Fear and Loathing in La Mancha.
We live in a world that makes it hard not to drink. The fates have made it so that the last legal drug in this doomed nation is probably one of the most dangerous. When late at night turns into early morning I hear the brown liquor whispering its siren song. It can’t be helped. I will abstain though. There is virtue yet in this rake. The show is over, but the questions all remain. The plague that has infected me for the last couple months lingers, but the fever has broken. Quixote has been exorcised.
I had to go for it. Bemidji State or no. Never heard Man of La Mancha before I tried out. I try my best not to see a musical before I either perform or produce it. It’s tough with the crowd I run with. Theater people. You tell someone you’ve never seen Rent and they look at you different. Having been unable to pay rent in NYC and having successfully avoided contracting AIDS I do not feel compelled to hear the whimsically tragic stories of those who failed and succeeded in antithesis to me. I live in an egocentric world. It exists between my ears and I encourage you to visit some day.
Whimsy. That’s what I was worried about. That’s what’s wrong with musical theater. Takes an otherwise important and relevant issue and then whips the meaning out of it with snappy dance numbers and clever duets. South Pacific is a good example. Talk to a veteran of Iwo Jima and see how many times they and their company were compelled to sing the virtues of the fairer sex. Few and far between. But really, don’t talk to a veteran about that. They will beat you to death with a walker. I should mention, for the sake of total disclosure, that I had no intention of actually accepting the role. I just wanted to know that someone wanted me to do it. Then Dr. Patrick was fool enough to let me in the door.
Bemidji State has been my windmill for over a decade. Here I am, an arrow shot from 30, and I’ve only managed to get two semesters out of the bastards. They kicked me out after each. I rarely claim to be an intelligent person. Unless I’m about to try selling something. I never claim to be a good student. Don’t like systems. Hate bureaucracy. Administration is ruining the planet. Can’t a man just ask to be taught how to build solar dirigibles and find an institution that thinks it’s a winning idea? I’m not a man who deals well with rejection. Poor Bemidji State. Hate to see you get knocked over.
Stealing education is an interesting concept I think. It’s something I should be promoting among our youth. I can probably prescribe a training program for almost every vocation. You want to be a writer kid? Here’s a reading list. You want to be an automotive mechanic? Don’t bother. They’ll all be electric by the time you graduate. Want to repair appliances? Call Maytag. They need you. You want to be a pilot? Can’t help you. Doctor neither. If you want to be a dentist I can teach you how to remove teeth cheap. I don’t think there’s anything or anyone anywhere that can teach me something I can’t learn in an hour on the internet. I can remove your appendix with my Liberty Knife. I’ll need a waiver first.
Whimsy Free For Your Pleasure. Should have put it on the posters. Should have called more people. The matinee was poorly attended. Which was something of a blessing, since all the good lucks and MacBeths kicked in Sunday. Strange shit going on. Missed cues and dropped lines. Rubber knife in the middle of the stage for no apparent reason. Here and there and everywhere another strange break from the pattern of talking and singing. I blame the daylight entirely. We of the Vampire Nation reject your sun and its deadly rays. Hate matinees. When a person gets done with a show they ought to walk out of the theater and into the night. A night pregnant with opportunity. Enthusiastic theater goers off to get hammered and bask in the afterglow.
Starring Jeremiah. One day soon I will have to simply make the posters myself. For my own show. Nothing particularly out of the ordinary. Little fire breathing. Singing. Swordplay. Read some of these lunatic ramblings I’ve collected digitally over the years. Everyone look under your seat. It’s a cookie. We will be selling glasses of milk for a dollar. Please remember to tip your thieves. Acclaimed Performer and Local Lunatic Jeremiah TS Liend presents and evening of knifes and paper. THROW FRUIT AT THE MANIAC FOR A DOLLAR! I’ve made my own pillory in the shop. Just put on a hood and hope they throw change.
I wonder what attendance numbers were. Probably less than a thousand. Less than a thousand will ever see me as Cervantes. The video was captured and immediately destroyed by fire to ensure BSU is keeping with copy write regulations. Five nights only. Free to students. Sweet Jesus there are over 6,000 students at BSU. What the hell were they doing on Sunday afternoon? Studying? I think we all know better than that. Taking massive gravity bong hits while watching a solid 20 hours of Family Guy. Drinking away the previous night’s bender. Spending the afternoon trying to remember the girl from Birch Hall’s name, feverishly searching the student directory for a picture index. Adding to the Beaver-Based humor that makes life still worth living. Not going to see the free theater.
I know several people who paid cash monies to see the show. Some twice. I guess it’s not the numbers, after all. It’s the quality. Grandma Mary came on Friday and looked just about to burst in the lobby. That alone made two months of three hours a night, some of it while playing a villain down the road, worthwhile. It’s the people that make it all worthwhile really. Quality people. I hope they learned something. I feel I learned something. More than that, I spoke for the dead. I spoke for my Grandma who, in her twilight, fought to keep her home. I spoke for the thousands slain by Inquisition, and the millions more slain by lack of imagination. 394 years after his death, to the day, I defended Miguel de Cervantes and the dream that was his.
But that doesn’t stop the self loathing. It doesn’t stop the questions. The terrible fear that creeps into my bed at night and whispers in my ear. That the whore was right. That we’re all just parasites surviving in the decaying intestines of a dying creature. That our existence, placed in context of the galaxy, is as valueless as rat gas. That no matter what you do, the end result is failure. That not one of the myriad dreams available will ever be attainable. This rifle-sucking pathos strikes like a razor blade in a hot bath. Makes a person want to recline the seat in the mini-van and leave it running in the garage while they crank up the oldies on the radio and take a nap. Cruel and vicious uncertainty that undermines not only the will, but vexes the initiative. The consolation prize is eating too much and watching In The Line of Fire for the 32nd time.
Because Cervantes is in there. Singing that fucking song. Over and over again. And when his words come out of my mouth they may ring with a truth. And this truth is that we are all glorious. The truth is we are all good looking members of the Greatest Nation That Has Ever Been. The truth is we may have walked on the moon, and The King is dead [long live the king], and we have half a black president and gas is still less than $5 a gallon. Water is still free most places and there are always shitty jobs in the paper. You can be rescued with your cellular device. Pepsi and Coke are no longer at war. The Good News is that, although most Christians have guns, they are reluctant to use them casually.
Al Burkowitz gave me the best compliment. I’m not fishing, mind you, but sometimes they jump into the boat. Seems he saw Richard Kiley in La Mancha when it was still Off-Broadway. I had to ask how I compared. He said I did. I don’t need the Tony if I can be assured by reliable sources that I’m in the ballpark with greatness. I was in NYC when Kiley died. March 5, 1999. I remember Stu telling me the lights were going dark on Broadway. Funny to remember something from so long ago. So much lost to the time fog and that still strikes me.
The pattern will never reveal itself to me fully. It’s only impossible coincidence and thinly veiled hope. The teasing and cloying connection that belies the ticking of universal clockwork. My dreams elude me as the sun erases them. There is only the next show and the next. And one day I will be dead. But if I do enough shows, and with the right things to say, the world will be better. And maybe that’s enough to keep me out of hell after all those terrible things.
Some of you may have noticed the title is something of a rip off. No one can prop themselves up as the next Hunter. There won’t be another one made. But I speak for the dead and not all of them are heroes. As it turns out it’s easier to go Gonzo than go insane. Characters all. Playing in the tawny fields of my mind. Cross it off the list. Cervantes has left the building.