Thursday, July 7, 2011

Things happen and I almost can't help but tell a story about it, even when my friends all look at their watches.

Things happen and I almost can't help but tell a story about it, even when my friends all look at their watches.

At one time in my past, I worked as an animator. Scripts and storyboards came out of the Los Angeles area to the studio where I worked. One of the things I learned to do while drawing animation or illustrations, was to tell my self a little story about the scene I was creating. For a wizards den I would start by telling myself what was in there. Old books would be on the shelves with cobwebs and bird skulls, potion bottles or various shapes and sizes or large urns or pots to stir ingredients in. A table might be in the center of the room made of old worn planks with a high backed chair or two, candle holders with partially melted candles, an ink well with a bird quill pen next to some old leather bound manuscript. There would also be cobble stone floors and heavy oak beams in the ceiling, the door would be made of heavy planks of wood with a wrought iron door handle. Then add a Raven in a heavy cage next to the table, put scrolls strategically around the room and on the shelves. Maybe a few jars with eyes of newt or warts of Toads sitting around, and the stage is set for the character’s to act upon. Often the characters would be designed by someone else if they had a major role, or by me if they did not. I found that the opposite process also worked well, in that pictures tell stories themselves. Looking at pictures can also give a person ideas for dialogue or action or even a new twist to the plot.

The first people were the first storytellers

I used to dwell upon my father’s work as a child and study all the things he got his degrees in. Our home was full of rocks, minerals, fossils, and artifacts. Especially of interest to me were the artifacts manufactured by early man, my father would map the areas the material came from and photograph the most important ones, and publish the findings in scientific journals. Later in his life, after he retired he won several important scientific awards for his work, after many years of publishing and advancing a new theory in that field. I was very proud of him, even before all those accolades I used to imagine what early hunters did and behaved like since we found so much evidence of their existence out in the field. My father told me they were similar to the people that painted cave paintings in the Neolithic past in France. In looking at the paintings I could see that they were about hunting for the most part and had a sort of drama to them with figures and pre-historic bison forming the story for the people that dwelt their. It didn’t take much imagination to visualize a hunter (maybe someone named Thongor) from the group telling stories in front of the fire with those paintings on the wall behind him to help the people of that group imagine what must have happened, or at least what the hunter had told them happened. (We’ve all heard the story about the one that got away.) Add someone blowing on a bird bone whistle or some kind of Drum and or Didgereedoo, (call them Tweedle, Thunk, and Blat) and you’ve got a stage production.

Years later while with friends that owned a ranch outside of Kanab, in southern Utah, we went into the backcountry where they kept their cattle, to see the rock glyphs of the pre-native American culture that dwelt their. I saw something that right away looked familiar, here again was a scene laid out in a drama of some type of antelope or deer being hunted by members of the tribe that had long vanished. Off to one side was a stone etching that my friend and his wife described as the “Laughing Rabbit”. Perhaps laughing at the scene that was before him, we took some photographs and left them as we found them. As I came upon storytelling years later I realized that the process is as old as the very first human beings that the need for stories resides in every person in some form or another. Imagination was something that must have seemed like magic, or if you’re an aborigine “dream time”. How fortunate modern human beings are that are able tap into that ability to suspend one’s disbelief.

Dumb Guy, Bad Karma

One morning I got up and made some tea, and as the water was heating up, I noticed very, eensy, weensy, teeny tiny sugar ants on the counter. I hate ants, so I absent mindedly squashed the tiny creatures as I waited for the kettle to whistle. (In certain circles, this is known as bad Karma.) I poured hot water into my cup and rubbed my sleepy eyes giving a great big yawn. I sipped my tea in a dreamy sort of half asleep way and stared out the window towards the bird feeder hoping to see something. Suddenly blink, then blink, blink, ehh! My eyelids scraped over my eyeballs, and to my horror I realized I had rubbed tiny ant exoskeletons in my EYES. Ahhhhhhhh! Frantically, I ran to the mirror, the tiny serrated and spiked ant legs and other bits, were in my eyes, aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! I’m shredding my eyes! Ahhhhh! “Oh I’m awake now”, I screamed to no one in particular. After washing my eyes with water and ointment and various things over and over, many hours passed before I felt better. That night as I traveled to my music job in Park City, I told the story to Scott on the way up the canyon. He was my accompanist for the other half of the duo at the restaurant that night. He laughed and immediately sang me a little song. “Dumb Guy, Dumb Guy, he rubs ants in his eyes” (Think of the song “There she goes just a walkin’ down the street, do wha ditty ditty dum ditty yay!” and then “Dumb guy, Dumb guy, he rubs ants in his eyes.”) We worked our job, and when we were done, sang the song with idiotic variations all the way home.

To this day my wife will gently remind me when I do something really, really dumb, (She had to listen to my screaming.) that I should be more careful considering I am someone that, “rubs ants in his eyes.”

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