"I'm not half of what I meant to be," the poet Deborah Garrison wrote, and, reading the line, I immediately jotted it down. Because I felt it myself. Perhaps it's true for most folks. Perhaps, being true for me, I just assume it's true for others too. Now that I think of it, self-satisfaction is so common it amounts to a folk disease. So perhaps not.
Being ambitious, and having failed to attain whatever pinnacle I once imagined for myself, long, long ago, I relate to other strivers, particularly those who have not grabbed the brass ring, like this street corner Santa, spied in Lincoln Square on the sunny, springlike first Saturday in December.
His name is James Evans, and he was handing out "Holiday Gift Reminders" in front of Steve Quick Jeweler, little cards designed to be left in "an obvious place" to remind Santa, or his emissary, "that you would like jewelry for the holidays."
Evans is 74, a vet, and has his own web site, the aptly-named olderactor.com, where you can learn everything about Evans from his shoe size (10 1/2) to his acting credits: a few roles in independent films, some spokesman work, a few commercials and print ads,, a stand-in part on NBC's "ER," and, most notably, a featured role in the "Made in America" music video by country singer Toby Keith.
Not bad. But not enough work to make a full-time job either. So Evans is also an Uber driver and proud of it—he works as a spokesman for Uber: you can see his video on his web site.
I admit, when I first took his picture—after asking permission, of course—he did not seem to be projecting a very Santa-like jolliness. The eyes. But he broke off our conversation when a family approached, and he handed out candy to the children and the cards from Steve Quick Jeweler to the adults, and seems to slip into the role of Santa Claus quite naturally. As I left, he reminded me to put in a plug for Steve Quick Jeweler, and so I have. He's earning his keep.
The path to art is steep at times, and we all do what we can, or, thwarted from doing that, we do what we must, with success being reached, or not reached, as much due to random fate as merit. Or to quote another favorite poetic line, this one from T.S. Eliot's "Burnt Norton":
"For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business."