Julie Marino

Playwright, Storyteller

The Writing Desk

I am the Teller and the Tale

I believe in the transformative power of storytelling. Since humans began to speak, storytelling has been how we discover, how we learn, how we understand, how we create and transcend. It’s how we construct our world and our selves.

We remember the stories we tell about our lives; we invent our lives in the remembering. We make the stories. We are the stories. I am the teller and the tale.

Here I give you a small sampling of my writing. Pieces of stories … works in progress. A character whose story builds itself around him … a short conversation that grows into a full-fledged drama … a flight of fancy that takes wing to create a whole new hybrid work of art.

Julie Marino
New York November 2015

:: Works in Progress ::

I. Character Studies

BENNIE

I spent all afternoon tryin’ to get this goddam thing to run. Man says “Good as new! Just tweak ‘er a little, she’ll purr like a goddam kitten”. Kitten my ass! Thing sounds more like a goddam lion with laryngitis. An’ it shakes like Uncle Louie when he’s off his meds.

How the hell am I s’posed to go pick up Jolene in this piece o’ shit? She wouldn’t even get in. Hell, she’d hear me comin’ two blocks away and then she’d pretend she didn’t even know me. Turn her back when I drove up, keep talkin’ to her girlfriends like I wasn’t even there. Hell, I wouldn’t get in if I was her. A guy’s gotta have a decent car if he expects to get a decent girl. Like Jolene.

It’s too late to fix it even if I could. Goddam carburetor. Shoulda been taken out an’ run over by a tank. Hell, it prob’ly was. I spent the whole afternoon in this hot, hell-hole of a cat-pee smellin’ garage for nothing. I prob’ly smell like cat pee now too. I’m a total failure as a man. I might as well forget about ever gettin’ a decent girlfriend.

The P. I.

A slug of gin. A slug in the mouth. Either way it’s the same to me.

You wake up in an alley somewhere smelling like the inside of a dumpster, your head pounding like a Sousa march and a sour day-old taste at the back of your throat.

That was me last Thursday…the morning after I crossed paths with Bang Bang Tommy and his little gang of assassins. Did I say assassins? I meant “businessmen”. But if you ever find yourself doing business with them, take my advice: hang up the Gone Fishin’ sign and take yourself on a nice, long vacation.

I didn’t even have to open my eyes to tell where I was. The butt end of Jakarta has a fragrance all its own…a mixture of curry, rotting fish, excrement and broken dreams. I took one whiff and I knew exactly where they’d dumped me.

It really didn’t matter how I got here. The big question was, why was I here at all? Why was I still alive. It’s not like Tommy or his associates to leave something half done. The only reason could be that I was more valuable to them alive. What did I know?

The question nagged at me like a jealous wife as I picked my way between the stagnant pools of sewage and refuse. The remnants of last night’s festivities were playing havoc with my stomach. So I bought a bowl of noodles from a street vendor –– a squirrely little woman with bad teeth and an attitude to match.

As I slurped down the soupy mess, the question came back again. What did I know? What did Tommy want with me? I knew that I’d better find the answer pretty damn fast. Or that sorry bowl of gelatinous noodles might just be my last meal.

Leonora

Frankly darling, if you want to know the naked, wretched truth of it, I wake up every morning shocked to find that I’m still here. At all. That I actually managed to make it this far. That I didn’t run off a cliff or burst into flames or just expire from plain old stupidity. And darling let me tell you, in those days there was plenty of stupid to go around. Enough for everybody and then some.

And even though — I’ll be honest — there were more than a few times over the years I thought well why not. Why not just go out in a blaze of glory. Why not make a spectacular end to it all because what in life could possibly top that. And how sad and pathetic would it be to live a lesser life. To become a diminished version of myself.

But for one reason or another I just didn’t and it’s a good thing because here’s another juicy little secret I’ll let you in on — and I’ll tell you, it’s like the biggest in-joke ever. I know it’s hard to believe, but only lately have I come to realize how much more interesting I am now than I ever was back then! I know! Crazy, right? When I think back to how vacuous we were — and I mean that in the nicest possible way — it makes me laugh. Almost makes me cry sometimes.

