Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cautionary Advice to Overanxious Genius Writers

Genuine letter to authentic client. Reproduced here for you artists who've come to recognize, if only through impatience with almost everything you read, that you're heads above the stampeding herds and wonder if there's something wrong with you for it.

You know, Medhavi,

Knowing your caliber, I would be a little disappointed if you hadn't thoughts of suicide, or dying one way or another, from time to time. Not at all would it indicate emotional or mental unbalance.

The most balanced of minds, with the highest inner potential, would be crazy not to notice what a wasteland the upper reaches of humanity have been making of themselves. Often those who could do the most good toward righting the situation block their own intentions out of anxiety and jealousy and fear and self-pity and even greed. Why, sir, would one of the finest capabilities want to live in such a world?

BECAUSE, that's why. And so here you are.

Now here is my cautionary note. A few days ago Our chief, Aunt Pody, told me the story of a client she once had, named --------- --------. She'd sold a few novels. She became despondent about the rejection of her latest novel so committed suicide.

The novel was called THE TITANIC. A few years after her death, THE TITANIC was one of the biggest box office hits in Hollywood history.

So, as your literary agent, I strongly advise against committing suicide, getting hit by a car, caught in a rebellion, inadvertently assassinated by fanatics, struck by lightning, contracting leprosy or AIDS or a panoply of terminal diseases, reaching into your cupboard in the middle of a dark night, feeling around for the sugar and unintentionally putting rat poison in your tea, slipping in the bathtub and hitting the back of your head very hard on a metal spigot, dropping an electric radio into your bathtub while you are bathing, gaining too much weight and getting stuck in your bathtub for days, being found dead in an unholy soup of bathwater and human effluvia only because neighbors had complained about the odor, accidentally pouring rat poison into your bathtub instead of bubble bath, falling asleep in your bathtub and drowning, or any number of ways to meet death in a bathtub.

When you get out of your bathtub, as your literary agent I recommend against slipping on your wet bathroom floor and falling headfirst through a window, breaking the glass and allowing sharp slivers of glass to penetrate your neck or any other part of your body, drying off with a towel that has been accidentally sprinkled with rat poison, shaving with an electric razor that has frayed wires while you are still wet, dropping it accidentally in the toilet and unthinkingly reaching in to retrieve it while it is still plugged in, accidentally brushing your teeth with rat poison, unmindfully locking yourself in the bathroom because of a faulty door handle, being found dead because the window had long been painted shut and no neighbors could hear your calls but did complain about the odor a month later, and by now it's hardly 7:30 a.m. and the means of an unintended demise are myriad even before you put your clothes on. But you are bright enough to understand this, so I feel that enumerating a few examples will suffice to spark your imagination in the many ways that a simple slipup could prevent you from harvesting the fruits of your hard-got work.

I have read this statement aloud to my colleague, Literary Agent and Author's Representative, AAR, and she has concurred. Do not die for any reason while we are gainfully employed in the active pursuit of procuring a publisher and making you famous. She has also advised, especially, do not die of impatience! It has happened before. Remember THE TITANIC.

PS he got a contract.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Disappearance of Dreaming Daisy Mae

My daddy wrecked a Chevy that was top-of-the-line,

A four-speed positraction four-oh-nine,

Now there’s nothing left to wreck, I was born too late,

All I can afford is a pair of skates, I’m goin’

Rollerbladin’! ‘cuz I gotta do somethin'

Rollerbladin’! It's better than nothin'

Rollerbladin’! I might hurt myself!

Rollerbladin’! Or maybe somebody else!

Watch out! Don’t knock anybody down!

(copyright 1995 Tom Dark)

"HAVE A GREAT DAY! (smiley face)

"To Mr. Tom Dark,

"I’m very interested in your music. I was wondering if you had any information on other songs or things you may have created from a comical mind, such things like T-shirts, hats, etc.

"If you’re planning on a tour or a personal appearance any time soon, I would much like to know so I could see & hear you at the same time.

"Keeping with your great musical ideas, please send in some more songs to the radio show and I’ll be listening intently.

"Your Fan

"(S. L. B.)

"That’s a.k.a 'Daisy Mae.'"

This kid-perfumed letter came one day in a hand-decorated envelope, postmarked July 8, 1995. Daisy Mae lived in Rialto, California, one of the little flatland burgs between San Bernardino and the southern California coast. I sent her a cassette of my novelty songs for it. She then wanted to learn all about "the comical mind" from me. She hoped I wouldn't mind her questions about how to make people laugh.

