I love my job, but I don’t much care for April, the last month of the Broadway season, when I have to spend nearly every night on the aisle seeing shows, some of them wonderful and other appalling beyond belief. The problem, though, is not the bad shows but the fact that I get so little time off. I don’t know about you, but there is an upper limit to the number of consecutive evenings I can spend on the town without starting to get a little bit weird, and I reached it…well, let’s just say a few days ago.
Thus it was with much relief that I looked at my calendar yesterday and saw that I didn’t have to go anywhere until Tuesday. Nor did I, not even to the grocery store. To be sure, I had to get a fair amount of work done during the day, but it was finished by late afternoon, right around the time that the doorbell rang and a smiling UPS man presented me with a big cardboard box containing the signed copy of Romare Bearden’s “Pepper Jelly Lady” on which my wife and I had successfully bid a couple of weeks ago.
It happens that Mrs. T is up in Connecticut this week, having come to the not-unreasonable conclusion that I would be less than perfectly companionable until the theater season was over. She left me with firm instructions not to drive any nails into the walls of our apartment in her absence, but I decided to try hanging “Pepper Jelly Lady” in the spot in the dining room where Kenneth Noland’s “Circle I (II-3)” is normally to be found. Unlike the Noland, which is quiet and delicate almost to a fault, the Bearden all but explodes off the wall. It completely changes the balance of the apartment, to my mind for the better, though Mrs. T will, as always, make the final call.
By the time the Bearden was hung, the sun had set and the streets of our neighborhood were foggy. I opened the living-room window so that I could feel the cool and humid air on my skin. Then I popped Matchbook, a 1974 album by Gary Burton and Ralph Towner, into the CD player and curled up on the nearby couch. The cool, tranquil sounds of vibraharp and acoustic guitar trickled into the room, and all at once Emily Webb’s anguished question from the last act of Our Town popped unexpectedly into my head. “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?” I do, I thought with surprise. Right now, right this moment, I am present—and I am blessed.
My mind flicked over a few other shining hours from the recent past. I dismissed them, knowing that this was not a time for memories. Instead I let the beautiful music wash over me and looked at the beautiul art on the walls around me, and remembered to be grateful for the good fortune that lets me hear and see such things, and know them for what they are.
John Lukacs said it: “Out of what is darkness to our imperfect minds, for sixty or seventy or eighty years we are living in the light, in the open.” That was where I was last night: in the open.
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Ralph Towner and Gary Burton play Towner’s “Icarus”: