I believe in government. How could I not.
Government is what we all accomplish together. It’s not one sect or another. It’s not this community or that. It’s all of us. Working together for the common good.
It sickens me that there is such naysaying about government, and such little attention (and even less funding) to public works – the physical expression of what we can do together for each other.
Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about the 606 – Chicago’s new 2.7 mile elevated bike/running/walking trail. Last night I walked the trail, and this morning I biked it four times back and forth.
Wow. Elevated above the city and winding through city neighborhoods, it’s a zen paradise in the midst of urban madness. The 606 has become my favorite new Chicago destination, and I plan on trekking of biking it on every visit.
We need more public works. We need old infrastructure repaired and we need new visions, like the 606, realized.
Congratulations, Chicago. Do more. Let’s hope we all do more.
This afternoon I attended a one hour talk-back session with our state representative, Todd Novak. The topic was the egregious education policy changes written into the proposed Wisconsin state budget, poised for approval by the state legislature. This budget will effectively transfer millions of dollars of tax dollars from public to private education, stripping public schools of desperately needed funds, and filling the coffers of for-profit private enterprises that are currently universally religious in nature.
Approximately thirty concerned citizens attended, including parents and administrators and school board members from a number of schools in this legislative district. Not one person spoke in favor of the proposed changes. The attendees came armed with facts and figures, detailing exactly how much money each school in the district stood to lose as public funds, collected locally, flow to private schools located outside our district. These private schools will also, according to the policy written into the ‘budget’, not have to answer to any standards or tests, which are required of the public schools. They can teach anything they want. They can teach nothing at all. They have to follow no standards.
Add to this the unimaginable proposal to eliminate even minimal requirements for teachers, and you have a clusterfuck of major proportion. The current proposal before the legislature would allow anyone to teach, without any teacher training, without a bachelor degree, hell – even without a high school degree. This proposal has made Wisconsin the laughing stock of the country, even the world. Rep. Novak said that the language for this section of the budget is being ‘pulled back’ because there has been some outrage over it – but it’s only being pulled back in part.
It was a wretched way to spend an hour – tormenting oneself with the harsh realities of what a Republican governor and a Republican State Senate and a Republican State Assembly want to do to public education in this state.
But the worst of it was not the endless list of calamities that this legislation will inflict, bad as they are. What offended me the most was Rep. Novak saying, no less than eighteen times in one hour: “Unfortunately, the train has left the station …” And then he would shrug, and smile and pretend to commiserate with the parents and educators who universally – to the very last person in the room – opposed the proposed changes that promise to eviserate public education in this state.
The train has left the station.
And with this glib statement, Rep. Novak washed his hands, again and again and again, of the problem. When an attendee challenged his hiding behind this phrase toward the end of the hour long meeting, he intoned that he only meant to say that the move toward privatization in education started before he was elected to the Assembly, and that it’s not going to be stopped now. His response was hardly a response at all. It doesn’t matter whether this travesty was initiated ten years ago or ten minutes ago – shrugging your shoulders and meekly smiling is not an acceptable answer to a constituency that is outraged by the back-door dealings of private school profiteers and legislators in Madison.
We deserve a better answer. We deserve a better state representative – one who will represent us and not simply vote the party line. We deserve (our children deserve) better schools.
By now I've used up every possible excuse for not writing. It's simply to time to give up, pick up a keyboard and go to work.
My most recent excuse is that my 3 year old Surface PC died, and I do my "best" writing in bed with my mini-computer, or at the doghouse with same. Well, now I have a new Lenovo mini-computer (much better than that frigging Surface, which is shit, in spite of what the ads say) - and I've downloaded all the software I need and got it all set up.
So what am I waiting for?
This is Monday. Tomorrow is Tuesday. Tomorrow I start a regimen of writing every morning, first thing when I wake up.
We'll see if it works. It did before. It might again.
Life itself. A flower. A moment. A heartbeat. They all have an end.
This weekend ends the run of my three month association with a fine, fine crew of artists who collaborated on Death of a Salesman. And I admit no small element of distress. When one is embraced in a luxurious blanket of creativity by a cadre of artists who are universally generous and talented and kind, well, it's just not the sort of thing you want to end.
There's only one thing to do. Well - two things, actually. First, enjoy the hell out of this last weekend. Second, hope that around some unforeseen corner there might lie another opportunity as rich and fulfilling as this one has been.
