Brushes With Spalding
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From Bradbury Kuett, Venasque, France : (Blog : PROVENCE VENTOUX: LE BLOG )
I have only had the chance to relate this short interlude with Spalding Gray to Gillian McCain, the poet, who used to organize New Year's Eve reading in which Spalding participated from time to time. I lived and worked in SOHO and I ran across and into Spalding on countless occasions in restaurants, bars, cultural events and films. The one that grips me is when I took a flight from LGA to Rochester. Boarding the plane, I saw Spalding sitting in the first class section reading a book dealing with death. I paused briefly at his seat with a nod of the head as I had sat across from Renee and him at Nick and Eddy's, a SOHO bar and restaurant awhile before that day. I thought nothing of this encounter until I read in his journals, and I believe that Kathleen related the same story at the Lincoln Center tribute, that this was the very day in January of 1990 on which he first met Kathleen in Rochester. I was a casual witness on an eventful day.
Spalding Gray remembered (pdf) by Gary Cipparone
- Excellent remembrance of times spent with Spalding in Portland,OR
New York Stories : Meeting Spalding Gray by Stephen Altobello
and Part2 (both are excellent,worth reading by this friend of this site)...
and Stephen's website
From the blog 'The Brow' by avb (may need to scroll) - interesting story and thoughts
From a fan who wishes to remain anonymous:
I ran into Spalding in a health food store in Chicago in 93. I asked if he was him, he said yes, appeared annoyed to be asked that, and I rang up his stuff silently and ignored him when he thanked me for his receipt [surly young hipster cashier type back then]. He came in again a few days later when I was at the juice bar, where he got in line again [he was performing at the Goodman Theater down the street?no other choices for health food stores around there then]. A bird flew in while he was there, and I had to corral it and get it back out again. He made eye contact with me after this and said [a bit melodramatically, I thought] “That means someone is going to die.” I didn’t respond, and that was it. I suppose he must have ordered something. A year or so later a friend of mine in Ann Arbor was working at a Borders, where he spotted Spalding in line. He told him my version of the story, and Spalding explained that it had been a reference to the bird that he had associated with his mother’s death, a story which appeared in one of the early monologues.
My wife and I were in Nashville to see the Rolling Stones. I had read the days local paper and saw where he was in town to preform and it caught my attention because my wife and I had seen a couple of his monolouges on PPV and really found them thought provoking and very funny. We still quote some of his lines at times, an ugly piece of funiture will bring a "Spald, I think its time for a yard sale" and very recently my sister had some mundane concern and I asked her if she was really worried about catching rabies from a well, she didnt think it was too funny but I was in on the joke.
The group we were with went into brew pub called Blackstones and he was sitting by himself at the bar drinking a beer and eating a sandwich. Our group was seated and I commented that Spaulding Gray was sitting at the bar, my wife knew what a big fan I am and encouraged me to speak to him. I told the group the man was just trying to have a quite moment, a beer and a sandwich and that he probably didnt want to be bothered. When I noticied he was done and getting ready to pay his bill I simply walked up and told him I really enjoyed his monolouges, he smiled and said thanks. I hope he had some sense of the respect I was trying show by just letting him drink his beer in peace.
- Chris Garland
My meeting with Spalding Gray was not a meeting at all. It was not at a book signing or at one of his performances. No words were exchanged by me or by him. Not even the nod of recognition that city dwellers would give one another when eye contact was met by accident. We simply passed each other on the street one dim late afternoon in San Francisco.
It was the early 90s I was 23 and working a temp job at a data storage warehouse where I would spend my morning listening to the radio. That morning Spalding Gray was being interviewed. I had to admit that I was (and still am) a fan. I had seen Swimming to Cambodia and Monster in a box and I was in awe of his ability to activate the listener’s imagination through words. I listened to the interview with keen interest as I plodded through my mind numbingly repetitive tasks and after it was over it left me thinking about what I was doing as a trained actor and writer, which was nothing. I had become trapped in that all too common desire to not live on the streets.
