Thursday, September 17, 2015

The War at Home

       I don't sit around and think about dying. I don't ponder my mortality. 
       I think I've always known we don't get too much time. We have only so many hours. I fought sleep as a kid. I still do. Not as well as when I was 16 and tried to cram as much living, writing, raging and running into any given day as I could, but generally I still like to be the last guy up, the last man in the museum, the one the guards have to shepherd toward the door. 
     Because of this I travel well. I don't mind jet lag. I don't mind not knowing what time it is, not feeling the tick of my internal clock. Beyond physical freedom travel also brings you that psychic shake up - the chronological vertigo of moving from one place to another faster than we should ever  be able. The head rush at 30,000 feet.
   I got back from Turkey four days ago and I'm still waking up at odd hours. Sleep won't come. I wish I could embrace this like my 16 year old self - he'd have written a book by now- but mostly I walk the streets at noon feeling like it's dawn or watch tv in the middle of the night. 
   I flicked on the set in my buddy's house- it's always curious to navigate someone else's cable system, you feel a kinship if you guess well, old bonds affirmed - I got the damn thing on and the menu scrolling in under a minute and there, was The Civil War. 
   That 90's blockbuster that launched a thousand documentary channels and 1000 more Civil War neo-cons. "Lincoln said it himself 'If I can save the Union without slavery I'll do it. If I can save the Union with slavery I'll do it.' It wasn't about slavery!"  Shoot me. Or better yet, shoot them. (Wait, didn't we already do that?) 
   The Cannon in Silhouette at Sunset. The Fiddle Theme. David McCullough's Old Testament voice. The Red Line beneath the chapter titles. 
   Enough to make me groan. 
   25 years. 
   Think of Redford's film "The Candidate". He makes one impassioned, impromptu speech and becomes a challenger. His managers insist he repeat that impassioned impromptu speech verbatim 500 times and he becomes a joke. Ergo The Civil War. First time it ran I swooned, 15 years and 1500 reboots later, I wanted to hurl. And now add 10 more years. It's a classic car exempt from sentimental emission controls. It's classic doc rock.
   Regardless, I pressed "select". 
   And what came back to me as I watched was not the tale of the final episode, the sad battles after Appomatox or bourbon voiced Shelby Foote choking up "Was it not so real?" or how clearly the language of these long dead men still rings to me -how well they wrote- but that 25 years ago it was 1990 and I was a just out of college not yet to drama school, my dad and my brother were still alive, my mom still worked at CMU and what the Hell was a cell phone, who'd heard of an internet? Or blogging.
  I was back in Pittsburgh, living in a house owned by the friend of a friend who was yet to marry and wanted to be surrounded by his younger pals before the final plunge, so he charged us next to no rent and didn't care whether we slept till 2 or played U2 too loud or ate most of his food.
   I was an almost Ivy League graduate making 5.60 an hour plus tips, making lattes at a "coffee shop",  and commuting to work on a borrowed BMX. I was happy. 
   Once in awhile, I'd head home and visit mom and dad, eat out of the fridge, sleep in my old room up in the attic, if they went away for a couple days I'd colonize the house and turn it into my seraglio studio - the last designs of my sublimating High School self strewn around the little Dutch colonial. 
   But for a straight week sometime that year, was it Fall? it had to be- I came home and watched The Civil War with my parents. My father in his tan leather chair up against the fireplace. Mom in her comfier spot by the stairs. The cat dug in and drooling on one of them. I stood behind them, waiting, for awhile acting like I might leave, as if I was deciding whether or not the episode was good enough, whether I didn't have something better to do, when in reality I just didn't want to show them I wanted to be home, to be curled up by the fire, to share for an evening, oddly enough, in their silence. 
  When either of my parents was moved to tears, moved by something they'd seen or read or heard they most often said nothing. As we would in church, we gathered in a kind of piety. A shared hush. Some would call this WASPY rectitude or simple embarrassment but I've always been suspicious of people who want to show and tell me how important their feelings are- my sense is feelings come when they come and we should be grateful for them, wonder at them, thank God, rather than hold them up for all to see. "Unpack my heart with words and fall a cursing like a very drab."
   I think of the long black pews in my old church. Rows and rows of them as you walk past for communion, the slumped shoulders, the stillness, heads so obviously related not turning toward each other. It can be unbearable, yankee solemnity, but I'm comfortable being quiet before God, I've always felt my default response to the "Lord"- however you want to manifest him or her- when it wasn't singing was humility, silence. 
  And so 25 years ago when I was 23 and broke, my father and I would refrain from sniping at each other and my mom and he would call an evening's truce, and the cat would curl up around our feet and we would listen together to a fellow Pittsburgher read us a story from our country's most incredible, and maybe its saddest, chapter. 
  And since we knew him by degree, the McCullough's and the McCrady's on my dad's side grew up across the street from each other, we could tell when he read that he wasn't intoning like a distant God, or a tidy Western PA Presbyterian ticking down a list of the dead, but that he was throughout on the edge of tears. Like my dad listening as brothers, who'd fought on opposite sides, died in the same hospital with Walt Whitman the nurse to each, like my mother, an ancestral Virginian, hearing a Richmond girl bemoan the wreck of her family while the "chimneys of our leveled homes stood like telegraph poles relaying the destruction", like me listening to them both and not speaking, listening to the changes in their breathing saying they were sad and wouldn't share it. 
  And then the episode ended and it was 4:41 in the morning, tuesday the 15th of September 2015. Like any other day, but now. A side room in LA in the house of a friend from college who after he graduated was playing in Punk bands in DC while I was pouring coffee in Pittsburgh. Now a teacher, married 14 years, divorced 4. Still playing the bass. 
   The 24 hour media cycle stared me down. What next? Press select. Scroll.
   I walked out on to the porch. No light yet in the East. Dad gone, brother gone, cat long gone. - that's the thing about LA, you get a dark night but no stars and there are so few tall buildings that the land rolls out in front of you for miles. The sky's huge, you see the undulations that the desert here once had, but somehow unlike a Great Plains landscape, it's disheartening. Like the cable menu, it's endless but without comfort. Far from enobling, the eternity involved diminishes you.
   Sometimes I wish I smoked. I don't. I hummed the fiddle theme. I tried to imitate McCullough's voice, but it wouldn't come. The day I left Turkey, that morning one of the guys who ran the hotel, "Okay" was his name, asked me where I was from. Pittsburgh I told him. And you miss it yes? Yes I do, I told him.  I do. We have a word for that you know - memleket. It just means 'home', the ground there, but ....more than that. Like your word nostalgia, his eyes smiled, but ...harder. 
    
