Swimming to Manhattan
A personal journey to Spalding Gray’s Memorial Service in NYC
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
April 13th, 2004
by John Boland (aka ‘Ratz Garcia’)
Dedicated to Kathie, Melissa, Theo, Forrest … and Spalding
Day 23 – The Memorial
(suggested music – ("And When I Die" live at the Bottom Line by Laura Nyro AND "Stoned Soul Picnic" by Laura Nyro)
I don’t know what Laura Nyro’s Memorial was like – she died seven years ago from ovarian cancer at the age of 49.
I know I went to NYC and the Memorial with expectations. And as Confucius say ‘Road of expectations filled with potholes of disappointment’...
I left the Bowery in my best, except that I wore a t shirt I had made with www.spaldinggray.com on it. The day before I had taken another one and had my friends at the Bowery sign it with one of those special pens. It was a big hit with some great art added. It was an experiment – I wanted Big (Chris Noth) from Sex and the City to sign it ‘absofuckinlutely, Mr. BIG’ and then I’d sell it on eBay with the proceeds to the Spalding Gray scholarship fund. Expectation.
As soon as I left to get subway, a thunderstorm began. Three strikes of lightning. All the movie and TV filming crews dived for cover. I get off the subway, at 51st, eight blocks too soon. I arrived with a mass of people waiting to get in to the theatre. I was absofuckinlutely soaked, thru my gortex windbreaker. My tweed was soaked, my pants were dripping. Everyone else seems bone dry. My guess – the limos got them pretty close to the door.
I recognized one person – she looked very familiar. When we got to pour into the seats, she sat in front of me. Judy Collins! Now I knew. The front row – middle seat – BIG. The stage had Spalding’s table, notebook and water. A huge screen at the back had a wonderful picture of the Spud.
Then Judy Collins took the stage – and Heaven and an Angel had ascended. She invited everyone to sing Amazing Grace with her – “Or sing anything else as I’m sure Spalding would understand.”
Philip Glass solo, Laurie Anderson, speeches by close friends, and some wonderful video. A special funny short made with a Spud look a like. A never before shown interview of Spalding during his recovery from the accident. A clip from a monologue – the clapping on the film perfectly blended with the cheers from the audience.
Then Kathie and Theo took the stage for the finale so to speak. I’ve heard of this concept of indigo children – have no idea really what it means – but I think Theo would qualify. Kathie thanked people for coming. And I may have dreamt it but I believe she said that she would dedicate her life to making sure more people knew whom Spalding Gray was. That is interesting as that is my goal as well.
After, I was expecting a quasi celebration – I had thought that Spalding would like that. It was happy hour after all… No party. So no t shirt signings. But I did take the opportunity to shake Big’s hand. He was very gracious and amazingly handsome. There was a big line up to speak to Kathie. I should have stayed. You see I’ve never met Kathie. The Day about the Sunday brunch – I made it up – everything else is true. We had emailed about the possibility. I got fuckin stood up!!! Hahaha…
I walked back towards the subway. It was still raining and I was still soaked. I had a brief perfect moment, somewhere near Times Square. I felt the same as I had felt in high school one day when I walked in the rain over to my girlfriend’s. It was a combination of happiness, suffering, and fucking being ok. I stopped at Shermans on Fifth. You see I only smoke when I’m in New York and can get Shermans. I was fucking homeward bound. ( The Wisteria had more blooms than ever before…)
May 15, 2004 – Victoria, BC, Canada
© 2004 John Boland aka Rat Garcia (my NYC nic)
Any and all proceeds to go to the Spalding Gray Scholarship Memorial Fund. You may make your donation here.