E. Stanley Richardson, Poet

E. Stanley Richardson at the Downtown Library, reading from his book of poems about hip hop, which he sees as a people’s art form that has become commodified and turned into its opposite and sold back to the oppressed.

Stan is listening to the voices in his life, his past, his present, his country, his world. Many of the poems lead with the first-person plural, not the royal we, not the editorial we, but we the people.

A poem that follows from Genesis, but not “Let there be light,” but, rather, “Let there be sound”.

In the beginning there was the drum . . . .

A poem called “The Willie Green Blues”

  • “ Did I witness all dem colors!”

James Brown inspired the Birth of Funk. “He changed the whole way music is heard and played.”

“Ancestral Swag”

Stan riffs on his writing process: “Everything happens to music. No music with words though. I don’t want words to get in the way of my words. And then I just let it flow. Sometimes I wonder where is she, my muse, when she’s not with me? With some other lover, I guess.”

Stan draws a parallel between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the dangers faced by black Americans when dealing with the police. “There are people all over the world who look to black Americans for their blueprint for freedom.”

Stan is in good voice, offering more than print on a page, a cadence, a subtle change in pitch, a wry articulation, a melody. He launches into “Klan Notes”, which he describes as “Edgar Allan Poe and Maya Angelou got together and decided to write a poem, and it came out through me.”

In the poem, the telling words are “I’ve see them and they’ve seen me.”




Listening to the Little Prince

Just the Answers, mam.


Little Prince Literary Criticism


Language Arts



little prince

  1. The danger of the baobabs is that they cannot be eradicated. They are invasive, destructive. One ignores them not only at one’s own peril, but at the peril of the entire planet. This is no fantasy. Pollution can kill us all.
  2. The difference between adults and children is the level of their understanding, the former being low, the latter perhaps being adequate to the task. At least the kids have a chance to understand – because they are open to understanding that which cannot be quantified, to looking within themselves. It is not a matter of chronological age. The pilot discovers and nurtures the child within himself.
  3. The pilot learns to love the prince. He loves the way you love someone so much that you want to be like that person. And so the pilot learns what the prince has learned: the difference between adults and children, the accepting awe that is alight in questions more than answers. He learns that what is most essential is invisible to the eye, that time soothes all sorrows, and what it means to be tamed.
  4. The well itself, like a well in a village, is not what one might expect to find in the immensity of the desert. It is out of place – and it is this disconnectedness, this other worldliness, that leads to nourishment that is good for the heart, not cardiovascularly, but spiritually. This water quenches the thirst for truth, but it is best when shared with another. As Emerson said, “It takes two to speak the truth; one to speak and another to listen.” The well water is like that.
  5. The prince commits suicide, and somehow he gains the tacit approval of the pilot for this action, and, by extension, that of the reader. We forgive him, just as we forgive Romeo and Juliet their suicides. Their action seems justified. Is this not presumptuous of us however? The prince does not want to die. He is afraid of death. And yet it seems a chalice that he will not pass by. There is a sense of self-sacrifice here, Christ-like, and we would not accuse Jesus of suicide, even though he chose to die. More to the point might be the death of Socrates, who also chose poison over life.
  6. To be tamed means to establish ties – but what exactly does that mean? What is it that ties us to one another? Are they bonds that can be broken? How easily? The bonds that the fox is seeking are strong, reinforced by habit. There is joy, even love, informing these habits. Taming is a constant endeavor. It does not end.
  7. Ephemeral means to be in danger of speedy disappearance. This applies to all humanity, both individually and as a species. All of humanity may be wiped out, all humanity may be evolving toward dissolution. All that we care about is fleeting, subject to the ravages of time, and the clock is ticking.
  8. The rose does tell the prince that she loves him. But not until it is too late. He has already decided to leave his planet. It may be the imminent threat of his departure that prompts the rose’s belated declaration, which nevertheless does not deter the prince. The question then is why does the prince not stay with the rose after she has declared her love for him? Something has gone terribly wrong in their relationship, perhaps irreparably. Their relationship could have been salvaged had they acted earlier, but, for, perhaps, selfish reasons, they did not.
  9. The Turkish astronomer is a brilliant scientist who makes an important discovery, but he is ignored because his appearance is outside the norm. Europeans do not trust those in non-European costume. It is not the value or truth of his discovery that causes it to be discounted, but, rather, the prejudice of his listeners.
  10. The prince is on a quest for truth. You don’t find the truth by pretending that you know the answers to everything. The prince employs the Socratic Method. You begin in ignorance by admitting your ignorance. The prince is willing to do that. Then it becomes a matter of asking the right questions, to get to the essence of things. The prince wants to penetrate to the heart of the matter. He never lets go off a question. He pursues, until the problem is stated in its simplest terms. In some ways then the prince’s questions are answers.
  11.  I leave it to you to suggest how the pilot found the well. She says it is destiny. And so this becomes a question about fate. You would have no trouble convincing the ancient Greeks of this. They believed in this sort of thing. They lived their lives according to it. Don’t fight fate, We moderns are a harder sell. The pilot is looking for a well hidden somewhere in the immensity of the desert. It is absurd. And yet, somehow, he finds it. How? The pilot does not even have the prince to guide him. The prince is asleep. So what guides him? Luck? His instincts? Does the force of the well attract him? I lean toward this last theory, because it seems to be important that the pilot wants to find the well, that he is actively looking for it. Then it seems like the operation of a karma-like force.
  12. Somehow the price does not belong on Earth. He does not fit in. But is that the reason he leaves Earth? And he doesn’t just leave Earth, he returns to his own planet, which he had seemingly abandoned. The analogy to Christ, again, rings true. The prince comes to Earth to impart some lesson, and to sacrifice himself. He does so. The pilot cannot find his body the next day, so it is as if the prince has risen from the dead and ascended to heaven. He had told the pilot that it would seem as if he were dying, but that that would not be so. It is as if death were only a kind of rebirth. There is also the rose to be considered. The prince has gone to great lengths to acquire a sheep to the planet from baobabs, so it seems to have been the prince’s intention to return to his own planet from the moment he meets the pilot.
  13. There is nothing that could make the prince want to stay on earth. His friendship with the pilot speaks well of the Earth. It is a redeeming quality, but it is not enough for the prince – who is responsible for his rose.
  14. As soon as the prince learns the meaning of ephemeral he realizes that everything and everybody that he cares about is dying. He faces time as an enemy. Time opposes all that he loves. And yet it is the time that he has wasted on his rose that makes his rose so important. Here then is the paradox that the prince somehow resolves – how to appreciate the time he spends while simultaneously wasting it. He finds a solution to the conundrum of time.
  15. Those who see the drawing as a boa constrictor rather than a hat possess a greater degree of understanding. They can perhaps intuit what is within. They do not merely look at the surface of things. They look deeper. The prince has this capability for insight, as the pilot discovers when he shows the prince his drawing.
  16.  The prince loves the rose because of the time he has wasted on her, because she has tamed him, and because it is the prince’s nature to love. He is a loving being. The prince is all about love. A cynic might say that the prince loves the rose because there is no one else around to love, and yet, in herself, she is a worth object of the prince’s love. She is beautiful – not just in her appearance but in her essence, in her nature – which is to be loved.
  17.  If being tamed means to establish ties with someone else, then one cannot tame oneself. And yet how could the fox know how to be tamed without already being tamed. He certainly seems tame enough, speaking to the prince in a civilized fashion, offering him no harm. The establishment of ties must begin anew with each of those one chooses to tame and be tamed by. There is then choice and habit, and when the two are confused there is hell to pay.
  18. The first thing the prince asks the pilot is to draw him a sheep. It is an odd request. We learn later why the prince needs the sheep. It is to protect his planet from invasion by baobabs. But why a drawing, why a two-dimensional representation rather than the real thing? Is it because we have entered a symbolic universe where it is enough for the drawing of the sheep to represent its saving power?
  19. The prince keeps telling us that his planet is so small. Is it perhaps too small? Is it confining? His consciousness seems to expand throughout the novel, which is the story of a journey of discovery. The prince seeks to expand his horizons. When he surveys the landscape on Earth, he is saddened by the vastness of it compared to his own tiny planet. On his journey, however, the prince appreciates more and more the ephemeral matter of his life, the ties that bind him to others, to himself, and to his own past. His planet is his home and he is responsible for it. Does the prince leave his planet, planning all along to come back to it? I think not. I think he operates primarily on feelings; he follows his heart. While that seems noble, the prince discovers that it is not enough to follow his heart; there is a kind of leadership required of him. Everything seems to change for the prince once he learns the meaning of ephemeral. But why does he not return to his own planet the instant he finds out the rose is in danger of speedy disappearance? Is it because he doesn’t know enough yet to save her?
  20. The rose naively plans to defend herself against all the world with her mere four thorns. It won’t work. She is so naïve, and that is one of her winning qualities, one of the reasons the prince loves her. It is inseparable from his feelings for her. Her belief in her defense rises also from her vanity. Her character has flaws.
  21. The prince is saddened by the rose garden because he believes it cheapens his feeling toward the rose. He had thought her unique and with the appearance of others of her species, she appears common, not one and only, but merely one of many. What the prince will discover is that it is the nature of his relationship with the rose that lends her a uniqueness: there can be only one rose for the prince.
  22. What makes his rose important, the fox tells the prince, is that he has wasted time on her. His most precious possession  — his time – has been squandered on the rose: watering, protecting, humoring her. It gives meaning to his life. If the rose did not exist, perhaps the prince would have to invent her.
  23. What makes the desert beautiful, the prince tells the pilot, is that somewhere it hides a well. The pilot ponders the mysterious radiance of the sands, and discerns something shimmering within. The natural landscape takes on a symbolic value. Beauty is within. Our aesthetic sensibility transcends the material universe and meets our spiritual needs – the well promises to quench our thirst for truth.
  24. The prince takes some bit of truth from each planet he visits. His concept of truth is therefore fragmented and needs integration. The businessman shows the prince the paradigm of capitalism – which the prince recognizes as an artificial construct. The conceited man shows the limitations that come from bordering the whole universe with the self. It makes the prince want to go beyond the limits of the self. The lamplighter is alienated from his self through his frustrating and pointless labor. All of these bits of truth come together on the Earth, as the prince meets the fox and begins to appreciate the meaning of his journey.
  25. The prince is Christ-like in his self-sacrifice. But in many ways the prince is like all heroes of the mind. He undergoes an ordeal for the sake of others. He travels a dangerous path, surmounting obstacles, to capture a boon for all humankind. He returns with this gift and gives it to us. Like Christ, the prince rises from the dead. He conquers time. He conquers death. In his acceptance of death, the prince is like Socrates, whose allegiance was to wisdom more than self-preservation.


