Tag Archives: Tell My Bones: The Helen LaFrance Story

Weepy Kind of Morning

I’m gonna leave here soon to make that drive farther out into the country to that veterinarian’s office. He made a little clay paw print of Daddycakes for me and it’s ready for me to pick up.

Daddycakes died over 2 weeks ago already, and his death was so slow and awful that all I felt for several days was just stress. Horrible stress. Even after he was euthanized, I just felt so much stress. When the stress finally subsided, I never went into any type of true grief mode. I had to focus on writing the novel because I need to have it off to a publisher before we start rehearsals for my play this summer, whenever Sandra arrives here from New York and says “let’s begin.”

And as an aside – it is always a huge question mark when Sandra will reply to texts. She’s a working actress and is always working. So I never know when she will find 4 seconds to reply. And the worst is when she suddenly decides to FaceTime me without any warning and I have to take the call because I need some sort of vital information from her but I haven’t washed my hair in, like, 17 days, or something horrible like that. (Please, people!! Don’t FaceTime me!!)

Anyway, on Sunday morning, at 5am, I was lying in my bed in the dark, thinking about life, and suddenly an eerie light filled one corner of my room. It was coming from my iPhone. So I looked at it and there was the text I needed from Sandra. Giving me the information the director had been waiting on for over a week.

I wanted to text right back, but I knew she was in her quiet place. She was probably downstairs in her great room, off the kitchen. The room is so tranquil and surrounded by huge windows, looking out at trees. She was probably the only one awake in the whole, quiet house, with the sun just barely coming up at the edge of the sky, and she was probably just sitting there, thinking about her own life and finally decided to text me. I wanted her to have that solitude for as long as possible.

Anyway.

So. This morning I woke up to a rainy little spring morning, birds singing, the cats playing merrily on the floor around my bed, wanting me to get up and feed them. And that’s when it finally struck me that I was going to make that journey this morning in the rain and all that is left of my wonderfully compassionate stray cat, Daddycakes, is a clay paw print.

It just felt sad.

And from there I have to go to the Honda dealership to get that required maintenance done on my leased car. That always takes hours.  I’m bringing along the script for Burn This by Lanford Wilson, because the play is in a revival now on Broadway and I want to refresh my memory.

I don’t understand why people decide to revive such iconic classics. I really don’t. I’m sure that whoever is in it currently does a great job but no one on Earth can be John Malkovich except John Malkovich. (I know, I know; theater is a living, evolving thing and doesn’t ever stop in time and many, many men have taken on the role since then, but still; when someone nails it so extraordinarily the first time, why permit it to live again? Let’s put it into a special vault in Heaven or something.)

One bright spot in the day, though, is that my Honda Fit’s lease is almost over. And I’m trying to figure out what I want to do next. And there are a couple of used Hellcat’s for sale at that particular Honda dealership that I can actually afford. (See my blog post, “To Heaven in a Hellcat”, that mentions my dream car here.) So I’m gonna try to figure out if I actually want to own my dream car, or if I’d rather go another 3 years without having to worry about any maintenance whatsoever and just lease another Honda Fit.

Either way, it’ll feel good to dream. My brain needs a break.

Then I’ll come home and work on Blessed By Light some more because Chapter 20 is almost done!

All right, gang. I hope you have a sweet and gentle day out there, wherever you are in the world! Thanks for visiting. Today I leave you with this. I think I played it about 40 times, repeatedly, as I was out driving around in the wilderness yesterday. Such a mesmerizing song. Okay. I love you, gang. See ya!

