Tom Minter's Off The Stoop Blog

a playwright's journey, creating, connecting, and conversing.

Before rehearsals..

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..walking down Great Barrington’s main street: facing Robbin’s insolently enticing open doors, and straining not to succumb to the perfume of sugar (in incalculable forms), there is a tickle at the back of your neck; facing the itch –you turn to find Tom’s Toy Store.

Yes. True. I couldn’t even make this geography up! Two poles of childhood; one sweet, the other beckoning –with my own name..-and ‘yes’, though the mountains beyond coddle a sluice of other stores and shops and points of interest, that purl through town.. I have to admit to being arrested in my steps, and almost incapable of wandering elsewhere..

I am proud to say that I remained steadfast –almost; I won’t spill the dots on which shop, shopping caused me to forget myself..

..indulgent daily pastimes, which began at breakfast. And Jay Thomas. Jousting at the brink of day.

No matter how early I was downstairs for coffee, Jay was earlier, reading glasses perched on his gaze and focusing fodder to his humor; testing its worth; wrapping it in every garb of joke and anecdote the man had in his arsenal of wit, and lobbing hook after hook at anyone in the room.

Mornings at the Wainwright Inn.. -not exactly for the fainthearted, slow wakening, or easily offended. Jay always had mining choice provocations and unsettling stories on his mind, and was not to be deflected by anyone’s daintiness; actually, any whiff of unease only went to affirm just how perfect his pitch!

Reading from the paper, eyes punctuating every sentence with a glance to see what sticks, Jay’s on a roll: ..man attacked by brother with machete. This looks interesting.

And I should have taken better care than endowing curiosity with a ‘tic’, but the tag of the tale was so odd that it curled  my eyebrow just enough to spur Jay deeper into the story..

..yeah it’s true. It’s right here. And they don’t lie in this paper.. –what is this paper? Yeah, they don’t lie in this paper. Guy came at his brother with a machete. In the kitchen. At 60. 60 years old, and he’s had enough. ‘I’ve had enough’; where’s a guy get a machete in the kitchen? Why would you have a machete in the kitchen? So you have a machete in the kitchen, and now, all of a sudden at 60 –you’ve had enough! “I’ve had enough!” -..Where’s a guy get a machete in the kitchen and at 60 years old even have the anger to raise it? And what’s his brother do?

..at this point I was hooked and let slip ‘what did his brother do’?

He was under the sink. But he had a crowbar. Can you see this: a 60 year old, coming after a 75 year old, under the sink, fixing the pipes with a crowbar..?

 I wasn’t the only one engaged by this rumination; a colleague who was also being platformed in the week’s Gala presentation, Kevin Christopher Snipes, was at breakfast by this point, buttering toast, and felt compelled to say… -oh there’s a play.

-to which, Jay’s eyes already bright, went nova –and he says: yeah!

So, of course, Kevin asks which brother he’d like to play, and Jay doesn’t miss a beat: The one under the sink. Legs sticking out. Totally unaware his insane brother has found the machete, and is coming at him. Can’t you see it? My legs sticking out? That lunatic brother coming at those legs, trying to raise the machete. Oh yeah, I’d be under the sink.

-and by now, sick as it all is, we’re howling! Kevin, several other guests, me –we’re all unable to stem the flow of this tsunami of bad taste..

And Jay can’t let go; -but what’s happened? What’s finally cracked the guy to grab the machete? Did I tell him he was uncoordinated, and he’s decided to prove me wrong? But felt he should wait till I was under the sink? Did he hate the pants I was wearing? Was I wearing pants? Maybe he was just disgusted with seeing my junk hanging out under the sink, and he wanted to teach me a lesson. What do you think?

I couldn’t think; no one could think. We couldn’t stop laughing.

-and then he’d be up and gone!

Two mornings of the four days we were all in Great Barrington, Jay had to drive to Pittsfield, and use a remote studio to do his radio show for Sirius.

I’d like to think our breakfasts geared him up; can’t be sure though.

You don’t prime a force of nature.

[An earlier version of a Jay classic, on Letterman.]

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