Again with the Groundhog -- Umberto Tosi
Another Ground Hog Day and I'm spinning my wheels. Same rut; different project. They say that rewriting is part of the process, but I feel like Bill Murray's clueless curmudgeon midway through his trial by repetition. Eighty thousand polished and re-polished words and now I'm redoing the opening - always the opening, the grabber, the launch. I feel like I'm weaving a Persian rug with my fingernails. I'm forever climbing an M.C. Escher staircase. I'm at the stage of get-on-with-it-already.
And it's Trump vs. Biden for the White House again this year -- deja vu soaked in Trump-aversion shared by a majority of my frustrated countrymen. Deja vu turns into horror when we recognize how closely Trump's MAGA fascist path parallels that of Hitler. Two years on and an increasingly demented Trump seems undeterred by consequences of his bloody, failed January 6 insurrection. Similarly, the Führer and his Nazis continued their rise to power undeterred by failure of their 1922 Munich Beer Hall Putsch.
My inamorata Eleanor Spiess-Ferris agrees about the Trump fascist threat, but counsels that my personal pique comes more from rushing the creative process. Expectations are resentments waiting to happen, and all. Desire is the cause of all suffering says The Buddha. The muse inspires but demands dedication and patience.
She's right, but I'm the impatient type. I never believed that suffering enhances creativity - compassion yes, but mere annoyance no. Eleanor reminds me that I've complained about being trapped in this loop before. “It happens with my paintings too,” says the ultra-prodigious, surreal narrative painter who keeps churning out masterpieces in her eighties. “You'll break through. You always do.”
I'm not so sure. You never know what's going to work until it does.
I posted most of this in February 2016 (with prayer that as far as elections go, 2024 is a rerun of 2020, not 2016.) Enjoy if you didn't read it the first time around.
The late Harold Ramis who produced and directed Groundhog Day, was all over the place about how many years Phil Connors, the hapless cynical weatherman played by Bill Murray, spent reliving February 2 in Punxsutawney, PA. He once said 10,000 years and other estimates have ranged from ten to thirty-three. It takes a lot of practice for a mere mortal to play piano with style and become a real mensch as Murray's character eventually does – also to write compellingly. The film has been hailed as a spiritual metaphor by Buddhists, Jews, Christians and atheists – and, of course, representing the stages of creative process. “I get it everywhere,” Ramis said, “but the movie is what it is, a movie.”
Ramis was a Chicago boy, as are Danny Rubin who wrote the original screenplay and Bill Murray. The trio had interwoven histories with the Windy City's legendary improvisational theater and sketch comedy groups founded by Paul Sills, including Second City and the Story Theater. Ramis went to Stephen K. Hayt Elementary School a few blocks from where I live in Rogers Park on the North Side.