24 February 2007

East meets West

This was one a hell of a trip.

Imagine what I did to get out to California (see 2/19/07), but overnight. I am about as tired as I get. It’s hard even to type sufficiently. I departed on a 10:00 pm Pacific time flight from San Francisco Friday night, which got into my transfer at Atlanta (get out your time-conversion calculators, kiddies) around 5:00 am Eastern, not to depart for Philadelphia until 7:00 am. It’s Philadelphia airport at 10:00 am, then the SEPTA train to the really real train, on which I now ride as the minutes tick toward noon. When I get to Pennsylvania Station (which is in New York City, all you un-traveled west-coasters) I will head immediately to the subway for an hour-long ride home to Brooklyn, where I expect to find a pile of bills and dirty dishes, though hopefully not piled together. The real kicker (seriously guys—between the rattling track and my exhaustion you should really see some of the typos I’m correcting) is that I need to be back in Manhattan at 5:00 for an audition. These things always seem more possible to me in theory than they do in practice.

Lawsy, y’all. Lawsy.

The trip to California wrapped up well enough. There was very little time for…well, anything, for a few days there. The days spanning Ann Zarko’s viewing and burial were shot for any other activity. There was time, mind you, but all the events were so exhausting themselves that afterward David and I rarely had energy to eat. And so perhaps that is a major contribution to my current state of the typographically challenged. I’m just praying that there’s time for a quick nap and bite between landing in Kings County and lighting on the isle again.

It was amazing to experience the ceremonies of this week, and all the folks who attended them. Ann’s send off stood in sharp contrast to my Dad’s Dad, who had only ourselves at the ceremony and a priest who hadn’t known him. Ann had literally hundreds of friends and relatives, from her work with the church (Roman Catholic) and the historical preservation society of Sunnyvale. I must have spoken with dozens of people who knew and loved her, and everyone had their own stories to tell. There were a few incidences of people who had not seen David in a long, long while mistaking me for him (a mere twenty-seven years’ difference in age) but in an odd way I appreciated that. There were many times when I felt I rather shouldn’t be there, when I didn’t know where to stand or what was expected of me, but then I would catch David’s eye and experience a gratitude from him that made me want to just make it all already be over for him, and I would remember that I was there for all of us who are part of his other life.

The week was good for him. I had a few harrowing moments when I worried for his state of mind, and heart. In particular, he had the impression that Ann had said her final farewells in her sleep, blissfully unaware of her own passing, but her night time caretaker revealed at the viewing that this was not so. She was present, heard Ann moan, and when she checked on her found her pale blue and unresponsive. Helen (the caretaker) began to resuscitate her, and succeeded, but Ann held up her hands and said, “No more. No more.” She slipped away again when Helen spared a second to ask her husband to call the EMTs, and again Helen resuscitated her, but Ann held up her hands in the same manner, unable now to speak. She saw Helen’s husband in the doorway, then the EMTs were there, and Helen and her husband were taken from the room.

When Helen told David this at the viewing, as distraught as though it had just happened, I thought either David would break down or I would leap a pew and strangle the woman just to stop this revelation. It was definitely, at first, difficult for him to hear. He remained relatively composed, however, and a few minutes later reiterated the story to his friend Alan, down from Seattle for the ceremonies, who responded, “That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful.” And in that moment we all understood that maybe, just maybe, Ann had known exactly what was happening to her and, as much as anyone might, chose her moment to be done. She had no fear of death, and no regrets for her life.

After this kind of moment and others, after all the condolences and catching up and story telling, you can imagine just how spent we could be. Yet David and I did make some good use of our time after it was all said and done. It was along the lines of more nostalgia for him, and I enjoyed being taken on the tour as much as, if not more than, those visits we made prior to the funeral. Thursday, once we had relaxed with a walk and drive, we visited the Winchester Mystery House, which was a childhood favorites of David’s (which explains a lot) and settled in early for Chinese food and Gregg and Denise’s wonderful company. Then Friday David scheduled himself a massage, and treated me to my own, which is the kind of luxury that alone could justify the various aspects of trickiness involved in getting there and back. It was at a spa on the beach, so I got to visit briefly that terrain as well. Finally, Friday we visited Santa Cruz once more to meet an old friend of David's, Phil. He's an actor and playwright, and author of fiction and non-fiction. A great guy, he started out in a rather dark place conversing with us about the large number of his friends who have died in the past fifteen years, but perked up into a man I knew David loved once we moved on to the subject of theatre and writing. It's funny. David later told me that Phil was to him something of what David has been to me--they met at approximately the same ages as David and I did and worked together on various projects for years. The really funny part--to me, anyway--was that they met in a theatre workshop/class David decided to start conducting when he was about twenty-five, and I could plainly see that it was David who elevated Phil back to an optimistic mood during our day together. I think David is what he is to everyone, regardless of age. An inspiration, plain and simple.

I know: sappy. You know though? True.

Things are picking up for me theatre-wise right now, just in time. I have a play-lab at NYU coming up, a new workshop session for "The Torture Project," and I was just cast as Frankie in "A Lie of the Mind." (We're at 11:45 pm now [that's 8:45 in California].) It's a little bit like a family reunion. Now I just have to convince all of the people I love working with here to move to Santa Cruz with me.

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