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Friday, October 12, 2001

I'm dabbling a little deeper in the theater this year. I talked Mom into buying season tickets for the Santa Rosa JC Theatre Arts Department's eclectic series of productions, and last night we saw their first of the year. I looked for a few students and maybe some parents in the audience, but the auditorium was more crowded than I expected. There were no assigned seats, and we were advised to arrive 45 minutes early. This seemed a bit excessive, especially on a Thursday night. We got there about 25 minutes early and still had our pick of most of the best spots.

I expected an imaginative set, knowing from past years of ushering how seriously student designers take their craft, and I wasn't disappointed. I didn't know what to expect from the performances, but I was blown away by most of the young actors. They portrayed complex characters in a manner worthy of the quality of the writing. Lanford Wilson's "The Mound Builders" is a disturbing play that examines questions of perspective. As all good art does, it got me thinking about the direction of this journal.

No, seriously. The play gives us a glimpse of an extended family on an archaeological dig in Illinois in 1975. These people are so intent on uncovering unknown facts and artifacts about the natives of the area that they miss what's going on in their own lives. They overlook each other, resolutely misunderstanding the simplest nuances even while they're dusting and polishing fragments of a dead civilization and trying to divine the inner lives of people known only by their bones.

It's supposed to jar you into thinking about the relationships in your own life, and whether you take them for granted. I think sometimes I do. In fact, I think most of the time I do, but not because I don't want to make the commitment to know people more deeply. It's a failing on my own part, the long-held notion that I don't have much to offer, and it's not worth their time to explain themselves to me.

That's a selfish way of looking at life, even though it seems to be just the opposite. It assumes people can't judge for themselves how much they want to reveal to me. I make that decision for them, by backing off. This isn't true as much of my immediate family as it is of the people on the periphery of my life. Relatives I don't see all the time, friends and former friends, business associates. I don't pry into their lives, and I don't let them into mine.

Which is what got me thinking about the journal. What I do on these pages is more a diversion than a deep analysis. It's a diversion not because it's fun to write facile discourses on what's on my mind or what's going on around me, but because it diverts people — the reader, but mostly myself — from probing intensely enough to reveal anything I might not like about the person I've become. I haven't lived this many years without seeing the dark corners of my own soul. It's just not a place that I care to frequent, and it's been a long time since I've invited anyone else in.

So, despite any revealing thoughts I might have had as a result of sitting in the dark for three hours and watching real live people become other people on the stage in front of me, I'm not inclined to transform myself into a surveyor of my own inner landscape. The best I can hope for is that once in a while I'll have a little epiphany that I can share. Little epiphanies are a grand enough aspiration, I think.

I live in (or near) the trees.

Yet another shot of the oaks surrounding my house.

The above notwithstanding, let us now dive back into the shallow end of the pool. (Ow!)

The lights went out at two o'clock this afternoon. Since there were no lights on, I only know this because the computer monitor and TV went dark, both at the same time. And I only know the time because of my watch, since all the clocks were dark, too.

Ordinarily I'd be slamming around the house, railing at the forces of evil that were being so unfair to me. But this was Friday afternoon. I didn't necessarily want to watch the Braves fans chant their obnoxious way to victory, and I could definitely stand to quit working early for once, especially since Fridays tend to be longer days than they should be.

So I grabbed the novel I've been reading and headed out to the porch to enjoy the fabulous autumn afternoon. I'd just about got set up out there when everything came back to life. I had to get back to work, alas. And of course I had to get back to the ballgame, too. So, an unforeseen mini-vacation was narrowly averted.

I couldn't make time stand still, even by leaving the clocks flashing 12:00 for a long time after the power came back on. In fact, the one by my bed is still flashing. I don't have to get up at a set time on Saturday morning, but it'll be pretty annoying to have it blinking all night right next to my face. Anyway, the fax machine predictably hummed to life at three o'clock with a draft of a ten-page letter, plus spreadsheets. And I was back at work. Happy Friday.

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One year ago: In the Dark

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