The Ghost of Spalding Gray

September 17, 2011


I’m not really a storyteller.

I am not the guy holding court at the party to an enraptured, enthralled, or captive audience. I have serious potential to be the sensitive guy strumming the guitar on the stairwell, singing “body” like “baaa-dey” because, you know, John Mayer does it; but I know enough Belushi‘s in my life to put an end to that shit quick.

Nah. I’m usually the quiet guy in the corner, taking in the show and maybe cautiously connecting to other outliers. If it is any sort of business gig, I tend to find myself more comfortable talking to the people actually working the event. Which reminds me to tell you about such a bigwig party in Vegas (Don’t let me fool you, I’ve been twice. Strictly business.), but later…

But here, safe behind my imaginary walls, I get to play storyteller. And for today, even tell a story within a story. A story of a man telling me a story. Nothing long and elaborate. More of a zen thing in its conciseness.

His, at least. Let’s see how I do:

It’s about 6 years ago, and I am going through one of my toughest times. The metaphor may make it sound trite, but it is a perfect storm of stressful events that is tossing about the S.S. Myers on his little 3 hour tour. My Dad is losing the battle to returning cancer, I am navigating an erratic flow of business start-ups and partnerships, and Lisa and I are struggling figuring out how to keep ourselves and our relationship together. I remember thinking then that if I managed to crawl my way to the end of that tunnel, I definitely wouldn’t be the same person I was going in.

On this particular day I am having lunch with my business partner, a man who literally once told me, “I can sell ice to Eskimos.” A man who often made the mistake of believing that Southerners were slow because we talk slow. No, we’re thinking…and watching. Anyway, we’re having lunch in one of those diners on the way out to Kiawah Island that usually changes names about once a year. I’m doing a fair amount of bitching about my current circumstances, and how I have to do this and that, and how much everyone else sucks…blah, blah, blah. My partner is dutifully indulging me by deriding my conspirators based solely upon my testimony. He being of the “I’m the man” mentality, himself.

At the merciful end of all this, as we are getting up to leave, an older man at a nearby table catches my eye. I remember him now as a version of Spalding Gray. Isn’t it fascinating how we can remember certain things in versions that we appropriate from other familiar objects in our mind? I’m pretty sure it isn’t just me. Well anyway, my blog = my solipsism.

I give a polite greeting to the man, you know, like us southerners do. He apologizes for overhearing some of my conversation, and asks if he may offer some advice. “Um. Yes, sir. Absolutely.” He tells me about a time when he was going through his own relationship problems and talking to a therapist, or counselor, or something to that effect. He was having his own little self-righteous rant when the therapist finally stopped him and simply asked: “Do you want to be right about everything, or do you want to be with her?” He adds how he became so pissed off he got up out of his chair to go after the therapist, but broke down before he made the distance. He was right, he was right.

I don’t recall much of the pleasantries between us after that, probably because they don’t really matter so much. Just that when we shook hands I remarked that I didn’t think it was a coincidence that we crossed paths. He really looked at me for a second. “No, I don’t either.”

Obviously, I still wonder about that day. I wonder if some sort of angel wanders about in the form of Spalding Gray. Like Patrick Swayze in “Three Wishes”, or actually the dog, to be fair. Giving people just what they need, and not what they think they want. Or maybe it is that we all have that angel inside of us, and we can go around trying to wake each other up to it when the opportune time has come and we are ripe for it. A seed gets planted which often takes time to grow into something more readily digestible for us. I know I often feel this man’s story is the best thing I can offer someone when they are confiding in me about relationship troubles they are going through. I can only hope it does as much for them as it has, and does, for me…

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19 Comments on “The Ghost of Spalding Gray”

  1. Lydia Says:

    You rocked it once again! I loved this story.


  2. 1 Story A Week Says:

    Brilliant! You have a great way with words. I loved your story and the wisdom within it. Thanks for sharing.


    • Brett Myers Says:

      After just reading the last couple stories on your blog, I especially appreciate that. I hope you do not mind that I added a link to your blog from mine. Good stuff, man… 🙂


      • 1 Story A Week Says:

        Wow! Thanks a lot! That means more to me than you know. Feel free to share any thoughts on the stories. I am always trying to get different perspectives and get better any way I can.


  3. Andra Watkins Says:

    Great writing, Brett, to accompany a story with a meaningful message. I think even Spaulding would approve of it.

    It is always something when life gives us just the thing we need exactly when we need it. 🙂


  4. kateshrewsday Says:

    There are a handful of moments in my life, chance meetings with someone I would never see again; but would never forget either. They have that ghostly quality: intangible yet utterly concentrated. Thanks for this one.


  5. eddystonelight Says:

    I really like the last paragraph too. “Angel” comes from the Greek for “messenger,” right? So yes, we all have the potential divine messages to each other — and we probably do it more often than we realize.


    • Brett Myers Says:

      Very much agree, David. Thanks for coming back, as I was reminded and able to take the time to go check out your blog, this time. I’m a new follower, and hope you do not mind that I added a link to it, as well. Bless you for what you do, and very much looking forward to reading more about it… 🙂


  6. Tom Smith Says:

    Sorry I just got around to reading it today. Great stuff!


  7. John Boland Says:

    Your story is great. It’s very interesting with the ‘bird’ at the top. There are lots of stories how Spalding associated a bird with death. His widow even wrote a story about the appearance of a bird after his death.
    I’d like to post a link to your story under ‘Fan Writings’ on
    Please let me know via email using the Contact link on the site.
    Thank you for the story. As a former counsellor, the therapist comment rings true. I can almost hear Spalding’s therapist character on the Nanny saying that to Fran.
    webmanager for the Estate of Spalding Gray


    • Brett Myers Says:

      What makes it even better is that the bird in the header for you was serendipitous. I have a set of photos that randomly appear on any given page…

      Thank you for taking the time and your kind compliment, John. It would be an honor to be associated with your website and estate. I will contact you as you asked.


  8. Betty Myers Says:

    You’re story helped me settle my mind on an issue bothering me this evening. Have a friend, a broken wing kind of person, that bugs the fool out of me on most occasions and yet I know most of her actions come from her earlier family life. Needs to always be “right”. I was about to throw in the towel and move out of friendship. Now I realize I need to take a deep breath, along with an attitude adjustment on my part, and stay the course. Thanks, son.


  9. Diane Cherry Says:

    This was right on time! I was going to explode yesterday with the need to be right in an arguement with the ex about the children! Through a series of venting and breathing exercises I thought I had released it!! Unfortunately, I woke up with it this morning! Reading your blog gave me the nudge I needed to get back to being happy instead of being right! Thank you Brett! 🙂


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