Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Blurring the Lines

While I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, there are some things I don’t quite get, and those things are usually relayed to me by friends who are artists, musicians or worse, actors. Whenever I hear an actor talking about his art and not prostituting himself for the sake of his talent and how he takes each role seriously as he ponders the motivation behind the character’s actions and words, my mind starts wandering, and the next thing I know I am planning my next trip to Walmart. I am occasionally drawn back into the discussion, but that is when I start thinking, “Are you self-medicating again?”

Recently, a friend of mine, a very talented artist and writer, told me about how he wanted to live in a way that blurred the lines between art and life and sex. Wait, maybe it was art, life, work and shopping? Oh hell, it was a sort of blending of one’s art and talent, so that one could not tell where one ended and the other began, or there were no definitive beginning and end points. I know I am still getting this wrong, and I know I will be corrected! He is trying to achieve this, and I admire him for it.

While this may work for artists, musicians and actors, does it work for writers, too? And if it does, could I possibly blur the lines between my writing and my life and my sex? Not my gender – although there are those who think I already blur those lines, but that is for another discussion entirely. As far as my sex life goes, well that would be like Ethel Merman’s autobiographical chapter about her marriage to Ernest Borgnine; it was a blank page.

Is my writing considered art? Well, don’t ask any of the critics out there. I recently received a rave review that said, “While this is not great literature, it is quite humorous and entertaining.” Good enough for me. So, they won’t be teaching The Great Works of Milton Stern in eleventh grade English class any time soon, I am fine with my contributions to the literati of the blogosphere. And, if the six of you who read this blog enjoy my ramblings, even better.

So, let’s make some assumptions. My writing is my art. This doesn’t mean I am talented because art is subjective. You know my opinion on expensive art. It’s too damn big. Who has walls that large? Certainly not someone who lives in a trailer. Hell, my walls aren’t even big enough for the velvet painting of dogs playing poker. As usual, I digress.

According to Webster’s, “art is the conscious use of skill and creative imagination, especially in the production of aesthetic objects; also works so produced or illustrative elements in printed matter.” My books are printed, and if you would do me a favor, print out a page of this blog

According to Ask.com: “You create highly emotive pictures using pen and paper instead of paint or other mediums; therefore, writing is art.”

Now, don’t get carried away, those notes you wrote claiming you had the longest period in high school, so you would be excused from gym class – especially if you were a guy – are not considered art. Clever, yes, but not art.

But, I think I can safely say my writing is my art. Through words, I paint a picture for you of a flaming queen with a circumcised penis who lives in a manufactured home – and you imagine a Gay Jew in a trailer park. See, how that works? How many of you are picturing my penis? If you need help, it is quite aesthetically pleasing as far as genitalia go.

Now, to the question at hand. Have I blurred the lines between my life and my art?

Let’s take inventory.

Am I Gay? Ask the three guys I blew last night in the parking lot behind Denny’s. They would agree I am. By the way, my brother just went blind a second too late.

Am I Jewish? Ask the chicken I boiled on Sunday to make soup. Ask me anything, and I will answer it with a question. Ask my mother, who would say, “If he isn’t Jewish, he missed an excellent opportunity.” My mother was Jewish, so the Torah says I am Jewish.

Do I live in a trailer? Would I actually say I did if I didn’t? My parents are dizzy from continuously rolling in their graves.

Are you actually reading this? I just heard six people say yes. One line blurred.

For at least eighteen months, I have blurred my life with my art, but wait a minute. Did it just start in April 2011 when I first made the decision to become poor Jewish trailer trash? Shut up. I know I have always been poor Jewish trailer trash.

Let’s go back to 1985, the year I graduated from college (there he goes telling his age again), and the year I wrote “The Girls” which eventually became On Tuesdays, They Played Mah Jongg, a screenplay based on my mother and her friends. Everyone who read the book thought it was my life story, but I insisted it wasn’t.

Or was it? The lines were definitely blurred, and some of the things those women said, women I knew as a child had said word-for-word.

Then came Michael’s Secrets, the sequel where I introduced a character based on me – Eric. I created Eric, so people would see that I was nothing like Michael. I was Eric.

Nice try, Milton. Apparently, you fooled no one, or did you?

My dear friend the artist told me after reading Michael’s Secrets that he could understand my behavior because of the way Michael behaved, and it explained so much.

How was I to take that? At first, I was a little insulted. Was my writing, hence, my art, being used against me? Was I being called a caricature? Or, was Michael being called a caricature? Were these lines becoming more blurred?

Age has a way of maturing you. OK, if that isn’t the most profound thing you ever heard …

Seriously, twenty-five-year-old Milton would have gone ballistic if someone accused him of being a character in one of his stories because quite frankly the characters in my stories are all one episode shy of a six-week stay in a psychiatric ward.

Fifty-year-old Milton’s reaction was different. There was no reaction. I spent a few days thinking about it.

While my friend the artist was consciously trying to create a life that blurred the lines between art, sex, work, driving and going grocery shopping, I had subconsciously achieved just that.

My life had become my art, and apparently the blurring began while President Reagan’s mind was blurring as well, evidenced by his quoting lines from his movies during a debate with Walter Mondale.

I actually owe my friend a debt of gratitude for opening my eyes to the fact that something he would find profound and admirable, I have somehow made a part of my every day existence without even realizing it. I am a chatty giant blur.

If you want to see sex blurred into that equation buy Men, Muscle & Mayhem, by Milton Stern (Alex, you don’t want to read that one).

If your art has become your life, or if you are just a caricature of your former self, buy Michael’s Secrets, and see if you think I … I mean Michael … should be committed. Follow me, join me, get on my email list, visit me at Eastern State Lunatic Asylum.

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