JESUS OF THE MOON

Stepped out of the St. James hotel
And I left you behind curled up like a child
A change is gonna come
And as the door whispered shut
I walked on down the high-windowed hall

You lay sleeping on the unmade bed
The weatherman on the television in the St. James hotel said

That the rains are gonna come
And I stepped out on the streets
All sparkling clean with the early morning dew

Maybe it was you or maybe it was me?
You came on like a punch in the heart
Lying there with the light on your hair
Like a Jesus of the moon
A Jesus of the planets and the stars

Well, I kept thinking about what the weatherman said
And if the voices of the living can be heard by the dead
Well, the day is gonna come when we find out
And in some kind of way I take a little comfort from that
Now and then

Cause people often talk about being scared of change
But for me I’m more afraid of things staying the same
Cause the game is never won
By standing in any one place
For too long

Maybe it was you or maybe it was me?
But there was a chord in you that I could not find to strike
You lying there with all the light in your hair
Like a Jesus of the moon
A Jesus of the planets and the stars

I see the many girls walking down the empty streets
Maybe once or twice one of them smiles at me
You can’t blame anyone for saying hello
I say hey
I say hello, I say hello

Will it be me or will it be you?
One must stay and one must depart
You lying there in the St. James hotel bed
Like a Jesus of the moon
A Jesus of the planets and the stars

I say hello… hello… hello…

c – 2008 Nick Cave

He Is Risen – The Cat, I Mean

I know, it’s sacrilegious, especially the day before Good Friday. But I’m an ordained minister, gang. Jesus already knows full well that I’m full of sacrilege. (Hence, I have no church of my own; no flock to lead. And not ever likely to get one.)

First, though, I need to tell you that late last evening, the director was finally able to get back to me about my revisions for the staged reading script for Tell My Bones.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog no doubt recall that for 2 months, I labored over how best to take the director’s comments and not only revise my overall play, but also trim it down to under 30 minutes for the upcoming staged readings in Rhinebeck and NYC. And by “labored over,” I mean that I was truly near tearing my hair out. I really struggled.

But I was finally able to get the revisions to him, right on schedule, late last week. And last night he wrote and told me that it was “captivating”, while staying true to my original script and that he loved it. And that now we have to begin.

So that truly excited me, gang. “Captivating” is quite a cool and entirely unexpected word. It gave me those butterflies down in my tummy! It’s the beginning, now, of such a very long process: 3 staged readings in the NYC area, then it transfers to Florida, for a staged reading there (and hopefully an actual run of the play), before it transfers back to NYC, Off-Broadway. We’re literally looking at years (plus, multiply that whole scenario by the other play we’ll be doing in Toronto) — it is a long, drawn-out process, indeed. But I am so excited, and so happy. I’ve already been working on both these plays (with/for Sandra Caldwell) for 7 years.

Anyway, the part about Daddycakes being “risen”…

I awoke this morning around 6 a.m. I turned over in bed and saw Doris sitting in the open window, looking out at the dark street (there is a screen, btw), and right next to her was Daddycakes, standing with his two front paws on the window sill, also looking out at the street.

He was really there, gang. I really saw him. Of course when I looked away for a moment and looked back, he was gone. But I could tell his spirit was free now and that he was visiting us, part of his little clan again.

It really made me feel peaceful. I could feel it intensely – that his spirit was so free now and happy.

When each of my past cats has died, they always, without fail, make one final visitation to me from beyond, to let me know that everything in their new world is okay. Usually I only hear them or feel, but this time I saw Daddycakes. I really did. It was so lovely. To see him happy there, with his daughter.

Okay. I’m gonna get started around here today, gang. Gotta get back to Blessed By Light. The editor, and the edits, are almost done and I will soon be getting started on new chapters. Only about 80 pages to go and the novel will be complete.

Have a wonderful Thursday, wherever you are in the world. Thanks for visiting! I love you, gang. See ya.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering yesterday why on earth I had one lonely CD of Anne Murray’s amongst all that Nick Cave and Tom Petty stuff, here’s why! Listen and enjoy, folks!! This is such an addictive song!)

 

 

 

It Was One of those Nights

I awoke at 2 a.m. and could not fall back to sleep until 3:30. Primarily thinking about Daddycakes and feeling like I didn’t do enough to save him and wondering if he was somewhere in the afterlife, angry at me for letting him die when he should have been in the prime of his kitty life.

It’s just so different when you’re dealing with rescued feral cats. They make the rules, because they are wild animals, and then you — or me actually; I am the one who has to try to figure out if I step aside and let them have their own connection to God’s world, or do I try to intervene somehow and make a decision about life and death?