After work I was walking up Sutter towards my small, dark studio apartment when I spotted him walking towards me. I have no memory of what he was wearing. Well, I do have a memory of what he was wearing but I don’t trust it. Memories are elastic and can be influenced by a number of things. I remember him wearing a wool long coat and jeans but I fear that is probably not true. The core of the memory was not his clothes but his face.
He had been walking with his head down and then glanced up and looked directly at me. It was at that moment that I recognized him. My expression must have communicated to him that I had recognized him because almost immediately there was a look of surprised alarm on his face. Like in the movies when an escaped con is recognized on the street by some passerby who points and shouts “It’s him! The escaped prisoner!”
The exchange lasted less than a second but in that brief time we managed to communicate entirely without words. My surprise at finding someone whom I admire walking down my street and his look of “oh god. Not now. He wants to talk to me and all I wanted to do was get a bite to eat.” It was because of that look that I said nothing. It was that look that made me realize that Mr. Gray was just a person walking down the street. That maybe if I stopped and said “I am a big fan of your work.” That he would have to acknowledge me somehow when he was just not in the mood. It was because of that look that I glanced away as we passed one another. His reaction to me and my acceptance of it allowed us to walk past each other like two normal people…Of course I did glance back several times as I continued on my way.
It’s not really much of a story to tell at parties, usually only meriting the single sentence, “I saw Spalding Gray on the street once.” I have met other celebrities since then yet this has stuck with me as the most genuine encounter I’ve ever had with a one.
- Jason Harding
In 1988, he was coming to town to do a monologue, It's A Slippery Slope, and the buzz was that he was going to do a booksigning for the same work. The catering director of the place I work was trying to wangle a relationship with the nearby bookstore, a relationship that yielded us book-signing-luncheons, and we did a few of them and she was trying to get Spalding for me and I had it all planned, I was going to approach him when his water glass was low and present him with airplane-sized bottles of vodka. There was a large portion of Monster In A Box devoted to his mix up with Russian Authorities for smuggling vodka into his empty water glass in restaurants. Sadly, not enough people signed up for the luncheon so the idea was scrapped at he instead was only available for a regular book signing in the bookstore, so I went. And I waited in a sparse meager line of people, and each of us approached him one at a time with our copies of his book and he would ask for the name and then sign. It was all very ordinary. Until I walked up, he just stared at me, it was really weird. He was seated at a small desk, a dwarfed desk, really low to the ground and I was standing and looking down at him, strange perspective. He's usually on a big stage with a much handsomer desk, that's his thing, or was. He was looking up at me and he didn't really do that for anyone else while I was waiting, but I will never forget the weird way he was staring at me, the outside edges of his eyebrows were raised and it really truly looked like he was scared. Frightened. The look totally shattered me, I wasn't ready for it and I suddenly felt very sorry for him and wanted to tell him everything was going to be okay, but that's not what you say to your hero upon first meeting, you don't bring to attention the incredible strain they are under, even if you only suspect it, you don't say "I'm not like the others - I'm your friend", no, but I wanted to. I wanted to say that. I handed him my copy of his book and he took it silently, never taking his eyes off of me and I told him my name and that broke the spell, then he looked down, picked up his pen and wrote:
And that was it. I thanked him and told him I was looking forward to his show. He thanked me and I left.
I had a lousy seat at his performance, it was a small old theatre in the middle of downtown, one I had never been to and was happy to get to go inside, but I wanted to be in the front. I was on the mezzanine stage left I saw him just fine, could hear him perfectly, but he never really looked at my side of the room. It was one of those performances where you remind yourself every fifteen minutes that you are really there and this is really happening, totally exhilarating. There he was in his checkered shirt, sleeves rolled up, his carefully crafted words billowing out thru the air. I was mesmerized.
Afterwards I prowled around the neighborhood of the theatre peaking into dive bars wondering if he was going to be in one. He wasn't.
- Mark F.
In August of 2001, I went to see Spalding do Interviewing The Audience at the Ravinia Festival in the northern suburbs of Chicago.
Having seen him do this performance once before, I knew that he wandered around with the crowd before the show speaking to people. This was how he collected names of people he might call up onstage during the show.
