Waterville

March 15, 2017 § Leave a comment

Where do you hide a pound of pot in a hippie microbus?

You don’t.

If cops have reason to suspect (and a hippie bus is reason), they tear it apart till they find it. I know that. You put it somewhere out of sight and trust your luck. Statistics. They can’t stop all of us. I pack it in the defunct air conditioner overhead and drive through paranoia and oblivion to Waterville.

Forty minutes north of Manhattan, population 666, the tiny town boasts a genuine turn-of-the-century opera house that is this year the summer home of Wesley’s CTC. My job is to write the book and lyrics for The Mark Twain Traveling Sunshine Show, a vehicle for Jerry, featuring the company in multiple cameo roles.

I don’t recall exactly when Wes asks if I’d like to be involvedbefore or after he (and Dude) know we’re expecting? I’m researching all spring, developing a format, even writing the opening number, so I must say yes early on, knowing Sandra wants to go home. Logically, the baby isn’t due until September, the job’s through August 15, and we need the money. If a job close to home comes up, I’ll reconsider; otherwise, it’s Waterville. She decides that’s cutting it too close and calls Dane, who trucks back to Kansas, loads up all our stuff, and takes her home. I remain in Texas long enough to score a substantial stash of Texas weed and ball a cute little freshman on the turf of the K-State football field. Her name escapes me, but she shows up ten years later out of nowhere and teases a ride from Charlotte to Charleston, where she thanks me with a peck on the cheek and disappears forever.

The script is already coming along. Essentially a one-man show (think Hal Holbrook’s Mark Twain Tonight), with Broadway musical song and dance and occasional dramatizations. It begins with a solo spot on the author lecturing (from Life on the Mississippi) with music underneath that the off-stage chorus turns to song and develop into a lengthy (8-10 minutes) opening number interspersed with flashcard scenes that hint of what’s to come (think Into the Woods)—a convenient device I use repeatedly through the years. I drive into town with a rough draft of Act One and ten weeks to finish. Piece of cake.

The summer is a big mistake. I blame it on the asshole Wes hires on to write the music (where’s Lynn Wohler?) who resents that I’m the author, undermines my position with Wes, and delivers an ultimatum: him or me. I don’t know why Wes chooses him. I’m sure he has his reasons.

I’ve forgotten how I never get on with Jerry, Charlie, Coral, John. We don’t hang out. (I’m working against a deadline.)

So it happens in July I drive home to Gastonia, find a place to live and a job with benefits that pays for the baby in September.

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