Riding That Train
Writers write, preaches teacher Larry Donner (portrayed by comedian Billy Crystal) in Throw Momma From the Train. Most of us do, in one way or another. I set aside every Tuesday and Wednesday to hammer out blog posts, though if I felt inspired on a Sunday, Monday or Thursday, I certainly follow that muse. It turns out for Larry, however, that he is struck with writer’s block, blamed on his ex-wife who becomes a best-selling author by revealing issues that plagued their marriage. This blow to his ego is understandably crippling, but he can’t seem to pull free from the paralysis of cynicism and self pity. Not until he reclaims his passion for living does he discover a renewed vigor, spurred on by his mischievous student Owen (played by Danny de Vito).
Though annoyed throughout the film by it, Larry desperately needs Owen’s zany Trickster energy to spark his creative buzz, though it certainly takes awhile for him to recognize this. He hobbles along as though mortally wounded, offering half-hearted advice to his students and clearly suffering the daily grind of living. Even when he allots time each day for inspiration, the fact eludes him that he is sacrificing not only his pride, but spontaneity and gusto for life, itself. His raison d-etre for so long has been demonizing his ex, and it’s sapping all his vital energy. Owen provides a catalyst to snap Larry out of it by hatching a plot to kill his own mother (played brilliantly by the character actor Anne Ramsey) for her venomous son-bashing. Owen’s idea is after all serious, making it more diabolical than Larry’s ongoing fantasy of killing his ex-wife. Intrigued, Larry agrees to Owen’s harebrained scheme to swap murders, Owen killing Larry’s ex and Larry killing Owen’s momma. (Owen hatches this idea by watching and re-watching an old Hitchcock classic.)
What unravels is the stuff of a well-woven humorous plot, and this unlikely friendship establishes the fertile ground in which Larry finds himself thriving – reenergized, reinvigorated and, finally, writing, once again. Like his former wife, Larry winds up succeeding after writing about felt experience – his convoluted journey with Owen. And the surprise is that Owen, in his own inimitable fashion, reaps a fortune by writing a children’s book about the same adventures from a wholly unique perspective!
Every week I wonder if I have two more posts inside of me. And then I get out on my bike and, working up a sweat, survey ideas and concepts as they shape, snap and sizzle in my mind. My eyes drink in nature and fellow creatures and a virtual lifetime of experience and pondering percolates up and into my frontal lobe where I am able to begin crafting these observations into story lines. If I don’t allow fear or negativity to creep into that creative space, I am ever rewarded with a plethora of viewpoints from which to glean offerings.
Factual as well as fantastical creativity feeds from the stuff of which life is made. Unlike Larry, I have never experienced blockages to doing what I love – only that which I deem distasteful brings about that kind of resistance. Feeling stifled is a terrible thing. I often ponder the meaning of words, and inspiration is one of them: to breathe is to inspire. Maybe that’s why I find physical movement helpful in dislodging nuggets from my sluggish brain. That and the knowledge that we can never really run out of ideas. Repeating themes run like veins throughout history. Yet nobody can convey a story quite like you or me. It’s our voice that is unique in the telling.