Back on Earth

“The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, nor deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice.” – Spinoza

How does this pertain to the gun debate? Obviously, if the object of government is to enable citizens to develop their minds and bodies in security, the government is doing a horseshit job.

You may say the problem isn’t guns, but then you must be deaf, dumb, and blind, not necessarily in that order, or you may be a firm believer in gun rights. But if you are the government, your object is enabling the citizens to develop their minds and bodies in security, not necessarily enabling them to carry weapons of war.

If your only object were security, the solution would be simple, albeit arduous: disarm the populous.

If you ban guns, only criminals would have guns.

True, and then you’d be half-way there. If you’ve got a gun, you’re a criminal.

You can’t arrest everybody who’s got a gun.

You can’t deport every illegal immigrant either, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try.

You can’t even have a gun for hunting?

You can have a gun for hunting, but you can’t have one to go shoot up the school or a movie theater or the mall.

How about a gun for target practice?

Target practice?

Yeah. I just like to shoot at shit.

Fuck you. No. No guns for target practice I just like to shoot at shit. No guns for fun.

What about hunting?

Hunting is grandfathered in. We were hunters forty times longer than we’ve been farmers.

We have the inalienable right to keep and bear arms.

It’s in the Constitution.

Which is our Bible!

Second amendment, baby! Can’t take away our guns!

Why can’t you bring a gun on a plane?

No guns allowed on planes. We’re all in agreement on that.

Everybody except Goldfinger over there.

Why does your right to bear arms dissolve in the air?

We have made the rational decision that no one can board a plane with a weapon. Because we want everyone to be safe while they’re flying, but once they touch down, it’s a different matter.

Once your back on earth, back in the jungle, back in the wild west, it’s best to arm yourself.

Arm the Teachers!

Plato with a Pistol.

Aristotle with an AR-15.

Not surprisingly, if you turn for advice to the National Retailers Association, the answer is: Buy More Guns!

There are already more guns in America than there are people. It’s going to take a while to get rid of all of them, but eventually the guns are going to win.




In Black and White and Color

In Black and White and Color                                                        Shamrock McShane


This was America in the middle of the 20th century, with Harry Truman the president, a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt’s vice-president, who had taken over when Roosevelt died shortly after beginning his fourth term. The country was nearing the end of more than 20 years of Democratic control of the executive branch.

Roosevelt. FDR. He could have been king. We could have made him our king.

People kept electing him, but we weren’t about to make him our king.

We practically made him our king.

We don’t have kings here, and there are two other branches of government to keep the president in check – legislative, composed of hundreds of sharp lawyers, and judicial, meaning judges who can pass judgment on everybody, including the president, and, just to make sure, Congress passed a law to limit the presidency to two terms thereafter.

So there was Give Em Hell Harry. He had won as unexpectedly as Trump. Everyone had expected Republican Thomas Dewey to win. The Chicago Tribune went so far as to headline its early edition the day after the election DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN!


All sorts of bad shit happened during Truman’s presidency. It was Truman who decided to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. That was some racist shit there for sure. It was on Truman’s watch that the nation of Israel and its attendant problems were given birth. Can we all agree that might have been handled a tad better?

In 1950 sportswriters were amusing themselves with compiling lists of the first half-century greatest sports heroes. Jim Thorpe, All-American was the greatest athlete of all time, George Mikan the greatest basketball player.

Benedict Doyle entered upon the scene in the fall of 1951, the first year of the second half of the century, and the Democrats were coming to the end of their tenure in the White House. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the general who had won World War Two. George Washington had been the general who won the Revolutionary War. It would somehow be unpatriotic for Eisenhower not to be elected president.

On January 20, 1953 Eisenhower moved into the White House, where he would live until January 20, 1961, and so the first decade of Ben’s life saw the country in transition from Truman to Eisenhower to Kennedy, from George Mikan to Wilt Chamberlain.

From the Lone Ranger in black and white to the Lone Ranger in color – and it turned out his outfit was powder blue!

The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, this was the fifties, when cowboys settled things.

The TV didn’t come on till 6am, the screen just had a test pattern on it, and then: the star-spangled banner, followed by documentaries of World War One and General Pershing winning the war. Then Ike would come along and win the next one.

It was time to fall in love with violence, with fistfights and shootouts, and, best of all, war, with tanks and machine guns!

Cap pistols. The Fanner-Fifty was a revolver that would allow you to keep firing for 50 rounds, as you fanned it with the side of your hand like the cowboy did on tv.

Somehow it didn’t hurt his hand.

Had to ride a horse. Everybody had to ride a horse. Had to be a whole bunch of horses, and the horses didn’t start out here. Horses are not native to North America, and yet the Native Americans learned to ride them as well as horses have ever been ridden.

There in the fall of 1951 and through the winter and the start of 1952 in a bungalow in Riverside, Illinois, alongside the Des Plains River. Just one salary for a family of five, but thanks to the G.I. Bill and Commonwealth Edison they were going to move into a real house soon in Oak Park.

Ben’s father had turned down a scholarship to MIT to go to work at Commonwealth Edison after the war.

Your father turns the streetlamps on at night.

Ben told the kids at school that his father was the guy who turned the streetlamps on at night.

Ben told the kids at school that the Pope was coming to his house for lunch.

Rocky Marciano was the Heavyweight Champion of the World, the only undefeated heavyweight champion ever. Marciano was a white guy, not even six feet tall, short-armed, but he had beaten an over-the-hill Joe Louis, who had been as good as there ever was, to claim the title, and he had beaten Jersey Joe Walcott and all the top contenders, everybody who stepped into the ring with him, and he got out of the ring before Sonny Liston came along and decapitated him.

George Mikan got off the basketball court before Russell and Chamberlain had him for breakfast.


Bob Cousy. The Cooz. Cooz’d pass the ball behind his back, dribble so low nobody could steal it, lead the fast break like nobody’s business. One night they were on a train going from Boston to New York or Philly, had to be back in the early 60s, and the Celtics were on a train and it’s late and they’re not supposed to be drinking on the train, but a bunch of the players were drinking beers, and the conductor was coming along to check their tickets and they all handed their bottles over to Cooz, who pitched them one by one out a window across the aisle that was open about six inches.

The house on Clinton Avenue in Oak Park was not just a step up in the world, it was a whole new world.

Oak Park, the World’s Largest Village, and people took pride in that, just as they took pride in Rocky Marciano and George Mikan, and the largest village in the world didn’t have a single black person living in it.

Gospel truth. Every homeowner in the whole town had signed a blood oath not to sell their house to a black family.

South Oak Park may have been a different world than Riverside, but it was bordered by Harlem Avenue which connected the two towns and funneled traffic north and south into the city.


In the early fifties Ike was just starting to get the idea for the interstate highway that would wreak modernism upon Chicago and New York, and all those Studs Lonigan neighborhoods died, and the interstate barreled through and all the way across America, crisscrossed it up and down, and all those small towns started to die, and the modern cities rose in all their grandeur and ugliness and squalor, skyscraping and filing in the gaps with ghettos and housing projects.

Somebody had to build the highway first. The construction would intersect Oak Park Avenue as it headed west, past Harlem Avenue, connecting eventually the cornfields of Dekalb with Chicago all the way to the Loop, but first, all that land had to levelled (not that great a task on the Great Plains) and cleared and paved.

Just two blocks away from the house on Clinton Avenue was a playground that took up the whole block, Carrol Playground, named after Lewis Carrol, presumably because playgrounds are for children, and Lewis Carrol, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, by profession a mathematician, also an amateur photographer who especially liked little girls, which would not escape the moral view of 21st century readers. But it was a hell of a playground. On the near side there was a softball field with a sand infield and a grass outfield that stretched horizontal farther than anybody could hit one, two gigantic sand boxes, swings, jungle-gym, slides.

At the heart of the playground was the shelter house – so called because it was where everyone went to warm up when the playground turned ice rink in the winter. The whole vast field would be flooded when the freezing temps arrived, and hundreds of people would come to skate. The shelter house was only one floor, but it was longer than anybody’s house, big enough to play all kinds of games in all year round. Ben went to pre-school in the shelter house.

You can’t play hockey on figure skates.

Why not?

Because it gives you an unfair advantage.


Because you don’t even have to skate, you can just stand on the toes and run around.

That’s right. What’s wrong with that?

Nobody else can do that.

They’ve got hockey skates on.

That’s the point.

Seems like they’re the ones wearing the wrong skates.

When did you start to figure out that this was not the life that you wanted to live?

They call that the Age of Reason. As Catholics, we were taught that it starts at age seven.

Seven years old.

That’s when God can hold you accountable for your sins. That’s the age at which you should’ve known better. Up till seven, you’re golden, which not coincidentally is also when Freud says all the really bad shit is just starting to get going in your mind, when you are polymorphous perverse, but you’re innocent in God’s eyes, He being apparently blind to all the bad shit Freud says is going on that you are prey to, no pun intended, and if He were to take you then, in your innocence, you would go right to Heaven, and what a lucky devil you’d be.

But the innocent babe who dies unbaptized must spend eternity in Limbo.

Doesn’t seem fair.

What’s the worst thing in the world?

That’s easy. Having to go to school in the morning.

Having to go to work.

Having to go to school without having done your homework.

Having to go look for work.

Being in the Army.

Being in Jail.

Being sick.

Getting beat up.

Getting beat up while you’re sick.

Going to Hell.

In the world. Hell’s not in the world.

It’s not?

