Kate FitzGerald: The Bread and the Circus

Before you read this, enjoy Kate's "We Get to the End" video for the Haiku Milieu Series.

Kate FitzGerald.  'Tis Herself.  She can be nothing other than herself.  This is a quality I admire and wish to emulate.  But somehow, whatever the situation is, I conform to it, like water.  If, as Wendall Berry says, "the impeded river is the one that sings,"  Kate is the stone in the center of the stream: sparkling, catching the light, making the water sing around it.

And truthfully, everyone does sing around her.  That's how I got to know her.

I am not sure she trusted me initially.  Bringing my formidable Irish willfulness to the task of finding the good in things is not, traditionally, what we Irish do.  And what Irish person doesn't drink, allergy or no?!?

But over the course of a decade and many, many late nights at FitzGerald's, I did what water does: I wore down that stone. Now Kate and I are fast friends. And, in a funny way....collaborators.

You'll read her protestations to the contrary, but I think Kate is the very best kind of collaborator, and actually, friend.  She is loyal, among the first to lend a hand, and unstinting on the lift.  Her insight and commentary (see "Billville" and the napkins in her pocket after a night at the club) composted things other people might not even notice into a rich fertilizer for FitzGerald's artistic soil. 

Artists, collaborations, friendships, new ideas...these and more bloom at FitzGerald's, then and now.  If you enjoy being around the energy of inspiration moving into form, you will never not owe a debt of thanks to Kate (ok and Bill too) for the enduring FitzGerald's ethos.

Now, enjoy her words. And go back to that video as many times as you want, after that.

"I am a terrible collaborator. 

Just to be sure, I looked it up. 

"A person who works jointly on an activity or a project, especially in a creative endeavor." 

It's the word "creative" that seals the deal.  Collaboration isn't completely off the table, like I'm some Simon and Garfunkel song.  I'm a good coworker, a good jump-in helper, a good teammate, but these are all activities with tangible goals: get the drinks out, lift the heavy thing, win the game.  When it comes to sharing "creative endeavors" when I have a solid idea of what I want (and unfortunately I almost always do), listening to other people tell me what THEY think – well, it is as the wind through the winter trees, i.e., I don't listen. 

I don't know that I was always like this. It was brought home to me with in boldface caps in my 20's when I was a copywriter for a small ad agency. That was where I learned to curb my violent reactions, calm my teeming brain, keep my mouth firmly shut and either go ahead with my own ideas or abandon them completely. If you have ever been a copywriter in a small ad agency with thrifty but imaginative clients, I need say no more. 

When Jenny first asked me to get involved in the haiku virtual show, I politely declined.  I like to write and I like photography; I do all sorts of things but I never show them to anyone except for some short bursts on social media. I don't know if I'm expecting posthumous fame or I'm just afraid of rejection but for me the fun is in the writing – I'm one of those freaks who enjoys editing; any two-sentence Facebook post of mine you see has been edited at least five times - or the moment when the shutter clicks and you know you've got something.  And of course my Irish blood curdles at the thought of face-to-face praise. 

But you know how she is, and so in the end I agreed.  Since, luckily for the audience, I don't play an instrument, she had let me just read out the first essay up on the stage of the Friendliest Of Taps, dipping my toe in collaboration via the haiku and a talented group of artists.  Perhaps needing another counterpoint to the positive atmosphere the performances created, she invited me again to choose a haiku from her book for the virtual edition. Flattered, I sat down and wrote a few paragraphs about making the transition when the club sold. I didn't check with anyone, I just wrote the thing and sent it to her, thinking it would just be a simple audio reading.  Hey, Sedaris does it.   

But here, because folks would be looking at a small screen, it was decreed that the writing must be accompanied by video and music, lest the watcher get bored with nothing to look at and go off to the kitchen never to return. Challenge accepted! I mentally storyboarded the whole thing – shots of the club in action, a burning building, funeral flags flying from cars, the last 30 seconds of Citizen Kane. I had it all figured out.  But of course I don't know how to do any of those things and didn't have the time to learn since Jenny had prudently waited until I sent her the bread to bring up the circus. 

So what do you do when you don't know how to do anything else? You do a slide show, and it worked fine, which of course is one of my least favorite words.  Sensing that this was not going down well with me (she had to help me make the slide show; I think at one point I threatened to decamp to the river) she also had the very good idea to pair me up with my longtime Tuesday night pal Ron Lazzeretti.  As a writer and director, Ron is a  grizzled veteran of the auteur type, and so cleverly avoided the endless back and forth that would surely come with writing original music and instead sent over the instrumental of a tune he knew I liked and that blended well with the theme of my piece.  I put the three together and thought desperately about what else I could do, but of course the writer's ultimate muse and greatest inspiration is a deadline, and so that time came and the "project" was emailed.   

Did I collaborate? I don't think so, but I enjoyed the writing and I liked putting it out in the world.  I like the process, it's fun, and fortunately for me I am not too interested in how it goes over; I just want to keep chasing that lightning (Twain). that decisive moment (Cartier Bresson) and if that only happens once in a blue moon, that's OK too.  As old Hippocrates once said over a barley wine, Ars longa, vita brevis. [Editor's note: "Art is long, life is short."]  I'll drink to that." - Kate FitzGerald 

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