From New York to Smalltown, U.S.A., to Chicago to San Francisco to San Diego to Ontario to the MacDowell Colony to Minneapolis to Lenox to Spring Green to New Haven…and now, at long last, I’m back where I started.
Mrs. T and I have never had a summer quite like this one. Some of it was glorious, some heartbreaking, and rarely did I know when I got up in the morning which of the two would prevail come day’s end. A couple of times the verdict was so mixed that I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry–so I did both.
What did I bring back with me? I received a Guggenheim Fellowship. I wrote a good-sized chunk of Mood Indigo and revised The Letter and Satchmo at the Waldorf at MacDowell. I made two treasured new friends. And the revised version of Satchmo was produced twice, in Lenox and New Haven, with a third staging, at Philadelphia’s Wilma Theater, coming in November.
So yes, it was a productive and exciting summer, but enough is enough. I have a book to finish, mail to answer, prints to hang, old friends whom I miss, and plenty of shows to see. It’s time to unpack the bags and put my feet up–and to try to digest the near-overwhelming events of the past few months.
I suspect that in every person’s life there comes a point beyond which all joy is tinged with sorrow. I know I’ve reached it. As Mrs. T and I waited for the opening-night performance of Satchmo at the Waldorf to get started, I whispered to her, “You know who I wish were here?” Before I could answer my own question, my head was full of names. My mother and father, my beloved Nancy LaMott, Dick Sudhalter, Bob Brookmeyer, Howard Kissel…the list goes on and on. All would have loved to be there, and all are gone.
On the other hand, this melancholy, understandable though it is, can be carried too far. Dr. Johnson, for all his firm good sense, did just that in the oft-quoted last sentence of the preface to his Dictionary of the English Language:
I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please, have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.
Dr. Johnson was, of course, talking about his wife, who died while he was struggling to complete the Dictionary. He believed that his own chronic laziness (which to us looks more like chronic depression) kept him from getting the job done sooner, in the process contributing to her death. Very likely it did.
I think I know something of how he felt. But I also know that there are countless people in my life, Mrs. T foremost among them, whose love and support have helped to make the best parts of the summer just past even better. One of them, a fellow playwright, sent this message to me back in April: “When good news comes in tsunamis, you have to be wildly awake and aware! Enjoy it! This is the way life should be.”
Should be and–needless to say–too often is not. I’m sure I haven’t always been careful enough to be grateful for all my good fortune, much less to be fully aware of it while it was happening. Perhaps I’ve just been too busy to take it all in. That’s why I need to spend some quiet time at home and reflect on recent events, good and bad alike.
It won’t be long, of course, before I have to hit the road again. On Sunday Mrs. T and I are taking a few days off and heading for two of our favorite haunts for a fifth-anniversary mini-holiday, and come November I’ll go to Philadelphia to help get Satchmo up and running at the Wilma.
Right now, though, I haven’t got a single flight booked, whether to Chicago or Orlando or Smalltown or anywhere else. I need to sleep in my own bed again. The world can wait.
* * *
Pat Metheny plays “Last Train Home”: