Aaron Landsman

PATIENT BOY (excerpt)


Performed at Little Theater at Tonic in 2007
And as part of an LMCC space grant in 2010, directed by Mallory Catlett

Performed by David Brooks, Victor Morales (Tonic), Jim Findlay (LMCC), and Pete Simpson.

David and Victor, each 35-40, sit at a bar and talk to Mason, 19. Mason just listens to them.


You know you get a lot of action as a roadie, especially if you look young. You have women buying you drinks and ruffling up your hair and asking if you’re legal or not, “because if you aren’t you are that much cuter.” And you say, “then I’m not” and laugh, and they laugh. And this isn’t just the dregs or whatever, you know. Honestly it’s like some good looking chicks come to the club thinking, like, “Hey, I think I want to blow the singer,” or, “I ought to fuck the lead guitarist,” but then they get there and they see that the dude is kind of an asshole and has, like, eleven girls around him already.

And then they see me, and I’m all, “cool, Doug, the shit is in the van” — or the hotel or whatever —and I’m sipping something and chatting with someone, and she’s like, “hey didn’t I see you onstage tonight.” And the modest thing always works here, because you could sometimes act like you were in the opening band maybe, and if she’s drunk enough you can sometimes get away with it? But its risky, you know, especially with the smart ones. So you look down and say, “well if you did see me you’re very observant,” because I was the guy rearranging the drum kit and clearing power cords out of the way. And they’re like, “wow so is that fun?” And you say, “Sure it’s fun, as long as Paul or Dave or whoever doesn’t kick you in the head.”

I mean it’s not all total babeage like that, like there’s the smart one with the glasses and the hot bod and she comes onto you, and you get into a real existential deep conversation or whatever. I mean that’s a lucky break.


Generational? Generational? Yeah sure it’s generational. I mean it starts with Dylan but before that is Kerouac and Ginsberg, and then before that it’s, or at the same time really it’s Woody Guthrie. It’s funny those guys didn’t really know each other. And then you get straight into how Dylan changed everything.


So then part two is that I realized that’s not all there was, like, did I want to be doing this at 35. So I went back and got my degree. Community college, which might seem, like, 2nd rate but it’s a lot easier to get through and learn something useful. It was funny because it turns out I was really good at, get this, math. And chemistry.

And what happened was I fell for my lab partner. I mean, I ended up, because I was doing so well I think this prof, Mr. Edwards, Phillip – he asked that we call him Doctor Phil like a joke – he put me with Sheila. And I think it was because all the other guys in chemistry were scary and had bad acne and skin problems and big glasses and ate crappy food, and Sheila was, like, the physics hottie. And so we’re lab partners and at one point I even tried to say thanks, like for putting me such a hot girl at my Bunsen burner, you know. But Mr. Edwards was cool.


A lot of people say that was it, you know, Dylan, the Beatles, Elvis, whatever. There’s nothing after that, you know, everything’s a rehash. I’m like, hey, were you in New York in ’73? Were you in LA in ‘79? How about Minneapolis in ‘84? Because that shit changed lives. Life.


So the first thing — no the first two things — I notice about Sheila is that, first of all, she smells good and second she’s wearing a cross. A little silver one very close to her neck. Now, I’m into necklaces. I remember in the rock scene there was a time when girls liked those little ribbon-y things that were close on their necks and I was all for that, like, don’t take that off, leave that.

Anyway, so there’s something kinda hot about the Christian thing to me? Like just being her lab partner felt, like, rebellious. I mean maybe her parents are Creationists or Intelligent Designers and she’s rebelling just by taking science, I don’t know. So I’m all, first day at the beaker and totally in love. And she’s shy, another turn on. She has very busy hands. And I’m like, I make shit up a lot in my head? Which makes me a little manic but I almost always have something to say, but in this case I didn’t.


Minneapolis. ’84. It’s so sad to look at now, like on YouTube? Because people look like dorks. Nobody knew they were being watched. There were almost no girls, or girls were a special case, you know. Like brave. No one had a belly then. Sometimes the singer would have a belly. Now we all do. A bunch of us.


So we are like mixing whatever and whatever, and shit is boiling, and Mr. Edwards is talking and stuff, and I can’t take my eyes off that collar, that necklace thing. Fucked up. And we almost blow up the room because later what I found out is that, what she told me was that she was really into my jacket? She’s eyeing my jacket and then looking at me or trying to see me without me noticing and what’s crazy is that I didn’t! I think she must have learned that in church.


Oh, Dylan was great, he was great, and people with bellies sit around and talk about how great he was and how he slept on their couch, and what he was reinventing.

Albert Hall was punk rock. Patti Smith talks about it. She owes it to him. Now it’s like there is some aversion to even making something good because if it’s good, meaning if it has legs, then it’s taken from you, it’s co-opted, and so we keep it under wraps, or we don’t do it at all, or we do and it sucks. That’s what I’m trying to say. There’s been a lot of suckiness out there. Like everything from music to war. And they don’t connect.


My theory is that Catholic girls are more fertile because their bodies know it’s a sin or whatever? In any case I, like, won her and then we got pregnant. Because even though she was rebelling a little, she wasn’t willing to do the pill thing and we were too excited about each other to stop and put on the condom – it’s funny to me with Catholics how they will act like they don’t care, but then they can’t go all the way with that. Like the shit gets so imparted that they still think they are sinning – I’m like maybe sinning’s a construct, hon.


So what do I tell my kid? If I have one. Do I sing about how, like, we don’t have health care or somebody’s cousin’s brother’s friend went to war and we barely read about it and it didn’t affect us personally? You can’t make punk rock about that! This is just the shit that people say down to every generation. Which is that you are not the definers. You are not the definers. The people who define it.