I was at the show with my friends Megan and Clark, my girlfriend Heidi, my brothers Marc and Eric and my mother. We stood out in front of the pavilion looking around. On the way to the show, my girlfriend had been telling me, “I know it’s a dream of yours to be interviewed by Spalding, but please don’t be too upset if it doesn’t happen. There will be a lot of other people at this show.” I knew this was true, but speaking to Spalding before the show was the only way to be sure I had a chance at getting up there.
Before too long, we saw Spalding in the distance. He was on crutches, and we had no idea why. I kept my eye on him, and as soon as he approached, I made eye contact. It wasn’t really until he was that close that I saw how much older he looked than the last time I had seen him. He had a scar on his head, and he looked like he really didn’t feel so well. I said hello, and we started chatting. I introduced him to my mother, and he began to ask her more questions than he did me.Then he moved along.
Then we were inside and in our seats, and Spalding was introduced. He came out on his crutches, sat down, and proceeded to tell us all the story of his trip to Ireland, and the car accident. He didn’t tell us anything of the apparently severe depression he had been suffering since that time. We were regaled for a good while with his tales of Irish hospitals, injuries, and medicine. I hope someone somewhere releases a recording of Life Interrupted, because I was unknowingly extremely fortunate enough to see this very early version of it.
Next, he took out a few sheets of paper, and the first person to be called up was…my mother! I was really excited for her, as I had introduced her and my family to Spalding, and I knew she found him as intriguing as I did. They started out with the usual questions – what do you do, life story, do you think about death, and so on. My mother is a sign language interpreter, and Spalding had her interpret a bit from one of the monologues, I believe it may have been Monster In A Box. He pointed out to her how one of his teeth was getting a little long. It was terrific.
However, I was also disappointed, because if my mother was called up there, it was impossible that this would be my night to chat with Spalding. So my mother came back to her seat. Spalding turned to the microphone and said “Ordinarily I would never do this, but is Luc out there?” I was speechless. I stood up and started my walk to the stage, looking back at my girlfriend in disbelief. I sat down, and we started the interview.
I remember the interview in so much detail, it’s wonderful. We talked about my job. He asked me if I thought about death every day, and I said yes. I told him how I had begun saving money by drinking under the table after seeing Monster In A Box. I told him about how I sometimes didn’t think before I spoke, offering my use of the word gimp as an example. Even though it drew a huge laugh from the audience, and Spalding knew what I meant I still feel bad about that to this day. I didn’t know about the severity of his depression after the injuries, and I would never have wanted to kick him when he was down, unintentionally or otherwise. He did get back at me later, though. I mentioned that I sometimes liked to eat too much (I was about 130 pounds overweight at the time). Spalding waved his hand at me and said “Oh, stop!”. I deserved it!
A lot of time was spent on how I was neurotic, and how my girlfriend Heidi is my conscience and my anchor to the earth. When we were finished talking about that, it was clear that she is an extremely important factor in my life, not to mention my mental health.
He asked me if I wanted to ask him any questions, and I told him I had two. I think the first one I asked was whether his breakup with Renee would have an effect on the upcoming version of Swimming to Cambodia at the Goodman Theater in 2002. I really don’t remember if that was the question I asked or not; isn’t that strange? But I also honestly don’t remember his answer.
During his story of the Ireland trip and accident, Spalding told us how one of his sons had told him that he was mentioned on the Simpsons. My second question (planned for years) was going to be whether Spalding was aware that he had been mentioned on TWO Simpsons episodes. He said he was, and he let me tell the story of the second episode. The audience loved it. We finished up, and I went back to my seat, thrilled.
After the show, numerous of the old rich women from the North Shore of Chicago came up to me with questions. “How did you know so much about Spalding?” “Is this Heidi?” “You should be onstage yourself!”
I will always remember that night. The Swimming to Cambodia shows that next year were canceled. It seemed to be all downhill after that, although I was not aware of the severity of Spalding’s depression until the following April, which I will write about in a separate review. Suffice it to say that that August night in 2001 was one of the most memorable evenings ever for me, my girlfriend Heidi and my mother.
