Thursday, April 14, 2005


Billy Crystal described it as the Otherness. A heavy, overwhelming boulder that you carry around with you for the rest of your life.

It has been a long time since I thought of my father consciously in the forefront of my mind. He usually exists as an eternal presence in the background, a car alarm in a distant street, a conversation happening on the other side of the subway platform. Always there but not as prominent as the focus of my preoccupations.

The other night I attended a Broadway performance of Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, a play which I actually enjoyed despite the fact that Shana and I were the youngest people in attendance (this turnout is intentional--Crystal's target market is his peers, ages 40-60). The one-man, two-and-a-half hour performance revolved around the limited time spent with his father who died during Crystal's junior year in high school. The impish comedian calculated that he had spent a total of 700 hundred Sunday with his dad (the only day of the week in which his father wasn't busy working), hence the show's title.

While the first half of the performance retold the history of Crystal's modest Jewish upbringing in Long Island, the second half moved me in a very unexpected way. I never imagined in a million years that Billy Crystal, star of "When Harry Met Sally" and "City Slickers" would be able to eloquently describe the loss of someone as influential and as enormously important as a father. His uncanny grasp of the day you experience the suddenness brought me to the time when I received the news as well. I found myself in a dark theater re-experiencing the glass-shattering pains of the worst day of my life. All by the words of Billy Crystal, the same guy who starred in Analyze both This and That.

Crystal touched on one particular and unfortunate aspect of losing dad: the Otherness. An ominous sidekick of sorts, walking around with you wherever you went. A pungent and imposing odor that you eventually get used to because you've worn it for so long. Not having a father is this indescrbible loss that's never tangible but the weight that comes along with it is indeed like an imaginary boulder as Crystal describes. You push it around wherever you go but no one else sees it. I missed my father while he missed his. I conjured up the many images and expressions of my father just as he was doing before us.

In the darkness of the theater, surrounded by strangers, I found words for the thoughts I wasn't aware I had. All inspired by the man who was made famous by saying "you look mah-velous."


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