Playing God, basically.  It got to the point where the cat was simply suffering too much and my heart couldn’t handle it so I had him put to sleep.

Then of course, by feeling guilty for the decisions I made regarding him, it means I think I am God: I should have known better, or I should have known more about that cat’s life or death and the quality of it or lack of it, and just done all sorts of different things that I can’t even imagine at this point.

Honestly, how can we possibly know those things?  We make those kinds of decisions through whatever filters we have in our brains that tell us we have answers to these sorts of questions and that’s not really saying very much at all. Because we don’t know how to create life; we know how to do away with it. We simply make a decision. And that’s not saying anything at all, in the scope of what is nonphysical, I mean.

Well, I finally made myself stop thinking about Daddycakes, and instead decided to worry about the novel.

I went to the grocery store late yesterday afternoon – always an investment of time because I live in the middle of the country and the grocery store is about 4 towns away.

It was a glorious spring day. It really was. The countryside was turning that tiny spring green.  Birds everywhere. Daffodils blooming in the most unlikely places. (And you know that a person had to plant those; daffodils don’t just spring up in the middle of nowhere along the highway. And that makes me love people, because I know I’m one of the passing strangers for which those daffodils were joyfully planted.) And all along the way, the farms had all their little baby calves out now, finding their footing in the green pastures.

It was just so beautiful. A testament to the renewal of life.

I’m guessing I was listening to something by Nick Cave, but I don’t recall what. It’s always either Nick Cave or Tom Petty. My little Honda fit is overflowing with CDs by either Nick Cave or Tom Petty and one single CD of Anne Murray’s Greatest Hits. (Inside my house is another story. In there, the world overflows with music of every possible stripe and persuasion. But for some reason, none of that makes it out to the car.)

(And to see me getting into the car is ridiculous: “Oh my god, what I am going to listen to?” If I’m going to the Dollar Store, it’s a 3-minute trip and the music is not so crucial. But everywhere else I go to from here in the middle of nowhere, is a journey. It requires a soundtrack. If I’m going far, far away, like to NY, then it’s hands down Tom Petty’s LIVE Anthology, because traveling on Interstate 80 is intensely American and so you need that American rock & roll; 3-minute awesome songs about falling in love or falling out of love, or chasing a dream and that’s basically it. It could not be better or more clear cut.

(But other journeys require Nick Cave, but he can be so dicey because you never know when he’s going to throw you under the fucking bus. Which is what I love about his writing, but it can get harrowing. You can be driving along at 95 MPH, which is what I tend to do out here on these highways, listening to “Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?” and at first you’re thinking, man what a song. Then the next minute, you have to pull over, grab your revolver from out of the glove compartment and shoot yourself because it’s just too fucking horribly SAD.

(Or, I guess, you can just turn the music off. But that’s the dilemma: you’re on a  journey that requires a soundtrack; you’re not supposed to turn it off. So I’ll sit there in the driver’s seat, engine on, looking at all the CDs and trying to figure out which one will not cause me to  want to shoot myself while going 95 mph?  Sometimes I sit there for several minutes, not going anywhere and driving myself insane.)

Anyway, I get to the grocery store, and in the parking lot, I get a message on my phone from the editor in NYC who is editing my novel, Blessed By Light.

She sends me updates, chapter by chapter, because it’s much easier to manage that way. And while all her comments thus far have been very positive, this particular message says: “This chapter kicks ass. Kudos.” Followed by comments on the next chapter: “Excellent chapter. He seems distraught, guilty, tired. Beautifully written.”

And while this made me feel good in the grocery store parking lot, at 3 a.m., alone in my bed in the guilt-ridden dark, all it did was make me wonder about the previous chapters, which were only “good”. Shouldn’t they all kick ass? Shouldn’t they all be beautifully written? Should I start all over from scratch? Am I a total failure now? I used to be a good writer.

You know, I start to doubt my sense of pacing, my sense of building a story arc, my sense of anything at all because I’ve suddenly forgotten what reality is even for. If I ever even knew, I mean.

Death does that to you. Even tiny little furry deaths.

