Driveshaft: A one-act comedy in a time capsule

You should know that I tend to abandon my past with the casualness of a snake shedding its skin. I’m not proud of this. (Maybe snakes aren’t thrilled about the shedding thing either.)

I remember vividly, and wincingly, the night my first wife — probably during an anniversary celebration early in our 23-year marriage — reverently pulled out a shoebox brimming with the multi-page letters I had sent her. For a couple of years we had a long distance courtship over snail-mail. And because she, like me, fancied herself a comedy writer, she would thrust, in her letters, and I would parry. I would do my best to match her sparkling urbanity and Martini-dry wit. Because it was fun. And yes, to win her love.

Who am I kidding? To get laid. And this primal motive will factor into what I’m about to share with you. But first, the tragic news you’ve already surmised …

Effervescent and deeply sublime as her letters were (and believe me, they were!), I saved none of them. Not a scrap. Not a scintilla. Wait, not even one witty Christmas card? No, sorry. What about less witty but holiday-appropriate Valentine’s Day cards, scented with the perfume of future eros? Nope. Nary a heart-shaped outline.

I had no concept of mementoes. I still don’t.

Your Honor, I confess this humiliation with one defense: I am nothing if not an equal-opportunity discarder. Not just the flotsam and jetsam of past loves. Hell no. I have maybe a dozen photos total of my youth and extended family. It’s seriously a pathology. If Marie Kondo were to look at the totality of my sentimental totems, she would sit me down grimly and ask, “Does nothing spark joy for you?!?”

Possibly no. But I’ll tell you the plus side of this autobiographical slovenliness.

A few weeks ago one of my roommates from college, who I have not seen literally since that distant era, found me on Instagram and asked me a question about a piece of writing I produced literally 45 years ago. I could barely remember its title, let alone contents.

Let that sink in. Someone else saved a copy of what is a one-act comedy I wrote in (I’m guessing) 1978 that I had totally forgotten existed. It was surely the only copy anywhere.

My mind reeled.

My long forgotten (but truly wonderful) old friend asked if I would give him permission to share the play, Driveshaft, with his son, a professional Hollywood writer.

My stomach clenched.

L.P. Hartley wrote, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” The question leapt to mind: What in the hell did the Jeff of 1978 do?!?! I asked my long-lost friend to send me a copy. He did today.

You can judge for yourself what Jeff did. This is the scan he sent me.

In reading it I got my answer: The me from back then was a very young man. A horny one. But also one who had studied comedy enough to pull off the first draft of an at times quite funny one act play. I actually kind of like this guy. And please understand: I don’t very much like me today.

Check out the PDF I linked to. Yes, it’s typed. That’s what 1978 was like.

And, let’s see. What else do you need to know as someone not from the country called the distant past? “F.M.” stands for Fleetwood Mac, and was abbreviated because it was common knowledge. Every household, it seemed, had a copy of Rumours. On vinyl. And yes, corduroy sofas were a thing, but unlike that still-exhalant album, even then those things were a punch line. As were polyester disco clothes. And league bowling. But not disco! That was still cool. It wasn’t until Disco Sucks became a mantra in 1980 that the world would turn away from the genre (and recently return … Thank you Dua Lipa. … Call me!).

I used to say on my blogs that with comments off, you could always find me on social media. But today popular social media is a dumpster fire. The best way if you’d like to share your thoughts with me is to use a medium that would not emerge for 20 years after this piece was written. Email me. Send your thoughts to ID jlarche on the platform Gmail.