Monday, March 6, 2017
Costa Rica Diaries, Part 4
January 30, 2017
I awoke my first morning in Costa Rica to a knocking at what I thought was my chamber door. When I checked, no one was there. I lay back down wondering if I had been dreaming, enjoying the air-conditioned comfort of my room and immediately fell asleep. When the tap-tap-tapping began again my reaction was, “Is this house haunted?” I believe this area is one filled with spirits although I may be confusing Costa Rican culture with the Gullah culture in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia. I hope I am mistaken. I was theoretically prepared for a band of marauders and even monkeys, but not ghosts. Having experienced a ghost once in high school I was not looking forward to a repeat of that traumatic event.
I sat and listened and realized the knock was coming from the window. I stood on the lovely aqua coverlet and looked out the window at a bird perched on the chains running from the edge of the roof to the ground that serve as a more efficient drainage system than drainpipes. The bird was pecking at its reflection. When I went down to breakfast and mentioned it to my host, the esteemed pale warrior Nick Halverson, he said it was probably trying to mate with itself. There’s a story there; at the very least, an allegory.
Today was our first writing class and we discussed writing as an exercise, a workout. According to our instructor Ezekiel (Zeke) Tyrus, Stendahl said everyone who considers themselves a writer should write 20 lines per day “genius or not”. We were asked to bring notecards and I had 200 in my writing kit as that was the size of the package from Dollar Tree. I was more than willing to share with my classmates and did so to one of my retreat-mates. I won’t tell you his name but it rhymes with John Kapelos.
Toward the end of class, someone noticed two creatures about the size of my fist affixed to the eaves of the covered veranda. When it was asked what they were someone said, “Moths.” When I looked over, I said, “It looks like those moths are wearing leg warmers. I think those are bats.” And they were. Welcome to the jungle indeed.
After dinner tonight there was great conversation and John K. was telling wonderfully entertaining stories about John Waters, Tom Waits, Tracy Chapman, Robin Williams, Elliott Gould and a host of other names in Hollywood. Someone asked the question, “Why are we so interested in celebrity?”
This led to what I will call “Things I Learned from John K. While Eating Chiky Cookies”.
To loosely quote Mr. Kapelos, "Celebrity is one of our cultural totems; a status game. It’s tribalism, like sports. We align ourselves with those who like the same things we like, people included. This tribalism is a matter of taste; a matter of trusting someone’s opinions. But we need to separate the person from the opinion. We don’t really know celebrities. We can’t if we’ve never spent time with them. We just think we know them. With writing, we can’t see a writer’s ability until they write. Then we can have an idea of who they are. However, timeless art transcends personality."
I’m thinking about his words as I mull over the questions and advice from the first workshop. We must write to perfect our craft, not to always be good. Tennessee Williams wrote every day as a workout. Writing is like the first day of rehearsal of a performance. You have to sometimes force inspiration. You can’t break the rules until you know them.
Questions to myself: Why do I write? Who is my muse? Who is my audience? Should that matter? Why have I always been, and to this day remain, slightly pink and scared of horses?
Tomorrow I have a one-to-one with the author of Eli/Ely and he is reading the 70 pages of my memoirs I shared with him. I'm looking forward to the feedback from Zeke. I'm interested in the reaction to my story from someone with whom I feel pretty certain I share only two commonalities: we both love writing and we are both carbon-based life forms.