Ted, 60 from Poland, was sitting at a downtown bus stop. Tonight, one after another, my passengers were depositing mundaneness in the cab and even red lights seemed longer than usual. With a cane between his knees and a book in hand, he caught my attention. I asked his destination and he said “Harlem st”. I told him: Get in I’ll take you for free. Passing through yuppie and hipster neighborhoods and the gang and drug dealing areas, until reaching the polish neighborhood, he told me his story with broken English and a saturated stutter. For nearly 40 years, he has been a theater actor and director in Poland. A year and half ago, he comes to NYC to meet and collaborate with an American playwright which details got lost in our broken communication. A little later, Ted gets invited by an old wealthy friend to visit chicago. A year ago, white crossing the street, he gets in a bad accident which results in his leg’s permanent injury and also damages his brain which causes him to stutter. He said despite the fact that the driver was caught by police, his lawyers were able to get him off the hook and Ted didn’t get compensated. Since then his friend has been supporting him. I asked him what he is doing at this hour out in the city. In his mumbled answer, he mentioned a theater project based on the book “Gimpel the Fool” that takes place around life in Jewish ghettos of Poland in 19th century. He said he is tired of acting and directing and has recently been spending time writing poetry and music composition and wants to return home. He complained about the “melodrama industry” in America and spoke highly of culture and art back home. I asked him if he were 20 again, would he have chosen the same path? He said: I don’t know. But I’ve always wanted to travel the world and experience people and their lives in all continents up close. In front of a cafe named “Ali Baba” that was still open at 2am, he got off. While floating in thoughts of how much of it was his imagination or reality, and whether he was a crazy old man or a disillusioned director or both, I asked if I could see his work. He sad he will be reciting his poetry at Ali Baba in near future. Soon I will take my doubts and curiosity to destination. Maybe this man is Gimpel himself who has returned to prove the idiocy of this world.
Chicago – Summer 2014