That’s right… I do creative type stuff, too. And if you can’t tell from this stunning piece of prose, some people seem to dig what I put down. Maybe some day soon I will have the guts to post more here. But, for now, here are a couple of sample pieces that I’ve written for some recent performance events.
Full Moon Ceremony
Saying the letters
A. R. U. E. S.
These sounds that I’m making all have something in common. Can you guess what it is?
Waits for the audience member to respond, with either the correct or incorrect answer.
That’s right! (or, No, I’m afraid that’s wrong.) They are all letters or, more specifically, they are pieces of a phonetic alphabet or a phonemic orthography. Loosely defined, a phonemic orthography is a written language in which the graphemes – that is, the letter or symbols – correspond to phonemes – that is, the spoken sound of the language. Phonemic Orthographies are found in languages that we would typically characterize as “western.” English, Italian, Polish, German, Spanish, French, in fact all the romance and latin languages feature a high grapheme-to-phoneme correspondence.
He holds up a card with the letter “A” on it.
For example, in English, the character “A” is inextricably tied to the sound it makes.
I should take a moment to say, of course, that there is not a strict one-to-one relationship between phonemes and graphemes: This single character can represent many different sounds: Ayyy, Aah, Ahhhh. But these sounds are given purpose and meaning by an abstract symbol. And the words we construct in phonetic languages have very little to do with the thing they are describing.
Now, these languages stand in sharp contrast to logographies or logographic systems. Logographies are written languages in which the graphemes represent a entire word or concept. Logographies can be found in the earliest known systems of writing, including ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, Sumerian cuneiform, Mayan glyphs, and the languages of the Asian Han dynasty.
For example, this ancient Chinese character represented the word “sun,” as in the star in the sky.
And this Egyptian hieroglyph was used to represent both the word “duck” and the word “son.” This time, however, we’re referring to the male offspring of a mother and father.
The question we are faced with is: To what degree does a phonemic orthography affect our understanding of the world around us, and our ability to communicate with its inhabitants? As we become more literate in our symbolic language, what happens to our understanding of the things those symbols are meant to represent?
What seems clear, according to cultural ecologists and anthropologists, is that when a phonetic alphabet arrives in a culture… Only then does the culture get this odd notion that language is an exclusively human property. And the rest of the land falls mute.
Ancient humans shared their symbols with the land and the gods and the spirits around them.
He holds up the “A” card again.
But, one writing system, has impacted not only our own subjectivity… But our very understanding of the sensuous surroundings. The symbolic meanings of our orthography exist only for their own sake, and have become divorced from the very world that gave them birth.
Gradually, the Professor steps out from behind the lectern and moves to the pews at the back of the room. Again, Saying the letters…
A. R. U. E. S.
You are in a conversation now… With the moon and the wind and the spirits that live in this place. Listen to them. Speak to them. There is a language buried inside you. All you have to do is remember.
The SHEPHARD enters and leads the participant to the next experience.
The Sweet Cheat
In the next 15 minutes, the New York City that you know will no longer exist.
Most of lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn were incinerated when an unknown person detonated a nuclear explosion in Union Square. Millions of people were killed and many more injured. Your family, lovers, pets, and co-workers are all gone. And you were left to carry their memory.
This all happens in the next 13 minutes.
If you were standing in Harlem that day facing Southwest, you would have seen the entire skyline subsumed in a perfect blinding light. A dark cloud rose above the remaining buildings and stretched its arms over the city. The nausea you felt, as your cells were slowly poisoned by radioactive particles, would gradually over take you and you’d collapse to the ground vomiting.
All of this, just 12 minutes from now.
The years following the blast were filled with tragedy for those who survived. Most were driven mad by their memories. The rest would seek some sort of relief. When you’re used to living a comfortable middle-class life, going to the organic farmer’s market on the weekend, or enjoying dinners out at the new Indian restaurant, you’re bound to become very uncomfortable when 50 square blocks of your city suddenly look like a NASA photo of Mars.
[Deanna, who has been quietly watching the prologue, begins to convulse and/or falls out of her chair.]
Oh, dear. Miss?! Miss, are you alright? Could someone please attend to her. A young woman has just collapsed in the aisle. Forgive us ladies and gentlemen, for the brief interruption.
Grad Student 1: I think she’s high.
Wentworth [Exasperated]: Good lord. Then get her out of here. We have an extremely limited amount of time to prepare and we can’t afford interruptions from a worthless junkie. Make sure she’s put somewhere safe … Wretched thing.
[Grad Student leads Deanna to the back of the car. Ernst waits for them to leave.]
My apologies for the disturbance. I assure you, it won’t happen again.
[Checks his watch]
Unfortunately, our brief window of time has grown even briefer. The further this train travels, the closer we get to what changed everything.
It’s only seven minutes now. Seven minutes until we arrive in New York City after the blast. After the fires. After the evacuation. After the trauma units filled with burn victims.
Crime syndicates now control the streets and the remaining residents have taken refuge in the outer-boroughs or barricaded themselves in college campuses, abandoned warehouses, and old armories. People just turned their backs on Manhattan, which is the center of nothing now, except maybe of society ladies with radiation burns. It is nothing but a landfill.
You will be a witness to what remains. Pay attention. Listen carefully. Remember what you see. The world is filled with forgetters now.