Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Familiarity.

It’s the eyelids what did it.

Without the eyelids, it would simply be it, quite possibly lost long ago in an apartment switch. It wouldn’t be he and he wouldn’t still be with me, a decade later, both a long-time listener and a frequent guest of the the program.

There are three stuffed animals deserving of their own entries in the encyclopedia of my life.

The first was a gigantic teddy bear that lived in the basement of my family’s first house, an unnamed beast that was larger than I was for most of our co-existence. It had large gold-orange eyes and a scratchy wool exterior. I recall being both comforted and wary of its imposing size, as if I suspected that the bear, despite its assumed purpose as my loyal companion, could just as easily turn on me at any second.

The second was Sebastian, a small Siberian tiger cub given to me by one of my dearest high school friends, gleaming white fur and small blue eyes the exact same color as hers. I kept sleeping with him in the bed well into sophomore year of college, aware that this sort of behavior marked me as Weird and Unready, but I didn’t really care.

The third is the frog.

The frog’s name is Kilgore; yes, as in the recurrent and self-aware Kurt Vonnegut creation Kilgore Trout. He’s a few ounces of terrycloth beanbag and personality that my friend Amy gave me for my 22nd birthday. Something about the expression on his face, something about the wry intelligence implied by his half-open eyelids, seemed to imbue the rest of his tiny being with a living presence unlike anything I’d ever encountered in a stuffed animal. Effortlessly, he assumed the role of familiar spirit; he rested comfortably on my shoulder and quietly judged my actions. When he spoke his voice was snappy and street-smart, like Bugs Bunny without the characteristic Brooklyn accent. Out loud and in public, we would often banter, and the banter was usually clever and amusing enough to make people forget that a man carrying on involved conversations in different voices with a stuffed frog on his shoulder–that is, a man doing these things on his own time and without being paid for it–was quite possibly deeply disturbed.

He left my shoulder shortly after I moved to Chicago, and it has been years since I uttered a syllable in his voice. His most common state of repose is on top of my bookshelves in the office, atop a small display shelf alongside the hand-puppet I bought in Atlanta at the Center for Puppetry Arts and the gift finger-puppets of famous writers such as Leo Tolstoy and Virginia Woolf.

Earlier this week, despite his constant presence, I found I missed him.

That’s strange, isn’t it? I thought.

I dunno, Kilgore’s voice thought back. You tell me.

I don’t think I’m cracking up. I should make that clear. I know that people who are cracking up might vehemently insist on their blogs that they are not cracking up, that they might sincerely believe that they are not cracking up despite all evidence to the contrary. But I do insist. Vehemently. I’m not cracking up.

For whatever reason though, at this point in my life, I need the frog familiar back on my shoulder. I need to turn my head to the side and for his static countenance to be reassuring, to be condescending, to be sarcastic, to be encouraging, to tell me to go to sleep already it’s been a long day.

A week from now I’ll be back in Washington, D.C. with the Neo-Futurists, performing an intense, month-long, 26-show tour at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, spending much of my free time between rehearsals and performances working on a new stage adaptation project, a freelance proofreading project, prep-work for the next round of Neo-Futurist workshops I’m teaching in January and February, and my usual business of managing future gigs and tours for the company.

It’s not that I’ll be either alone or lonely. I’ll be surrounded by friends I’ve known for years and a number of friends I’ve made in the area after two previous sojourns to Woolly.

But I think I’m bringing Kilgore with me this time. I doubt we’ll be doing a lot of conversing out loud; that time may be past and the sight simply too strange for people who have never witnessed it to deal with it comfortably. But he’s been on my shoulder for the past half hour now and it feels like he never left.

Which is, one might guess, why they’re called familiars.

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This entry was posted on November 30, 2009 by in Hobbies, Life, Theatre, Travel, Work, Writing.
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