Thursday, May 21, 2009

First There Is A Mountain

So I met this guy at the Enclave. He's a pro singer... and housepainter and whatnot... semi-pro, let's say; the point is he does paid gigs and has for years. I'd like to get into that kind of thing myself and so I'm interested more or less of course. He's recently added acting into his work on stage. And as he told me about that I realized that it sort of sounded like something I'd like to try.

Whereas the whole idea once would have repelled me. Now, yes. I played the boy in The Happy Journey to Camden and Trenton. Also I did the lights (two shows a week in season) for a company of puppeteers and even got lunch money for doing it. A walk-on in Town Theatre's South Pacific. Also I understudied with the lightman on the same show (with a real dimmer board). My Dad was the director and the lightman was my best friend... a "theatre person" in those public school days.

Whereas I just didn't see the attraction at all. Extracurricular activities? Isn't that just like voluntary school? With tryouts?

But I guess I sort of get it now. What I suppose my parents were hoping I'd somehow have picked up on when I was doing the little bit of dabbling I mentioned essentially to please one or both of them: people who can accomplish difficult things by working together get stronger by doing so; also friendships and other social ties develop.

Indeed, it now appears that it's by doing all that stuff I always wanted to avoid that one becomes one of those confident son-of-a-bitches that's always going around grabbing up all the good stuff. Which is something it might have occured to me to want. Anyhow I think I want it now.

I expect there'll have been occasions when people've tried to break this down for me; I expect it's pretty common knowlege. It's certainly understood by, this guy I saw a movie about just a little bit ago, Rafe Esquith.

I was actually moved to tears by this thing. The Hobart Shakespeareans, it's called. Esquith teaches disadvantaged immigrant kids; he recruits a class each year for a special program and shows 'em how school works when you've got a dedicated pro with a free hand leading volunteers. In particular, along with doing all the usual "school" stuff, way better than most of the rest of the kids in the school, his class mounts a production of a Shakespeare play every year—and they take it on the road.

And a lot of the stuff coming out of his mouth was the same stuff you'd hear from the braindeadest lickspittle propaganda drones till you wanna puke: accountability and teamwork and "work hard and play by the rules" and baseball for god sake. But when they say it it's just transparent lies to get you to shut up and lube that grindstone whereas this guy not only means it, he proves it.

"If I could believe that stuff", I say to th' Mad One at this point, "hell, I could be a great teacher!"—but, alas, I do not believe it: I'm about as sure as I ever am of anything that working hard and playing by the rules is generally just another name for Quiet Desperation.

Those "jobs" the kids in these classes are supposed to get better qualified for by taking classes with me? Maybe for one in several dozen. And sure, it's nominally voluntary... nobody's holding a gun. But they don't call 'em required classes for nothing. Mostly it's a giant con game; a trap these kids are in. One I've becomed ashamed to be a part of.

Anyhow, math is all I got; the only thing I'm an expert in. Teaching here ought to also be about how to survive in bureaucracies but it's generally clear on first sight that they'll learn little enough about that from me. I sure can't teach 'em good middle class attitudes like Mister Esquith; I'm a fucking failure for god sake.

Opting out of all the voluntary teamwork I could see my way out of has evidently led me to the sorry pass where all I can see is the tryout—the possibility of rejection—and an uncertain reward. Never ask anybody for anything if you can help it, I always say. Also, "in plans begin disappointments". Stuff like that. So I'm something of a mess.

And I can't see or hear like I did and I forget things a lot quicker and more completely but maybe I'm not a whole lot stupider overall than when I was younger (and reputed pretty bright). And the Mad One is the only close friend I see regularly and indeed I'm sort of a pariah but up in the barracks I have reason to believe I'm, not only generally well-liked, but even cared about and respected and suchlike valuable things... it appears I've retained at least some of the once-ample charm I inherited from both parents.

So, you know, as much as I hate to say it, there may be some thin rays of hope. Which I'm gonna need. Because it appears pretty likely that the little bit of confidence I have gotten back in my winning streak this last few quarters is gonna be enough to get me fired. No good deed...

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