- Luc Garneau
I didn't know who Spalding was when he woke me from my sleep with a telephone call inviting me to his performance of Monster in a Box, in Santa Cruz, about a decade ago. "We're supposed to meet" he said, according to Lindsay, our mutual friend who admitted later she should have warned me. That night, a riotous performance to an appreciative audience who laughed while they applauded the moment he walked on stage. His first line, " This is going to be easy," brought the house down before he even began the monologue. We drank beer that night. The next day he came to my lecture on drugs and religious experience. We began a friendship. The next day he called me for help. He was flipping out. I'd never met a more manic man. He was flipping out because he couldn't get on the plane to leave. I forget for how long he stayed but I was sure at first he was collecting experiences for a new monologue. For him it was life. He was flipping out because he had just gotten married and was about to have a baby with another woman. The wife had no idea about the baby and Spalding could see no way out of this. He was freaked out about being a father and freaked out about being a husband. And I think it was the anniversary of his mothers suicide and his 50th birthday. She took her life on her 50th birthday. I may have some facts wrong. After a week, maybe longer, I think my son helped him the most. He was 2, maybe 3. Being a father is the greatest, I told him, "You'll love it.". My son buried him up to his neck in the sand which quite literally and psychologically grounded Spalding enough so that he could finally leave town and sort out his life. I still think Spalding roaming around Santa Cruz crying out for help to all the new age healers in town who just met their rich, famous, and crazy dream client, would make great theatre. In the many times he came back to visit or to perform in this town that loved him, he'd been treated with crystals, magnets, mountain biking, fung shui, massage, MDMA, astrology, gesalt, medical and other marijuana, past life regression, rebirthing, magic mushrooms, ayahuasca, vodka, friendship, Freudian and Jungian psychoanalysis, sex, tarot, zen, tantra, jnana, bhakti, karma, and astanga yoga, to name a few... And he got better. Well, he quit smoking cigarettes and never drank before 5. But right at 5 he began. He was quite civil and punctual about it.
One time a local surfer dude who was taking a course in performance art was sick with worry because he had put off to the last minute his assignment to write a term paper about his favorite performer, Spalding Gray. Like a lot of Santa Cruz denizens, this one wisely decided to solve his problems by going to the beach and smoking a joint. At that moment Spalding walked by...shocking this experienced smoker who, once he realized he wasn't hallucinating, interviewed an equally surprized Spalding on the fine art of monologue where timing is everything...
A couple years later Spalding called, happy and proud that Impossible VAcation was on the best seller list in Chicago where it was called "the best writing on sex since Henry Miller, and the best writing on psychosis since Sylvia Path." Spalding said to me "So I thought, here's Sylvia Path, head in the oven, and here comes Henry Miller, pulling up her dress, mounting her from behind."
We met up in Aspen one year to ski and where he was performing. He was sane and happy when he skied but sort of bombed in Aspen where he interviewed the audience, usually a brilliant performance but one that requires a audience that can appreciate and laugh at their own vunerability.
Four or five years ago I saw him perform in San Francisco, and I had a sinking feeling that his career was coming to an end. He was thriving but I feared he was becoming too sane. Too happy. His genuis was in articulating his abundant neurosis, that most people share at least some of. His Morning Noon and Night monologue about his home life was sweet and brilliant but it didn't have the edge. He was a happy family man, until he went to Ireland and suffered that crash. Making things worse, he had finally gotten used to his new house in Sag Harbor and for some inexplicable reason, they sold it. Now he had to heal in a new house, that he didn't know and didn't like. Two pitifully weak suicide attempts didn't have me worrried but when I first saw him exactly a year ago on the psyche ward of New York Hospital he was so morbidly depressed and so fucked up on hospital drugs I was doubtful he would pull out. How'd this happen Spalding? He told me. It was an act, a cry for help, that got out of hand and now he was derranged on drugs he feared. But in several visits that month,I saw he was improving, showing off to me his progress walking and he even laughed, once. By the end of February I was hopeful he would transmute this darkness into brilliant humor and I'm still hopeful he will do that, in this life or one of the next...
