Flashback: May 21, 2015

Something David Letterman said during his penultimate show last night resonated with me so much that here I am, writing about it now, a day later and only an hour after he took his final curtain call.

Yesterday, Dave told a story of a time he asked his young son, "Harry, what are the two most important things to know in the world?", to which his son immediately responded with the first, "You have to be nice to people."

"You have to be nice to people." What a wonder father that man must be to have taught his son such a beautiful lesson.

David Letterman has been on television longer than I've been alive. He accomplished such a feat of longevity, obviously not alone, but surrounded by a team of incredibly passionate, talented people. He said as much tonight - that the successes of the show are as much a result, if not more so, of the people behind the scenes - the stagehands, the musicians, the writers...

I've been lucky enough to have been a part of a few teams not entirely dissimilar. Each time, we were a group of dedicated individuals who valued the importance of the team dynamic. Good moments were made sweeter because we experienced them together, and bad moments were more easily endured because we were there for one another through them.

"You have to be nice to people." The two teams I speak of no longer exist because two people decided not to be nice to their brethren.

I don't mean to say that Greg and Kent are bad guys, but merely that they are a couple of shortsighted human beings whose successes will never be on the level of someone like David Letterman. Why? They don't value people. There's no amount of money that one can throw at a problem that can't be solved quicker and more effectively than with a team posessing real emotional dedication to the task at hand. Kent, Tim, and I had that. Kent, Anne, and I had that. Then Greg stepped in and singled us out - he bullied us individully with no regard for the value of the team... with no regard for the way we worked together: complimenting each other's strengths and compensating for each other's weaknesses. And meanwhile Kent sat idly by, paralyzed by the effects of grief, stress, and toxic friendships with those who had the power to manipulate him. Machiavelli would have had a field day.

Now those teams are no more. Kent, whom I used to consider a surrogate father, is now someone who doesn't speak to me. Anne, who along with myself and a handful of others could be considered the closest friends to Kent's late daughter is today in much the same position, having gone from being one of the most valued collaborators to being ostracized. She and I are outsiders now. We've been "Eighty-sixed," to use Greg's own words.

Am I young? Yes. Am I often hotheaded? Yes. Did I screw up once in a while? You bet your ass I did.

But was I of value? Was I a dedicated, passionate member of a team? Ask around, it'll be a resounding "yes".

"You have to be nice to people." If David Letterman teaches us anything, it's that Greg and Kent are worse role models, worse businessmen, and worse fathers, for not having the compassion or will to be nice to people. And I'm not angry any longer. I simply pity them because the interests they damage the most are their own.

Oh, the second important thing to know in the this world that Dave taught his son? "The greatest songwriter of modern times is Bob Dylan."

What a man. What a dad.

Quo Vadimus

“Quo Vadis?” - Latin for “Where are YOU going?” Don’t worry about how you feel now, Brian. Look to the future. I’ve been so frustrated by the state of the present that I used a marker to write that two-word question on an old decorative mirror just outside my bedroom.

Speaking of mirrors...

I’m not to the age yet where I notice any wrinkles on my face. My hair isn’t thinning or graying. I don’t feel the aches and pains of old age. But there is this remarkable line on the soft tissue of my right ring finger. Just a crease, like one of the many lines on any ordinary palm. But this wasn’t one I was born with. This line was created by me. I made it. By wearing this ring, which you can see in the pictures below:





Almost a decade ago, it was my first year of college, and late one night spent surfing the web over a bowl of Ramen noodles and a can of Natural Ice, I bought it. I’m not really sure why. Pouring over my Amazon order history from that time period, it’s obvious that I was a young man, lost and confused, feeling the effects of the sudden thrust into adulthood that is “going off to college”. One thing was for for sure - as I got older and my awareness of life expanded, so too did my need for accessories. Years earlier, my first girlfriend pierced my ear so I could wear a stud. I soon started wearing watches, bracelets and necklaces. And eventually, with a checking account full of financial aid during that first week of college, I bought myself three different rings. I lost one by accidentally dropping it into a toilet. Another I never wore because it didn’t fit any of my fingers quite right.

But the last one somehow managed to stay with me, and stayed on my right hand for the last 9+ years. I never truly thought about what that meant before. I don’t really have anything that old that’s MINE. Gazing around this apartment, nearly everything was bought in the last two years - maybe five. I’ve never been someone who hangs onto things as mementos, and I move around frequently enough that I’m constantly downsizing and/or buying new things to replace the old.

So the fact that this one ring has for some reason managed to stay on my finger almost every day for the last decade is really something remarkable. I’ve literally experienced so much life with it.

I think about all the places I wore it - the places I lived, across multiple states, in different houses, condos, and apartments of varying quality and (sometimes) states of decay. In college I went to class after class (and skipped a few, too) with it on, and gained as much wisdom about the acting craft as my inexperienced and fairly closed mind allowed me to at the time. After college life came work life - and so did many venues, stages, even the occasional office. Through it all, the ring was always on my finger.

I think about the relationships. The many friends, the occasional lovers. Moments of passion, moments of pain. The times I laughed uproariously and times I cried uncontrollably. All while wearing my ring.

There’ve been two funerals, for two people that I loved and who loved me in return. The ring was on my finger as I grieved in the embrace of people who shared my loss. Both losses changed me forever.

And yeah, there were times I had to fiercely work it off my finger so I could go onstage as a character who didn’t impulse buy jewelry years earlier…

I think about the leaps of faith I took. So many times, I chose to run really fast towards something that I had absolutely no reason to trust. And then came the rewards and disappointments that result from being a person so willing to run head-first into walls like that.

When I do take the ring off, I see the crease, the line on my finger. It’s a small but very real physical imprint left by that little piece of surgical steel. And it reminds me of the huge breadth of human experience that I’ve been shaped by in the last decade.

I’ve chosen not to wear the ring any more. Right now, I do need to look to the future. I’m almost 28, and hopefully some day soon I’ll be blessed with the chance to wear a ring with even more meaning for the rest of my life. Until then, the wrinkle on my finger tells me everything I need to know and value about myself. And I’m ready to share that.

“Quo Vadimus?” - Where are WE going?

My left hand.

My left hand.

My right. See my line?

My right. See my line?