Sunday, February 02, 2014

Anger and Sadness at the passing of Philip Seymour Hoffmann

 Philip Seymour Hoffmann
1967 - 2014
"Every junkie's like a setting sun..."
So many messages of sadness about PSH. I can't seem to get past being angry. I read the news just before leaving for the gym for my workout and by the time I got there, I was furious. I added weight to every rep, and reps to every set, but no matter how much my muscles strained and burned, I couldn't stop stewing and thinking.

About the talented young actors I went to school with who never made it.

About the parents who are so ashamed, but still force themselves to ask for help as they fill out the financial aid request form so their kids can get into swimming lessons or play basketball at the Y.

About the 'Can Man" who pushes a grocery cart up and down North Broadway laden with bags of the dirty aluminum he collects so he can afford a cheap room and enough beer to put him to sleep at night.

About my fellow patients in the mental hospital who refused to let depression and addiction rob them of their will to live.

About the two guys who sleep side by side, on sheets of cardboard, under filthy blankets, in the open pavilion at the head of the Legacy Trail, where I lace up my $100 shoes and run for fun.

Every one of them with a thousand reasons to wish they were dead. And every one of them refusing to give up.

By the time I hit the treadmill for my cool down, I was seething with so much rage that I felt a little bit dangerous. Then I looked up and saw "B." B is around 11 or 12 years old. He is much smaller than the other kids his age, and he gets bullied a lot at school. He is  also smarter, funnier, more determined, and much, much faster. He could easily win his age group when we run in the big races with Run This Town. Instead, last fall, B chose to train with the smallest, youngest member of our team. He coached the little guy along for two months, and when race day came, instead of competing for hardware in his age group, or even the overall standings, B ran side by side with his charge: they crossed the finish line together.

Yeah, it's sad when a talented, famous, successful millionaire kills himself. I hope he is free now from whatever demons were haunting him. But PSH was blessed with an awful lot of things in life, and an awful lot of young people looked up to him. A lot of kids wanted to be like him. And I'm angry.

Angry at him for giving up on life, and dying on the floor with an Oscar on the mantle and a needle in his arm.

Angry at myself for every time I've turned to food or tobacco or work or bourbon... looking for a place to hide from life.

Angry at my friends who think they are too smart or strong or lucky to get tripped up by their addictions the way PSH was this morning.

And just when my anger threatens to become as toxic as a bloody hypodermic in the gutter at the corner of Bedford and Grand, I lift my mind's eye down the hall, and see B on the pool deck... clowning and encouraging a young swimmer who's even smaller than he is.... then diving into the long blue lane, and slicing the length of it like a joyful dolphin.

Now that I think of it, I guess I am more sad than angry about Philip Seymour Hoffmann's death. He wasn't cut out to be anybody's hero. That may be the only part he ever came across that he couldn't play the hell out of. I sure wish he'd had a chance to meet one of my heroes, though. Maybe B could have shown him that life really is worth living.

Funny how a man's role models can change over time, isn't it?

Rest in Peace, PSH. I hope you've finally found the peace that seemed to always elude you here.


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