From that moment on he would try to do the good thing. Always. Not to slip back into the bad things, no matter how much he might want to – because there was another part of him that did not want to, that knew it would be better not to, even if he were bored, even if everything else felt useless, he would just have to accept its uselessness and do it anyway, do it until doing what was good felt good again – because sometimes it did – but even if that feeling would never come back he would have to do the good thing anyway because it was better than doing the bad thing, which always made him feel bad afterward, the way he felt right now.

Because he had committed a sin. Even if there was no God, there was still sin.

If you’ve got a problem with no solution, it’s called a Gordian knot. Alexander the Great, whose teacher was Aristotle, encountered the Gordian knot during his conquests, a knot tied with such complexity that it could not be untied, and he famously “solved” the problem by slicing the knot in two with his sword.

That was his solution?

Pope John XXIII wrote in the encyclical Mater et Magistra in 1961 that unfettered capitalism was both immoral and unsustainable. “All forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.”

We’re not in this to make money.

“Man’s aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interest of the common good.”

Anything was possible. Everybody knew that after the President had been shot.

All you want to do is play and have fun. All you seek is pleasure.

What could be better?


It’s what makes you happy.

It would be better just to be happy.

Ben was playing pinners against the stairs. He had learned it from the Lambs, who lived across the street. There were a bunch of them. When Ben’s little brother Patrick came along he called them My Lambs because they had taken him into their flock. A typical Irish Catholic family from the south side of Oak Park, there were a lot of Lambs. The ones near Ben’s age were Paul and his brother Jerome, known as Rome or Romer, and his twin sister Rosemary who went by Ro-Ro. They were all athletes who would play anything, Ro-Ro too, she was fast as hell, like Ben, and they had a couple of older brothers who played on real teams – football, baseball, basketball.

In the winter they would play hockey. Ben could barely skate then. But in the spring and summer you could play pinners all by yourself against the front stairs for hours. All you needed was a rubber ball and a glove. Didn’t even really need the glove since it was a rubber ball, but if you wanted to get better with the glove you used the glove.

You were the pitcher, and then you were everybody else. Your imaginary mound was only about twelve or fifteen feet away from the steps, right in front, so your reactions were going to have to be quick.

You could go into a wind-up or you could pitch from the stretch. Fastball, knuckleball, palm-ball, slider, split-finger, overhand, sidearm, underhand ala Ted Abernathy. Nobody really knew how to throw a curve.

And Ben let fly. The ball pitched into the stairs wherever it might. If it struck between steps, the ball would come straight back at him like a line drive, but if the pitch drove the rubber ball into the edge of the stair, then it would do just about anything but come straight back at him. It might take off like a homerun shot over his head, soaring across the street, and if it landed on the other side of the street it was a homerun.

A high fly ball into the street you might be able to shag for an out or it might drop in for a hit or even extra bases, and you had to make the throw off the stairs to hold the runner.

If the ball struck the edge of the step at a downward angle it would ricochet back at you as a hot grounder, and you’d have to pluck it off the ground or snare it on the short hop, or stretch for it, or reach across your body to glove it before it got by.

Pinners was the best training in the world for fielding, especially for infielders.

You fancy yourself a shortstop, do you?

Natural position. Feel comfortable there. Like nothing can get by me.

What about the throw?

The beauty of pinners was that you could play it by yourself. You could be both teams and all the players. A whole major league season could be played on the front steps.

John Duff taught Ben the fine points of pinners. He was slick. You got where you knew all the guys’ moves, and John Duff – you said it like one word Johnduff – was slick. He wasn’t that strong, but he was smooth and slick and would come up with moves you never saw before.

Johnduff could play all the sports. Of course they all could play all the sports because that’s what they did together – play all the sports. Every day you wanted to play something, so whatever was in season was what you played. Basketball, baseball, ice hockey, football, tennis, golf, bowling, swimming, diving, racing on bikes and on foot, roller skating.

Johnduff would trick you, pull the hidden ball trick on you and catch you off base. He’d pretend to throw the ball back to the pitcher, but he’d keep the ball in his mitt and then swipe you with it. It was the oldest trick in the book, but he was so slick with it he’d still pull it off, and then he’d laugh at you, and he could get all the other guys to laugh at you too. Johnduff was the first guy Ben ever knew who was adept at psychological warfare in sports. He would psyche you out and taunt you and make you mad and get you off your game.

You played pinners and then you could go over to Lincoln and the rectangles for the strike zone had been painted on the walls, and two or three guys could play, with one guy at bat and one guy pitching and the other guy in the field, which was a pair of asphalt basketball courts, so that sometimes guys would be trying to play basketball while the baseball players were rocketing line drives at them.

Ben went over to Lincoln to play basketball and two kids were playing baseball against the wall with a rubber ball. They asked Ben if he wanted to play in the outfield and he said sure. The kid who was up to bat said Ben could use his glove. It was long and flapped over,

What kind of glove is this?

First baseman.

Ben couldn’t play first base, and he couldn’t much play the outfield, and he sure as shit couldn’t play the outfield with a first baseman’s glove. This was going to be embarrassing.

The guy hit a towering fly ball. Ben lost it in the sun. When he turned around it was bouncing toward the fence.


Holy Shit, a screenplay

Holy Shit


a screenplay





We begin with God.


God is everybody and everything – so, God can play all the parts, and God can be all the scenery, all the settings – time and place. Obviously, we begin in medias res.


We begin with God.




God doesn’t come first because there is no first in eternity.


But there is a creation myth, a story of what did not happen.





It’s a hangover. A hangover from a dream. The residual effects. Long after the dream has passed, we remember the dream. Very slight on facts and long on feelings and atmosphere.


You’ve got all these scenes with God in them.


I don’t know if I’d call them scenes. Dialogues. You know, like Plato.


But you got God in them. So, is he like a character in your story, or what?


God impersonated by a human being?


God comes down here, turns into Jesus, impersonates a human being.


He wasn’t just impersonating.


What do you mean “just”? You demean the craft of acting.


He was human. That’s the mystery. It’s one of your sacred mysteries.


Just shows you how good he was.




And the Shroud?


The blood has been submitted to DNA tests and it appears to be someone who lived in the thirteenth century.


We need to track down that person’s kin.


What for?


To tell them.




When you say you prayed, what exactly do you mean?


I asked God’s forgiveness and –


In your mind?


I spoke. I spoke the words.


You said them aloud?


I did.


You said aloud: God –


Dear Lord.


Dear Lord?


What would you say?




That’s how you’d talk to God?


Why do I have to talk to him? To tell him what I’m thinking?


To beg forgiveness.


That’s ridiculous. In my mind? I’m begging forgiveness? I could be reading a book.





The Church is a lie.


The pope is a liar.


Priests are perverts.


The whole world turns into a prison.


Where the greatest sinner is the greatest saint.


And the Devil is God.




Pray, tip down your jug that I may drink.


Drink, and your camels too I shall water.



I consider the question of God to be open.


As in there is no solution.


I didn’t say that.


No solution has been presented.


As yet.




Look, if you just went by the assumption that religion – all of it – is fucked up, then it would stand to reason that it gets more and more fucked up as it goes along. On that basis alone you have to hand it to the Jews as being the oldest as being the least fucked up. The Christians come along and think they’ve got some bright new idea, but it’s crazier than the first shit. Then Mohammed comes along and his shit is the craziest yet. But for sheer comedy though, you’re never gonna beat the Mormons.




Jesus walked the earth.


With Kane.


Kung Fu.


In Godspell.




People don’t like the idea of evil actually being in their God.


So, their God is able to discern evil.


And cast it out.


Cast it the hell out.




Ghost riders in the sky.


Them motherfuckers been riding a long time.





Ex nihlio. You know what that means? Out of nothing.


What a concept.


The novelty alone was enough to jog the world off its axis.


Turns out the axis is imaginary.


But out of nothing.


Be a neat trick, wouldn’t it?


Couldn’t top it.


That’s the point. Could God make a rock so heavy he couldn’t lift it?


That involves a negativity.







Jesus being God was the Greek’s idea. They were used to gods taking human form. It would never have occurred to the Jews.


Didn’t Buddha do something like that?


I don’t know. Hey, any of you guys know Buddha?


Buddha Who?


Buddha Who – how many Buddhas do you know?




So the west becomes more rational.


And the east more mystical.




Why do we always think the end of the world as a sad thing?


The world could have a happy ending.









Darkness within darkness.


The gateway to revelation.


Down, down into the filth and the mud and the blood and the feces. It takes your breath away. And you have to wait for eyes to adjust to the darkness. Up ahead a cave is being guarded by a dwarf. To get by him you have to wade through the icy water of the stream, but it’s clean and purifying. Inside the cave a red crystal glows.





I keep having the same dream.


If you want everything given to you.


Give everything up.






When the walls of Jericho came a-tumblin down, the Israelites killed everything that moved – men, women, children, cattle, donkeys.




And that was all cool with Yaweh. He wanted it that way. Because he was a War God.




And maybe your job is to be the King’s enemy.


I’ll probably never see you again.


Yeah, well, I’ll be right here.


I’ll see you on the other side.






A paradise of pleasure.




Do you believe in fate? If God has a plan for you, are you free then to follow that plan or not, as you choose? And God is going to let you?


He’s God.






But we have free will. Every moment there are decisions to make. And you make them. Things that could go either way. Things that could go another way. And everybody else makes their choice too. And then you throw in hazard, blind luck, chance, and what happens happens.


But once something happens then things cannot be other than they are.


We live in the effect of some cause.


Many many effects.


Of many many causes.


The effects transform into causes and vice versa.


The cause inextricable from the effect.


Like form from content.


Free will is a sham.


Maybe you can do whatever you want, but what good is that if you have no control over what you want?




Isaiah wrote: God is high.


Well, that explains it.




All the bad shit that’s ever happened. What sort of God would allow the Black Death?


The Holocaust.


Turns out God was high.


The Holocaust? I did that? Oh shit, you’re kidding. Damn, was I wrecked.




Execration texts.


You mean Shit Writing?


No, no. They’re curses. They were written on this pottery and then deliberately smashed and the shards were buried here.





You think you can solve your problem with magic?


Faith in God is not magic.


What’s the difference?


There is no magic.





I am God. You can have no other God but me.


That’s reasonable.


Do not take my fucken name in vain goddamnit.


What name?


