I’ve lived in New York since 1979. It was a place that they gave you your anonymity. And not just if you were famous. New Yorkers nodded at you. New Yorkers smiled at you at the Shakespeare & Co. bookshop. New Yorkers would make a terse comment to you. “Big fan,” they’d say. “Loved you in Streetcar,” they’d say. They signaled their appreciation of you very politely. To be a New Yorker meant you gave everybody five feet. You gave everybody their privacy. I recall how, in a big city, many people had to play out private moments in public: a woman sobbing at a pay phone (remember pay phones?), someone studying their paperwork, undisturbed, at the Oyster Bar, before catching the train. We allowed people privacy, we left them alone. And now we don’t leave each other alone. Now we live in a digital arena, like some Roman Colosseum, with our thumbs up or thumbs down.
There’s nothing more badass than being yourself.
What was once before you - an exciting, mysterious future - is now behind you. Lived; understood; disappointing. You realize you are not special. You have struggled into existence, and are now slipping silently out of it. This is everyone’s experience. Every single one. The specifics hardly matter. Everyone’s everyone. So you are Adele, Hazel, Claire, Olive. You are Ellen. All her meager sadnesses are yours; all her loneliness; the gray, straw-like hair; her red raw hands. It’s yours. It is time for you to understand this.
As the people who adore you stop adoring you; as they die; as they move on; as you shed them; as you shed your beauty; your youth; as the world forgets you; as you recognize your transience; as you begin to lose your characteristics one by one; as you learn there is no-one watching you, and there never was, you think only about driving - not coming from any place; not arriving any place. Just driving, counting off time. Now you are here, at 7:43. Now you are here, at 7:44. Now you are…
For the record, I know nothing about film or theatre, but I *do* know that Philip Seymour Hoffman was one of the actors that made me pay attention. R.I.P. What happened to him is so sad.