Dreamed 1997/7/29 by Chris Wayan
My friend Alder drives us to Polk Street and we walk in to Marines Memorial Theater. Traffic, smoky bars. Steam pours from manholes. I joke about my worries that it's toxic, say "it's the price I pay for the authentic Manhattan experience." A woman next to us overhears me and laughs. I realize I was hushing my voice, afraid she or others WOULD overhear and conclude I'm a street crazy and call a cop and put me where they put my uncle. After all that therapy, the fear's still down there like the mythical alligators in the sewers. When the opposite is true: the real me is all I have to share, all anyone has... And it attracts.
We came to see a play, SYLVIA, by A.R. Gurney. Sylvia, a stray dog, adopts a new owner, a married man in midlife crisis, and tries to win over his wife--who hates her as a rival. I promptly if predictably fall in love with Kellie Waymire as Sylvia: she's gorgeous, wild, funny, and full of energy. Of course the director went out of the way to make everyone else act stodgy and look dumpy. But their human lives are in many ways further from mine than Sylvia's. I mean, they're Republicans! I'd sooner date a dog.
Wow, I heard of yellow-dog Democrats. But I'm a yellow-dog Green. Pretty lurid! Practically day-glo. But then hippies are, right?
Still, I empathize with poor old rich stuffy Republican hubby Greg's midlife crisis. I share his preference for concrete things he has a gut connection with--he hates the financial abstractions he's being pushed to work on instead. Who wouldn't rather hang out with Sylvia in the park?
The gender roles and the therapy scenes are so regional (to use the quaintly patronizing term used in New York for any theatre outside town). New York culture--fascinatingly foreign. A firm Judeo-Christian separation of humans and all other beings, treating things as symbols, strictly segregated men's and women's networks... even their genderbending marriage counselor, played as if he's a flaky radical, is intellectually a Freudian fossil, sixty years behind the times--for California. Maybe they're aiming at rich old fossils--who else can afford live theater? We got discount tix, or I wouldn't be here...
At intermission, two girls talk to Alder about her jellyfish shirt. Monterey aquarium. I think they're a couple, they tease each other affectionately. I envy their warmth and ease; they each get to be the other's pet. No one here seems single, except a few teens clearly here with their parents, who aren't about to let their kids talks to strangers... Sigh.
Afterward Alder says "I wonder if I could manage to own a dog in the big city--this makes me want a dog again." So characteristic of our different needs--she's a farm kid needing the tolerance of the city but missing some aspects of the farm... while my allergies prevent me getting my pet-needs met by a dog no matter what, so I look for animalistic girlfriends who like to play. If that gets tangled up with sex, so be it--I don't have the option of using pets as substitutes for unrewarding human relationships.
I have to find a human pet, and I'm willing, in exchange, to be one.
I'm cast in a movie designed like a quilt, with each scene parodying a different cultural style. French romantic comedy, spy film, then a Fellini scene...
It stars, of course, Kellie Waymire as Sylvia, the fabulous Dog Chanteuse. In each scene, a man leads me through a glittering nightworld of theaters and clubs, in pursuit of Sylvia. She's sexier than ever, and changes clothes and style in each scene. Now, in the Italian scene, she's in a clingy white sheath dress that shows off the slinkiest sexiest tail in all of decadent Rome. And she loves to wave it.
My guide is a slick, urbane man, though the details of his masculine role vary a lot from scene to scene, culture to culture. He says "The only way for you to keep up with Sylvia, the only hope you have of winning a Sylvia, is to learn to adapt your own character to each culture we must inhabit." He notices I'm studying how HE does it, and adds "Your role is NOT to imitate me, but to play an intelligent but charmingly shy and naive man."
He shows me how to move and dance differently in each culture; part of my role is not to learn it too well, for I must remember: "Express your shyness, don't cover it up with skill."
Slowly I get more comfortable as I gain CONSCIOUS control over my showing shyness... not to repress it, but to let it out!
For in order to hide just how shy I feel, I'll do desperate, stupid things. Better just to be shy.
Better an honest bitch than a hollow man.
NOTES NEXT MORNING
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