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Robin Snead as told to Victor Ozols, “What It Feels Like . . . to Find Spalding Gray’s Body,” Esquire, August 2007:
I got in touch with his wife, and I mentioned that I’d never try to exploit my discovery. She said, “No, please, do whatever you like. You don’t have to be tasteful. This is Spalding Gray. All he ever talked about was his own death.”
Spalding Gray, “Fear of, Well, Flying,”, February 1992:
GRAY: But you are flying a lot and the pilots are drinking. That’s what I’m always afraid of. I’ve always said I would never fly on a plane where the pilot believes in reincarnation. When you get on a plane, do you meditate or do you feel that you can help keep the plane up? Do you have more power than the average person flying on the plane?
DALAI LAMA: I used to have a lot of fear when flying. Now I am getting used to it. But when I get very afraid or anxious, then, yes, as mentioned, I recite some prayers or some mantra. Also, you see, the final conclusion is the belief in karma. If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is also possible that I have no karmic force. But then even if the plane crashes, I may survive.
“Dad, can I tell you something? I know what’s inside ghosts.”
“Oh, really, Forrest? Well then, what is inside ghosts?”
“And what is nothing, Forrest?”
“Nothing is just a word, Dad.
“But Dad, ‘oh my’ is not a bad word, is it?”
“No Forrest, I’ve told you over and over that there are no bad words. A word only starts to take on a good or bad meaning when it’s used in context, and we’ll discuss that one later. Also, ‘oh’ and ‘my’ are two words, not one.”
“But my teacher said we could not say, ‘Oh my God.’”
“Forrest, you can say any word you want. You can say ‘God.’ You can say ‘my.’ You can say ‘oh.’ You can say ‘God my oh.’ Now let’s go over the lesson again. What might your teacher think is a real bad word? Let’s take a really good bad word. Let’s take ‘shit.’ Well now, we don’t have the word ‘shit’ yet, do we, so we’re going to have to make it up. Create it. Done. Now, I’m going to write the word ‘shit’ in the air. It starts with the letter ‘s.’ Now is ‘s’ a bad letter? Does it smell? No. My first name begins with ‘s.’ It’s kind of a nice snaky letter. Now we make the ‘h.’ Anything bad about that? No. Now we have ‘i’ and now ‘t.’ There it is Forrest, there’s the word, s-h-i-t, written in the air. Now please don’t mistake the word for the substance in the toilet. The substance in the toilet is the thing-in-itself. It smells and it has some offensive properties. Don’t confuse the word with the substance. The word is only a signifier. Now Forrest, the Bible had it somewhat wrong, or at least the Book of John did. The Book of John says, ‘In the beginning was the word.’ The opening of Genesis is more right on. It says, ‘In the beginning God created . . .’ Now, you can forget about God for the time being and just think of the act of creation. That’s all verb. That’s all action. So we have the act, the creation, and then we have the substance created. That’s what we call the thing in and for itself, and then we have the name. You see, only after it’s something does it get named. Now look, wait, I’ve got another idea. Let’s try writing the word ‘shit’ with a stick here in the dirt. Will writing it in the dirt make it a dirty word? No, because we have to carve the dirt out with a stick in order to make the word. So it really is an absence of dirt, isn’t it?”
I put the stick down and look up at Forrest and realize that I’ve gone a little bit too far with today’s lesson. Forrest looks up at me and says, “Are you all right, Dad?”
Spalding Gray, “Right off the end forever,” August 2006:
JOURNAL ENTRY, OCTOBER 2003
I CANNOT LET the children see me go crazy. I CANNOT play that one act on them. NO. Big NO because I am in the place of my mom now. The first thoughts of suicide came to me last spring. I drove to the ocean and threw myself in. It was March and very cold. Someone at the beach saw me and called the police. The cop that stopped me knew a great deal of my work and said “Oh, yeah. You, your mother, and suicide. I’ve seen your stuff on TV, It puts me to sleep late at night.” Because he’s a fan, he takes me home instead of to the hospital, and I’m all wet.
More from Harper’s Magazine:
Official Business — January 8, 2015, 3:57 pm
We defend Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish its cartoons—and our right to critique them.
Mentions — July 16, 2014, 7:00 pm
Watch Jessica Bruder on MSNBC’s The Cycle
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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“He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.”