Thursday, April 13, 2006

BETHESDA PARABLE

I'm going to post on Hamlet soon. But here's another story I've been trying to figure out ...

Tuesday before last, I was meeting up with long lost best friend Dan Stroeh and his dad for dinner. Dan was back in town briefly to see Hamlet and go through some routine NIH checkups. For anyone tracking Dan’s story: he’s doing better and better. He’s also feeling restless and eager to return to NYC as soon as he can. As we ambled around looking for a restaurant, the storm clouds started barreling in. Flocks of well-starched Bethsda-ites (wtf do you call them?) were scurrying inside to dodge the rain. We had a lovely Thai meal and then went our separate ways.

I was going to meet up with Ben Hill (of Revolutions Workshop fame – also producer of this summer’s fringe-within-a-fringe festival at DCAC) since he was back in town from Iowa City. So I walked across the street to Barnes&Noble to kill time. I got my coffee and went outside to try and catch him on the phone. The rain was still pouring down hard, so I couched myself underneath the B&N overhang next to that fountain they have in front. And then I saw the following:

In the rain, a homeless guy, black, stepped knee-deep into the fountain to scoop up the coins.

My thoughts and feelings in the order I remember them:

One: Holy fuck.

Two: That breaks my heart.

Three: What sent Nietzsche into the sanitarium?

Four: Holy fuck.

Five: There has to be a book/painting/play/poem/film that has used this image. I’m standing in front of a massive bookstore, for god’s sake. Tell me there’s a story inside the store to help me understand the story outside the store.

Six: What do Bethesdanians wish for anyway? I’d really like to know what would make their concrete-and-mirrored-glass playground better.

Seven: I’ve lived in South African townships and I’ve never seen anything this sad.

Eight: Holy fuck.

A couple minutes later, three 20-something guys tumbled out of the B&N. I don’t know if they were military or not, but a) they had matching haircuts and b) they were exactly two inches shorter than me. Anyway, here’s the conversation:

DUDE#1: Hey. Ya see the guy stealin’ wishes?

(Pause.)

ME: Uwuzzawuzza? What? Is that what you call it?

DUDE#1: Why? What do you call it? “Borrowing wishes”?

ME: No. I look at that and I think of the fool that would throw money into water, expecting to buy a wish for a quarter … and how the same fool would probably begrudge this guy that same quarter when that’s all he’s wishing for in the first place.

Dude#1 blinked. Then he and his buddies walked over to the homeless guy. One of them (Dudes#2 or 3, I can’t be sure) pulled out a fistful of change, looked the homeless guy right in the eye, and then threw the money into the fountain. They walked away, chuckling. And the homeless guy muttered after: “Bless you, thank you, bless you.”

I. Shit. You. Not.

Okay, kids. Someone in the blogworld has to have seen this before. Somewhere. Maybe that night. Maybe in art. Maybe at another fountain. I'm horribly under-read, so it'll probably be a scene from some embarrassingly obvious source like ... erm ... Finnegans Wake. The precedent won't provide comfort, but I have to know. Cause if I don't get that, I'm gonna need the names and addresses of the three musketeers.

19 comments:

Amy E. said...

Hmmm... I have a pal who was so hungry for a Big Mac he dove into a fountain for change.

Ah, America how I love thee.


There were no "dudes" around though...

Alison Croggon said...

You see things like that, and worse sometimes.

I can't think of an exact scene in literature. But offhand it makes me think of Joseph Roth (mid-century Austrian writer of genius) - maybe you might like his book The Legend of the Holy Drinker...

jordan said...

it happened in rome, but i doubt that's what your mind is trying to recall...?

bbc news story here

arcticactor said...

Strange. After the dudes took off, I was thinking: I could give him money. Or a sandwich. But I was standing at a bookstore -- a place that often gets most of my money anyway -- so I wondered: what book would do this guy good? Bible, no. Atlas Shrugged, no. Das Kapital, no. Tony Robbins Self-Help, no no no. Oprah's Book Club Book? A journal? ARGH! I was too angry to think.

