September 24, 2006

Half A Nightmare

Posted by Steven T. Seagle on September 24, 2006

I’m on a national tour with my play N*GGER WETB*CK CH*NK (, so I’m in a theater state of mind. The guys in the show – Rafa, Allan, and Miles and I all get a kick out of which lines “go up” (actor talk for ‘get f*cked up’) each night and in which way. These guys are pros, so there are very few, and the audience would never know, but we howl over every little kack-up. It got me thinking about ‘The Actor’s Nightmare’ – which basically is a bad dream where a performer finds himself/herself in a show that they don’t know the lines for. Terrifying.

I imagine all artists have some kind of similar anxiety. I hang around enough writers to know what ‘The Writer’s Nightmare’ is – losing a script after it’s written but before it gets sent to someone or backed up. Computer crashes are usually to blame (and is it just me or do computers die way more frequently now than they did five years ago?). But unlike actors, for whom the nightmare is rare, I’ve been around enough comic pros to know our nightmare is all too commonplace.

I just lived it.

Flying from our N*W*C show in Vermont, would-be Hurricane Ernesto delayed flights and caused us to miss our JFK connection altogether. But having a show to make, JetBlue managed to book us on a back-up flight to an adjacent city. So from Vermont to JFK, I pulled out my quad pad – where I do all my plotting (I wanted to go over the two issues of AMERICAN VIRGIN I had laid out) – and a FEDEX envelope full of tour receipts, bills to be mailed, and all the notes I have for a super-secret new project with uber-talented Rian Hughes and tossed it in the open seat next to me so I’d have it to work on during the flight. I proceeded to fall asleep.

I woke up to the panicked voice-over of the flight crew announcing that we needed to literally RUN to our connecting gate as the last plane of the night was about to leave the gate and we were almost certainly going to miss it. I bolted. Ran through the terminal and just made it on to the plane…where someone was in my seat! We both had stubs naming it ours and I was standing which means they won! And there were no other seats left! I was about to be booted back off when a pilot for JetBlue flying standby willingly de-boarded so I could have his space – my belated thanks to you, sir.

I sat down, the door closed, the plane pushed back…and I realized my pad and my FEDEX folder were still on the seat in the other plane. All my notes for two issues of AMERCIAN VIRGIN, all the Rian Hughes notes, notes for my new book with Teddy Kristiansen, bills, receipts, my nifty DC COMICS padfolio – the only DC Chirstmas gift I’ve thoroughly used – all gone. A nightmare. The Writer’s Nightmare.

But I didn’t panic. Surely they’d do a clean-out of the plane and my prominent business card in the pad as well as my name/address/phone number on the FEDEX would lead to some honest Samaritan returning my irreplaceable notes to me, right?

Well, let’s just say, half a nightmare.

The FEDEX was found and sent back. The Rian Hughes notes safe and sound. The bills mailed. The receipts logged.

But my DC COMICS padfolio with the VIRGIN and Kritiansen notes? With about ten copies of my business card with my personal telephone number on them? Apparently someone liked that as much as I did. It was not returned even though it was sitting on top of the FEDEX.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that it’s my own fault for not being 100% aware – though being in a different city every two days with a huge amount of gear for the show on top of my personal junk to keep track of is taxing. But still, why keep something that’s not yours? Something that’s got return addresses/numbers all over it?! Annoying.

When I told Rian, he said that I’d probably come up with a better idea in the absence of the notes – and in that case, he was right, I did. But the other notes are sorely missed. Little bits of my subconscious that showed up at the wrong moment and were scribbled down with the awareness that I’d get back to them at the right moment in the process. The blind flash of a story charging through my head – transferred to the page and just as quickly released from my brain to make room for something new. Gone.

I’ve since gone back and redone the work. A nightmare. Half a nightmare.

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