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Sam Shepard & Me

20 Jun

An old friend, in the rush of a hello-and-goodbye moment, said to me, “Martha, I’ve always liked your style.  It’s Sam Shepard as a woman, isn’t it?” and then she was gone before I could ask her what she meant, and Sam Shepard entered my life in a suggestive, half-formed, “double-go-er” kind of way.

Had she meant that I looked like him?  She wasn’t talking about my writing, I guess; she didn’t say, “You write like Sam Shepard.”  No, she mentioned “style.”

I asked my friends if they had ever noticed anything about me that reminded them of Sam Shepard.


“No, certainly not.”

“Martha, there’s nothing of the cross-dresser about you.”

Then one day I was wearing denims–real indigo jeans–and because it was chilly, I pulled on a pair of brown suede boots.  I had on a man’s white linen dress shirt, a chocolate brown leather jacket that a friend brought me from Ecuador, and I had just ironed my hair.  I glanced in the mirror before heading out the door, and stopped short.

My perceptive friend was right.  There was something about me that said “Sam Shepard.”

She referred, I’m sure, to the delicate foretokens of sex like lips showing a crooked tooth, lowered lashes, weight resting on one hip contrapposto, the way both men and women do it.  Little things, belonging to either sex.  See, I don’t even know the man.  I’ve seen him in films, read about him in the tabloids, and I once saw “Fool for Love” at Circle in the Square three times in one long weekend.  But our paths have never crossed.  I do have a close friend who was a teacher in his kid’s school in Marin County, but she doesn’t really know him either.  Did he write an autobiography?  If so, I’ve never read it, but after searching my psyche for consonance, I feel I know him anyway.

My next thought sends me digging through my closet, pulling out all the old T-shirts (where did I get all these black T-shirts?  Is it significant that so many say Harley-Davidson?), plowing through discarded styles until I reach the back, where I find a denim duster, the kind worn by cowboys.  I’ve had it for years.  I’ve worn it as a raincoat.  I picked mine up at the flea market at the opera in Santa Fe.  I know Sam Shepard has one exactly like it.

I’ve suddenly taken up smoking.  I haven’t lit up in twenty years and was never a heavy smoker, but there I was at the checkout counter, paying more than four dollars for a pack of Marlboro Lights in the box.

That first pack is lasting me a long time because there are so few places now where you can smoke.  I like to go around with an unlit cigarette hanging out of my mouth.  Like Sam Shepard on the cover of The Unseen Hand and Other Plays, pulling on a cold one clamped between his lips.

And I picked up another outward token of my Doppelganger, my “double-go-er.”  Drifting through the gift shop at the local museum, I found a huge ring left over from a glass show a few years back.  The ring is blue, a color Sam Shepard might say is the color of the ocean over white sand in a place like Baja, one that I would say is the color of a Tiffany gift box.  I swear, it’s not a ring I would wear.  And I think I make that clear, when I wear it, by referring to it as “Sam Shepard’s ring.”

Now I’m waiting for word from Sam Shepard.  I’m waiting for him to suggest that we should write a play together.  Actually, I’m waiting for him to give me the first line.  Then I’ll write the second line.  He’ll supply the third, and so on.  He’s a very fast writer.  It’ll be sort of like the play he wrote with Patti Smith, both of them writing on one typewriter and fighting over whose turn it was.  It will be even easier for us, we’ll do it by email, sending the lines back and forth as fast as … well, how long does it take for an email message to fly through the ether?  I’d say we’ll have a three-act play written in two days.

You don’t think so?

Okay, three days.  I’ll know what he means before he says it.  The work will roll out before us.  Next year, Broadway.  We’ll wear our his ’n’ her denim dusters to the opening.


20 Apr

This piece was published in HUMOR IN AMERICA; THE VIEW FROM OPEN PLACES, eds. Eleanor M. Bender and Nancy Walker, in 1985. In the Foreword, the editors noted: “Women writers, instead of imaginatively re-playing scenes from their own childhoods, tend to comment on the idea of childhood itself. Thus Martha Moffett imagines a “Who’s Who of American Children” in which can be recorded the triumphs of the young—”Prize essay, 6th gr.: ‘The Most Hated Math: Roman Numerals’—while mocking the very concept of a Who’s Who.”


MOFFETT, KIRSTEN R., student; b. New York, N.Y., Ap 14, 1968; d. Robert and Martha (Leatherwood) Moffett; edn: 96th St. Co-op Nursery, N.Y.C, 1972-73; Emily Dickinson Elementary Sch., N.Y.C., 1974-79; V.P. student council, 1977; introd. resolution to wear costumes to school on Halloween. Sch. crossing guard,1979. Prize essay, 6th gr.: “The Most Hated Math: Roman Numerals.” Group show, The Clothespin Gallery, 1976. Lassie League Softball Trophy, 1978. Honor Camper, Camp Timber Trails, 1977-78. Mem. G.S.A. (Gypsy Badge, Cookie Badge), 1978-79. Grad. Miss Gillian’s Ballet Class, 1979. Author (with Billy Barfield), musical comedy “How Bums Bum Around.” Contrib. articles to Meatball; Emily Dickinson Comics; others. Contact: Ms. M. Moffett, 2 Shady Lane, Bloomfield, NJ.