   
 
 

31 comments:

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  2. David... Keep writing... Recently I found enchanting love letters from years ago, one written on the back of a poem from The Broadside. A Summer Night, Rosewell Hospital 1947, by Betsy Scharf. So worth re-reading.
    Memleket,
    Carolyn

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  3. Very nice, always enjoy reading your blogs, keep writing. I do have a coworker who is from Pittsburgh, and she told me how nice it is there .

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  4. Wow, I could not stop reading. This blog transported me back in time myself.

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  6. Your war is within.
    You shouldn't have joined the wrong people to take revenge on me, and decided to punish me because of a couple of comments that had nothing but good intentions. And you know it because you apologised over and over again, but you are too coward to admit it publicly. But thank you for all the private poetry you sent to me.

    After being in a relationship with you since the beginning of the year I can see how that war is killing you on the inside. Your inside is rotten.
    I can see who you really are, and you know that. To me you are as much transparent as I became to you after you hacked into my computer, my memories, my body, my mind, my emotions and my spirit.

    Instead of wasting your time and money with me, you should have spent it to heal yourself.
    We are done. You don't even know what to do with my light and love.

    Stop seeking revenge. Stop petting your hates. Stop stalking me. And get out of my life forever. And no, it’s not an order. It’s my last gift to you, the fruit of our deep connection.
    Wake up and heal yourself, or this universe will strip you from your so precious reputation.


    I would end this comment with much love, but that will hurt you more than help you…

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  7. Ok, I have to speak up! Denise Silva..What you said was NOT right to be put on this blog! Private is Private and it's NOT cowardice to keep private matters private!! It actually shows MORE CLASS not to go public with personal matters! If David wanted to blog about what you mentioned, HE'D HAVE DONE SO! It is NONE of the public's business what David does with his life if he chooses not to disclose it!!
    David, I totally understand your blog.. my kids' dad died 5 yrs ago. We were together 13 yrs. Words didn't always need to be said. We understood each other. The last 5 months of his life was in a hospital with a Trache. He couldn't talk, but I understood much of what he wanted.I wanted to test how coherent he was after the accident and whispered in his ear that I'd let him chase me around the room if he got better, I got a raised eyebrow and a flirty smirk! And within an hr of his death I told him 'his girls' would be ok, he could let go..I got a slight wink with the eye i was closest to (he was very weak). So words don't matter when it counts! I'm reminded often of things between us from everyday life. Some funny (we were the oddest couple), some not.
    Life's short..don't let negativity get to you, David. And don't ever give up on writing, acting. Your too good at it! Now smile and have a GREAT DAY!!

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    1. I would reply to you but because you have no idea what you are talking about I'm gonna leave it... The only reason I'm exchanging this words with you is because your comment addresses me.

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    2. as I said...private is private...public is public...It's NONE of anyone else's business what happens in the private life of an actor/writer!! I know that part of it!
      Only once in my life did I ever go after anyone publicly and that was ONLY after he went after me publicly! And I never publicly Dis'd him directly either, just called him out on his negative comments!
      Also, I DO know something about being discreet publicly, as a family member of mine was famous in my area. But I never let private matters become public! I would defend him publicly no matter what.

