Sunday, November 27, 2016

A World Without Collisions

I did my best to keep it together, but I finally had to reach for the tissues.

I’m a world famous weeper and I make no attempt to hold back the waterworks when I’m in the privacy of my home, where I can wail to the rafters and nobody’s the wiser.

However, on this particular occasion I was at the Signature Theatre on 42nd Street in Manhattan taking in a performance of Athol Fugard’s Master Harold…and the Boys.

But I couldn’t keep from crying, despite the crowd, as this is simply one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful plays I’ve ever seen.

The language is fabulous and the emotions so raw that I never had a chance. I don’t know what the man sitting next to me was thinking when I start sobbing and after a few seconds I didn’t care.

This was the third time I’ve seen Master Harold since 1982 when my oldest brother and I saw it with James Earl Jones and a young Danny Glover.

I saw it again in 2006 with my sister and our late father and this time Danny Glover was playing the older character Sam. I didn’t cry during either production, but when I went this latest time with my sister and auntie I pretty much fell apart.

I guess it’s because I’m older now. Our father is gone; I’ve witnessed how short and fragile life is and I’ve seen how people—myself included--can lash out at the ones they love the most.

What is so brilliant about the play is that despite being set in South Africa nearly 70 years ago, it still resonates today by addressing so many important themes about love, family, race, and friendship.

The story takes place on one rainy after in 1950 in a tearoom in Port Elizabeth. Apartheid is the law of the land and the play gives us a very personal view of just how destructive this hateful system was.

‘Nobody Knows the Steps

Hally, a 17 year old white boy, whose parents own the tearoom, is working on a paper for school while Sam and Willie, two black employees, are setting up the chairs and tables.

These people care for each other very much and Sam is more of a father to Hally than the young man’s real dad ever was.

Sam and Willie tell the teenager about an upcoming ballroom dance contest and when Hally asks what happens when couples collide with each other on the dance floor, the two men laugh at the absurdity of such an occurrence.
“There are no collisions out there,” Sam says. “Nobody trips or stumbles or bumps into anybody else. That's what that moment is all about. To be one of those finalists on that dance floor is like . . . like being in a dream about a world in which accidents don't happen.”

The real world tragically crashes into the dream, though, when Hally learns that his alcoholic father is coming home early from yet another stint in the hospital.

Filled with helpless rage, Hally brutally turns on Sam, using him as a target for the anger he really feels toward his father. These scenes are so terrible to watch and you can’t take your eyes away from them.

“Nobody knows the steps,” Hally angrily declares, “there's no music, the cripples are also out there tripping up everybody and trying to get into the act, and it's all called the All-Comers-How-to-Make-a-Mess-of-Life-Championships.”

Lately, it seems like this world has nothing to offer but collisions and I don’t think it’s going to get better anytime soon.

I’m going to keep on going to see Master Harold for as long as producers keep putting it on stage. I’ll keep the tissues handy and hope someday that the world without collisions will extend beyond the dance floor.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book Ends

I think I’m getting better at this.

I had two book signings this week for my novel Born Speaking Lies and I’m starting to get this whole author thing down.

On Wednesday I had a book launch party at the Mysterious Book Shop on Warren Street in Manhattan, where I’ve attended many readings. Now it was my turn.

For years I’ve dreamed of standing in front of a group of people and reading from my work, but when I first arrived I saw nothing but empty seats. The list of attendees wasn’t that long to begin with and I had four cancellations before I even walked through the door.

“It might be just the three of us,” I told my dear auntie and sister when they arrived.

I was trying to chalk it up to experience; this was my first book, people have busy lives, and the old standby, shit happens.

But none of that took away from the numbing sadness that had gathered around my heart.

This was going to suck.

When a UPS driver showed up to make a delivery I half-jokingly suggested we make him stay. A body is a body, after all.

My lovely sister tried to get some poor schlub browsing around the shelves to stick around—something I didn’t have the guts to do—but the guy hit the bricks.

In the Beginning...

And then slowly people started trickling in. For every cancellation it seemed there was a surprise guest. My sister had announced the event on her Facebook page and at least two folks showed up as a result.

A dear friend from my writing class, a buddy from the gym, and one of the original members of a Brooklyn blogging group all cheerfully showed up to support yours truly.

Hey, somebody untie the UPS guy!

I read a section of the book, and, to be honest, I could’ve gone slower and made more eye contact, but at least there weren’t any outrageous screw-ups like I had been experiencing during my rehearsals.

Today I did another reading at the Bookmark Shoppe on my home turf in Bay Ridge and things started off the same way with me looking morosely at a herd of empty seats.

Only this time it was a hell of a lot colder outside and I was wearing a pair of drug store spectacles after losing my regular glasses during an evening out with my family the night before.

And there were no UPS guys in sight.

But once again, the trickle in theory came into play as my writing class buddies, my sister’s friend, and two honest-to-God strangers starting filling the vacant chairs.

This time I read a little bit slower and I added more flair to the narration. I’m still working on the eye contact thing, but I’ll get there soon enough. I just want to do more of these.

It’ll be Thanksgiving in a few days but I feel like I got a jumpstart on the holiday with all the support I received at these two events.

Now I have to order a new set of eyeglasses and hope the UPS guy doesn’t freak out when I answer the door.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Simian’s Rainbow

Thank God for the theater.

My sister, auntie, and I saw Finian’s Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theater today and we enjoyed a wonderful show filled with beautiful songs, fine acting and no Donald Trump.

