The most common way for me to walk the rail trail is to take the bus to the Hampshire Mall in Hadley and walk the trail back into Amherst. Last night however when I got off the bus I decided to cruise the mall first and see if I could stir up any action.
Sure enough sitting by himself sipping tea in the food court was this guy I had met before and spoken briefly with at UMass. He wants to be a professional dancer on Broadway and TV and other such shows. I've never seen him dance, but if he has two left feet then he could still be an instant sensation in a strip club, what with his great build and long flowing blond hair. He remembered me and asked me to sit down. I asked him how the dancing career was coming along.
He seemed discouraged. Even though he was just 22, he knew of people younger than him who already had dancing gigs in New York City, even on Broadway. Meanwhile he was working in a coffee shop. He wondered whether he was getting too old, dancers being like professional atheletes who only have a certain window to make it or you're considered over the hill. Wow, what must it be like to have to wonder whether you're past your prime at 22?
I tried to be encouraging. I told him that the worst sin most people commit in their lives is against themselves, when they give up their highest dreams of their best self too easily and too early. If you fail at what you love then you fail, but at least you have the finality of failure and the peace of mind that comes from knowing you gave it your best. What tortures a lot of people their whole lives is that they are never really certain what they could have achieved because they never really tried. They sold out for the conventional and the secure and the respectable, and so they never know what could've been possible. In that sense they suffer far worse than those who genuinely try and fail.
He seemed heartened by these thoughts, but then referred to other clouds of doom gathering on his horizon - he had a girlfriend (damn!) and was engaged to be married. I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that marriage has killed far more artistic careers than any critic. Inevitably comes the day when the spouse says put away those dancing shoes (or pen, or paint brush or whatever) and get a real job, one that will pay for the rent and Johnny's bike and Sally's braces. Of course lip service is paid to resuming the career at a later, more opportune time, until one day you wake up and you realize that too many years have slipped by and it just ain't ever gonna happen and so you spend the rest of your days wondering what might have been.
I told him to quit his job in the coffee shop and head down to New York immediately and pound the streets of Broadway and off Broadway and even off-off Broadway until either a door opened or slammed permanently shut. I didn't tell him to call off the engagement but obviously my advice to flee to New York implied that. I don't know whether he will follow my suggestion, but he did seem genuinely inspired. He shook my hand and we parted. Since I now knew about his girlfriend, I didn't make any kind of pitch. Now I regret it.
Sheesh, I should follow my own advice. Thus did the beautiful blonde dancer waltz right out of my life.
My sister Bev and I took my father out to eat yesterday at The Crest, an often overlooked gem of a restaurant in West Springfield. They have a neat collection of sports collectibles, such as this handbill from the 1969 World Series. Notice how the Orioles are printed in psychedelic script, which was wholly appropriate for 1969. (Click to enlarge.)
Here's a great old advertisement featuring a Red Sox deity.
Oh and don't forget to tune in tomorrow folks, for the final episode of my lost brother saga.
Finally, here is the World Famous Thomas M. Balliet Elementary School.