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Sunday, August 31, 2014

What's My Line

There’s a TV show called What’s My Line where you’re supposed to guess someone’s job, but I don’t have a TV so I don’t watch it. I wouldn’t watch even I had a TV because I think it’s dumb to have a show like that. But then, most of whatever they're doing on TV doesn't impress me (don't tell Sophie's mom, though, okay?)

But I’m telling you this because there’s a line I really like in a play by Tennessee Williams. It’s my favorite line in any play, and I think if you’re reading this you might like it too.
“Go the moon, you selfish dreamer!” 

It’s from a play called The Glass Menagerie. You’ve maybe seen it somewhere and if you haven’t, ask your local theater company to put it on. The main character Tom is always going to the movies to escape his life and his domineering mother. His sister Laura is really sad and scared and that’s the saddest part of the play, but the reason I like this line is it makes perfect sense to me that Tom is trying to get out of there.

I think a lot of people see Beats as selfish dreamers, too—and not only Beats but all artists. Because we don’t want to be in what my Nell-mom calls the regular-real world. We’re trying to create something else, something different where you’re not tied down to the rat race or the daily grind. Where you can be and live and feel, write, paint, dance, sing, fly.

I think Tom’s sister Laura would be an artist if she could, but she doesn’t because something inside her is broken. I think Tennessee Williams was trying to show you that and at the same time show you there’s something else out there, something besides work and rent and having to get married and settle down.

At the same time, Tom’s mother is trying to get both her kids to abide by the rules, just like that social worker lady I met at the police station, Mrs. Levitt. Except Amanda is much more desperate because her husband left the family and they’re very, very poor. And the cool thing about the play is you feel sorry for her too, even though she drives you crazy. Because she’s like, real, like everyone else in the play.

Besides creating great characters, Tennessee is a poet too and you can see that all through his plays. I think if he came down here and listened to a couple of readings he would really dig it and maybe he’s a Beat in his own way, too. But whether he is or isn’t doesn’t matter, really. It’s just that he understands what it means to be an outsider-artist kind of person.

If being an artist is being a selfish dreamer, I can live with that. I don’t want to be in the world without my dreamer side because it’s just not worth it, you know? In fact I’ll do whatever I can to hold onto that dream, for as long as I’m around. Maybe get to the moon one day. Who knows?