I have just completed an odyssey. For the past 10 days I’ve been on the road — 3,000 miles in all — to Phoenix, Mexico, San Diego and Los Angeles. As we used to say when I worked full time, I was “in the field” trying to “feed the beast.”
I was gathering facts and faces for future columns and books.
It was trip filled with marvels — a Thursday night NFL game, a concert, Day of the Dead in Mexico and stops at an array of eateries and inns.
But the moment that stands out was the hour I spent in Culver City at the Kirk Douglas Theater.
John Hurt, the legendary actor (think “Elephant Man” and “A Man for All Seasons”) performed a short, one-man play written by Samuel Beckett called “Krapp’s Last Tape” there. And I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.
In the play, as I interpret things, an old man sits down to a table full of reel-to-reel tapes and a recorder. For decades, he has been recording his life; but on this day, he turns to one small moment from long ago and he plays that slice of tape over and over. He and a woman, the love of his life, are in a small boat. She is looking up into the sun, squinting. But as the young Krapp moves the shadow of his head across her face, she opens her eyes and — in that instant — lets him into her heart.
Krapp plays other moments on the tape, but he dismisses them all in anger. Instead, he returns to the boat with the woman.
And because of that moment, he concludes life has been worth living.
He would do it all again, for one of moment pure, untainted love.
In a way, Krapp’s life was like my trip.
It was a long haul, sometimes filled with sound and fury, sometimes steeped in silence, but that one hour at John Hurt’s performance made the entire trip worth doing, even if it had been the only thing I did.
And now, I wonder about my life.
There have been high spirits and low points — days of joy and despair.
But has there been one moment, one real moment, of pure, untainted love that would make the whole thing worth repeating?
I’m a fortunate man.
I think there have been many such moments.
And I feel a little lonely thinking of those who get to the end of their days and can’t think of any.
That would be a journey I would not care to make.
It would be a journey of 3,000 miles without anything to show for it.