Pandemic Accomplishments: Eleven Months In

A pandemic isn’t a bad thing for a writer – health assumed. The waiting and silence works well for honing character and narrative; at least that’s what I tell myself. And so, yes, I’ve done some writing, although not as much as I should have.

After a devastating experience with an editor, I am now halfway through a long, hard draft of Anori. Other projects – Baller, Wave That Flag & Mina – are simmering.

The blogging has been consistent not only in the number of posts (over 140) but in the content, finding focus on the writing process, especially my past writing attempts.

I’ve got new knees – and six months of PT under my belt along with some extra weight. (Is that an accomplishment?) I’ve read a number of books and seen many films of varying quality. And I got a job that will last until the summer.

The chilly yet picturesque setting of my present residence in Newport, Rhode Island.

Finally, I’ve reached Level 2564 of Fishdom, although that interest is waning at last.

Pandemic Accomplishments: Week 18

I can now walk on my two new knees. There’s a long way to go, but rehab is in full swing and I’ve been able to get up the two flights of stairs to the roof.

I read John Elder Robinson’s Look Me in the Eye, an autobiography of someone living with Asperger’s Syndrome when there was such diagnosis. I knew I was some kind of misfit, but it was becoming apparent that some of the grown-ups who smiled sweetly and told me how terrible and fucked up I was were complete fuck-ups themselves.

I gained momentum on the writing front, mostly with these blogs, and plan to re-work Baller and Wave That Flag next week. Part three of The Cx Trilogy, Mina, awaits.

I reached Level 1208 of Fishdom, which means that I got through Level 1193, a level where bonus bombs, lightning and dynamite basically offer no help at all. 30+ attempts and I was finally moving on.

Tree-Planting is Everything

EXT. DAY.

Davis and Baz bag up in the pre-dawn light; the horizon is purple and green. They both ingest mushrooms and take a long drink of water before going up to plant the burned ground together. Clouds of ash rise up as they begin to work. A montage series offers close-ups of the shovel blades going into the ground, the trees gripped in their hands, boots tramping over the burned-out ground, interspersed with helicopter shots of them, tiny figures in the massive dominating landscape of mountains and valleys.

DAVIS (Not stopping): Feeling it?

BAZ: Feeling it.

DAVIS: It’s good.

Montage of close-ups continues, including extreme close-up of the bright blue tape tied off on a branch, beetles scampering along the edge of a burn-out twisted stump, an abandoned chainsaw blade twisted among the weeds, a woodpecker perched on a tree at the edge of the block, sweat dripping off the nose and chin of Davis, a mosquito landing and stinging Baz on the shoulder, ending with a hard slap. They stop, look at each other, drink water, move their trees from the back bag to the side, and continue planting.

DISSOLVE TO:

EXT. DAY.

Davis and Baz continue to plant. The sound of their heavy breathing, scuffing boots and cicadas are the only sounds. They reach the back edge of the block and a band of shade, planting the very edge of the road like experts, the trees rapidly dropped in. They pause in the shadows, each eating nuts and dried fruit, drinking in heavy gulps that spill down their necks.

DAVIS: I almost like this.

BAZ: Almost.

DAVIS: There’s something….

BAZ: Being an animal.

DAVIS: A burrowing creature, like a…badger.

BAZ: Digging.

DAVIS: Bringers of life.

BAZ: At 11 cents a tree.

They both laugh stupidly, looking at each other, and then go back to planting.

BAZ: I could never work at a desk.

DAVIS: Why would anyone do that? Insane.

BAZ: Look at my arm.

DAVIS (Looking at his dirty, ash-stained arm): I see it.

BAZ: Why is that part of me?

DAVIS: It’s crooked.

BAZ (Examining it): No, it isn’t.

DAVIS: I’m not saying that like it’s a bad thing.

BAZ: It isn’t crooked.

DAVIS (Holding his arm out): Mine is too!

BAZ: You’re right. Your arm’s fucked up.

DAVIS: It isn’t fucked up.

BAZ (Taking a tree, rubbing the needles gently through his hand): My point is that this arm is mine. It’s a part of who I am supposed to be.

DAVIS: Extremities.

BAZ: My brain commands, the electric impulses obey.

DAVIS: You’re just in your head? The master commander.

BAZ: Not even that. It’s a tiny point in the back. Or just outside, floating in the darkness.

DAVIS: That’s you?

