You couldn’t have been there – if you had been, the writing wouldn’t have been.
As my business “career” was approaching a merciful landing, an unexpected harmonic convergence occurred. I ventured one half mile to the local library for the first poetry reading I ever attended. The featured poet was David Surette, a high school English teacher. When he read his poem about his Acadian heritage (http://www.davidsurette.com/WhisperPast/GrandPre.htm ), I had to overcome shyness and introduce myself. The introduction was made easier because of (you’ll never guess!) the undershirt I was wearing that day –a gift from nephew Matt, who had spent six months at LSU and sent me the shirt from one of his environmental studies ventures. I unbuttoned my long sleeve shirt as I greeted David and “je suis Acadien’d” him, revealing the Comeaux High School (Lafayette, Louisiana) wrestling team tee shirt. I became something of a groupie, following David to his nearby venue Poetribe, inconvenient Saturday night 8-10 p.m. bi-weekly open mike and feature readings – the origin of my poetry publications.
One evening David made a noteworthy comment, something we were all aware of but had never voiced: “Nobody has ever seen me write.” (That’s explains my opening statement.) David’s co-host(ess), Victoria Bosch Murray, followed David’s statement with, “It’s a lonely profession, that’s why it’s important for us to meet and share our writings.”
In this third consecutive conflict-driven business/creative post, I will merely chronologize my memorable-to-me outbursts of creative energy, mostly unpublished. Follies and foibles features will follow in later posts of individual projects.
Circa 1958 (Memories from the career change seminar of life significant events) – one particular eighth-grade theme, a review of a baseball book I had read, The Milk Pitcher; the significant memory is that when I had one page to write, I would fill it up, to the last space on the last line. (I need to work on over-writing!)
1964 – unpublished musical script (I do words, not notes!), written junior year in college, Sunspots on the Moon; juvenile, “Leave It to Beaver” flavor, inspired by a Time story about a Darien, Connecticut social trend of parents arranging formal boy-girl dates for their ten-year-old offspring. This is the script I did not submit to my Creative Writing professor whose total focus was on short stories.
1964 – short story, “Valves an’ Thangs,” for said Creative Writing class, roughly tracking my one-week-and-out job reclaiming metal from demolished buildings at the local refinery, and my manner of working with the ‘valves an’ thangs’-speaking boss; won honorable mention in Atlantic Monthly short story contest we were required to enter. Professor semi-dissed it by saying the appeal was because it was from a foreign territory, although Texas had been admitted to the union many years prior. The last short story I ever wrote.
1964 – the first ever of my lyrics to be performed, “Make Mine Manhattan,” the theme song for Junior Week. (“Make mine manhattan, I’m all alone; an empty tuxedo, a cold telephone…” – just before I met my future wife!) My friend, character-actor Edwin McDonough, was director/lead of the junior show, Guys and Dolls, and asked if I would like to be involved. When I said yes he said “as producer;” when I said what’s that, he said he would show me. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to hear “Make Mine Manhattan,” since the guys and dolls I was travelling with went off on a different direction than the show people.
1965 – Act I of a musical script, Henry McLeary, Part Seven, an attempt at a Shakespeare parody, as the Prince’s sidekick, Bud Miller, discovers he’s eighty-seventh in line for the throne, and mayhem ensues. (”You can get away with murder if you try. You can climb a few steps higher making other people die. There’s nothing quite absurder than a bloody perfect murder – You can get away with murder if you try!”) I abandoned the project when my Dad said I had no interesting characters. (Despite all the stresses involved with raising a houseful of children, Dad had affirmed my writing often, reading my high school themes while relaxing in his easy chair, loudly guffawing at some of my humorous constructs. As he was an engineer, I was always surprised when he offered some precise gem of a reference to mainstream literature.)
1972 – the beginning of the real writing journey, when a classmate from way back first grade asked me to write animal poems he would illustrate. I responded, “I’m twenty-eight and over the hill for writing.” He countered, “Artists flourish in their thirties.” The first nuggets from my pen were: “I found a frog in my garden today.” By the second or third poem, Erato took over (see —2007 –Animal Friends), and I realized that writing was where I most felt “in the zone.”
1975 – a board game, Chairman of the Board, intended to satirically teach how to get ahead in large organizations (a 5 year, moonlighting, self-publishing project) – Foible and Folly #1 in a future post.
1979 – an unauthorized revision (overly aggressive) to a musical script Oiltown, Texas, U.S.A., by my retired high school English teacher, the late Mary Lou Burkett. I had attended her first musical, Big Hill: the Saga of Spindletop, and had begun communicating with her about shared interests. When she sent the script for Oiltown, I thought she presented the female viewpoint accurately, but had a blind spot on the male, and changed some of the lyrics and the story. The drama involved a widow who had lost her husband tragically in a plane crash, and a widower whose wife had lost a long battle with cancer. I reasoned that the widow in her state of shock would keep expecting her late husband to show up at the door; the widower would unsuccessfully seek escape from the lingering waves of hope and despair. Spookily, this interpretation played out as pre-cognition, when I lived a similar condition twenty years later.
1980 – an IBM-published Systems Guide and Operations Manual for a banking software product I brought to life. The motivation was bonuses for every sale of the breakthrough product, which I had programmed for a small, technically aggressive bank. Obstacle #1 was overcoming the negative evaluation of the IBM “examiner.” Obstacle #2 was, after that triumph, being required to adapt the simpler local system to the new complex data base project IBM had in the works. This involved three months and mucho hours of overtime, travelling sixty miles from my new assignment to the originating bank’s new parent bank for revisions, finally installing the product at a New Jersey bank, then having IBM withdraw its support project, to the tune of two million corporate dollars down the drain. My bonuses amounted to pennies on the hour.
