I’ve been away from the computer, recharging my imagination. The weather has been unwilling to decide which season it is. It rains, the sun breaks out, it rains again, and so on. The constant changes have invigorated my unconscious. I’m waking up with memories of my dreams more often.
I held a position of responsibility at a church, one of the functionaries who see to things behind the scenes during services. Somebody who preferred the showy style of worship had sponsored a visit from a famous infant phenomenon, a young child evangelist. I was supposed to babysit him, and show him where to enter for his act.
This church had two buildings, the original smaller building, now used as a chapel and for specialized services, and a newer, larger one for the main congregation. The holy kid would be on (for those interested) in the chapel, then the regular services would be held at the larger venue.
Things began well enough. The chapel was full. I helped the kid, who looked about four, into his metallic blue three-piece suit and showed him the entrance to the altar. He zoomed out and began his routine, exhorting and waving his mini-Bible. Unfortunately this wasn’t his kind of crowd. People began yawning and quietly sneaking out.
Within minutes, the boy and I were the only ones there. He had been so engrossed in rapture he hadn’t been aware of the flock wandering away. He stopped preaching, his eyes grew wide and he started to sniffle. Apparently this hadn’t happened to him before. Child stars endure a terrible reckoning when the audience picks a new favorite. I took him back to the dressing room and helped him change into his ordinary clothes. I liked him much better as a little boy than as a miracle.
When I wrote the article “Full Steam Ahead” back on March 28th (here/), it seems I wasn’t the only one getting a steampunk vibe from the Victorian seaport where I live. This coming weekend, Port Townsend will hold its first “official” festival in the genre. The sponsors are calling themselves The Brass Screw Confederacy/, and there will be music, magic, dancing girls, zombies and retro-futuristic role-playing.
To look steampunk, you begin with clothing reminiscent of something worn between 1850-1910, and then add more. Common additions include vests and pocket watches, gears and dials, mechanized prosthetics, metal or leather wrist bracelets, corsets and bustiers, whimsical monocles or goggles, and ray guns.
Being a person of limited means with a somewhat less limited imagination, I thought up a cheap costume to wander around in. I bought a used raincoat at a consignment shop. It will work in “Weird West” style, one of the overlapping variants of steampunk. I bought brass buttons to replace the originals. I already own most of what I need to coordinate with the coat.
After looking around town for accessory ideas, I bought two cheap squirt guns and a pair of fly-eye glasses. I’m repainting them with acrylics to give them more of an antique, mechanical appearance. It’s not as ornate an outfit as many will have, but it cost less than $40, and will only take a few hours to complete. I don’t believe in over-planning for leisure activities.
Though I hadn’t acted in years, a producer over at Warner Brothers offered me a nice character part in a new movie. When I showed up at the Commissary for the first read-through, Clint Eastwood pulled me aside. He looked irritated and said, “Listen, I know Ned wanted you, but I’ve never heard of ya, and I want to work with this DiCaprio fella. Sorry you came here for nothing.”
Instead of my usual behavior (shrug shoulders, go home), I walked over to the assembled cast and made an impassioned speech about how their hero (Eastwood) didn’t have the common decency to give me a phone call, to save me an hour’s drive.
Speaking of dreamers, Ray Bradbury just sent his soul’s energy from this gravity-bound planet off to the gossamer realms he invented and wrote about for more than seven decades. He couldn’t afford college, so he educated himself at the Public Library, and he wrote every day from the time he was a teenager. He was a full-time author by age 22, and he kept at it even though his sales were moderate for years. His success was gradual, and earned though diligence. Fans of his writing are legion, and I’m one of them.
His best works are short stories. He published hundreds of them. Unlike Asimov and Heinlein, he didn’t write much science fiction. Most of his subjects are speculative fantasies, imaginings of impossible places and things. It’s a kind of Midwestern Magical Realism. Ray’s stories have been adapted for many kinds of media; TV, movies, plays and comic books, but they are the sort of fish too shiny and slippery to be properly caught except by reading them. When he was 12 a carnival performer touched him on the chest with the point of an electrified sword and shouted, “LIVE FOREVER!” I’m glad he figured out how.
“There was a smell of Time in the air tonight. He smiled and turned the fancy in his mind. There was a thought. What did time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, 100 billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing. That was how Time smelled and looked and sounded. And tonight-Tomas shoved a hand into the wind outside the truck-tonight you could almost taste time.”
― Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles