It was six in the early morning of what was my usual work weekday. When a full screen appeared along with a voice talking about New York’s worst snowstorm since the nineteen twenties, it caught my attention. Just like in Los Angeles when we have a heavy rain, voices of doom seemed to broadcast from one corner of the country to another. New York’s mayor had some unbelievable story he was feeding the public about how the city was just not equipped to handle that amount of snow. And the common folk were heard whining as only New Yorkers can. Inclement weather shouldn’t come as a shock to inhabitants of the city of New York (yah think).
Come rain, snow, hail, or even a hurricane, regardless the inclemency, the networks all managed to station some weather person outside in order to establish the degree of problems they might be having. How strong a storm it was would serve to determine how much whining is necessary, or prudent, before an annoyed bystander came up the side of a whiner’s head with an umbrella.
Have you ever noticed how audiences manage to get to the theater of their choice regardless of the weather? They may complain about the bathroom facilities not being adequate, but when it comes to making use of their high priced ducats, the better their seats, the less whining you’ll hear.
Descriptive notes regarding above average actors:
Above average actors (they’re the ones who aren’t constantly listening to music being piped into them via a surgically attached headset, in place of reading, or understanding real news); they don’t require a mayor’s explanation. Most New York actors are perfectly capable of understanding inclement weather. Although at a recent audition one of them asked me, “da harv, did you hear how they’re suffering out on Long Island?” “No,” I responded (sarcastically). I would have had to be comatose to miss it, the way the media was constantly broadcasting updates.
At our auditions, I have long since given up on general discussions of anything having to do with the conditions our world is in; not that I consider myself some kind of knowledgeable, world-recognized sage. It’s just that most forms of whining get in the way of any productive outcome. There have been many times in my life, when having a whiner around was not only non-productive, but also served as a disruptive force.
Whiner (to da harv): “Do you think I’ll ever win one of these spots?”
da harv (to whiner): “Not a chance!”
Long ago in a far off land, I found myself, along with many other men – visually similar in body and dress – sharing in the earliest beliefs of the folks who founded our country.
You may have guessed, we were in the service of our country, specifically, the United States Army. Our age-range was from nineteen to twenty-five (on average). We were a mixed bag; every race and color you could think of was represented. The most outstanding attribute we had going was the respect we had for one another. Contrary to what the average person stateside might think, we were an army of outstanding gentlemen.
Keep in mind, this was an era long before any form of political correctness had been introduced. Being in harm’s way some how eliminates a need for political correctness. In any event none of us had yet to hear the term expressed.
From basic training on, and all through the fulfillment of a required tour of duty, for us common soldiers, all things were equal. And I mean equal! We ate, slept, showered, prayed and went to the bathrooms (if you could call them that) together. And what whining there was, managed to come across as a factor for unity. There was no separation of states (life’s stations). We laughed at and with each other. Sure we all complained, but for some reason, it didn’t come out like someone whining about the weather, or the table a waiter showed them to. All of our seats were the same price. There wasn’t anything special about being up front.
Without consciously going for it, in our own makeshift way, many of us were becoming amateur philosophers. We existed in a no holds barred environment. Personal questions were asked and usually answered with total honesty. We wore whom we were on our sleeves for all to see and feel. Sure there were times when things raised in conversation became too personal for a guy to handle. A build up of incipient anger flickered, then was headed off and defused before turning into anything more than a little extra heated conversation. Only when serious drinking was involved did we ever experience some uncommonly difficult moments. I guess that’s why the army did whatever they could to keep us enlisted guys away from hard liquor. The definitive word is “try.” American soldiers are the most inventive in the world. We always had a bottle to pass around. Admittedly, some of what I ingested was downright vile.
Still, I was only nineteen years old, I hadn’t had the time to cultivate any serious lifelong relationships at home. The guys who experienced a breakup with a stateside girlfriend were the ones who suffered the most; yet it was never an annoyance to any of us. It never came across as whining.
