Cricket's Notebook by Larry Stark - "Something HAD To Give......"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


Tuesday, 14 September, 1999: "Something HAD To Give.........."

If I, larry stark, were to die tomorrow, would the world be any different?
Would YOUR world be any different, really?
I don't want to frighten anybody. Tomorrow, 15 September, Wednesday, at 1:30 p m, I will be at Beth Israel Hospital having my eyes examined. I've noticed of late I can no longer see the eyeballs of actors --- not even in The Actors' Workshop, which seats only 57. My serious hope is that I just need new glasses. I live through my eyes --- reading a lot, doing a lot of staring into the VDT, and just looking at the world as I walk and ride through it. I think the weakening of my eyes makes me a lot more tired a lot more often than I'd like. And it may be this is the reason that, since about my 67th birthday on 4 August this year, I have been experiencing something I can only understand as a nervous breakdown.

There. That sure got your attention, didn't it?

The real problem with a state like this is that it starts with simple fatigue, with noticing that things I promised myself I would do have not been done. And then, as the little minor setbacks and glitches and disappointments of everyday life that anyone would normally take in stride come along, they seem instead to reinforce a feeling of failure to cope.

Chronology time:
I had stretched myself a little thin by trying to do a series of interviews, on tele-tape, for An Oral History of Theater in Boston, for The Theatre Museum of Boston, Inc. I did two, but as I was about to call people to find out when they could come and do more, I developed a swollen uvula and some sort of sore throat, so instead I took a week off, went to the doctor, and did a lot of resting and taking antibiotics.

But while pampering myself, I kept digging at myself because I knew that, with all that free time, I really should be spending the three full days of "data-entry" it takes to update The Mirror's COMING ATTRACTIONS from each monthly issue of NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST. You see, even though you probably never noticed (Harlan Feinstein noticed), I actually Haven't updated those listings for I think it's three whole months now. A kind of missed commitment like that can weight on a man's soul. It weighed on mine. It meant any Weekly updates would be inaccurate and I'd have to get more and more data from The Phoenix Online or Thursday's GLOBE Calendar, instead of my own burgeoned list. I wasn't on top of things anymore.
I wasn't just failing Harlan, failing you.
I was failing me.

For years, I could have told anyone --- Hell, I took great Pride in telling people exactly how many plays they could see in the six New England states every week, because I knew. I didn't really know anymore. Instead, I retreated to telling people that I had seen 78, 85, 92 plays since January. Yeah, that's something to be proud of. Damn right it is (And the Exact number, this very night, is 96), but I noticed the shift, and it bothered me. Something I took an arrogant pride in was unavailable to me anymore. I had somehow lost something, something I probably shouldn't have.

Well, while I was resting my bloated uvula instead of calling people for interviews, I learned that somehow, on those first two very enjoyable Oral History interviews, the cameras had failed to record any Visuals at all, and I'd have to tell Michael Murray and Ken Myers that I wanted them to come back and talk to me again. So I wasn't just a week behind in the Oral History project, I was right back at Square One again. It wasn't anyone's fault, and it certainly wasn't MY fault, but it was me would have to explain why those two two-hour sessions had to be recreated.

And then, when I least needed any other worried, the TIAC people merged themselves into a bigger company (Hooray for them!) and the telephone company socked them with a huge surge in monthly charges, and they began on the one hand experiencing problems giving online services, and they began cutting back on knowledgeable personnel who could make quick and efficient fixes. That may have meant nothing to you, but to me it meant serious screw-ups in on-line activity (TIAC is My Server!), peculiar delays in e-mail, and strange little grey boxes on my screen assuring me I had Done Something Wrong.

And I did the two things I shouldn't have. First I hit the OFF switch in disgust more often than I should have, and then I tried to fix things myself. Result: some of the re-settings on the computer went back to their DEFAULT positions, and eventually every time I tried to log on, I was being told the equivalent of "October is not the name of a month." And I spent two rather frustrating weeks not only not on-line, not only not capable of changing or updating any of The Mirror's pages, not only not capable of receiving any new mail, but not even capable of reading the Old Mail which was, of course, adding some six hundred messages to the Inbox, only two-thirds of which turned out to be SPAM, the rest being stuff that I would normally have dealt with within an hour of it's arrival in my machine.

Let's call that two weeks The Little Death, shall we?

When Lee VanderLaan came and, with flicks of half a dozen keys, set the Default settings back to what they should be and made everything work again, he told me three things: First that the battery in my machine's digital clock had burnt out, and since the changes in the settings were stored in the clock (I'm Not making this up, you know!) the machine would revert to the (wrong) default settings every time I shut it off and turned it back on. So, number two, he told me Never shut the machine off until he could send me another battery. (He did tell me, when things were decaying again, that I could ReBoot if necessary, but under No Circumstances push the Off button on the computer.
But the third thing he said was that, as soon as he tells me how to do it, I will have to begin paying TIAC the $30 every month that he has donated to keeping The Mirror alive for the past five years.

I don't mind that. They can take it out of my checking account electronically every month, and I won't even know it's gone. Fact is, the Social Security payments I get on the 3rd of every month come to $541, and when I moved to this Low-Income-Housing my rent dropped to $150 a month, and so it is not always true that when I come to the end of the money, I still have month left. I'll adjust. Money never did mean a hell of a lot to me anyway.

It's the energy, and the time that I cannot deal with.

Something Has To Give. Actually, something really Did give, and I've got to face the fact that there's not enough left of me anymore to keep the Listings up to snuff every week, and the Coming Attractions and the Openings as complete as I used to be proud of knowing they were just last year.

Instead of relying on me to put it into one neat place, you'll have to buy your own copy of NEW ENGLAND ENTERTAINMENT DIGEST --- which is still the most thoroughly complete listing of plays in all six New England states you can find every month --- and your own Thursday Globe, and if they fail you you will yourself have to link into The PHOENIX Online's Play Listings and that excellent website with the silly name "UGot2HaveFun", and the Rhode Island City listings (Why doesn't anyone in the Boston Tourist Bureau think Complete Theater Listings is a good thing?), and the New Hampshire Green Room. I'll list the URLs for you. I just won't try to type out the plays, names, addresses, and phone numbers of every theater in the six New England states for you anymore.
No matter How guilty it makes me feel. I think what you may not realize is that there's really no one else doing The Theater Mirror except me:
one fat, 67-year-old hasbeen with a metal left knee and shrivelling eyesight who might like to curl up with the Sunday New York TIMES crossword puzzle Sunday afternoons, or another novel by Iris Murdoch Tuesday night, or even a monthly fix of comic-books --- I try never to miss an issue of CEREBUS, or A DISTANT SOIL, or STRANGERS IN PARADISE, or THE AGE OF BRONZE, or KABUKI or STRANGEHAVEN, or something new and odd like THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN or WHITEOUT. Those arcane pleasures have never really interfered with my love of theater, nor my commitment to seeing as many plays as I can, and trying to make people aware of how good any really interesting show makes me feel.

I just don't want to make myself so incredibly guilty of failing Harlan, and you, and most of all myself, every time The Listings get slipped to the bottom of my To Do file.

I hope you understand.


THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide