Thursday, July 26, 2012

Drifters

At the end of the fourth week of the tour I decided to leave the company. Well, that’s when the idea first seriously occurred to me. I guess a lot of people know by now. This is a lousy way to disseminate news, I know, but there are good friends of mine that don’t even know what country I live in anymore, nor I they. Things just happen like that. I had thought about the idea of leaving on the more difficult days, when after a 12-hour day you have to be up at 6. Get in the van, drive to the theater, unload everything, haul it into the theater, set it up and then, after you’re bathed in sweat, but are beginning to feel the cold of the theater prickling your skin there’s an hour until sound check and another hour before the show starts. Instead of trying to read you wrap yourself up in one of the backdrops and drift into a nervous sleep. When you wake up there’s the shows to do, four or five of them, with ½ hour breaks between. By the end of the day the backstage area feels like a place you have lived in. But this was the work I had expected. The shows were still fun and the audiences receptive. The change came over me in the Misiones province of Argentina. For two months we had been touring and doing shows back in Buenos Aires when at home. Every place we went from Columbia to Brazil was a big city. Even doing the local northern Argentina tour had taken us to no place smaller than a city of 200,000 souls. Admittedly, I didn’t like Buenos Aires much, but somehow I thought touring other such large cities would be exciting. In Misiones, I realized I had been wrong about this. As I get older all cities are starting to blend together for me. The collective experience they provide has become a rhythm. When I have a day off, I walk around. I look around at what’s being sold on the streets. I make out the graffiti, whether large on public walls, or minuscule in bathrooms or near schools. I ask directions and I sit in public squares. I look at the architecture. I wonder how my feet are holding up after so many years of wandering. I drink coffee; I drink juice; I drink beer, all of these in different locations. I run across intersections. I go into churches. I walk through the aisles of grocery stores. I go down by the water. I pick up things; some things I keep and others I throw away. I consider buying expensive things but never do. I miss the people that I’d like to take such walks with, and I think about those people and the things we’ve done together, the conversations we’ve had. In a way, you’re always alone in a large city; there is so much loneliness around, that even those in company must bear part of the loneliness of others. When you are alone you deal your loneliness out to those around you. That’s my opinion, I guess I’ve cultivated it over the years. In smaller places I do not feel like this loneliness, not anymore. Smaller places, to me, seem like places where people actually live. As a result, they do not have the same vacuous atmosphere, when you go out into them you do not have to wrestle with the loneliness of everyone who walks by. Most of the places we toured in Misiones were such small places. The tour had been going for a month and I was tired. I had begun to realize that going anywhere where I could not expect to meet a friend no longer held any pleasure for me. All of the best trips I’ve ever made have been to visit someone, and I’ve made far too many where that was not the case; I went rather with the intention of perhaps making a friend, or at least seeing the place and gaining the title of one who had been to the place itself. I have met some nice people everywhere I have been, but few of them have actually become close friends of mine. I contribute this to the somewhat selfish nature of traveling alone. You have come to the place to have the experience of seeing it, if you meet someone to share the experience with, great, but this is not reason for the trip. For a long time, I thought that going and seeing so many places would furnish me with some interesting stories and, perhaps, teach me something. It has, and unless there’s another revelation that I have heretofore been too na├»ve to take note of, I don’t expect traveling to give me much else. As I get older, I seem less inclined to take advantage of the situations that might one day become stories. I don’t regret this. It’s not that I never take advantage of them, but that less and less frequently care about them. I am very lucky to have had the experiences that have led me to feel this way. Simply, for the time being, I feel full. After a week of the smaller tour dates in Misiones, we stop on Thursday to do a show in a town called El Dorado. It’s not a very big place, and since we did not even spend the night there I doubt whether any of my cast mates would even remember much about it. For me, however, it was an important place. El Dorado, like many places in northern Argentina, observes the siesta period, which is usually from 12 to 4 in the afternoon. After we had set up the stage, around 2:30 we had a break until 4. The first show was to be at 4:30, or so I remember it. I took a walk around the town for the break and soon found myself in a beautiful forest. Although the town is probably considered sub-tropical, the forest itself was of average deciduous rank. Walking around the path and listening to the whisper of the leaves and watching the dappled sunlight swing around in the branches I felt at peace. Until that point on the tour, the only time I’d felt any peace was before going to sleep, even then it was dubious. When I returned to the theater, I found the lights off. There was a problem with the power supply. Since there was nothing I could do to help, I went backstage, where I found a door that led out into a garden, long-neglected, but still charming. In that garden, the peaceful feeling I had encountered in the woods returned to me. I decided that there was no longer much use pretending to be interested in the amenities of large cities when the greatest enjoyment I could imagine seemed to come from such peaceful places as this garden I had found. Especially, I thought, if I could be so lucky as to be able to share such a feeling with someone else. When I came back to Buenos Aires a week later, I talked with that person with whom I hoped to be able to share the peace of such small and quiet places and the next time I went into the theater, I put in my notice of leave. The theater troupe was a great experience, and I hope you won’t think too harshly of me for leaving it early. I simply cannot ignore the drive to begin something new, much as I have never been able to do, but this time, I look forward to sharing the experience with my wonderful girlfriend and further acquainting myself with this new found desire to live quietly. } The last tour that I plan to make with the company will be in October.