We managed to enjoy a diversion or two. For a short period of time we had a tackle football league (if you could call it that). A group of guys who were heavy duty jocks back home decided to continue competing while in the service. It didn’t last very long – we were systematically killing one another.
Then there was a series of other hobbies we cultivated. All they (the brass) had to do was tell us we couldn’t have something, and the next thing you’d know we’d, have more than we knew what to do with. An example of that process was the number of dogs we had in our company area. Keep in mind, this was a God-forsaken location, carved out of the side of a mountain. The terrain was treacherous. Nature’s elements never held back. Summer heat and humidity so harsh it became visible, then to the other extreme of wind and cold which served to create a living tomb like winter existence. And with it all, our adolescent sense of humor continued to blossom.
Each company of men had four or five dogs roaming around. They were our pets, and as well taken care of as any raised back home. Not surprisingly, one day at a company formation, we were informed of a new rule. It turns out the guys had been smuggling in a puppy or two from Japan. The number of dogs in our compound had grown to thirty. We would have been fine, except for the fact our mess hall sergeant was complaining about food being stolen in order to feed our animals. The stealing of food stopped, almost immediately; that is to say, corresponding to the shipments of pet food that began to arrive from a variety of charitable organizations. Some of the guys had shared our debacle with the folks at home. The dam had been opened. Our company sergeant in charge of mail delivery, and himself a genuine dog lover, never let on about the increase in the number of large packages we were now receiving from home on a regular basis. Our dogs were living in style. None of them ever experienced wearing a collar. All of them were trained to respond to the one word command “hide” whenever an officer was in the area.
In retrospect, I do believe most of our officers were as pleased to have the dogs running around as we were. Somehow, heat nor the cold, or even for some of us, the loneliness, wasn’t as dominating a factor as it would have been were it not for our smuggled in friends.
* We didn’t have cell phones.
* Digital anything was not yet a part of our lives.
* The only way our antics were shared was by word of mouth or the written word.
* Any photos deemed off-color or obscene weren’t allowed to be developed.
Was it really lived by me?
The far away place has changed
And without effort, I to changed along with it
There are no complaints to share
Whining, to whom?
I wonder where they are today
No matter, I guess
The present is where I must reside.
* “Being in the present.” Nary an actor who hasn’t heard the term.
* From one coach or another: “Be in the present. Stay current. It’s the here and the now.”
This just in:
Sergeant Shriver passed away, at age ninety-five.
This is a news report of nothing more profound than a life coming to an end.
I listened to Maria describing her father, the former head of “The Peace Corps.” She talked about visiting with her father, who no longer recognized her. Maria spoke of entering her father’s room and saying, “Hi Daddy, I’m your daughter Maria.” And he would respond with the words, “Are you really?” She went on to say this same reintroduction took place even if she left his room for just a moment or two to get a drink of water. When asked how she was able to cope with it, Maria responded with, “It’s my choice to stay in the present. To introduce myself to my father each time like it was new all over again.”
While Maria Shriver may not be an actress, her choice of a method to deal with a trying situation at best, represents a classical method for overcoming the weekly trauma she bravely endured.
Staying fresh and vibrant, as opposed to giving in to a living trepidation, is never a good time for grief to be experienced personally, or by your compassion for others.
And so perhaps your real audience being the people in your life, those you know, and those for you to meet for the first time. If there is to be a moment when you’re in command, it will be there for you, as you choose in taking pleasure introducing yourself to them for the first time. Each new introduction to whomever will represent a pure and living present tense.
Like me, for some, a dream brings a recapturing of the wonderment of what had been. Strangely enough the very dream, which captures the past, will allow for the pleasantness of what your future might become. (If you let it.)
“And so.” Well before six in the morning of a common workday, just as the clock “ugly’d” me up, and my eyes not yet at full rise, there came to visit another of those dream recollections; though dark in places, there again of a dramatic nature, thankfully not companioned by any form of physical disturbances. The years gone by, limiting the aftereffects, to never more than occasional numbness in my extremities, and some perspiration signaling the end of whatever an army man’s subconscious had recalled without solicitation.
