BLACK FRIDAY

I’ve never been much of a shopper; I lack the patience for it. When I want something, I find a location, go and buy whatever it is and come home. I’m immune to the joys of browsing aisles and displays.

Years ago, after returning home from Vietnam, I avoided any crowd scenes, like busy department stores and stadiums, any large gathering. I felt unsafe, I felt overwhelmed and holiday shopping was a real chore for me. That sense of unease has largely disappeared over the past 40 years yet the act of ‘shopping’ (which seems to describe walking about, looking for an impulse purchase) does nothing for me.

‘Shopping’, at least to me, has always meant making a comparative analysis of price, quality, location and relative ease of purchase. That I do enjoy. So my joining the masses earlier today, the Friday after Thanksgiving was an uncommon choice. And just what was it that I felt so compelled to purchase?

I seem to spend a lot of time sitting, these days, largely in my own home but also in movie theaters and in my car. I also seem to spend a lot of time these days wearing pants that are often described as ‘pajama’s. Pants generally fray at the knees or cuffs; when one discovers that the heaviest area of wear is in the butt of your trousers, that suggests you might need to do less sitting and more standing. I recently discovered that my favorite ‘lounging trousers’ resembled a hospital gown, entirely open in the rear…not the sort of image a good neighbor should present when he visits his mailbox.

So I had a specific need (new pajama bottoms) and a specific inducement (a newspaper coupon, offering $10 off any $20 purchase on this day) and took the bait. The store is called Kohl’s (opened recently) and their holiday circular offered these pj’s for $7.99.) Hmmmm. Buy two pairs, buy something else (cheap!) that pushes the total over $20 and Tucker has a bargain.

Now in my parlance, a ‘bargain’ is defined as a purchase that was already intended that can be made for a significant discount. Both elements must be present at the point of purchase, otherwise, it ain’t a bargain…which means, you got played. I don’t like getting played. Finding attractive somethings at 50% off is not a bargain unless you were already shopping for those somethings. Authentic targets of opportunity are rare and one must be able to differentiate between a bargain and simply the chance to acquire more stuff. Stuff seems to be like crack cocaine to women. The mantra of a former fiance…”You never outgrow your need for STUFF” (Alternately – “I’m tired of my stuff. Pookie, I need new stuff.”)

I found my bargain pajamas in quick order, quickly chose a mock-turtleneck jersey (winter is coming) and moved to check out. I learned that all the cashiers were at registers in the front, so I found my way to the store entrance, observed a line and asked the man standing there, whether this was the front or the back. He seemed momentarily speechless, then began to gather his response and I sensed he was mustering indignation – when an elderly Asian woman tried to deftly slip past him. As he engaged her with his indignation, I realized his position was next in line to check out. I began walking past shoppers in line, I turned the corner and walked past more shoppers,then reached the end of that line and turned once more and only then began appreciating the true magnitude of this LINE. When I finally arrived at its end, by now giggling at the absurdity of an entire city block of shoppers waiting, I notice I was only a few yards away from where I’d started. The LINE circled the interior of the entire store.

My inimitable timing had placed me there at the height of the madness, which inspired this inner monologue. “Do we really want to do this, Tucker, wait in this line, just to buy some effing pajamas?” Ah, what the hell, how long could it take? (Are you serious?) I’d made my choice, I was gonna stick it out and I passed the time watching others handle their own dismay. At one point, a matronly housewife passed by, speaking aloud to no one in particular, validating her own self-regard, “I’m not going to stand in any line just to save $10!” That was precisely the truth I’d been engaging (probably along with a few hundred of my fellow shoppers.)

I mean, if asked, “Tucker, would you stand in line for maybe an hour for $10?” I’m pretty sure my response would be, “Oh, Hell, No!” Yet here I stood. So, what was up with that? Hard to say but the line was moving (however slowly), I’d already spent the time and gas driving here and the scenery was in constant change…and I’m easily entertained by watching other people behave.

There was a blue-collar couple several yards behind me, clearly a team. He maintained their place in line while she grazed, wandering the aisles and returning with choices that he either affirmed or rejected. He spent some time on his phone, talking with a friend who was apparently similarly engaged but at Fry’s, a regional electronics warehouse, whose own lines probably dwarfed those of Kohl’s. At one point, he asked his friend, “Your phone doesn’t access the web?” And he seemed to say it in understated wonder, like, “You don’t have indoor plumbing?”

Hell, my phone can barely access me;) I’m sure my phone can do all manner of intricate things…but I can’t…and have yet to reach the point where I yearn to. I’m working on telepathy.

27 Nov 09

CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

Yeah…

Last nite was a serious gut check for Tucker and his sense of how The World regards him. I volunteered (truth – no one twisted my arm) to do a fundraiser for Rogue Machine, my theater group here in LA. I called it “Tall Tales and Country Blues”

I’d wanted to help fund our budget for 2010 and I egotistically believed that I had sufficient collateral, in personal good will, with both friends and my theater company, to attract an acceptable house. Our theater seats 99 people comfortably. In that regard I failed miserably; our house was barely half full.

I give myself major props, primarily for not allowing my initial disappointment with the sparse attendance to affect my performance. My work was representative of my work ethic. Those in attendance were affirming in their response. The performance was filmed by two film makers. I’m now accessing my reaction to the effort.

After having written “this sizable check” (my intention to help fund our 2010 season) the weeks leading up to last nite were both stressful and exciting for me…the ‘artist’ was jazzed, the ‘producer’ was intimidated. I loved creating my program, choosing my prose and musical selections…yet cringed at my reticence to publicize. I had concerns that in so doing, I might be perceived by others as egotistical and self-serving.

In 38 years of public life as a performer, I have never been comfortable with self-promotion. I was taught to do The Work. Leave it to other to critique and promote. Just do the fucking Work. And while you’re at it, better hold fast to Stella’s guidance: “To be a successful artist, you need the soul of a butterfly…and the hide of an elephant.”

Still working on that…Hell, I’m still standing. Grow up, you pussy;) There’s little value in my regarding non-attendance as a personal rejection. People have their own lives and pressures and concerns.

I regard my life as having been unconventional and interesting. I regard my ability to express my experiences in prose as engaging. Had anyone in my life mounted a similar effort, I’d like to believe I’d have been there to support their courage. So my task is to regard this ‘failure’ (in my opinion), not as a personal rejection by my circle of acquaintances but as a result of their own life demands and my own incompetence and resistance to self-promotion. That makes sense.

But you know what? I’m too old a dog to learn new tricks; I yam what I yam;) So, down the road, my work will be seen by audiences who come, largely because of the efforts of others. So be it.

Hell, I’m not bummed by my effort, tho in truth, had I stumbled and fumbled about last nite – yet attracted 50 more people – I’d have regarded the nite as a success;)

Maybe the most valuable lesson to be learned is this: “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” Boy, howdy.

21 Nov 09

HEALTH

“Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think,
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink…”

Who still remembers that Doris Day lyric? Some of those old homilies, like ‘an apple a day…’ and ‘laughter is the best medicine’ still make sense. As do newer ones, like ‘there are no pockets in shrouds’, and ‘some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug…’

We might describe HEALTH as the condition our condition is in. The human body is complex and resilient. Natural selection continues to cull our herd, yet modern science has made survivable, conditions that once meant early death. Bob Dylan wrote, “He not busy being born is busy dying.” We are all dying. Most of us are a little cranky about that and will go to extremes, trying to alter or delay that eventuality.

Face it, all you own is right now. If stage is the actors medium, the present is the human medium. Your reason tells you that there will be a next moment. We call that The Future. But the future is not promised, it is not guaranteed. There are daily reminders just how suddenly shit can happen. So, don’t stress about the future. It will come or it won’t.

You have a memory about what just happened. We call that The Past. You may be right (let’s go to the tape;) but it’s a memory…and memories are malleable, ephemeral. Those pictures in your mind about what just happened are just pictures. You have heard of photo shop, yes? Sometimes we edit our memories to affirm our expectations.

So we have no certainty about the past or the future. You have an opinion about it and opinions are like assholes – everybody has one. Can we agree that we are, all of us, right here, right now? Baba Ram Dass advised, BE HERE NOW. In other words, exist in the moment. As actors, we strive to “be in the moment”. Live as you were taught to act.

