Issue #107 / 25 July 2008 – 1 August 2008
Happy the Hell Birthday to Me
Part Two: Party Count
I'LL DO THIS ARITHMETICALLY, a bit of subtraction, and that’s all I’ll do, get it over with, move on. I’m only doing this because I promised two weeks ago; I said I’d consider the matter of friends and their absence in my life. One of my birthday complaints, seventy years old. This is embarrassing, a grown man going on about it. So I think I’ll just put up the number from twenty years ago and subtract and see what’s left. And I might just let it go at that. I’m speaking of my fiftieth birthday party and friends there.
This is one of those things where a blackboard, green board, whiteboard would come in handy. Or a PowerPoint presentation. Help to move it along. This could be an outline or I could use bullets ( • ) and just get it done. Yes, I think I will. I don’t want to spend too much time with all this, and I’m sorry that I mentioned it in the first place. Self-pity, seventy years old; you know how it is or maybe you don’t.
So there were twelve friends at my fiftieth birthday party, twenty years ago.
Think of me with a pointer in my hand, slapping the board. All of this is on the board.
• Five have moved out of town.
• One died.
• Two became Scientologists.
• Three (all actors) don’t communicate with me nor I with them.
• So that’s eleven and there were twelve friends at the party. Twelve minus eleven equals one. Minuend minus subtrahend equals difference. One friend is still in town, and we still see each other.
All right, just a bit more, just to be clear.
Still slapping the board, walking up and down. All of this is on the board.
• People move out of town (5). You can’t do anything about that. Washington State, Minnesota, San Francisco. We keep in touch by phone, but it’s not like being close where you can grab them if you need to.
• People die (1) You can’t do anything about that; you’d like to but you can’t.
• People become Scientologists. (2) You can’t do anything about that; you’d like to but you can’t. It’s like dying to me, brain death. I haven’t heard from these people in years; I think I’m considered an SP, which stands for Suppressive Person. Yes, regarding Scientology, I guess I am, but here’s what I regret: I think that I had something to do with their becoming Scientologists in the first place, because I introduced them to an acting coach who is a Scientologist. He’s also Greek, and it’s a damn shame when a Greek becomes a Scientologist. Plato! Aristotle! Thucydides! L. Ron Hubbard? But that’s not the point. Two friends, who were at my fiftieth birthday party, ate our food, became Scientologists. Very annoying; I want them to pay for their food; I want a refund, twenty years later.
• People stop communicating. (3) Three actors—no longer in my life. Yes, it's a rule; you don’t quit acting—it's like a blood brotherhood. But in thinking of these three friends and the loss of their friendship, I've decided that it's more than that.
With one, a man who had been my dear friend, it was because an acting career provided a framework for our relationship: Who's working; who’s not? Who has money; who doesn’t? Who has a house; who’s still living in an apartment? It was the subext of the friendship. “Here, let me get lunch.” So we'd know who was winning. And when I stopped acting, the scorecard was lost. That's tough, but it's true.
About the other two: Maybe it was my choice. Hollywood woo-woo, idiotic religions, New Age nonsense had become a requirement of the friendship; and I just couldn't do it. One of these actors did Feng Shui; and god, I just couldn't do it. Go to her house and you wonder if she’s going to paint you blue, make you hold a wind chime and blow on it, make you face some "power source," talk about astrology. I’m sorry; I just couldn't do it. That’s probably a sign of intolerance; okay, I’m intolerant. Or maybe it’s a sign of taste; okay, I have taste. And the other actor, a man—oh, dear God, actors can have really wacked beliefs. Acting is tough, so you get your chart done, become an Indian, hit yourself on the head with a stick, sleep on a block of wood. Like Opus Dei but without the swell clothes. Isn’t acting punishment enough? Hair shirts can be abrasive.
• Twelve minus eleven. One remaining. One of those friends is still in town, and we still speak. We're having dinner soon; I’ll do my best.
So that’s what I promised two weeks ago, said I’d write about a loss of friends. I also said that I was going to change my attitude, regain lost friendships. But I've decided not to do that; I’m not changing one damn thing. It has taken me seventy years to develop my attitude. Besides, my attitude works for the most important person in my life, my best friend. She’s the one who put the party together twenty years ago, and she was the most important person there. So here’s a revised count, my fiftieth birthday party. Twelve guests, as above; the old man, as presented variously, here and there; and Catherine, my wife, my friend, my love, the life of the party.
So that you can read how I've changed my mind in just two weeks.