Interview conducted by Philip Krohn and Tom Webb
Note: This interview is reprinted from The Bear Deluxe Magazine #3 (1994). Magazine co-founders Krohn and Webb met with Gray before his evening performance at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, Oregon. Gray arrived over two hours late for the interview but eventually shared lunch on Tom McCall Waterfront Park, talking on tape for another two hours. For background on Spalding Gray, visit.
Spalding Gray is the internationally acclaimed performing artist and writer responsible for such gems as “Swimming to Cambodia” and “Monster in a Box.” A story collector and wayfarer, he is propelled by an insatiable curiosity and pursued by the bizarre. In addition to being brutally honest and side-splittingly funny, he may also be one of America’s most complicated thinkers. Orlo is grateful to have had the opportunity to spend some time with Spalding Gray during his recent stay in Portland, OR.
Orlo A couple of years ago you interviewed the Dalai Lama. What is the extent of your interest in Buddhism?
Spalding Gray I’m not so interested in being a Buddhist, I’m interested in being an individual. I’m a New Englandian, I’m a Thoreauzian. You know, I’m for bowing down to the mystery.
Orlo You started your interview with the Dalai Lama talking about being on the road all the time, both of you. And trying to get comfortable. It made me think of someone else who is interested in Buddhism, Gary Snyder. And he’s very interested in the discussion of homelessness in a broad sense and trying to find a sense of place, because to him that hasn’t happened in America.
Spalding Gray Gary’s different than I in the sense that Gary has found a place. I like Gary Snyder, but I think that he’s coming from a preachy place. I can’t quote him, but his attitude is this: “Look at me, I was able to integrate myself with the environment. I now go and argue with Congress about the spotted owl. I’m an environmentalist, I’m Gary Snyder, I found a place. The rest of you are wandering idiots.” We did a Buddhist Conference some years back, and Gary said, “I can’t tolerate it any more, that these people on the road don’t know how to roll their rucksacks.” And I go, “Oh my God.” That’s why he couldn’t hang out with Jack Kerouac after a while. He was a little anal retentive for me. Read more »