Memories Of Old Days (Part I)

I’m waiting for the CAT Scan that will determine if I have a normal life in front of me (as best you can define “normal”) or if I’m very ill. I’m hopeful about the former more than the latter, but when you come close to death’s door like I have been so many times in my life, you have to believe that somewhere in there is going to be a moment when no matter how fast you run or hide, that which we call Death will eventually catch up with you. No news is usually good news, but sometimes the delays are from a physician getting second and third opinions on what he suspects from the test; and I have this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach that this may be the case. Naturally, your mind turns back to certain points in your life and certain people you know and who will stay with you no matter what you do. I was reading about Moss Hart this morning, and somewhere way back when I did a play of his. I had the lead; in fact, it won me an award for my Middle School’s drama Award and a try out for the High School for Performing Arts. Yes, I was an actor once; and I had the acting bug VERY badly.

I always found myself loving Neil Simon’s plays and doing them after a while of rehearsal, but I couldn’t go through the first two read throughs without laughing hysterically. My friend and I once did the “Odd Couple” where we split the role; I started out the first half of the play as Felix and ended as Oscar in the second. I did Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” with a girl in the Drama class who always managed to play my wife in no matter what production we did. Perhaps because we had a certain chemistry between us that was there…teenage tension at 14? Could have been…and it was only fitting that I eventually developed a crush on her. (She turned out to be quite a beauty, and even signed my autography book as “Love, Liz- your “wife”). Turns out neither of us would act as we both wound up consigned to the same Wall Street prison that so many kids from Staten Island found themselves doing simply because their parents did it and they had the connections to get the jobs. I tried doing a scene or two from “A Hatful Of Rain” playing the Ben Gazara part as the Korean War vet who returned with a drug problem; little did I know how prophetic this would be years later. At the time the worst I did was have a beer or two and have a couple of cigarettes here and there, but drugs? Me? Nah! That’s why it was so difficult to do that part and that’s why it was so challenging that I decided to take it.

I took chances. I was best at comedy (“dying is easy…now comedy is hard” as someone once said) but I didn’t have the emotional maturity for drama at that point. I was great a farce, light comedy, slapstick, name it. I was always the jokester; probably because I make up for my getting picked on in school with quips and one liners that would slice and dice my opponent to shreds. Unfortunately, a black eye usually followed, but that’s been a defense mechanism for me ever since many times diffusing a situation as well as making one worse. But I had a promising career ahead of me. I had someone from the HS For Performing Arts (that’s the school from the movie and TV Series “Fame”) in the audience during my performance of “Light Up The Sky” and was asked to audition for the school. That’s rare; usually you have to ask them. At this point though, I had pretty much picked out my school as a college prep school (one of the best in NYC) which I made and sent off a letter of intend to attend. But secretly, I went up to Manhattan to try out. They game me some material to read (I think it may have even been Neil Simon) just prior and I had about a half hour to prepare for about a 5 minute scene. Long story short, I made it. I could be playing “House” now instead of Hugh Laurie (who everyone says I look like). I could have been holding an Oscar or two and been through the customary 3 marriages (there is nothing better than being a straight heterosexual man in the acting community as the women are usually gorgeous, smart, and extremely horny). But one road I didn’t travel. One road that led me toward a 4 year period of my life where I barely passed my classes, spent way too much time partying, and graduated by the skin of my teeth. It led me to meet the woman who forever holds a special place in my heart; and it led me to some of my closest friends (and my best friend) that I have today. It led me to a spiritual experience that I may not have had otherwise.

So while one door closed…another opened…and that led me down yet another corridor of my life…

“Now the wings fell to ground as the miles they were crossed
All the years seemed like days as the time it was lost
For without his solutions and reasons for why
He should come up for air to the town once his by

So soon on his way
Shadows from the pathways
Memories of old days”

-Gentle Giant