Saturday, March 15, 2014


     With the encouragement of my wife, I've decided to attempt to write a story (I'm far more comfortable with writing plays.) So, for your consideration, here is a small section. The character "speaking" was born in India in 1930, so the time now would be about 1946. 

     Sometime in the sixteenth year of my life my father came to me with the following offer. “Son, I think it’s time to buy you a new suit.”

    ‘Thank you,” I replied. I was both pleased and honestly perplexed. Unless he wanted something, my father rarely spoke to me. And the thought that he wanted to participate in some aspect of my life was quite beyond my comprehension.

     “Would you like to know why?” My father was being both tenacious and purposely vague. And he was enjoying every moment of our conversation.

     Yes, thank you, I would.” If this conversation reads as somewhat stilted, it’s because I honestly don’t remember it. Nor do I recall much of what would happen in the next few days. However, because the events occurred, it seems probable this conversation occurred, as well.

     “It’s for your wedding day.”

     This snippet of information shouldn’t have come to me as any great revelation. In the caste system practiced throughout India, my place was quite near the bottom of the social food chain. The way of life was well laid out, and had been refined over many generations. You were born, worked, married, worked, produced children, worked, and died. It was that simple. Life was orderly and without surprises. Everyone seemed quite content.

     Well, almost everyone. I believe with an almost certainty that all human beings are basically optimistic. I believe that disaster will strike someone else before it strikes me. The fallacy in this logic was that I didn’t know anyone else, so when my turn came it caught me completely by surprise.

     My mother gushed. “Her name is Alisia, and she’s definitely above your station.” I’m not sure I truly appreciated my mother when she gushed. This was in fact the first time I had ever seen her do it, and I’m sure I didn’t appreciate it.

     “I had to work hard for this match. It wasn’t easy. Her grandfather is a true Brit, I certainly hope you understand what that means!”

     I waited for my mother to pause for breath. It would prove to be a long wait.

     “No, you don’t. I can tell by your expression that you have no idea what this could mean for your future. Well. Believe me, I’ll be pleased to tell you. It means that … and that … and that … not only in this life, but in several lifetimes to come! So you just think about that!”

     She said other things. I know she did. Her voice began to echo in my head. The tone of her voice became deeper until it was nothing more than a grumble of sound, not unlike that of distant thunder. At the same time, the edges of my vision darkened, and it appeared that moving objects were slowing down.
     My mind withdrew to some safe place, and the processing of information became questionable. I moved hypnotized through the next few days. I know there were people around me. I know there was a ceremony of some sort - I can vaguely remember a blur of orange and white.

     Awareness returned to me in a snap. One moment I was in our small kitchen, talking to my mother. In the next moment I was in my own room, and across from me was … the enemy.

     She was sitting on my only chair. I was sitting on the bed. She was thin. I was thin. She stared at the floor. I stared at her. Her hands were folded in her lap. My hands were folded in my lap. She was wearing her one-and-only sari. I was wearing my one-and-only suit. Her eyes were red, her nose was running, and she had a nervous cough. I had … my one-and-only suit. Great. She was already ahead of me on points. Neither one of us spoke a word. Eventually I fell asleep. I think she did the same.

     That was our wedding night.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


     For an artist, inspiration starts with a gnawing hunger. No hunger, no inspiration, no art.  Culture defines civilizations. Art defines cultures.

     Okay, here’s where I’m going with this thought process. A friend bemoaned the fact that people in the dramatic arts are paid less than their counterparts working in Walmart. And, unfortunately, I believe this to be true in the broadest sense. Actors have the only unions where ninety percent of the membership is unemployed at any given moment. Art is a luxury. Food and shelter come first (as they should). Yet art defines us. Look at any generation. What comes to mind ? Music? Movies? Clothing styles? It’s all art. Even architecture falls under someone’s artistic impression (or lack thereof.) During World War Two Winston Churchill was criticized for not cutting the Arts budget for England. His reply? “If we do that, what are we fighting for?”

    So Art is appreciated. Established Art is appreciated. Something – or someone – has to be around long enough to attract an audience. There are places everywhere (and IN XANADU is no exception) where “followers” are courted. Have enough followers and you win a prize. (I’m still waiting.) The point is, an artist is acknowledged. That is, he or she has put together enough of a body of work to create a style to which audiences gravitate.

     So we have been talking about someone who, after years of perseverance, has “made it.” Well and good for that person.

     But what about the poor shmuck working equally hard, who has yet to be discovered? (And, isn’t this the majority of us?) Regardless of the potential for rewards, a person in arts needs to express beyond what ‘normal” life will allow. If you have never been there, it’s like a drug. However, because the need to express is an end goal, the need to be understood and appreciated falls into second place. Because of this, when the dust settles, the artist realizes that he or she has placed a low price on him or herself as a commodity. It’s a psychological Catch-22. Lower the price, reach more people. Raise the price, reach fewer. Like race horses, artists have traditionally been supported by the very rich, and I suspect for many of the same reasons …

     Will this change at any time in the future? I doubt it. Look around. The value of an individual artist’s work usually only increases dramatically after he or she has been dead for a period of time.