Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Bus.

I love my bus ride. All kinds of little interesting things happen every day, and some of them over time have started to congeal into bigger stories or something like that.

Something about prison, I can't figure it out yet, but at least 5 or 6 times guys, all of them gentle and sweet in some way, have mentioned being in prison or asked me if I've been in prison.

There is a dialysis clinic on the route, a one-story block building on a gray stretch of Manor Road. I assume it's for Medicaid patients. The people who get on and off the bus there, it's usually older men I notice, grey-faced, thin, holding bandages to their arms -- can you imagine being in dialysis all day and then having to make your way home on the bus by yourself? I ponder my own old age. These are the kinds of health care facilities I will likely be using.

Yesterday a young woman got on the bus with a little red-headed boy, maybe 4, and a baby. She gamely folded up the stroller and carried it along with the baby in one arm while she held the boy's hand and lurched onto the bus and into the seat next to me. She got on at one of the campus stops, and she had the look of an academic or maybe an academic's wife, strawberry blond hair going gray, L.L. Bean jumper dress. The boy had a bit of a black eye, and I started projecting all kinds of stories into his mother's head about how the kid had maybe fallen and smacked his eye on the coffee table but now every time she was out in public with him she was self-conscious and sure that people were wondering whether she was hitting the kid.

When this little family was getting off the bus, the boy stood up first and then the woman pushed herself up out of her seat. She shifted her weight to hitch the baby up onto her hip and her purse higher on her shoulder. The big wooden handle of the purse swung around and popped the boy in the head. He said, "Ow!" but otherwise didn't react, didn't start crying or anything, just followed her off the bus. It was very funny, the sort of 1 2 3 choreography of a Three Stooges bit, and I laughed. It made the woman laugh too. She blurted out, "I'm so sorry honey! I really smacked you, didn't I?" but she was as amused as I was.

Friday, April 24, 2009


One of the keys to my state of relative happiness or at least contentment in the last several years is that I gave up my lifelong dream of becoming famous. Yes, that's an oversimplification, but it's pretty much true. I didn't just realize that; it's been a mostly conscious process. Well, I guess I should say that it was conscious once it started, but it was instigated by events I had no, or little, control over. Which is to say, failure.

There's some kind of equation I'm sure to calculate the tipping point, where that dream stops being a sustaining, energizing force in one's life and turns into more of a frantic, unreasonable need. I reached that point around the age of 40. And, though it sounds very sad when I state it like this and yes it is very sad in some meaningful way, it's a paradoxical sadness because I have been happier by far in the last eight years than I was before that. Not that I didn't have some incredible highs, but they were, in hindsight, too costly.

But ... I've been thinking recently about my feelings regarding this revival of Lizzie Borden and realizing, to my consternation, that I have not completely let go of that dream of fame. In fact, I must be honest and admit that a great part of my excitement about this new production is that it means, for me, that there is still a chance for a big hit. Of course, I'm also just thrilled to have a chance to do the work. There's always that, and I don't mean to minimize how important that is to me. It's huge, and, in any practical sense, it's really all. I feel lucky beyond measure that I've had the chance to do good work in my life. But there's still that itching need for recognition.

(Maybe that need is never satisfied. After all, I did have a certain level of reknown with Y'all, and with Life in a Box, and even, looking back, with all the downtown theater I did in New York in the eighties and nineties.)

When I think about it, when I'm honest with myself, that little bit of surviving dream is also key to my contentment. So, giving it up and holding on to it are both necessary. There's a puzzler.