I was saddened to hear of Lanford Wilson’s passing today. He was a playwright – a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, in fact – who taught Edward Albee’s writing workshop at UH for a couple of semesters. I was lucky to have been in one of those classes, benefiting from Lanford’s generosity of spirit and gentle encouragement for all us jackass writers.
Here’s a moment involving Lanford that captures my perpetual awkwardness and what a sweet man he was. We were both at a party given by a local playwright. Big, beautiful house with all of the typical accoutrements of a nice home and then some.
I’m standing in the kitchen, jacking my jaw about some bullshit or another, probably well into my third drink by this time. Lanford comes up to me with an arm outstretched. I didn’t notice the cup and napkin in his hand (or didn’t really think about it) as I gave him a tight hug, assuming in my party-mood and socially lubricated state that he felt compelled to walk across the room and interrupt a conversation because he needed to give me a hug. Ah, that wasn’t the case, though.
See, I was standing in front of the trash can. It was one of those hidden ones that live inside the cabinet and roll out on casters if you know which magical drawer to pull. Rather than shrink away from my hug or look at me like I was a creepy weirdo, Lanford generously returned the hug and then reached for the trash can, his original target, to toss his cup and napkin.
I always appreciated him for that.
And other things, too.