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August 29, 2020

The Black Bear as Himself

(originally published 8/7/18)

He was a black bear from New Hampshire, the state with the saying of ‘Live, Freeze, and Die’...or something like that. He hailed from the cold and remote north country where it’s always cold even when it’s warm. He claimed to be from Mt. Washington. He was a bear but not without a care. He felt he had a calling he thought but it wasn’t your standard moose call. He always saw himself as a thespian and he had done some summer stock in Nashua in the past and now he was looking to jumpstart his acting career and he figured moving to New York City would do it.
So he set off down the road to NYC, on the highway of dreams where a lot of these ill-fated dreams wind up breaking down on the side of the road and putting their hoods up and looking like giant metal alligators. He went from the deep deep forests and into the sprawling suburbs as he did some hitchhiking. He couldn’t rent a car because he wasn’t old enough to meet their requirements, but he mostly walked where like a lot of bad drivers, he caused a lot of accidents but he never got caught up in them. Before long he could see the zigzag skyline of New York City and there he was...strolling into the Big Apple. 
That’s where I met him, we were listening to some bebop jazz or razmatazz jazz or jazz jazz or some kind of jazz at some club. Some nights we’d play too much pool and drink too much schnapps..I taught him to play guitar and he still owes me for all the strings he broke...damned clumsy bear. He got a room with a few other aspiring actors; I went over there a couple of times and there was a girl who was practicing her Academy Award acceptance speech, the guy who thought he looked like Johnny Depp when he really looked and acted like Johnny Dipp, and a couple of other comers and goers, but they were all from hardscrabble backgrounds like him...scratching and clawing to hang on to a dream In his case, the bear actually had claws. He learned to like pastrami and he even had a favorite deli, and he got used to the crowds, but for some reason he always had trouble getting a cab. Black bears often have a hard time getting picked up, whereas I’ve heard polar bears have it much easier. He scanned the trade papers and he went to a lot of auditions and got a few parts here and there; usually in comedies. That was OK with him for awhile, it paid the bills, but he longed to do drama, maybe like Othello. He definitely felt he was a bear with some acting chops and he didn’t want to waste his time on frivolity. 
I’m pretty sure he told me he was a Method actor and he took classes regularly to keep his craft sharp. I’d help him with his readings when I wasn’t too hungover or writing feverishly to make a deadline. He even sang a little in a musical that was off off off-Broadway...oh, and he sang the National Anthem once at a Yankees game. He waited tables to pay the bills when he was between jobs which started happening more and more. He tended to be argumentative with the customers and growled, so he usually didn’t last long...not to mention that he occasionally snatched the meat off the customers plates before he brought it to the table, old habits die hard I guess. Well, the bear gave it a go for a while but he started getting homesick. He missed his old cave and he complained that all the good roles went to other actors not as good as him. He felt he was getting typecast as ‘the misunderstood bear’...and he was missing the snow covered forests that he used to roam around in back home too. He said he was getting tired of the NYC, and he was going to go back home.

I figured him to just be a little depressed and tried to talk him into giving it some more time, but his mind was made up, so he sold his few possessions and started the journey back. Now I figured him to head back to the forests since that’s what he told me he was going to do and just live anonymously. I lost touch with him and then one day I was in the bookstore at the mall. I grabbed a couple of magazines and sat down on a comfortable hard wooden bench that they put there to make sure you don’t sit there too long. I was thumbing through the pages trying to kill an afternoon when I ran across his picture in one of those tech magazines hardly anybody reads. There was my old friend the black bear. He’d found some fame running his own tech start-up company in the Silicon Valley, and was now living in a bay view penthouse in San Francisco, and he must of been doing real well to live there and pay those rents. As for me, I was still scratching and clawing with my antique laptop and beat up guitar that was missing strings, and I started sharing an apartment with Johnny Dipp.