Friday, 2 March 2007

Eternal Sunshine And the Spotty Mind

To those of you interested in the Monologue I did for Golden Hour at the Forest in Edinburgh on February 21st, here it is... A work in progress, as always, and most likely two monologues in one, but of course any comments or criticism would be welcome.

Eternal Sunshine and the Spotty Mind

Streets of London. People in suits. My big floppy hat, my ambitions, my dreams, making their way through a lot of money and a lot of work. At times like this I think of myself as a kitten, waiting for life’s slaughter. An odd duck in a pond full of busy, mean-spirited, Dolce and Gabbana wearing swans. Man, being unemployed in London sucks.

Getting paid for doing what you love is a tough business. There are plenty of ways to get paid for doing things you don’t love. You can get paid for doing things you quite like, Or don’t mind, Or even hate. But Love is about the elusive “yes definitely.” It’s the risky business of listening to that niggling voice that lives just under your stomach and whispers grand plans into your appendix every once in a while.

The bossy voice, the picky voice, the small voice. The voice that owns its very own pair of stomping clogs, slips them on, one by one, and does the fox trot on your stomach lining when it doesn’t agree . Some people call it an instinct, some call it their gut, and some simply say, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

The little voice is risky because it is usually wrong. It is highly superficial. A beautiful person may walk into a room and the voice will tell your appendix this person is your soulmate. You should not necessarily listen. This person may actually be very boring, and even if this person is not very boring they may be dating someone else. And even if this person is not boring, and aren’t dating someone else, they may not be interested in you. None of these facts will deter the little voice. The little voice likes a challenge. It hires out your ears as MI 5, gets very Columbo on every casual interaction you have, carefully searching for clues in a dossier filled with uninteresting chat. It establishes a forcible dictatorship, so that even Brain Incorporated, who thought the whole "love" thing was a waste of time from the beginning, is imprisoned in the waiting room. Like so many dictators, the little voice is a bit of a masochist. It’s into pain in a big way.

After the great Emotional explosion, when, in the rubble, Brain Incorporated is brought back in and reinstated, and the little voice is sent back to your stomach, where it belongs, your body will heave a sigh of relief, but may not listen to the eccentric genius in the basement for quite some time. And Strangely enough, in spite of living in the same body, and being constantly effected by each other, your brain and your little voice have never met. They don’t even know what the other looks like. Oh, they both have their assumptions about the other: The little voice in your stomach assumes that your brain has good ideas, but is too uppity. Your brain assumes that your little voice is creative, but also vain and lazy. (As with all assumptions, they are both partially correct. ) This lack of trust and communication between Brain Incorporated and the Little Voice is responsible for all the people out there doing jobs that they quite like, or don’t mind, or even hate. Which in most cases goes on for years.

When like all good rulers, like Nike when they ask Banksi how to get back in touch with youth, when all the big spending and conservative decisions in the world seem to fail, the corporations, the brains of the operation, will always come crawling back to the little creative guy in the basement. Who by now has been so shut off from the rest of the world, or in this case body, that he’s even more eccentric than before.

When this happens to the little voice people usually call it a mid-life crisis. And typically, since nobody has listened to or asked the little voice for advice in decades, its ideas are thirty years out of date. Explaining all those ridiculous sports cars driving around- the sixteen year old fantasies of 46 year old men.

Fortunately or unfortunately, my own little voice is a bit of a loud mouth. When the thirtieth memo reached the head honcho at my Brain Incorporated- the secretary said, “I’m sorry Ma’am, I know you haven’t wanted to look at them, but the little voice has been sending one a week for about seven years now. I just thought, you know, it being our birthday and all, that maybe you ought to read it.” And party hat on, stiff cup of coffee in hand, the head honcho said, “What the hell” and tore open the envelope, only to read one stupid sentence. “Deborah Pearson wants to be a playwright.” The Head Honcho crumpled up the page and swore loudly. She looked over at the waste paper basket, and slowly, terrified, tore open all of those other dusty unopened envelopes, which, as the brain secretary so rightly pointed out, were filled with the same sentence over and over again. Exhausted, she sighed and tore her “Plans to go into Broadcasting or anything else that pays decently well” plan right off the bulletin board, then said, “Well, I suppose it’s about time to listen to the memos.” The brain secretary nodded, and quietly excused herself, feeling the same sense of dread, that Deborah Pearson incorporated’s stock was just about to plummet.