Thanks Matt, Chris, Ned, Paula, Jaimie, Jordan, Chris, Joshua, Joe, Jo, Katie.
Spoiler alert: I am not going to kill myself.
But as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, every night I have to crawl into that dark hole. I have to take the time before the lights dim, to commit to the idea that I, Willy Loman, am going to kill myself.
I've always intellectually understood suicide. I've experienced it as a family member and friend of others who have committed suicide. But it's never been part of my DNA. I'm in favor of assisted suicide for the terminally ill (that makes sense to me, (rather than a prolonged and pointless suffering). But personally - I really, really like breathing and all that comes with it. The laughter, the tears, the pain, the pleasure.
Death of a Salesman is a three hour play. I need at least two hours before the performance to prepare, and at least two hours after to decompress. That adds up to seven hours every performance night that I am wallowing in contemplation of my (Willy's) suicide.
Ultimately even Willy is only able to make the commitment by lying to himself - by convincing himself that his death will benefit his favored son. Every night, Willy walks resolutely off to his own demise, simultaneously pleased and disturbed, proud and afraid of the decision he has made.
From the first line of the first scene, Willy is considering his own death. That colors the delivery and shape of every word Willy speaks, every event and person he dredges up from his imagination and memory, every reaction he has to what happens around and to him.
I guess I'm not making this sound like a 'fun' performance to attend - and fun is not really what we are aiming at. And yet - there is an exhilaration that comes from exploring so intimately the darkest thoughts of this iconic American stage character. And my fellow actors are so good - they push and push and push back at me (at Willy). Every night they make me see a line, a word, a scene in a different light.
It's a hell of an experience.
If you are lucky, you get to work with people who are better than you.
It's intimidating, sure. It can even be a bit depressing, to think (or know) that you aren't quite up to their remarkable standards. But it's only when you work with people better than you, that you get the opportunity to really stretch yourself. To push way beyond boundaries you didn't even know you had.
That's what working on Death of a Salesman has been like to me. In particular, Jamie England and Jordan Peterson. Jesus Christ, these animals can act. I've learned so much from them, and each night they challenge me to dig deeper.
I'm still digging. They're still challenging. We've three weeks to go.
Marathoners have a name for it: HITTING THE WALL.
I hadn't experienced it, having only run 5k or 10k races before. But sure enough, somewhere around mile 18, I hit my wall. my legs were still somehow going forward but my body had collapsed inwards. I couldn't get any air. There wasn't any strength in my muscles. Nothing was working.
But then mile 19 came anyway. And then 20. 21. 22 ... And the wall had disappeared.
Our Monday night rehearsal was my Willy Loman wall. I couldn't explain it. My energy reserves were empty. My mind was Swiss cheese. I felt terrible.
But then there was Tuesday night. Just like mile 20. And everything was fine.
Actors hit walls too, apparently - especially when running a marathon like Death of a Salesman.
We're going to be okay. We're crossing that damn finish line, with our arms raised and our eyes wide open. And if you are there to cheer us on, you won't be disappointed.
I used to run. Anyone who knew me in my youth would have been surprised. Hell, I was surprised. But in my thirties (and forties) I discovered running. I started with a 2 mile run, and within a year, I did my first marathon.
There's something about the knowledge that the finish line is coming up that is somehow better than the finish line itself. There's that anticipation of completion. There's the knowledge that all the hours and days and weeks of preparation were for something. There's the certainty of a personal success, as measured by, well ... crossing the damned finish line.
So. Willy Loman. Here we come. I'm not at the finish line yet. But I'm getting closer. Line by line. Scene by scene. Act by Act.
April 24. The finish line. Or ... is it the starting line? After all - this show runs for four weeks.
I fell in love with Susan Cantrell. On April 1, 1972, we married, and a year later, we had out son, Jordan Gilchrist.
I am angry at her for dying almost a year ago. She should be here still. As she lay dying, she said she had accomplished and done everything she ever wanted to do. Maybe. But the rest of us wanted more of her. One more day. One more year. One more decade. One more laugh. One more story. One more visit. One more phone call. One more letter. One more book.
Our marriage only lasted three years, but our love for each other lasted a lifetime. For Susan, that was another 39 years. My love for her still burns and always will.
Random thoughts about the news of the day, or walks in the woods