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Friday, February 20, 2004

Cliff Walkers' Alliance 

Spalding Gray has been missing for over a month now. He'd been thinking of stepping off for a long while. He didn't leave a note this time – when he had the last time, his wife called the police. They found him on the Staten Island ferry and escorted him off. Now his family wants the Hudson searched. For at least part of the year in temperate climes, hypothermia is a convenient option.

I wrote most of this entry while in flight to NYC (and by the way, cranapple juice drink and rum are magnificent, or maybe it just feels that way at cruising altitude). Nearly 3 years ago, when I had 30 minutes to get to the airport for a similar excursion, the phone rang. An old friend on the other end said she was calling to say Good Bye – capital G, capital B – pronounced with an unmistakable tone of finality. She'd been through a divorce a couple of years earlier, and I knew what she was saying. Still, I made her say it more explicitly. "I won't be here when you get back," she said. I spent the next 30 minutes trying to ease her off the ledge. Then, exasperated, I said forcefully, "I will call you as soon as I get to LGA, and you will answer." She paused and then agreed. A few months later, she thanked me saying, "You were right" (a sentiment which now strikes me as very funny).

Fast forward a year, and I was letting her go. I had reached a point where I felt too precarious when I let her near. Her erratic behavior and broadcast emails were frightening many of her old friends, including me. By way of explanation, I told her that we are all cliff walkers – we help each other when we can, but if one of us gets too close to the edge, the others must back away for fear of being pulled over.

Aaron's comment was pretty on target: a lot of us "scare too many people" – and the consequences are not trivial.