Sometime soon, I’ll be filmed (https://www.instagram.com/books1sarasota/) having a conversation about Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman. To prepare, I thought I’d riff here to work out the kinks.
Speaking of riffing…let’s talk first about whether a stand up comic could get away with what Grossman’s main character (Dovaleh) did, which is basically tell what appears to be a 2 to 3 hour story about his life. What was realistic were the folks in the audience who did finally walk out, after first protesting that they came for humor.
While I think a big name comic could certainly do this, especially if it was a big reveal (I’ll let you decide if Dovaleh’s reveal was ‘big’), I think most unknown comics would be booed or taken off the stage by the management. It’d be interesting to pose this question to Les McCurdy, owner of McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre.
The best part about the book was the sub plot with Dovaleh asking his childhood friend to watch him and to really see him. He explained it like this:”I mean, you know, what does someone get when they see me? What do people know when they look at me…” When his childhood friend protests, claiming it wouldn’t be objective since he knows him, Dovaleh responds, “It’s been years,” he said immediately. “I’m not me, you’re not you.”
This is a deep philosophical thought, like who knows you, who really knows you and could make an assessment you could hang your hat on? Dovaleh picks his childhood friend (a judge) who he feels can give an objective assessment and yet this person wasn’t there for him when he truly needed someone. There is a qualification here, his ‘friend’ was there for the defining moment of his life, yet the friend never knew what the moment actually was in its totality until this on stage catharsis. It’s almost as if his friend knew him as the innocent (though bullied beyond belief) before the moment he was forced to grow up, the moment his childhood was thoroughly broken.
There are several true things about this statement. While people we know from our past certainly at their essence are the same, much of them have adapted by mean of experience. I use to get sad sometimes looking back on my life that people who I felt truly knew me and loved me, I no longer talk to on a regular basis and they were few in number to begin with: in order of appearance, here they are:
Becky Jones, my childhood friend, we shared many intimate moments (not sexual), John E (my first husband and father of my child), the demise of this is a mixture of my immaturity and his lack of wanting grow, John B a post college romance that went deeper than your typical, yet who became (I’m guessing) repulsed by either my wanting to rid myself of some art work from an ex or simply had found another safer bet than trying to rekindle something that had fallen apart so many times. These three humans knew me on a level that I felt safe and protected, (despite my super ironic running away from the last of the trio). Jon Z/strong>y, my second husband, who though I never could truly trust (mood imbalance/infidelity), I did feel he truly cared about me on a level, many before or since, have not. Rich A., a man I spent 5 years of Saturday evenings with and who was with me during a difficult time (post basal cell surgery) when no one else was around. And while he cried when I left New York, he hasn’t lifted a finger to say, ‘hey, I miss you, let’s get together’ (but he did text me for a job reference….chagrined).
With any of these people, I feel like singing Todd Rundgren’s “Can We Still Be Friends”? I don’t demand romantic love, but care and contact would make my life more complete.
The four who remain in my life with consistency are my parents, though I parented them early on as much as they parent me now, and I still love them. I enjoy immensely talking to each of them on the phone and see myself as part of them and vice versa. My precious son Liam, who I believe ‘knows’ me and still loves me, though I do feel an undercurrent of anger sometimes, (but aren’t we all angry at our mothers…I mean the old, ‘she did a lot, but it’s never enough-mentality?) and last, but certainly not least (in fact very very important) my best friend Tim Larson who does know me best of all and still loves (platonic) me (and I him). The last two mentioned, I am dead serious to say I truly don’t know if I could live without.
Oh, so maudlin, right? Not really. I am blessed. My parents are still relatively healthy. My son (I hope) is healthy and happy. And my friend is flying down for my birthday. I live in paradise and have two interesting jobs, so don’t cry for me Argentina. But I do strive still to find a loving partner to live with and enjoy activities with on a long term everyday basis, and that need and desire is healthy, not desperate. I can now finally be there for someone and deserve it in return.
So if I tried this on a stand up comedy stage? There’s no way I’d get away with it.
What the book leaves unanswered (despite it’s Man Booker Prize) is more depth about the childhood friend’s life, the supposed illness of the main character, the true relationship of the other witness who knew him in the audience, what Dovaleh had been dong all these years…just stand up? Did he mention relationships?
In conclusion, I see where the powers that be felt Horse Walks Into a Bar was worthy of a prize. However, I don’t think it’s a flawless work by any stretch. Yes, Dovaleh’s friend finally makes good on ‘being there’ for his buddy. And Dovaleh finally has a cathartic moment and is seen, warts and all. So in that sense the book is rewarding. And maybe that’s what the essence of life is all about. One person who is there for you in your moment of humanity.
And here’s the coincidence with the book, how many of you stayed till the end of the show (this entry)? For Horse Walks Into a Bar, it seemed there were 3 or more-manager, friend, neighbor lady, and possible lover.