The Mark Hastings Experience – Episode #10: “The Wolf In You”

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My Poem “Tony Soprano”

There has never been a TV show since,
and there may never be a TV show
again,
like the hit show ‘The Sopranos’ –
and there will never be another
character like Tony Soprano:
the Mob Boss of North New Jersey,
who in my opinion was the first
anti-hero on TV who was so complex,
so intriguing, and so compelling
that nobody who watched him
could help themselves from
rooting for him, no matter what
he did and no matter what he said.

Tony Soprano woke up every morning,
he walked down his driveway
to retrieve his copy of the daily newspaper,
and then after that there was
no telling what he was going to next;
but one thing was always clear:
whatever Tony did he did for his family –
both his blood family
as well as for his crime family,
and everything that he did
was all to keep the Soprano family
and the thing of theirs
that was their life going
by any means necessary.

In my opinion, no one could have
played Tony Soprano
like James Gandolfini did –
because Tony Soprano was
someone who was smart;
Tony Soprano was someone
who internalised and wrestled
with a lot of psychological trauma
because of his mother, Livia,
and because his father Johnny Soprano
had been a gangster before Tony
was even born
there was no question that he would also
become a member of the family business;
but Tony Soprano was not like
everybody else in his family:
he suffered panic attacks –
and because he loved his family
so much he sought out the help
of a therapist, Dr. Jennifer Melfi,
in order to be a more effective
father and boss to those who followed his lead.

You don’t get to meet too many characters like Tony Soprano,
nor from episode to episode
watch someone like him
do what only someone like him
could do…
you don’t get to see acting of the
calibre that James Gandolfini had that often –
and it is clear as day that he put
every ounce of his talent into
making Tony the engaging, the profound,
and the powerhouse of a character that he was;
which is why viewers did not
want to see what they ultimately saw
at the end,
when the screen suddenly went to black –
because nobody knew that only moments before
they had just taken one last look
at one of the greatest characters
in television history:
the one and the only Tony Soprano.

My Poem “Hello Friend!”

It’s always great
making new friends…
when we watch certain characters
on television or in films
we often quickly become drawn
to a particular protagonist
that we, for one reason
or another, can identify with.

It’s always good to explore
new things – films, music,
books, places, stories –
and it is always fascinating
to witness how a particular
journey can change a person
in so many different ways.

Whenever we all watch
certain characters in movies,
or on television,
and we see them having to overcome
all obstacles that they have to contend with,
and face all the adversaries
that they have to face,
while walking the path that is their fate,
it can be such a thrilling
and an exhilarating experience
that certain people often choose
to return to those same stories,
and to those same characters,
time and time again.

When we become engrossed
in a particular story,
and when we become invested
in a particular cast of characters,
we never want what we and they
have been through to come to an end;
however, most audience members know
that endings are just as fundamental
to a story as beginnings,
and as long as when a story
comes to a close it is satisfying –
and it is revealed that everything
that happened was all for something –
then, in some way, people can cope
with the ultimate moment
of finality without regret.

When we have to say goodbye to someone –
even if it is only a well-loved character
who we see performing on a flat-screen –
even the most detached of watchers
can become so connected
to whom they have been watching,
especially if the storyline
that is coming to a conclusion
has been a compelling
and riveting one to behold;
and that is why, when
some people reach the end of a story,
they automatically go back
to the very beginning of
the same story that they have been
watching, reading, or perhaps
listening to, for so long,
and they start the journey all over again
in an attempt to recapture the magic somehow,
by greeting the same characters
that they are already greatly familiar with,
with a smile, and with a warm:
“Hello friend!”

My Poem “Outlaws”

When I was a kid
I was always fascinated by
legendary heroes and characters
such as Dick Turpin, Robin Hood,
Sinbad, Zorro, and many other
renowned outlaws of their
respected times and societies,
who rebelled against what
they saw as a dictatorial
state of being that people
were being forced to live in,
who decided to rob from the rich,
deliver to the poor, and fight
for the right of the innocent
to live free and happy
and content in the knowledge
that there was someone
looking out for their interests
and watching over them.

Heroes of conscience
who live every day of their life
fueled by the hope that they can
make a difference and right
the wrongs of tyranny
have been featured in so many
of the tales that humanity
has been telling itself for centuries,
and even in our modern age
those same characters still
embody and have associated with them
a symbolism and an enduring example
of just how powerful the human spirit
can be when it finds itself facing off against injustice.

There will always be injustice in this world
and there will always be a place
in the stories that we all tell ourselves
for extraordinary individuals
who have the courage of their convictions
to put the needs of the many
before the needs of the few
and commit to enacting
their own form of rebellion
by staying true to a code of behaviour that in their eyes of the oppressor
might be considered
the actions of an outlaw.

My Poem “Run Jesse, run!”

It is the hallmark of a great film,
a great television show,
a great play, a great writer,
a great cast, a great production staff,
a great actor portraying
a great and complex protagonist,
who by the great gift of their craft
is able to make us –
the viewer, the audience –
care for them, accept them,
and become emotional invested and involved
in the story and in the journey
of the characters that we follow
from the second that we first see them
all the way to the last moments
of the last chapter and finale
that will ultimately – hopefully –
deliver a satisfying conclusion
that makes the journey that you
have taken with these familiar
characters worth all the time,
all the energy, and all the thought
that you committed to them
over the hours, the days,
the months, perhaps even the years
that it has taken to reach the end credits.

