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Me and Vonnegut

There is a reason to read. We must stimulate the mind with more than just images and sound. It is the magic of word stacked after word to encourage our brain to make a leap into the unknown and to make the first strokes of a picture that is infinitely more spectacular than anything-

There are authors that do this for me with greater ease than others, it’s up to you to discover yours. The first ones I remember were Tolkien, Lewis and Silverstein

I grew and then I found Moorcock, Howard , Hebert and Steinbeck.

Then Irving and Vonnegut and Robbins. Oh man Breakfast of Champions. That book. I wanted to be able to do that. The ability to transport utilizing that so simple and allusive skill of stacking those words. Painting worlds, feelings thoughts imagination giving those words weight density and color.

I always gravitated to the spectacle, and the performing arts began to dominate my time. In college I became involved at school and beyond. One fall Vonnegut was to do seminar and I was beside myself, I was not a star-hound but something fixated in my brain that I must meet him and get him to sign my dog-eared copy of BOC. But as fate would have it I was involved in a production of Orton’s Loot and the performance directly conflicted. I had a good friend who was planning on catching Vonnegut speak volunteer to attempt getting my book signed. He had much to say of Vonnegut’s attitude and seeming condensation. He was alas unsuccessful.

I chalked it up to fate. Relevant theme.

Years passed and I found myself in graduate school still in the greasepaint and footlights under the bone chilling wind of Chicago’s frigid Hawk.

Grad school was a lean glorious time. And my wife to be was successfully involved in many of the towns celebrated theatre hubs, one being the impressive Steppenwolf theatre. They were to be mounting a first ever premiere production of a stage interpretation of Slaughterhouse Five. With Vonnegut consulting on the script.

This is where words and imagination take flight.

I was beyond giddy. She, my love, had the fortune to be invited to the pre-premiere press performance of the show and there was the distinct possibility that fate might fall in my direction.

I didn’t travel with much to grad school but one thing that was for sure in my truck was my BOC.

It became a bit of an obsession and maybe that became etched on me like the starved look of a lost soul...

The night of the performance came. These opportunities were our treats for sure. We considered these outings special and always made the most of them.

How it all came to pass is unclear after all these years but, there I was, standing in the lobby and outside was Vonnegut talking to one of the ushers. Now here is where words fail, well not fail, but when I say usher I imagine you got an image in your head, elder speaking with doe-eyed youth...no.

At Steppenwolf they employ seniors for the most part to usher, and they are allowed to watch the performances in exchange for service.

He was definitely a senior - could have easily been a character penciled by the author that he now chatted with so freely. The book felt like lead hanging in my inside coat pocket as I pushed open the door. I was going to have a smoke casually close by and as soon as a window would open I would step in to introduce myself, my plight and my absolute admiration.

The sequence of it alludes me and is clouded in the years.

It happened so slowly - like the battery tired clock on the wall that can hardly mustard that next tick. Time bounced. I made eye contact, I reached in my coat, feeling the worn pages of the volume. His unmistakable quaff mess of curled tousled grey locks caught in the evening fall city gusts. The wizen wiry skeleton of an usher slowly turned his head. And I heard Kurt speak.

‘Now the feeding frenzy begins.’

I faltered, I might have collapsed. In my mind I collapsed. That second that lasted an eternity now flew by in the blink of an eye and he was gone, or I was gone. It was over and I lost a hero.

I was mad. I am not any longer. He is who he is and I love him for that. He has seen more in his life than I ever care to endure. He painted those things with his amazing ability to stack those words one after another in such a way that I never read them the same way twice, I thank him. Thank you Kurt Vonnegut.

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