Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Long Goodbye

It's beginning to feel like 2009 will never leave. I remember well how I welcomed him twelve months ago as a new guest I hoped would be fruitful and generous; but, truth be told, he's been sacked out on my sofa for far too long, belching and farting in those dirty boxers, unshaven, and bleary-eyed.

2009 was an ungrateful year.

In March, I managed to stage (what was perceived to be by some, at least, to be) one of my best theatrical productions, The Glass Menagerie. During the rehearsals, our producer, Donnie Jay, grew ill, and I was left to mount the play alone. It was shortly after we had closed our run that he passed away. With him ended "To Do Productions", the little company that could - and did - achieve some fine caliber work against imposing odds.

I found myself theatrically homeless.

In August, one of my critical champions, Al Shea, left us, as well. Back in the olden days when I was acting around town now and then, Al had once named me his choice as best actor of the year (I don't remember which year now) for my portrayal of the father in a production of Nuts. When I returned to the local theatre scene in 2006, he had no idea who I'd once been, but he welcomed me with open arms as an exciting new director in town. His enthusiasm and appreciation for what I was tying to do never failed, and he kept me going when others' words would have sent me into hiding.

But with his death and Donnie Jay's, that's where I went - into hiding, offstage, as it were.

Oh, I had my cameras, and I put them to use. I began to take photos on a daily basis. I carried my Nikon Coolpix with me everywhere I went, and by late November/early December, I had begun to make some interesting pictures.

So my spirit didn't starve. It was lonely at first, working alone, not surrounded by other artists working together to build a play, but it was healing and soon exhilarating.

I'm grateful, too, that the friends I had made in this tiny hothouse theatre world of New Orleans didn't walk away from me. They gave me room to deal with my grief, but they were never far away, often popping in and piping up to ask what projects I might have in mind.

Against my better judgment I even agreed to act again, although that decision remains problematical in reality and controversial in my own mind. But, damn it, I got up and did it. No matter what compelling force of resistance I might have felt on a daily basis to doing this thing, I took my place up on that stage, and I was there each night.

Soon after that, I accepted an invitation to direct my friend Karen Shields (my "Great American Writer" in an earlier production of Gertrude Stein and a Companion) in a one-woman piece, The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman by Carolyn Gage, a witty and moving play about the life of the towering nineteenth-century American tragedienne. We're in rehearsals now, and I'm enjoying this assignment immensely.

As for the order in my own house, that has stabilized this year. The Bobble has been gaining strength each week and every month. We even caught the bladder cancer (oh, that terrible word) early on, and he remains disease-free to this day. Old, creaky, crabby, and cranky, to be sure, but healthy enough to drive one mad.

So goodbye, Double-Ought 9. Don't think it hasn't been swell. Whatever I find that you've left behind, I'll leave on the curb for you to pick up when you can. But go. So long.

And, 2010 ... ?

I'll listen for the buzzer when you ring that doorbell. I'll answer it, too. But, let's get one thing straight: if you intend to hang around here for the next twelve months, you're going to have to pull your own weight and earn your keep. You got that?



  1. Big,

    Hey, I hate to be the next door Pollyanna (she can be a bore, can't she?), but it seems 2009 took very precious things, but gave you some seeds in return - rehearsals, Nikon and sensitive friend's support, among other unsuspecting things.

    Your daily walks with your camera show us a partial view of your beautiful soul and for that I am grateful!

    Anyway, I also have some lousy stuff 2009 gave to me during its long 12 months. I will collect them right now to leave them in the curb... thanks for the idea!

  2. Oh, I agree with you, Claudia. Loss leads to growth, wounds leave to a tougher hide.

  3. I loved this summary. Feelings will be rumbling around inside me, things I'm not able to put words to, and then I come here and you set them free.

    You had a tough year. I hope 2010 is a little more gentle with you.

    Watashi no tomodachi, akemashite omedetou gozaimasu. Happy new year, my friend.

  4. Looking back over 2009 and then remembering 2008, I have to be magnanimous and admit that the latter was better in some ways - or at least, less ... so - than the former. You are always so kind and generous to me.

    As for that crack, "Watashi no tomodachi, akemashite omedetou gozaimasu," well, same to you, sister.

  5. So glad to have found you, your writing & photography this year. Here's to a wonderful 2010! :-)

  6. Dear Lil, Ah'll drink to that! Happy New year!


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