It can sometimes be hard to find
an ending that ticks all the boxes,
that answers all the questions,
that wraps up all the dangling threads
that remain to be addressed
and given a reason for why
they were not connected to the
greater narrative that underpins
everything that is a part
of the ultimate story being told…
in any given story it is always
out of the hands of the writer
and the author which part of an ongoing
story people will respond to and why –
sometimes it is the simplest
and the smallest of plot points
that resonate the most
and which over time become
what people remember the most,
as if what they saw shined like gold.

It is always a test for an audience
when an author creates
a character and they put them
through things that push them to their limits
and they change them in ways
that are hard to watch,
and it can sometimes be hard for people
to continue to empathize with
a certain character when they
start to behave in morally
questionable ways of being…
quite frequently, in some of the best
stories ever told, an audience gets
to watch the evolution of
a protagonist into an antagonist,
the hunter into the hunted,
the wronged into the redeemed –
and vice versa –
and the once imprisoned against
their will make their getaway
and run for the hills and away
from all that they are leaving behind –
like the character of Jesse Pinkman
driving like a bat out of hell
in his black and red ‘El Camino’
away from his past and towards
a future that not even he knows.

“The average person looking at someone doing evil or wrong wants the person to get away with it. I think it’s the most amazing instinct. The audience can’t bear the suspense of the person being discovered. “Hurry up! Quick! You’re going to be caught!” – Alfred Hitchcock

My Poem “Walter White (A Breaking Bad poem)”

What would a man do for his family?
What would a man do in order
to secure a future for his family
after he passed on –
perhaps even after this same man
had to witness the crystal empire
that he had built crumble
into shards of glass and then into dust –
like King Ozymandias –
after which having to live
with the consequences
of the actions that he took
to bolster and to reaffirm
his damaged ego?
What would a man do to feel alive again
after being given a short time to live?
How would the power to be someone else
change someone, and who or what
might they become?
What if someone were to become a cook
of a dangerous product
capable of destroying the lives
of those that imbibe in
what this maestro of chemistry
cooked better than anybody –
who slowly went from being someone
whiter than white, law-abiding,
and a model father and teacher,
to a black hat wearing,
gun-wielding, criminal
called “Heisenberg” who
pulled the wool over the eyes
of his family for over a year,
who broke bad with a former student of his,
called Jesse Pinkham –
in the City of Albuquerque,
in “The Land of Enchantment”
that is the State of New Mexico –
and who in the end lost everything that
he had ever worked for
and sacrificed so much for,
and that is the story of the main protagonist
of one of my favourite TV shows,
‘Breaking Bad’, and the legacy
that it has left since its final episode
“Felina” aired continues
to draw many new people
to seek out, to watch, to enjoy, to live,
and to endure the highs and the lows
that were played out from beginning
to end by the character and “cook”
Walter White and the blue crystal
that was his signature dish.

My Poem “The Wolf Within Me”

It was about three years ago,
around this exact same day
and month of the year,
when I decided to write a poem
for Halloween called “The Wolf In Me”;
however, to my amazement, what was
supposed to be a poem slowly but surely
grew into becoming a short story,
a novella, and then ultimately
a short novel capable of standing
on its own and filling an entire book –
and this story was the first chapter
in the tale of Olivia Hunter:
a young woman burdened with a curse,
a secret, a gift, a spirit within her
capable of transforming her into a Wolf,
because the secret that she lived with,
alone, was that she was a werewolf.

When I first began writing “The Wolf In Me”
I had no idea that it would ultimately be what it became…
when I first began Olivia Hunter‘s journey
with her I was just as in the dark about
where her story would take her,
because there was no plan as to the direction
of every twist and turn…
when I first began writing, imagining,
and bringing to life the world,
the characters, and the story of
“The Wolf In Me” I felt myself
be carried away and compelled
to write more, to know more,
and to find out more about
what was going to happen
and where Olivia’s story felt like
it was telling me – the writer – to take it…
when I first began writing “The Wolf In Me”
I began to feel more and more –
the more that I wrote –
that I could be a writer
who explored and exposed different worlds
and different depths of life, of people,
and fully investigate subjects like
identity, change, life, loss,
and those things that are important
to everybody’s daily lives
and their state of mind.

Since I finished writing “The Wolf In Me”
I have written many other things –
short stories, poems – and I even wrote
and published a sequel to “The Wolf In Me”
called “The Wolf In You”;
however, for some reason, from time to time,
in my mind I am drawn back to the thought
of the character whom I imagined,
thought about, lived, breathed,
and wrote about, every day until
I had to say goodbye to her
and let her story speak for itself –
and I silently wonder how she is,
where she is, what she is doing,
and if one day Olivia Hunter may choose
to inspire another story about her
that speaks to the spirit of The Wolf
who I believe resides within me.

My books “The Wolf In Me” and “The Wolf In You”,
as well as all my other books of poetry and stories
are available to buy online from Amazon,
Barnes & Noble, and The Book Depository
in Paperback and as an eBook.

Happy National Storyteller Day!