Twenty Years

Twenty years ago, I sat in gown and silly hat (they were Mickey Mouse Ears with a tassel) and listened to The Fonz himself, Henry Wrinkler talk to my graduating class about how he worked through severe dyslexia to get through college, and then later on into Yale Drama school.  He spoke of how he got past being an “artist” to be a “working artist” taking roles on TV shows and commercials and not “legitimate roles in The Theatre.”  He spoke on how luck, as much as eagerness and hard work played into his success.

Twenty years ago, I would, the next day, stagger through our actual graduation ceremony–a ceremony which very much was filled with all the pomp and circumstance that you can believe an Ivy League school can muster.  I was hung over, and sleep deprived, and recovering from my last hook up of my college career –a hook up that literally was four years in the making, and didn’t actually come to fruition until our last night as college undergrads.

Twenty years ago, I sat in my residential college courtyard (a throwback to Cambridge and Oxford) with the other 100 or so kids in my graduating class that had lived in the same set of dorms for four years and waited for our names to be called.

Twenty years ago, my name was called and the world went silent as in a dream, and I walked up the flagstone path, shook the hand of our dean, the hand of our college master and was handed a little roll of paper with my name of it; and while it would be another year before I would get the BIG paper with my name on it (stupid 2 classes to make up), I would get to walk with, and forever be associated with, my class.

Twenty years ago, I gathered down in the courtyard with a couple of friends, stuffed my clay pipe with a handful of tobacco, lit the bowl and smoked it.  Upon finishing it, my friends and I participated in a tradition that goes back to the 1860s and smashed the pipes on the stones of our college: a semi-sacrament representing the end of our Bright College Years.

Twenty years ago, I turned to my mom, cried hot tears in the realization that the world had ended; that the world was new; that I had accomplished something huge; that I had taken the steps to something even bigger, something that would end with the waxing of my own light–that I was a baby starting life.

Twenty years ago, I graduated from college.

A world of things have happened in the intervening years.  A lifetime has passed.  No time has passed.  It was a life a way.  It was just yesterday.

I’ve had seven very different careers.  I’ve had fifteen minutes of fame with millions of people seeing me on a SuperBowl commercial and then on a huge reality show.  I was saved from a horrible accident by the grace of God and really amazing automotive engineering.  I’ve danced, and drank and screwed, and laughed and loved, and cried, and hated and forgave; I’ve fallen in love.  I’ve married a wonderful and sometimes frustrating woman.  I’ve had children, beautiful children, who both amaze and infuriate me.  All love.  All love.  Movies and books, and music and writing, and games and smarts and stupidity–and LOVE  all the bloody and wonderful and horrible and perfect and confused love.

Love.

I’m missing my Twenty Year College reunion as I type this. Twenty years of living, and life makes it really crazy to attend things, sometimes.  Big things.

I’m missing my classmates, roomates, and beer, and pizza and families and stories and catching up and love…but I’m not missing the love, not really.

The love never left me.  It’s here with me.  It’s in the friendships that I’ve carried with me, the insatiable love of learning that I still carry in my brain.  It’s in the conversations that I have, the things I try and instill in my kids, and the mind blowingly elegant and intelligent conversations that I have with my wife.

Twenty Years, and my college years still gleam bright for me.

Bright College years, with pleasure rife,
The shortest, gladdest years of life;
How swiftly are ye gliding by!
Oh, why doth time so quickly fly?

The seasons come, the seasons go,
The earth is green or white with snow,
But time and change shall naught avail
To break the friendships formed at Yale.

In after years, should troubles rise
To cloud the blue of sunny skies,
How bright will seem, through mem’ry’s haze
Those happy, golden, bygone days!

Oh, let us strive that ever we
May let these words our watch-cry be,
Where’er upon life’s sea we sail:
“For God, for Country and for Yale!

My name is Anthony Robinson, Calhoun College, Yale University, Class of 1996

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Weekend Coffee Share: Tatooine

It’s a beautiful May day when you once again  make your way to visit him to chat over coffee.  You walk through the now familiar gate–this time not jumping at the odd little squeak and clang of it opening and closing.  You cross up to the front porch, dodging the little pile of bird poop that’s collecting on the steps.  You look up and notice the very occupied bird’s nest beneath the eave of the front porch.  You knock, and wait patiently for him to open the door–the sounds of a dog barking, shuffling, someone yelling to “go to the kennel” and locks being opened.

He opens the door with an obviously tired smile, and a croaky “Hey, nice to see you…come in!”  You walk through the open door, through a mass of books, toy trucks, boys’ dirty socks and shoes to find a seat at the round table that dominates the dining room area of the house.

Curios and Coffee

He offers you a cup of coffee, and all the fixings–including–again–an extra large bottle of whiskey. “Help yourself…” he says, and takes a seat beside you.

