Staying Alive

Now Anthony Bourdain is dead. Another suicide, following after Kate Spade. Two iconic success stories just killed themselves. So did one of my former teachers, Spalding Gray. Kinda makes you wonder.

Yes, I mourn for their families, etc, but really as a selfish artist-type, I’m reflecting on my own life.

If you’ve known me for long, you’ll know I’ve got two ambivalent drives—success and solitude. I hate the bullshit self-promotion that seems to be required to toot your horn endlessly about stuff.

That said, If I had to sum up my life goals so far they would be (in order: “Be a successful novelist… NO. Be a successful playwright. NO. Be a successful freelance writer. NO. Be a successful novelist. NO. Be a successful Jewish writer. NO. Be a successful storyteller. Well, maybe… Be a successful Father. (CHECK! Awesome kids!) Be a successful writer/storyteller.… Um…”

Blah blah blah. In the past 20 years, I’ve made a lot of great books and audio (patting self on back). I’ve told stories to more than 200,000 people live in five countries.

And I’ve been satisfied for about ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

On the one hand, this drives me to create new and better stuff. On the other, it often/always leaves me wondering what am I doing and why.

Fortunately, in between all the angst and self-flagellation, I’ve had help from my lovely wife, family, friends, coaches and shrink. As my advisor, Ben said, “You’ve been like that as long as I’ve known you. Which is about 30 years.” Thirty years and I’m still not “there” yet? Talking to people and listening and getting perspective keeps me even contemplating eating a gun.

I’ve said at times that my mission (one of my missions) is to transmit joy with story. How can you do that when you’re bleaked-out? The answer is, you can’t. You have to dig down, set aside the debris, and shine a light on the gold — even if it is dust that slips through your fingers.

Is this maudlin tripe? Well, reflecting lightly on the suicides of two uber-success stories will do that to you.

I’m going to miss Anthony Bourdain’s acerbic appetite. And I always liked Kate’s bags.  Spalding was in constant pain and never really hid it.

Tonight I’m “closing out a two-year world tour” at @PVDFeset. It’s all Rhode Island stuff. We’re videotaping it for posterity. And then I’m taking a break. I’ve got a bunch of gigs already scheduled, that I’m looking forward to.

But after that…

I’m going to stay alive. Breathe. Eat some good food. Transmit a little joy.

Thanks for reading this.