And so I. Well. I have this boy now. He’s a year and a half and he’s all I can think about because I don’t see him. I mean she won’t let me. Because her parents said they would help but the deal is that I’m not supposed to see them, because of what I did.


And man, do not let things become normal. Like I am. Like I do. Like I did. You’re still listening. I love you for that. Kid, I love you. I do. You gotta do the shit we said we wanted to. ‘Cause I don’t know what we even learned.

Pete walks up onstage from within the audience.


Okay. About four years ago, I was talking to this guy I happen to know, who wrote a book about financial predictions, like he wrote a textbook on Market Analysis. Or the, you know, I don’t know if there are a lot of them. So he knows. ‘Stocks outperform bonds, historically’, for example, he says. And he was like, things are going to take a big dip.

Hold on. Sometime soon there’s going to be what some people call a market correction and other ones call a recession. Who knows, he says. And I’m like, okay, like, lets say I have 500 bucks to invest, like I decide hey I’m 37 years old and I am going to be old and infirm one day, as far as I know, and so I ought to try and do a little something and not assume that some other force other than what I do is going to provide for me. Like Freakonomics for me is the economics of being a freak. You know? So to him I’m like, what about investing in companies that don’t fuck shit up? Because that’s important to me.

And Robert shakes his head and says, well no, that’s wrong, because if you don’t invest in Nike, say, someone else will. He says the market is cruel and there are a finite number of stocks, so it’s not like you buy a lot and they print more, like currency, it’s about who happens to have them and what they do. Which is go up or down. And I’m like, but what if I feel bad about investing or buying into some company that makes little kids work for tiny amounts of money and no pee breaks for pregnant women.

And he shakes his head again. And it’s not shaking his head, like, ‘Oh, I disagree with you,’ it’s like shaking his head, like, I wrote the textbook on market analysis and you my friend have no frickin’ clue. It turns out that according to economists, across the board this is, that working in a sweatshop’s a good thing because it’s better than picking toxic heavy-metal-laden garbage out of a dump. When you’re 12. And then I’m like is better necessarily good? And Robert is like yes.


Every few years or so I’m like, ‘I gotta do something.’ But I don’t. Like I see pictures from an earthquake and the children sitting there with little numbered cards waiting, desperate but in a very patient way. And I think well I can’t do anything that’s not being done already and I’d probably be in the way and life is so rich with possibility I’m going to move toward the light, you know, the possibility, and not fixate on what can’t be changed. Like an earthquake.

So which stocks do I buy? Nike. Google Intel. Is that toxic? Everything’s down but it’ll come back up. I don’t know! Could we get in a circle and hold hands and see if we can make sense out of how random shit is? Because then what happens is that I get depressed about how little even we could do — It’s not just about us, it’s about, like, all the people. We have to find all the people who agree with each other about everything.

Maybe we can start that here.

So. I’m like, what about this, Robert? The agenda is this: starting next week everyone stops using excessive amounts of water so we have some left for our kids. I’d like everyone here to agree to non-flushing toilets in their houses. That’s the only way. And no one drives. Okay and so we all shouldn’t eat anything that is commercially produced, any food, because that actually, if you read that thing in Harper’s a few months ago, uses a lot of oil, and why did we ever get into Iraq. So no food. Unless you grow it or get it from someone who grows it. No food middleman.

I mean, okay, we’re all artists right. Or fans of, or with, or something. We’re involved in culture. I mean if you’re not going to do this then, you know, just turn up your air conditioner and melt your babies under the ozone hole. How about we all agree to not use electricity one day a week. Like a Sabbath for artists. All alternative art people will not use electricity for one day per week all over America, starting this Saturday. Is Saturday good?

I guess if the electricity is already being used it’s okay. So that means the train, yes, because its running, but lights no. Radio no. DVD no. Computer? Email? Ouch, right. But no. But you could take the subway to a place where music is playing and listen. So hopefully this will make you more social. But you have to be sure you unplug everything so that no electricity runs in your house at all. So no clocks. And how about one other day a week since the toilets that save water are hard to afford and we might not get them for a while, we do no flushing. No dishes?

And then another day no eating. You can drink water but no eating and you figure out how many ounces or pounds or calories-worth of food you would eat and you give that to someone. I’ve got a good feeling about this. When does it start? Robert? Is he here?


AARON LANDSMAN makes interactive performances and stage plays, which are sometimes staged in spaces where people go every day, such as homes, offices and sidewalks. His current work, City Council Meeting is being presented in four US cities in 2012-13, including New York, Houston, Tempe and San Francisco, and involves collaborations with church choirs, engineers, homeless young people, a tourism board, high school students and local government officials. Prior projects include Appointment, a series of works for single viewers in small offices, presented in New York and Oslo; Open House (2008), commissioned by The Foundry Theatre and presented in 24 New York City homes; Love Story (2007) an audio walk and gallery performance at Austin’s FuseBox Festival; and What You’ve Done (2005), a co‐production of Houston’s DiverseWorks Art Space and Project Row Houses. He is currently an artist in residence at HERE in New York, and at Houston’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts. Since 2004 he has performed with award-winning theater ensemble Elevator Repair Service Theater, touring three continents, appearing Off-Broadway and on London’s West End. He has taught at The Juilliard School and NYU, and guest lectured at many colleges and universities including Columbia and Stanford. Aaron is an advocate for artists abroad, whose freedoms of expression are under threat, including Turkish playwright Ozen Yula and the dissident ensemble Free Theater Belarus. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and Urbana, IL with his wife, choreographer Johanna S. Meyer and their son Harold.


Read more work by Aaron Landsman:

Author’s Website
City Council Meeting
Open House