Sunday, January 27, 2013

Willpower

I believe we can accomplish much by acts of will.

This is self-evident in the case of those who achieve public renown for acts of heroism, great art, or large buildings. It is also true in the smaller things of life.

As a person who has been called a pessimist or, by certain members of the medical profession, a depressive, I have come to believe that I can sometimes counter my tendencies toward a downward spiral by focusing on things outside myself.

Much as I believe that our eyes are meant for looking out at the world instead of “into the glass” at our own reflections, I have come to believe that by turning away from our baser proclivities, we can do what the world considers to be “the right thing.”

For instance, if I want to be happy, I can will myself to do a good thing for someone who has a need I can fulfill. I can speak kindly to someone who is unhappy. I can listen to someone who needs to unburden himself of a private misery. I can help an old lady cross the street. I can choose to do good. It is a choice, an act of will.

Conversely, I can decide to do ill, to wound someone, to ridicule another as a loser, to push an old lady in front of a bus.

We see this everyday. We live in a world of pain-givers, people who take a fiendish delight in hurting others. I do not want to live in a world like that.

In my maturity, I have come to admire and revere that simple phrase embroidered on our pillow cushions, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

And in that spirit, I would like to tell you that I went to a play this evening...

Good night.


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Episode of the Madeleine

Last night there was a man out who reminded me of Harold Prince. I caught him looking at me, and he smiled.

And with that smile, a rush of memories washed over me of a long-ago summer when I visited New York.

I remembered a certain Sunday when I passed by the real Harold Prince as I was walking down the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He was leading, I assume, his children into the museum. As I came near to him, he looked at me. His eyes locked on mine, and he looked at me in much the same way as I was looking at him. But, of course, he was an important person. I was not.

During that summer, after a performance of The Misanthrope with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Alec McCowen and Diana Rigg looked at me (he was very short; she was very tall; I was the baby bear).

Crossing the street one afternoon, Bobby Short looked at me and watched me until I turned a corner.

And one evening, in a restaurant near Lincoln Center, Jerome Robbins stopped his conversation abruptly to look at me as I passed by.

What was it that they saw in that person, these people who had seen the world? Why did they pause the forward movement of their lives for a moment to look at the nondescript young man walking away?

Who was he, that boy I cannot retrieve?

I wonder.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

On the Virtues of Mindlessness

I haven’t had a thought invade my head for days, and I’m not so sure I mind.

Pretty much all I do is wake and sleep, watch a little mindless television while I’m awake, which helps to put me back into my own unthinking state of dusky hibernation. It’s not unpleasant.

My imagination is customarily far too active and enthusiastic. It’s a nice change to put it aside and turn down the volume on its alerts and alarms.

Of course, the real reason for this retreat has to do with the upcoming resumption of my theatre work (can I call what I do “theatre work”?). I’m having trouble gathering a cast for Battle of Angels, and I’m not so sure if this thing is going to be “a go.”

So, since I cannot run away geographically, I mentally bolt back to my empty dark cave. It is there in that airless duskiness where potential solutions to my questions flit into view and offer me solace. You see, I believe I can do this show with the people I’ve got and a twist of imagination on all our parts.

But will an audience grasp what we are doing?

Should I care so much?

Or should I concentrate on the “vision thing” and let the outcome speak for itself?

That’s a rhetorical question.

The consumer I have always wooed is in my empty head.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ave atque Vale

When I first sneaked into New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and made my way back to the apartment in the Quarter, the first person I saw was Chester Breaux, walking up Decatur Street with that genteel-hobo stroll of his and trundling a suitcase on wheels behind him.

My first thought was, I’m ashamed to say, please, sweet Jesus, don’t let him ask me if he can crash with us.

I should have known better. Chester had any number of places he could stay. He had been working at a hotel on Frenchmen Street, and that was where he had ridden out the storm. There was no more food or water left there, so he was making his way back to his own place which was nearer to Johnny White’s where there was food and water and other assorted beverages, the kind to make one want to sing.

But now the song is done.

Never again will we hear him take his leave with the explanation that he had to check the “bear traps” he’d left scattered around the Quarter.

No one is left to “scratch his cat.”

And he will never rebuke us again saying, “You don’t wanna go dere,” or “Let’s take it outside.”

His nom de carre may have been Chester the Molester, but his molestations were of the ticklish kind that lifted you into a jolly mood and left you there long after he had slipped away.

Chester had the gift of love.

I raise a last glass and offer a final salute to my friend: Hoo-ee!


Monday, January 7, 2013

Paving Paradise

I woke up this morning to find out that just about everybody in the country had tuned in to PBS last night to catch the beginning of the third season of Downton Abbey. It was a topic of discussion on the Today Show and CNN and Good Morning and Wake Up, America. Never mind this guy Hagel or Hillary Clinton and her bo-bo, everybody wanted to talk about British class distinctions and who got to savor the best zingers, Dame Maggie or our own good-time gal Shirley.

Time was, Bobby and I were the only two people either one of us knew who were watching this show. Nobody else could be bothered. Hell, nobody else seemed to know it was on. We had it all to ourselves, a tiny park of wit and civility surrounded by acres and acres of ka-pow action shows, over-miked sitcoms, and whatever else sells deodorants and laxatives these days.

Now, they’ve gone and paved our little paradise and put up a parking lot. And as you very well know, if you build it—a parking lot, I mean—they will come. And come and come and come. Even if there isn’t enough room for all the cars.

It might be time for me to stop watching.

This has happened to me before. Some years ago, HBO came out with that show about life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I watched that one, and I was enjoying it, too, until I started seeing how some of my friends and neighbors were getting real proprietary over it, like it was their story, like it was all about them and what they had gone through. It didn’t help if you tried to point out that they weren’t black or that they didn’t know which end to blow on a horn or that they had only just moved here from Massachusetts seven months after the flood waters had receded. That was their life, man, up there on that screen, with all of its heartaches and passing joys and more heartaches and disenfranchisements and callous beatings from the man! Damn.

Weird.

Lot of power in that TV. Somebody ought to try to channel it for good.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Just Another Day in Paradise

Well, nearly everybody on Facebook seems to be bidding an eager farewell to 2012. (Facebook is my social life lately. Yeah, I know.) As for me, I don’t recall 2012 being such a bad year, even if my short-term memory isn’t what it used to be.

I don’t remember taking any tumbles, whereas I took a few in 2011. I hurt my right arm painting doors in the apartment, but that’s easing up now. Who knows, I may be lifting weights by the spring, getting myself all hot for the summer. Then again, probably not. Lifting weights implies getting up off my butt, and sitting on my butt is my natural state.

As you can probably surmise, I’m not one to make resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise. I just go with the flow.

Besides, what’s the big deal about a new year or New Year’s Day as a holiday? Our advertisers don’t tell us to go out and buy anything. It’s not a time to gather with family. What’s up with that?

No, it’s just a time when everybody hits the streets to surround themselves with strangers and get soused enough to not remember the next day if that was a cherry bomb they popped or a Glock. We already have Mardi Gras. This is like practice.

Just another day.


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