“How’ve you been?”  He asks you, folding his odd looking newspaper away.   “Me?  I’ve been working.  A lot–on this TV show for cable…it’s  been fun, and stressful and super tiring.”  He smiles, takes a long hard swig from his coffee, and fiddles with a spoon as you ask a couple of questions.

“Where have I been?” He echoes a question of yours.  He smiles, sits back in his chair and contemplates for a moment before putting on his best vacant wide eyed kid face and saying (almost in falsetto) “Well, if there’s a bright center to the universe, I was on the planet that it’s farthest from.”  He laughed at his own joke (lame) and then he’d say “I’ve been shooting out on location waaaaay up in Santa Clarita–about thirty miles north of Downtown LA.  You know–where cell phones barely work, there’s no lights, and every TV and movie western was shot for nearly 50 years.”

“It’s been fun, heartbreaking, hard and a great experience all rolled up into one; but that’s how it often is, with these things.”  He takes a sip, stares down into the cup and says “It’s too bad it ended a bit prematurely for some of us.  They let the whole A.D. staff go after this second week…”  He smiles, and before moving to refill his cup, he says “…and, believe it or not, I’m OK with that.  It’s good for my wife, and honestly, for me at the moment.  Go figure.”

He refills your coffee, and then his, and then sits back down.  “In the meantime, I’m still playing catch up on sleep.  Me and my wife both.  But hey, now I can nap with the baby again, since it’ll be me and the little one again, so that should be ripe of awesomeness.”  He smiles.

“You watch The Force Awakens?”  He asks, expectantly, his mood seeming to brighten.  “I’ve watched it only four times so far–only once in the theater.  It’s surprising, really.  I really like it, but it’s like…I dunno.  It’s like I’m watching the whole of the first trilogy again.  It’s too big–especially knowing that there’s more. ”  He points to the disk sitting on a table next to the TV.  “I keep threatening to watch it with friends, but…I dunno…if you hang around, maybe I’ll convince you to watch it with me?”  He smiles devilishly.

“Oh, speaking of things worth watching–” He motions with his hand, sloshing a little coffee over the edge of the cup.  “–my wife convinced me–ha! convinced me!–to get season tickets to the theater here in LA.  Hell, I’m stoked; there are two shows that I’ve wanted to see for a long time and the last show…it’s Hamilton.  Please tell me you’ve heard of Hamilton? ”

He pontificates on Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alexander Hamilton, actual color-blind casting, historical melodrama, and U.S. history for what seems like hours; after checking your watch, you realize that it’s only been about fifteen minutes.

He excuses himself to the restroom, simultaneously instructing you to make yourself at home.  “Go on,” he says, “take off your shoes; curl up your feet.”

While he’s gone, you peer over the debris on the table:  A broken and bare DVD case with a copy of The Peanuts Movie in it; a couple of folded up call sheets with notes scribbled all over them; a water soaked Little Golden Book about The Paw Patrol; a dog-eared copy of The Shining; a chewed and splintered Jenga block; a beat up looking iPad case; a couple of toy trucks; a stack of diapers and baby wipes; and a little notebook stacked on top of a pile of folded laundry.

He re-enters the room, and almost splashes down into the chair.  “It’s funny, you know?”  He picks up his now re-filled mug of coffee, and hugs it to him in both hands.  “The thing about being on set is like you’re in a little bubble.  It’s like you’re on another planet when you’re working.  It’s a long day of just one thing, and then another, and then another.  If you don’t look up, or if you don’t check in with reality, you’re out of the loop.”

He stops to meet your eye, reading your questioning look.  “Two weeks.  Two weeks and I barely know how my wife is feeling.  I barely know how my kid is doing in school, and how fast the little one is growing.  Did you know he’s started saying his ABCs?  Yeah.  Full on.  He’s ready to potty train, almost.  I’m just finding out.  There’s a HUGE wildfire in Canada…just found out.  That’s from like days ago.  Days.  I’m behind on my reality TV shows, on the mail, on my bank account, on the state of our house, on who’s the likeliest presidential front-runner of the moment; it’s like you’re out on an alien planet, an hour out past the last town in the middle of the desert on some backwater farm.”

“Movie and TV production is a lot more tedious and mundane, more removed from the world than people actually know.  There’s paperwork galore, there’s time and money to consider, a schedule to keep and way too many rules on how to do everything.  And everything happens way, way, way away from the real world.  I’ve often said if we were in the middle of shooting and WWIII broke out, folks on set wouldn’t know until an hour after the fact–and we’d be told by someone rushing in to tell us.”

He shakes his head, and flicks on a picture of his kids on his phone.  “You miss a lot.”

“So!” He leans forward, peering at you, tucking his phone away.  “Do tell…what have *you* been up to?”