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    3. That must be Davidism... But your opinion is irrelevant to me. It is what it is, your opinion.

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    4. your right, my opinion on a blog publicly seen. You knew that when you posted. If you don't want other people's opinions keep it private..lol...otherwise you are at OUR mercy...LOL.
      As for Davidism. ...MAKE NO MISTAKE...the ONLY ONE I Worship is the one who had nails in his hands/feet and a CROWN OF THORNS!!!
      However, if you mean Celebrating the talents of this man named DAVID, then 'ELL YEA I'm good with that!! ;))

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    5. Lady just mind your own business. Keep your focus on his writing and not on my comments. I wasn't talking to you anyway!

      Besides if he has fingers to type blog posts, HE can reply to me is he feels offended or whatever. He knows what I mean because I am talking to HIM, but you know what? He insists in reply through another format... That's OUR business.

      As for who YOU worship... That's YOUR business, I didn't ask you anything. And I'm not at YOUR mercy because I don't give a shit about your opinion LOL.

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  8. I regularly read your blog posts with keen interest because of the colorful writing and authentic voice that makes your depictions of people and places come alive. However this one touched me especially deeply, to the point that the very night after I read it, I had a dream that was like a montage of my years growing up in farming country. It was so vivid I felt I had been transported back in time. There were several moments where I could clearly revisit scenes from Christmases long past in the house my mother raised us in and lived in for 20 years. As we have just been forced to relocate her due to raised rent and her physical condition, which requires her to be closer to family, those memories are especially precious. I can only thank you for your contribution, please never stop writing!


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  9. David, just remember one thing, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil. That is until its time to change the wheel!" SMILE and have a great day!

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  10. I know that longing for home even when it's not the place that you miss but the feeling. I agree the word nostalgic doesn't cover it, "memleket" I like it, I'll use it in my mind when I have those feelings. My Dad is gone, my god I miss him, reminiscing just isn't enough, "memleket" I like it, I'll smile thinking of it and him. Those comforting times, just sitting watching tv, knowing he'd always be there, well not anymore, "memleket" I like it, it's perfect, more than memories I completely agree.

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  11. This post brought back memories. My mom's family lived on Union Street in Swissvale for a little over 70 years. (Grandpa was an ob/gyn who delivered a bunch of kiddos up there from the late 1930's until the mid-1970's.) Reading this, I thought of the pack of cats they kept, and--unrelated to the cats--I could smell the trees and loam on the hill behind their house.

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  13. Dear David,
    I woke up this morning with the sense of urgency about reading your blog; I wonder if it was Marcel Proust (The Guermantes Way) who accompanied me until I went to bed (whom reminds me a lot the way you describe every little detail) or just the vibe that you spread among your followers that travelled where I live.
    I love reading you, thanks for the inspiration that move your hands and heart to share with us your thoughts.
    "Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed...
    ...unpack my heart with words; and fall a-cursing like a very drab...."
    Isabella

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    1. Sorry David, I deleted my post by mistake :(

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  14. I stumbled upon this blog this morning. I'm a bit overwhelmed and sad and happy and amazed. Thank you for the feels and memories.

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  15. I like the way you tell stories. I have a story I need someone to tell. I suffered from PTS. I don't if you ever stop suffering from it but I can't write it myself, not that I would a good writer anyway. I probably would not be. So how much does it cost to have a famous actor write for you?

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  16. Turkey? Lovely. Hope you made it to Istanbul, and if you did, to the Masumiyet Müsezi (The Museum of Innocence) based on Orhan Pamuk's novel of the same title. I had a wonderful chat with its curator two years ago and ironically it's pretty much about everything 'memleket' apparently stands for, the deep melancholy and nostalgia for the natural and organic beauty of a home and city one used to know, but doesn't necessarily exist in that form any more.

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    1. Well said, Stephanie...no I didn't make it to the Museum of Innocence - what a name!- I imagine I feared self combustion at the door.
      "it's pretty much about everything memleket' - lovely. Thank you for reading

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  17. Great writing david, I love reading so it's always nice to have a place to go to and enjoy a great story. Thank you. Love your writing & acting you are one of my favorite actors again thank you for your awesome talent.

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  18. Great writing david, I love reading so it's always nice to have a place to go to and enjoy a great story. Thank you. Love your writing & acting you are one of my favorite actors again thank you for your awesome talent.

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  20. Not sure why, but I thought of you while visiting this place last week. It was such a transformative experience. www.missionwolf.org. Heading to Gettysburg at the end of the month. I must watch the Burns documentary before I do. Your post inspired me to do so. - Theresa

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  21. Beautiful. While reading, I found myself back home as well growing up in my grandparents house. This triggered some buried emotions for me. How I still miss it to this day, miss him immensely.

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  22. Wonderful read as usual, David. Now it has left me wondering how much can 'memleket' be compared to a word of my own language: 'saudade'.
    Somehow, they both resonate in a similar way...

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