Editor’s Note: By now you know the drill. I turn 40 on June 6, 2012. As a little challenge to myself, I’m spending the next year writing 40 posts that say something about my life. This one’s an easy one. Tonight I got some great news. It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve done creatively to date. And how fitting that it all comes together next year, just after I round the bend and hit my shiny new decade. Anyway – that’s enough tease. Read all about it now.
They say if you have to write for someone, do it for yourself. That’s pretty good advice. After all – you’re the sole guardian of those wispy thoughts; you might as well jot them down before they are lost in the ether of time. But, I’m only human. Of course I want an audience. I want some attention. I want you to sit up and take notice. Maybe crack a smile or let loose a great big belly laugh. That’s just the way I’m hard-wired. Hey, I’ve said it so many times on these pages. I’m average when it comes to almost any skill on the planet. I can cook to feed but not impress. I can connect wood to ball but can’t really park it over the fence. I can boogie oogie oogie ’til I can’t boogie oogie oogie no more, but I’m no Timberlake or Astaire. Hell – I’m not even a Bristol Palin.
But I CAN write. Not enough to make or break bread off it, but a little better than average. That’s just the way I was built. So, yeah – I like to know people have read and responded to something I wrote. I’m going to write it anyway but it pains me to have it die on the vine. And while part of that is pure selfishness on my part, a huge heaping portion is ladled from my well of guilt.
See, my Grandpa Ron was my biggest fan. When I departed for UMASS Amherst to pursue a degree in Journalism, he beamed brighter than the rest of my proud relatives. He was a lover of the written word; a collector of rare and unique prints – antique pages ripped from periodicals and novels of yore – and it tickled his heart to see his first born Grandson pursuing a noble profession. When I landed a gig at the UMASS Daily Collegian in my sophomore year, and began sending back copy to his home every time my byline appeared – he’d call me up and inflate my ego with praise; telling me that I was twice the movie critic than the Boston Globe’s Jay Carr.
Of course, that’s just “Grandpa Speak”. That’s the rare privilege they earn for toiling so long on this great orb. I was no Jay Carr. And my accomplishments were a faint shadow of the bright, beaming life that my Grandpa lived.
He was of the Greatest Generation – that brave group of individuals who had their lives cast on a die and rolled out when so many good and decent men and woman decided to make a stand against grave Evil. That was World War II – when my grandfather served out his late teens and early twenties employing his skills as a French linguist to interpret troop movements in the French theater of war. World War II marked the turning point for his own beloved pursuits. A gifted pitcher, he signed on with the Boston Braves (a team that would later relocate South of the Mason/Dixon line) and could have gone on to baseball glory if it weren’t for the vital need to fight the Fuhrer. Of course, baseball lore and war stories colored so many of the true life tales my Grandpa told me. Sure, we may look back on the past and see only the larger than life examples and not the mundane nine-to-five moments that no doubt existed at that time but there’s no question that this was a time of great opposition and some would say, greater opportunity. One looking for adventure didn’t have far to go to find it.
Positioning my review of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective before a circulation of 15,000+ slightly pales in comparison.
But that’s not the way he saw it. And so, I felt I owed it to him. Sure, I loved to write but I felt a greater charge and responsibility to do it for him. Enough that when I left college and found myself looking for gainful employment in order to support a roof over my head rooming with my best buddies, I choked back regret and joined the corporate rat race – abandoning my noble pursuit for something that paid a bit more. And though he remained proud of my professional accomplishments, he’d often ask – year after year – when I was going to get back to writing.
“Someday”, was my constant refrain. Someday was always a day away so it felt like a promise I could stake myself too.
Last year, in mid-Summer, we said our final goodbye to my Grandpa Ron. At the time, I wrote of this regret and realized that through that tribute – and through this Blog – that I didn’t need to be published to write for him. Just getting my thoughts collected and jotting them down was keeping that spirit alive. At the time, I wrote:
“But maybe that’s the point of these pages. Maybe this Blog stands not just as a forum for my voice but also as a tribute to great guys like my Grandpa. Maybe this site is testament to the hopes and dreams he carried in his big heart for all his friends and family.”
And that’s true. But, I find the older I get, the more stories I collect. And where I once had a harder time pulling them all together, something seems to be maturing within me. Hey – I’m almost forty. It had to happen sooner or later.
Which is what brings me to my big announcement – at long last. Earlier tonight, I received some fantastic news. I’m not exaggerating when I say this is the creative highlight of my life.
In late October, 2012 – the curtain raises on my first published play – The Monkeybar Mafia. The show is being presented by the Gateway Players Theater in Southbridge, MA. David Corkum, who directed me in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – is the director and the show is being produced by Bill Guy. It has been scheduled to run on October 26, 27, 28 – 2012 and November 2,3 and 4th – 2012. Auditions will occur at the end of July 2012 and rehearsals will begin in late August.
The Monkeybar Mafia is an original script, written by me. I wrote it in six days this past May, following the death of our beloved black lab Chatham. It poured out of me – fully formed. I needed a release from that grief so I finally sat down before my laptop and let the story that had been churning in my head ever since my one-year stint of unemployment work its way into dramatic form. From there, I sent the script out for some constructive review and performed several rewrites – molding it into the finished product that we pitched to Gateway. Tonight I got the official nod. We’re on the calendar for Fall 2012.
For those of you who followed my Facebook updates in those days, The Monkeybar Mafia is inspired by my days on the playground. Back then, I would take a break in my job hunt – each day – to pick up my kids from school and let them expend all that extra energy. I got to know a group of women, most friends of Andi, who I playfully dubbed “The Monkeybar Mafia”. Aside from a handful of humorous anecdotes that I stored in my head, that’s where the truth ends and the fiction begins. But – it was enough of an experience to send my mind racing.
My play follows a character Ryan, a corporate drone, who suddenly finds himself on the back end of a bad economy. Like me, he goes stir crazy looking for a new job in a tough market and decides to heed his wife’s advice and reconnect with his kids – if only for a couple hours at the end of each day. He once wanted to be a writer – took a corporate job – and now, in his Thirties with no prospects – he finds he has no clue what he wants to be when he grows up.
Like me, he becomes friendly with a group of Stay-at-Home Moms. Unlike me, he forges an intimate friendship with one Mom in particular; a kindred spirit. Like I said, this is not my autobiography. Aside from the preliminary predicament, Ryan’s journey is all his own. Anyway – as his friendship grows with this Mom – a woman who harbors her own failed dreams – the two begin working together to inspire each other. A development that doesn’t sit well with his wife.
It’s a comedy-drama that takes a turn for the poignant as Ryan wrestles with the old “Two Roads Diverged” dilemma. What-if he took this path instead of that one?
And I can’t underscore it enough – apart from its roots – my real world dilemma that got my curious mind thinking of a fictional story to tell – none of these Mafia wives are drawn from the real ones I knew. And Ryan’s wife is not Andi. This is not some elaborate confession on my part. And apart from some shared traits, Ryan isn’t me and I’m not him. I have no desire to be him. But I do like talking about him – and thus, my play was born.
I’ll have more to tell you about in the next year. We’re a long way off but I am absolutely thrilled this evening. For once, I sat down and wrote something from beginning to end – and then nurtured it to the point where someone out there should hopefully enjoy it. And while I did it all for me – that’s only half the story.
Grandpa Ron – This one’s for you.