Learning to drive with a hole in your soul, or, when it comes to Haggards, more Merle, less Ted

I must begin with two caveats. I’ve known Vali Forrister, star of the Actor’s Bridge Production of ‘How I Learned to Drive‘ for her entire life and I love her dearly, which could be misconstrued due to the nature of the play which we happened to see last night.

Second caveat: I believe that people are created with a yearning in their heart for something more than the pedestrian quotidian perp walk towards non-existence. My take is that spirituality (as opposed to religion) works to satisfy that yearning. The medicating emollient of alcohol is a putative cure, as are sex, drugs, TV, religiosity and a host of other lenitives. We’re are often afraid and we often feel that if somebody has the vision to see what we really are, we will be exposed as frauds, charlatans and empty.

If you are bombarded with images and words that sexuality is the way you can express yourself or how you can fulfill yourself without the counterpoint of love and some level of commitment and purpose, then sex will be your offering, your means to a meaning.

If you are lonely or unfulfilled in marriage and you realize that cures such as alcohol or drugs don’t give you what you need and don’t even begin to fill up that gaping void in your life, then pursuing illicit or incestuous sexual release suddenly might seem the only way out.

All of that is to say, the play we saw last night – ‘How I Learned to Drive’ – presents us with a beautiful young woman defined by her family sexually as ‘Little Bit’ who grows up seeing herself empty unless she can connect sexually. Her uncle ‘Peck’ (aptly named) is the lonely unfulfilled adult. The excuse to teach the child to drive is the uncle’s way of innocently disguising his growing sexually predatory longings for his niece.

Watching the progression of lust to groping and beyond is extremely discomforting. You’re gonna squirm watching some of this play unless you, yourself have taken meds (sleeping aids). Vali, as always, IS that child, and the impressive Matthew Carlton is the sadly drowning uncle who clings to his hope that he can run away with ‘Little Bit’ like a man clinging to a life raft watching his ship go under.

There is humor involved, necessary in order to dispel the darkness, well supplied by the supporting cast, especially Tom Mason. This is not a play you can say you ENJOY in the skylark sense of the word, but it is a play that leaves you with hope and images of profound sadness.

Profound sadness must have been a rising gorge in the life of Ted Haggard. There are many who have written about his plight much more eloquently than I am able – Joe Powell, Thomas McKenzie, and Kat Coble, among others, but seeing this play placed Haggard’s plight in the context of emptiness.

I wrote elsewhere that when leading a cult of personality, the combination of the headiness and the fear that your inner demons will be exposed must be bone-wearying. I truly think that Haggard’s exposure may have saved his life, because I can’t believe that the hypocritical poison of preaching against gays, illicit sex and drugs, while partaking in all three was not eroding his very being. The sad fallout on his family and the people who trusted him to lead are radiation burns from his twisted attempts to salve and medicate.

I doubt seriously that Mr. Haggard will ever read this blog, but if he does, I advise him to let the entire truth out. Covering up and letting the media pick you apart is no way to heal. The truth will get out, like it or not.. Haggard can either let the bits of undisclosed poison destroy his remaining life (much like the uncle in the play who ended up drinking himself to death), or he can live transparently and humbly.

I’ve never been burdened with a cult of personality (at least one of my dogs seems to like me), and therefore my hypocritical actions and occasional cowardice haven’t made the world stage. For that I am grateful. I’m also grateful for the opportunity see a play like ‘How I Learned to Drive’ as disconcerting as it may be. I do not choose the medications that the uncle in the play chose, but my less luminant turns can be just as destructive.

Having said ALL that – Vali, you are the best.


1 Comment

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One response to “Learning to drive with a hole in your soul, or, when it comes to Haggards, more Merle, less Ted

  1. Very deep.

    I found in especially interesting that Haggard publicaly admitted to buying meth, while still denying that he had sex with a guy. Like to him that was the lesser evil.

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