We were like empty vessels waiting to be filled up. Like those endless of glasses of Veuve Cliquot we used to consume en masse. I still love them, I confess. The bubbles, that is. There’s absolutely nothing a crystal flute of sparkling deliciousness won’t make better. That’s not a bad metaphor, actually, if you’re looking for one, for our lives back then. Like a glass of champagne bubbles — glorious but ephemeral. That really is rather clever, isn’t it?

These days, people use the word ‘diva’ about me. Don’t tut tut, darling! I know they do. Toss it around like a little velvet throw pillow with tassels on the corners. Well, maybe it applies, I don’t know. But honestly, don’t you think the word has worn itself out already? So overused, and on people who absolutely don’t deserve it! Let me tell you, you have to earn that title! It takes years and it takes miles. And I’ve got both. Personally, I prefer ‘doyenne’ myself. But I can’t choose the things people write about me.

And guess what? Now comes the payoff for all those years and all those miles. And all those tears too, darling. Who knew? I’m bigger and better than ever! People keep telling me how amazing I am. A legend! Who could have imagined! I’m telling you darling, it’s the biggest in-joke ever. Of course nobody gets it except me.

II. The Beginning of a Larger Conversation

Pattern Recognition

.--. .- - - . .-. -. | .-. . -.-. --- --. -. .. - .. --- -.

After collecting dust for a while, the Writing Desk is getting dusted off and polished up. An original occupant here, Pattern Recognition, has grown and developed from a brief conversation into a full-fledged scenario… in fact, into a whole play. You can read the original here and you’ll find a sample of the new iteration on the new Pattern Recognition page.

SCENE 1

We hear seagulls, the whoosh of waves on the shore, maybe sand crunching underfoot. A moment or two before they talk.

  • ONE
    Do you see it?
  • Two
    See what?
  • ONE
    There. Look.
  • TWO
    Where?
  • ONE
    There!
  • TWO
    I can’t see what you’re pointing at!
  • ONE
    That cloud! Right there!
    See? Right in the middle!
  • TWO
    The middle of what?
  • ONE
    Of the fucking sky!
    Just above the horizon!
    Can’t you see where I’m pointing?

    (sighing with exasperation)

    That cloud there looks just like a giant tortoise.
    See the big shell, and the head?
  • TWO
    I still don’t...oh! That thing? If you say so.
    You’re always seeing things in the clouds.
  • ONE
    That’s because they’re there.
  • TWO
    No, they’re not.
  • ONE
    Duh! I know it’s not a real tortoise.
    I’m saying that it really looks like it.
    That’s all I’m saying.
  • TWO
    Fine.
  • ONE
    Don’t you see them?
  • TWO
    You’re always seeing things in the clouds. And in the bushes, and in your oatmeal, and your coffee.
  • ONE
    Well, it’s a whole lot more fun than just seeing clouds or bushes or coffee. It gives things more meaning.
  • TWO
    I think things are fine just being what they are. Without trying to make them into something they’re not. Why do you always have to try and see things in other things?
  • ONE
    That’s just the way my brain works. Actually it’s the way your brain works too. Or would if you let it. It’s called pattern recognition. Our brains are "recursive probabalistic fractals." You know who said that?
    Ray Kurzweil.You know who he is?
  • TWO
    I don’t care.
  • ONE
    He’s like the numero uno guy in artificial intelligence and shit like that.
  • TWO
    So?
  • ONE
    So, he says...
  • TWO
    Do you even know what that means? That recursive...whatever?
    Listen, if you scan enough noise, eventually you’re gonna find a signal, whether it’s there or not. Know what I’m saying?
    Look hard enough and you can find Jesus in every Twinkie on the shelf.
  • ONE
    Never mind. It’s my way of making sense out of the chaos of the universe.
  • TWO
    Why?
  • ONE
    What?
  • TWO
    Why do you want to do that?
  • ONE
    Why wouldn’t I?
  • TWO
    Because chaos is the universe’s default condition. You know that phrase, “shit happens?” What do you think it means?

    (affects a whining tone)

    “Oooh, things happen for a reason.” … “Oooh, there has to be meaning in the universe.”