Except for one unlikely tip…

The little voice in the gut has a sister, another little voice who lives right above the head, and unlike the gut little voice, does not own any clogs, is feather light, only works a few times a year under the very best conditions, and wears designer hats. The Greeks called her a muse, we call her inspiration, and when she does say something, you better frickin’ listen, because she’s a bit of a princess and she refuses to repeat herself.

When I was twenty years old, around the same time that the other, hard working, every day, gut dwelling voice was hand typing its twenty seventh notice to Head Honcho about my ill chosen career ambitions, she flew down from her invisible silver and ice thrown that floats right above my head, and while I was working at a bookshop in Paris, she was so pleased with the croissants and the company that this angelic voice decided to speak to me. She whispered in my ear the plot line for a film I should write. And added that it was not only the most original she would ever come up with, but the only possible Oscar contender.

Head honcho received a message about the idea, and liked it, but was too busy graphing out a budget for the four months I’d been back packing to really bother with anything so ethereal as a screenplay. She passed the idea on to the secretary, who thought better of Head Honcho’s instruction to file it away in future plans, and, reading it herself was so amused and impressed by the idea that she filed it under “topics of conversation to impress men with” then took her tenth espresso break that day.

So it’s no wonder, with the little nugget of inspiration misfiled, that I spoke about it quite freely and loudly, in Paris and Nice, and on trains and buses all over France, to every boy I could find in the summer of 2002.

The story goes like this: I had seen my first boyfriend for the first time in a year. I was so convinced that we still got on, and so frustrated by other failed attempts at romance, that I wished we could have our memories erased and meet all over again. I wondered about a society where you could have your memory of a relationship erased, and I thought about a movie about a couple who would independently erase their memories of each other, then meet again and fall in love all over again, because the initial attraction was still there. I told one boy about it very loudly on a beach in Nice, and, at Shakespeare and Company, I spoke about it at the tea party, where artists meet to exchange ideas. It definitely succeeded in fulfilling the secretary’s ridiculous ambition for it- it impressed boys France over. But also ensured that I would never have the chance to make my movie.

I’ll start with an apology- I have been blaming Charlie Kauffman for stealing “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” from me for two years now. I was convinced that he must have been hiding somewhere on that beach in Nice the day I narrated the plot line of my award winning movie for all to hear. And I was half joking, thinking it was unlikely, but not entirely impossible. But since French director Michel Gondry’s interview two weeks ago, I owe mr Kauffman an apology.

Should I be claiming such a lofty idea was my own? Let me say this, I have a witness. That same boy from the beach and I saw each other last year, and he said he was so convinced that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind had been my idea, that when the movie came out in 2004 he imdb’d me to see if I’d worked on it as a script editor. But no, no, no, it was supposedly plucked from somewhere in the air…

Here’s Gondry’s side of the story:

This idea came from my friend Pierre Bismuth, who is a contemporary artist - he's at the Lisson Gallery here. One of his best friends, a girl, was always complaining about her boyfriend, and he was tired of her whining about it, so one day, he asked her: "Listen, if you had the opportunity to erase him from your memory, would you do it?" And she said: "Yes." And he probably said: "Thank God, because I won't have to hear this story any more." So we talked about this idea where people would get cards that informed them that they had been erased from such-and-such's memory and we started working on the storyline. Then I met Charlie and I gave him a combination of the storyline and the concept, and he wrote the script. So I was involved in the creative process right from the beginning. The screenplay he wrote on his own, but I wanted to make sure that this movie talked about issues that I experienced and could grasp, and that I could feel as my movie.

