Today I’m writing while a biographic documentary of the life of Sterling Hayden runs in the background. It’s today’s Mubi. An independent soul, Hayden. An alcoholic at the end. A man of chaos and a man of water. Much I understand in him.
This was shot four years before he died, very much alive living on his wonderful boat in France, with validation tics aplenty. I’m not sure how much I trust him and I’m not sure how much I trust the film maker not to stitch him up, this old man who hit a vein in youth and who lived well and forward, and took his luck when it came. Big tall man living hard and well, and bravely. Now sunk into booze.
Another week done and suddenly there’s money in the bank. I talk to my agent and again I contemplate how fortunate I am to know that I’m represented firmly by somebody who gets me and is at the top of her game. This is a launch pad, even in this shit. I got paid today for pretending to be an auditor just before we locked in. Now I’m pretending to be a king and one of the only guys employed in live theatre. Next week I get to wind down and maybe to tidy my flat at last.
Kitcat calls this flat my ship. I know what she means. Nautical things everywhere, water visible from the window. Here I am floating above the world. I have a glass of wine in my hand. And I’m watching an actor with a good twenty years on me as he drinks Jonny Walker Red Label from the bottle and extensively justifies it to the camera. He died four years later, and I know how the body shuts down because I’ve seen it happen to too many people I love.
“I’m all fucked up because I’m alone,” he is telling us now. Classic symptoms of depression. He can’t see what he has. Only what he hasn’t. And how many of us have fallen into these traps? Still, every time I watch this celebrated man swigging without a glass, be it wine or sherry or whisky, my spine tingles.
In this endless April, many of us are drinking more than is helpful for us. Exercise is harder as we have to do it on purpose. I have usually managed to get enough running and yoga in the course of my work. I’m not doing that right now. My spare tire needs deflating. I need to break the habit of a lifetime and go to one of those hideous classes where someone tells you what to do. I have non-hideous friends running them and have missed multiple opportunities to do a free one taught by Claire.
Oh fuck. Hayden is talking about suicide as he slowly drowns himself. He’s namechecking his heroes. Virginia Woolf. Hemingway. Good references. Both took themselves out, one with water one with fire. “Where’s the gun?” he asks, deep in the bottle. The bottle is a gun. A wet gun.
We mustn’t succumb to this temptation to take a free pass out of life. There’s so much we can change from the inside, nothing from the outside. Particularly if we know death by name. Lots of people don’t. Our fear of death allows us to accept constrictions on our freedom. But death happens all the time, everywhere, and shouldn’t be feared. No need to speed it up for yourself or others, but why kill your life in fear of it ending?