2/17/23: Victory Over, and Beyond, the Haters #poetry

2/17/23: Victory Over, and Beyond, the Haters #poetry

Thinking about haters in a very detached way. Watched the Lumet Iceman Cometh yesterday. Got new insight into the Anti-Semitic high school bully in Fabelmans. Hickey reveals he hated his wife because she loved him so much and it filled him with guilt and shame. That may be where Kushner got the inspiration for the Prom movie sequence. 

I don’t identify with the bully, but it gives me some insight into how I set myself up to be hated. I approached my oppressors with a naive love and they hated me for loving them. 

This is very interesting to me.

Then I thought of another reason. The hated person shames the haters. It may be obvious but I never thought of it before. My blog, for example, makes the haters look bad. It exposes their lies about me, and it exposes their false claims about themselves. 

This appeals to a dark competitive part of my personality … which is part of the reason the haters bothered me so much. They claimed to be winners, but I won. They wanted to stop me, but they couldn’t and they are diminished. 

Should I care about beating them? I think it’s important. The two step is winning and then freely being. It’s the revolution followed by new life and they constantly repeat themselves on a loop. With practice the wounded pain dulls, but still is necessary. I used to hope this concern would end, but for me at least, I don’t think it ever will. I come to look forward to the piercing stab of their assaults. They ignite writing. 

I think this struggle is universal, a part of the human condition. The haters are phantoms peddling fear instead of conscious life and death. They always arrive at moments of fear … in the void … the empty space … life and death occur in the unknown, and the haters are know it all. The haters are the part of us that want us to avoid our destinies. 

I wondered if I have been in a rut —- always a lack of confidence … why keep thinking about this, but O’Neill cured me. This is part of what writers do. It’s funny that creative gold lies beneath the hatred of others.

This I believe was also what was underneath the line edited because I cared too much. A wonderful edit perfect for the piece. And the source of the pieces below , and this preface.

I’ve worked my way to detachment without denial. 

Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas

2/9/23: Notes on Process and “Women Talking” (2022) #poetry

Usually I just know when to hit the publish button. I know when I’m thinking about a piece. I know when to type. I know when to revise and edit. I know when to hit send.

Yesterday was an aberration. I knew I had something good, but something was off. I reached out to my friend the genius. He deftly suggested a change of one sentence, and one word choice in another. He made his evaluation in a matter of seconds, and I was good to go.

I am very impressed with his process and pleased with my own, so in this entry I am including excerpts from letters that I sent to him, and the piece that I wrote and he gracefully assisted in the tiny, but crucial step before I crossed the finish line.

Letter excerpts

 … got a specific taste yesterday of how amazing you are in those sessions. Knew it already but man! Like watching Justin Fields! The precision of your observations and emotional intelligence of your way of relating … Fun Knowing you! 

Your insights yesterday were invaluable to me. I’ve noticed two things about my craft as a result that I can take going forward. The redundancy that you pointed out with such nuance shows (once again) your high level of understanding. You didn’t say it was “wrong”. You knew it might be a choice. Then you said that your preference would be not to use it here. That is precisely responsive to my process. My hot and fast writing style — after longer quiet gestation — often yields redundancies. I edit some as clumsy, and I keep some for rhythm and musicality. And sometimes I just miss them. Your tone on that line had perfect pitch.

More significantly, changing the line that sounded bitter was, as I mentioned yesterday, the perfect adjustment. A paragraph or two later I say that my work can’t be stolen … the word choice that made me sound wounded above. I changed in the writing of the piece. This leads to another insight into my craft. I transform in the act of writing. Sometimes it serves the piece to show the transformation. Sometimes on rewrite the change should be introduced  from the beginning.

On the question of being a writer “now” I think we both said true things. In one sense, I didn’t become a writer until 2014 and I made writing the major and conscious activity of my life. And there always was something missing, a persistent frustration until I actively wrote. 

On the other hand, I’d have nothing to write if I wasn’t ostensibly lost. I was ‘writing’ all the time … inwardly interacting with the experiences of my life. I didn’t develop as you kindly say a ‘unique’ point of view. I was born with one. So I was writing in my head constantly. I was always committed to my authenticity for good or ill, and I think on its most basic level that is what writing is.

