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Mothers Of Reinvention

Nothing ain’t worth nothing, but it’s free – Kristofferson/Foster

December 15, 2003

I took an improvisational acting class Wednesday night and in an exercise involving inanimate objects with emotions, was assigned the role of a depressed fork. Talk about finding your niche in New York. If I ever doubted that there was a God above, slowly guiding me toward that elusive “fit”, here was indisputable proof. I leaned against the wall and dragged on about how things sucked and that people were always trying to use me for soup.

In another exercise I was paired with a beautiful young blonde girl. She didn’t possess the best acting chops, but had a real talent for wearing blue jeans with no pockets in back. For this drill, the student already in character was to assign a specific role to the person entering the scene. I came crashing back to earth when she greeted me with an enthusiastic “Hello Grandpa!” She was riveting in the part of my wide-eyed granddaughter, and our scene included the following bit of brilliantly improvised dialogue:

Me: “It’s been so long since I’ve seen you, honey. How old are you now?”
Her: “Seventeen, Grandpa!”
Me: “Seventeen .. Fuck.

The instructor was so moved by the integrity of my delivery, he nearly fell off his chair in the back of the room.

***

I had a very liberating thought the other night, a full six months into my stay in Brooklyn: nobody knows me here. Of course I realized this would be the case when I moved, but sometimes it takes a while for certain realities to sink in. Freedom and change are two endlessly debatable concepts and even having placed myself in a foreign environment and pushed for new experiences, I’m still uncertain if either is ever fully attainable.

I’m something of a novelty, a relative unknown, to the young couple I see many nights at my favorite bar on Smith Street. Although I drank with them one evening in July, since then I’ve assumed my solitary post on the last stool at the end, content to offer a smile or raised pint glass salute. But last week she stopped me as I passed and asked if I wanted to join them again. “Or,” she said, “do you prefer it down there by yourself?”

She’s tall and beautiful and South African and he’s equally tall and seemingly intimidated by the attention she gets. This is what I’ve gathered from our limited interaction. And that despite her beauty, she’s a bit insecure. As I sat with them a second time, she told me about her thesis on the objectification of women. I nodded politely as she explained what her research had revealed, but he had obviously heard much of this before. When he could take no more, he went into his own rambling rant on men and women and concluded with “I mean, did Newton have to hate apples to make his discovery?” These are the sorts of things you miss, sitting by yourself down at the end of the bar.

Of course the problem with anonymity is, well .. anonymity. It’s every bit as daunting as it is exhilarating. And what good is change or even freedom if it can’t be experienced through the eyes of those who love you? If you stay in a new setting long enough much of whom you are and have been will be revealed. And what are we without these experiences, mistakes and quirks? It would take forever were I to start over again and try to get to where I’m as perfectly fucked up as I am now.

***

There’s something I like about her, beyond her obvious physical attributes. This sinks in after her boyfriend is done with his rant, a rather scathing if poorly assembled deconstruction of her thesis. She chooses to change the subject, and I sense that it’s for my benefit. “What are you doing for New Year’s Eve?” she asks, and explains that they’re having a party. I picture their place and their friends and drinks and music and people stepping outside in the cold to have a cigarette. I see myself, not smoking but standing off to the side, breathing the fresh air.

“I don’t know,” I tell her. “I may be around, but I’m not sure.”

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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