Keep holy the Sabbath.




Honor thy father and mother.


In that order?


Aint gonna be no graven images.


Graven images? Of what? Of anything?


I am Everything.


So much for art.


Thou shalt not kill.


I hadn’t thought of that.


Or commit adultery.


Without a very good reason.


Or steal.


So much for Primitive Accumulation.


Or lie.


I never lie.


Or covet.


You mean want? How am I not supposed to want? Hey, wait a minute, where are you going? Wait!


This stone is a witness to it.


To what?


This stone saw and heard it all.


A silent witness.





Do you want to die?






I want to find out what happens. I can’t wait.


Nothing happens.


Something happens. Nothing never happens.





Faith in anything. It doesn’t have to be religious.


She’s on a cross – how can it not be religious?


A woman on a cross is not so unusual. Women were crucified as well as men. By the hundreds, by the thousands even.


Her faith transforms the ugliness of death into beauty.


Anybody who thinks death is beautiful is full of shit.


Maybe not. You can have faith in anything.


Maybe you can, but I can’t. I can’t have faith in shit.


Now shit is one thing I can have faith in.





Tell me what you don’t remember.


How can I tell you what I don’t remember if I don’t remember it?




What what?


What don’t you remember?


I don’t remember.


Sure you do. You remember being born?




Well then, that’s one thing.


That I can’t remember?




How about Creation? I don’t remember that.


Then how do you know it happened?


Same way I know I was born. I’m here, I musta come from somewhere. Everything else is here – it musta come from somewhere too.


That’s ridiculous. You think everything came out of your mother?




The Virgin is the Bride of Christ.


Wait a minute, how can . . . ?


An incestuous relationship between the Son of God and the Mother of God?


This is the Oedipus Complex brought to Divine Life.


And it is going to make God the Father very angry.




Happiness you consume.


Sadness consumes you.


Happiness you devour until it is absolutely gone.


Sadness eats away at you, nibbles, gnaws, bites, but when it is finished it is you that is gone.


There’s nothing left but sadness.




And they lived happily ever after . . .


In the Ever After.


Not here.


Not Now.


Not ever.







If you want to go back to the beginning, we have it on good authority that Cain’s father wasn’t


Adam, but the Devil.


The Devil fucked Eve?


You’re surprised?




Who else is he gonna fuck?


So the Devil fucks Eve, and then what?






Jews ensue.




We’ll get to him.





I just rolled in on a cloud of shit.






I walked with the guy for three years, all the way to Jerusalem, and I never once heard him say he was God.


Maybe not in so many words maybe.


At all. Nothing like it.


You were a man who knew another man, that’s all.


You’re telling me you never met him.


Not while he was alive, no.


Not while he was alive?


That’s right.


What the hell are you talking about?


I never met him while he was alive.


What’s that supposed to mean?


I met him after he had risen from the dead.


You met him after he had risen from the dead.


Yes. You can’t see love or hope, but you can’t see the wind either. You can see the sun, but you can’t see heat. Maybe he was God without knowing it.


That makes no sense.


It’s possible.


It’s not possible. By definition, God is omniscient, all-knowing. He couldn’t actually be God and not know it. He knows everything. He’d know.


Yeah, he would know, but maybe he didn’t know it then.




You think? Maybe it begins to dawn on him –


Like Spiderman.


Hey, I can work miracles.


Like Superman.


It’s possible.


Maybe he never knows it, you know? Maybe he doesn’t figure it out until he comes back.


From the dead?


And he says: Wo! I must be God.


I can’t believe how naïve you are.


Believe it. I believe it. I’ll believe anything.





What are you doing?


I’m praying.


That do any good?


Can’t hurt.


Sure it can. Remember Saint Ignatius prayed so hard he almost went blind.


I don’t pray like that.


How do you pray?


Like this.


Is it ok to drink beer and smoke dope while you’re praying?


In some religions it is.


I’m joining.


But you have to believe what they believe.


Who cares what they believe?


You have to care.


How’re they gonna know?


Now you’re just being silly.







Is or is not the Bible the Word of God?


The words of the Bible are the Words of the Bible.


Are they the Word of God?


The Word of God?


Do you believe in the Word of God?


I guess.


Is it in the Bible?


The Word of God?




The Word of God isn’t written down.


You’re saying the Bible is not the Word of God.


I’m saying the Word of God isn’t something written down. That’s not the way God talks. That’s the way we talk. God talks like God.


How’s that?




Like that.


And what does it mean – what is God’s message?


It’s going to rain.


If you say the words of the Bible are not the Word of God, you blaspheme – and there is no greater sin.


If you say the words of men are the Word of God, you blaspheme – and there is no greater sin.


Somebody’s doin a bunch of sinnin round here.





God could talk like a man if He wanted to.


He? That makes no sense.


Just like when God sent his only son Jesus . . .


God sent his only son?


Jesus became a man.


What do you mean, he became a man? He was a man.


Jesus was God, I mean, Jesus is God, but he took on the nature of man.


That makes about as much sense as saying a circle could act like a square if it wanted to.


This is why Solomon says that the instruction of fools is folly.




You think when God prays He prays to Himself? Think again. God prays to us, just as we pray to Him. It’s a two-way street.


You enemy of God and his saints.


What’s it mean when they say: God helps them who help themselves?


Means God doesn’t want to help anybody.


Why not?


Because he’s a mean bastard.







That’d be good.


That’d be funny.


Can’t make fun of people praying.


Heaven forbid, but is praying actually a productive use of your time?


Time spent with God?


So: Praying would actually fall under Consumption rather than Production.


You’re buying what God is selling.


Which makes God rich –




Befitting the Lord and Ruler of the Universe.


But if you don’t pray.


And your time spent with God just sits there.


Then God is going to take His services elsewhere.


To the faithful.


And to Hell with your sorry ass.





His surgery is scheduled for today. Been scheduled for three weeks. He decides he’s not going. He’s going to have faith that God is going to cure him.


God is going to cure him of pancreatic cancer.


What he believes.




Just what he believes.


No, I mean why is God going to cure him?


Because He loves him.




Because he has faith, because he has trust in God.


Doesn’t he have faith in doctors?






It doesn’t matter.


It’s going to.


You can’t tell him what to do. He’s putting his trust in God.


Then God should tell him to put his faith in doctors.


And you sure as shit can’t tell God what to do.


Why not?


Well, you can, but I bet He won’t do it, He sure as shit won’t do it just because you say so.


God’s not taking orders from me.


No sir.





Well sometimes I just wish –


What’s the difference between a wish and a prayer?




God could grant a wish as easily as a prayer.


Don’t you wish.





Don’t despair, say a prayer.


If you say a prayer –


You are in despair.





Caligula wants us to worship him as a god.


I can live with that.


And we’ve got to vote for his choice for Consul.


Consul of Rome?


None other.


I can live with that, who’s his choice?


His horse.


Say again.


His horse. Caligula’s horse.


Did you say whores?
Horse. Horse.


His horse?


You got a problem with that?






We’ve got three great bands of warriors on this Crusade to recapture that goddamn Holy Land. One is led by the fucken king himself over there, and one led by myself, a brave and worthy knight, and one led by that kid.


Yes. And a child shall lead them.


No. That kid.


You mean the fucken goat?


Don’t that beat all. They say it has magical powers. Well, spiritual.





We could if we wanted slaughter all the Jews as usurers.




But what’s the use of it?


What’s the use of usury?


I mean, somebody’s got to do it.




There is no disguising the crapshoot nature of the game we are all playing.


Interest is vital.


The wheel of fate cannot turn without credit.





History’s greatest villains are all gathered together.


In Hell.






Who’s that guy?


I’m innocent.


Is this prison?


It’s Hell.




These villains are the repressed aspects of the self.


The dark side we all have.


Called chaos by many.


Jung called them our shadows.





The Jews are the Chosen People because they chose themselves and more power to them. For the life of me I can’t see how that’s any different from God having chosen them.


Except that there is no God.


This is what I’m saying.


What if there are no chosen people?


But there are.


Then let me change the mood: what if there were no chosen people?






Circumstances contrary to fact considered hypothetically.


They’ve got their own demons.


Their Golem.


Their own magic and mystery.




But that God would single out one race. . .


Forget about God.


What if God forgets about me?


You’ll know.


Not a race. A civilization. A culture.


And to say it alone is chosen.


That’s right.






Well, I’ve read the Bible and the Koran and the sayings of the Buddha and the Upanishads and the Tibetan Book of the Dead and I know what Zen is all about, and I’m not saying it’s all shit . .




But taken altogether, it’s just a fucken mess.





Israel and Judea.


Who’s got first dibs on the Holy Land?


God gave us this land.


We’re back to that, are we?


And it’s ours.


Providing we can take it.


And hold it.


That makes it ours.


In the eyes of God.


You can’t just turn up after two thousand years and say This is Yours. We fucken live here.


And Marx felt otherwise as well.


The Jewish Question.


As did Proust.


And Freud.


They didn’t even believe in God, so what has being Jewish got to do –


With anything?


If there’s no God.


What’s anything got to do with anything if there’s no God?




Marx wouldn’t be living in Israel.


He might. Why wouldn’t he? All he did in England was sit in the British Museum and read. He couldn’t do that in Israel?


Can’t see Proust living in Israel.


Or Freud.


Because it’s a religious state.




The Secret Life of Ideas.




The Dream of Life.




A Jew should be concerned with the Talmud and Torah.


Not Arabs.


Not Christians.


Except in business.


And culturally.




But the main thing –


Is the Covenant.


Because that’s not between Jews and Arabs or Christians.


That’s between Jews and God.







That’s in the Bible.


Not life.


Not now. Things that are in the Bible happened in biblical times.


Bible Time.


This is not Bible Time.


To some people it is.






You make these casual references to Hitler and the Holocaust. . .




Break their teeth, Oh God, in their mouth.




Nightmare? People – our people – lived in those camps and they didn’t have nightmares. You know why? What kind of nightmare do you think they’d have? They’d rather be in the fucken nightmare than what they woke up to.




The Jews finally proclaimed the Christians heretics.


I don’t know about that.


I was there.


What happened?


James, the brother of Jesus, was killed by the Sanhedrin, that’s Jew against Jew.


This was like throwing the Christians out of Judaism.


Christians? Did they call themselves Christians?


That was Paul’s idea.


And the Christians wouldn’t fight with the Jews against the Romans.


Can you blame them?


Hell yeah.


That’s because you’re a Jew.


So were they.


No, you threw em out, remember?


The risen Christ appeared to all the apostles.


So you say.


I was there.





Christ is an invention of mythology.





Jesus was a peasant revolutionary.




And the more they smoked from the magical pipe, the more did they come to believe.




Look, if Good is stronger than Evil, then Good will win – sooner or later.


And if Evil is stronger than Good?


Then Evil will win.


But if Good and Evil are of equal force.


Which only stands to reason.


Then this shit could go on forever!




You mean . . . ?


This shit is going on forever.


So, get used to it.


We ought to be used to it by now.


Been going on forever.


Far as we know.





We’ve got to rebuild this city!


Whore houses over here, saloons over there, dope houses down the street, freak shows, dime museums along the avenue – a glorious stirring site.





John of Patmos, high on mold, having visions in his cave.





The Demogorgon is the father of the whole fucken race of gods who live in caves in the bowels of the earth.


With his nine kids, and two broads named Eternity and Chaos.


I reach into the belly of Chaos, whom I have fucked and impregnated, I pluck out our kid, whom I will name Discordia, and the little bitch immediately takes off and starts flying around the cave like a balloon with a hole in it. I’ve got no time for this folderol. I snatch her out of the air and cast her down.







It’s hard to say which is more ridiculous – the living praying for the dead or the living praying to the dead.


Praying for the dead as if there were something we could do for them.


Praying to the dead as if there were something they could do for us.





What an extraordinary collection of ugly and stupid people.


Fascinating deformity.


Breathtaking ignorance.


But their ugliness is closer to beauty by far . . .


Than their ignorance is near to wisdom.




You are the Enemy of God and you must die.




Whores have kids too, you know. To be the Son of a Whore is not that uncommon.


Still I wouldn’t go around calling someone that.





Solomon gives away a parcel of the Promised Land – beach front property it was too – and nowhere in the Bible does anybody say boo about it.


Why’d he do it?


He needed the money.




The Lord will smite you with boils, with scurvy, with blindness.


What, is He out of fire?





I can see how you misplace your keys, how you lose your wallet. How the hell do you lose the Ark of the Covenant?


The last we hear of the Ark is in 586 BCE when Babylon strafes the Kingdom of Judah.


What year is this?


586 BC.




Before Christ




BCE? What the hell is BCE?


Damned if I know.


Before Christ Everlasting.





The False Warning.





The Righteous Teacher.





The Wicked Priest.





And do you pray?


Oh yes.


And does it help?


I don’t know. Sometimes, I guess.


Well, you pray to God, don’t you?


God? No, that never occurred to me.


Then to whom do you pray, if I might ask?


Why, anybody.




Yeah. I just pray. Aloud. Please help me!


To anybody?


Yeah. I don’t care. Why would I care?


Does that include God?


Does it?


Why else pray?


I told you, sometimes it works. I don’t know how.


How can it work if there’s no God?


Who cares how it works?






Because everything living dies.


And everything dying lives.


Till it dies.


And then it is no more.


Except that energy can neither be created nor destroyed.


Same energy.


Same air.


Same air that Jesus breathed.





It’s funny, the closer you get to death, the further away everything else seems to be. Are you prepared to die?




Too bad.


Are you prepared to die?






Don’t worry about dying




Nothing happens.



The Spouter of Lies.



May 1606 sees the passage of the Act to Restrain Abuses of Players. Example: A fine of ten pounds every time a Player uses God’s name in a joke.


You say the name of God and you either gotta do it in reverence or in fear.




Now that’s OK.




So I figure I’ll climb up to the top this column, sit there, isolated, alone, maybe fifty feet up, expose myself to all the cruelty of nature, not to mention any critter who wants to have at me, and maybe I can escape these diabolical temptations.


Suppose for a moment that you are just like any other drug fiend alcoholic. And these are all just thoughts pissing through your mind. . .




What? No. At any one time.


Any one time.


Moment by moment, thought by thought.


One thought at a time.


That’d be something, wouldn’t it?


If you’re lucky.


Luck has nothing to do with it.





Now look down and see what you’ve got on the page.


In most cases, words we all know.


Trying the best they can to make their meaning clear.


As one might think, or hope, or wish, or pray that God would.


Unless God is trying to play some sort of game with us.


Make things difficult for us.


Wants to make things difficult – on purpose.


To show us how smart He is.


Or maybe . . .


The Thing is difficult all on its own.


That’s the thing.




And the word was made flesh.


Do we cavil at the use of the passive voice in this sentence from the Word of God?





Saint Ignatius cried so fucken hard at Mass that doctors warned him he might go blind.





We walk in darkness.


We hear voices.


What we think we hear is actually a collectivity within the central nervous system.


The voice of God.


Is the way we perceive it.


If we’re schizophrenic.


There’s God.


In your brain.


And once your mind gets hold of God.


There’s only one other way to think of it.


That all of this is just a part of the Mind of God.


And who wants to think about that?


And how would you do it?


You’d use your causal operator.


Anterior convexity of the frontal lobe.


And the inferior parietal lobe.


And their reciprocal connections.


Rub em together, wudiya get?







See there. In the triangles.


You mean up above the spandrels.


The ignudi twisting and squirming in dark places.








We are animals.




What happened to Jesus?


He was crucified, and he died.


And he was buried.




And rose again.


No. He was not buried. People who got crucified didn’t get buried. That was the point. They got crucified by the thousands. Didn’t you see Spartacus.


What do you mean, he wasn’t buried?


He wasn’t buried.


Sure he was. It’s in the Bible.


I’m just trying to tell you what happened.


He wasn’t buried.




What happened to him?


You mean what happened to the body? Same thing happened to everybody else got crucified.


What’s that?


Dogs ate em.


Dogs ate them?


Dogs ate him. Sorry.





They go in there.


He goes in there.


He goes in there.


Or she. It doesn’t have to be a man.


Could it be a child?




So they go in there.


Into the cave.


Into the labyrinth.


He knows where he’s going?


He’s seen it before.


In his dreams.


In he goes.


He doesn’t know.


He thinks he knows.


He’s seen it in his dreams.


He’s making it up as he goes along.


But he’s not making it up out of nothing.


In the cave.


Which one?


They’re all connected.


You mean the cave in your mind?


You keep asking all these questions.





Paul roaming around from Corinth all way to Rome.


Spreading the Word.


And the Jesus people start to turn into the Christ people.


They start putting together their mythology.





The mind enters the cave.


They go in there.


The artists would go in there without a lamp.


Without a lamp.


Till they figured out how to make a lamp.


And how would you make a lamp if you couldn’t buy one at Wal-Mart?


You’re going from thirty thousand years ago?


When the first humans appeared.


And what happened before?


Before we were here?


Before we were.


Before we can get outside of time.


Beyond time.


There’s all this time that needs to be accounted for.





Josh and the Prodigality of his Tongue, did he say?


The Prodigality of the Son.


Let us rather now become personal and autobiographical to the point of inscrutability, if you know what I mean.


I’ll go first.




The Church won’t allow dissection of the dead.


No, no, because what’s inside the body is a divine mystery.





And you start to get this feeling that all things are directed toward their ends.


You don’t have to kill yourself.


I don’t?


Not yet.


You mean nothing’s wrong?


Did I say that?





I will not be party to the assassination of God.


Well, you’re not gonna rat us out, are you?





It suddenly occurs to me: I may not be fit to operate a vehicle.


What do you want me to do about it?


I may be bipolar, but we’re all in this together.






Why make the meaning a secret? You see what I’m saying?


What you’ve always said.


Why crawl deep into a cave, where no one else can go, and paint a picture on the wall?


In the dark.


How else can you make a picture of the dark?





Drink long and deep from the Cup of the Lord’s Vengeance.





Death isn’t something that’s waiting for you.


Death is something you have inside you.





Who brought death into the world?


Tell me.


You did.


Nobody’s perfect.


Don’t you get it? Everybody’s perfect.


This is just perfect.





Do you have any idea where we are?


I’m guessing we’re at the bottom of a deep gravity well.




We appear to be on the surface of a gas-covered planet.


What’s that in the sky?


A nuclear fireball.


Kind of close, isn’t it?


I’d say it’s about ninety million miles away.


And this is normal?


To us it seems that way, but our perception is skewed.





So you’re not asking for much.


Just your essence.


But if you go back, to that moment, you remember, you were only a child. How old were you, six, seven?




You can go back there any time, to that moment, to that summer, and what happened, the very moments, be there, go back, the way it felt, the way it smelled, every nuance, every sound and sensation. But you weren’t there.


I was. It’s the most real thing in the world to me.


But it isn’t in the world and neither is the you who was there. Every single particle of you is different now. Not a single atom remains of the you who was there. You’re all new.


I just remember it is all.


Whoever you are, you’re not you.


I’m not.


Not what you think of as you. You may think of yourself as this collection of experiences, but you are not the collection of atoms that experienced them.


That’s a relief.


How so?


Don’t blame me for my life being all fucked up, I wasn’t even there.




Converting itself into helium by nuclear fusion.


You gotta start somewhere.


Originally formed by a disc of gas.


You gotta be kidding me.


Out of which the rest of the solar system, including the earth of course. . .


Of course.






It’s a small world after all.


Now we are heading back in time.


No. Now we are heading out of time.


Obviously this is the kind of planet that is capable of generating and supporting our particular life forms.


Well, we live here.


As long as there’s water. It gets so cold that the water freezes, we’re fucked. Gets so hot that the water boils.


We’re fucked.


We’ve got this thin band of an orbit, that if we stray the slightest bit.


Almost circular.


Almost. An ellipse.


Got Jupiter out there, intercepting asteroids that could easily obliterate us.


Got the moon, just one of em, stabilizes our axis of rotation.


Sun is not binary, which is good, otherwise sun’d be locked in a mutual orbit with a companion star.


That’d make our orbit too radical to sustain life.