Everything has worked out. I believe when I wandered I did more to develop as a writer than if I was sitting at a keyboard. The inner experience of life is the main thing. I had so many thoughts that I never wrote down. I threw good writing away, as you have lamented. But nothing is lost. I am confident that I will say to the world every word my person has to contribute before I die. I have this reservoir of thoughts and feelings that rise up on cue. I look at a subject for my writing, a movie for example, and I reclaim years of my life. My life truly feels like one moment. Feelings and insights that I had as a small child or any other point of my life feel immediate and present because they are. 

Writing, and gestating for writing , take me outside of time … and of course, time marches on. That paradox makes two different response to the question “when did Rick start writing?” The answers are 2014, and — the moment his parents conceived him.

Barry Diller, the powerful businessman, declared Hollywood and the Oscars dead. Of course he would, in the year with more great movies that I can remember, and  more availability of new and real art at movie theaters and streaming services. It’s kind of like social security. Every time I enjoy something, some conservative asshole comes along and wants to take it away from me. 

He’s wrong of course. The film industry is changing and adapting to new cultures and technologies. People will never stop wanting stories. — for all sorts of reasons from art to entertainment. Agents of negation always want to stop the joy … they want to reduce human beings to workers and consumers, but as Jeff Goldblum said IN A MOVIE … “Life finds a way.” 

Oh … and social security isn’t going anywhere either — as a matter of fact it will be extended eventually. AI will eliminate work as we know it, and what is really essential … art … will become the purpose of everyone. I see a future where people get checks from the government and spend their days watching movies —- like me! Hah!

I saw “Women Talking” yesterday — another great art film in this stellar year. A title card calls the movie an act of female imagination. That it is … and my response to the film is very simple — let it speak for itself. Years ago I read a bit of Gloria Steinem. I found her prophetic feminism to be very helpful to me as a human being. This movie is in Steinem’s tradition. Normally I use a movie to add my perspective, but the main message that I get from this film is LISTEN. I feel bigger for having seen “Women Talking” and I have nothing to add … what she said!

As Columbo said, one more thing … on my process … my segments are pieces of a hidden narrative that I doubt is apparent to the reader. There is a creative logic that links one entry to another. My writing is a road picture. Me and my soul take off on an odyssey through the inner reaches of outer space.

Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas

And here is yesterday’s segment on my never ending story …

2/8/23: Thoughts on Plagiarism and Publication #poetry

A guy I knew has an ‘improv’ book out “Beyond Yes, And … ” or something like that. I wrote some pieces on the blog rejecting the concept “Yes, And” long before this book was ‘published’. Those pieces were widely read among improvisers. I don’t know if he was inspired by what I wrote, and neglected to attribute, or just independently arrived at the same point of view. I don’t care what his motivations are, or how he came upon the idea. I don’t self-identify as an improviser any more. I appreciate my experience as an improviser but I’ve put away childish things, and work in a more mature form.

The “Beyond Yes, And” title provoked some useful thoughts in me, clarifying my attitudes a bit on two practical considerations: plagiarism and what I think of as real publication.

I don’t think I can be plagiarized. I have had many things I’ve written ‘stolen” , but not really. The best anyone has ever done has been to steal a phrase as a marketing trope. My writing is too personal, and anybody who is merely taken by the shiny object of my phrase making isn’t smart enough to understand what I am saying.

This whole Yes, and business is stupid and always has been. It was a simplistic cash cow thing to rip people off in ‘workshops’ that were more Tony Robbins than Paul Sills. A party game is going to make you popular, successful in love and work and … a movie star! Please. This guy with the book is just saying I have a better way to make your rich, famous and sexually fulfilled. That’s like nothing I’ve written.

I rewrote this because my first draft sounded bitter. I’m truly not bitter. I don’t know whether to be embarrassed or proud at how far I have come. I am so over improvisation. It’s been that way for quite a while now. There is so much more. I was either selling myself short by improvising or retracing my past development to understand it better.

But, man is it dumb. And I may be being unfair to the guy who wrote this book. If I suspect him of guilt by association, I’m sorry. It’s just that the improv scene is such a brush fire of the vanities. Plenty of ego but no serious person cares. Rude, petty and stupid. Not even funny. Not real community (the aspect I loved with Paul Sills.) Just inane cliques.

Which leads to my consideration of ‘real’ publishing. If publishing is self-promotion or branding, I don’t think its real. Years ago I co-wrote a joke book for the Cigar Association of America. I don’t consider it a published work! I also don’t consider these books (and classes) by these improv gurus as real. I know — back to old Rick whipping boys … Second City and iO. If Second City and iO (and their alums that branch off and go it alone … the fruits of the poisonous trees) … if Second City and iO are arts organizations then Trump University was an institution of higher learning.

Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone really wrote and really published about improvisation because they were real artists and intellectuals. The commercial stuff is worthless.

I wrote a book that I used as a text when I taught at UIC. Part of it was ostensibly about improv. It wasn’t. It was my writing. I don’t even think about that book anymore … but I do value some passages more generally as writing. I was done with improvisation, I just didn’t know it.

Improvisation is an early chapter in the book of my life.

I was interviewed back maybe 5 years ago for this book Improv Nation by Sam Wasson. It was reviewed in The New York Times and went to the remainder bin. It’s a shallow stupid book that calls improvisation an ‘art’ without knowing what art is. I don’t consider that book really published. I have a tiny audience on The Rick Blog, but I have more reach than Sam Wasson. People actually read me and will in the future. No one cares about what Wasson wrote already. I’m not being mean, but come on. This guy argues that Del Close was a greater artist than Mike Nichols. No one with half a brain would accept that proposition. Angels in America versus The Harold. This is actually another example of the improv scam. It lies to people and tells them that they have artistic achievement because they had fun playing a party game.

I know a guy from my former life who self published and paid to be nominated for some phony award that sounded suspiciously like the National Book Award but wasn’t. Hah! Clearly not real.

I self produced a one man show in Dec 2017. I use the word ‘produce’ quite loosely. I invited people I knew and shot a poorly made video that documented my writing as spoken word. It wasn’t a real production. It was like throwing a party. It was good for the process of my writing, but it wasn’t a real dissemination of my work.

I don’t want to be “published” as a vanity project. I want to be published by someone as deep and true and smart and sincere in their publishing as I am in my writing. 

That’s what is real. I want to respect my publishers, producers, editors and readers. Until I find them, I publish right here. I respect myself and my readers.

And if this guy wrote a worthy book and my ideas triggered him, great. I don’t think he is up to it, but what do I know. I didn’t know that I was as good as I am either.

Here’s what I wrote about Yes, and — first.

Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas

1/10/19: The Trouble with “Yes, and”

I was recently asked, “Why do you think “yes and” is bullshit?”

Here’s my answer :

I personally believe that my understanding of the Spolin concept of “acceptance” is the best way.

I make no claims to be a teacher of Spolin improvisational practice. I teach my own approach. I do this with what I believe is the encouragement of Viola Spolin, who I never met. She wrote that the rules of improvisation should not become rigid. She is surely one of the most skilled, effective and inspired teachers of any subject that ever lived. She was not looking for disciples. She wanted to develop free people, and for those so endowed and inclined, artists.

Spolin said that there should be constant revolution in improvisation. A core value of improvisation is transformation, and that transformation extends to the art itself. I did know and work with Spolin’s son, Paul Sills. He saw a one man show that I did at the West Bank Cafe in New York in the mid-1980s. He called the show the greatest piece of theater that he had seen in twenty-five years, and compared me to Lenny Bruce. I lacked confidence at the time, I was in my early thirties. I didn’t understand my power as an artist. After Paul showered me with praise, the significance of which I didn’t fully understand until many years later, I answered with a quavering apology. “I’m not good at object work (the Spolin way of introducing tangible objects through something that resembles  mime to the uninitiated).” Paul got pissed off, and growled “who gives a shit?”

I learned that those improvisational concepts, which have far too often been commodified as rules, are only a means to an end.

I had achieved those ends in the show that Paul Sills saw, which was one of the peak experiences of my life, but I didn’t know it. I had a nervous breakdown one year after I gave that performance.

It took me fifteen years to complete the personal development that I needed to make art. I had to learn to take care of myself and make a living. My art was not going to make me a livelihood, at least not then.

I had to learn to not listen to other people.

An artist needs armor to protect himself from ignorance, arrogance and envy.

I had to grow as a person before I could even begin to do the the work of making art, and developing my potential as an artist.

