BootsnAll Travel Network

Kennedy/Obama and me, blogging

I’ve been sick with a vicious migraine the last four days. It crested yesterday afternoon, and it was all I could do to lie back in the recliner with Basho in my lap, fighting the nausea with an ice pack over one eye, taking drugs. I did watch (out of one eye, with the volume turned low and subtitles-for-the-hearing-impaired running) a movie that should have been terrific but failed (beware the link; it takes time and bandwidth to download): Bobby, directed by Emilio Estevez. With a cast that includes Laurence Fishburne, Sharon Stone, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, and Harry Belafonte, how could it be bad?

The idea was populist: dramatize the lives of ordinary people who were present on the night Bobby was killed. It’s an idea W.H. Auden would have loved. On the brink of world-changing events, we go on in our doggy ways, plowing our fields, not knowing what is about to happen. It was a good idea to interweave news footage, Bobby’s speeches, music of the late 60s and a powerful score. It should have worked. The film sounds like a commercial for Barack Obama. He is saying what Bobby Kennedy said, and it seems fresh and exciting, yet it’s eerily familiar to those of us who heard Bobby’s speeches live.

Violence causes violence. We live in a divided society, and I want to unite us. We must stop this (endless) war. America was founded on compassion; concern for people on the margins is what made America great. There are no little people. Interchangeable rhetoric: Kennedy and Obama. Progressive politics. Kennedy and Obama. Populist passion. Kennedy and Obama. All the way through, I kept hearing Obama’s voice when Kennedy spoke. Or perhaps I hear Kennedy’s voice when Obama speaks. Of course they’re not the same. As far as we know, Obama doesn’t have the skeletons in his closet that Bobby had in his (Bobby and Joe McCarthy were cozy bedfellows). But the world in which Kennedy ran is just sufficiently similar to the world in which Obama is running that as I dozed off and woke up during the film, I kept thinking the politician in voiceover was Obama. And then it wasn’t. And Viet Nam is not Iraq. Even Bush is making that mistake lately. But there is plenty of similarity between Kennedy and Obama, to my ears, even when I don’t have a migraine.

Then why is the movie such a dud, when so many good people worked on it, when the ideas should have worked, when the language of Kennedy’s speeches is still so powerful? I think it’s primarily the mundane language of the script. No poetry. No depth. Belafonte and Hopkins are wasted in cameo roles. Too many characters. Not enough development. We can’t care about these thinly-developed characters. Does Fishburne’s character have a life outside the kitchen? Why is Helen Hunt’s character so insecure? We learn more about a baseball game played on the day Kennedy was killed than we learn about the characters in the film. If it isn’t good art, it can’t be good politics. Even though I agree with everything the film says, I fell asleep several times and had to run it backwards and play it again. It wasn’t just the drugs I was taking. I wanted to like it. But it’s a dud. And no, I’m not going to turn this blog into another of those American blogs occupied with party politics. I promise. (I do have an Obama sticker on my car. I hope he wins. I’ll say that much.) What am I doing, then?

It was Dave who suggested, out of compassion, when I was having one of my existential why-am-I-writing-this moments, that I might make this a blog for reviews of books and movies, and for about five minutes I thought I might do that. But I can’t write ONLY about books and movies. My life intrudes. AE suggests I have two blogs: one about movies and books, and the other about my daily life. But I can’t do that, because I can’t figure out when movies (or books or poems) aren’t part of my daily life. Devorah says she skips the “literary stuff” because her brain doesn’t work the way mine does. But I can’t leave the literary stuff out because I don’t know when I’m being literary. Brod says he skips the poetry. But dear friends and blog-readers, I am all of one piece. I go on blogging, and books and movies and poems are part of the texture of my days, just as the habit of “mindfulness” is. I don’t know when I’m being “literary” any more than I know when I’m being “Buddhist”–I’ve spent my life in drama and literature, and I’ve meditated all the way. I write and lead workshops for people who write. Or meditate. I’m an actor and a person who has been teaching actors for thirty-some years. So I talk about acting the way printers talk about type faces. I can’t not talk about it. I notice set decoration and sound tracks in movies because I’ve spent many years teaching people to be set-decorators and sound designers. It’s all shop-talk for me; it’s all part of my daily life. Poetry is what I eat. I dream lines of poems: usually other people’s poems. I can’t keep my life out of what I say about books and movies and poetry, any more than I can keep books and movies and poetry out of my life. My life is about all that. And about the trail I walk on in the mornings, and the syllabi I’m going to hand out to 151 new students tomorrow. And about my cat, Basho, who is sitting in my lap as I write this, flicking his tail over the keyboard with impatience. I have been at this too long to suit him; he wants me to get up and toss a little bag of catnip up in the air for him to chase after. We each have our own perspective, our own passions.

Y’all–(as they say here in Texas)–Y’all just feel free to skip whatever you like to skip. Skip the poetry, or the literary stuff (if you can identify it–I can’t), or the stuff about life in Texas, or the stuff about my daughter and my cat and my quest for another way of life. Blogs are meant to be skimmed, I think. I don’t mind. I expect people to skip, or delete, or not read whatever isn’t interesting to them. I’m just going to carry on doing what I do here, writing what I write, noticing what I notice and putting it all out here. This writing soothes me. It is entirely ephemeral. Whatever I am, this is. Koan not solved yet: who am I? what is this? It is what it is.

I did want to mention that autumn is coming to south Texas. I know this because when I leave the house at 6:10 a.m., to drive to the park in Sugar Land where I love to walk, it is dark, suddenly! It was light last week, but this week, it’s dark. That’s how I know autumn is coming. The cicadas in the trees and the crickets in the grass are just as noisy as they were in mid-summer, their racket overlaid with birdsong in the morning. Everything is still green and lush. The honeysuckle that has been blossoming since February is still in blossom, and the only leaves that have fallen are those suffering from heat-stress. But the wild grapes are finished. Just before I left for Santa Fe, the trail was slick with grapes squashed by runners, walkers, bikers, and roller skaters. Now there are just some stains under the thick green canopy of wild grape leaves. A few bright orange trumpet flowers lie on the trail. But school starts tomorrow, and autumn is coming. Like teachers and students all over the world, I feel the excitement of that. What’s coming? I wonder. Something unexpected. And so we get up, put on our school clothes, put pens and pencils and notebooks in our bags, and hurl ourselves into the great unknown full of other people eager to see what’s coming. This is the last time I will start a semester as a teacher. What will life be after this? Don’t know yet. Not there yet. I’m here. Now. In this autumn in south Texas. About to meet 151 new people. Butterflies in my stomach as always.

Tags: , , , ,

-192 responses to “Kennedy/Obama and me, blogging”

  1. I love your words and what you have to say, but it’s true that you blog for yourself. It’s important to blog for yourself, I think. I’m just sad you don’t want to blog anymore! But I hope to see you anyway!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *