Every Time I Watch an Episode of Transparent

  1. I wonder why I watch anything else. This is, without a doubt, one of the most startling, beautiful filmic shows I have ever seen.
  2. Even the opening, that music, the old Super-8 movie montage. It just breaks my heart, every time.
  3. The writing. The acting. Oh man.
  4. Mostly, though, Jeffrey Tambor. He gives one of the most heartbreaking performances I have ever seen. He is an astonishing actor.
  5. And every time I watch him in Transparent, I think of this story.
  6. I was living in New York City, about 2000. I was tutoring high school students, juniors and seniors, in how to write their college application essays.
  7. I was a high school English teacher for years, and I really do love teaching teenagers. They're so open and interested in the world and full of outrage at how cruel people can be to each other and funny and vulnerable. They need teachers who care about them.
  8. And I was back in NY after a very strange time in my life, which I can't really talk about, since I signed an NDA. Let's just say I lived with a celebrity, editing his girlfriend's book, in Sting's house. Like you do.
  9. I was happy to be back in NY, back to teaching, both of them much more real than where I had been.
  10. So I'm at a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. 102nd and Broadway? I was teaching a young woman who felt very discouraged about her talents.
  11. I listened and pushed her a bit and reassured her. Mostly, though, I made her dive into the sentences, look at them again, tell me her story in her own words, and wrote that down instead of what she thought she should say.
  12. As we talked, I noticed an older man, faintly familiar, at a corner table, not that far away.
  13. I finished up with the young woman, who felt much relieved as we packed up our books. She left ready to write. And I left feeling happy with my work. And hungry.
  14. I walked up the 6 blocks or so to Absolute Bagels, my favorite bagel place in NY. The sun was shining. I felt light. I walked into the bagel place happy, not minding the line.
  15. As I stood there thinking about the day, I turned around to see the same man from Starbucks behind me. I looked at him, startled.
  16. He told me, "I don't want you to think I followed you. I mean, I did follow you here from the Starbucks. I just had to tell you something."
  17. I looked at him, starting to feel a little weird.
  18. He told me, "It's just that I wanted to tell you -- you're a wonderful teacher. I was listening to how you spoke with that young woman. You were marvelous with her. Good teaching is so rare that I just had to tell you what a great job you did."
  19. I smiled and sort of stuttered and said, "what? I mean, thank you, my goodness."
  20. I also kept staring at him. He looked so familiar. Why?
  21. He said, "I'm a teacher too. I really love teaching, don't you?"
  22. And then it clicked. Larry Sanders show.
  23. "Wait," I said. "Aren't you an actor? "
  24. He put out his hand to shake mine. "Jeffrey Tambor. Yes." He had a really good handshake and kind eyes.
  25. He told me that yes, he's an actor, but he taught acting too. And he loved teaching acting.
  26. He shook my hand again. I said thank you again, still in a daze. He turned and walked out the door.
  27. He didn't even buy bagels. He walked all that way to say something kind to a stranger.
  28. I always think of this when I watch Transparent.