I judged Daisy Mae to be about twelve. Her handwriting was big and round and careful; her lettering had a timid light touch and lots of self-conscious little happy-faces. You can't get more charming than that without stick-ons of big-eyed kitties and fluffy bunnies.

I saw something else in her handwriting, too. Here was a highly intuitive little soul. I bet she dreamed lots of vivid dreams. I wanted to find out. I answered her letter saying yes, I'll tell you all about how to be funny, but for your payment, you must tell me dreams. See if you can dream about where I live and what it looks like around here, I replied.

A week or so later came her letter. She said she had traveled to the mountains in a dream, all green and tall pines. She saw me standing in a yard wearing a green sweatshirt and khaki shorts with big pockets. I was playing a white electric guitar. The little pooper had accurately dreamed my farm on a hill among the sugar pines, the color and shape of my electric guitar, the horses nearby and... she didn't understand why the nearby mountain was colored blue.

In those days I'd stroll around the front yard absent-mindedly exercising my chops. I still wear that green sweatshirt, though I’ve replaced the khaki shorts often. The little house was in the shadow of Blue Mountain, where the High Sierras begin.

A good skeptic might protest that she had looked up my address on a map and seen Blue Mountain. Of course she'd know by my address I lived in Northern California. But the other correct details were a bit much for lucky guesses. She would dream a good many more “lucky guesses” in the five years to come.

Daisy Mae had also written me a dream she said kept happening over and over. It bothered her. She was at the ocean shore. Across the sky was written this date: May 5, 2000. Then a huge wave would leap out of the sea and take her away. It was recurring even now.

I wrote her back: have you ever heard of the famous French seer Nostradamus? May 5, 2000, was one of the dates that people interpreted from Nostradamus' cryptic quatrains that the world would end, I replied. Maybe it was a worry-dream about the end of the world, as this worry had increased so broadly since atomic weapons were invented and used. But Daisy didn't know who Nostradamus was, nor what "quatrain" meant. She didn’t think about things like the end of the world.

My other thought was that her own world would end by May 5, 2000, five years from now. For instance, my friend and music partner Gary killed himself, unbeknownst to me, not long after I dreamed the ocean swelled up and took him away. Others had told me similar dreams over the years, seeing friends or relatives taken away by ocean tide or wave, which also seemed to have precursed their deaths.

What to do about sweet little Daisy Mae? Surely her mother would not be delighted by some big hairy stranger writing to her daughter that she was going to die in a few years. So I didn't do that. I did vow to remain this little sweetheart's pen pal for a long while. Maybe, if the dream did herald a serious problem for her in eventualities, I could offer some kind of help.

Daisy Mae’s letters became a dove-like presence in my mailbox from thereon. She continued sending letters decorated with hand-drawn critters and greeting-card-like slogans, telling me about her friends and foibles and dreams that were correct in physical detail. I became a kind of dream-dad.

One day Daisy asked if she could talk to me on the phone, so I decided to give her my number. I'd gathered along the way that her family was poor (thus the hand-drawn envelopes) and knowing me was quite a big deal for her, being a celebrity so far as she was concerned. Aww… let's give her a boost of confidence. She can talk to her big radio comedy star and have something to be proud of among her friends. When she called, I hung up and called her back to save her the phone bill.

It turned out that Daisy Mae was twenty five years old. She told me she’d taken her phone out to the garage so her husband couldn’t eavesdrop. In a few minutes, her husband stalked in to discover her hiding there.

She'd been married to this complete religious nut since teenhood. She hadn't known any better. Her fanatical religious marriage had left her so naïve that, from this distance, her letters and expressions had seemed like a little girl's.

After a few minutes on the phone, her husband stalked in to discover her hiding there in the garage. He started preaching loudly. JESUS this and JESUS that and doesn't JESUS want her to get off the phone and come into the house right now? For does not Samuel chap 11, verse 2-6 say blah blah blah? And Matthew this and Mark that?

Poor Daisy was mortified. Yet she bravely stayed on the phone and talked over the lunatic accusing her of doing the Devil's work (chap, verse) by talking to an evil Hollywood star (the show was broadcast from Hollywood). She would not back down. For once in her life, it was clear, she was talking to somebody important. Bless her heart, she finally managed to chase her loony husband out of the garage and we ended our call in peace.

