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:
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.
I wrote a short play, which started with an argument. Before I knew it, a ghost arrived and the Lazy Susan made itself known. The ghost I won’t tell you about (she’s one of several and the same person, if my intuition’s right), but the latter, the ‘Susan, I’m going to describe.
Perhaps you are familiar with the Lazy Susan. She comes in different models, from table top to entire table to a corner cabinet with multiple levels. A Lazy Susan is circular, one turns it and retrieves a condiment or a toothpick or a napkin. If it’s in a cabinet, then usually canned goods are kept there. At least, that’s been my experience. Maybe some people put towels or dishes in theirs, but if they do, they have committed a domestic infraction. Lazy Susans are meant for food or spices. Or pills or toothpicks or, as in my play, paper, cell phones and a candle.
The play, Bobby Slam Amanda, is set in a small house, shoddy and on the edge of town. Its inhabitants are intelligent, intuitive and sloppy. The Lazy Susan reflects that. There are torn newspaper articles, prescription pills, an ashtray, matches, cooking oils, spices, grinders, pens and chewing gum. Its location, naturally, is the kitchen table and the kitchen is also the living room. The living room, in fact, is most of the house. And since its tenants have busy schedules (not entirely legal), an active hygienic practice is sorely missing.
The play is expanding. A story needs to be told. So what I do as an exercise – an entre – is take a gander at the ‘Susan. The quality of the piece is quite high, compared to the rest of the house. It’s made of solid, pure oak and is configured to hold paper napkins upright by way of two carved posts at one side. There are two shelves. Really, it’s like a merry-go-round. I could see a child with dolls make great use of it, were it ever empty. This one, sadly, is marked with honey, vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce and has been singed by matches. Its value is still evident, however. And soon the story will be told.