(Not) A Review of The Merchant of Venice

Go see it, or don’t. Live your life. I’ve been living mine over here and frankly, it’s alright if I die tonight. I’ve seen enough to be bored by living and if it passes me by just one more time I’ll be just fine. It played on broadway, starring a famous person. Nothing matters unless you’re famous, or talented or beautiful or rich or powerful but what does that matter to me? All the millions in your bank are not as important to me as the $380 I paid to behold the spectacle of St. Alberto Pacinoni as the Blind Venetian. That was reason enough to be excited to see the show. I bought tickets and started planning a romantic date night with the wife.

The wife, who, for the week prior, challenged me to an epic transnational trauma cleanse, a pentathalon of sulking, screaming, smoking, drinking, and another-thing-ing. She was a champion in all such events, a test of every learned defense, redlining emotional resources across the board of benevolent directors known as my conscience. 

During a lull in the fracas, while the ingenue and her six pack of tall boys took several hours recess in our one bathroom, I stepped out for a walk around the block, blurring out my thoughts with the electric techno tourist mob of Times Square, shuffling past the theaters proclaiming the greatest shows ever witnessed, promising heart-pounding exhilaration and the time of your life. I scowled. Billy Joe, you’ve come a Longview from the Dookie days. 

As the quintessential American Idiot, on my way back to workshop the tour-de-force audience participation performance piece unfolding on an ikea carpet eighteen stories above these storied stages, I stopped under the makeshift umbrella of a marquee just around the corner from Studio Apartment Arena. 

I took out a brown satchel of tobacco, selected a wad of fragrant brown shreds and tamped them into the paper, placed a white filter tip a little bit off to the side, gently rolled thumbs against forefingers until the cylinder appeared, ran the tip of my tongue over the glue strip, pushed the filter flush with the roll, letting it hang from the precarious precipice of my lip as I tilted my head to the side to avoid a butane-torch beard fire or a seared schnozz. The invisible flame clicked on and I saw AL PACINO in glowing red. 

Something to look forward to, I thought. Wait, what day is it? 

I knew what fucking day it was. I knew before I opened the ticket confirmation email that I had flagged, or double checked the calendar app. I knew from the reminders I had ignored while embroiled in the aforementioned top-floor tomfoolery. I had to prove it to myself, I couldn’t believe it until I saw it. Was it distrust? Was it that I just missed the money? Was I angry over a petty loss or furious over the foregone failure of my future family?

Our godfather which art on broadway, dimitte nobis debita nostra, sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Sicut in Carlito et terror. Lesson learned forever: don’t be shy, or locked. After all, nobody owes you a goddamn ounce of their skin, let alone a pound, and you don’t owe by the same token, no matter how much you think you need them, if this prayer means anything. Each play will have its run and fun, but with some productions the best seat in the house is out on the sidewalk, in my humble opinion.

What Moves You

Of all the shitty reasons to do something, fortune, fame, fun… I used to think money was the root of all evil. How silly. The roots of evil run deep into every human heart. Money grows on trees. Money is trees, actually. Trees are great! Money is also ink and silk fibers and chemicals and a bazillion heinous microbes. Not so great.

But it’s not the money or the fame people really want. The heart wants what the heart wants. And it’s not currency or paper or attention or numbers on a computer screen. It’s not Venmo or bitcoin or gilded idols or magnetic plastic rectangles. 

All of that is a means to an end. It’s a game we play, one of many; religion, sports, politics. But why? Why do we do anything at all? A noble cause? A fleeting fantasy?

Maybe like so many pageant contestants, your goal is world peace. Maybe it’s a tiny apartment in every city you love, #basic. Whatever it is, a goal can be a reason to keep going when life gives you so many reasons to stop. And you don’t need a lot of reasons. You only need one. 

While resetting for a final splash of water on the backyard photo shoot one chilly Brooklyn evening, I handed over another towel and asked world-class athlete Maggie Redden what she thinks about when she’s preparing for a race, what moves her forward. Her response was essential, direct and powerful. The shutter clicked, the strobes popped, the water splashed and years later what she said in that fraction of a second is still etched in my mind.

Maggie Redden, goal getter.