1981 – while on sabbatical, an unauthorized musical biography on the unlikely journey of IBM’s founder, The Adventures of Tom Watson (introduced in previous blog entry).
1979-1997 – creative participation in local parish fund- and fun-raising musical variety shows, origins of —2007 – A Rainbow Journey and —2008 – “You Can Be Santa’s Helper”. I had begun to itemize them here, but “the rest of the stories” took over, and another two thousand words escaped the keyboard and are now the first draft of my next post.
1993 – in between jobs, a musical script about a widow with four children in the 90’s trying to maintain family harmony with 60’s standards (tentatively, Re-Generation). Living on severance pay, I was euphoric after finishing a script I had started a few years earlier with four scenes. I completed the first draft, writing one scene a day for two weeks, thrilled at my progress. The euphoria quickly dissipated when I realized, “Now, what?” Total reality returned when the severance wore out, and it was back to working where the cash flows.
2005 – soon after “retirement” – Footnotes, a screenplay work-in-progress-needs-revision, set near the eve of Irag I — theme: we’re not over Viet Nam yet. I had taken a screenwriting workshop several years ago, and this was another abandoned project resumed, partly a tribute to a humanitarian IBM partner who had the “Great day when federal funds support schools, and bake sales support bombers” poster on his cubicle wall; he died of cancer a few months before my wife and sister were diagnosed. A writing mentor commented the first forty-eight pages, flashback filled, were confusing, and the ending wasn’t credible, so a rewrite is imminent, but not immediate.
2006 – now, after involuntary but blessed retirement, imitating my son, who was open-miking at folk venues (“The child is father of the man.”), overcoming reluctance to read rhyming verse in modern poetry venues, and learning how to create chapbooks:
—2006 – introverses – a collection of personal life journey experiences, with sections loverses, leaverses, grieverses, recoverses, relativerses, and reflectiverses.
—2007 – Growing Up with My Animal Friends – I still had the sketches my friend had drawn after I had written sixteen animal poems per his 1972 request. I scanned and formatted them into a chapbook, and published them at a local printer. Mike became re-enthused and suggested each poem would make its own chapbook, one page and one sketch per line, and we published six more as early readers, each with different scripting: “Where Is My Cat?”, “A Dog Named Roberta,” “Ducks in the Lake,” “Penguins in the Pool,” “Frog-E in the Garden,” and “Rabbits on the Run” in 2008; and Mike published “The Pony Book” in 2012. A more entrepreneurial team might have achieved more revenue if these had been coloring books. Mike also requested I indulge his favorite hobby subject, Gulf Coast shrimp boats, so I wrote a series of four-line poems (discovering I could “write short” instead of long) for “The Shrimp Boat Book,” also in 2008. At my request, he sketched one fictitious boat, ‘Mist Opportunity’ – perhaps a personal career metaphor.
—2007 – A Rainbow Journey – http://www.amazon.com/A-Rainbow-Journey-George-Comeaux/dp/1439210721 – The director of our 1986 parish variety musical, “A Rainbow Connection,” had suggested I publish my scene-transition verses. Now that I knew the chapbook publishing process, I realized the verses needed illustration. The prayer I never prayed was answered a couple of years later when, by luck and fate, I met a local watercolorist, Mary T. Bodio, at a local coffee shop that I was supporting in hopes of helping it survive. It closed three weeks after I met Mary. She liked the verse, we traded ideas, and in four months we had the first edition printed. The book is a metaphorical journey through life, and a tribute to special people in our lives – relatives, mentors, and friends. The proprietor of the local bookstore told me that a customer had looked all through the bereavement section of the store and came up with nothing, then noticed A Rainbow Journey on the front counter, and said that was exactly what she was looking for, with its Resurrection theme.
—2008 – You Can Be Santa’s Helper – http://www.amazon.com/You-Can-Be-Santas-Helper/dp/1439211094 – again with Mary Bodio’s illustrations, and again from a 1997 parish show “Holi-Daze,” a lyric I had written became a chapbook, with melody created by my brother Mike. To support the chapbook, I had a local musician cut a cd. On stage, a ‘Dad’ begin the song while putting on a Santa suit, and the entire cast joined in the “Ha! Ha! Ha! – Ho! Ho! Ho!…” chorus, seven times. The song was lively and lasted four-and-a-half minutes. The musician cut his version at the four-minute mark, and told me children’s songs should be between ninety seconds and two minutes, so revisions for a possible YouTube version are in the works.
—2011 – extraverses – with narrative as well as lyrical poems. I struggled for a title to reflect the variety, and tried NARRATIverses/verSONGS, a worst-ever attempt. My friend Maureen shook her head and suggested extraverses. Why hadn’t I thought of that — a perfect bookend for introverses? The sections are narrativerses, commemorativerses, festiverses, appreciativerses, sensitiverses, and reviverses, some beyond personal, into societal issues.
2014 – The journey continues. You know you’ve got trouble when you’re stuck in Revision City. This current memoir/blog exercise has the words (over)flowing, and finally a daily writing discipline emerging. As I approach the fiftieth anniversary of my B.A. English, I report to classmates “sane, not so solvent.” Some, still in the workforce, report the opposite.