That night I dreamed I visited a virtual Christian concentration camp and helped a woman escape. This dream echoed a series from years before, where I was the priest who helped several Jewish women escape a Nazi concentration camp.

In time, Daisy's Brave Phone Call proved to trigger things for her. She left her husband, moved in with her mother and got her first job, a counterperson in retail sales. She was a newly independent woman with the emotional naiveté of a twelve year old. But she'd catch up, I thought.

Eventually she bought a computer and hooked into the internet. She still wrote me through postal service, letters all decorated. She still wrote me dreams. I too dreamed of her -- but none of mine matched her literal reality. In mine, she now lived happily on a farm in the Pennsylvania Dutch days, for instance. In another, she'd married a nice, simple fella named Charlie and moved to the northern California woods. I guessed they were good-wish-dreams, maybe toward her finding a new mate, to whatever else they may have alluded. I hadn't forgotten May 5, 2000 and the swelling ocean taking her away.

Not long before I left my end-of-dream-road adventure in Northern California, Daisy wrote me a dream where she was making love to, and deeply in love with, a man of certain height, hair color, and so on. Her description resembled me, although she had never seen a photograph of me. It included being "in need of dental hygiene” – which I had been. How she loved this dream-man. I worried, could that be me? Had I let her crush on this somewhat imaginary celebrity go too far? Also, Daisy had no idea, awake at least, that I was then deciding whether to live the rest of my life in that place, as in my “dream map,” or move on. But no. No diddling with my fans, particularly this one.

A year later I moved to Tucson and sent her my new address. In the interim, after getting into the swing of things in chatrooms, Daisy told me, she found the love of her life. After one single evening of typed chat with him, Daisy Mae decided that she would be "Mrs. Dirk Jones" from then on. She tore off to Los Angeles from Rialto in her beat up used car to meet Mister Dirk Jones. He was jobless. He was in need of dental hygiene. But not to worry: Dirk was an ex-Navy seal, he’d told her. His resourcefulness would pull them through. Daisy started printing “Mrs. Dirk Jones” on her letters, plus the flowers and happy bunnies and homilies.

She mailed me a snapshot of this Dirk fellow. I'd say he matched her description from a dream very well.

Daisy Mae hadn't remembered this dream, or any related to the emerging event now in her reality. She was so far head over heels about being Mrs. Dirk Jones that she didn't blink an eye when he had told her he had to stop in at the local police stations wherever they went. This was because "he was legally required to register his hands as lethal weapons."

Oh, dear.

The new bride Missus Dirk Jones believed him. I warned her to be careful: Dirk might not be what he said he was. Nobody’s required to “register his hands as lethal weapons” anywhere. They are required to register as sex offenders, if they’ve been convicted. She took this kindly from me, but it made no difference to her. It was probably true that Dirk had to register at the local police station wherever they went, at least, but his given reason was surely a cock-and-bull story. I didn't hear from her for about a year.

About a year later I got another hand-decorated letter from Daisy. She apologized for not having written in so long. She had been hit by a car while crossing a street, her leg broken, and she and Dirk had been living in homeless shelters all this time. Mister "lethal hands" had apparently been none too good at finding a job. They had bummed around from place to place, Dirk dutifully "registering his hands" wherever they'd go. Yet Daisy sounded as unflaggingly cheerful, even delighted, as ever. Something great was going to happen. She knew. She'd had a dream.

In this dream, Daisy Mae and Dirk strode together over a pile of dead and rotting bodies into a field of daisies. It was now springtime forever. That’s where she and Dirk were going. Daisy bid me adieu with a line of "xoxoxox's" and I never heard from her again.

May 5, 2000 came and went, no word. Weeks went by, and months, years by now, and I searched for Daisy by her real name, chatroom moniker, relatives, known addresses. Nothing.

No obituaries, no crime reports. The girl who'd written me at least weekly for five years had disappeared. Daisy Mae does show up in dreams now and then, but not from anywhere I know of here on earth.

I eventually looked up Dirk Jones among the internet lists of registered sex offenders. His real name was unusual enough to be unique. I found two. One of them was listed as a sex offender living in Southern California, not far from where Daisy Mae once lived.

Just yesterday I came across that last postal mail I got from her; it was dated April 12, 2000. On the envelope she'd written "May 5 is just around the corner!"

I've omitted many details from this story -- not to conceal anything, but I have run it through my mind so often over the years I'm afraid you may be as tired of hearing it as I am, dear reader.