It was the closet thing to a remedy from Tuesday’s nightmare scenario that has one of the country’s largest KKK groups planning a parade next month to celebrate Trump’s election.

Racist attacks have skyrocketed around America since Trump's victory so we shouldn’t be surprised that the boys in the white sheets have decided to come out of the closet.

Trump claimed that he wasn’t aware of the incidents (was he in a fucking missile silo?), said there was only a small amount and told people to “stop it.”

It seems fitting that there’s a character in Finian’s Rainbow who is an avowed racist--until he’s magically turned into an African-American. He learns pretty quickly what oppression is really like and amends his bigoted ways.

Where’s a leprechaun when you need one?

Trump scrounged his way into the spotlight with his racist attacks on President Obama’s citizenship and used that and other equally despicable lies to claw his way into the Oval Office.

He labeled undocumented Mexicans as rapists, threatened to ban Muslims from America, and peddled this pathetic fantasy about building a wall along the border and sticking Mexico with the bill, which, of course, they’re already backing away from.

The Idle Rich

Maybe if the Donald walked a mile in a Mexican’s shoes he’d sing a different song.

Or perhaps we could turn President Pussy Grabber into a woman for a day, so he could see how it feels to be groped, degraded, and threatened. Who says you can’t teach an old pervert new tricks?

Mike Pence, our vice-president-elect, has made a career out of persecuting gay people, going so far as to propose cutting funds for AIDS and using the money for bogus “conversion therapy” programs.

I have gay friends who were absolutely heartsick after the election and were it in my power to somehow transfer their pain into the people who voted for Trump I would do it in the blink of an eye.
Then they would know firsthand what it’s like to be called “faggot” and “dyke;” they’d know how it feels to literally fear for their lives just for being who they are.

I was looking over the photos from a Halloween party my sister and I attended and the gay couple who threw the affair look so happy.

It seems like such a long time ago, but it was only a week or so before Election Day. My friends aren’t smiling anymore.

The names being bandied around for the new administration sound like something from a DC-version of The Walking Dead.

Newt Gingrich and St. Rudy of 9/11 are two of the more appalling candidates with many more to follow. Maybe we could try conversion therapy on them.

There are going to be some very difficult days ahead and we’d best keep looking to the rainbow until things improve.

How are things in Glocca Morra? Better than here, that’s for goddamn sure.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Upon This Rock

My Halloween costume this year was painfully appropriate.

I had made a last minute decision to buy an old time prisoner outfit, complete with striped shirt, pants, and cap.

I didn’t think much of it, at first; it was just a standard issue costume intended to get me through the holiday. But it got a lot of positive responses, especially from total strangers.

“I know you,” one young man said to me as my sister and I rode the F train. “We did time together in Alcatraz.”

We were going to our friends’ apartment in lower Manhattan and we had a wonderful time, starting with the doorman who threatened to call the cops the moment he saw me.

Our outfits were a big hit (my sister was a nun), we met some great people, and ate too damn much.

When we left our friends’ apartment, I started running for a bus, prompting a man walking his dog to point at me and say to my sister, “he’s getting away!”

Everything was fine, at first, but then the evening suddenly morphed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. And I morphed right along with it.

Apparently the entire New York subway system was possessed by an evil spirit, as we had to contend with closed stations, rerouted lines, and one train that hid in the tunnel like a frightened gerbil just outside the Canal Street platform and refused to come out for several excruciating minutes.

I tried to keep my temper in check, honestly, but as the misfortune piled up I got angrier and angrier, and by the time we got to Brooklyn I was bouncing off the four walls.

Even when we tried to get car service to go home, some stumblebum with a shopping car managed to get into the place ahead of us and snaked the last car. It sucked something fierce.

But it didn’t end there. The following night my sister, auntie, and myself went out on one of our theater escapades and after dinner we called car service to come pick us up.

Ocean of Sins

And then we waited. And waited. And waited some more. The car, which was supposed to be a few minutes away, was nowhere to be seen. It was raining cats and dogs and elephants, and baboons and still there was no sign of a car.

I wasn’t wearing the convict outfit, but I was a prisoner nonetheless, held captive by volatile emotions.

I’ve written so many posts about my anger issues, how I can’t stand living this way, how I’m going to change my ways. And then I freak out all over again.

It’s been almost a year since I went to confession during my Hawaiian vacation and finally admitted my problem. I remember how the priest told me not to get discouraged if things don't change immediately.

I tried going to confession Saturday, but apparently Charles Manson was in the booth ahead and seeking mercy for every sin he’s committed since birth.

As I waited, I felt the anger starting to rise in me once again…until I realized that losing one’s temper while waiting to confess to the sin of losing one’s temper seemed especially ironic.

I waited a few moments and not only did I calm down, but I felt empathy for whoever was in that confessional.

He or she must be hurting pretty badly to be spending so much time with the priest; maybe they were hurting even more than I was. I’ll go back this week.

Now one thing about Catholicism is that there’s a patron saint for anything that ails you.

A quick Google search revealed that Peter is the patron saint of anger management and so I’m asking for his help with this runaway rage of mine.

Peter is an excellent choice, as he is the apostle who denied Jesus three times but still became a saint and holds the keys to the gates of Heaven.

One of the prayers to St. Peter asks him to “lift me from the ocean of my sins,” a very powerful image to me since losing my temper feels an awful lot like drowning in the middle of some very hostile waters.

I’m not making any more sweeping promises to change because that only leads to sweeping disappointments. Like any other addict I have to confront my demons one day a time.

But the only day I want to be a prisoner is on Halloween.