Thursday, August 26, 2010

"If I Only Had a Brain."

In April, an infection was planted in the memory storage space of my brain and by June it exploded into seizures and I forgot how to laugh or cry or even engage in small talk. Now my strength is gathering again and the people who love me seem relieved to recognize me, myself back in town.

On the other side, I can't remember many "professional" terms and phrases we use at the hospital although I am still mostly able to successfully do my work again. I just require a proof reader.

The gift that I have been given by the hijack attack of memory and the loss of professional buzz words is that dozens of smothered scenes from 38 years have burst onto an imaginary cinema screen inside of my skull.

At eighteen, I was enrolled at a commuter art college near Lake Michigan. My major was theater and our department chair was also one of the leaders at Second City Theater and directed many SCTV episodes. I was taking an improv class taught by Marty DeMatt , who literally grew up at Second City because his mother was one of the pioneering founders and directors. Marty was a sharing and saavy teacher and a compassionate, talented artist. Once, Marty stayed home sick and sent an improviser over to cover class for him.

I can't remember the guy's name. I do remember that he told us he had a degree in photography and even though he wasn't a professional photographer, he approached living his life with perspective, lighting and focus so whatever we did -- whatever we learned along the way in school and in life would form our viewpoints and approaches.

Then he split us up into groups and told us to take a few minutes to plan the bases of our improvs to perform for the class. I was leaning against the back wall with my friends Tom & Jerry (really) and he assigned us together. We spent about thirty seconds planning to be three scarecrows in a field and then talked about going to the nickel draft special at the bar across the street after class. We were the last group called up to do our improv for the class.

And I don't know how or why it happened but art possessed us and we suddenly became puppets of enchantment. We were three scarecrows who discovered how to free ourselves from the polls and we happily flopped and danced and learned to walk and Tom's scarecrow pointed to the highway and wanted to hitch a ride but Jerry's scarecrow and mine wanted to stay on the farm. And Tom's said he couldn't leave without us and he helped us back up on our polls because he was the tallest and just then a truck was coming and we said, "goodbye, we love you" and he ran toward the road with his thumb up and we said goodbye again and then the substitute teacher said "scene" and followed up with:

"Sometimes you get a few minutes of harmony and beauty and you can't predict when or how but you were lucky to feel it and we were lucky to witness it. Now goodbye, everybody. Thanks for letting me teach you today."

And the three of us stated briefly and once only over the nickel beers how fortunate we were to have those few minutes together.

I was eighteen years old that day. The same age my son is now.

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