- Robert Forte
A Monologue by Ella Veres
- 1 -
About ten days ago I fell sick with the flu. First I had a dream: I was accompanied by a Spanish poet who didn't look anything like a poet or my type. He was a version of The Rock on the Walking Tall posters I saw around town. Muscular neck, arms, suntanned bulky man, though fine bones under smooth skin, noble warrior face.
He was gesticulating, "Oh, man, going to your home, what for? What? Your brother has problems? What a bummer! Oh, man, this is such a lame idea!"
From within my parents' house, from its shady porch, Mihai, my younger brother came towards me; but he looked like Jason, the son of some friends. His parents complain he smokes weed, he lost his driver's license and is messing up his life, a high school kid. But he was my brother, though he was shy Jason, blushing. [Surprised, moved.] He came towards me and hugged me, asking for advice, hopeful that I'd say the right things and he'd figure his life out. He hugged me! My brother never hugged me; he was always posing, a sleek guy he was, and always made bad jokes and played power games. I was indeed the older sister as he quietly hugged me, my head on his shoulder, his arm around me.
"Sell the house," the Spaniard decreed. I was smiling. What does he know about us? Nothing! How can he be so preposterous, giving advice to unknown people! Okay, he had the hots for me and I for him, but preposterous! Though it was great advice: sell the house and everything will be solved. The root of all evils was this house we grew up in, we were beaten in this house as kids, we watched our parents shout at each other, hate each other, drunk father, shouting mother, we never had a corner of our own. I wanted badly to have my room. I turned the laundry room with its stove and cauldron for boiling the laundry into my room, but my mother shouted at me, "It's unhealthy! It has a cement floor! You'll catch pneumonia, rheumatism, like aunt Iulia! It's a cold room for a child!" And now the Spaniard says I should sell the house! I smiled. The house is huge, has large rooms that under communism were divided in separate apartments and rented out, until my father, against my mother's wish, bought the whole house with its tenants. My mother got the tenants out, she struggled until she got apartment flats from the municipality for them. We could sell the house by the room. But the Spaniard said, "Sell it brick by brick." Brick by brick! There is an enormous amount of bricks in that house! Profitable. The walls are thick like a fortress, double row of bricks, to keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. A lot of bricks in that house. “Tear it down brick by brick.” [Curses.] May death tear apart this house we grew up in! May it turn into nothing! Flat land, no grass on its gray flatness, no dandelions, nothing, barren like the skin of an elephant, nothing, clear the earth from that house!
Then a new beginning, let the grass grow over it. Driving thru the neighborhood there will be no, "Here is the house I grew up in." No. Silence. Annihilation. Swallowed by the earth. Silence. Nothingness.
My brother Jason smiled as if that was the solution to all our troubles, start all over again! He hugged me and he was crying, or I was crying, shaking, his shoulders convulsing, or we were both crying.
I woke up asking myself, What date is today? When is Easter coming? Isn't this the time when my brother died last year? A luminous day. The first day of spring.
I don't remember numbers, years, dates, but my body remembers for me.
Wake up, time to mourn.
- 2 -
About the same time, the news came they found Spalding Gray, the monologuist of Swimming to Cambodia, floating down the river in his corduroys; his brother recognized his clothing. As you may know, he, disappeared in winter around Christmas or so, and well, they found him now in early March. When he disappeared it was all over the media but I don't watch TV. My host watches TV all the time, the quiz shows, the murder series she watches, and Oprah. I watch a bit on my way to the kitchen, but I don't sit. She finds the cosmetic surgery, the makeovers fabulous.
I was on my way to the studio, to watch a composer write one more song for my show, a musical I'm working on. I stopped in the drug store to buy sanitary pads, it was that time, and I saw Spalding Gray's face on a magazine cover. I thought, Oh, his new monologue is out. Publicity. Scoundrel. Then I caught a glimpse of the title: Disappeared In The Cold Winter Night. I got closer,--I don't care about magazines, they make me unhappy reminding me that my glamorous success is nowhere in sight, on the contrary the bleak misery chokes us,--so I got closer and I read how indeed this was his last, successful, suicide attempt. He was for the last two years in a pitfall of depression. He had a car accident in Ireland in the summer of 2001, then September 11 happened, then he couldn't recover from the accident. His hip broken, his forehead caved in, they put him on the wrong medication. Spalding was jumping in the river all the time from ferry boats but didn't manage to enter the silent water bed. A policeman here, a fellow traveler there would rescue him. From ferryboats, bridges, he tried to reunite with the water.
He just went into the black cold night and did not come back. His fans hoped he was still out there, gathering material.
I was in the drug store wailing, scaring the shop attendant, as I was paying for the magazine.
I met Spalding Gray in the spring of 2001. He came down to Louisiana where I was in graduate school. He talked in his monologue about his family life and then he taught a workshop to wanna-be Spaldings. I distinguished myself with a story about doing the laundry at the campus Laundromat and a macho guy swindling me of my few coins and how I got back to him. He was impressed, Spalding Gray. We went for a beer and we talked about accepting the increasing loneliness that comes together with personal story telling. He gave me his phone number and his agent's e-mail address, and whatnot, so that when I come to the big city I come to his workshops and whatnot. Well, when I arrived in NYC, fall 2001, I contacted his agent, but his workshop was over-booked, she said, and then she said she'd forward my e-mail to him—I was asking for a recommendation letter for INS to attach to my green card application. Could he write on paper as to how impressed he was with my storytelling ability. He never responded. I read in the papers that he had an accident, but I thought it was nothing major, just him being paranoid as usual, and I said oh, well, just another hypocrite scoundrel. He gives his phone number around when on tour, but doesn't really mean to help, which is fine. If he doesn't want to help an orphan, that means I can handle it myself. I'll show him! Indeed I got my green card approved without his help.
Well, this last fall I saw an announcement that he was developing his new monologue at PS 122. I meant to go, just to say, Hello, how are you? I'm still here. But I never made it.
Now he disappeared. All these three years I was pissed off at him, and I was calling him a scumbag, while the poor guy was going nuts.
To me Spalding Gray is family. I say monologues, he says monologues, so we are family. Please! I'm not one of those who want to share his fame.
Anyway, I couldn’t control myself when I went to the music studio. My ex-husband also committed suicide. Once he too went in the black dark cold winter night, right before Christmas, and was away for awhile until I found him and bathed him and fed him and medicated him and after awhile, I left him. I couldn't stand anymore such variety of suicide attempts.
About four springs ago I received a phone call saying he finally managed to die, gassed himself, been in a coma for eight days and died on Easter.
I was embarrassed to be upset in the music studio. I was supposed to work, but I told him about Spalding and my ex-, and the musician told me, "I know what you mean. I was married to three women who often committed suicide. Not my fault." "But why, Martin, why are you punishing yourself?" He shrugged his shoulders, and we wrote a melody for me.
I am the happiest when he writes melodies to my lyrics. I enjoy seeing him bang the piano, and the melody coming out of him. He asks me if I like it; I do. It's erotic. It's erotic and harmony and ideal. It's like Spalding who was looking for the perfect moment while he was Swimming to Cambodia. Being bathed in music is a perfect moment. It goes back decades ago. I am not a musician, but I've always loved music, and I've listened to music, and I was reading Maria Magdalena Bach's memories, or my ex- was reading them,--have I said he was a musician? Yes…--and in the book Bach's wife was in the bedroom with the children sleeping, many children, and Bach, under the moonlight, was playing the piano. He wanted to be with God and that's how he was with God, by playing the piano he was with God and she felt embraced, happy, blissfully happy.
I don't remember if such episode occurred in my life too, with my ex-, but I know that later on, after he died, as if it had happen to me too, as if I was mythically happy only at the times he played the piano under the moonlight while I was slumbering in bed.
So I write musicals now.
I want to make it up, maybe. Imagine I write it with him, maybe he is Martin. He aged and had a successful career and he is Martin and he’s with me. I didn’t leave him behind. He’s Martin.
- 3 -
A week ago it was the first perfect spring day, sunny, breezy. I was cooped in the writers' lab on the third floor at the theater.
Downstairs in the auditorium a cast party was going on. My friend, the composer, was alertly looking for THE PARTY. It was not happening though; it was a cheap pasta and chips party, people trying too hard to have fun to really have it. He left in the middle of it. I was glad it didn't work out for him.
We had a smaller birthday party up on the third floor. We had cake and wine and well, the writers left but I stayed behind, working with the actors on one of my plays. David, a fellow writer who knows I'm broke, took me aside before leaving, and asked me if I wanted to join him at a piano recital, and I said sure. I'll go to any shows in NYC. I'm starving to go to shows in NYC.
So he told me where the recital was and when to be there, and I went on with my rehearsal. When we were done I cleared the room from the party leftovers. There was a bottle of white wine, still 1/3 full, on the shelf. I had this thought, I won't leave the bottle behind. I'll take it with me and put it in my fridge. So I duct taped it, and I went to the recital, which was in a near by church. Well, when I arrived at the church the wine was dripping thru the bag. I went to the bathroom, dried my bag with paper towels, worried that it would be smelly in the concert hall. I put the wine bottle on the floor, to make the cleaning crew happy.
In the hallway. David was not there yet. Awkward. On the wall the musician's pictures. A smiling man at different ages. Dark suit, playing the piano.
They had wine for sale there, but no one sold it, so I grabbed an empty plastic cup and went back into the bathroom. I poured a glass for myself and drank a bit, then waited for David, still nowhere in sight. I looked at the walls some more at the smiling face of a happy musician with a life in music. Mine is dead. Kaput. When he had his first recital he hid in the bathroom to avoid people congratulating him. His mother scolded him that ever since he was with me, his musicianship deteriorated. She was no musician herself, but hated me. Well, he's dead now. Today she behaves as if I'm still married to him.
Anyway, I asked the box office guy if my friend called, he said not yet, but he could give me a comp ticket and I could go in and not miss a beat. Sure, great.
Ticket in hand I'm about to enter the hall, but the ticket inspector says she can't let me in with the cup. I haven't drunk a glass of wine in a decade, or it feels like it, but I go to the bathroom and in an anti-waste swig the rest of the bottle, and drink the cup, and it's quite an amount.
Ever since my brother died I refuse to drink. But today it felt like party time spring, and here is the man in black giving a concert! I drank the whole wine and entered the music hall, seated myself in the last row and liked what I saw. A man playing the piano delicately and intelligently, wise, cracking jokes.
He made me finally understand musicians: he said when you are a pianist, you don't get into fistfights, oh, no! You run! Bye! No, thank you! I've got to practice! Resilience. No provocations.
He lived a long, rich life with ups and downs, talked about poverty during the Depression era, about ragtime, and I was getting tipsy like a sailor.
David came and we moved to the front row. More tipsy.
What was the matter? The music hall? The man playing the piano? The patent leather shoes he had, his face, lively and clever? His gestures? The life I left behind, the theater halls in Bucharest, the shows I went to there? The audience was responsive, but these were not folks who would shout Bravissimo, or Encore! These were folks that have been civilized/tamed and feared their own feelings.
I was tipsier and tipsier. I was crying, shouting when I felt like it. I had a ball. At break I told David I was tipsy and he said he figured that out for himself. He then got busy looking for his wallet, was positive he'd lost it thru his torn jacket pocket, he showed me. Leaning on the walls, I crawled to the bathroom, had enough of his drama queen antics.
Then more concert, more intense emotion, more crying. Why is it that some can live until old age and be happy with their lives and bodies, thinning hair and sagging cheeks and wrinkles, while others commit suicide? Why is it that I am here while they are in the ground? They should be on stage. Final applause. The victory of human spirit.
The music man invited us to chat in the lobby, and I said a loud, enthusiastic, Yes, you betcha! I want to march with men like you. You make me look forward to old age. You are a miracle and this is how it should be. I'm proud of being an artist when I watch you at work!