Well, it’s another glorious spring day here in the Hinterlands. I’m going to give it all another shot and see how this day turns out.  As usual, no guarantees but I am tying so hard to be happy.  I have a wonderful novel in progress, that is sometimes good and sometimes it kicks ass.  I need to count my blessings today.

Have a good Wednesday, wherever you are in the world.  Thanks for visiting. I love you, gang. And I leave you with this! See ya.

 

All the World’s A Page!!

Yes, I completed the revisions for the staged reading version of my play, Tell My Bones, and sent them off to the director yesterday!

And right on the heels of that, the first round of edits for my new novel-in-progress, Blessed By Light, arrived in my inbox from the editor! And the comments are all positive.

Yay. So I’m finally going to be able to get back to work on the book, starting today. I’m excited. I really am not that far from completing it. I’ll work on it until the next round of re-writes are needed on the play.

In sadder news…

One of my little furry guys is not at all well. I’m not sure he’s going to make it. I am indeed very sad about that.

He’s the daddy of the colony of ferals I rescued 7 years ago. Well, I rescued 3 ferals – a brother and 2 sisters. But they were a super incestuous little bunch and the sisters had kittens in my basement after I trapped them. The 3 ferals were about 6 months old at that point.

Due to huge cutbacks in funding for the animal rescue shelters that particular spring, I wound up with a colony of cats that were absolutely feral and unadoptable and no one would take them. (2 of the male kittens were adoptable and found good homes.)

That’s the short version of why I have so many cats in my house that hate people. It has, at times, been difficult to live with a colony of feral cats. But they are beautiful, and usually quite healthy. And the all-powerful Cat God seems to think that these many scampering happy cats are indeed a blessing to me.

I constantly revise what I consider a blessing in this life. So that’s good. Anyway. Here’s Daddycakes in healthier times.

Daddycakes Lewis. King of the infamous Lewis Cat Colony!

Okay, gang! Off I go now to work on the novel.  Thanks for visiting. Have a terrific Friday, wherever you are in the world. I love you guys! See ya.

Makin’ A Joyful Noise!!

Yay!! The revisions on the play (Tell My Bones) are just about done! Finally!

I should have them completed by the time the director and I are actually in the same room, sometime next week.

I had a brief phone chat with Sandra Caldwell yesterday (the actress I write for in NYC), and I tried to discuss the changes I’ve been making, based on the director’s notes, and she said, “Mm hmm. Well, just let me see everything when you’re done — and don’t get rid of your original version.”

There’s something really invigoratingly enthusiastic about that, don’t you think??!! Ah, well, gang. We shall see!!

It’s overcast here today but it’s gonna go up to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so I’ve already got some windows open, and I’ve got a CAT at every window, listening to all those birds singing like mad.

And at the back of my house, the starlings have indeed returned. They are keeping intact the damage they did to my gutter last year buy building more nests in it this year.

(No, I did not get it fixed last fall because my lawn guy was going to fix it (for free) but said, “You gotta clear out all those old nests first. They’re combustible.  You don’t want to seal that soffit until all that stuff is out of there.” And in what Universe — with all these constant writing deadlines that I’ve been under for the last year — would a gal like me, a ladder-less gal, I might add, have time to clean old starling nests out of soffits over my backdoor? So, no it didn’t happen, and yes, the starlings are pleased as punch and are moving right back in…!)

Anyway. Spring is here!! And as soon as I grab a minute away from my desk, I’m gonna go out there and, I don’t know, appreciate it or something!

Have a wonder-filled Saturday, folks, wherever you are in the world! Thanks for visiting! I love you! See ya!

Life, in General

Except for the fact that I wasn’t a little boy when I was growing up (unlike one of my closest female friends and colleagues), that little illustration above pretty much shows you my entire childhood.

At every possible moment, I was listening to records. And usually on one of those small portable record players pictured there. And even while that is a very isolating — well, I don’t know if that’s the best word; maybe a word like solitary is more appropriate — even though it was solitary, those were the happiest years of my life. Truly.

