I guess the things I like best about this time of year are the little lights in the dark.
He flies. That’s what’s to think about. He flies. St. Lucy walks the northern nights unburned. He flies. It doesn’t matter whether with reindeer or not, or with what other fanciful beasts or not. He flies. He flies above the little lights, set against snow or darkness or moonlight. He flies around as the darkest nights of the year push the darkest days aside, especially up here on Mystery Island where the sun is now going down at four, instead of at ten six months from now. The light comes and the light goes and when it goes, he flies.
Down below him, we set out the little lights. We don’t care about him, we care about them. He doesn’t exist, after all, and they do.
Two months ago we went down to Hollywood for four shows with the Firesign Theatre at the 300-seat Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, a kind of adjunct to the famous Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock House, surrounded by a small park right off Hollywood Boulevard near Vermont. Technically, that would be East Hollywood, edging closer to Mixville and the old haunts of the Early Firesign Theatre, but right in the middle of my past life – pre-FST – when I was a kind of Shakespearian actor stuck in a town where life revolves around film and other technologies unimagined – I imagine – by smartass college boys of the late Sixteenth century. I think I appeared in Twelfth Night outdoors in the little Barnsdall park, somewhere in the Sixties of the last lamented century. I remember we dressed in the Hollyhock House itself. I always liked wearing tights in all those Shakespeare plays, because almost all girls would tell me that I had nice legs. The way parts of my body looked were much more important then. I had a kind of brutal, intelligent approach to Shakespeare. I figured it was my job to explain to the audience what the hell we were talking about and the actual acting and so forth came second.
So two months ago we had our own theatre for a little while, we four imitators of Sixteenth century smartasses. All partnerships become exercises in equality. Shakespeare tended to write a lot about balance and imbalance and the teeter-totter of their union is a kind of exercise in equality and inequality. We four partners are as interested as ever, each of us, in getting each his way. The impossibility of ever fully achieving that had better turn to laughter, or we’re in the wrong business. It’s like four guys trying to operate four – not two – teeter-totters. There’s some running involved, some strategy, some things unsaid and some things way too said. You get the picture. Laughing while desperately trying to reach the open end of a teeter-totter that’s low enough in your direction to get you onboard. Ah, the Firesign Theatre, back in business as big storms and rain swept over the City of the Queen of the Angels just before the Big Blonde’s birthday.
It really helps that we’re all getting along so well. We had fun, through it all, and wound up at our house after the last show, up until two or three in the morning, drinking and smoking with friends we’ve all shared for over forty years. It’s really fun to watch Oona and Melinda at a party, because they’re both so incredibly personable.
And then the next night, she and I went to the last party of the week, about a quarter-mile over the crest of the hill toward Laurel Canyon to the rented home of our friend the Genuine Movie Star, who’s in town shooting a TV series and after staying in our house with his family for a minute, has rented a house a little ways away. We took the dogs because he and Mrs. Genuine Movie Star love dogs and have thousands themselves at their home in the East. It’s a long story. Lets just say we laughed like idiots, that a cat attacked an actor, that an actor got really mad at a Sports Agent who made billions collecting stamps, that another Beautiful Movie Star told Oona the entire odd story of her romance and children by and with the Really Famous Good Actor Movie Star and where I finally got to meet Mrs. Invention, who’d lived a couple of hillside blocks away from us for thirty years, yet we’d never met. I just can’t tell you how much fun this all was, not only laughing with old and new friends, but searching for bandages in a household where ziplocs are considered tools of the Devil, where Green is a religion of everyday concern. Blood everywhere and there are no paper towels (towels of the Devil) to be found. In the bathroom, Mr. Star bleeding, surrounded by beautiful women whom he is making laugh hysterically while Mrs. Invention pours sugar on the cat wounds, Oona sends me out to the car for bandaids. It’s a beautiful night in my old town and as fun as ever when it isn’t crapping all over you.
I hadn’t been in Hollywood in some nine months and our house there seems huge compared to what is basically a beach cabin up where we live so much now. The Hollywood house is very small too, but an architectural gem a mile above Hollywood Boulevard in the hills between Laurel and Hockney Canyons. We’ve got an acre there and it’s quieter and more filled with wildlife than the Mystery Island place. I saw a bobcat at the end of the little street that bounds our bottom lot line. A bobcat. The towhees are still there and the hummingbirds and the wacky ravens that feed on the fig trees that arch over the garage on the flat roof of which the deer feed. I’m going to hate to have to sell that house, but we’ve got to face the facts someday soon. We’re Mystery Islanders now and Hollywood, strange and wonderful as it is, doesn’t need us or we it much more.
Well, two months later and the little lights are out and all the sacred stuff that covers every flat surface of our house up here up north is out. All the little stuff among the little lights punching colored holes in the darkest dark of the year.
He flies above teeter-totterers. He doesn’t care and neither do I. We’re both imaginary.