Your mind has the power of its affects to the extent that you are able to arrange the affects in order and connect them.




Picture reality.





Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe


See, you always end up depending on somebody.


This is because we cannot live alone.


Shit no, if we could, we would.


All the other Cyclopes on the island . . .


And we each live in our own cave.







There was all that, and autumn was suddenly chilling the air outside, telling nature, if not humans, that death was surely coming, and maybe it would be spring again thereafter, but, surely, for some, if not for many, spring would never come again.


And now it is transmuted into a fiction.


This isn’t fiction.


It’s not?




You’re sure?


I’m real. You’re real.


You sure?


What’s wrong with you?


I know I’m real.


You know it, huh?


I think . . .





Leaves fall, wind blows, people die, and this is the only possible world.


The only way things can be.


That’s why our brave young fighting men take such heavy-duty drugs.


This is not Amsterdam, my friend.


No it is not.


It is somewhere else entirely.


We’re still in a war, you know.


It’s a different war.


Different wars for different times.


They could kill all of us.


Safety in numbers.


They could kill us all.


A certain numerical assurance.


A world we’re not in.


And what might have happened.


Speculative fiction.


You might have been happier never having been alive.


If, never having lived.


Trying to see just how happy you could be.


By never having lived.


In the world.


The more joy we have, the more perfect we are.


The luckier we are.


Things could have been different.


Things cannot be other than they are.






There may be, there probably are, hundreds, maybe thousands, maybe millions of universes.


So what?


We use these maps to find our way back in time.


Backwards forwards, what’s the difference? You think it’s like an elevator, that you can only go up and down, but you can go sideways in time too. You see, everything is moving, and that includes time.


It’s all fluid.


Past present and future are really all happening at once.


You think cause comes before effect, but that’s not necessarily the case.


That is logically absurd.








Stephen Hawking wants to figure out how the universe started before he dies, bless his heart.


I hope he does, God bless him.


I’m cheering for him.


I’m praying for him.





Look at him. His face all screwed up, crying his eyes out, wrenching his whole body into a physical plea.


Now, that’s praying.


That’s nuts.


You hear about people going crazy all the time.


You don’t just hear about it,


Look on the bright side.


The bright side of insanity, the bright side of mental illness?






You don’t understand – this man is my friend. My very friend. He hath got this mortal hurt in my behalf.




This movie is being shown to dead people.






And a grand old year it has been, looking back on the year just past.


Hell of a year.


The year of the year.


That it was.


Year after year.


A year like no other.






Previously having dealt with Jesus in these pages.


Juxtaposing the sacred and the profane.


Mixing them together.


This is what got that guy into trouble with his Piss Christ.


Not to speak of those Dutch cartoons.


No, they are not to be spoken of.


So much the better.






Perfection and reality are synonyms.




Which agency of the government are you with?


I’m sorry?


I see you’re taking notes.






What’s so funny?


I was just remembering how much I used to love my wife.




I was getting all misty-eyed. Then reality set in.


Comedy is built on incongruity.




The Real. That’s another name for Terror.




De Sade fantasized about an indestructible victim. Now that would be fun.




The preacher walked out of his own sermon and went across the street to the bar.





There’s no rhyme or reason. You see? It’s a choice. Rhyme or reason. It’s a choice, one or the other.


So rhyme displaces reason, or the other way around.


Otherwise there would be chaos.


You’re describing reality.


Thank you.



Shall we stop by the Museum of Whores?


Right on our way.




God & Man


Don’t feel guilty.


That’s easy for you to say.


This has nothing to do with what I say. Guilt is bad for you.


Same as you told us not to eat that fruit.


The fruit of that tree?




What did I say?


You forbid it.


I forbid what?


What, are you getting senile, the fruit of that tree, you forbid it.


No I didn’t.


You did not forbid it.


I did not forbid it, no.


You didn’t.




I thought you did.


You misunderstood.


I . . . ?


You seem to have a certain propensity for that.


You didn’t forbid it?




The forbidden fruit.


What did I say?


You said Don’t Eat It.


And now you know why.










I don’t mean to be critical.


No, no.


I don’t.


Of course not.


But I would be less than honest if I . . .


I understand.


Do you?


I do.


It’s just that, well . . .


You didn’t like it.


It’s not that I didn’t like it.


Did you like it?


No, but it’s not that.


What isn’t?


I just don’t think . . .




It’s just, I, I, you know what I mean.


I think I do, yeah.










Joy and sadness. That’s all there is.


And joy is preferable to sadness.




Which comes in different sizes.




Which comes in different lengths.






Now you’re going to have to be careful how you stand up.




So everybody can’t see that you have a hard-on.


I don’t, oh, I guess I do.







Anything, anything at all that distracts us from what is eternal and infinite can be fatal.


So you’ve got to pull yourself out of that moment.


You can’t.


No. Don’t let it.


It will pull you in.


You smell her perfume and you’re a goner.


Someone says her name.


She . . .


You cannot let the finite have control over you.


Only what is infinite,


And what might that be?




You have to be God. How else are you going to be one with God?


That’s important, is it?


To be able to live with yourself.


If you’re a philosopher.


One of those truth-telling professions.


The only one.


You’re saying philosophers are the only people who tell the truth?


For a living.


What about priests?




What about artists?


Artists are philosophers. Unless they’re liars too. But a philosopher can’t be a liar and still be a philosopher. Mutually exclusive.


A philosopher can’t be a liar any more than God can be a liar.


Why couldn’t God be a liar if he wanted to?


Think about it.





Did you go to church today?


I’m sorry?


Did you?


To tell the truth, no.


Do you believe in God?


Hell yeah.


That’s a facetious answer to a very serious question.


It would probably be more offensive to you, if I tried to explain to you that I am God.


That would be blasphemy.


Not really. You’re God too.


Everybody’s God – is that what you’re saying?


Yeah, and so is the air we breathe, and so is the shit that comes out of your ass.






Did you just say what I think you said?


I don’t know. What do you think I said?


I won’t repeat it.






What’s happening to me? Tonight? Tonight I’m going to die.


Worse than that.


What could be worse than that?





To love what is infinite and eternal.


You mean, as opposed to your ass.





A miracle, you see, would be . . .


Miracles are not consistent with the nature of God.





What does it matter, the pleasures of the flesh that someone else had?


Where are those people?


Who are those people?


A lot of those people are fictional.


A lot of them are dead.


Like the boy said, I don’t put no stock in dead people.





Everybody finally comes to the same realization: I haven’t done anything wrong.


When they have.


Doesn’t matter. They have to set themselves free. They have to free themselves of their guilt.




They drown in it.






If you mean, by a miracle, a suspension of the laws of nature, this would appear not to qualify.


No, no. I lost my cell phone and this woman found it in her bags when she got home from the mall.




And I had not even been to the mall.










Miracle after mircale.


Miracle upon miracle.


Well, the odds are against it.


In the sense that there are so many millions of people.




So, the chances of any two in particular interacting is extremely remote.


But the chance of one person interacting with another.


Is virtually assured.


It’s like the lottery. The chance of any one particular number being drawn is minute.


But the chance that some number will be chosen is assured.


And that’s all we want is a chance.











Sometimes a philosopher is like a hermit.


Not when they need the guy.


Who needs a philosopher?


You’ve got to be kidding me. Socrates? Who needs Socrates?




What are you looking for?


Looking through this . . .




Lost? I’m in the library.








How you doin?


I’m doin, how you doin?


I’m livin.


Don’t be so sure.




Your life. You keep talking about your life as if it possessed some sort of singularity.


Well, it’s the only one I have.


Yeah, you. You ever think of anyone else?


What for?







Moses was Pro-Life, you wanna talk about being Pro-Life.


Not particularly.


Have to promote the propagation of the race, you know.





And you regard the entire world as an udder to be milked dry.


You either rule your passions.


Or your passions rule you.


How about a truce?


That’s called death.




Don’t you get it? There’s only one set of rules for reality.


No. Reality is different for everybody.


But it’s the same thing.


There’s only one reality?





There’s a difference between a cave and a library.


And a labyrinth.


But not much.


All the answers are there.


And, if you’re lucky, you find out the questions later.


You go through life wondering what are these the answers to?





It’s not like a watchmaker being the cause of a watch. It’s more like the nature of a circle causing it to be round.


There’s no creator standing outside creation?


Because there was no creation. Eternity and infinity stretch in both directions, you know.












No beginning. No End.


In the beginning.




There was no beginning.


The origin of things.


Is their natural order.





Got any money?


I would, but I just spent a trillion dollars on a war on terror.











Not what. Who.




The serpent that devours its tail.





Pain is longitudinal.




By hurting now over what happened some time ago. What happens now suddenly seems to replay something that happened before. It’s only now that we can assess the damage.


To realize what it meant.


Better late than never.




No unfathomable mystery.


No other world accessible only through divine revelation.




Not necessary.


No hidden power.


No judge.


No secret truth.


There is nothing that cannot be known.


Oh my God.




So plausible.




The Bible is for children. Intellectual children.




For all we know, we are all nailed to the cross.


We all feel, we all intuit. . . .


You’ve got the thing equidistant, the crossbeams, and that’s giving you a genital perspective.





Historical Jesus, Rabbi Joshua, who walked the earth in the first century of the common era.


That guy.


You doubt his existence?


Only to a certain extent his divinity, which I do not believe he possessed to any greater extent than you or I.


One substance. Back to that are we?


Back to the Long March.


There’s nothing outside the march, so nothing is lost.


Not in the long run.





Maybe I’ll feel better after a beer or two.


Worth a try.


Or three.


Can’t hurt.




Jesus Fucked Up


It was a terrible mistake, don’t you see?


You mean by whoever crucified him.


The Romans crucified him.


Doesn’t matter.


Does matter. Jews don’t crucify. Romans crucify.


He should of never let em crucify him.


He’s fulfilling prophecy is all. He’s gotta die for all our sins.


What sins? We’re not even gonna be born for another two thousand years.


I don’t know. The sins we’re gonna commit. He’s gotta be crucified and be buried and after three days, he rises again.


He shoulda never been crucified in the first place. Doncha see how that fucks everything up? He shoulda just lived. He should have just kept on living. All this time. He should still be walking around. I mean, don’t get me wrong, rising from the dead is pretty damn good.


