All Writers Should Murmur This Credo To Themselves
I was elbowing my way through Grand Central Station, early for the tour. An idiosyncratic tour guide (and hero of mine) was returning to New York City to guide people through his observations of the venerable train station, and I’d raced to make my reservation, afraid it’d be sold out. But there he was, all alone in a sea of passing commuters. As I approached, he pondered me, and then finally spoke.
“Are you improvising?” he asked mysteriously.
I hesitated. Did he mean in the cosmic sense, that we’re all making decisions on the fly?
“Yes,” I decided to say.
One thing I appreciate about the guide, “Speed” Levitch, is his wild, luminous phrasings. He once described Manhattan as “the middle of a melodrama happening on the backsides of rocks.” His double decker bus tours in the 90’s are the stuff of legend, infusing hilarious, insightful musings into what typically would be stick-to-the-script factoids dispensed to tourists. His zany, lyrical romps were chronicled in the documentary, “The Cruise,” and as a cameo in “Waking Life.” In short, I was game for whatever improvisational ride we’d be going on that day.
“But didn’t I mention the ongoing “wow” is happening right now? We are all co-authors of this dancing exuberance where even our inabilities are having a roast. We are the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel, starring clowns…Life is a matter of a miracle that is collected over time by moments, flabbergasted to be in each other’s presence. The world is an exam to see if we can rise into direct experience. Our eyesight is here as a test to see if we can see beyond it.”
— Speed Levitch, Waking Life
A few minutes passed, and…no one else showed up. I began to suspect that the tour would just be he and I. We spent the wait talking about cities and ourselves, and I briefly wondered if the conversation was the tour — an ode to spontaneity, and perhaps the ultimate improvisation. I wrote down something Speed said in my little notebook, and he looked at me in what seemed like a new light. He leaned in conspiratorially.