Is it worth the effort?

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Bryan CranstonThe stupid New York City Marathon was under way. And now all these people were in my way and I wasn’t going to be able to take pictures of the park! I started snapping anyhow. The first picture I took was of these two fat cops. They were huge. A sign for the runners was posted above them. It read: men this way, women that way. I took that picture. It was a pretty good picture. The motorcade carrying Mayor Koch and the race organizers and VIPs passed. The racers on wheelchairs flew by, and then the elite runners. A guy with one leg crossed the finish line on crutches. An able-bodied man collapsed twenty feet before the finish line, and a couple of others picked him up and dragged him across. The scene was moving, heroic. I got chills.

I was there for six hours, taking photos of every kind of person. Each one of them had toiled and trained and endured. And finished. I forgot my troubles. I forgot to eat. An old woman crossed the finish line. She was eighty-three if she was a day. She ran twenty-six miles. Twenty-six miles! That was the distance from Long Beach to Catalina. How could anyone manage that? Let alone dudes in hula skirts and teens in funny antennae and a guy in full clown makeup and a waiter carrying a tray. Triumphant. Amazing.

What the hell? How did they do this? I could never do this. I could never do this? I heard myself admit failure before I’d even tried. Another elderly runner hobbled across the finish line, arms overhead, victorious. I was twenty-seven. If I put my mind to it, why couldn’t I do it? I couldn’t think of a good reason.

Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts

One Year later

I saw the finish line. I don’t know if I’d ever experienced such elation. I started dancing. Tears came to my eyes. I caught sight of the exact spot where one year prior I’d leaned against a tree, freshly fired, taking pictures, feeling like a beaten man. I remembered thinking, “I can’t do that.” Now some other guy was there, taking pictures.

Of me.


I would never again say “I can’t do that.”

That’s what I told myself.

Never again.

Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts