Growing up in the cow pastures of southeast Texas, you learn to heed old people’s advice (“old” could be your seventy-five year old tobacco chewing/can-spitting grandfather or your brother who acted twenty years older than the year older he really was). Lessons you might learn: when you hear a rattle, don’t move! Don’t even breathe!
Draw this picture in your mind: I was at a Valentine’s Party (okay, right there I’m suspect. Who has a party for Valentine’s Day?) crowded with too many people in too small a space that either arrived drunk, were actively getting drunk or were in the process of leaving drunk. It was, in a phrase, a party of . . . well, sloppy, gross drunks. That’s never, ever my idea of fun.
I’m standing in my kitchen, reeling from a long, tedious day of too many people asking too many things in too short a time from this one mortal person. My head’s pounding, my stomach’s growling and there’s so much tension in my back, I’m practically wearing my shoulders as a helmet. All I seem to be able to focus on is whether I should include one, two or three slices of individually wrapped, unnaturally yellow, processed cheese slices in what I’m sure will be the definitive grilled cheese sandwich.
I know I’m going to bleed – that’s a foregone conclusion. But I’m beginning to think I show up at my own staged readings just to figure out if I am going to bleed a little or bleed a lot. My first real thought when I sit down to witness a reading of a new play of mine is, “is this going to be a Band-Aid kind of evening for me, or should I call in the paramedics and a triage team, and for good measure, book an emergency suite at St. Vincent’s Hospital?” Because the really dramatic action isn’t happening on stage, baby. You want dramatic action?
I know it took a lot of courage to look me in the eye this morning and smile. I’ve been on your side, hiding behind a microbiology text book, hoping no will notice the acne on my face, my crooked, chipped teeth, my hair that looks like a mistake of nature, my legs that are too thin for some and too big for others.
Over the last few days, I've sadly, maddeningly watched the reports of innocent lives shattered by violence in Louisiana, Minnesota and last night in Dallas. This morning a reporter on CNN said somberly, "Five of Dallas' finest lost their lives...."; I've heard the same thing in the reportage of Alton Sterling's and Philando Castile's murders and the slaughter in Orlando; these people "lost their lives."
I want to offer an observation and then an apology. I was sitting on the subway this morning and overheard this conversation from one young woman to another: Friend A: Want a piece of this apple? Friend B: No, thanks. Friend A: You really should eat it. You look thin to me. Friend B: Same weight as always. Friend A: Yeah… which is too skinny.
I’m fascinated by a woman who works in the lobby of my office building. The color of her hair is not in nature, but if an eggplant was on a collision course with a burnt, red tomato, you’d get the idea. For the eight years I’ve worked here she’s always had grey/white roots that cap a third of her head.
We were traveling on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. I was in my Jeep, going about 65 miles an hour in the right lane and you were in the left lane in your…well, I don’t what you were in because I never saw you. I did FEEL you, though, as you side-swiped my Jeep, forcing me to jerk right and collide into a guardrail, blowing out a tire, and ripping off a good portion of the side of my Jeep. And then you kept driving.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been drawn to the word “demagoguery” for some reason. It’s one of those words I’ve read in the newspaper, heard repeatedly on Anderson 360, heard blasted from Bill Maher’s mouth, Rachel Maddow’s mouth and even Bill O’Reilly’s mouth (when I accidentally lingered on his image on television).
So I’m in a doctor’s office, doing maintenance on a body that’s been thrown around the world for a good long while, and the technician that’s checking out the vitals – Theresa -- is chatty. It’s early in the morning, so I’m not so chatty; I’m in a not-had-enough-coffee- coma. But Theresa is chatty, and I’m a southern boy, so I know I have to volley the conversation so I don’t look like a New Yorker who can’t be bothered with the simplest shades of humanity.