By Walter Rimler
August 18, 2008
Ms. Theresa Cotter
Altercare of Mayfield Village, Inc.
290 North Commons Blvd
Mayfield Village OH 44143
Dear Ms. Cotter:
I hope you don’t mind me writing to you out of the blue like this. I also hope that I made enough of an impression on you some thirty-five years ago that you will emember who I am.
I am Larry Tunisheé and I was in your English/Drama class at Audubon Junior High School in Los Angeles in the winter of 1973. Yes, it’s really me!
Ms. Cotter, do you remember how you used to criticize me or not applying myself enough, for being (and I am using your word here) “lackadaisical” in doing my research and paperwork? Well, I think you will have to give me a few points for diligence when I tell you how many hours I spent trying to determine your current whereabouts. It was a real piece of research and detective work. I am almost tempted to call the school board and get that “C” you gave me retroactively upgraded to at least a “B”!
Ms. Cotter, I do hope that seeing a letter from me has given you at least a glimmer of pleasure. Maybe I am not so big a part of your past as you are of mine, but perhaps I am at least a fond memory to you. Of course, you are much much more than that to me. You are the one who made me love writing and drama and theater and film. You are the one who taught me to worship art! And that is why I am writing to you today. I need your advice.
Remember how you would tell me that if I really tried very hard I could get to where I wanted to go? And remember how you used to say that it is just as important to know where you want to go as it is to try hard to get there?
Well, I’ve pretty much known where I wanted to go for more than thirty years now. I’ve known it, in fact, ever since my days at Audubon, when I was in your class, acting in the plays you assigned us (remember me as Toto in The Wizard of Oz??), and writing skits and then plays of my own, which I and Bob Galuskin and Richard Spivak put on for others in our class and then, at the graduate assembly, for the entire school! Those were the days. Days of exuberance, anticipation, hope and zest. Days of thrills, which now seem so long gone.
Ever since the ninth grade, I’ve known where I wanted to go, I’ve known what I had to do. I’ve known that I had to be in the theatre, that I had to write, act, direct, and produce, that I had to entertain, enlighten, and unburden audiences. I could not possibly have imagined, however, how many things can come up in the course of life that can get you totally off course. It has been one crazy roadblock after another, some put into place by my own stupidity, some set before me though no fault of my own. I won’t get into them all with you right now. But the simple long and short of it is that I am a very unusual person who has been waylaid by usual things. Yes, some of the detours were my own fault. Yes, there were problems with drugs and alcohol. I could make a good case for myself if I wanted to argue that my dependency on them was not entirely my own fault. But what would be the use? I’m clean now and intend to stay that way and that is the main thing.
And, yes, there were problems with relationships. You never married, did you? Well, in that way too you showed your wisdom. I took the plunge four times, each time with equally disastrous results. And I count among those disastrous results my children (I have four, two of each), all grown now and all with pretty severe problems of their own. I’ve learned one thing: biology is biology and nothing else; it doesn’t have anything to do with family. But I’m not going to get into all of that. What I want you to know is that finally, at last, I have found the right woman. Mathilde is a wonderful lady, someone who knows the meaning of the word “give” (my wives knew all about “take”). She is a registered nurse, working nights at Union Hospital downtown. And I’m going to tell you something: she and you are the finest people I have ever met.
But the biggest fucking roadblock has been work. Do you know that if I listed all of the jobs I’ve held I’d have to put a couple of extra postage stamps on this letter? But, of all of those jobs, not one, not one involved writing or the theatre. I mean, you’d think the law of averages would come to bear and work in my favor that way, but nope, never, not once. Oh, wait. I forgot. I did once have a job where I had to write some letters for a collection agency. How could I have possibly forgotten about that one!
So, there have been plenty of roadblocks. But I still know that I have talent. I know this because of what I feel inside and, also, because you encouraged me. Your voice, offering me those kind words of encouragement so long ago, is a recording in my mind that I treasure, that I play more often than any other recording in my collection. It will always be that way, deep inside, and no amount of indifference or rejection can take it away.
It is that voice which leads me to write this letter. I want to hear that voice again. And if, as I am hoping, I receive a return letter from you, I will hear that voice with crystal clarity. Ms. Cotter, I want your advice. Knowing you so well, I have a pretty good idea what that advice will be, but I want to hear it. I trust you and will listen to what you say.
My idea, Ms. Cotter, is very simple, and if it seems almost dreamlike, it’s because it actually came to me in a dream. Lately, I’ve been working in construction, doing fence building and repairs. This last Sunday night, in the middle of the night, I woke up with the most amazing idea. It would be a musical based on fences. Neighbors would sing to each other over their back fences. I would write the words and the music myself. I have recently been a member of the local theatre group and there is a wonderful lady I’ve met there, a very beautiful lady with a lot of talent, both for acting and singing. She is so charming. And she dances beautifully. I honestly believe that I could write a musical for her and myself that would take us both somewhere.
This idea is so wonderful, I have been bugging Mathilde about it nonstop! I am absolutely sure that if she put up the seed money it would take to get this production off the ground, we would make a profit much greater than any that could come through a T-Bill or a money market fund.
So, what I want is to hear it from you so I can tell it to her. And, like I say, I have a very strong feeling that I know what you are going to say. But I want to hear you say it again, just as you used to say it. If someone believes in himself and has the desire and the energy and the drive, he can and should follow his dream, am I correct? Mathilde has a good, steady income, plus savings and a pension. We would not be using even a third of it. Also, we will both be getting Social Security in the not too distant future (gulp!). Would it be so completely and utterly wrong to make one last roll of the dice and see this dream come true?
Like I say, I have the feeling I know what you are going to say. Because I not only remember what you used to tell me, I remember the profound feeling that you and I, despite the difference in our ages, were cut from the same bolt of cloth, that we shared the same kind of spirit. What I want you to do—and I don’t know how to tell you how grateful I will be—is for you to say if you think this idea of mine is worth following. I want to hear it from you so that I can show your words to my wonderful lady. I want your blessing. Is it still one of the great truths that a man should follow his dream? That is my question.
Please accept my best wishes and my hope that you are in good health and that all is well with you. And, thank you once again for being the teacher I loved best and the one whose words have stayed with and sustained me over the years.
Your loving student,
September 1, 2008
Yes, of course, I remember you. And it was certainly nice to hear from an old student after so many years.
By all means, be true to your heart and do what it is you think you have to do. And I wish you nothing but luck!
You mention that your friend, Mathilde, is a nurse. Do you know if she has access to a medication called Percodan? The reason I ask is that I take that medication, and the staff here has been reluctant to continue my prescription. I like the comfort of knowing that I have a goodly supply of it on hand.
If I can now call on you to do me a favor, as you have called on me to do one for you: please ask Mathilde if she can obtain for me a supply of this medication. I would like to have at least thirty, although fifty would be optimum.
I am waiting most anxiously to hear from you. I believe that you will come through for me on this. I have always had that kind of faith in you.
Yours most sincerely,