Saturday, December 31, 2011

Auld Lang Syne

Tonight, at the stroke of midnight, Bobby and I, both safe and warm at home, will raise a toast to one another and to life, to the birth of a new year with its unique possibilities, and to the passing of an old one.

2011 was, for me, a year of letting go, a time of shaking burdens off stooped shoulders and continuing the long walk down my own road with a lighter heart.

Clearing the clutter uncovers the simple solaces that life has left for us to find hidden behind the messes.

So tonight, as I clink my glass against the one in Bobby's hand, I will whisper with a smile, "Goodbye ... Hello."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Final Farewell

Ted Mahne, writing for the Times-Picayune, had kind words for my production of Hugging the Shoulder:
The brooding road trip of playwright Jerrod Bogard’s “Hugging the Shoulder” stayed with me for days, due largely to sublimely dark performances of Joe Seibert, Eli Grove and Liz Mills. The audience may have wanted to run away from watching a loved one slip into the spiral of addiction, but under Glenn Meche’s direction, none could turn away.
His kind words are are a sweet coda to a closed chapter.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Looking Back

Tis the season of recollection. As the year that only yesterday seemed so young and hardy hobbles away on wobbly knees, one finds oneself in a reflective mood, longing to look back over the recent past and take stock, weigh the good and the bad, and organize one of those lists everybody seems to make this time of year. Although it may mean nothing more to a hack writer than a means to meet a deadline, I have spent days (days, I tell you!) assiduously searching for a few stories that recap some of the highlights of my 2011. Herewith they be, in no particular order other than by month and date, the best (?) of a pretty good year:
  1. January 29
  2. February 28
  3. March 5
  4. April 7
  5. May 18
  6. June 2
  7. July 18
  8. August 25
  9. September 14
  10. October 4
  11. November 14
  12. December 14
Thanks for stopping by. Do come again.

And happy holidays!

    Monday, December 19, 2011

    Flashes

    I was sitting on the edge of the bed this morning when I first noticed it. I was getting dressed, taking my time, and I noticed it. A flash of light. That was it, a sudden flash of light as my hand passed under a nearby lamp.

    I paused in my dressing and studied the back of my right hand, but my aging eyes couldn't make out anything that should have sparkled in such a way as I had just seen.

    I went back to pulling on my socks. Suddenly, I caught sight of it again. I stopped and passed my hand back and forth beneath the lamp, and then I saw it. There it was, that flash of light, a single white hair on the back of my hand.

    It wasn't long. It wasn't thick. Yet it had seemed to me to flash like a slew of silver sequins under brilliant stage lights.

    I'll mention this to you in private (it isn't the kind of gossip I'd normally drop out on the streets), but this little white hair isn't my first. No, not at all.

    Through the years, I've handled all the others pretty efficiently and ruthlessly; a sharp yank of the tweezers for the one or two or a slathering of goopy hair-coloring gel (the kind they make for men) for the swath of white across my beard.

    This one, though, is different. Or I am different now. For one thing, I can't quite seem to find it on the surface of my hand in order to grip it between my tiny tongs. For another, who cares? I'm just going to leave it where it lies, a single white curl on the back of my right hand, waiting patiently to be joined by a party of its white-haired friends.

    Until the day that happens, every now and then, I'll pass my hand before me in the light and try to catch another glimpse of that startling flash of light that brings to mind the memory of a shard of summer lightning or a falling star or a firefly flittering through the dark.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2011

    The Relativity of Time

    This is a picture of me sitting in Dr. Elisabeth Rareshide's examining room this past Monday morning, looking - and feeling - a little ghostly. Outside, there is a heavy fog, swallowing the Superdome in the distance and the tall buildings around it.

    This shot is pretty different from an earlier image I'd snapped on November 25th. Back then, I was feeling optimistic; and the 25th was a clear, crisp winter day, glowing in sunlight. It was the day she spoke encouragingly to me about my condition, while cautioning me that I was not yet out of the woods.

    A week later, on Monday, December 5th, she saw me again. She would conclude this visit with the biopsy I had hoped she would have decided I didn't need to have done.

    It was then my sense of time slowed down.

    I've put aside most of the memories of what I felt or experienced between that day and the return visit when I would receive the results of my biopsy, but I have held on tight to some of the realizations that descended on me during those days.

    The first thing I realized was something that surprised me. I discovered I was not as scared of dying as I thought I might have been. I figured, if there is a God, He would love me beyond my capacity to comprehend or deserve it, so there was no need to be afraid; and I reasoned, if there is no God, then there will only be a last, deep, dreamless sleep. Above all, there was the clarity that death is universal and comes to all life. Though birth might be seen as a matter of happenstance, death is inevitable.

    On the other hand, I also regarded the possibility of my passing as the cruelest joke the cosmos could have played. Who would there be to look after Bob? Yes, he can be aggravating. Yes, there have been times when, for example, I might find myself following him on one of his courtyard-decorating excursions with a hammer in my hand, and I would think, It would be so easy ...

    But isn't that what long-term love is all about?