Even the process  of  “listening to records” nowadays has changed drastically, of course. I have a record player,  but I almost never play it. I usually just stream stuff off the Internet in one way or another.  And I play a lot of CDs in my kitchen or in my car. But it’s just not the same thing. At all.

The way of living life that I used to love is simply long gone.  I’m not trying to reclaim the past, or to live in it (yeah, I know — I bought a house that’s 118 years old, with a really cool old barn that’s 108 years old, and it’s in a tiny village in Ohio that’s close to 200 years old, and I interact with the long-dead spirits here on a daily basis; however, I do not consider any of this as living in the past! I think of it more as “sharing the different levels of reality,” or co-existing in something virtual.).

Anyway. Big digression. Sorry.

I don’t need to live in the past, but I do crave a certain simplicity. I guess that’s why I fell in love with Muskingum County and moved here. Even though it makes traveling a colossal headache.  Just getting to the nearest International airport takes an hour. I realize that when I lived in NYC for 3 decades, it took at least an hour if not more to get to either airport, but here in Muskingum County, if you want a car service to do the driving for you (as I usually preferred in NYC), it’s about $175 before the tip. So life is not quite as “simple,” living in the peaceful middle of nowhere, as it might seem.

I’m bringing all this up because I’m going to have to start traveling again in the near future and probably not stop for a long time. NYC, Toronto, Florida, and LA.  Because of the theater projects, the TV projects, and then the micro-short films and (hopefully) the music projects with Peitor. It’s all good; I’m not complaining. It’s just that there’s something still down inside me that would prefer to sit in my room and listen to records…

However. Yesterday, I continued to make great headway in the revision of the Tell My Bones script. I am almost done.  Which is, like, a really good thing because I need to meet with the director in something like 6 days.

Nothing like waiting until the final moment to get your fucking shit together.  I don’t know why it has been so difficult for me to take a 90-minute play and condense it down to a 30-minute staged reading.  Sounds so easy in the abstract, yet doing it on paper has been unbelievably hard for me. I don’t know why. But I will be so relieved when it is done. Or at least a draft of it is ready to show people.

And next week, I expect feedback on the chapters I have so far in my new novel, Blessed By Light, because I want to get that project completed, too. I really thought I’d have that novel done by Christmas, but au contraire; everything else in the world happened instead. I’m eager to see what the feedback from the editor will be, though. It is such an unusual book for me to be writing – the life of an aging rock star told in 2nd Person, from a male POV; the eroticism of his inner world, of his memories, and then the redemption of his life.

I still don’t know why I’m writing it, but I do really love the book. I can’t wait to be able to really focus on it again.

Well, on that note, gang, I’m gonna tackle the revision of Tell My Bones now. Inching my way toward the finish line.

Have a wonderful day, wherever you are in the world. I leave you with the songs I’m listening to, although not on my record player, as I yearn for that simpler world I used to have:

Sun Kil Moon’s new album, I Also Want to Die in New Orleans

And Grinderman’s Go Tell the Women from 2007

Okey-doke! Thanks for visiting! I love you. See ya!

You Remember THIS Guy, Don’t’cha??!!

Yeah, baby! He’s the little weasel of love!

That cute little furry thing that gets down deep into your intestines and scurries around in there, gnawing on stuff and filling you with anxiety, when all the while you’re wondering , truly, what on earth IS the human race? And more importantly, what IS love?

This time of year, I do the Lenten prayers every morning before I even get out of bed. And I recently began doing the daily lessons of A Course in Miracles again, too. Also before I even get out of bed. These two practices, in some ways, give you polar opposite approaches to the teachings of Jesus Christ, although the Lenten prayers I practice come from the Franciscans, who are decidedly open-minded and philosophical, so there are underlying similarities to the two, as well.

Loyal readers of this lofty blog know that I am an ordained minister; I got through Evangelical Divinity School with a magna cum laude gpa; that I was raised by an adoptive family in Cleveland who were strict, conservative Jews and so I hid my devotion to Jesus until I was 14 years old; that I’m also deeply interested in the history of ancient Christianity, primarily First Century followers of the Jesus Movement. Normally, the history of Christianity and the theology of Christianity make for exceedingly strange bedfellows.

