Saturday, November 11, 2006
The Red and the Black
Ah, revision in the middle is dangerous.
You start losing track of the idea; your idea may be non-verbal, a symbol, and symbolic writing is the hardest thing to accomplish, so you go to a real manageress of it, like Tillie Olsen, whose "Ironing John's Pants" is a masterpiece of apprehending the symbol, the symbol of crappy John's pants and what the laundress has to go through.And the crap she has to take from John.
So I was extremely cagey when I changed the last couple of lines in my Act V, Scene one in the blog just before, having the professor as a kind a King Lear, with the crap and corruption all over his jacket and bathwater dripping down on him from the ceiling of his studio-apartment.
One has a drink and says, Hey, wait a minute. The King Lear reference was all wrong...How about having the soaked professor, emblazoned here and there with baby-turds, say to the audience: I am Akaky Akakievich.
Would they know of Akaky Akakievich, the subject of Gogol's brilliant tale, perhaps the best short story of modern times, Akaky (certainly an an amonapoteic reference to the Russian word for shit) is a little man suddenly becomes big through the acquisition of a really super overcoat. The overcoat turns Akaky Akakievich into
Super-kaka, Really Hot Shit, and when somebody steals the coat, all hell breaks loose, to the point of Akaky actually chasing the thieves long after his death.
So if I were to have to professor turn to the audince and say, "Shit. I am Akaky Akakievich, would they get it?
No, better stay with the King Lear image.
So, all that crap out of the way, we'd better move on to Act V,Scene 2 of THE FIRE IN BRADFORD,where the professor and his schizophrenic friend,Willy Safer are now busy with bucket and mop and packages of Lysol.
Act V, Scene 2, THE FIRE IN BRADFORD.
We are back in the professor's apartment. The professor is busy throwing dry Lysol at a wall, from a package, while applying a wet brush. Willy Safer, bespectacled, heavy-browed and eyes a tendency to fix, like Bubbles, out of Trailer Park Boys, is busy with a mop.
Willy Safer: Dan, what the hell happened here last night? Cleaning up bilgewater isn't exactly my idea of a good time.
Professor: Not my idea of a good time either. And these goddam things always happen when the super is away!
Always the weekend. Shit always happens over the weekend, when the super is away. We're out of beer and the super's gone. We must be in Canada.
Willy Safer: Are you sure it wasn't the Super himself?
Professor: Come to think of it, Willie, maybe so. You sure have a spooky way of getting at the heart of the matter.
Willie (laughing, resting on his mop): I am an alumnus of some the finest mental hospitals in Ontario. I am allowed to be clairvoyant.
Professor: That you are, Willie, that you are.
Professor: I thought I saw Celia last night, through the window. Could she be in cahoots with the Super? Giving me a good drenching, me running around in my bathrobe like a mad King Lear? Why the hell would someone do something like that?
Willie: She is moving from the red to the black.
Professor: What in hell are you talking about Willie? More stuff you learned at the jigsaw puzzle assembly plant?
Willie: She is moving from the red to the black.
Professor: You mean like out of Stendhal's novel? I can't read Stendhal. Frigging boring. That plot about the ambitious young guy who rises to the top only to find he's morally bankrupt and a total asshole to boot?
Willie: Hey, I mean this as a friend. But have you thought about what you just said? Think about your circumstances for a bit. I could recommend a good psychiatrist. I go all the time.
But I'm talking about something else.
Willie: Celia is moving from conventional life to some sort of cult.
Professor: What sort of cult? (He has stopped brushing down the wall).
Willie: You know. Like Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Have you seen the movie?
Professor: Not yet. it's just out.
Willie: You may turn out the blindfolded piano player at Lief and Celia's cult.
Professor. Willie, you're nuts.
Willie: And I have the paperwork to prove it. But I was a doctor once, as you knew. Mad doctor, mad scientist.
(This is no entirely lost on the professor).
Professor (Still holding the box of dry Lysol) Okay Willie. Explain it to me as if I were a little child.
Willie: Celia was like a nun, though in the clutches of some sort of energy-suckers. She was like a nun looking for grace, looking in all the wrong places, including your place. You didn't have what she was looking for. At least not then. Believe me, good friend. I have been there.
Professor: You mean she's gone? Gone for good?
Willie: No, not gone for good. She was outside last night with the intention of telling your something, that she had been thrown out, but you guys were feuding, so she couldn't properly approach you.
Celia will find grace one day. And you'll be there. But thats so far into the future...
Willie: Well, it looks like we're pretty close to done. I checked upstairs. It was the bathtub of those tenants who got evicted last week. I guess they bathed a baby or something and they forgot to turn off the tub before they left.
Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater! It all fell on your head!
Professor: Not for nothing did My ex-wife call me Col. Sheisskopf.
Willie: Proof is in the puddin'. Ha.
Willie: Oh come on, David. We've both got the blues. Let's put on some B. B. King and have an antidote.
Professor: Yeah, lets.(He moves over to his liquor cabinet) Drink?
Willie: No. Hell no. I'm with A. A. Took the pledge, as you know.
Professor: Come on Willie. One won't hurt you. Just say you had a little wine with your meal (He extends a glass to Willie).
Suddenly, Willie picks up the glass and throws it into a corner.
Professor: What the hell are you doing Willie? I thought you weren't "sick" any more. He goes to extend an open hand to Willie, as if to offer a handshake.
Willie grabs the professor's extended hand, waves it to one side then the other. Waggles the professor's hand.
Willie: Watch it, Professor Jaworski. An Anglo-Saxon can throw you right off balance.
Professor: Don't give me that Masonic mumbo-jumbo. Or is that the way you found out about Celia?
Willie. Sorry. I can't let that happen again. He sits down on the couch. Maybe Celia will find some sort of grace with you after all. You're kind of a priestly bastard. And you have perfect vision. Celia wears contacts. I wear glasses. That's the damn trouble. We can't see very well. So we manipulate.
Professor: You seem to know a lot about Celia.
Willie. No. Just from what you told me.
The professor gulps down his own drink, goes to pick up Willies glass, puts it on the coffee table.
Professor: Want a pop, then?
Willie. I'll take a Coke.
The professor does the honors, has a good shot of Johnny Walker, goes to the stereo and snaps it on. It is B.B. King.
MUSIC IN BACKROUND: Thrill Is Gone, by BB KIng. UP.
The thrill is gone
The thrill is gone away
The thrill is gone baby
The thrill is gone away.
You know you done me wrong baby
And you'll be sorry someday.
The professor pours another drink, while the song goes on.
Willie Safer has picked up two teaspoons and a butter knife and does a fair imitation of a Cirque de Soleil juggler.
The professor goes to turn down the music a bit.
Professor (To Willie) For fuck's sake, stop that. You schizos are such intelligent bastards, but you have a way of throwing people off.
The professor turns the music back up. Willie has put down the cutlery and is now playing air guitar.
Professor: We're all waiting for Godot, you old queer.
Willie: You have a way of spotting that, haven't you?
Professor: Comes with the territory.
Willie.Strange territory. If you only knew.
The music is still on, the BB King cut up and then down to fade.
.....................End Act V, Scene 2