Back in the fall of 1980, a grad-school friend of mine read my palm. Now, I'm pretty skeptical about stuff like that--very skeptical, in fact--but my band, the Poptarts, had just broken up and my contract to teach English 101 to Syracuse freshmen had not been renewed. So when Jotsna offered to read my palm and Susan's (she had been the Poptarts' drummer), I agreed.
Jotsna read Susan's palm first. She told her that she was at a fork in the road: If she stayed in Syracuse, she would have a difficult time of it. It would be hard to find work and hard to find love. If she moved back to Miami, where her parents lived, she would end up on a lucrative career path, and within three months she would meet the man she would marry. As Susan had already decided to move back to Miami, I chalked this up to Jotsna's telling her what she wanted to hear.
My reading was not as precise. Jotsna studied my palm and then showed me where there was a break in my life line. "You have a very long life line," she told me, "But here, around early middle age, there is a clear break. It doesn't mean death and rebirth. It means that your life before that break and your life after it will be very, very different. I can't tell how, though, or what will cause this."
Sure, I thought. Well, that was interesting, at least.
Then, about six months later, I got a letter from Susan. Well, not a letter really. A wedding invitation. Today, she has been married for more than a quarter of a century, and she is a bankruptcy lawyer in Baltimore.
This made me think a bit more about Jotsna's reading. I didn't dwell on it, or worry about it. But it did sit in the back of my mind for years, just skimming the surface of consciousness, until, in my thirty-seventh year, my world crumbled and my life as I had known and lived it up until then fell apart, almost entirely. I had to build it all back up, breath by breath, emotional brick by emotional brick. The only constants (and I am thankful for them and will be to the end point of my life line): My family and several dear, dear friends who have been there for me since schooldays. Barb, Beth, Lee--take a bow.
I've done quite a good job of rebuilding my life, if I do say so myself, with the aid of those friends, and new ones, and, of course, my true counterpart, Jeff, who brought love and life and purpose back into my grasp. And helps me keep them resting firmly in the palm of my hand. So Jotsna's reading was pretty spot on for me, too--coincindental as I believe that reading to have been. I mean, there IS a clear break in my life line, so I would expect a reader to come up with something like that...
Which brings us to the middle of last week, when, while channel surfing one evening, we landed on a documentary, When Stand Up Stood Out,
conceived of and directed by Fran Solomita, a comedian who became friends with my ex and I during our brief stint in Boston where we moved so he (the ex) could persue his own comedy career. Fran! Since I haven't seen him or heard from him since that dark night of the soul--since the hiatus in the life line--I have wondered now and then whatever happened to him. How were his kids? Was he still married? How was his wife? What was she up to? Now I know at least in part what he's been doing: making a documentary.
The film covers the time from the late '70s into the early '80s when Boston's strong and unique comedy scene made it a national hotspot and a launching pad for more than one national act. It follows the scene as its initial cameraderie of shared passion for performing disintegrates into envy and bitterness as some grab the brass ring and some do not. Its general time line ends right before the ex and I showed up there, but so many of the people interviewed and shown performing in the film had been pals from that time--pals I had kept in contact with fairly constantly, until that former life came to an end: Barry, who once, while crashing at the place in San Francisco we shared with Dan and Paul (also in the film) after we had moved on from Boston, poured a whole bottle of beer on the cream-colored carpet in our apartment; Jimmy, who introduced himself to me the first night I spent as a Bostonian as the "portly czar of Watertown;" Tony; Denis; Mike; Bill; Jack; Phil; Ron (he of the very accomplished parakeet); Lauren; Kevin; and, of course, Bob--an even older friend from Syracuse days, at whose wedding (years later in San Francisco) I even caught the bouquet.
It was weird, seeing all these people I once knew, and who once knew me. People who had crashed on my couch, and on whose couches I had crashed. People I had shared meals and laughter and tears with. And it made me wonder--were we to run into each other on the street or in an airport or maybe at a club (although I haven't been to a stand up show in ages), would they recognize me, or remember me at all? Because that time really, truly, does seem to me as another life, very distinct and separate from the one I am living now. I have thought about the "otherness" of that former life often over the years, always, always coming back to Jotsna's palm reading. But I don't think I have ever felt it as viscerally as I did the other night, watching the ghosts of that former life flit across the screen.