a play in three acts by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The play was published and produced in 1930 and was Kaufman and Hart's first hit as collaborators. The play is set in New York, a Pullman car, and Los Angeles in the 1920s.

The plot may have been partial inspiration for that of the movie musical, Singing in the Rain. A comic romp in which three vaudevillians decide to make their fortune in the then new era of "talkies." They arrive in Hollywood with the plan to teach elocution, but the most witless of the three manages, on the strength of his idiocy, to get himself appointed studio director. His further follies and mistakes manage to make the careers of all three, as well as that of the director's equally stupid love interest, who is likewise catapulted to stardom and success. Collaborator Kaufman played a bit rôle as the New York scriptwriter who goes mad in his forgotten and ignored (but nicely paid) Hollywood niche.

The workings of the film industry haven't changed very much in the intervening 70-plus years. See also, Bowfinger, the memoirs of William Goldman and John Gregory Dunne, and the many other films, plays and essays that deal with the workings of the mainstream studios.

You don't get to make too many mistakes in life and the ones that you do make should be ones that hurt only you. But, as the old saying goes, if he only knew then what he knew now, they might all be a lot better off. Well, him anyway. After the intial shock, the rest of them have have probably gotten along just fine.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house,
with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well…
how did I get here?

There was a time, many, many years ago when he thought he could have it all. He was young and had more than enough friends, fans, admirers and lovers to see him through. At the time, they all thought he was the living embodiment of the American Dream come true. He was everybody’s boy next door, the one who helped little old ladies carry their groceries down the block, the one who never struggled through school or sports like some of his compatriots. Straight A’s and Most Valuable Player Awards made up his early resume and his life seemed to be handed to him on a silver platter which was adorned with every known delicacy known to mankind. The rest of his family knew it was only a matter of time before he would leave the safety of his own home and go make his mark upon the world. Destiny was right around the corner.

He joined the service, served his time, and came out ready to take the world by the balls. It was different back then. At the time, good jobs didn’t require a college degree and an interview was more about judging character than it was judging credentials. There was no need to be put through a battery of lie detector tests. He didn’t have to piss in a cup and wait a week for the results to come back and he didn’t have to his name sent off to an anonymous credit reporting agencies to tell him he was a man of character. His handshake and his word were enough for most folks.

So he got the good job. He got the good wife. He had the three point two kids and took the family dog for long walks in the park. On Sunday’s he’d still get together with the old crowd and toss footballs and softballs to each other. Later, they’ retire to the local tavern where they’d sip their beers and recall with a certain fondness the days of old. Then it was time to go home again, to the bosom and warmth of his family.

And you may ask yourself
“How do I work this?”
And you may ask yourself
“Where is that large automobile?”
And you may tell yourself
“This is not my beautiful house!”
And you may tell yourself”
“This is not my beautiful wife!”

As we all know, appearances can be deceiving. What’s hidden away, tucked beneath the covers is often ugly and nobody likes to talk about it. Even when it does dare to crack the surface after a few too many beers, it's talked about in hushed and muted tones, like the telling of it aloud might betray its own ugliness.

In the back of his own mind, he had his own inner demons to wrestle with. He felt that too many people depended on him and he’d like nothing better than to chuck it all, assume a new identity and just blend in with the masses. Outwardly, he seemed to bask in the light of the center stage while inwardly it was everything he could do to keep the tears from falling down his cheeks. So one day, he started making plans to hatch his own personal great escape.

At first, he started squirreling money away. He was careful though. Not enough to be noticed, a couple of buck here and there wouldn’t be missed. He’d pick up the odd shift here and there and do some jobs under the table and pocket most of the cash. What he thought would take many years only took two. One weekend, when the wife and kids were off visiting relatives (he feigned illness, kissed them on the cheek and waved goodbye), he withdrew his nest egg, packed a few essentials and boarded a Greyhound Bus for ports unknown. He disappeared like a thief in the night.

And you may ask yourself
“What is that beautiful house?”
And you may ask yourself
“Where does that highway go?”
And you may ask yourself
“Am I right? ...am I wrong?”
And you may tell yourself
“My God!...what have I done?

He remembers staring out the window of the Greyhound Bus as it made its way across America. Across the green fields with yellow and orange flowers that covered the expanse like a blanket. There were snow capped mountain in the distance and they passed through small towns with stores that had hand painted signs advertising their wares. As night fell, there was no glare of the neon lights to blind him, only the blinking of the stars on a cloudless night. There was no honking of horns, only the constant hum of the buses engine that played like his own personal symphony inside his head. There was no television on telling him what to think and how to think it. The only debate that raged wasn’t between Liberals and Conservatives, pro war and anti war, right to life or abortion, it was about what to eat and where to go next when the bus finally came to a stop.

He woke up with his head pressed against the window. The sun, a brilliant yellow had burned through his eyes and he felt the early morning needs of a bathroom and a cup of coffee to get rid of some of his juices and to start the other ones flowing. After about an hour, the bus pulled into one of those small towns that litter the countryside of America. He got off and attended to his business, picked up a local paper for some reading entertainment and re-boarded the bus ready to resume his journey.

As he got so his seat, a new face had appeared. A man, just about his age had taken up temporary residence next to him. Thinking this stranger might be a fellow road warrior, a man in search of adventure much like himself, he decided to risk some conversation. This being a Greyhound Bus, he decided to ask the obvious.

Him: ”Where ya headed?”

Stranger: “Home, to see my family .”

The bus rolled out and the conversation became one sided. The stranger talked about how long he had been away, about how much he missed the simple little act of opening his door and being greeted by his loved ones. All he could contribute was a muffled “Uh-huh” every now and then.

As the miles rolled away, his mind no longer drifted to strange faraway places, his eyes no longer craved to see what was over the next horizon and the thought of tasting exotic foods left a stale taste in his mouth. The things he debated so passionately were dropped from his mind. In fact, he could only think of one word over and over again.




Lyrics lifted from the Talking Heads fine tune called Once in a Lifetime

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