Death is the ultimate human fear; not pain, not hunger, not loneliness. And fear can paralyze you…or it can spur you to be proactive. Much of my life has been a spiritual quest. I’ve meditated daily for the past 14 years…and my knees hit the floor every nite in prayer. I was shaka bukkued to Buddhism in 1981. I was raised and confirmed as a Lutheran, espoused atheism in college and acknowledged a Higher Power after dying and being brought back, in Vietnam. I’ve been out of my body twice, now; I’ve been to Chichen Itza for the Equinox and Machu Picchu for the Summer Solstice. I’ve seen something maneuver in the sky above Area 51 that made me giggle like an awestruck child. I’ve studied Wicca with a gifted adept who does stuff you’d consider magical…and you’d be right;) I took the EST training in the early 70’s. I’ve also had a lot of therapy, some neural feedback and am grateful for the anti-depressant Lexapro;)

Rajneesh was once asked, “Is there life after death?” His response, “A better question to ask…is there life after birth?” He meant that once you are fully conscious, fully alive, you know that You can never really die. Give your intellect a rest, nurture your intuition. .

Yeah, your physical packaging is gonna wear out…but that’s not You. Flesh is good, it looks nice and feels even better…But most of us are noticing that our flesh is becoming less supple, less resilient. That’s understandable, just human vanity…but it’s also a consequence of identifying with your physical essence rather than your spiritual essence. You all went to high school and beyond and one day, you graduated. One day you will graduate from this school.

The problem is, a lot of people struggle with that question, “what’s next”…and how they might get into a good graduate school;) In my life, I have asked the Universe a shit-load of questions…and have received some answers. They may resonate with you or not. My mantra may not be your mantra.

I still remember a popular hit song that I heard on Greek radio as a kid, living there in the mid-50’s.
“Yasou Yanni, ti com badia, (Hi Johnny, how are you doing?) Yatee easa lepimenos? (Why do you look so sad?) Griegora, Yanni, tha yenese yeros.” (Act quickly, Johnny, you will be old, someday.) Such sentiments been always been in our consciousness, reminders that life is fleeting; therefore, Carpe Diem.

I’ve smoked a pack of Pall Malls daily since 1961. I like them. I drink more rum, ale and single malt scotch then anyone really should. I love rib-eye steaks and spare ribs and bacon. I have a “prescription” for medicinal pot. I also exercise regularly and my metabolism responds to things like soy milk and omega oils and red yeast rice.

But I’ll tell you something. 40 years ago, while they re-assembled me at Walter Reed Hospital, I asked my doctors how much time I might have left. Their prognosis: maybe five years. There was almost no data on injuries like mine because injuries like mine generally cause death. All agreed there was virtually zero medical explanation for my resurrection. Typically, a severed carotid causes shock, then unconsciousness within 10 minutes. Around 15, you’ve bled out. I lived for more than an hour, without any help.

Perhaps because of my training and my commitment to always bring my people home, perhaps the miraculous intercession by some Higher Power, perhaps the kind of physical transformation that allows a hundred pound woman to lift a car off her child. “Count your blessings”, said my doctors and recommended that I immediately stop smoking, stop drinking and stop engaging in risky life choices. “You mean, like combat?” Since I no longer had control over the quantity of my life (and never really did), I committed to the quality of my life…

Now someone like me, given a second chance, that son of a gun should be set for life, right? Well, I did very well for about ten years. But there’s a reason it’s called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I spent the next eight years in self-destructive depression, questioning my right to enjoy a life when people I valued, didn’t come home. I was again blessed with veteran friends that cared about me, far more than I did. They persuaded me to ask for help. That was difficult for me. I’m happy to offer help; I don’t accept it easily. They were there to “pull my coattails.” We all need such people in our lives because any of us can lose our way.

I’m 65 now…in human years. That’s right, you Cougars, “Who’s old enough to be your Daddy?” I’d probably be less at peace if I weren’t clear that I will live as long as I will live…do the best that I can, long as I can…and then cherish the serenity, the peace that I know awaits us all.

When your run finally ends, they will award the booby prize to all who frittered and dithered their Time away. You’ve already received the Keys to the Highway, you were born with them. You just need to remember. (Hey, perhaps I’m still here, just to pull your coattails).

Life is short. Use it…before you lose it.

And as the Lakota say, Ho-ka-he. “It is a good day to die.”

25 October 2009