UTILITY

Yesterday I drove 50 miles to offer a reading at a Ventura book store. The commitment was requested of me back in October – pick a Saturday during our festival on veteran literature and support our effort. So at random I chose March 22nd. Yesterday I arrived, entered the book store and confronted an elderly man described yesterday, who will be 100 in July. He was seated at a table and two chairs in the front of the shop. I realized, this is where I was intended to speak.

3 to 5 PM, that was the understanding. Two hours of me putting out energy and focus but I welcome any opportunity to speak about PTSD. There was no one there…only the manager who’d booked me. And I thought, Are you kidding me? You asked of my time for this?

I learned that their library was also being used for these readings and they were well attended. I wondered why I was scheduled here. I felt…embarrassed. I felt poorly treated. I felt resentment for his presumption. I felt disrespected. I sat with All of that…and considered just how I had allowed this to happen. And a man entered. He offered his hand, introduced himself and told me how much he was looking forward to this.

I learned that his younger brother had been killed in Vietnam, in a chopper shot down by RPG in the late ’60s. In Cu Chi, an area maybe 100 klicks north of me. You’ve probably heard mention of the tunnels of Cu Chi…and the tunnel rats. His brother hadn’t been a tunnel rat, he’d been an infantry staff sergeant. We agreed neither of us could have handled such an assignment, both too large and not nearly insane enough to crawl into tunnels with a flashlight and a 45. Inside were snakes and punji stakes and booby traps and sometimes, VC.

As we spoke I sensed a profound needing in him. 44 years later, he wanted to know everything about his younger brother. He had map coordinates, he’d spoken to some of the men that served with his brother. I told him Google maps would allow him to see with great precision that area. That in fact, he could fly to Vietnam and walk the very ground on which his brother served. I gave him the names of books that would reveal to him some of that he yearned to know – what his brother had endured. Even as we spoke, a mental window running in my background was noting how very important this meeting was – to both of us.

He’d intended to buy my book, he chose instead my audio book, which he can load onto his iPod. I gave him my card, told him I’d provide the names of the couple that arranged my return to Vietnam in 2004. We shook hands and I packed up. It was about 3:45. I’d left 10 books there on consignment back in October, five had been sold. They owe me about $65.

I was there for a reason yesterday. And I think that may often be the case for some of us in life…but we don’t always recognize it. I’m grateful that I recognized it.

WHAT LIES AHEAD

During the recent rains, I’d closed a large bedroom window. I tried to reopen it and it resisted. So I gave it a manly tug…and it left its track and fell straight down into the 6 inch gap between the wall and my feet. As it plummeted downward, I somehow had time for this calm thought. “Hmm. Wonder what I can use for a tourniquet…”

It landed plumb, not on either edge and did not shatter. I was stunned. This is a large window, 4′ x 4′. I regathered myself, pulled up the blinds, moved aside the curtains and replaced it in its track…and then applied WD40.

That thought happened “out of time”. It reminded me of the experience of being “out of body.” I’ve known it at least twice; as I’ve written before, during my first and last mission in Vietnam. In my experience, OOB takes place in an alternate reality. I become consciousness without physicality, without opinion, dispassionate. Not disinterested….just without any judgement regarding the event. I am for whatever reason always “above” the event, not beside or in front of or behind.

My consciousness exists in 360 degrees, that itself a unique perspective. I “see” in Every direction. Yet I am not shocked by this perspective, suggesting that I have known it before. I have observed my physical being – Tucker – busily at work or bleeding out. I don’t sense in that moment that I am “he”. I recognize him, I observe him…but my sense is that this consciousness does not belong to Tucker…but to that reality from which we all came…and to which we shall return.

I don’t know if that is comforting to you or not. But I cherish its familiarity.

THE MIGHTY GENTS

MIGHTY GENTS

 

Yeah. it’s Thursday. Lotta tales to tell, children…And we have ahead a lotta Thursdays 😉

Richard Lawson and I in THE MIGHT GENTS, by Richard Wesley. Richard Lawson was a combat medic in Vietnam. This, a mobile production from The Public Theater. Sam Jackson was in the gang. Bill Cobbs was Zeke. This became the second time that I was fired, as a professional actor. (Remember, the first time, I was shortly thereafter nominated for an Emmy Not this time. I was “let go”. This after we’d opened and a few people said some wonderful things about my work. My work was coming along…and I felt close to achieving my intentions. And I got paid off for the entire run. Joe Papp took care of his people. But it hurt…it hurt a lot. Because this time – and a few times in later years – I surrendered my own instincts to the tenets of my Training.

Do the will of the director. Not Your will. Serve the Director.

And I did. My understudy was a young actor I’d befriended and drove each nite after rehearsal to Grand Central Terminal in my Austin-Healey. He lived with his family in Riverside. His name was Denzel Washington. I never saw him perform my role – there was still too much tenderness – but I have no doubt that Denzel was riveting.

I went with my lady one night to see him do The Soldiers Story. Lotta fine actors on that stage. Denzel, standing on stage, doing nothing, saying nothing…was more interesting to me than other actors as they spoke.

That night I GOT what was meant when people spoke of charisma. I’ve seen it a few times since. But charisma is unmistakable. It’s another gear, another level of reality.

And I also remember standing with my lady later that night, she in tears, in front of our living room window that looked out on Central Park and across to the East Side. I hugged her and said, “Sweetheart, look at what we have. We’re fine.” I drove to California, SAG went on strike, I was called back to NY, to do TEXAS…and my world began to come entirely undone. This began my real descent into PTSD…and it lasted for eight years.