Ironically, I returned to active creative work when I became a lawyer. I graduated from law school in 1981. I didn’t sit for the bar for twenty-five years.

After wandering the streets of New York as needy and lost soul in my mid-thirties, I worked in soulless telephone sales jobs for several years.

I rose in that awful profession and got a good paying job. I was fired from that job in my mid-forties.

Flat on my ass, I found my sole financial asset to be the human capital of my law degree. I took the bar in 2006 and I passed. It was really an accomplishment to pass the bar on the first try twenty-five years after my law school graduation. It was a lot of work and showed me that I had many resources of intelligence and character to apply to my life and work.

In all of my years in the wilderness, I always self-identified as an improvisor and an artist even when I was seemingly in exile. Those years also made me a writer. A writer has to be lost for a time. A writer needs to struggle in his life before he puts his life into words, to joust with inner and outer experiences, to be innocent, and therefore open, to suffer a thousand wounds, before finally realizing that his life in all of its particularity reflects the universal pain and joy of all men and women.

A lot happens when nothing is happening.

I practiced law for about six years. My bar admission eventually found its real utility. It was the credential that qualified me to be a college professor.

While I was gone, I had missed all of the “yes, and” business. I got a job at the University of Illinois at Chicago Business College teaching “Professional Presence” Improvisational acting instruction was the basis of teaching skills for business students to build self-confidence and communication and leadership skills. Other faculty at UIC, who also taught at the Second City Training Center. mentioned “yes, and.”

I was open to the idea. As a writer and teacher, I’ve never thought that I know everything. I grew to understand that the only thing that I could know is what I know.

Experience is the teacher.

So here is my experience with “yes, and.”

I read Kelly Leonard’ and Tom Yorton’ s (of Second City Works — an offshoot of Second City that teaches business people improvisational concepts to aid their personal and professional competencies and effectiveness much as I did at UIC) book Yes,and. I liked it. I thought it was a realization of David Shepherd’s (a founder with Paul Sills of the Compass Players, the forerunner of Second City) dream of using the teaching of improvisation as a means of positive impact on the lives of ordinary people who had no ambitions related to performing or any other arts. I even wrote a positive review of the book on my blog.

I applied the “yes, and” concept in my UIC classes. I wasn’t happy with the results. I also wasn’t sure if the problem was with “yes, and” or if I wasn’t teaching it properly.

Aretha Sills, Viola Spolin’s granddaughter, and the keeper of Viola’s flame, told me that “yes, and” was not a Spolin concept. She said that the idea originated with Josephine Forsberg.

One of the greatest living improvisation teachers, a friend and a person for whom I hold great respect (you’ll see why I don’t use his name here) told me that Jo Forsberg’s nephew, Martin de Maat, the founder of the Second City Training Center, stole the idea from Jo and commodified it.

To state the obvious, “yes, and” is a hugely successful commercial concept. “Yes, and” has taken over the world. Speak to almost any person who has ever taken an improvisation class in the last twenty years, and “yes, and” will be among the first words to come out of their mouths. I have talked to lawyers who discuss it …

University of Chicago intellectuals …

sales people …

and of course, actors.

“Yes, and” has become a synonym for improvisation in much of the public mind. The masses think that is all there is to it.

It, of course,  isn’t.

I stopped using “yes, and” in my UIC classes. My way was getting much better outcomes. I improvised with some old friends that I had worked with at Second City when we young. I did that my own way too. I was very pleased with my work. I was an excellent improvisor again., even better than I used to be. I applied my own way of improvising to my writing, and noted steady improvement in the writing over time.

I like my writing.

My rejection of “yes, and” was the final step in my conscious claiming of my own artistic power.

I don’t even practice the same general creative form as the people who swear by “yes, and”.

I think “yes, and” practice is a bastardization of improvisation. I don’t think it’s improvisation at all.

An improvisation, like any art form, should reflect life.

It is important to accept reality, but we don’t have to like it.

For example, if MLK followed “Yes, and” he would have agreed with racism. He accepted racism’s  reality but he didn’t agree and add to it.

In practice, “yes, and” leads to linear scenes — at least in my experience.

“Yes, and”  scenes resemble the corporate meetings they seek to enliven. With “yes, and” business has informed improvisation, not the other way around … to the detriment of improvisation.

