My time in seminary is almost over, and in anticipation of finals next week, we’re conducting reviews of the semester in a few classes. I can’t remember last Tuesday, much less January… was I even here in January?…so these reviews are proving very useful for the most feeble-minded member of the class.
Soon I’ll be moving back to the Literature side of my degree, and then, after a few intense months of books, books and more books, I get to pack up and return home to the warm, sunshine and booze-infused embrace of The Cult, under whose watchful, cocktail-drenched aegis I will write my thesis. (If you’re new to this scene and not up on The Cult, a refresher: And it feels so good.) In addition to coming up with a crazy-good thesis topic that will convince my advisor once and for all that, in fact, he wasn’t wrong to let me into the program, my plans for next year include the stalking of Robert Duvall.
A friend of mine went on a business trip last month and happened to meet a woman from the same town where Duvall lives. Knowing I’d want to hear all about it, he asked her, “So, do you ever see him around?”
“Oh, sure,” the woman replied, shrugging. “At the market, around town, you know…”
No, Lady, I do not know.
How anyone could be so casual about the possibility of catching even the merest glimpse of Robert Duvall is beyond me…and this lunatic thinks it’s no big deal to stand next to him at the Farmer’s Market and fluff the cilantro! Obviously she is deranged in a profound way and wouldn’t be moved to walk into the kitchen one morning and find Christ himself making waffles. In a chenille robe. And hair curlers.
I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. There is no felonious edge to my love for Robert Duvall. I worship him, as you should. (Still doubting his divinity? Behold! Place your finger here: The Divinity of Duvall) I do not want to harm, kidnap, or even startle him. I just want to gaze adoringly at him, and maybe make him some oatmeal.
Speaking of oatmeal, is Wilford Brimley still alive?
My friend M.J. and I were on a Board together, and when the meetings went long, we’d turn our attention away from whatever was being debated and focus on a more constructive task: developing ways to merchandise the band we were going to start called Gestational Diabeetus. [Our thinking was that the name was both catchy and badass, gestational diabetes being a mostly temporary condition of systemic derangement –which is exactly what one might feel after hearing our rad’ tunes.]
One of the genius ideas we had was to position cannons on the stage and, while wearing T-shirts bearing the likeness of Wilford Brimley, fire oatmeal into the crowd. [We gave ourselves major props for developing phenomenal ideas like this while M.J. was also chairing the meetings; did I mention he was the President of the Board? However, great man that he is, he did not let that pesky job title and its incessant demands keep him from the important decisions that required our attention; decisions about set lists and merchandise and the possibility of a laser light show featuring a hologram Wilford Brimley. How cool would that have been? Like Tupac, but with a beer belly and Mark Twain mustache.]
Sadly, I moved, and our band dissolved before it began. The world keeps turning, but with a little less music…and a little less oatmeal launched at 50 miles an hour.
Speaking of music, do you ever wonder what has become of some of the singers and bands who once occupied your heart and mind? We’ve already talked about Bruce, who is, of course, still rocking (The Poet Laureate of Rock) and we talked about Steve Perry, who is sadly MIA from the scene but possibly recording new tracks (Let the Games Begin), and we touched on a few 80’s bands, but what ever happened to Eddie Money, for instance? Is he still Shakin?
It’s much harder to have a Second Act when you were famous in your First. This is a problem I do not have, which is nice, since I’ve been thinking about what my Second Act should look like fairly often lately. I’m about to close a chapter of my life — seminary — for good, and because I’ve always been fascinated by people’s journeys, and how they get from A to Z, my thoughts keep circling the idea of new paths…
At my age, most everyone I know is in their Second Act, if not Third or Fourth or Fifth. Gone are the days when you went to work for Dupont (or GM or Coca Cola or US Steel) at age 18, and retired at 60 with a gold watch and a plan to shop for pillow shams with the wife. Life today is all about Second Acts.
Have you ever heard someone quote that infamous line from F. Scott Fitzgerald, the one that says there are ‘no second acts in American lives?’ It’s generally followed by a pompous observation of how uncharacteristically shortsighted Fitzgerald was in writing such a thing.
Well, as a public service to you lambs, I’ve dug up an NPR interview with the president of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, Kirk Curnutt, to set the record straight. [Cornish is the NPR interviewer.]
CORNISH: So I understand the line actually appears in two different works by Fitzgerald?
CURNUTT: Yes, ma’am. It shows up in the unfinished novel that was posthumously published called “The Last Tycoon” in 1941, where it’s just that line sort of dashed off in the middle of a bunch of working notes. But it actually dates back earlier, to about 1932, where it’s used in a very different way. And I think that way is probably more in line with Fitzgerald’s thinking throughout his life.
CORNISH: Which is? What was the main thinking there?
CURNUTT: Well, it shows up in an essay called “My Lost City,” which is a beautiful sort of testament to New York and was actually very popular in the aftermath of 9/11. The line he says here is: I once thought that there were no second acts in American lives, but there was certainly to be a second act to New York’s boom days. Clearly he’s sort of saying, well, I once believed this but I’ve been proved wrong. And I think that what really gets most of us who are Fitzgerald fans is that line is always quoted as saying, well, how naive was Fitzgerald to have said there are no second acts in American lives, when he himself was only a couple of years away from what many people consider the greatest second act in American literary history.
The quote above is from Viktor Frankl; remember him? (Man…we are really cracking open the archives today! Et lux in tenebris lucent) I think it’s good advice as I — and possibly also some of you — contemplate the way forward.
I’ll keep you posted on my Second Act as it develops…I still haven’t given up on dog proctology (A Career Change)!