Anonymous said...

i like your story better, but the nyt offers another version of your heart eviscerating moment. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DEFDA1E3BF934A3575BC0A9649C8B63&sec=travel&pagewanted=print

crap i dont think the link worked... sorry.
the townships, you say? i dont remember that.

arcticactor said...

Anon,

You must have been in Langa for a few days, right? Shouldn't say I "lived" there, but I don't remember Mowbray feeling much safer/less eye-opening. I'm thinking back to the Site Five trip more than anything. And Khayelitsha at night. Did you get to do UCT's Akani program?

All I meant was: the poverty/brutality in Cape Town c.1999 was striking ... yet I'm caught more off guard when the American version of the same poverty/brutality sneaks up on me in street scenes like this one.

Anonymous said...

my apologies! my comment on the "townships" had nothing to do with whether mowbray was in the heart of the cape flats, nor was it a critique of the ability to demean and diminish the humanity of the poor in the respective countries mentioned, and everything to do with the fact that i couldnt recall that you had spent any time there.

Anonymous said...

when you win your HH award. They'll be begging you to do it on Broadway.

Anonymous said...

.

Anonymous said...

Yes, actually several years ago I witnessed the same heart-breaking scenario at the Tivoli Fountain in Rome...although the Italian police were quick to apprehend the "perpetrator," as the Tivoli Fountain is a major tourist attraction... may I be so bold as to suggest that perhaps Miller, the playwright, has stumbled on a subject (or at least a construct) worth exploring in the playwright's vernacular?...maybe that is the printed word capable of helping the poor soul wading in the Bethesda waters. --Trillum

Anonymous said...

That is disturbing stuff.

Sorry again about the columbinus casting. I miss you. Anne Bowles (I'm sleeping on her floor) says hi as well, and that she's rooting for ya.

Best of luck at the Helen Hayes Awards tonight. Right after Arcadia closed, I remember thinking "if Karl doesn't get nominated for this, that would be a crime." I had the same thought after seeing you in Seagull and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you tonight. It would be well earned.

-- "Damnit, Jimmy!" Flanagan

amye said...

.....


I think it's safe to say that you were ROBBED.

Anonymous said...

my first trip to the helen hayes ceremony was less inspiring than i'd hoped it would be, though i must say it was educational. in any case... i would have liked to have heard your acceptance speech.

MattJ said...

Hey Karl,

I'm in DC for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, I saw you act tonight and I couldnt stay for the whole thing otherwise I would have introduced myself. Excellent work with the material. Are you going to be coming to any other ACTF stuff? I have a reading going up on Saturday. You can email me through my blog.

Godd to see you on stage, yo're a talented actor. Take care.
~Matt

Anonymous said...

I originally began with the declaration "I am Dude #3." Seemed unwise after a moment's reflection. I live in Washington. We should gather at some point. I do hope you are well.


Sean (seanmhelle@gmail.com)

LuckySpinster said...

you coulda bought him a sammich. a really good yummy one. and a soda. that woulda been fun.

if you'd've given him a book, he might've been illiterate, for all you know. in which case, finnegans wake might've been a perfect choice. (my professor said the only way to get through it is to keep it in the bathroom and read a few bits at a time. i still failed.)

B.O.S.S. 3 said...

hey i need to get in touch with you. it is important. i am not sure how often you check this, but i hope you check it soon. it is not life or death, just important. email me at maicah@hotmail.com

B.O.S.S. 3 said...

maicahm@hotmail.com (sorry)

Anonymous said...

Lucky #19. I confess, I didn't read the blog. Sometimes you just gotta use KM's web space to sploog your space out into the middle of everyone to look at. While I'm on the subject of splooging and giphawed professionals, KM needs to make the move to New York.
another bonus of using his
blog to write a blog: how
else am I gonna get an
opinion from you folks in DC?
New topic:
Doctrine is as essential as Consistency