His movie, Excusez Moi, monsieur Gondry, what about my movie, the movie that I would never get to make? Was this Pierre Bismuth character on that beach in Nice? Was he at one of the tea parties in Paris I went to with artists and friends, or listening in to a conversation I had on a French train? Did something I say prompt him to ask this complaining girl about erasing her memory? Or was it a friend of a friend of a friend? Or was it inspiration, Muse, whatever you call her, that spoiled little bitch right above my head on her silver throne, who saw a few flashy music videos, and got bored one day and decided to fly off and tell some other guy with a lot more money and a lot more connections, in the very same French city, the very same idea that she’d told me? The Greeks always claimed the Muses were cheating whores. Either way, my million dollar idea went to someone who actually had millions, and I am left with the story of how I thought of that movie first.

Big frickin’ deal.

I bet some guy in a cave in Siberia thought of the internet first. What good did that do anybody?

But I feel for that guy in Siberia, I feel for him even now, as freezing, clutching his home hunted wooly bear slippers, he hates the word google, and grimaces at the philanthropy of Bill Gates. Because you know who that Siberian guy is? He’s the little voice right down there in the belly of the world. And it takes some head honcho in an office somewhere to listen real hard, barely make out his whimpering cries, send out a memo to the world and take all the credit.

By the by, Morgan McBride gave me the idea for this performance. I’m telling you all that now, because that’s just what kind of a gal I am.

So to unrecognized little voices everywhere, I salute you. It’s a tough business getting paid for doing what you love. It’s an even tougher business not getting paid, or even recognized for it. I bet some of you have little voices inside of you asking you to be brain surgeons, or lawyers, or engineers, thank goodness for that. But to the rest of you, those of you who like me, have one of those little voices that will not let you get away from fencing or candlestick making or art or theatre, a skill that society has left behind, well, I apologize. We live in a world with a lot of stories out there to tell and not that many people privileged enough to tell them. And we live in a world with a lot of people telling stories, but not that many people willing to turn on their appendixes and-

Shhh… quiet. It’s telling me to keep going. It’s telling me to let go. It’s telling me to hope you’re listening. It’s telling me to speak until things make sense.

It’s telling me it doesn’t know. And it’s telling me it knows. It’s hard to tell where it is, is that it, is that it, is that it?

It’s not telling me anything at all.

(Quiet.) It’s telling me that one day your soulmate actually does walk in the room, and the little voice sees them, and recognizes them, and dances so hard it’s like the polka was just invented, but the rest of you is so scared, that your eyes say, “no no no, we’ve been through this before” and averting the person’s glance, go on strike. And your actual voice says, “Yeah, right, like I’m ever trying this again” and it refuses to think of a thing to say. And even your feet get an itch and walk you away, until, at a safe distance, you know that your body has betrayed you. Unless just this one time, in a very measured way, you listen.

Forest Cafe, February 21st, 2007. Performed at Golden Hour

1 comment:

Craig said...

Fascinating stuff. There's a nagging thought this monologue has created in me, which is hovering around somewhere in the background of what you've written, which I don't have clear yet, but which has to do with the link between the stifled little voice, the jilted muse, and the anguished regret/bitterness towards the erstwhile lover. Are we playing the stifled voice, the jilted muse in those remembered relationships? Furthermore, there's something about regret that links the past and the future---and it's connected to that little voice: aspirations, stifled or not---because regret is not just about something in the past, but something lost for the future. I remember reading somewhere, years ago, some suggestion that, by sometime in your thirties, the statistics suggested that you had already met your life partner, if you were going to have one. And it's an odd thought---that there would be no new solution presented to the problem of your life, that the best you could hope for would be an old one that you had previously either discarded or had been discarded by or, more probably, had not recognized at all. Living in the past and the future at the same time. Obviously, this is connected with your earlier post, about characters' anticipation of some distant future (to which I replied about half an hour ago).

Sorry for the scattered nature of my thoughts, but it seemed good to get them down while the little voice asked.