I encountered PSH in the park close to where I live. He and I were the only people on the oval track, running the same distance around though in opposite directions. I tried not to stare but I did and he seemed to wince when we went by one another. Red ballcap, chestnut hair flapping. Freckles, ear buds, white t-shirt, Bermuda shorts. A big but not ungraceful man. The next day I read in the local paper he was in town to make a movie but soon would be headed back for New York. A week later, I read a story that said he was dead. I would read many stories on his death but in the end I decided it would be better to not believe them. Of course, I did not look for him in the city park close to where I lived in order to prove that the stories were inaccurate. But I felt someone would catch sight of him again in NYC. And in the end all of that sorrow would have been wasted. I already owned a number of films he’d been in; I watch the films and in each of them he seems to be doing pretty well. By this, I don’t mean that his characters don’t have their own troubles. But they are not without the blessings of humanity. Someone had already given me a copy of a film, Owning Mahowny, because it was about gambling–more specifically, a compulsive gambler who winds up losing millions. It’s a great story and sometimes it makes me think of when I was younger and what I’d dreamed of doing. The non-dead actor embodies the role of the helpless gambler and the character moves carefully through much of his life, which is precisely what a gambler must do in order to keep playing. Then, there is the binge. In one scene, he steps away from a late-night self-implosion at an Atlantic City casino. He takes a walk along the beach. He is, as always, dressed in a cheap suit. At one point, he stands close to the surf and when a meek wave rolls up his feet, he takes a little kick at it. The untrue stories about the death of PSH cited drug addiction and when I read them, I could not help but think about the little kick and the endless ocean. In the film, I can tell you that that the gambler does return to the casino. And after he is gone the moonlight shimmers all over the dark water.
Photo By: Tim Gross