Shit yeah.


And appear, you know. Appear to people.


Certain people, yeah.


Certain people, yeah.


Transfer of Power.


You see what I’m saying? You wouldn’t need any of that. And now, all this religious hatred and intolerance and violence. It’s so unnecessary. And it’s not our fault.


Whose fault is it?


His. All he had to do was not die. Is that asking too much? From God? Rising from the dead is great, but not dying would have been a hell of a lot better. You want people to believe that Jesus is Lord – don’t die. Then you’d see. Ask anybody. You believe in Jesus? Yeah. Why? Well, let’s see, he’s thirty-three years old and he was born in the year 1. See? Nobody would have a problem with that. Wouldn’t need any more prophets, wouldn’t need the Pope or Imam or any other authority on earth, we could all just go about our business. That’s what he should of done, if you ask me. But, what do I know? Just seems to me, if you were God and you really had everybody’s best interests at heart – that’s what you’d do. Instead of playing this insane game of making us kill you so you could rise from the dead.


Jesus fucked up?


In my humble opinion.





The seasons change, and with them our psyches alter.


Our fecundity withers.


All is autumnal.


And the lengthening shadows reveal rather than conceal our darkest thoughts.


Assuage our soul.


And torment can lead to peace.


But you’d never guess it from the candy display at Publix.


A joyful fear before the unknown.


It was not a conversation, but rather some mysterious communication.


Kismet. Turkish for doom, appointed lot, fate, pre-determined fortune.





So, it’s no longer time to die?


Not today.


What’s gotten into you?


What a funny thing to say?


Tell me.


Happiness. Happiness has gotten into me.




He felt all over the tension of happiness.




You really are free. You can start to use your God powers the moment your belief that you actually have them takes over.


What are you doing, like some quasi-religious thing?


What do you mean? This? You think it’s a cross, don’t you?


You telling me it’s not a cross?


You can call it a cross if you want to.


What would you call it?


I wouldn’t call it anything.





All the while, thinking: there’s nothing wrong with dead people.


What, after all, can be said about the dead, except they are no longer with us?


But they are.




Many people, many, many people feel profoundly alienated from the world they live in. They hope and dream and pray for some miraculous escape.




Why not two Gods? One all-good, one all-powerful.


Mom and Dad.




So what is the meaning of life?


You’re kidding me, aren’t you?


No, no, I’m not kidding. I’m serious. What is the meaning of life?


What is the meaning of life?




I told you.


Tell me again.


There’s no meaning to life.


That’s such a comfort.


It’s just cells.


A stress-reliever.


Trying to reproduce.


And that’s it?


That’s it.





Do you believe in creation or destruction?




Why? How?


Because they are the same thing.




Hi, I’m Dale, I’m your neighbor.


Hi, Dale.


I’m hear to spread the word of the Lord.


Where – on my lawn?


And about the fellowship of faith. To invite you to join our congregation, and come celebrate, and make a joyful noise.




And we can pray for whatever particular . . . . Let me ask you, neighbor, what are your prayer needs?


I don’t know.




World peace, I guess.


Neighbor, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ did not come to earth to bring us peace.


I’m sorry?


That’s not the deal.


It’s not?


It’s not about peace. I mean, everybody’d like to have peace in their life. I’d like to have peace in my life, you’d like to have peace in your life. But you can’t use that as an excuse.


An excuse to . . . ?


Just lay back . . .


Lie back. . .


And let things happen. Too many people do that without realizing that what the Lord taught us is that you have to pick up the fiery sword.


The what?


And you have to be willing to wield that fiery sword.


The fiery sword.








You don’t have to hit anybody with it, do you?


With the fiery sword?




Lord Amighty yes! And they will be smote . . .




With the fiery sword, yessir.


You don’t have to kill em, do ya?


Kill em? If that’s all we did in life was go around killing people, where would we be?


Where are we?


If you think this is a long process. . .


What, evolution?


Think how long it took to kill off the dinosaurs.






In the dream there is no time.


Then how can you be late? I’m always late in my dreams. What do you mean there’s no time?




You’ve been found by . . .


The snake with no eyes.





And we have all these dreams.


We don’t all have these dreams


We all have dreams.


The organism, yes, it does dream.






Exposed to the vulture’s beak, like Prometheus, or cast fettered into the serpent’s den.





The saying In God We Trust doesn’t mean a damn thing to a Buddhist.


And that’s a good thing?


That is a good thing. Man preaching the word of God.


According to his lights.


Best he can.


To say it’s God’s will is not enough. It’s got to be the will of the people who carry out God’s will.


So he said, so he said.


And in time of need, God draws near.


In a time of need.


There’s a difference between needs and wants. Your needs, when you think about it are not all that many.


You gotta eat.


True. But you don’t have to drink.


Thinking about the preacher’s daughter while the preacher’s preachin.


Thinkin about her pussy, with the Lord Jesus looken on.


What’s up with that?


Our needs are few. Food, shelter. I think we need security. I think we need to love and be loved.


I don’t know what my unconscious is up to. That’s what makes it the unconscious – you can’t be conscious of it. But my fucking conscious mind is thinking about sex, I wanna be conservative here, I’m guessing about ninety-five percent of the time, so my unconscious must be going fucking nuts.


Wants, oh we have a lot of wants.




God does not draw near for wants. He draws near for need. The risen Jesus.




Fucking freaked em out. They’re out there fishing all night, professional fisherman – do it for a living, been out there all night, and haven’t caught a fish all night.


And there he is.




Isn’t that him?




On the beach.


I’ll be God . . .


That’s him, isn’t it?




It is. Look. He’s waving. It’s him. I swear to God, it’s him.


How? He’s dead. He’s been dead for . . .




Have you caught any fish?


What’s he asking us for? He doesn’t know that?


Cast your net on the other side.




Cast your net on the other side.


Can’t hurt.


Just watch out for the fiery sword.





They want an Islamic state, what’s wrong with that? If Israel can be a Jewish state, what’s wrong with being an Islamic state?


What’s wrong?


After all, we are a Christian nation, are we not?




In an Islamic state, you see, they’re followers of Islam.




What do you follow?


My nose.




In the beginning, people worshipped stones.


In the middle ages, when you’d ride up on a town, first thing you’d see, you’d see the churches, or come to a city, see the cathedral sticking up, later on, it’d be the palace you’d see. Now it’s all factories, commercial buildings. That’s architecture, but it’s also a new world.


If you believe in time.


Then you maybe believe you can outlast it.


She did.


And the more you make some deity out of her. . .


Nobody worships women anymore. I wish they did. They could start by worshipping me.


One piece at a time.


What do you mean?


They might start, your worshippers, just by worshipping one aspect of your divinity, say, your ass.


A fitting object of adoration.


An ass that people could look up to.


Providing they were lying down.






Either he rose from the dead, literally, physically, historically. Or he didn’t. So which is it?


No, he didn’t. Not physically, not literally, not historically. What happened was: it didn’t happen.






Did not happen?


Did not happen.

Just try to keep the order straight for starters: There’s creation. It’s topped off by man. And then wo-man – out of man. Then there’s the Garden of Eden, which we fuck up. Then there’s Cain killing Able, which makes things worse. After a while there’s the Flood and Noah and his Ark – with God complicit, as much as admitting that He fucked up this time. So let’s start over. And we do. And that’s where real historical people, it would seem, start to get involved.


Hearing voices?


Hearing a voice.


Here we go again.


Can’t even say his name. If you say it . . .


Then what?


You can’t say it.


Why not?


It doesn’t sound like anything. It’s just, it’s just like, I don’t know, it’s just like a breath.


A breath.




You look affected.


In what way?


As if you were trying to draw attention to yourself.




The hat?


The hat?


The hat is an affectation. You’re indoors. What is the purpose of the head covering?


To be the only god.


Come again?





So, what have you been up to?


Just preparing to die.


That’s cool.


To be prepared to live without God.


No one thinks like you. Doesn’t that bother you?


Why should it bother me?




There’s always that moment when God looks down and sees that you are happy and decrees that this must not be so.


Are you happy now?


Within reason.


And this cannot be.





Listen to this. Woman enters a convent, becomes a nun, but one night she runs away from the convent and turns into a party girl, and she wastes her whole life, and when she’s just a drunk old hag, she goes back to the convent, expecting to be reviled.


I hate when that happens.


But guess what happens.




Turns out that all this time, this whole debauched lifetime, the Virgin Mary has taken her place as a nun, and she just morphs, does like this shape-shift thing . . .




And she’s right back in her life as a nun. Hasn’t missed a beat.




It could happen.



You have arrived at the Gate of False Dreams.



It all comes out of patriarchal despotism.


What does?




How civilization began.


How killing. . .


Assassination. . .


Of the father.


Becomes the supreme crime.


So after they kill him, they make a god of him.


And the sinners repent, so they can sin some more.


Repression dominates life. You become fat and miserable.


That’s civilization. And so, our longing is always for sexual satisfaction.

Is that what drives you?


Me and everybody else, and if you don’t think so, it’s only because you’re repressing it.


I don’t think so.


Think again. You keep talking about how bad what’s his name smells, this stinks and that stinks, and it smells bad in here, and this smells like pee and this smells like cat pee and this smells like dog poo and that smells like shit, and it smells like somebody threw up in here.




What do you think that’s all about?


Tell me.


Your neuroses. They reveal themselves in your animal nature. That’s you at your most basic, and what you think is refined, turning up your nose because something stinks, is really just you using your sense of smell, the basest of all the senses, left over from when we had our noses near the fucking ground.


How do you know I . . . ?


Next thing you know you’ll be telling me you’re not neurotic.


I’m not.




Jesus walked into Jerusalem with three thousand followers. Three thousand. Policed by four hundred Roman soldiers. Jesus had an overwhelming force. All he had to do . . .




Are you gonna eat that?


I don’t eat meat.


You don’t know you’re missing.


Yes I do. It’s just. . . the whole meat-eating thing.


What about it?


I just don’t get it.


What don’t you get? It tastes good. Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him unclean?


Oh really?


Since it doesn’t go into his heart.




