Saturday, March 1, 2008

the argument

Years ago I was taking a creative writing class at the University of Scotland in Edinburgh, and one of the assignments we had was to find a partner and compose an argument. We were not to use any narrative; this was supposed to be an argument in dramatic form: two characters sitting around bitchin'.

So I got together with this twenty-something girl named Kacie. Almost all of the other grad students I hung around with that summer were much younger than I, possibly due to the fact that I was feeling pretty vibrant myself despite my rapidly advancing years: on my own in Europe for the summer for the first time in my life, I felt sort of bohemian. If bohemians had iPods and credit cards.

Kacie and I sat down to figure out the assignment. How to write an argument. One thing we both knew was that written language and spoken language are not the same thing, so if we wanted it to sound "real" then we would have to edit what truly might be real. But that was not our problem: it was what to argue about. We know that we would just actually have the argument and then work out how to write it, but a topic eluded us.

Then one of us thought of the characters from Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot, two hopeless and hapless vagabonds who spend what appears to be every day of their lives waiting in endless anticipation of the arrival of someone named Godot, whose magical appearance will resolve something in their lives, though neither really has the foggiest clue what that something might be. Godot, of course, will never arrive, and the two will just continue to wait and wait, hoping (whenever it occurs to their addled brains to consider hoping) that Godot will arrive soon to make everything better. The play ends as it began, with the two of them doing absolutely nothing but waiting for an event that will, we are certain, never come.

What if we had that kind of argument? we thought. What if our argument was of such inane and trivial nonsense that it actually did little more than take up valuable space in the continuum of our lives? And then, after it was through, those lives went on as if the argument had never even occurred?

What follows is the script of what Kacie and I came up with that afternoon. It's silly and stupid, but we enjoyed ourselves. Maybe you will too.

The Argument

Karen So...what should we argue about?

Kacie Why should we argue?

Karen That was our assignment. To write an argument.

Kacie No, it wasn’t.

Karen Yes, it was.

Kacie No, it wasn’t.

Karen Well, let’s argue anyway.

Kacie About what?

Karen That’s what I asked you.

Kacie No you didn’t.

Karen Yes, I did!

Kacie I don’t want to argue about anything.

Karen What do you want to do?

Kacie I want to talk about how the world began.

Karen How the world began?

Kacie Yeah, you know, how God created the Earth and all the people in it.

Karen Well, for starters, how do we know that God had anything to do with it?

Kacie Well, we exist, don’t we?

Karen That doesn’t mean that God put us here.

Kacie Yes it does.

Karen No it doesn’t!

Kacie Then how would you explain it?

Karen I don’t have to explain it. I’m not proposing anything specific. All I’m saying is that we can’t know what happened millions of years ago with any certainty.

Kacie What does a million years ago have to do with anything?

Karen What do you mean?

Kacie We’re talking about when the world began.

Karen And the people.

Kacie And the people. What does a million years ago have to do with it?

Karen Well, maybe a billion years.

Kacie Now you’re talking crazy. We haven’t been around that long.

Karen Yes we have!

Kacie No, we haven’t!

Karen Yes, we have!

Kacie Uh uh. Don’t think so.

Karen OK, then, how long HAVE we been around?

Kacie Just a few thousand years, at the most.

Karen What?

Kacie Show me a family tree that goes back for millions of years.

Karen Family trees don’t go back that far!

Kacie Exactly.

Karen No, no, no. Family trees are modern inventions, just in the era of the written word.

Kacie How do you know? Were you around a million years ago to watch family trees not being there?

Karen That’s just silly!

Kacie No it isn’t.

Karen Yes it is. And stop just contradicting me. This isn’t a Monty Python sketch!

Kacie How do you know?

Karen Can we get back to the argument?

Kacie What argument?

Karen KACIE!

Kacie OK. If family trees have only been around since the written word, how do you know that people even existed before then?

Karen There is archeological evidence.

Kacie Evidence about what?

Karen Dead people.

Kacie So?

Karen So they were alive a million years ago.

Kacie Just because they are dead now doesn’t mean they lived a million years ago.

Karen The scientists have dated the bones with C14 dating.

Kacie That’s not reliable.

Karen It’s not off by millions of years!

Kacie It could be. Just because no one has proven them wrong doesn’t make them right.

Karen I think Darwin would have something to say about that.

Kacie Monkey Man!

Karen Be serious.

Kacie Well, HE wasn’t.

Karen Who?

Kacie Darwin.

Karen What about him?

Kacie He wasn’t serious.

Karen Yes he was!

Kacie You’re telling me to rely on the word of a man who thinks his great-great grandmother was a monkey.

Karen Not his great-great grandmother. Much further back than that.

Kacie Oh, excuse me! Great-great-great-great---

Karen OK, I get the point. You don’t believe in Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

Kacie I didn’t say that.

Karen So you do believe in it?

Kacie Nope.

Karen Well...

Kacie Well what?

Karen Maybe we should find a topic for that argument.

Kacie What argument?

Karen Our assignment!

Kacie We didn’t have one.

Karen Yes we did.

Kacie No we didn’t.

Karen I give up.

Kacie You can’t do that.

Karen Yes I can.

Kacie No you can’t.

Karen Fine. Let’s argue then.

Kacie OK.

They sit there.

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it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

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