Jack for Jesus

Today Arnold and I met for a late breakfast at the Tyger Cafe in Glen Park. It's become our tradition to meet there and go for a walk. Mostly we laugh a lot, and we talk about our work. Today I was mentioning to him that Ash Fork is on hold, because I want to try making a rough draft of the book out of the raw material I've done on the site. "It's like weaving," I said, "more than narrative. I made some strands and now I'm going to try to build the frame."

"What a great idea," he said. "You could create it like a strand so that the story line could move along different paths depending ..." Well I don't actually know what he said because he lost me, and I had to stop him. "Maybe later on if I keep on working with it, I might get there, but right now I'm challenged by a more simple structure. No matter what, there's always that blank page, and all the great ideas in the world don't fill it up with anything but plans."

That reminded me of one of my basic laws: nothing changes unless you do something you would not ordinarily do. I have other laws, such as:

The meaning of any communication is the response it gets, and there is no other meaning. The impression that there is other meaning is in your head, and is not part of the communication;

The system with the widest parameters is the controlling system, and,

Stupidity is inversely proportional to a tolerance for ambiguity.

"I could just keep it going as an experiment in the potential for developing new neural pathways after age fifty," I said.

"How exactly?"

"Well, I was past fifty and I decided to learn how to play a guitar and sing. So I did a project and documented my beginning stage with Stray Shot. Now I'm at a different level, and I can document that, like, seven years later. The cycle of cellular renewal is seven years, right? And it's the same with Ash Fork. I can keep developing it into new forms.

"I like that. Mostly by the time you're forty, even, you don't start developing something entirely new. But people are living so much longer and in better health, that they have to begin thinking that they now have the opportunity to develop new aspects of themselves."

"I think I like it too. There's no comparison to how happy you can be when you have that fever to learn something new. It's tapping into unused energies. Of course you have to be willing to be the fool for awhile." My business card used to have an image of a coyote man fly fishing. The coyote is one image of the trickster, a variant of the fool. It reminded me that the fool's role is always the first step in learning anything.

I have found that writing gives me a feedback system for my thought process. When I began to write again, after a long break, the copy was loaded with garbage and an inflated self-image. Gradually an editor appeared and began to shape something less self-absorbed.

And with the singing it's even easier. I began with a quote from Eli Wiesel to the effect that you can recognize the Christ because he can sing. "That's a part of myself that has no development at all," I thought. "I sing like I'm being ceremonially butchered."

But it had to be a simple matter of eliminating all the pretenders by having them sing, like the prince with the slipper on the trail of Cinderella. There is a saloon full of pretenders in the head of a writer, and I began to drive out the demons, searching for the pure heart. I had always practiced the Professor Harold Hill school of music, where you just think about it and can do it. I am still throwing them out onto the street. There is only one left.

"Sing," I demand.

He opens his mouth and from it pour notes of such purity and honesty that I am stricken with an emotional paralysis. "That's enough." My voice is a croak. My corporality becomes overwhelming.

He smiles. "Maybe a little whisky would tone it down."

I signal to the bartender. "A double shot of Jack for Jesus."

Posted: Wed - February 7, 2007 at 02:21 PM