With “yes, and” everyone gets equal weight at all times. We are all equal in our humanity, but art is an elite experience.

I use a concept where I say the person with the highest consciousness has responsibility for the scene as long as they maintain that consciousness. The job of improvisers is to find the reality in the moment. They explore and heighten the reality and create a new moment. It is harder than just agreeing and implementing whatever the other player lays on you.

“Yes, and” is easy and gives its players a feeling of accomplishment. It doesn’t challenge them to the difficult process of pursuing excellence.

True interactions are more complex than just agreeing to what you are handed.

Give and take, mirroring, status tension (Spolin and Spolinesque concepts)—- all of these are reduced if just focused on “yes, and”. Viola Spolin’s great book Improvisation for the Theater is filled with exercises that I see, when considered in total, as a complex diagram of a human moment. Spolin looks at the split second of spontaneity from many perspectives — the hands, the voice, the heart, the soul … The book is a masterpiece.

Even Spolin’s genius cannot find every aspect of “the moment”, the passing speck of time that contains eternity — because those aspects are infinite.

Good thing too, that leaves something else for the rest of us to work on.

I think “yes, and” got traction because beginners can get a feeling of accomplishment quickly when directed to do it.

Jo Forsberg famously taught children. “Yes, and” might be a nice warm up exercise for children.

“Yes, and” is a sound bite compared to Spolin’s symphony.

Or mine.

Another weakness of “yes, and”is that it is too plot driven. Improvisation isn’t about plot, it’s about who, what and where transformation. If you explore and heighten what is there it naturally transforms into something else. You don’t have to invent an “and”.

“Yes, and” doesn’t lead to real content in scenes. It is usually just one thing after another.

And finally if you agree with anything and add to it, as a rule, you can potentially further evil or crazy or otherwise lousy things. I believe we have to bring our unique voices to the stage — and decisions in life are based on yes and no.

A loud mediocre voice can ruin a “Yes, and” scene, and often does. We have to accept our differences and work with them.

“Yes, and” leads to conformity, and never transcends the collective sense of reality. Art must expand consciousness, not be limited to its current boundaries.

“Yes, and” does not serve improvisational theater, business, writing, or human development.

“Yes, and” is a powerful engine of commerce, and irrelevant to art.





Art is about intensely experiencing life, allowing it to transform you, and communicating what you learned to other people.

Art is hard, and complex in its detailed beauty. It can’t be reduced to a formula.

Copyright 2019 Richard Thomas

2/10/23: Notes on Incomplete Improv, Work vs. Jobs, and How I Learned to Write #poetry

Improv is just a rough draft. It is just part of the creative process, not a full fledged art on its own. Good improvisers easily access their spontaneous freedom, but any creative person does that, right? We’ve talked about this before, the dialogue between spontaneity and logic and structure. Both are required. Some start with reason, some start with impulse, but all who create reconcile the two. 

I feel like my process has gotten to the point where I use both simultaneously. I credit improv and law as where I learned the two functions, but I think I would have gotten here no matter what I did. 

I always felt pulled down by all but a few improv partners. I just wanted my own voice.  I never cared about any other aspect of it. I was often aggravated and bored by their lame initiations, or tired of elevating the proceedings, and then getting a kick in the ass afterwards for my trouble. 

I always started jobs with great energy and commitment. They all taught me something. But I always outgrew them. Writing is the only thing big enough for me. 

Beyond exhausting the creative possibilities of a job, there were two other factors that ended them. 

I always thought I was going to work on the side of the angels, but each job revealed itself to be corrupt. I never did the immoral thing requested. It’s not in me.

My first law job wanted me to work as a lowly associate in support of a representation of the insurance company of a for profit blood bank that gave people AIDS tainted blood. They were trying to screw widows and orphans out of their wrongful death insurance money. I couldn’t do it. That was that.

The Gang Crime Prevention Center wanted me to lobby the state legislature for a law that heavily fined the parents of truant high school students. I told my boss that I couldn’t do it. It was a war against poor people . He demanded that I to do so. I answered that was “like ordering a Catholic doctor to perform an abortion”. I was predictably fired. 

At the Attorney Disciplinary Commission the director wanted me to punish a schizophrenic attorney who acted out in a court room. I told him that the woman.was sick. He was in charge of the disposition of the cases. I wouldn’t budge. I quit soon thereafter. 