Remembrances of instances lived before, during, and after a sequence of events, never of equal weight, are not consciously thought about. Recollections unable to be understood remain uncontrolled during my sleep, lasting a lifetime. All the words in a dream have become jumbled together. What was I dreaming of this time?
I looked in on what meant little to one guy, a nineteen-year-old kid, and me in reality, soon to become a so-called man feeling the christening of his mortality. It was nothing more than a surreal split of a single second, his body covered in perspiration caused by one hundred degree temperatures, and humidity too high to be measured by the meters the army supplied us with. And then, an explosion, which lifted him upward, and with a sickening jarring, returned him to a precarious and painful position. One of his older buddies sternly admonished, “You’re never going to get used to it either.”
In the moment, mortality became a reality. In the moment, an experience some men never realize until the end, became his to keep within for the rest of his life.
Three days later, at 9PM, on July 27, 1953, the Korean conflict came to its unceremonious end. According to the record books, the official ending time was twenty–two hundred hours (10 PM.)
I had experienced fright beyond my previous beliefs. My life would never be the same. And although there were a number of occasions when my life was in serious peril during my tour of duty, those three days, thirty-five miles north of the thirty-eighth parallel will remain seared in my mind’s eye, equaled only by the formal surrendering of my boyhood.
Watching as my words hit the paper, I do so with the belief, only a few out there who may read what I’ve scribed will understand the emanation and meaning of my moments being recalled.
And yesterday morning I was there again – or was I? Awakening by what had to be a dream. The recollections were clear, but there were no memories of fear, nothing the likes of the sweet scary induction of a shock wave, entering the top of an instep and swiftly making its way up the sensitive inner thigh, and winding uncontrollably up and through the center of a man’s groin. Only standing at the precipice of a jutting cliff with a stiff wind forcing you forward could ever match in similarity the fearful anxiety of that moment.
It isn’t a fear of pain. What has happened is as totally the present as a human being may realize. Mortality is there, not as a remembrance for an actor to recall. More aptly, it is the most personal moment a man could possibly experience. A man made element had lifted me from the ground, then replaced me there against my will. But it was an act of God determining whether my senses might be left intact enough for any future to even exist at all.
That morning, the face I looked at as I shaved did not exist in the dream just gone by and lost.
The lines were not those of a nineteen year old.
The nineteen year old wore his fear in eyes experiencing a first time and unexpected moment. His face not yet etched by time. Looking deeper into the mirror before me I searched to regain my self-composure. It darkened and I must have again returned to a deeper sleep than before. The boy was gone. Only an older man awakened this time. The past had passed. I thought for a moment about shaving, and then smiled inwardly, asking myself, what if it wasn’t a dream. In anticipation, I rubbed my face. The stubble was there. I was in the present.
Down stairs: “You’re awfully quiet,” Cathy said.
“I think I had another of those dreams.”
“About what?” she asked.
I honestly couldn’t tell her. The whole damn thing was so convoluted this last go-around. Part of the time I was the older man I am today, and then at the very same time, I found myself away in another place with a young body. Then an overall feel good moment as I remembered the German Shepard dog I had when I was ten years old. But when I went to pet him, he wasn’t my dog at all. He was a dog from another time and place. And I heard this God-awful explosion as I awakened to a huge jet flying over our home from the nearby Van Nuys airport.
“You’re smiling,” Cathy said.
“It’s good to be here in the present with you. We have a lot to smile about, don’t we!”
Each of us in this world we are privileged to make our living in, must look to these days as our own personal present to live in. We go forward with the intent of capturing and recapturing a new performance to be honestly performed with each and every person we come into contact with. Trying on each hello as your latest presentation of your one and only God-given experience. And if luck would have it that you find yourself being greeted by this guy, please take notice – I’ll be right there with you, in the present, saying hello and thanking you for coming in today and sharing my “present” seemingly for the very first time.