My wife took Simon the horse out for a ride yesterday. Simon is the new horse in our backyard. He's the culprit responsible for eating my carefully tended corn right to the ground a couple of weeks ago. Somehow he got out of his stall and went right for my corn that I'd planted some two months ago. It was the middle of the night and his stall hadn't been secured and the corn was right there and...well, he was hungry.
Simon is a gentle horse. He's been smacked around in the herd quite a bit and has lots of bite marks around his neck (that's how horses keep each other in line, apparently...they bite each other on the neck). I know how he feels because I've got a lot of bites around my neck, too, remnants of a lifetime of getting out of line. Anyway, Simon tried at one point to buck her while crossing the swinging bridge that leads into the trails behind the equestrian center near our home. He wasn't used to being alone (without our other horse, Petrone, that is) and wandering into uncharted territories. Again, I know just how he feels.
Yesterday, I turned down a beautiful role in a very complex, intense play called 'Way to Heaven' at The Odyssey Theatre here in LA. It's where I did 'Adding Machine.' It was a tough decision, but one that had to be made. I don't like turning down roles that I like. But, as my manager pointed out to me, it is a bad time to tie myself down to a long run at this particular moment. Things are heating up considerably in the film and TV world and to take myself out of the game right now would be a very bad decision, financially and otherwise. Still, it irks me.
I have so many irons in so many different fires right now to comment on them all would be exasperatingly premature so suffice to say, the decision to not do the play was definitely the right one. Although, I must say, the play's subject matter - the Holocaust - is one particularly important to me. Back in the mid-nineties in NYC I adapted the writings of Primo Levy into a play called 'If This is a Man' which ran for quite a while at The Kraine Theatre in the East Village. Primo Levy was a Jewish, Italian chemist who survived Auschwitz and wrote several books about it subsequently.
Later this month Angie and I are heading down to The Old Globe in San Diego to workshop a new play of mine. Also we're catching our good friend, Hershey Felder, and his opening night of his new one-person show about Leonard Bernstein. Not coincidentally, Hershey is producing my new play.
But back to poor Simon and that journey over the swinging bridge into the undiscovered country of new trails leading into the bowels of Griffith Park.
I've never liked change of any sort. It's part of my chemical make-up. I like things to stay exactly the same, always. Which is an odd character flaw for a guy who has spent his life in the theatre. Everything begins and ends quickly in this business. People float in and out of my life like shadows at dusk; best friends for three months and then not a word for years. It's part of the lifestyle. Nothing to be done about it.
But I don't like it. Like many, I've discovered, especially as I get older, that I'm a creature of habit. Anything that disrupts my carefully negotiated little schedule and I begin to feel adrift. I've often thought I might have made a very good assembly line worker. I would have been, if nothing else, comfortable with that line of work. Getting up at the same time everyday, doing the same work, coming home at the same time, only now and then, perhaps on the weekends, would I venture into the world of the unplanned, the vicarious, the unexpected. And as Sunday night approached I would feel the safety of knowing that Monday would bring a re-entry into the mundane. Change, for all its brew-ha-ha, makes me nervous.
It's a Rainman kind of streak in me that I've grown satisfied with through the years. And oddly and weirdly I find myself now, at the grand old age of fifty, in a position of not having any of that premeditated comfort of sameness. I hardly ever know what's going to be my life focus from one month to the next. My passions are scattered often and relentlessly.
Fortunately, and possibly life-saving, I have my base, my home, my family (and when I say 'family' I mean the one I chose, not the one I had thrust upon me like a practical joke in particularly bad taste). No matter what swells I have to endure on that fickle ocean outside my front door, once I'm within my chosen walls, all is well again. Like Simon, I don't like swinging bridges leading into a bunch of mysterious, dusty trails that I'm not familiar with. I don't like taking roads less traveled. And I don't like knowing I have to. I want to buck a little, like Simon did, and dig my heels in and demand the same trails I've always walked. I don't like looking ahead and seeing all the different ways I might go and not having the slightest idea which one is right.
So Angie got back from her ride and told me about Simon's little episode of bucking. I asked her how she dealt with it. Did she fall off? Did she turn back? Was she scared? No, none of the above. You know what she did? She talked to Simon gently and quietly and had him walk in a circle for a little while, just a few minutes, and let him know everything was alright. Just walk in a circle for a bit and get his bearings back.
And I realized suddenly that that is exactly what she does with me. She brings me back to a place of safety and has me sofly tread about in a field in which I'm comfortable. She takes me back to the meals I like, the couch I sit on, the home and hearth I've come to know as mine. Fortunately for me, my wife understands that, like Simon, I don't like change. So she dresses change up and makes it look like something I might like. She disguises the peas and mixes them in with the potatoes. And she does it so subtly, so naturally that most of the time I don't even know I'm in the middle of change until it's nearly over. And like Simon, my fears are allayed before I have a chance to dwell on them. When I'm frightened of the unknown I am guided into a well-known emotional and mental circle all the while listening to soothing and practical advice, quietly given. And again like Simon, after a short while, I'm ready to try the new trails, the roads never traveled, the unforseen future.
I think everyone needs to do that now and then. Just slow down and maybe walk in a thin circle for just a few minutes. Be reassured that although the bridge might be swinging a bit, it's still a bridge and it still holds us up. Hear whispered encouragement about the myriad choices before us. Because those trails are not so scary, really. Not at all. We just haven't been on them yet.
See you tomorrow.