Category: Slam, the play-in-process

Ever Iowa

Hello dear readers! I’m blogging for every day in June about Slam, a play set near Dubuque, Iowa, about a woman in her early thirties who still believes her plans might work out, with the right adjustments. Here’s the reflections for today.

Why is this play so Iowa?

Better question: why is this play my Iowa?

I’ll be honest with you: I never spent any appreciable time on a farm. My great Aunt Katie had a few acres with not much more than a garden and a small chicken coop. At one point we went to her house and got a little tour. That’s the sum total of my agricultural experience, aside from one summer de-tasseling corn, which is a hugely commercial enterprise and out of context here.

Most of my adulthood has been spent in New York City, living in Brooklyn and frowning on the subway.

So, really? You’re right: I’m off base here, I have no connection.
But, as Slam would say:

SLAM
Were you ever fucking listening?

The connection is the the clipped, complete, accusatory sentences that issue from the Lamb family. The connection is the quiet observations made by Jonah, a young man firmly rooted to who he is. The connection is Spoon’s broad smile and grand schemes, all just this side of saving the day as well as his pocket book.

The connection is Slam’s vitriol: her arms crossed, her body gone to seed. Slam has hurled away the mantel of what she’s aspired to, but there’s nothing to replace it except failure and, alas, an unwanted pregnancy.

All this against highways established during the Eisenhower years, later perfected and then connected by huge box malls. Today’s Iowa is what I know about myself: quick to adopt a self-mythology that presupposes what others think in order to buffer all prejudices, disappointments, and fears.

My Iowa is about a smile and laugh, followed closely by a biting quip.

Herein a defensive collage, answering a question no one’s asked me. That too is very Midwest: submit your own conclusions before anyone can identify what’s wrong and get you.

June Perfection and Bad Looks

I’ve been blogging every day in June (thus far) on my play Slam. Slam is in her early thirties and spends too much time situating her life in a way to keep her hidden. It’s like she’s preparing a bunker, but the war’s over, construction’s expensive, and she already lives in a nice home. But goodness, I’ve wandered far afield (although I like the bunker part and might use it.) Let’s get to the entry, shall we?

This is not a day to be writing. This is a day to wander aimlessly in Brooklyn, which, by and large, is what I did. I did see Sontag: Reborn at New York Theatre Workshop, so about an hour and a half was inside a theatre. But when I could, I walked out and about, took my time with it, and pretty much stayed off my cell phone.

Walking clears the mind, it’s good for the soul, it’s one of the top five reasons I stay in New York. And in so walking, I made a connection regarding the play, only now I can’t remember it. I’m going to take a pause. See if I can recall. I know it had to do – ah-HA! Yes.

Slam’s hygiene.

Aren’t you glad you kept reading?

I’m not going to describe the hygiene connect, except to say that sometimes, with some individuals, fury turns inward and rebellion takes all sorts of forms. I’ll jot a few words about a scene between Slam and Verna, her former boss. Verna owns Graebel’s, a family-style restaurant, and the grocery store where Spoon still works. Slam got Spoon his job. She used to be Verna’s head cashier. Times change, however, and Slam doesn’t want to be part of anyone’s family, blood or otherwise.

It’s nearly impossible to win with isolation as your trump card. Humans can’t isolate long without falling apart. Hence the hygiene issue and Verna’s comments, which are redolent of her business manner: trustworthy, but gruff.

Say a prayer I get this scene written, that I don’t become too drunk on perfect weather, that if I do get my bike fixed tomorrow, I take just a short ride…

 

Soon It Will be Father’s Day

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, and she is, she thinks, taking charge of her life. Talk about ironic. We make plans and God laughs his big belly ass off. How does it go? Read on….

Slam’s father is going to be in the play not as a ghost, but as if he could teleport back to the house, from the hospital where he’s being treated. That’s precisely what’s shaping this play, ie that Slam rarely leaves her house, but she schemes and talks a lot about taking action. Here’s one of the scenes with her dad.

SQUIRE
Why don’t you visit me?

SLAM
I’ll get there. In a minute.

SQUIRE
I’m wondering. You know, I’m laying up in my stinking hospital bed and wondering.

SLAM
Your bed stinks?

SQUIRE
Like piss from 1952.

SLAM
Tell the nurse.

SQUIRE
You think I haven’t done that? A man needs help sometimes. If you were there, I’d get another bed.

SLAM
I got you in that place. I made the calls and filled out the paperwork. Thank God you’re a veteran.

SQUIRE
Yeah. Thank God I’ve helped everybody out. Your mother said the same damn thing.

