Ok. This is disconcerting. I just received a DVD that I ordered. It was on my wish list for over a year at amazon.com and the price kept going up up up. So I figured that no one was going to see the wish list because I never told anyone about it, and bought it for myself. The DVD is Spalding Gray, “Swimming to Cambodia”. I always loved Spalding. Found him to be very inspirational.
The disconcerting bit is the menu, Spalding’s head bobbing in and out of water with the menu selections below. Oh it’s nearly macabre. Spalding Gray killed himself by jumping into the river January 2004. It was Very sad.
I became a fan of Spalding’s in the eighties, I remember seeing the ads for his series at Lincoln Center. I didn’t know anything about him or the series but there was something about the poster that captured my imagination. I bought a ticket to see Swimming to Cambodia by myself and I was hooked. I also saw “Sex and Death to the Age Fourteen” and “Terrors of Pleasure”.
All about Spalding sitting at his desk with a notebook and a glass of water, talking. But not merely talking, taking us all on a journey in our imaginations with him as our guide on his stories. Very funny and insightful. My sister saw him once or twice in Garberville, CA, when he was laying low, doing a tour perhaps and checking out some chippies on the side. He was a man after all.
I was working at McSwells at the time and was so enthusiastic about Spalding that I turned a few other employees and bar flies onto him. They seemed to enjoy it but not like me. He really struck a chord. More info for the memory banks. Part of the philosophy that I have about no one is actually a complete person until they die. The thing is with every person you meet, you get a little something from them, be it knowing someone for decades, or just chatting with someone in an elevator for 30 seconds.
And you get a little bit from all these people and they become part of your make up. When you die you are complete and perhaps ready for the next level, if there is a next level. I never met Spalding but read most of his books and had seen a few of his shows and also been to screenings and readings that he had introduced or read at.
Bill had taken me to see Spalding in October 2003 at PS.122 in the East Village. I was prepared for what I was going to see, having read about Spalding in a copy of GQ a month earlier. He was in terrible shape. He was involved in a serious car accident in Ireland, damage to his leg, his skull and over all, his spirit. Someone had died in the accident as well I believe.
He came out on Opening Night and was merely a shell of what he once was. He spoke in a monotone, flat and lacking in energy. It seemed to be a challenge for him to even speak. It was 180 degrees from what he used to be. He didn’t really speak too long and close to the end he started to repeat himself, reading from a notebook and saying basically what he just spoke of.
I wish Bill was able to see Spalding live with all engines blazing away, the brilliance of the manner in which he told a story.
A woman seated near us said to me that she just wanted to go up and hug him. I explained to her about what I had read in GQ. She mentioned she was going to see if it was still on the newsstands. I wanted to see him again, to see how his latest monologue had progressed, but life being what it is prevented me from doing so.
I understand it had gotten better. But Spalding didn’t seem to get better and slipped into deeper crevices of depression that not even his wife or children could lift him out of. When he was reported missing I called his residence and left a message on the answering machine stating that he showed up in Garberville CA years ago, perhaps he went there again. I was only trying to help.
A few days later they pulled his body out of the river. So now I have these DVD’s of Swimming to Cambodia and Gray’s Anatomy. Not the same as seeing him on stage behind the desk but that is nowhere near as bad as not having a father or a husband or any loved one to come home to.
Waiting for some more perfect moments.