BAZ (Planting again): Yes.

DAVIS (Following him, planting too): What about your nose?

BAZ: I don’t have a problem with my nose.

BAZ (Throwing his shovel in hard): That makes sense to me.

DAVIS: Your nipples.

BAZ: Nipples. Yeah.

DAVIS: What the fuck are you doing with nipples?

BAZ: I like nipples.

DAVIS: Your nipples?

BAZ: Yes.

DAVIS: You find that erotic.

BAZ: And my throat.

DAVIS: I don’t like that word.

BAZ: Throat. Man, I love a chick’s throat.

DAVIS: You mean her neck.

BAZ: No. Throat. That’s erotic.

They plant in silence, the sound of their shovels pronounced against the stillness of the day.

DAVIS (Reciting Hamlet, II, II, 228-331):What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in… Something or other. I forget… in apprehension how like a god… and yet to me, this quintessence of dust.

There is a long pause, the shovels once again the only sound.

BAZ  (Reciting lines from Ginsberg’s Howl in a deep and booming voice):Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch in whom I dream angels!Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! Invincible mad houses! Granite cocks!

There is another long pause.

DAVIS (Unwrapping packets of trees): Granite cocks?

BAZ (Planting ahead, chanting):Invincible mad houses, granite cocks. Invincible mad houses, granite cocks!

Davis starts planting again and joins in the chant, done in chorus with their boot steps, the shovels in the ground, the tree dropped in. They suddenly hear another noise, almost the same grunting, but deeper and louder. They look up together and see a Grizzly Bear standing right in front of them, massive, only 30 feet away. The giant creature considers them, chewing on something methodically. Baz and Davis notice a bear cub on the other side of her. They waver and then, in unison, continue to plant, Baz makes a grunting noise that almost sounds like he is continuing the chant. They plant a number of trees in succession and look up again. The bear and cub have both vanished.

DAVIS: Jesus. We just had a fucking vision.

BAZ: Both of us? At the same time?

DAVIS: What did you see?

The Grizzly and cub come out from behind the slash, walking away, and crashing into the forest.

BAZ: I saw that.

Davis goes back to planting.

DAVIS (Looking back up): What?

BAZ: I think I just saw your cat. (Pause) Riding the cub’s back, guiding it by the ears.

DAVIS: What was that noise you were making?

BAZ: What noise?

DAVIS: You were grunting or something.

BAZ: I was asserting my presence.

DAVIS: You sounded like you were having a seizure.

BAZ: It’s what the mountain gorillas do.

DAVIS: When’s the last time you think this bear ran into a fucking mountain gorilla?

BAZ: That stuff’s universal.

DAVIS (Laughing to himself): Joint. (Pause) Universal joint, remember? The van?

They continue to plant toward the road.

DAVIS (Planting his last tree): Last one. How many you got?

BAZ (Looking in his bag): Same, man. The exact same.

Baz plants his last tree and they walk slowly, languidly down.

DAVIS: What are your numbers?

They walk for a few moments in silence.

BAZ: I don’t know.

DAVIS: Me either.

BAZ: Oh, shit. One more. (Pulling a tree out and planting it)

DAVIS: Baller.

The Davis Trilogy: Just Weird, Paint & Baller

He’s not as bad as everybody might think.

Just Weird: Expelled from boarding school, Davis must move in with his father and step-family. His step-brother, a world-class swimmer, is indifferent to his presence while his step-mother and step-sister treat him with outright disdain. His new school, a strict all-boys institution, is another source of misery, but for a beautiful young teacher, Ms. Geisner. Davis gets a job delivering newspapers as he struggles with the drudgery of school and home-life until he stumbles upon a party at Ms. Geisner’s house and, as he watches her dance drunkenly to Rock Lobster, confesses his love to her. Humiliated and hungover, Davis must make a speech the following day to the assembly and, at the last minute, recites the lyrics of Rock Lobster, almost causing another expulsion, until his father steps in. 20150328_190125Paint: Davis is distressed: he hates his work as a painter, he can’t talk to the girl he loves, and his father has just died. His college friends are no help, always getting stoned and hyping up for the next frat party. Memories of his father dominate Davis’ thoughts as he gets through the day, until he is confronted by his step-brother and told that he is not welcome at their father’s funeral the next day. High on mushrooms, Davis becomes a mess, blacking out and then wandering off, until he runs into his crush, Ellen. He confesses his love for her and finally unburdens his thoughts of his father late into the night, falling asleep on her couch. He gets to the funeral late, dozes off, images of his father floating through his head, and then watches his step-family walk out past, before going back to work and finding Ellen there.20160702_133517Baller: Out in the wilderness of British Columbia to plant trees, Davis discovers that the learning curve is painful; the mosquitoes and black flies are a constant plague, the weather is by turns baking hot and miserably wet, and the specter of snakes, bears and cougars lurk at every turn.  Davis toils on, the repetitive routine of planting trees putting him into a meditative state where he can consider his place in the world. Things take a number of turns for the worse – Davis loses his van, cat and girlfriend – and yet Davis continues to rise to the challenge by relentlessly planting. And finally, when a forest fire appears on the horizon, Davis and his friends defy the foreman and escape by driving directly into the smoke, finding their way through and on to a music festival on the west coast.img_0612

