We did our final performance in Phoenix, took the set down and packed everything into the car, then had a day off. Laundry and grocery shopping beckoned. I got a recommendation that boded well for doing both things at the same location, and it was amazing.
The laundromat was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Huge, dazzlingly clean, with an amazing set of choices. Six different sized washers from single load up to truckload size, each with many clear choices of temperature and agitation, and a simple read-out of what the cost would be. My little single load, cold wash, would cost $1.25 and take 30 minutes. I fed it quarters and headed for the Rancho Market next door.
Dear lord. Ceviche, guacamole, white cheese, four different kinds of fresh tortillas (finally, a chance to get’em made with lard), an enormous wall totally devoted to cheese, another of fresh floppy sausages, a city block of fresh veggies, and all the usual stock of meats and canned goods. I was a happy Anglo floating in Hispanic heaven, surrounded by families having a very good time.
After getting a tub of the best guacamole I’ve ever tasted, a rotisserie chicken, 10 flour tortillas, a package of sliced turkey breast and a bunch of green onions (tomorrow’s provisions for a full day’s drive), I went back to the laundromat. I’ve never thought of a laundromat as a jovial community place, but live and learn. Cute kids, buxom moms, dads doing the family wash on their own, nobody squabbling or squalling. I could get used to this.
Now, a night’s sleep and then off to Albuquerque and Taos, staying with dear friends in both places, having made new dear friends in Phoenix. I won’t say it won’t be a delight to settle down before our bedroom fireplace at home and then hit the king-sized bed, but right now what we’re living is a very good life in the ever-changing present moments.
Touring. We’ve had years when it was extreme and intense, others, as now, when it’s confined to two to six weeks out a few times a year. I’ve always said that I liked it, but it’d be more accurate to say that I’m compelled to it. For that matter, do I really enjoy acting or writing or creating art? No. I’m compelled to it, and while there’s indeed a satisfaction in hearing response to it and in its completion, nothing ever feels complete.
There are moments in the process when I feel caught in a current that’s taking me, in my sleek kayak, where I want to go. More often, it’s a swim against the current or trapped in a squalid eddy. It’s grunt work, and you don’t do it for the enjoyment: you do it for the questionable result.
Questionable at every stage. The obvious questions of course: How do we get an audience? Who really cares? Do people understand the Edmund plot? Where did we pack the Fool’s nose? But if your show is in repertory, continuing over months or years, you seek a creative bedevilment in deeper questions, and if those questions run out, you might as well put the show down as you do a derelict dog. In that case it would be a mercy to the audience—in my view, a show that isn’t growing, when the actors are no longer discovering, is merely a prancing corpse.
The other day, a friend asked, “Why did you choose Lear?” By this time I’d answered that question dozens of times, and I trotted out two or three of the answers. But after expounding the same-old, I surprised myself by saying, “But when we started working on it, none of that was in my head.” The starting point is simply being grabbed by an obsession to take the journey. The story is the journey. The work is in the process of discovering why we’re doing the work.
Back to the starting point, namely touring, which has diverse functions. It gets us out of the gopher holes we tend to migrate into when we’re home. We see old friends, meet new ones, eat a lot, drink a lot, talk a lot. We rediscover the show. With luck, we make some money. We see mountains and rivers and clouds and in Arizona lots and lots of cactus. And we have numerous occasions to curse driving—always better than cursing politics.