three-DVD box set. I turned it over and it was the James Dean DVD box set that was sent to me so long ago, and I only got as far as unwrapping it and each 2-disc DVD set.

I laughed, because clearly the ghost of James Dean had been here, a little impatient at that moment. He is one of the actors I'm going to write about in that book, "What If They Lived?" But since I'm working in chronological order and am currently at work on Robert Harron, Larry Semon, Mabel Normand, and Fatty Arbuckle, he'll have to wait for a while longer, but from suddenly finding that box set, he doesn't want to wait. I have been thinking about his life, though. This powerful young actor gone, but revered, remembered, and never forgotten. I don't intend to try to answer the "why" of that, because there's no one answer for it. There's many answers. I want to find my own. It's like how silent film actor Robert Harron is praised in many books for his performance in "Intolerance," directed by D.W. Griffith. I don't want to use "Intolerance" in my writing for what would surely be the 394th time. I watched "True Heart Susie" on Saturday and was amazed how he could look like a young, not very intelligent boy living simply, and with a girl who loves him but he's reticent about returning the affection. He goes to college on the money the girl's collected for him, but makes him think that a philanthropist who visited his town put up the money for him to go to college. He comes back, sporting a mustache, and he looks like a man. There's no more of the boy there. It's a remarkable transformation, and not one that's as big a deal as actors today make of their own transformations in film. He appears as this grown man, and that's that. But that Harron was able to be utterly convincing as this boy and then the man is what made him a great actor of that time.

I like these ghosts. As shown with me suddenly noticing that DVD set, they want their lives to be known again. Maybe Dean, or an associate, feels that I could offer something new about his films and his life. Really it's just movie and book-driven research, but there's also the experts and historians to talk to as well. We'll see.