Welcome to the Moment of Truth: the thirst that is the drink.
Another friend died. Another important one, too. I hate to rank friends according to importance, but, when they die, they kind of arrange themselves that way, I guess.
One year before the lockdown, Danny Thompson, multi-talented genius, comic and otherwise, co-founder of Theater Oobleck and co-author of The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found In An Envelope (Partially Burned) In A Dustbin In Paris Labelled "Never to be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!!" died a rare, shocking, and untimely death. It was a transformative end to a transformative life. It changed everything.
Everything he ever dragged me into was successful. Everything he ever dragged anyone into. Everything he ever let himself get dragged into. I know success is a relative term. So’s important. All the words I’m using today have fluid, irrational meanings. Every. Word.
I’m writing about Michael Martin, whose theater career overlapped with Danny’s during some decades in Chicago.
Two days ago it was Michael Martin. We all used to call him Michael Martin. His friends called him Michael Martin. People had all kinds of doings with the fellow. They were in plays with him. They were in parades with him. They saw the plays he wrote, saw him perform the monologues he wrote, saw him perform plays others wrote, watched him act in movies. One of the plays he wrote introduced me to S&M and bondage jargon only a few months before I got into a relationship where such knowledge was required. Whew! That was almost too close for comfort!
He lived with his husband and two others in New Orleans, in a house called The House of Aging Homosexuals. The house had a Facebook account from which announcements would emerge of various drag queen events and activities and declarations of mood and condition and efforts at repair and restoration.
He had his own personal social media accounts, too. His Twitter account was the main way I was in touch with him, although he was more often in touch with me. He mailed me a couple of postcards and, once, a Moon Pie and an enchanting photo of him as one of characters, Madame de Cameltaux. He was constantly mailing stuff, writing stuff, acting in stuff, auditioning for films and TV, on top of taking care that the House of Aging Homosexuals continued to house its eponymous inhabitants, that bills were paid and paperwork done. He had clients and neighbors for whom he did home care, and clients for whom he did cross-dressing housework. I often pictured him flying around someone’s decaying New Orleans Victorian in a negligée, wielding a feather duster.
A few days ago, in his early-to-mid sixties, he’d got a new job as the night desk clerk in a hotel. His life was then almost the perfect Tom Waits song about a John Waters movie beloved by a character in A Confederacy of Dunces. He had a lean frame without an ounce of body fat on him, you could see his skeleton in the proper light. His every expression was a black-and-white Van Gogh sumi spray of wrinkles accentuating the topography of his face. He had a face made to be photographed. There is no way to describe it, although I’ve gone and made the foolish attempt. He had the face of a 250-year-old Civil War veteran.
During the past year he’d been getting glowing reviews for his standout performance in the feature film, Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, and I half-expected him to win an Oscar. Everyone I know who knew him hoped it would give him the fame he needed to be a fulltime actor, or part- time actor, part-time writer, so he wouldn’t need to do the chores he needed to do to make money to live. We all know it was capitalism that took him untimely from us as he walked to work at his night clerk job, because even in the life he’d crafted for himself out of his joy, knowledge, talent, and love, he was still on his own, fighting for survival like this was The Hunger Games we all know it to be. We all imagine and hope he died painlessly, swiftly, in the cosmic whirlpool of his life’s memories flooding out from his mighty brain.
The death of one’s friends is a major flaw in the system. I don’t know to whom to complain. But complain I must, because that’s how I was brought up. I know there’s no solution. Life is a ridiculous finger trap.
There used to be a store in Chicago where you could buy ridiculous finger traps. You could buy all types of such things there. My favorites were the erasers shaped like pigs. You could stick them on the end of your pencil. That store was called Uncle Fun.
Uncle Fun, alias Ted Frankel, closed his Chicago store and opened one in Baltimore, inside the American Visionary Art Museum. It’s called The Side Show in the American Visionary Art Museum. Baltimore is where Ted met his husband.
A while ago, a small contingent of Oobleck people, under the team name, The No-Goodniks, won the Hideout Bar’s trivia contest. The special guest was Uncle Fun himself. And he let us in on a little trivia of his own. No two fake vomits are exactly alike. They are made by hand in an improvisational manner, according to the craftsperson’s fiat, within the wiggle room of the decreed fake vomit specifications.
And that seems to me the perfect metaphor for a human life in our world today. This has been the Moment of Truth. Good day!