It’s what comes out of a man’s mouth that makes him unclean, not what goes in.


How is that?


Because it is from within the human heart that evil flows.




(They are holding hands in a circle. Their heads are bowed in prayer, and then the meeting is breaking up, people begin to leave. Ensemble #1, 2, 3 linger.)


Could you, maybe, if you really want to do a group prayer thing next time, could you maybe make it a little more nondenominational?




A little more, you know, ecumenical.


What the hell are you talking about?


I mean, if you believe Jesus is Lord. . . ?


What do you mean, if?


Well, you do, and that’s wonderful and all, and I’m truly happy for you, but, then, since Jesus is Lord, maybe you can just say Lord and not say . . . you know. I mean, instead of saying, you know . . . Jesus.


Wait a minute.


And that way . . .




You can . . .


Are you telling us . . . ?


You know, for the people who don’t . . .


Don’t say Jesus?




Well, I’ll be goddamned.


No, you don’t have to take it that way.


Like we’re gonna cut Jesus out of the goddamn prayer.


I didn’t say to cut Jesus out of the prayer. Jesus is Lord.


Goddamn right he is.


I’m just saying . . .


Jesus is Lord.


That’s right.


Then why can’t he be in the goddamn prayer?


Because of the different faces of God.


Jesus Christ.


That’s one of them.






What if abortion had been available to the Virgin Mary?


Let us pray – so that the laws of the universe might possibly be momentarily annulled in our behalf. Is that too much to ask? Virgin Mary in the abortion clinic.


She’s got a pretty good case.


Unwanted pregnancy.


Through no fault of her own.


She aborts Baby Jesus.


Surely God can trump that card.


Everybody makes mistakes.


Nobody’s perfect.


To err is human.


To forgive is divine.



Backstage on Angel Street

DSC05453Gaslight cast Angel Street (Gaslight) by Patrick Hamilton, the parenthetical title refers to the play’s historical setting on Angel Street in Victorian London when gaslight was used as illumination before the advent of electric lights.

Gaslight also turns out to be a telling clue in solving the case in the classic detective yarn. It’s got five roles, and they’re all good ones.

The detective story is a branch of melodrama, where plot dominates character, although a great playwright, like, say, Sophocles, could turn a detective story into a tragedy. Sophocles did that by turning the detective into the perpetrator of the crime, turning the whole thing upside down, making the detective not the first to solve the crime, but the last.

Gaslight is right side up, which makes it easier for all involved to handle, simpler, which is good, because it’s one of only two ways to succeed in the theatre (Always Do the Simplest Thing), the other being to do Something You Already Know How to Do.

You can neatly apply those two rules to Gaslight, which also comports with the category of Well-Made play. Gaslight is demonstrably that.

There are five parts, each with its attractions for both actor and audience. There’s the older, comical maid-servant and there is the young, saucy maid-servant, who’s having it on with the master of the house, the villain of the piece, befitting melodrama, while the former is loyal to the lady of the house, who is the villain’s latest victim. The setting is the scene of the crime, but it is not until the arrival of the detective that the crime begins to be revealed and, at the same time, in real time, the crime is solved. It’s neat. That’s the set-up, and it works like a Swiss watch, but it’s got to be in capable hands. The fact that it’s a good script, in terms of plot, character, and language, doesn’t mean squat – or we’d be seeing great productions of Shakespeare all the time, but we don’t, mostly because actors have trouble learning and speaking the lines, and whole companies ignore the Two Rules of Theatre, abandoning the simplest things and plunging headlong into something they’ve never even tried before, and consequently most Shakespeare productions are a mess.

Gaslight could be a mess too, unless you stick to the rules, but that’s what makes it thrilling, like walking a tightrope, don’t try to get too fancy; just get to the other side.

Shakespeare is the best there is, the best training an actor can have. I say this as a self-made Shakespearean actor, not exactly unassisted, because I certainly benefited from the guiding hand of the great Shakespeare scholar and fine director in Sidney Homan, there’s something about the way Shakespeare chose words and put them together, something about rhythm and rhyme and talking and breathing, that if you study your lines and learn them, the lines practically say themselves. You open your mouth and out they come, not only rich and round, but syncopated.

Minus the richness and dizzying depth, Gaslight’s language is something like that. It is simpler, but it is still cadenced, still crafted consciously and skillfully to offer the actor clear signposts to guide him or her through the intricate plot to the conclusion.

Being a well-made play, Gaslight is precisely divided into three acts, beginning, middle, and end.

My journey is that of the retired police detective, Sergeant Rough. Rough’s journey is a joy. My objective couldn’t be clearer. I’m trying to solve the case. Every word I say is a step forward, a necessary and inevitable step forward, in solving the case.Rough

The trick to playing Rough is to articulate each word precisely and find the cadence and music in his speech, and to think the plot through from beginning to middle to end. Once you’ve put it all together, the only thing left to do is to connect the end to the beginning, so that it plays like a continuous loop in your head:

“I came in from nowhere and gave you the most horrible evening of your life, didn’t I, the most horrible evening of anybody’s life, I should imagine – ah, thank you, good evening, Mrs. Manningham, I believe, how are you, Mrs. Manningham?”

Sgt. Rough exists between those two lines. He’s a man who looks exactly like me, except he has short hair and a mustache, so I’ll need a shave and a haircut, and that will be Sgt. Rough.


Justin Clement is the versatile, engaging, attractive, funny, explosive, and charming actor playing the part of Jack Manningham, the gaslighter, who is a slick player, a cold-hearted, brutal womanizer, and secretly a thief and a murderer, so he’s got a lot going on. Justin uses his marvelous physical attributes – he is indisputably tall, dark, and handsome, not only to good effect, but to continually surprising effect, as tools of both his wit and his temper. He moves like a dancer, speaks in a rich and varied articulation of London talk. Jack is gaslighting his wife and Justin shows you exactly how it can be done.

Anne Rupp is Bella Manningham, the victim of Jack and his gaslighting. You feel sorry for her – because you look into her home and her life and see what the rest of London can’t see, what only the servants can see (Servants! We look at lives none of us lead, lives that have not been led for a hundred years, where those who went to the theatre were accustomed to returning home at the end of the evening to be waited on by servants, just like the people onstage.)

No one wants to be a victim. To be a victim is nothing to be ashamed of, perhaps, but it nevertheless causes shame, and the sad fact is that Bella is a victim, and that is what Anne Rupp makes very real, that Bella is a victim and Bella does not want to be a victim. It is a perversely difficult and ironic acting trick, meant to reveal the mind of someone desperately seeking to keep the focus off herself, who avoids confrontation, who would gladly fade into the background, if only she weren’t being gaslighted.

You watch, now knowing in 2018 what gaslighting is all about, and every moment of Bella’s life reveals with vibrant present tense intensity: This is just the kind of shit men do to women!

Laura Jackson directed These Shining Lives and produced a similar effect there, an empathic bond between the audience and the protagonists, women made victims by male greed and cruelty. You had to care about them. Here, Bella doesn’t want to be the center of attention, but she is, and Anne makes you watch her very carefully because she’s trying to keep a volcano of emotion from exploding.

Sgt. Rough spends no stage time at all with the Manningham’s maid Nancy, pertly play by Ashlyn. Although it is never specified whether Rough and Nancy have ever interacted, it is likely they have not, and that all Rough knows about Nancy is what has been reported to him by his man Booker, one of Nancy’s boyfriends.

Ashlyn Busscher plays Nancy as alluringly and saucily and wittily as you’d like, Nancy’s game being to see what she can get out of her situation. She becomes Jack’s willing accomplice, whatever his crimes might be. But she not only spices things up. She’s dangerous.

Then there’s the great Jan Cohen, the legendary Jan Cohen, whose star turn as Bette Davis wowed Ron Cunningham into acknowledging her as one of the best actors in town. It’s true. She knows how to play. Jan’s performance as Elizabeth, the good soul maid, is as finely crafted as a hand-stitched glove. Here are two tiny details that exhibit the economy and precision of her technique, which I can glean onstage and then hidden, spying, offstage, in, regrettably, the only scene I share with Jan.


The maid is trying to think of a place where the detective can hide, and Jan and I make the scene full of fits and starts, and she sends me this way and then that, and in the midst of it all, so quick and perfect, she pronounces the word “come” with just the right cockney, absolutely nailing it.

Not long after that, Sgt. Rough is hidden away, spying on the scene between Elizabeth and Jack, when the wicked villain tells her to “walk about like a cat,” and before she concedes to his request (what the hell), there’s just the slightest adjustment in her expression, a narrowing of her eyes, that instantly conveys her unspoken response: What the fuck?

The denouement of this well-made melodrama cycles rapidly to a conclusion that affords us a cameo appearance by actor/playwright Chuck Lipsig, adroitly handing a nonspeaking role in a manner that speaks clearly in what brech would call his gest. Chuck plays a cop.

This is what they call Hell Week in the theatre, implying that you are going through Hell before you can open your play, completing your set construction, tech-ing it from cue to cue, fumbling through the first No Line-call rehearsals, dress rehearsal, final dress, the preview, Jesus! But it’s really not Hell at all, if you’ve been doing your work all along, and we have. We’re not even doing a tech run today, Super Bowl Sunday, because the only lighting effect of Gaslight is the gaslight mysteriously rising and falling. The set is entirely and beautifully in place in 1880’s Victorian London, floating in black nebulous space all the way to the Acrosstown’s back brick wall, the old Baird Hardware wall, built in 1890!

The set and lighting design for Gaslight is the work of Michael Pressley Bobbitt, who is married to Laura Jackson, and here he has joined seamlessly the setting and lights with the precise and flawless technique of the well-made play to aim at the dramaturgical apex, the unified effect.

Always worth a try.

Mrs. Manningham: Anne Rupp Mr. Manningham: Justin Clement Rough: Shamrock McShane Elizabeth: Jan Cohen Nancy: Ashlyn Busscher Policeman: Chuck Lipsig

Angel Street (Gaslight) by Patrick Hamilton, directed by Laura Jackson, February 9 – 25, 2018, Friday & Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm, Acrosstown repertory Theatre, 619 South Main Street, Gainesville FL. Tickets on sale at accrosstown.org.v