Spalding Gray

On What Drew Him To New York:
I knew I couldn't live in America and I wasn't ready to move to Europe so I moved to an island off the coast of America -- New York City . . . It was tolerant. It was a place that tolerated differences and could incorporate them and embrace them, which was what America was supposed to be about and wasn't. So it was the melting pot that was a puree rather than individual vegetables. I think of New York as a puree and the rest of the United States as vegetable soup.

On New York's Character:
It's an insane angel; New York defies observation. It is completely, hugely in your face and what it is for me still is a human miracle, because if you go out in it, as I do, the fact that existence is -- is the miracle. The fact that New York continues in the face of all of the chaos, of the crime, of the madness, you just think that it would just pop and vanish, just explode.

On Living Hand To Mouth:
I think of my father and how confused he was by me. He understood my love for theater and he understood that New York City was the only place that it was happening in America really in any live way. But he was so confused by my living situation. I was living on 93rd and 3rd in a railroad apartment, and I described it to him as "straight through with a bathtub in the kitchen," and he thought I was joking. He said, "Where's the toilet?" And I said, "Out in the hall. I can take a bath and talk with Luce at the same time she's cooking." And then he began to realize I was really telling the truth. I was raised as an upper-class WASP in New England and there was this old tradition there that everyone would simply be guided into the right way after Ivy League college and onward and upward. And it rejected me, I rejected it, and I ended up as a kind of refugee really.

On Living In New York:
What's so fascinating about New Yorkers is that each person has a whole lexicon of personal logic in the way that they decipher and do what has to be done to enjoy, stay alive, take pleasure in this place. It's one of the few living cities where people are living in the city that they work in. You know, that's amazing in itself.

On Daily Rituals:
One of the things that I do every day when I finish working here or writing or reading, is go out and walk around Washington Square fountain. I'm the only one to do this. I go around and around and around. I don't count the times that I go around but I walk until I feel I've had a good walk, rather than going in a straight line which is what I used to do. I'd beeline up for Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and 18th Street because it would be a point of reference to go to and thumb through the books, because I like to be going somewhere. But I started to like the circle, because my eye, and I really have only one good eye now, my right eye, becomes like a camera, panning -- and every time around, you have the same configuration of people doing a little something different and so on around, so it becomes like my film for the day. My take on the day, Washington Square Park.

Spalding Gray
Photo: Scott S. Schulman
Originally from Rhode Island, Gray came to New York to become involved in theater. A writer, actor, and performer, Gray is the author of several books, such as IT'S A SLIPPERY SLOPE (1997, Farrar, Straus & Giroux). He has created more than a dozen monologues, including the VILLAGE VOICE's Obie Award-winning "Swimming to Cambodia." His appearances on and off-Broadway include roles in the revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and the New York premiere of Sam Shepard's "Tooth of Crime." Gray's film credits include roles in Roland Joffe's THE KILLING FIELDS, Steven Soderbergh's KING OF THE HILL, and Ron Howard's THE PAPER. He also has appeared on television, including several HBO specials.