Thursday, February 9, 2023

Freddie Groundhoggy

Every day should have humour in it.


Sometimes I’ve wondered if I could ever stop revising my monologue. I did more major rewrites on Tuesday, that took it to 1,400 words and I think it’s close to being done, although it’ll likely change more in rehearsal. I’ve already memorized some of it—the parts I love to say aloud, the parts thick with assonance.

I went through it over and over, both silently and aloud on Tuesday. I wanted to change things every time. I revised and revised, believing that I’d arrive at a version that’s a keeper.  

I once wrote an article on Pacific Northwest first nations art. It was a commissioned by an elite tourist magazine. I felt totally incompetent, but the money was delicious, so I went to work. And work I did.  I had never worked so diligently on a piece and haven’t since, till this piece. (Well, except for my lesson plans at Emily Carr. I revised them after every semester.)

I have no idea how many times I went over the article. But I felt good about the version I handed in. They loved it, it got them welcome praise, and they offered me more work. That experience made me believe, if I worked hard enough, if I revised it over and over and over, that perfection was achievable. I’m hoping that will hold true for my script.

Postscript #1: It flows well, and I’ve buried clues in the text to help me with transitions. For example: I have a unit on my breakdown and the next unit is about treatment and Dr. Shoja. So, towards the end of the breakdown unit, I use the verb “treat,” and when I say it, I know how the next unit is about.

Postscript #2: When the article came out in the magazine, I read it. It was as though I was reading an article by someone else—and someone knowledgeable. It was nothing like anything I’d written before, or since. It was not, in any way, my voice. It was in ‘academese,’ and it was soulless. There was no emotion in it. It’s ironic that I felt that the magazine article was not my voice, and my monologue is about losing my voice.

I got a letter from the hospital about my heart and about upcoming tests. Now, anything to do with hearts triggers thoughts of time running out. It’s made me reflective, and I love Julie Andrews, so here are a few of my favourite things.

  1. My neighbours had a cat that they ignored. I saw in him a cat first sought, and then rejected, and that was my story. And then one day, as I sat looking out our dining room window, I saw Mrs. Blanche come out of her house, pick up Aleck from her kitchen windowsill and bring him to me. They were moving away, and they’d asked Dad if they could give him to me. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me at that point in my life. Aleck was the first true love of my life. I was eight.
  2. Seeing classical paintings of people in sumptuous clothing. The painting of the draperies on my first trip to Europe at age 19.
  3. Deciding to quit my job, give up my apartment, and moving to Nice to learn French—well, enough to get by. Easily, that was the greatest year of my life—and an exciting prelude to great event #6, below.
  4. The City and District of North Vancouver hired me allowed me to build a small public theatre in the former city hall. I designed it, I raised all the money to build it, and built it, guided by an experienced carpenter. And then I managed it, booking individual artists and touring shows. And then one day there was a cancellation during peak season, so I wrote a structural plan for a play, hired actors to help me write the roles and then play them. Opening night was, perhaps the greatest moment of my life. A show I conceived, in a theatre I designed and built. My reward: rave reviews in Variety, and a national tour of the play. I was thirty.
  5. Getting my first pet, Spike, a small Poodle, and then Kitty, Béla, Sheba, Fred and Ethel. Animals are my people.
  6. Meeting my birth mother and discovering she was a very respected artist and Québécoise, was the proudest moment of my life, because I knew, deep in my soul, that I was French, from birth, and because I started making plays when I was four. I found her when I was 45.
  7. Being referred to Julio Montaner for treatment of AIDS and having my first appointment with him, two weeks after the international medical research team that he was part of announced the discovery of the cocktail.
  8. Writing my non-fiction book and seeing it become a Canadian best seller was thrilling. But far more thrilling was the sales income.
  9. Hearing Allegri Miserere for the first time.
  10. Hearing Mahler’s Adagietto from Symphony #5.
  11. My first view of the Taj Mahal.
  12. Everything about and by Vincent van Gogh.
  13. My first smell of Gardenia in the garden of a MacDonald’s in Santa Rosa California.
  14. Meeting Jesse Norman after attending her concert. I was truly overcome; I could not speak to her. In silence, tears dipped down my cheeks, so she stood up and hugged me. It was like being in the arms of God. I revere highly accomplished artistry, and everyone aiming for it.

Wednesday dawned cold, bright and gloriously sunny. I went for a walk with our dog walking group and tried to collect some of Sheba’s pee (but failed) because I’m certain her bladder infection is back, and I want to get her on antibiotics again. But it’s really hard to get some of her pee. She hates me doing anything “back there.”

Then it was home for more work on the monologue and some clinic work—and keeping the fire stoked because it was so cool outside. But …. My daffodils are coming up and there are buds on everything—there’s even little leaves already on one Hydrangea. The sunshine, the shoots and the buds get me excited.

In the afternoon, I got through the monologue aloud and without wanting to make any changes. I’ve done it; it’s done—all 1,550 words! And I timed it. It took me 12 minutes and 30 seconds to perform it. And my beloved friend, David, who lives in London, UK, called in the afternoon to say that he is planning to come to Vancouver to see me do it. I’m over-the-moon thrilled. 

Early in the afternoon, yesterday, I submitted version two to Heldor and Tony.

In the evening, I went to Stacy’s for dinner with her daughter, Lauren, granddaughter, Rory, and our mutual friend, Nancy. It was really nice to not spend an evening watching the television, and I loved holding Rory. I held her as we all had hors d'oeuvres, and then through much of the meal so that Lauren could eat in comfort roar is 4 weeks old.

I discovered an interesting short insight into the amygdala whilst doing research on my script. Here is what I read on Wikipedia: “An amygdala. Hijack is an emotional response that is immediate, overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat. The term was coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1966 book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.

It's a very succinct insight into my condition.

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