He was talking that night at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre. So I called a couple of friends, and asked them if they had plans. They didn’t, and so after work we met in the city centre, “town” we call it. There wasn’t much time before the show, so we grabbed a couple of bottles each of Guinness at the Palace bar before following the river up to Temple Bar’s theatre.
We went in, sat down and out he came, then Spalding Gray dazzled us with his words.
He said so much stuff that night. It was one of his monologues, Terrors of Pleasure: The House.
So much of what he said had meaning for me, and later in life, I came across situations which were similar. Later, I’ll tell one.
So we were there, my friends and I, drinking our beer and laughing with the people listening to this man. During the show he spoke about a guy who’d picked him up when he’d been hitch-hiking. “He was this guy…” Spalding Gray said. “He looked just like him.” And he pointed to me. It was a small audience, less than a hundred in the little theatre.
So after the show, he picked up his stuff, and I felt it was more like a teacher leaving a classroom than an actor leaving a stage. “Mister Gray.” I remember saying. “That was amazing.”
He turned to me and raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Oh.” He said. “You’re one of those guys who were drinking beer during my show.” The conversation didn’t go much further than that, I’m sorry to say, but I shook his hand and thanked him, for he’d opened my eyes to a new form of storytelling: just honest speaking.
Being Irish, this was a very natural way of telling a tale, but just speaking was new to me. It was too much like being with the family, neighbours and friends, not work, or art, just talking. That was the impression I had of Spalding Gray that night. He was this guy from the States, a very refined part of that country called New England.
He spoke about buying a house and about working in the acting industry, and he even quoted from a film he almost worked in. I later saw the film, and the romantic scene Spalding had described. The male actor wasn’t him, and I wondered how that other guy could get the job over this great communicator, but even back then, at that tender age, I knew that rarely is someone chosen for the right job.
A couple of years passed and I read his book, and saw his movie, and then in 1989 I came to Spain. I learned a new language and made a living teaching a foreign language, and to tell the truth, my teaching methodology was enhanced by my encounter with Spalding Gray. He went on to other things, and I’m sorry to say I haven’t seen “Monster in a box” or “Gray’s anatomy”, nor have I read anything written by the man since my arrival in Spain, but I still have the copy of the book published in 1985 “Swimming to Cambodia” which I treasure.
Well after many years I decided to check up on Spalding Gray, and I couldn’t believe what my Goggle search came up with. He was dead. I’m still reading stuff, researching the death of someone I admired profoundly. Something doesn’t make sense, well, a few things don’t make sense, but his misfortune in my homeland was doubly painful. Ireland, what could happen to anyone in Ireland? I’ve driven those country roads as a passenger many times, poor Spalding, also as a passenger, suffered terrible injuries on a country road in a part of Ireland where distant relatives of mine live.
It’s been a few weeks since my discovery, and he’s been gone a few years already, but I just don’t get it. What happened to that wonderful person I listened to in Dublin long ago? Sadness invades me.
I’ve spoken to two very dear people about this, I mean, you have to talk right?
But right now I’m still coming to terms.
Spalding Gray is dead.
More tomorrow, okay?