Beyond This Road
Standing in the bagel shop line. I'm rumpled, groggy. Wearing a borrowed porkpie hat. Shades. Wrinkled t-shirt. Jeans. No briefs.
Feeling anxious. Life again in flux. At my age. Fuck.
The bagel makers look tired. Everybody does. In this part of the country, smiles are rare. The economy reeks. We go through the motions. Making bagels. Hauling trash. Fixing rusting cars. Keep busy. Appear engaged. Hope you don't lose what's left.
Approach the counter. Place my order. 10,000 Maniacs fall from the ceiling speakers. Like The Weather. Haven't heard this song in eras. I'm back at 70th and York. Leeching off an old Indy friend. Making $50 a week from an East Village paper. Mac and cheese and Miller Lite for dinner.
I was lost in a sociopath's fog. My brains and humor kept a roof overhead. Any dumber or slower and I'd have been on a grate.
An anxious time. Natalie Merchant eased some weight. Bobbed hair. Expansive features. Alluring dresses. Hippie abandon. I saw the Maniacs at The Ritz. August 7, 1987. Close enough to see Merchant breathe. She possessed me. I ignored my date. An older woman. She was pissed. I didn't care. Obnoxious but honest.
Fantasies about Merchant. I could make her laugh. I could play to her liberal politics. I would fuck her sweetly for hours. Watching her dance across the stage, it all seemed possible. The fog was that thick. Amazing that I got laid in the real world.
I was living vine-to-vine. Soon I would slip and crash. 10,000 Maniacs were part of my soundtrack. Hearing them again brings back that time.
Rush of blood to my face steams my shades. Tears fall. A crying crumpled mess. No one notices. There are sadder people than me.
Running lines with my son. Nan got him in a local production of Twelfth Night. He has a small part. Four scenes, decent dialogue. He works hard on his lines. A 15-year-old in a cast of adults. His first play is Shakespeare's. I never had those guts.
Nan and I attend dress rehearsal. An outdoor theater in a park. Mosquito heavy. The director sets the play in the late-60's. A Jimi. A Janis. A Wavy Gravy. Godspell goes Bard. If Orson Welles set Julius Caesar in fascist Europe, why not a flower power Twelfth Night? Shakespeare goes with anything.
The staging seems chaotic. Some scene transitions lag. Cues are missed. Several actors mumble lines. People on cells speak louder.
The talent is all over the place. Several have no business being on stage. A few shine. Show passion. They understand their roles. Delightful to watch. But overall, a very mixed bag.
Henry's a touch stiff at first. Then he warms to the moment. Nan and I drilled him on the need to project. Especially on an outdoor stage.
He remembers. Voice bounces off the bandshell out to the benches. His timing is pretty good. There's work to be done, edges sanded. But he's a kid. He has all the time his father once had. Already he's an improvement.