Thursday, January 14, 2010


Yesterday was a long day, but a good one.

I made my hopefully last visit to the NYC hospital where I had the brain surgery. They say everything's looking good.

This time my friend Sue and I took the New Jersey Transit train into the city and than three separate subway lines to get there and back. It was my first time on a train of any kind and surprisingly not anxiety inducing. There were a few moments of feeling disoriented when I got off a train and wasn't sure which way to go. If Sue hadn't been there I just would have taken more time than usual to recognize the signs and such. Nothing people who haven't had brain surgery don't experience as well I'm sure, though for me, so used to these routine actions after a lifetime of riding the New York subway system, it felt a little more serious than it actually was.

And last night I started back up a poetry workshop I teach in the living room of my apartment. It's an intimate space and there's usually ten people besides me so it's even more intimate. The poems were terrific, the conversation insightful and helpful and the thrill of this little group of passionate poetry lovers being together again priceless. I couldn't have been more pleased. Though it did leave me a little more tired than it used to. I expect that will become less true as the weeks proceed.

I was at a loss for the right word now and then, something that happens to plenty of people who didn't have brain surgery, but a little disappointing to me nonetheless since I once had an almost encyclopedic knowledge of 20th Century poetry so not being able to remember a name or to remember which of two or several names were coming to mind was a change I can accept but a change nonetheless.

Then, because even being tired there was still a bit of that restless energy you feel after doing a job or a performance or something that engages your mind and senses more than usual, I ended up catching THE USUAL SUSPECTS on TV, a film I dug when I first saw it, despite its overdone elements, because it seemed such a great update of the film noir classics of the '40s and '50s. I never bothered to watch it again because once the revelation of its ending is experienced I imagined it wouldn't give that much pleasure again. And it doesn't.

In fact I noticed more that I didn't care for about it, including Gabriel Byrnes performance interestingly. Who would have thought that Stephen Baldwin would come off more interesting as an actor than Byrnes? But that's the way I saw it last night, and full disclosure I knew both these guys in my Hollywood days, though the last time I saw Byrnes he seemed to have forgotten who I was, understandable since I've done the same, but the last time I saw Stephen he not only remembered but was as warm and friendly as he's always been since I first encountered him decades ago (could that be coloring my assessment of their acting chops in THE USUAL SUSPECTS, hmmmm...nope, I don't think so, see for yourself if you find this flick some night when you're looking for some movie action to slow down the rhythm of a day that's coming to an end).

Oh, and another movie I wouldn't want to bother viewing again that I also have a small personal connection to, DRESSED TO KILL (I once spent an evening with Brain DePalma and a few other Hollywood folks, actually more like a night, since a few of us stayed up talking into the early morning hours, but he ended up later characterizing what I experienced as great conversation as a ploy by a bunch of Hollywood types to exploit his fame and fortune to our benefit which he felt he avoided!), a movie in which I had a small bit, an extra kind of bit, and which I never noticed (I knew I was in it but missed my few seconds the only time I saw it) until in switching the channels last night (or was it the night before? I have some difficulty still remembering things and/or remembering them accurately) I realized the scene I had this little walk by in was about to unfold and so I stayed tuned for it and caught myself walking past Angie Dickenson's character as she seems to look at me as I walk away in a "great coat" as they used to call them that brought back fond memories of those c.1980 days.

I bought that coat in England and it was quite theatrical though at the time I wouldn't have seen it that way. It had big shoulders (with epaulets on them) and ridiculously wide lapels (and high collar) and was belted and reached down nearly to my ankles. I also noticed in that short scene a quarter-sized bald spot on the back of my head, which stood out even more because of that darkness of my hair then, at least the way it was photographed, a bald spot I didn't realize I had until I saw myself from behind in the first movie I had done professionally just months before this extra bit (that one I starred in as the hero, a pretty horrible horror movie called DRACULA'S LAST RITES!).

(Here's a shot of me in that coat, though the details are lost in the darkness of it, with composer Rain Worthington, who was also in DRACULA'S LAST RITES and in fact was hired first and turned the director and producer on to me after we, Rain and I, had decided to try acting in films as a way of making the rent since my poetry and her piano compositions weren't doing that, and my now oldest boy Miles when he was still wearing corrective glasses for a few years in grammar school and actually looked pretty cool in them but because of the cold is shrugging his shoulders inside his jacket as well as pulling his hands inside the sleeves and from his size I'd say this is more the late '70s.)

After I moved to L.A. initially for the acting work, make-up artists would put a little dark coloring on the bald patch so it never showed up again, or at least not for another decade or so. I suppose with the new High Definition TVs those painted or inked-in bald patches might look kind of obvious in close up now.

Ah, how interesting life can be, even if it's just watching an old movie on TV.


RJ Eskow said...

I don't know why so many of your post-surgery symptoms sound like me on almost any given day.

Once again, thanks for being such a fearless and curious reporter of your own brain's behavior.

As for bald spots, I didn't learn I had one from a movie. I found out during a very tense negotiation when my boss, who was pacing the room behind, interrupted me as I was making an important point to say "Holy shit - Eskow has a bald spot!'

After that I tried to pretend it wasn't there, which I could do ... for a while ... unless I was in one of those mirrored elevators.

I'm told women don't care about bald spots - but then, I've been told a lot about what women don't care about.

Lally said...

RJ, Probably true about my post-op issues, but e.g. I've already retyped most of this comment. I didn't used to have to do that. And this afternoon while trying to straighten out an e mail to the school district concerning my youngest, the phone rang and then my cell phone rang and I felt like I might have to explode. Couldn't take all the input at once even though all I might have done before would be ignore the phones, or answer one and ignore the other or whatever. No one tried to talk to me today on the train and subways, so it was easy for me to focus on my New Yorker in the train and on the peoples faces in the subway car without feeling overwhelmed. But I am a lucky man and am much better than I was even a few days ago as the progress mostly continues. Thanks for being there man and for all the god work you do in these trying times.

Anonymous said...

Dear M:

Great photo. I don't remember ever seeing it before. (BTW: I think you mean that RJ does "anti-god work," no?)

Lally said...


Elisabeth said...

And you worried about a little bald spot once. After the brain surgery bald spots must seem like trivia.

I love the passage of your thoughts here and this wonderful photograph. You really come alive for me in post. You move beyond the shadow of your surgery into a fuller person with such a rich life behind him and presumably- from what you say the doctors say - more richness ahead.

Lally said...

Thanks Elisabeth for seeing it the way I do. It's good to have fellow travelers on our journey (didn't mean it to sound so corny but...)