Monday, February 19, 2007

Monster in a File

Now that Burden is out there, trying to swim among the the rest of the many books out there, I really must get down to completing The Beauty Parlor. I know how it ends and I am two chapters away....but I am so busy with work and life that I keep putting it off.

And yes, it has become my own Monster. Perhaps I should watch Spalding Gray's Monster in a Box again. That might help me break through this impasse. I am feeling sorry for myself. And nothing works for that than listening to Spalding Gray.

There's another reason I am thinking of Monster.

It's cold and icy and frozen. And I think of Spalding on the ferry, staring into the cold waters of the East River and letting go. He disappeared. He had planned this, done a trial run a few days earlier, forever haunted by memories of his mother's suicide in 1967. Perhaps he felt unable to save himself from his fate. He gave in. How easy is it to die?

He jumped on January 10 2004 and his body was pulled from the river on March 7 of that same year. When we moved to Connecticut in 1999 we drove to Narragansett, RI because that was his birthplace. When we excitedly told people they had no idea what we were talking about. We felt a certain supercillious content.

A year or so later we traveled to New York City to watch him perform in Gore Vidal's The Best Man. When the actors took their bows, the audience exploded when Chris Noth (Sex and the City) came out. My husband and I clapped wildly when Spalding did, the sounds swallowed by the polite applause from the rest of the audience. There were a few others. We exchanged knowing looks, as if we were keepers of some knowledge that the rest of the world was too preoccupied to notice. I felt like a connoussier of sorts.

My husband introduced me to Spalding's work. He had discovered him as a teenager in Bombay. Monster was playing at some obscure theater and it was him and this other woman who wandered in. He thought it was a horror movie. That the lone man on the screen would soon be devoured by a monster that would emerge from its box very soon. As he started to listen, he forgot about the monster and was mesmerized. And a few years later when we met, so was I.

We saw him perform at UCLA just a few months before his disappearance. As we parked our car, we saw a large car pull up. It had New York plates. We're not really the kind of people who walk up to famous folks. Perhaps I prefer to keep a certain distance, a perspective of some kind. "He looks tired," my husband said. I nodded. We repeated parts from Swimming to Cambodia to each other. "I will have an orange," I intoned solemnly.

But this was not the the same Spalding that I had seen on tapes, whom I had seen perform in The Best Man with so much wit and heart. More than tired, he seemed dejected, defeated, trying too hard and not succeeding. Swimming didn't come alive as it always did.

That curious blend of humor and darkness was missing. We mouthed correctly some of the places where he messed up and sometimes stumbled. It was sad. He didn't seem to be there. Perhaps he had already started to die.


uptonatom said...

Dear Jawahara,

Thank you for your words about Spalding.
I am the webmaster for the Estate of Spalding Gray and would like permission to place you comments on
we would mark it that you maintain copyright ec.
Please respond - I couldn't see how to email you directly.
Just go to the web site and click on contact - that's me...
Thank you again

ps - having recently survived a stroke, i strongly urge you to finish those last 2 chapeters...
and by the way, we will promote any links you want or any books you have written. Just let us know.
'a friend of Spalding is a friend of ours'...

blogmommy said...

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