I have integrity. I never did something that someone ordered me to do that would interfere with my ability to sleep at night. 

There were other compromises that I resisted in every field I was ever part of. In higher ed they pushed students on a conveyer belt and didn’t really teach. If I did what they wanted it would have been like working at the DMV. Just certifying ignorant people to prepare them for immoral jobs. 

Marketing of course is a joke. As soon as I saw that I was manipulating people to do what I artfully suggested, and obstructing them from exercising their self-evident rights to self determination, I was out. It was a creepy job, encouraging uncritical thinking and weakness in people. I couldn’t do it.

In entertainment I always got push back for being smart — and decent — and always felt held back, like in improv.

The second element in my job odyssey was the refusal to accept the insults and disrespect that I found in every workplace, without exception. I wouldn’t put up with it, and that ended jobs.

For years I thought that these conflicts were my problem, but now I see them as systemic. 

I thought if I found the right field and the right people, I’d finally be home.

But now I think the immorality and lack of civility and respect is universal. 

I read an essay by Vaclav Havel about post-totalitarian society. The Czechs were in this condition as the Soviets were losing power and starting to recede. As I read, I thought he could just as well be talking about America. He was talking about my experience. 

We made great progressive strides in America but the ghosts of exploitation and inequality dog us everywhere. 

I learned that you can’t find what I was looking for in society. It has to be within you. 

My critics think I was frustrated and couldn’t stick with jobs. The opposite was true. I held on too long. I dreamed an impossible dream. 

But the ultimate result was perfect. I often get to these points where I think I should have regrets, and I always on reflection feel grateful and proud. 

My jobs journey taught me about life —- forced me to experience what is going on. One writer worked as a waitress to write about wage slavery. But she had a book deal waiting. I worked wage slave jobs, ate in soup kitchens, lived the life of an attorney and professor and even brushed with stardom. I didn’t know I was writing a book, and I didn’t have a book deal. I think it’s much better this way. 

My journey developed my craft as a writer. It was better to learn writing through improvisation and the law (and in many other ways) than in a writing program or in apprenticeship in a professional writing situation, as useful as those things could potentially be. 

Critics mistakenly saw me as a lost soul, or an unambitious child just playing around, or a bum, or a leech, or a fool … critics from my many walks of life. What they have in common is a tolerance for meanness in and around them, and a capacity to endure personal humiliation, that I don’t share.

My jobs weren’t distractions. They were necessary. If I didn’t have my hard road, I think my writing would be trivial. I have seen people I knew decades ago in recent years. They are, for the most part, sadly the same. They have the same values and same level of understanding about life that they had when we were young. Doing what you are told for years stunts your growth. Your soul and reason calcify into stagnation. They did well. or are disappointed that they didn’t do well, at activities not worth doing. They don’t have a clue as to what is worth doing. If someone they granted power tells them that they are a success or a failure, they dimly and meekly accept it.

I wouldn’t change a thing. I have cared too much what people think, but I’ve never let their barbs stop me. Their ignorance serves me. They wound me, and the pain forces me to pursue deeper understanding. I viscerally know they are wrong, and then I discover the words to describe why. Writing is thinking only better. (David McCullough).

One criticism of me was that I reinvent wheels. Not true. I make new wheels. I was born the authority of my own life. I’m lucky. I get physically ill doing anything that is against my own deep impulse. This has caused me a lot of good trouble. The people who have shouted orders at me about how to do it, aren’t going to be lowered into my grave with me. I’ll do it my way. 

Even on the jobs I decided what I’d do. I always did what I agreed to do. When they broke their word and changed the job description the split was set in motion. 

I’m a writer because I’m a person with a story to tell. 

A person’s jobs is not their work. I have been very committed and dedicated to my work since high school. 

I am blessed. I feel compassion for my critics and I love my past, present and future life. I don’t know why nature chose me for this charmed life, but I know it wants me to continue to struggle to sustain what’s important … not for only myself …

But for all creation. 

Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas

2/16/23: Pipe Dreams #poetry

Groups are a sucker bet. They never pay off. There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Success is a scam. There is no solace in the applause of others. If you can’t please yourself, you can’t be pleased.

A pipe dream is a desire for an impossible ideal, that is invariably defeated by a bitter reality.

