Saturday, February 13, 2010

On Raging Against the Dying of the Light...

Got together with my old buddy, Jim Petersmith, the other day. Jim, John Bader and myself. We found this old diner in North Hollywood, been there for decades, and sat and drank coffee and ate the early bird special. Chatted about old times.

Jim moved out here about ten years ago to be a movie star. I don't watch as many films as I used to, but I don't think it took.

Anyway, it was a fun day. We all met each other while interning at an Equity theatre in Iowa about 26 years ago. Jim was a few years older than John and I so he sort of took the "big brother" role for us all back then. We did a couple of shows together on tour during that time...The Fantasticks (first time I'd done it) and the one and only children's show I've ever done in my careeer, a really ridiculous piece called The Wonderful Tang. Incidentally, also the only time I've done "drag" (I played the evil "Madame Tso" in the play - full drag). Anyway, we had a wonderful time on that tour. It was just a little bus and truck kind of thing. Sometimes we stayed in cheap hotels and sometimes we stayed in "host homes." We were actors then, and young. Hehe.

At one point during our early bird special, I sort of paused and looked at us. Jim, who used to look a lot like a young Dick Van Dyke, is now a tad overweight, grey-haired, sporting a beard. John still has a full head of hair but the grey is seeping in. And I am bald and bearded (for the play) and looking a bit like the old pro wrestler, Mad Dog Vachone. How's that for an obscure reference?

The one thing that never changes is time. It marches on regardless of our protestations. About a year ago I was in Chicago on Michigan Avenue and I had stopped for a moment in front of a Border's Bookstore on The Magnificent Mile. I was looking at the cover of a book in the window when I looked up for a second and saw the reflection of a man standing behind me, an older, balding, sort of gruff-looking, middle-aged man. I politely moved a step aside so he could see in, too. It was then that I realized it was me. It was a startling moment for me. I hadn't recognized my own reflection.

When I dream, I am always about thirty years old. Maybe subconsciously that's when I thought I looked and felt my best. I don't know.

I know this: I am really appreciative of nearly every moment in my life these days. Because I know that moment will never come again. It's over. It's gone. Time only gives us one shot. I didn't grasp that back when I was younger. Not at all.

This is not to say I'm depressed in my middle-aged years. Not at all. I'm happy I've made it this far at all. In fact, in many ways, this is the best time of my entire life.

But it's funny, I think. NO ONE ever expects to get older. It happens to other people. I honestly don't know when or how it happened to me. A few days ago I was looking in the mirror, worried about when I could get another hair cut because it was so out of hand. Today the hair and that boy are gone, never to return.

A few days ago I was on a small farm in Iowa, riding horses with John and Jim and dressed like a cowboy just for fun, roaring with laughter and living exactly in that moment. Today, horses just seem big to me.

A few days ago, I drank most of the night away in an Irish Pub in New York City, laughing and telling theatre stories all night with my buddies, Jeff and Robert and John and Greg and Don and Mike and so many others, finishing at four in the morning when the bar closed, knowing full well I had to be at work at nine and not in the least worried about it. Today, I contentedly get into bed by ten, watch a little TiVo and drift off to sleep, delighted in the knowledge that I'll be up by six and writing.

A few days ago, I fell in and out of love as often as I changed my underwear (and the two are probably somehow related). Today I am ensconced in the final fling of my life and completely satisfied with that thought.

A few days ago, I could remember lines. Today, I work terribly hard at remembering lines.

A few days ago, I worried about what people thought of me as an artist, an actor, a writer. Today, I could care less. I have learned that the only opinion that counts is what I think of myself as an artist, an actor, a writer.

A few days ago, I would think nothing of spending an entire day and night doing nothing, hanging out, drinking beer, expecting nothing. Today, I can't wait to create, to acknowledge details in my life, to focus on a great dinner, a wonderful movie, a good friend, a few hours with Angie.

No one ever expects to get older. It is the sneakiest thief in the history of mankind. It is as slow as the glaciers. And it takes away some things and gives, as a beautiful and unexpected gift, others. The trick is to learn to accept it all gracefully, I suppose. There are days I simply can't do that. I still raise my voice against this thief now and then. I defy it. But I always lose. I always sigh and accept. It's a no win situation. But I still rage against the dying of the light.

So there we were, Jim and John and I, sitting there, drinking coffee, hot tea, iced tea, Sprite, sitting in the sun, which made us squint, wearing baggy pants and shoes that we didn't "pick" but simply were closest to the bed when we got up.

And we laughed for three straight hours. Happy to be grey. I really enjoyed that day.