We are having such a flurry of activity in New York that for the moment,
I am almost able to pretend that we are on vacation. Instead of dealing
with the harsh realities of uprooting our aging parents to a different
city after 63 years in Chicago.
Today we went to Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York, about
a half hour out of the city to hear my brother give a talk for the reunion
I have never heard Ian talk publically about his work before. It is
interesting and frankly, sad, that we know so little about some crucial
aspects of each other's lives.
In all of my years as a theater director and writer, he has only been
to see one piece of mine, a staged reading of "Small Domestic Acts"
at the Globe Theater in Los Angeles that was not particularly well done.
When he came to the concert of the Sage Cycle at Lincoln Center, the
extended piece for which I had written the lyrics, my mother said he
was overwhelmed and cried through much of the concert. She said he told
her that he had no idea I could write like that.
So we are pretty much out of the sphere and understanding of each other's
And I wonder, why is it that he has no idea that I can write, let alone,
What has created such separation and break down in communication?
But this posting is not about me. It is about him. Although I am not
sure how easily I can write about him or any of my family without somehow
being implicated in part of the picture. The formation of our personalities
have very much to do with early family life and trauma.
What I can say most immediately and clearly is that his talk was brilliant.
He talked about the mutation and spread of viruses, About the relationship
between humans, vegetation and animals in the dissemination of disease,
about the misuse of antibiotics, especially in the production of both
agriculture and livestock for consumption.
His talk was wide reaching, imaginative, witty in places and above all,
both sophisticated and accessible for a lay audience. Afterwards, people
swarmed around him and at dinner, we were joined by the president of
the college who focused exclusively on him and our family.
I felt as if I were with a science rock star.
I also felt bad for the other panelist, a social scientist who had left
private industry to join a world health organization that is addressing
the AIDS crisis. His talk was all statistics with no conceptual overlay.
And as a government employee, it was clear that he had been mandated
to include photos of George Bush and Colin Powell in virtually every
other slide. Here was clearly a decent man who wanted to do good and
wound up being an apologist for the Bush administration.
But underneath it all, I'll bet he is a nicer guy than my rock star
brother. When a family photo was being taken by the college
photographer, it did not occur to my brother to include me.
is it about people, especially intelligent people, that they have
no smarts about being nice? I say, "especially," because
they don't have the lack of wits as an excuse. I'm in a process of
mourning a colleague who is dying...someone I've worked with for 30+
years and hardly have had a chance to know. I'm mourning the distance
that exists between some people...distance that is very painful...and
distance that is also beyond comprehension.)
Friday, June 2, 2006