    I came to see my life in toto as a wasted thing, a series of missed opportunities, bad choices, unkind acts, unbearable losses. I'd like to believe this feeling is just one of those tricks the mind plays to prepare us for the eventuality of death, as if to say, "What's the point? There's nothing to be missed. Get on with it. Go."

    I began to see the pictures I make as common, bland, with no beauty or meaning to anyone but me. The plays I had directed appeared just as colorless, dissipating in the fading memories of the very few people who had ever seen them, like the great buildings outside the window, vanishing into the fog. Everything I'd made appeared as insignificant and paltry as the person who had made them.

    Nevertheless, I could still recall moments of inexpressible joy when it seemed as if something inside of me held stars in its hands.

    I may have done nothing to change the world for the better, but how many people have?

    I was no better, and perhaps not much worse, than anyone else.

    Then it was Monday and time for my return.

    This was the first visit when the doctor seemed to be busy. I wasn't called out of the waiting room as punctually as before. Once in the examining room, I had to wait a longer time for the doctor to appear.

    I sat there alone, looking out over a fog-heavy landscape. It was noontime, but the haze had not cleared. It hung there like a reminder of uncertainty. I prayed a few prayers, asking only that I be able to handle the news with dignity.

    Eventually, she came into the room.

    Eventually, I heard her say what sounded like, "... not cancer."

    I didn't cry.

    When she was done with me, I left her office and stopped at a next-door Walgreen's to pick up some Christmas candy Bobby had asked me to buy.

    I felt unheavy, perhaps even happy; my sense of time righted itself; and the fog all around me, I felt I could lean on its shoulder like a friend.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Hi Yo, Silver!

    Sorry.

    Wrong horse.

    I finally had my follow-up appointment with the oral surgeon today (you remember her: petite, blond, with ice-cold blue eyes?) to get the results of my biopsy.

    The news was good.

    I do not have cancer.

    Say what?

    I do not have cancer.

    I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer. I do not have cancer.

    No, no, no, no, no!

    Can I get a witness?

    Amen!

    I do not have cancer.

    Sho' 'nuff?

    Sh' 'nuff!

    Yes. In the words of the immortal Irene Cara, "I'm gonna life forever ... !"

    Of course, I will have to consider giving up cigarettes.

    But, looking on the bright side, giving up smoking will restore my singing voice.

    I always had a lovely singing voice.

    Very expressive, my singing voice.

    I may not have ever sung accurately - any one can sing accurately - but I sang with wonderful expression. As far as the voice is concerned, sentiment is my forte.

    Hell, I may even win a spot in a Le Petite Theatre chorus. Should Le Petite ever reopen. And ever accumulate enough funds to pay the royalties for a musical.

    But then there's always karaoke!

    Ole!

    Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Notes toward a First Draft

    Coco Robicheaux's passing made me think some jumbled thoughts.

    Unlike so many people, I never knew him. I used to stumble over him sitting at an outside table at Cafe Envie now and then when I was walking around the corner for one reason or another. I say I never knew him. Not being a New Orleanian, I never really even knew who he was. (Sorry about that, but I'm a man unaware.)

    He struck me as a kind-faced, bright-eyed character. Another Quarter rat.

    I almost met him once. He was sitting with someone I knew, with whom I had stopped to speak. He seemed eager to join the conversation, but the person I was talking to didn't introduce us, and I went away.

    That person is the same one my friend Mark Folse wrote about in his piece about the unfortunate memorial and second-line in Coco's honor earlier this week, the one who dropped Coco's guitar.

    * * *

    I've decided I don't want a memorial service when I die.

    Not that I can think of anyone who would want to throw me one.

    I've been to a few, and they invariably escalate into world-class, competitive-mourning competitions. "So-and-so loved me more than he did anyone else here tonight."

    I want a funeral, of course. I'd like to have "Simple Gifts" played. Maybe some show tunes. Something from Gypsy perhaps. No second-line for me, though. I had wanted one for my retirement party, but since I didn't get the party, the second-line was moot.

    Not getting a retirement party is like dying and having your body go unclaimed and dumped in a potter's field.

    * * *

    Somebody once said about actors that there were two kinds: the kind that loved themselves in the art and the kind who loved the art in themselves. That's true of all the arts, although the performing arts are top heavy with the former.

    Coco Robicheaux struck me as belonging to the latter class. He had an art, a spiritual thing, inside of him. He was humbled by it and obedient to it.

    It's like the difference between a dog person and a cat person. A dog will love you unconditionally, adore you no matter who you are or what you do. A cat will keep you in your place.

    * * *

    For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And sing the blues ...

    Monday, December 5, 2011

    I'm Still Here

    I suppose I've been uncharacteristically quiet this past week. I had been looking forward to a seven-day stretch of nothing much to do; but, of course, you know what happens when you make that kind of plan. In this case, it turned into Christmas-decorating time.

    Relax, I let Bobby live.

    It's all done. The courtyard is festooned with lights and bows, candy canes and reindeer; and inside the apartment, the stockings are hung by the entrainment center with care. The tree has pride of place in the window where it sparkles with flashing lights and dancing ornaments.

    And every bone in my body hurts.

    I had another one of my doctor's appointments this morning and got a big surprise: a biopsy. Did you know they hurt after the painkiller wears off?
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