No group is going to accept you. You can contort yourself for their acceptance, but then, you aren’t you, are you?

If you have integrity, you walk alone.

O’Neill won a Nobel Prize, and knew it was bullshit. Then he started really writing.

Why did they bother me so? They don’t bother me any more. My focus shifts from them to me.

I don’t like them, I don’t respect them and I hold all that they do in low regard. So why did they bother me?

Pipe dreams?

Hope is a fickle thing. It makes you feel great while you have it, and brings you to your knees when it leaves you.

Why did I have the illusion that I would find friendship and understanding in places where they didn’t exist?

I’m no different than you. In a way, I’m better. If you feel content with how things are, a success or just happy to be a part of things, you are a fool.

Don’t feel bad. I was a fool. We are all fools. We weren’t born fools, but we were infected immediately.

It’s not an accident that The Iceman Cometh takes place in a bar. It’s a world populated with drunks, and its hard to put down the bottle and walk out of the dark dirty room into the sunny day.

I’d leave one group and think I’d find a better group. There aren’t any better groups.

O’Neill’s greatest writing was written with no ambition for the plays to be produced. His wife got that job done after he died.

You can’t be happy, truly alive, or great until you swear off groups.

Stanislavski, the great philosopher of acting, that most vulnerable and exposed of arts, said “Be alone in the public.” Even good actors have to ignore the audience.

I would be pleased and they attacked, and they made me feel bad. Was it as simple as that I wanted them to be happy for me? Did I love them or need them?

I think I loved them. What they thought mattered. They disappointed me. But they were stuck in their own pipe dreams and it made them mean and stupid. I was never those things. I’m too proud. I won’t lower myself.

Maybe I still love them, and it wounds me because I can’t do anything for them … because no one can do anything for anybody. All you can do is be yourself.

Whatever I was doing provoked their hatred. They despised me for not observing the rules of their servitude, which they referred to as “reality”.

Letter to a Pure Artist:

Google suggested I read an article and I thought of you.

Al Pacino’s favorite movies:

Looking for Richard —- his busman’s holiday, your life

The Local Stigmatic —- his yearning … your plays and films

Serpico —- your ambition to do art in congruence with where the larger audience is 

You are Pacino’s dream.

If he cooled to you, what else could he do. You are everything he wants to be. If he became that, Al Pacino Inc. would fall apart. It would take Christ himself to transform in that way. 

He knows the difference between you and Scent of a Woman … and knows he’s trapped and can only pursue his inner being on the side.

When he praised your intelligence, he was admiring, among other things, your self knowledge and your choices in life.

There is no greater fate than to be born a pure artist. 

The photo that accompanies the article is Pacino posing as weariness, a cunning and conscious portrait of his soul.

I thought of old Picasso posing … shirtless and barrel chested on a beach with a radiant face and joyful eyes. 

My accusers would tell me I wasn’t working. Hah! It bothered them that I was having so much fun. 

There is no greater fate than to be born a pure artist.

I’m thinking of Steve Wynn and his multi- million dollar art collection (if it hasn’t been seized by some authority … ) 

The businessman works, connives, bullies, fights, steals to build his empire.

And then he buys art.

The artist just sits in his studio and makes it.

There is no greater fate than to be born a pure artist.

Picasso’s eyes were fierce and joyful. 

I realize that I was mimicking Mamet’s “I pity the writer who’s not from Chicago.”

End of Letter

Picasso’s pipe dream came true? Then why was his art so great and his person so mean? What made him put out cigarettes on Dora Maar’s arm? It wasn’t what gave him fierce and joyful eyes.

Is art my pipe dream? A pipe dream that I can transcend pipe dreams.

Years ago when I was just past being a boy — JUST LIVE! — he or she shouted.

What’s the difference between pipe dreams and meaning? Life has no meaning. We have to create it. We can’t make it up. We can’t search for it. If we live, we discover it, or rather … them. We careen from illusion to illusion. I tell myself that each illusion hold a lesson, and each is a step toward the promised land. Back — to the promised land.

Young Robert Redford is in the cast. He is so much better than old Robert Redford. Was he contaminated by pipe dreams?

The writing is what it is. The world is what it is. The reaction between the two is what it is.

Hickey says he knows the truth and he’s at peace. O’Neill knows that’s not the case. Does anyone know either?