SLAM
Mom thanked God you kept the farm.

SQUIRE
And it’s the farm that killed her.

SLAM
Bullshit.

SQUIRE
WE reconciled. The farm killed her.

SLAM
I’ll have to muse on that one.

SQUIRE
Bobby visited.

SLAM
Yeah, ’cause I sent him.

SQUIRE
What’s that boy on?

SLAM
Glue. Meth. Everclear. Both.

SQUIRE
Not hairspray?

SLAM
They said quit drinking, Dad. They said stop your work. They said –

SQUIRE
Who’s THEY?!

SLAM
You burned two beds.

SQUIRE
I’ll quit smoking. I think I did already.

SLAM
You can’t come back.

SQUIRE
In my day, the real bad ones drank Sterno. Hairspray.

SLAM
You think Bobby’s like that?

SQUIRE
No. But he loves it to hang out with them that does, the ones that are risky and fun.

Father

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, and she’s an Iowan from an old farming family. The setting is 2003, the heirs are gone, the farmland’s sold, and what’s left is Slam, her teenage son, her ailing father, and not so helpful ghosts. Today’s subject? Read on….

Tonight I’ve been visited by Squire, Slam’s dad. This is a waiting scene, as in waiting for the ride to the hospital, the facility, the place that will clean up a nasty drinker and free his heirs.

The visual here? Squire’s hunched shoulders. And boy, does he ever want a cigarette.

                  (SQUIRE gestures with his jaw toward a large suitcase, which is by the dining room table.)

SQUIRE
I see there’s a suitcase there.

SLAM
You packed it.

SQUIRE
I think you did.

SLAM
I helped out.

SQUIRE
You got it from the barn?

SLAM
From the shed. It’s fine, just like you said.

                     (SQUIRE admires the qualities of the suitcase, its pristine state.)

SQUIRE
That was an excellent purchase. Sealed against the elements out there. Worth every penny. You’d think it had been in a closet. Your mother didn’t want me buying another storage shed, but I said it would come to good.

SLAM
Mom was always wrong.

SQUIRE
She wasn’t always right. Where’s my bottle?

SLAM
You asking me?

SQUIRE
I’m going to get rid of it.

SLAM
It’s in the shed. It’ll be waiting for you.

SQUIRE
Unless you get it first.

SLAM
I buy my own booze, old man.

SQUIRE
Who’s taking me? The “social worker?”

SLAM
Spoon will be here.

SQUIRE
Is there coffee?

SLAM
Yeah, but there’s none of your creamer.

SQUIRE
Where’s Bobby?

SLAM
WIth Megan. Or Jonah.

SQUIRE
Christ. I’ll take milk.

SLAM
Why now are you calm, sitting up straight, barely stinking, and making sense?

SQUIRE
Fucking terrified. You don’t know about it yet, Sammy, because you’re still too young to be that tough. And after tough? It ends. Flat. And after you get so tough you don’t feel a thing?

SLAM

– and start to stink – 

SQUIRE
– then there are no good options left except for some bottom line that the government invented and you have to take only so you don’t disgrace your grandkids.

SLAM
I love it. LIke you’re Ann Landers or Magic Johnson or something.

SQUIRE
I still got shirts, and one pair of shoes that don’t swallow my feet.Not everything is gone. Bobby don’t hate me. Does he?

SLAM
I’ll get your bottle if you need it.

SQUIRE
I don’t want it.

SLAM
I can get it.

SQUIRE
I said coffee, little girl. And clear off that counter. Christ, the social worker should take you, too.

Amanda Jane

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, and she is a business owner with a shady past. Nothing major, nothing minor.Regardless, I find her interesting. Today’s subject? Read on….

 

Hello, dear readers. A brief entry and a brief scene between Slam and Amanda Jane.

Amanda Jane isn’t a ghost, exactly, but a fictive daughter of Slam’s, perhaps nine years old. A spirit, perhaps. Not an imaginary friend, because Slam never, ever had imaginary friends. 

The visual i have for her is standing behind a seated Slam, patting Slam’s shoulder.  This is a child’s way to be visible and also show support – usually for things for which they have no understanding. 

SLAM
I did not do it.

AMANDA JANE
Do what?

SLAM
She thinks I hurt her dogs. She thought that then, anyway.

AMANDA JANE
Who?

SLAM
I saved her fucking dogs. Drunk in the car and wouldn’t come out. Jonah was in the back seat. Her saying Skip got hurt, she’s not paying. She could barely speak.

