VLADIMIR:You don’t remember any fact, any circumstance?
ESTRAGON:(weary). Don’t torment me, Didi.
I went to the bar and ordered wine. “Large or small?” the bartender said. I went with small. Then I got in line to bond with my fellow women, all of us praying for a moment alone with a toilet before the lights went down again.
The Broadway theater is this funny mix of fanciness and crumminess. Large or small sippy cup of wine? The bathroom had only burning-hot water and there was no mirror. It looked like it had been deliberately battered by the set dressing department to look more “New York.”
Even on Broadway, most shows are not great. I hate to even say this, I sound so spoiled, and no, I don’t mean most shows don’t make money, I mean most of them are not great. I have seen probably twenty shows on Broadway. One undid me completely. One was very nice. A couple were nice chances to hear live songs I maybe preferred hearing recorded by Barbra Streisand. A few were better after I left the theater. A lot of them were just diversions, expensive ones at that.
So much of making art is failing.
“Godot,” as a production, was mostly a failure for me. I went to see two great actors, and to hear the great text. I did get to watch Patrick Stuart grab his crotch in suggestion that he had a terrible case of VD. I was not particularly transported for most of the show, though. Not even in my new black dress and high heels and bare legs that had gotten cold between 42nd and 48th Street, was it really that far north?
Whether it was the (small) wine or the text, after intermission, Beckett’s dialogue got me. The friend. He doesn’t remember you. Not at all.
My grandmother calls her children every other day to ask where my grandpa is. Is he mad at her?
I cried a little at a friend not knowing a friend. I felt then I had gotten my money’s worth. I mostly go to the theater to cry silent WASP-girl tears and tighten my stomach and wrestle with my breathing so I don’t sob.
My grandpa died in 1995.
I saw “The Secret Garden” on Broadway with my grandpa. I don’t remember it at all, even though Mandy Patinkin, who I was later to fall in love with, played a prominent role and I probably saw him play it.
I went to see “Inside Llewyn Davis,” which if you know me, you know I loved. Afterwards I read reviews where people complained that the main character was rather unsympathetic. Mr. Davis, in the film, has slept with another guy’s girlfriend, and would like to eat dinner at your house and sleep on your couch. When I am not worrying about not writing, I worry about how people think I don’t care about them because I am always late and I don’t go to stuff because I need naps and writing time. I’m sure Mr. Davis would annoy the shit out of me, but I do sympathize.
We took Grandma to family Christmas Eve, quite a risk, as last year Santa would have categorized her behavior as decidedly “naughty.” She has since moved into a unit for people with dementia. At Thanksgiving she enjoyed holding the great-granddaughter and Skypeing with faraway cousins. So Christmas was a go.
We were packed up in the car with presents and food, and we had a plan: sing. One thing Grandma seems to consistently find soothing is singing. Christmas carols on the radio, and my sisters and my mom and I singing in two or three parts with whatever came on, singing because if we kept singing, Grandma might not ask where we were going, and why we hadn’t gone earlier, or where Grandpa was, if he was mad at her, or where her cat, or her dog, or her…animal…was, and why someone had taken it away.
The correct answer is: we took the cat/dog/animal to the vet, and it needs to stay there until after Christmas. We all had it down. We used it a lot.
Sometimes people tell me I should write a book. Sometimes they say I should submit stuff I wrote. I get a rejection email most weeks. Sometimes three. I have written three almost-books and two for real books, and I’m writing another one for no good reason. When I finished what I knew was a real book for the first time, I felt like I had conquered the world for about fifteen minutes. I stood up and left the coffeehouse, like, no one knows, but I just wrote a book. I’m a person who wrote a book! Then I had to go to the grocery store.
People like my work. I have been published. The ratio to writing time and work to publication and happy readers is ridiculous. You make things because you can’t help yourself, even with Bob Dylan going on next and being a goddamn genius, apologizing for how you were last night and ending up getting punched in the face in the alley (we’re back to the Coen brothers movie).
There aren’t actually alleys in Manhattan. They had to create one so that the hapless musician could get punched in the face. There are no alleys, you build your own alleys.
One of the first times I went to the theater alone, I saw “Cabaret.” I took out a sketchbook and drew the stage because I felt weird about being alone. It was the former Studio 54. At “Godot,” there was a big group sitting next to me and behind me, and a girl two seats over was drawing in a book while we waited for the curtain to go up.
“Look,” she said to the people behind her, and I looked and they looked and they said,“Nice.”
One thought on “Alleys”
“So much of art is failing.” Great line. Thank you. The feeling of finishing a book is euphoric. Not publishing it is a disappointment, but not nearly as great a feeling as finishing it. After having thirty, forty, a hundred rejections, it sort of like, “okay. fine.” So then I wonder, which part is succeeding and which failing.