Wednesday, September 28, 2016

If at First You Don't Succeed, Don't Quit Your Day Job

Quite a laundry list you're compiling in which you show the difference between story and Real Life Event, the most recent discovery being how story is more likely to allow for failure than Real Life Event, or, if you will, the Cultural Lie. Or the Cultural Myth.

You grew up in the culture of "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again," which you pretty much got at public school, such Sunday School as you attended, and even into tiers of university life. 

You were so wrapped and bathed in this mantra that you were still plagued by the dialectic after you'd left the university and were on your way home one night from the Writers' Poker Game in Palos Verdes, which meant you'd quit playing cards at eleven, gone over to the most louche bar you knew of in San Pedro, and caused significant adjustment to your blood alcohol count.

Somewhere along the murky reaches of Western Avenue, perhaps toward west central Los Angeles, you were at an intersection well lit up (as indeed you were) for that time of morning. A scattering of cars thrummed and chuffed in the intersection, their drivers and passengers eyeing one another with the guileless innocence of night owls. 

Quit Your Day JobIn the midst of the street, one of the most drunken individuals you'd seen--and still remember over an arc of fifty years--was telling another less drunk individual to go be fruitful and multiply himself, only to be knocked to the pavement by his more sober opponent.

You had no idea what the cause of the altercation was, but the more sober of the two kept knocking the drunk down, seeming almost to trigger a reflexive rising of the drunk, followed by a string of epithets. You were not the only person in the crowd of onlookers who wanted the drunk to stop getting up. His attacker kept telling him, "Just fucking stay down for a minute. Just fucking say Uncle or No more."

But the drunk would not, or perhaps could not, understand how to cause the bloodbath to stop. He continued to wobble to his feet, tell his opponent to go fuck himself, then be decked with a jab or uppercut to the jaw. 

On one such cycle, you saw the drunk part company with a tooth. Still he rose to challenge. One of the bystanders suggested the attacker go for a combination left to the gut, right to the jaw, perhaps causing enough upheaval to distract the drunk from his folly.

Under the circumstances, you'd have opted for the game-ending recognition of defeat, perhaps even wrapped in some poetry as "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din." The event impressed you to this day and helped you articulate your belief that the drunk might have stumbled on something in a story, but not at four in the morning at Western near Overland.

Because writers and artists are eerily observant, they allow their subjects to lose more often than win; it is only the fabulist and mythmaker who wants the blind faith of determination to triumph over the potential for improvising a new approach to a new problem. Over the years, and not nearly so memorable as your early morning trek home, you've won with efforts less than your best and lost with efforts that so moved you, you were almost inchoate with tears.

You remember one morning, not far off that four o'clock time, when you'd finished reading a teleplay to a major literary agent, a director with more than one stunning success to his credit, an actress with whom you were entirely in love, and a man who'd produced plays on Broadway. "Kid," the Broadway producer said, "you hit that right out of the park. Things are going to belong to you now."

You, who were running a quick survey of your cash on hand to assess inviting the actress to breakfast, had the stunning-but-necessary awareness that "things" belonging to you or anyone was a myth; the most you could come away with was that brief time when, as you read, the room was quiet with the early morning crispness of expectation and connection.

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