On Dwarf Shakespeare and Random Encounters

Posted by jdg | Wednesday, December 08, 2010

So I'm watching that Will Ferrell movie where he's an elf and Peter Dinklage (forever known to me as the dwarf from The Station Agent) comes on playing a bad-ass children's book author who tells Will Ferrell how much "action" he gets. And then he beats up Will Ferrell and I think, Bravo, dwarf from The Station Agent. Later I flip the channel and one of those Lord of the Rings movies is on about that Scottish wizard school that four muggle children stumble into through a wardrobe and meet the polar bear who talks just like Gandalf and it's no wonder I'm confused when I see the dwarf from the The Station Agent made up like Gimli's half-brother with a wee sword and I think, Oh no, dwarf from The Station Agent! I thought your dignity knew no price.

I'm drifting off to sleep, you see. I'm nursing a miserable cold and I've consumed more NyQuil than a Mormon teenager on a Friday night and I'm imagining Peter Dinklage in a big off-broadway production of Hamlet. Or maybe MacBeth. No, Hamlet. He'd be great, I think. But then I'm wondering if people would only buy tickets because they'd want to see a little Hamlet. No, I tell myself, They wouldn't market it that way. But then shouldn't everyone in the cast be small? A pint-sized Polonius. A tiny Ophelia. It could be redemption, I think, for all the Leprechaun 2s and the Vern Troyer sex tape and half of the programming on TLC. I'm trying to come up with something to write about for this blog about my crazy short trip to New York and I'm falling asleep picturing a crowded theater, everyone admiring Peter Dinklage soliloquizing to a normal-sized skull. . .

* * * * *

I was in a New York book store over the summer and saw the normal-sized guy who wrote and directed The Station Agent. I didn't recognize him, but Zan had just seen 2012, so she knew he was a celebrity but it wasn't until later that we had any idea who he actually was. I'm not accustomed to seeing some guy in a store or on the street and thinking I might know him from The Wire or one of those Focker movies. They say it's the anonymity of New York that makes celebrities so comfortable there, the daily barrage of faces that means nobody gives a fuck who you are, snowflake. But if that is true, I wonder, what's so great about being special in the first place? And why is it we admire actors, anyway, when all they're really good at is being someone else?

I found myself at that bookstore again last Thursday, buying a book that just won the National Book Award written by my former teacher. I did not see Peter Dinklage there. The next morning I found myself in a Brooklyn studio with two hip New York-types to do my hair, two hip New York-types to dress me, two hip New York-types to put on makeup and what looked like a half dozen hip New York-types there to take my picture for a magazine article I'd already written (to think I'd offered to set up a tripod and do all this in Detroit). They put me under lights in front of all of these hip New York-types and then told me to "act natural." When they were done with me they brought in a live zebra. Now I don't know what any of this has to do with dwarfs. This is how blog posts work sometimes, a stream of barely-consciousness. I could probably try to tie all this back to dwarf Shakespeare, but that would strain your faith in me and today I'd prefer to leave you with a mess. It is the ability to be messy that I love about this work. I do not have an editor. No one to tell me not to write about midgets, not to half-brag about being photographed in New York for some magazine in some half-assed post that doesn't make any sense. I do not have a team of stylists. Or good lighting. This is raw me.

And this is true: I walked away from that Greenpoint studio, feeling blessedly invisible across Hasidic Williamsburg, across half the borough through Prospect Park. I walked for seven hours that day, e-mailing various friends to see if they were around, not committed enough to break into their routines with a phone call. Later, still with time to kill I stood on one of the staircases overlooking Grand Central Station at rush hour, calmed by all that scurrying anonymity. Outside it was just starting to snow in New York, and I made my way down Madison, arbitrarily picking a street to take over to Penn Station to catch a train to Newark. There on 34th street I passed a short man with long brown hair in a Yale cap and I instantly recognized him in that half a second you get with any face on the street in New York. He was a friend from high school I hadn't spoken to in over twelve years.

We could have closed a bar with memories, but he was in a hurry and I did not call out his name.