AMANDA JANE
But those dogs did die.

SLAM
Not those dogs. Not April’s dogs. Not those.

AMANDA JANE
What happened to Jonah?

SLAM
She works at the hospital now. Checks people in. What?

AMANDA JANE
What happened to Jonah?

SLAM
He was your age.

AMANDA JANE
I know.

SLAM
She came back the next day. I don’t know. You can’t pull kids from people’s cars, Amanda.

AMANDA JANE
But she was yelling.

SLAM
I yell all the time.

AMANDA JANE
It’s called a blackout.

SLAM
(Angry) It’s called parenting. Jonah turned out fine. A little quiet, maybe.

AMANDA JANE
So which dogs died?

SLAM
Ask your grandfather.

Spoon

To re-cap: I’m writing every day in June on my new play Slam. Slam is short for Samantha Lamb, a young woman from an old farm family, once powerful in the county. Slam’s life is about to change and not through her sound judgment or anyone’s good graces. Today’s subject? Read on….

 

Let’s talk Spoon. Yes. I’m a little tired this evening and need a pick-me-up. Spoon is just the man for that.

Spoon and Slam have known each other since they were kids. They are virtually the same age, graduated the same year from high school, and both more or less stuck around Mason. Spoon is eager, a little clumsy, and has an extraordinarily engaging style. His personal challenge? A poor attention span. He’ll come up with all sorts of schemes and plans, but virtually none come to fruition. Spoon’s blessing is he knows that about himself, shrugs happily, and moves on to the next project.

Why he and Slam remained close is a mystery. Slam, after all, isn’t much of a smiler. She’s got huge, demanding opinions and her crowd was the drug and nasties, which Spoon steered clear of. Yet somewhere they met up on the periphery and supported each other’s lives. Spoon used to pick up Bobby from school. Slam got Spoon his current job (more on that later.) And throughout the years they’ve come to rely on the rhythm of their relationship.

My visual for Spoon? The hook that tells me the man is in the play? It’s just this: he plops down at a table, flashes a toothy smile, and starts gesturing a story, or revealing his lastest scheme, which is always interesting and full of possibility. You can’t help but be taken in. Where did this guy come from? And why is he dressed that way?

In sum: it is Spoon’s easy acceptance of the world that is a balm for Slam. Slam pulls on fury like a uniform, but stays near people who shine their light.

All for now.

Land

Hi Folks,

Here’s more prose about a play, which is itself a contradiction in terms. But bear with me, because this work is crystalizing the surroundings, from which twelve characters will live and make all sorts of stage mess – the interesting kind. Today’s subject? Slam’s home.

 

As I’ve mentioned, Slam was born and lives in the town of Mason. Her family once owned a substantial portion of Louisa County, nestled high up in Northeast Iowa. Over the years, however, bits and parcels were sold off to pay debts that were foolhardy and decidedly unbusinesslike. Slam’s dad finally let go of the last acreage of farmable land, leaving just enough for the barn and a small house, built to replace the orginal farmstead.

Moving to the present day of the play (2003), Slam is pushing hard against the taint of failure. The Lamb family has been infected. Slam’s grandfather, on reaching retirement age, became disgusted with his heirs and let slide, satisfied to live on Social Security and bonds from World War II.

Squire, the middle son and Slam’s dad, came back from Korea, ignored his GI Bill rights, and aimed for the title of gentleman farmer. Hard to do in the 1950’s and a virtual impossibility after SNCC started its marches, Kennedy was elected, and the Beatles came on the scene. To his credit, Squire made an admirable attempt. But facts easily conspire against a young man who had more romantic notions than business sense, as well as tendency to ignore the finer points of loan documents and lease agreements. It got easier to sell here and parcel out there, rather than sit in a bank a minute longer. Besides, the local watering hole was calling. Just one shot and a beer chaser. He’d be home soon after, and then he really’d really know what to do.

 
Sheela break: I’m frustrated! I meant to write about Slam, but clearly I’m stuck in the mid-1960’s, about ten years before she was even born. Maybe tomorrow. 

All is not lost, however, because I’ve got another visual: Squire hiding out in roadside bar, the type with rectangular, narrow windows, a gravel parking lot, and neon beer signs. Squire throws back a shot, reaches for a cloudy glass of beer, and begins planning his next moves. He’s so close, the circumstances are very nearly in alignment. Just a few minutes out in the field, by himself, with no voices spouting opinions, no long-winded advice, no carping over past bills.

Whiskey chaser.

Slam’s coming soon.

From Iowaworkforce.org