January 15, 2009

What Kind of Person are You?

In my Senior year of college, I performed a monologue at the end of the semester. I read through a few and I really liked the two I found, back to back, in the play entitled A Thousand Clowns. It's about a funny writer who quit his job working for a syndicated children's show. Because he lacks financial security in his life, he might lose custody of his very bright, very mature nephew. His brother tries to convince him to get back into working for the show... and they both reveal their character secrets. It's a very powerful moment on the stage.

MURRAY: Oh, Arnie, you don’t understand anymore. You got that wide stare that people stick in their eyes so nobody’ll know their head’s asleep. You got to be a shuffler, a moaner. You want me to come sit and eat fruit with you and watch the clock run out. You start to drag and stumble with the rotten weight of all the people who should have been told off, all the things you should have said, all the specifications that aren’t yours. The only thing you got left to reject is your food in a restaurant if they do it wrong and you can send it back and make a big fuss with the waiter…

Arnold, five months ago I forgot what day it was. I’m on the subway on my way to work and I didn’t know what day it was and it scared the hell out of me…

I was sitting in the express looking out the window same as every morning watching the local stops go by in the dark with an empty head and my arms folded, not feeling great and not feeling rotten, just not feeling, and for a minute I couldn’t remember, I didn’t know, unless I really concentrated, whether it was a Tuesday or a Thursday… or a … for a minute it could have been any day, Arnie… sitting in the train going through any day… in the dark through any year… Arnie, it scared the hell out of me.

You got to know what day it is. You got to know what’s the name of the game and what the rules are with nobody else telling you. You have to own your days and name them, each one of the them, every one of them, or else the years go right by and none of them belong to you.

And that just ain’t for the weekends, kiddo… here it is, the day after Irving R. Feldman’s birthday, for God’s sake… And I never even congratulated him…


MURRAY: What’s so funny?

ARNOLD: Wow, I scare myself. You hear that voice? Look at that, I got you to stop, I got your complete, full attention, the floor is mine now… and I can’t thing of a God-damned thing to say…

I have long been aware, Murray… I have long been aware that you don’t respect me much… I suppose there are a lot of brothers you don’t get along… But in reference… to us, considering the factors… Sounds like a contract, doesn’t it? Unfortunately for you Murray, you want to be a hero. Maybe if a fella falls into a lake, you can jump in and save him; there’s still that kind of stuff. But who gets opportunities like that in midtown Manhattan, with all that traffic. I am willing to deal with the available world and I do not choose to shake it up but to live with it. There’s the people who spill things, and the people who get spilled on; I do not choose to notice the stains, Murray.

I have a wife and I have children, and business, like they say, is business. I am not an exceptional man, so it is possible for me to stay with things the way they are. I’m lucky. I’m gifted. I have a talent for surrender. I’m at peace. But you are cursed; and I like you so it makes me sad, you don’t have the gift; and I see the torture of it. All I can do is worry for you. But I will not worry for myself; you cannot convince me that I am one of the Bad Guys. I get up, I go, I lie a little, I peddle a little, I watch the rules, I talk the talk. We fellas have those offices high up there so we can catch the wind and go with it, however it blows. But, and I will not apologize for it, I take pride; I am the best possible Arnold Burns.

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