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The Dream of the Orange Petunias

typewritten screenplay, page 1

One of Cindy’s projects is to complete the Great Purge - disposing of the mountain of stuff that has accumulated in the house over the past 25 years, so that one day we can escape the gravity that binds us to Regina, with only our backpacks, our tent and possibly our bikes.

Yesterday, she found an old shoebox labelled “Mark’s Correspondence.” Inside were a few postcards, some crayon drawings by Ben and Robyn, a mountain of love letters from my sweet baboo and three crumpled pieces of typing paper.

The pages contained the start of “The Dream of the Orange Petunias”, a screenplay that I wrote with my buddy Greg, one late night sometime around 1992.

“Screenplay” is a generous term. All that I found was an opening scene, a cast of characters, and a letter from Greg sometime later mentioning the play and offering a book blurb, should we need to plagiarise one later.

No doubt we found an old typewriter one night and after having a few rums decided to write a major literary work. We would do stuff like that all the time, writing a story or a song that would make us laugh and keep our friends thinking we were crazy.

Greg was a nut, willing to do anything for a laugh. He once bought a terrible brown thrift shop tuxedo, complete with cummerbund and frilly shirt, and wore it to all the bars in town, pretending to be an old timey TV comedian. Thankfully he didn’t wear it to our wedding.

One weekend, when I had my head full of Hunter S. Thompson (and a belly full of rum) we decided to drive to Wolseley straight from the bar, because we had a hockey tournament there the next day. I took my cassette recorder and a handful of blank tapes and proceeded to record the entire weekend ‘gonzo style.’

This included trying to find a hotel room in small town Saskatchewan at 4:30AM and terrible dressing room banter, where each new arrival gave an update on a teammate who had been stopped on the highway by the RCMP. (“Krett got pulled over!” “Krett’s out of the car!” “They’re going through the trunk!” “They’ve taken the back seat out!!”)

At least I think that’s what is on the tapes. I lost them years ago and I never did listen to them.

Another time we were at our friend Renee’s house, even though, as I recall, Renee wasn’t home at the time. But her sister Rhonda was. Greg grabbed a guitar, I grabbed my mic, Rhonda got her saxophone and we proceeded to record a rousing version of “Ain’t She Sweet.” The sax was so loud that Rhonda had to go to the next room, but the tape sounded pretty good. I think Renee (or her parents) still has a photo of the two of us in her bedroom recording the song.

When did I get so serious? #

Like I said, those three typewritten pages are sticking with me. Where did that fun go? The joy of not only making goofy things but recording them and sharing them too?

That box is also full of goofy love poems, from me to Cindy and from Cindy to me. I don’t think either of us has written a poem in years. Why is that?

I’m not saying that years in the corporate world squashed my creativity, but it played a role. I remember starting a department newsletter when I was at SaskTel that was full of crazy, made up stories and in-jokes. Many co-workers laughed wildly when a new edition came out but just as many looked at me like I should be put somewhere safe.

I’m not saying comment areas or unsubscribe buttons have reigned me in either, but they sure haven’t helped. I know I’ve self-edited myself hundreds of times at the thought of losing a subscriber or getting a mean comment.

I mean, I have always cared about what other people think. But instead of trying to make people laugh and smile and sing along, something slowly shifted. Now I spend too much time trying to sound ‘normal’, whatever that is.

“The things that made you weird as a kid make you great today.”

— James Victore

That quote is from Feck Perfuction, my new favourite book. The book sits by my screen and I find myself pulling quotes from it regularly.

I’m committed to find that loose, wild, free, creative style again. To make stuff just because it’s fun. To make things that make people think “what’s he doing” or “don’t quit your day job.” To remember what made me weird as a kid (and believe me, I was a weird kid) and embrace that again.

It won’t all be good. The Dream of the Orange Petunias hasn’t aged well, that’s for sure. But that didn’t stop me then and I’m not going to let it stop me now.

PS - you know this already, but “don’t quit your day job” is really, really bad feedback.

How about you (or as we say here, howbachoo?) What’s that thing that made you weird as a kid? Let’s compare oddities in the comments!