It’s like riding a bicycle, I guess – performing. I stand on stage, open my mouth, and know what I’m doing, know how to reach out and touch the audience. It’s both an innate talent I’ve had since childhood – I started acting at the age of 8 – and a skill honed in many years in the theatre. And it’s something that brings me enormous pleasure.
There were not many people who came to the Yiddish Vinkl at the Free Times Café today – maybe 12 or 15 intrepid souls who paid $23 for a generous buffet lunch and then a talk, which today was me on the subject of my great-grandfather and my book about him. I wasn’t paid but I got lunch, which was terrific, only I couldn’t eat much because I was about to speak. Friends Nick, Edward, and Ellen came to support me.
I loved every minute. I spent 25 years researching and writing a book that not many people read, so any chance I get to tell its powerful, moving story is fine by me. Amazingly for such a small audience, afterward I sold the 3 copies of the book I’d brought, one to a Holocaust survivor, another to Bill Gladstone, who gave a great review of the book when it came out in 2007. And then I got on my bicycle in the mild sunshine and rode home.
Was jazzed but tired, as one is after a performance, so after a nap, I watched Marriage Story on Netflix. Devastating. It’s a remarkably even-handed depiction of a divorce, where we see, equally from both sides, how pointless and yet how necessary the split is. Anyone who has been through a divorce will relive every excruciating moment; I did as I watched. What’s especially tragic is that it’s clear the two still love each other – as my ex and I did, and still do. But the need for freedom is great. The more important tragedy is the child in the middle. But luckily, because there’s lots of money and success – unrealistic success, let’s be frank, a small show going to Broadway, an enormous Genius grant, a T.V. series in L.A., nothing but success here – and many loving family members, their boy is going to be fine. Most divorces are not so photogenic, though some ugliness is portrayed too. The actors are marvellous, especially Adam Driver, and Laura Dern as a vicious divorce attorney who reminds me of the first one I had, until I couldn’t bear her combativeness any more and found a nicer human being. The film brought it all back. Thank God it was a long time ago; it all happened to another person.
So – a day plunged into the past, in the story of my ancestor and his extraordinary life, and then a reliving of one unhappy chapter of my own. And in between, a happy bike ride in the sun in my new winter coat that kept me extremely warm.
The new year has begun.