In the foyer I sat on a sofa, careful not to embarrass David, fearing I'd vomit. They entertained about songs and celebrities and whatnot, unheart-felt conversation, so I kept to myself. Well, maybe we'll get to talk, maybe not. I want to badly, but I am not to be trusted. I am tipsy. And often things that I want badly don't seem worth it after awhile. Stay put!
But in the end the musician was running out of admirers, so I waved my hand and he came towards me and I stood up and I was crying and apologizing I was tipsy like a bum, I drank two glasses and I don't usually drink. “Advise me, please, on how to make my composer happy, not to look for the perfect party somewhere else, but find it within his soul. How to teach him to be like you, enjoy life? Oh, your rag time show is so Americana. I'm doing my best to fit in here. I don't know where I go wrong and why I have such a miserable time…" He was squeezing my hands and I was crying and he said I'm doing very well, I was there, I fit in, and squeezed more.
He had to go and dress; his make up was red like brick-dust red to counteract the lime light, his collar a bit dirty from it.
I was glad I met him. I made a fool of myself, but then this is how it was meant to be, what's to fuss about? I'm not David, who fusses about everything.
We left. He was in a hurry to go to the subway because his suede jacket was sensitive to the raindrops, he fussed. It was his daddy's probably. The raindrops but freckled its sleeve, that's all. I had on me a suede jacket too, but didn't get all agitated. Harmless raindrops!
"You scared the guy with your strong emotions," he nagged me. I apologized, and didn't, at the same time. “You wanted him to solve your existential problem, how to fit in here! And your other nebulous wishes scared him! Luckily my presence reassured him." I felt awful and felt not. I said “Well, I'm sorry, and I'm sorry not.”
"You were like those beggars in the street asking for help. Will you help a beggar on the street or will you run away?"
"But I don't have money. Those who have and ignore them, are not good Christians. They are not at all good Christians," I waged my head so very very tipsy and cried. "They are not good Christians; they shouldn't think they are good Christians."
David left me behind, ran away to his train as I was scrambling the coins for a token out of my pocket.
So very very tipsy in the rain.
- 4 -
That night the flu spread in me. I had a terrible sore throat. Nothing damning, but it was horrible pain. Iron grip pain. I could not speak, I was shivering with cold and hot, I could not swallow my spit, I was about to die. I feared I'd die suffocated by my own spit. Many people choke in their sleep with their own tongue.
I woke up in the night, Think of it, if this is just a mere flu, think of it, from now on arthritis kicks in, and hip replacements, think of it! A life of pain. Better shoot me dead, honey, I don't want a life of misery. I want to die if I'll be in continuous pain.
Then, for the first time, I finally understood why they kill themselves. My mind was not racing anymore to find a reasonable answer to Why? Why is he killing himself? He says he loves us. What have I done wrong? Why? I'm doing my best! Why are you such a coward? Fight for your life! You life just once! And the child, what about the child? I hate you. How can you do this to my child and to me? Why do you kill yourself when we love you?
They were in awful pain. In dark hopelessness. Just finish it! I'm no use to anyone in this pain.
They jumped into the water to end it all. I'd do it myself for sure. My shoulder bones ache lately. Maybe cancer? Torture. Better finish it all.
I hang in just for my son, who tucked me in, brought me hot tea, suffered my coughing and sneezing. Smiled.
Just for my son.
They couldn't bare it anymore. They drank themselves to death, they jumped into the river, gassed themselves. Didn't get into fistfights with life.
It's fine with me.
Fine with me.
Other Fan Writings
- 'Morning, Moon and Night'
Writer Kevin Kuzma speaks about meeting Spalding after seeing Morning, Noon and Night Performance. Thank you Kevin. Visit his website.
- Swimming with Spalding Gray
by Reporter Mary Colurso - Birmingham News
- Gray Emminence by Wendy Forman
(this is a great story about Interviewing the Audience)
You may submit your encounter with Spalding here. Please send no attachments, but unformatted text copied and pasted into the body of an email. Thank you.