    (back to regular voice)

    How totally naive and arrogant is that! That’s like saying that a glacier has a sense of humor. You know?
    Or that the supernova in the Blah Blah Nebula happened a hundred and fifty thousand years ago just so it could get here and show up for your friggin’ birthday!
  • ONE
    Geez, chill, you ya! All I said was the cloud looked like a tortoise. You don’t have to go ballistic on me.
  • TWO
    But you do this all the time and it really pisses me off. Now I’m recognizing a pattern.
  • ONE
    Yeah, well, here’s another pattern -- maybe you’ll recognize this too.
    Every time I say let’s go get something to eat, you always wear that ratty old sweater that looks like it was lying on the floor of your car for a couple of years.
  • TWO
    Maybe it’s because it’s the only sweater I have.
  • ONE
    Or maybe it’s because you don’t think I’m worth dressing up for.
  • TWO
    Give me a fuckin’ break!
    Okay: how about this pattern? Every time you act like a complete jackass, I leave.
    Bye!

III. Reminiscence from Another World

The Ballad of Jackeye Johnny

Jack-Eye Johnny blew into town, riding the solar wind straight in from the event horizon. Nobody remembers exactly when he showed up. Fact is, nobody remembers him actually arriving. He was just not there and then he was there and I swear t’god you couldn’t remember what it was like before.

From then on, nothing happened -- what I mean to say is nothing that meant anything -- that didn’t have Johnny’s stardust all over it. You’d hear someone say yeah Johnny was there or yeah Johnny had this thing going or yeah didn’t you hear Johnny this or Johnny that. He could be across town or twenty miles away or a hundred, didn’t matter. If ever there was a dude who made you sho’ nuff believe in spooky-action-at-a-distance, it was Jack-Eye Johnny.
And didn’t we all feel chosen, didn’t we all feel like the righteous fucking hand o’god reached down and lifted us up to the very crown o’ the universe when Johnny smiled and laughed, slid up and slipped his arms around our shoulders and said come on, let’s light this joint up tonight.
If, to give you a very perfect example of how it was, a guy was to be downtown and see his girlfriend ride by in Johnny’s car...if a guy was to hear that his girlfriend was sleeping in Johnny’s bed, man, that guy was golden. If that guy had the most excellent discerning taste to be going with a girl that Johnny found worthy of his attention, well then...‘nuff said. And once it was over -- because it always was -- she’d come back to that guy better than ever. Her skin would feel like honey and sparkle like fireflies. She’d move like a goddess and glow like the perfect setting sun on the first day of creation.
Everybody had their own favorite Johnny story. I never did, tho’. I mean, at the time, why tell stories when the real thing was just around the corner. Why try and parse the hidden meaning of the fucking universe. Just look over there, pal. Just look over your shoulder. Or don’t even. Just wait a minute and the perfection of Johnny’s aura will pour down upon you. And then, once it was over, once he was gone, I didn’t ever want to think about it again.
Thing about Johnny, he wasn’t easy to pin down. About anything. It was as if he seemed to slide through this plane of existence in a neutral state -- move through matter like a puff of smoke through a goddam screen door. That’s why it was all the more surprising, when push came to shove, that he took a stand...
‘Course, looking back, how could you not know? How could you be drawn into his orbit and not sense that sooner or later -- and probably sooner -- he’d go supernova. Jack-Eye Johnny had an expiry date stamped clear as day across his back; all you had to do was look closely to see it. But until then, the universe could expand as fast and as far as it liked and we didn’t care.
Everybody loved Johnny and Johnny loved everybody. We all said it. And we believed it. Tho’ honestly if you stopped to think about it in a logical manner -- but who would because why would you want to -- you’d pretty soon run up against the inconvenient truth that just the mere existence of Johnny pissed a whole lot of people off. Okay, not pissed off exactly, but let’s say threw out of balance. Okay, not people exactly, but let’s say some forces that are better left unmolested in the grand scheme o’ things. Really, when you come right down to it, in the cold, hard light o’ day, it was matter-antimatter, pure and simple. And we all know how that ends.

Artwork courtesy of the extraordinary David Walls

Contact David by email.

Other things will appear here from time to time. Or the same things in different forms. You will (if you have the interest and the patience to follow any of this) see evolving versions of these fragments as they grow and change over time.

That’s the thing about stories — they tend to take on a life of their own. And they never really end.

Questions? Comments? You can reach me at julie@juliemarino.nyc