Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Ghosting is Another Word for...

You can fill in the rest of the sentence yourself. Some folks see it as an easy way out. But in fact, it is short- sighted, mean-spirited and doesn’t meet the standards of a confident person.

Over the years, I’ve had a few friendships that started out promising enough but then the other party decided to end it with a series of excuses that finally convinced me that we were no longer salon companions. It wasn’t an honest way of ending our friendship/relationship but at least I (finally) got the point.

Breaking up is never easy to do. In the past most folks had the courtesy to speak their mind face to face or by the telephone. Nowadays some people have taken to ghosting. I guess it’s easier and requires less conscience then the old fashion way of owning up to reality and taking the honest way out.

I first heard of ghosting when Charlize Theron dumped her then boyfriend Sean Penn by simply disappearing from his life. Apparently it’s rampant among millennials too. Statistics show that nearly 80% of millennials have experienced it. Along with new age Tinder and Snapchat, ghosting comes with the territory.  It’s one of the paradoxes of this new fast-paced digital culture.

Centuries ago in another time and place, it was rough when my high school girlfriend broke up with me. I remember her gentle sentences were laced with the standard catch phrases like “we should date other people” and “we can still be friends.” But even then, at the height of my immaturity, I could sense her honesty and willingness to face our future and conclude there was nothing there. It was high school and the whole process of ending a relationship was new to both of us.

Beacon Hill
When my college girlfriend broke up with me atop Beacon Hill it was a straightforward surgical cut. “It’s time for both of us to move on with our lives and the best of luck to you.” The breakup was short, clean, and honest, nothing like the ghost busters of today.

Ghosting happened to me several times this summer and yet it’s always a surprise when it does. If I were polite I’d agree with the argument that folks who take to ghosting are simply avoiders. They probably avoid any kind of confrontation at all costs. They certainly don’t want to deal with their own uncomfortable feelings. A quote I read says it all: ‘The emotional maturity that comes with giving the person you’re dealing with an ounce of common courtesy is not in their emotional vocabulary or repertoire.’ Well spoken.

Since I’ve started spending more time out west that old ghost of relationships gone south has raised its familiar head again. I’m always seeking out opportunities where I can use my writing or speaking skills. Some proposals have been met with silence while others are warmly embraced if the details can be worked out…at least at first. Then the ghosting happens.

It’s been nothing as dramatic as a termination of employment or cancellation of a contract. The folks I was dealing with simply refused to answer my e-mails inquiring about my play offerings. Their venues have done some great work and it would have been wonderful to work with them. Yet for reasons still unknown, they decided otherwise.

Before this most recent incident, another out of town venue had requested several of my plays to review. I heard nothing back and inquired several times as to their status. Again, it was easier for that group to pretend I didn’t exist rather than send me a simple ‘not interested’ e-mail. People are strange.

My theory is that a confident director or artistic director isn’t intimidated by a playwright in their midst. Both playwright and director know who is in charge and ultimately who makes the creative decisions surrounding the play in question. Yet it seems to me that part of their job is to communicate their decision and if that includes rejecting a play then the playwright deserves the courtesy of being told just that.

“It’s so Hollywood,” my Palm Springs friends have told me even as I tried to explain that some of these past ventures were with Minnesota folks. “Minnesota Nice” and all that I argued but to no avail. Perhaps they’ve taken the refrain that my old boss used to recite whenever given the chance. “It’s just business” he said when he fired me. He got canned six months later and I’ve always wonder if he thought of that trite phrase when it happened to him.

Of course, there are a dozen reasons why partnerships, joint ventures and other assorted collaborations come to an end. Members of the proposed venture may have changed their mind about their goals and objectives. Perhaps this particular venture no longer fit their criteria. There could have been a time shift or time crunch for future productions. Their production objectives may have changed and no longer fit my qualifications. They might be trapped inside their own paradigms of what theater is supposed to look like. Or simply stated, I didn’t make the cut. The possible reasons are many and varied and probably legitimate. Any and all were probably sound reasons for ending (what I thought was) a budding artistic relationship.

Perhaps it was a good lesson for me. People with no spine always try to dodge the bullet but usually shoot themselves in the foot or blame the other party for their predicament. If they didn’t have the courage to tell me face to face that ‘it was over’, I doubt our joint ventures would have ended well.

They’re like the little old man behind the curtain in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ I’d like to call them cowards behind the curtain but perhaps I missed their motivation for not responding. Either way, it was still ghosting.

At least my old girlfriends (bless their hearts) had more class than that.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

California, Here I Come

I have a long and fractured romance with California. Its part delusional, part opportunistic and part magical. It’s like Leonard Cohen’s Hydra calling me back once again. But mostly it’s a comfortable relationship that seems to bring out the flip side of me that a lot of folks never see. It is at once my friend, adviser, irritator, and councilor. It forces me outside of my Midwestern comfort zone.

Marlene and I on the beach - 1946

The first time I stepped foot in California, it was off a Great Northern Railroad passenger car from Minnesota. The year was 1946.  I was three and my sister two. Along with my mother we had ended up in Carmel, from the Twin Cities. My Mother, by then separated from my father, had been encouraged to come out west to become a housekeeper for a past client out of St Paul’s Summit Avenue.

When we finally arrived on the coast, broke and hungry, my mother was informed by the old woman’s son that she had gone senile and would no longer have use of my mother’s services. My mother was literally stuck on the beach with no place to go and two kids in tow. She got the next train back to Minnesota. So much for California dreaming.

My second time in the Golden State was in 1964. Fresh out of basic training, I was on my way to my first assignment at the Presidio of San Francisco. Along with three other trainees, we were crossing the country in a 1960 Buick that could go 120 on the open road. When the front end of the car started to drift off the road at 120 mph, I slowed it down to 99 and crawled the rest of the way through Nevada.

Life at the Presidio was a Camelot-like existence that ended all too soon eight months later. Nevertheless, it gave me wonderful material for three future novels to be written.

The third time to bask in that warm California sun came back in 2000. Our family was staying at a friend’s condo in Palm Springs. It was our first introduction to desert living. The dye was cast and we were hooked.

Thus began a twenty year intermittent love affair with that diverse community and all of its surrounding amenities. As much as the state changes and evolves, and stumbles and leaps ahead of others, it remains a pathfinder in so many areas.

Vintage California hints of a glorious past and an ever-evolving future. The Coachella Valley is no exception. Alongside its staid traditional communities down Valley, Hollywood East still provokes memories of a rich and tawdry past; full of tinsel, illusions and entertainment. It’s a diverse, irreverent, creative, and wonderful playground for mind expansion.

That inland ocean, the Salton Sea and its surrounding oddities like Salvation Mountain, Slab City and Bombay Beach provide a post-apocalyptic landscape to inspire the imagination. The mountains, canyons, and desert expanse paint a background tapestry of wonderment.

It’s become home in more ways than one. It’s a cradle upon which the imagination gives birth to creative, frivolous, silly and enlightened ideas, concepts and story-lines. It inspires me and mocks me at the same time. It’s the flip side of that routine called lifestyle. If ever there were a balance in my life, it would be called the Minnesota-California connection.

What can I say... it works for me.