For those of you who don’t know about the Bay Area phenomenon known as Casual Carpool, it will blow your mind. Basically, drivers pick up random passengers at designated spots on the East Bay and drop them off at the designated spots in San Francisco: the drivers save time (oftentimes, considering the shittiness of Bay Area traffic, they save lots of time) by driving in the carpool lane and going through the carpool toll; the passengers save money on a BART ticket. Some friends tried to explain it to a couple New Yorkers, and they flipped their shit. “Wait. Wait. Wait. You actually get in the car? With strangers?” Yep.
The rules of en-route engagement are up to the driver: he/she chooses the radio station (if any) and sets the tone of the conversation (which usually consists of silence). It’s early. People don’t usually want to talk, especially not to strangers. Casual Carpool is transaction of mutual convenience. But not last week. We get in the car, and this driver turns the radio off, introduces himself, and the chatting begins! He is a therapist at the VA hospital, so I tell him about the Theater of War project I had heard about, and about Sophocles’ Ajax, which I just read for the first time. We get on the topic of my writing. He asks if I write plays about my own life, my family, etc. I reply, “That would be a really boring play. I have had a blissfully uneventful life. I’m more of a research-based writer.”
Which I guess is kind of true. Maybe. It feels true this week as I start working on a play for Just Theatre’s New Play Lab. They’ve asked me to resurrect an idea I had three years ago when I was living in Chicago about a battered husband dealing with the fact his son is basically invincible—an examination of masculinity. I didn’t actually know if “battered husbands” were even a thing when I came up with the premise: I was simply intrigued by the contrast. Research has revealed it is very much a thing, and a scary thing at that. Now I am sifting through the heartbreaking tales of men terrorized by their spouses for “useful” material. I feel a bit like a vulture. It doesn’t feel good. But I tell myself that if I finish this play and people see it, it could help spread awareness that there are male victims of domestic abuse too . . .
I’m not planning on doing a day-by-day account of this process like I did when I was writing The Adventures of Huckleberry Hostel, and I probably won’t even share much of the research I find because it’s upsetting, but here is one of the least disturbing items I found tonight.