Davis Trilogy Part Three: Baller

Baller: If the bugs don’t get you, insanity will.

Davis leaves behind his easy-going university lifestyle to journey into the Canadian wilderness and a summer job of planting trees.

The learning curve is painful; the mosquitoes and black flies are a constant plague, the weather is by turns baking hot and miserably wet, and the specter of snakes, bears and cougars lurk at every turn. Davis is barely able to make $5 a day at the outset, while his pot-smoking pal Max concedes immediate defeat, hiding in his tent. The sole respite to the torturous work is the communal hot tub where everyone strips naked to drink, pontificate and listen to killer music, all the while dreaming of a better day.

Davis toils on, slowly discovering an inner strength. The repetitive routine of planting trees puts him into a meditative state where he can consider his place in the world, made all the more poignant as he surveys the stripped and burned hillside juxtaposed against the stunning beauty of the surrounding mountains. 20140804_095349The crew finally gets a day off and celebrates their brief freedom in town with drunken antics, after which things take a number of turns for the worse, including Davis’ van getting wrecked. Davis grinds through his angst and exhaustion and, after a late-night rendezvous with the foreman’s girlfriend, goes back to town and gets into a conflict with a group of locals who accuse him of stealing their jobs. Elmer, a mysterious and spiritual planter Davis had only seen from afar, comes to the rescue by defeating their burly leader in an arm-wrestling duel.

Davis returns to work, relentlessly planting, breaking the camp’s record, shortly after which a forest fire appears on the horizon. The foreman insists that the crew stay to make as much money as possible, but Davis and his friends escape this madness by driving directly through the smoke and onto a music festival.

Opening scene from “Baller”

Opening scene from screenplay, Baller:

The land is empty and vast. The road continues up into the mountains, winding past small towns and lakes, the distant colors and light entrancing and forbidding. Crown8BAZ drives the van. EMILY is in the passenger seat. MAX is still asleep, curled up, with DAVIS beside him, the comforter balled up around his head, and POPO, the cat, on top of that, staring out the window. BLAIR sits at the end of the bed, his feet propped across the can on a pile of bags and gear; he is reading Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth. The music of The Grateful Dead’s Wharf Rat plays on the stereo.

MAX (Moaning): Turn the music down, man.

EMILY turns the music down halfway.

MAX: No more Dead!

EMILY lowers the volume further. POPO can now be heard moaning over the sounds of the music and the road.

MAX: The cat too, man.

BLAIR (Reciting from The Power of Myth): The adventure is its own reward – but it’s necessarily dangerous, having both negative and positive possibilities, all of them beyond our control. We are beyond protection in a field of higher powers than we know.Crown15EMILY: Who is that? Nietzsche?

BLAIR (Ignoring her, continuing to recite): If we have been impudent and altogether ineligible for the role into which we have cast ourselves, it is going to be a demon marriage and a real mess.

EMILY: I like that. Demon marriage.

BLAIR: Joseph Campbell is a genius.

Both MAX and POPO moan, almost as if in agreement, and the van rattles on into the hinterland of British Columbia.

Writing in Adrasan, Turkey

We have arrived in Adrasan, Turkey. 20140706_104424It is a place of slow-moving rivers, cicadas and ducks everywhere, in short Nirvana. 20140705_220949I have a perfect view of the idyll from our little balcony. 20140706_104415There could be no better time to finish the first draft of Baller, my script chronicling tree-planters finding their way in the northern wilds of British Columbia.