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 1 – the dog paddle

(suggested song to listen to… download legally if in Canada – "Mr. Blue" by Laura Nyro)

I guess when Spalding started a monologue he had an idea, sat at a desk with a blank book, someway to write and probably a glass of water. Basically, the same as I have now. Basically, the same that he had on stage at his Memorial.

I have just been invited to his Memorial in NYC by his spouse Kathie. I am completely broke. Income tax in Canada has just taken back 4 grand from a previous refund and some child benefits (because my retroactive for Canada Pension Disability had put our family income up to a whopping 30 grand -still well below poverty levels but they still wanted 4 grand). And income tax was coming up and they would want tax on that same retroactive pension. And property tax was due soon and the assessed value on our house in Victoria, BC had just jumped almost 100 grand in 1 year – great only if you’re selling…). And the biggest one of all. My spouse is no Spud fan (aka Spuddy) – when he disappeared she started reading Morning, Noon and Night which I always thought was perhaps the lightest of the books. She read a few pages, threw it down and said ‘this is just full of death and dying…” So getting the trip past her was going to be tricky (I thought). When I casually mentioned it, she encouraged me to go – which I knew meant only one thing – hell to pay when I returned.

But it’s the vernal equinox so I figure a good day to start planning and also I can’t sleep. Chronic problem.

The first thing I have to do is look up the word ‘vernal’. What do you know? – it means ‘of spring’. So the time of equal night and day that happens in the spring.

Next is the budget. This is going to be a challenge as I have already indicated – I owe back taxes, back child credits, new income tax was coming, property tax was coming and my income from a disability pension is 900 Canadian a month which previously had converted to about $3 U.S., but with the U.S. dollar in the dumps, the Canadian dollar was skyrocketing, so maybe things aren’t so bad.

I somehow have made up a budget that if I delayed this, and fiddled with that, I come up with about a grand possibly for the trip. Some day, I’ll look back and see where I made the mistake.

So that meant getting to Seattle somehow, flying Southwest special, not eating while in New York, borrowing money from my editor, and finding a very cheap place to stay in NYC – expedia had run of the mill 3 star hotels starting at only $350 U.S. a night!!!

So here were my choices as to how to find a cheap place to stay:

  1. ask Kathie (Spalding’s spouse) – this was out as I thought she’d be busy enough.
  2. YMCA – look on the web – a reasonable whooping $120 a night cause ya get to use the pool!!! – mark this one off.
  3. Ask my friend the chocolate man ( – he’s a big fan of Spalding’s as well and had been the first to join the ‘Spuddys Unite’ fan club. Maybe we could split a room somewhere. It might have worked but he didn’t have a chance to answer my email til 2 hours after I had already left for NYC.
  4. Send a plea for help to the list of people who received an email invitation to the Memorial – something I hate to do – but in desperate times…

So I write the following to 42 people: (I assume these are the ‘fringers’ like me – the ones that had discovered that Spalding indeed did not have an email address but he was known to use Kathie’s on occasion – I would even get email asking me for Spalding’s email or could I possibly forward this poem or story about how Spalding changed "my' life – could I please get it to him. Of course, there was a much easier way, the way I got Spalding to send me an email. But that does not seem relevant right now, does it...)

Here is what I wrote to the ‘fringers’:

I would never usually do this except in exceptional times. I believe that Spalding's memorial is an exceptional time.

My name is John Boland and I'm from Victoria BC. I desperately want to attend the memorial in NY. I have reserved a ticket thru Kathie. I am scrambling to get enough money for airfare which is not as easy given Easter. I want to be able to save on accommodation so that is why I am writing all of you who must also be Spuddys of one kind or another.

Are there people willing to share accommodation? There are probably places that would give a good rate for 3 or 4. I ideally want to be there earlier as I want to see if there is a Letterman show to line up for on the Friday or the Monday. If anyone is interested in sharing or has any other crazy ideas, please email me back. My phone # is 1 250 … ….

We are still in the process of regaining control of from a prospector. It should be up soon. In the mean time, it is at - it has been designated as the official web site and ownership and control have been signed over to Kathie and the kids. For now, myself and others are working on it and planning a redesign. Your input and or help is always welcome.

I look forward to your responses. I am very apologetic if this email has disturbed anyone's privacy, and I will never be mailing this group again.

Thank you

in Spudness, jb

on to Day 2