I once lived on the praise of people I no longer respect. The great rush of happiness of the past has evaporated. I cared so much and it didn’t matter.

Maybe the worst fate for a person burdened with a pipe dream is the encouragement that it came true, or could come true.

The Empty Space

Pipe dreams arise in misguided response to the Unbearable Lightness of Being.

I was so happy yesterday morning. Just happy to be alive and to be a writer. And darkness rushed into the void on cue. The old hurts that were processed long ago. But now the focus changed … not the idiots and assholes … but me … why am I troubled when there is nothing to be troubled about … then I realize it’s not about the past … it’s a prophecy … my current pipe dream is exposed … a new group that I long for, like a sap after his fifth divorce who never learned a thing … and I realize it’s the same shit in a new bottle … I look at photos on Instagram of these people … and I’ve known them for years …

and I still want to go be with them … but this time I’ll be like Stanislavski … and I’ll be content with that illusion for awhile … but I know the real place for me is where O’Neill went when he settled home.

The greatest moments of my life happened alone in my room.

The Hindu philosopher negated everything until all that remained is what is …

Do not go gentle into that good night …

rest in peace my ass …

Jung says don’t make suicide literal

Keen says a break down is a chance to see what’s up

Break after break after break …

illusion after illusion after illusion …

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily … life is but a dream

We are the stuff that dreams are made of …

Becker says don’t deny death

Arendt says evil is banal

Banal, evil dreams … idiots and assholes …

Herzog suffered the burden of dreams

I dream of the company of the enlightened and the kind …

They don’t exist in groups

They happen one by one

Groups exist for those afraid of life and death

Pipe dreams are attempted escapes from life and death …

O’Neill was sick and dying and wrote his greatest plays …

Alone …

Living and dying at the same time

Life is lived in the unknown

Death occurs in the unknown …

Pipe dreams are born in fevers of fear

Michael Corleone yelled THEY PULL ME BACK IN! …

the apron strings of other cowards

Who knows where my writing goes and what new things life, and the world will reveal to me?

I wish this writing could relieve me from … what?

Joyce said, “History is a nightmare from which I’m trying to awake!”

Do wounds ever heal or do they just reveal ever deeper truths but never THE truth …

THE truth is beyond us …

I don’t worry about what is the point …

I’m not afraid of life and I’m not afraid of death … (who said they were afraid of dying, but not death? That’s me.)

except when I am …

in moments … and maybe those moments are part of what is too …

I’d like to get rid of them … I’m not sure it’s possible …

Pipe dreams are a living death …

Pipe dreams are violent, murderous things …

the source of all conflict …

How we justify our rotten -ness

The banality of evil …

I thankfully never had the perverted nerve of acting out my pipe dreams on the world …

I acted them out in the theater of my mind …

I just gave the world my sweet authenticity …

and they came after me with pitchforks and torches …

which didn’t do me any harm …

because all they wanted was for me to go away …

and when I did, they did too …

but they gave me images for my pipe dream imagination …

which never gave me anything but pain …

sometimes it deceitfully made me feel excited

and then cunningly made me howl and bleed …

Pipe dreams taunted my free will


and I always chose life and death …

Malamud said “Talent is not enough.”

Florian Zeller said “Love is not enough.”

They were both right … talent and love without the knowledge of life and death …

are pipe dreams …

My latest pipe dream group is reduced to reality …

the people will disappoint … but the money and activity would be alright …

I spent my life rebelling against necessity, and now I find great solace in it …

It’s a relief to just think about the things that you need, and be who you are …

You aren’t anti-social or in exile for the world … but you put the world in its place …

the world is the place you get what you need …

and your room is the place where you know who you are.

Note: Hickey is similar to the Anti-Semetic bully in The Fablemans who is humiliated by the love of the person that they torment. The guilt. Which breeds hatred. I can’t relate. But maybe I can understand my pipe dreams better.

I hurt because I loved the idiots and assholes. Like a fool.

And they tried to kill me in a murder/suicide.

I saved my body and repaired my mind as best I could. Always returning for more triage when needed, finding and treating newly discovered elements of my condition.

I’m better off, but I’ll never be without them.

We are all scarred.

And that’s the way it is.

Copyright 2023 Richard Thomas


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