Settling scores.

29 Mar

Four words into my audition song for My Favorite Year, I asked, “May I start again?” to which the casting director replied, “No” and I slunked out of the room backwards grasping for the door handle. The New York Times’s Frank Rich called the show “a missed opportunity, a too frequently flat musical that suffers from another vogue of the 1950s, an identity crisis,” while Time magazine condemned it as a “barren Broadway musical.”

In 1983, I was a rookie lifeguard at the beach down the block from my parents’ home in New Jersey. I was bullied relentlessly, verbally abused, the butt of hundreds of practical jokes. That summer, the Lifeguard Squad pulled a total of three people, children struggling to breathe, out of the surf. And the lifeguard? Yes. All three.

In the fifth grade, I was given the role of the Marquis de Lafayette, apparently because I could flourish my tri-corn like a Frenchman, so I went home and memorized the entire Declaration of Independence and was upgraded to Thomas Jefferson.

My Sophomore year in high school, I inadvertently threw away my tickets to On The Twentieth Century in the cafeteria and had to hunt through the garbage for them. Greg Wallace called out, “Too poor for lunch?” and Brother Richard drafted him to dig through the trash with me.

Last month, a student from one of my tours wrote unkind things all over my public Facebook Page. In a three-minute Google search, I hunted him down, wrote his principal, and after a series of e-mails in which the student lied and further implicated himself, was later told he was given three days of detention. On the first day of his sentence, at 2:45 PM, I went across the street and bought myself a cupcake.

During the 2004 Republican National Convention, I refused to give tours and when asked how to get to Central Park from Times Square, sent delegates south on a wild goose chase.

In the middle of my guitar lesson at the age of eight, Mr. Costello stopped me and said, “Do you ever practice?” Three decades later I taught myself the piano and play better than I ever played guitar. One is often only as good as their teacher, you know.

In 1977, the neighborhood librarian wouldn’t let me check out Death of a Salesman as it was “too mature” for me. I went on to meet Arthur Miller.

Having won my butterfly event at the Fireman’s Swim-meet, morbidly obese Boy Scout Troop 149 Leader Moe Downs handed me my medal with this condescension: “Well, looks like we finally found a sport for you.” He’s dead.

Tommy McGregor once laughed at me for slipping on the greasy filthy kitchen floor of a rat-trap restaurant in 1982. He still works there.

In Second Grade, the line for dismissal snaked through the classroom and I found myself in front of Mrs. Janus’ disgracefully messy desk. I looked down at it, and in an uncharacteristic moment of observation, Mrs. Janus noticed my wayward eye, took me by the hand, paraded me in front of my classmates and said: “This is a nosey-parker.” I should have replied, “And from what I saw, this is a crashing bore.”

When I was five years old, I went to my friend Philip’s’s house to play and entered as I always did through the open side door. I called for Philip who didn’t answer, so I went up to his room and startled Mrs. Schwarz who was taking a bath. “You don’t just walk into someone’s house!” she screamed at me. Thanks for the ethics lesson, but you weren’t all that.


14 Responses to “Settling scores.”

  1. Dugutigui March 29, 2012 at 5:17 pm #

    An excellent reading of a busy life indeed. I love this one:
    “Tommy McGregor once laughed at me for slipping on the greasy filthy kitchen floor of a rat-trap restaurant in 1982. He still works there”.
    A certain kind of poetic justice 🙂

    • NC Coot March 29, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

      Revenge is a dish best served cold.

      • Dugutigui March 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

        as Mathilde said…

  2. Mary Rives Brown March 29, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    At the very least you should have a column in the NYT – xoxoxo – really, I am not kidding.

    • NC Coot March 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

      You’re the cream in my coffee.

  3. Ric March 29, 2012 at 11:32 pm #

    Fucking funny.

  4. NC Coot March 29, 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Thank you, thank you, so much, R!

  5. wheresmytbackandotherstories March 31, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    One day I’ll be as brave as you and write something about settling scores. I hope it’s gonna be soon! You’re one of the best!

    • NC Coot March 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

      You’re an angel. It’s just a longer version of the Oscar Speech we’d all REALLY like to give. I’ll be waiting for yours. 🙂

  6. Joe Pineda April 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm #

    Haha. This is the very definition of cranky right here.

    It was amazing that each story was contained into paragraphs. It made reading them much more fluid and that much sweeter. Thank you for sharing once again. Any of these could have been amazing on their own.

    • NC Coot April 10, 2012 at 8:11 pm #

      Thank you so much, Joe. I’ve had the flu and haven’t been able to write this week, so it means the world to me that you went back and found this and wrote such kind and thoughtful things.

  7. mskatykins April 13, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I really enjoyed reading this. Sometimes it’s nice to look at our lives in this perspective! 🙂

    • NC Coot April 14, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

      Thank you so much for reading and the thoughtful comment!


  1. SPOTLIGHT! – 04/12/12 | The Bard of Steel - April 12, 2012

    […] Settling Scores by The Necessary Cruelty […]

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