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January 21, 2018:

THE HAPPY TIME

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, sometimes, just sometimes, when things are so crazy and difficult you get to have a moment where you remember what the important stuff really is, and when you know that something you’ve done has made someone happy. That happened yesterday when Richard Allen and I visited Richard Sherman to get the remaining Indiegogo items signed so we can send those out. I brought him some Levi CDs and he was like a little kid. Before we began the signing stuff, he put it in the CD player and played the long opening sequence. And he was so emotional about it and it meant so much to him, that watching him listen to it erased all the of the merde I’ve been dealing with recently. And even me hearing it with him there made me as emotional as he was. When they brought the show to me and I read it, the first thing I said was that the opening was completely wrong and it was the first thing I wanted to tackle and get right. The original way it was written involved opening with a song sung by two characters we don’t know and we won’t know for quite some time, and then the next song was sung by the immigration officials about the greenhorns coming into the country, and THEN we meet Levi and his fellow immigrant passengers. The structure was so awkward and made no sense to me at all – it had no power because it was all cockeyed.

So, I cut the first song (it’s done later in the show anyway) and those characters. I told Larry and Richard that the first person I wanted to see and hear was Levi Strauss. So, that’s what I did, as you’ll hear on the recording – it now opens so that we know who he is, why he’s coming, and then we meet his fellow passengers and immediately get the song that is the show’s anthem and theme: Opportunity. THEN I went back and put in the passenger dialogue, pared down to its essence (something I kept tightening during rehearsals), then we get another chorus of Opportunity, the boat arrives, and THEN we get the immigration officials singing derogatorily about the immigrants, then they do that in counterpoint and the opening sequence finally ends.

I knew I wanted it to be seamless, to flow effortlessly, and to be ten minutes long. And I’m so proud of the way it came out and it is just under ten minutes long. And Richard reiterated to me that it now had the power it needed and was a true sequence. Then he signed stuff, and then he listened to the next four songs and was just smiling and tapping his toes and so happy. The best news was that he was up and walking and feeling better and that was so wonderful to see. We had the best time. I’m sure he was tuckered out by the time we left, but it was one of the high points of this year so far.

Prior to that I’d gotten six hours of sleep, was up by nine, futzed and finessed about two-thirds of the previous day’s writing, and then I had to go do a couple of things, which got one of the three things that’s been troublesome off my back and my plate, so that was great. Then I came home and finished futzing and finessing – the usual stuff – moving stuff around, adding, subtracting and a LOT of smoothing out. Then I wrote two new pages.

Then I got ready and Richard Allen came over and we went to see the Shermans. After that, he drove me home and I buckled down, Winsocki and wrote five or six new pages, actually I think it was seven. I was at yet another critical section but I’m hoping it came out okay when I read it this morning. Then it was time for dinner.

I’d invited the family of the twelve-year-old girl whose mother had taken the Indiegogo perk of a coaching session. We’d had so much fun doing that three hours, and she’d written me the very sweetest thank you note that just happened to arrive when I was beating my head against the wall trying to come up with the first name of the character who is the focus of the second half of the new book. I’d finally settled on a name but it just didn’t feel right to me when I looked at it typed out on the page. But when I got the thank you note I immediately realized the twelve-year-old’s first name was absolutely perfect, so I stole it, just as seventeen years ago I stole Leslie Kritzer’s last name for Benjamin Kritzer. So, the dinner had two purposes, the first of which was to tell her the Leslie Kritzer story and then tell her that I was stealing her first name. She was delighted with the news.

The second purpose was to tell her I was putting her in the March Kritzerland show. She loved seeing the all young people show and in her thank you note she said that she hoped that someday I’d let her do one. I think she’s really talented and she’s genuinely funny so it seemed the March show was a good one for her. That made her very happy, too. She was sad that Richard Sherman wasn’t at the young people show, as she wanted to meet him. I do believe he’ll be at the March show so she will, but in the meantime I gave her a gift – a signed musical quote signed to her from Richard, which she loved.

As to the dinner: Fantastic. We went to Barone’s. I hadn’t been in quite some time. We had a pepperoni pizza for the table to start – they do an amazing square pizza which is like no other and boy was it great and boy did most of it disappear. I had a little salad to start (I hadn’t eaten all day), then I had the spaghetti carbonara and it was amazing. The parents had spaghetti with meat sauce, their son, who is also talented, had a personal thin-crust pizza, and the girl had the shrimp scampi, which is another of my favorites there. Her parents are very down to earth and lovely and I had a great time.

I came right home afterwards, and went right back to the book. It took me fifteen minutes to figure out how to structure one little thing, but I actually got to the end of this section much faster than I thought I would. But drawing it out anymore seemed wrong to me. It seemed like I had to finish this part and move us into what is finally the entire point of the book. And that will take the rest of the forty-five pages or so that are left to write. I have those pages pretty much sketched out. I guess it could be a little shorter or a little longer than the 300 pages I think it will be. Within those forty-five pages I have two major sequences to write, that should be minimally ten pages each, maybe a bit more, so that’s most of what’s coming. The other twenty pages will be things to get us to those two major sequences, the final one of which lead us into the ending of the book.

Today, I’ll hopefully arise after a good night’s beauty sleep. Once up, I’ll futz and finesse the fifteen-plus pages from yesterday, after which I’ll print out those pages, while writing one or two new ones. Then I’ll get those pages Xeroxed, I’ll pick up stuff from the mail place, I’ll deliver the pages to Muse Margaret, I’ll eat, and then I’ll write more pages until it’s time to go to sleep.

Tomorrow I’m stuck here because they’re working on the street and unless I park around the corner I won’t be able to leave. The problem is that I have a lunch meeting, but I think the person I’m going with (we’re meeting with the head of the LACC Foundation) may be able to handle this herself. Otherwise the entire first three days are all writing days and I will hopefully finish the book by mid-week – that’s what it seems like.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, futz and finesse, I must write new pages, print out the ones that are done, Xerox them, pick up mail, deliver the pages to Muse Margaret, eat, and write. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, happy to have made Richard Sherman happy and to have had such a lovely dinner with a lovely family.

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