And since I normally sleep in the same bed with myself, you can imagine just how strange I am. All of this is a constant tumble in my head. Sometimes sending me barreling into absolute insanity.

But I take it all really seriously: the human condition; these multiple layers of reality that reveal wildly different suggestions of what’s really going on here. And of course, and more importantly, I constantly ponder the existence beyond this present one — this one that oddly seems so real.

Love is currently side-lining me again, as usual. And so I’ve been pondering the nature of love. I sat at my breakfast table this morning, listening to The Boatman’s Call on the CD player. (WARNING: Do NOT do this if you are sitting alone at your breakfast table at 6am, pondering the nature of love!! Just don’t do it!! Turn it off!)

So I turned it off. A word to the wise is sufficient.  I could not let the situation at hand get so far as song #4 on the CD, which is Brompton Oratory, or I would probably grab a butter knife and saw helplessly at my wrists… (Brompton Oratory is such a fucking beautiful song that I would only advise listening to it when you’re having one of those days where absolutely nothing matters to you at all. Otherwise, you will never live through it. Listening to the song, that is.)

Anyway. I digress.

I came to the conclusion — a conclusion I’ve come to before, btw, but this time it loomed huge and undeniable in my awareness: love is only and always a reflection of what you are putting out there. What you put out there and how you are feeling at any given moment, is just getting reflected right back at you.  Because what you perceive is always filtered through you and always projected through you and always interpreted through you.

So when you love somebody, or an animal, or a pet spider, or an entire movement of some sort, that feeling of love you get in return is really all about how you love yourself. At the very bottom line, that’s what it is. The love you think you’re sending out into the world (and of course, you are actually doing that) is all about how you are loving yourself. It has little to do with the “other.”

What it does have to do with the “other,” in my opinion, is that we are all coming from the very same starting point within the creation of energy itself — once you dig down deep enough, go back far enough, remove enough of the layers of what we consider reality.

So, yes, that means that I believe that to love each other means we are, in the truest sense, loving ourselves.  And that’s why I believe so strongly in forgiveness, too. We don’t really forgive others, we forgive ourselves.

So that’s what I was thinking about this morning.  And I felt kind of good about that; the idea that everything that’s coming back at me, even when I find it inexplicable on its surface, is just telling me a little more about how I love myself.

And yesterday, gang.  I finally made some needed headway on the revisions of the play! (Tell My Bones, which both Sandra and the director are patiently awaiting in NYC.) Thank you, God. I still have a ways to go, but that really troublesome spot I’d been languishing in for a few weeks already  is finally behind me! Yay. I am well into the midway point, but I was at it for 8 solid hours yesterday — and I am talking about 8 hours, primarily focused on 2 pages. And once I finally conquered those 2 pages, I got through 4 more before I had to call it a day.

The backs of my hands were aching and the back of my neck was in spasms from being hunched over this crazy laptop for so long yesterday. But then I did yoga while focusing very spiritually on reruns of the Dick Van Dyke Show and LMAO, and that seems to have taken care of  all the joint and muscle pains. And we will begin the process all over here today until the revision of this play is done.

So I guess life is good.  And thanks for visiting! Gang, I leave you with this, but DON’T watch it if you’re on the borderline of anything emotionally dicey! Otherwise I cannot be held responsible.  Okay, I love you! See ya!

Up those stone steps I climb
Hail this joyful day’s return
Into its great shadowed vault I go
Hail the Pentecostal morn

The reading is from Luke 24
Where Christ returns to his loved ones
I look at the stone apostles
Think that it’s alright for some

And I wish that I was made of stone
So that I would not have to see
A beauty impossible to define
A beauty impossible to believe

A beauty impossible to endure
The blood imparted in little sips
The smell of you still on my hands
As I bring the cup up to my lips

No God up in the sky
No devil beneath the sea
Could do the job that you did, baby
Of bringing me to my knees

Outside I sit on the stone steps
With nothing much to do
Forlorn and exhausted, baby
By the absence of you

c – 1997 Nick Cave