John Astin, known widely as Gomez in The Addams Family, had just opened a one-man play, Edgar Allan Poe--Once upon a midnight. Being a fan of Gomez and an admirer of Poe, I wanted to see Astin as Poe. He does a most convincing job of portraying Poe's dark and foreboding side as well as the phosphorescent white side of his talent and mystery. During the two-hour performance, over half of Astin's monologue comes from the actual writings of Poe. Astin treats the audience to a vivid insight into a person caught between moments of insanity and creativity.

Astin ends his one-man program with a reading of Poe's Eldorado.

Gaily bedight,
A gallant knight,
In sunshine and in shadow,
Had journey long,
Singing a song,
In search of Eldorado.

But he grew old,
This knight so bold,
And o'er his heart a shadow
Fell as he found
No spot of ground
That looked like Eldorado.

And, as his strength
Failed him at length,
He met a pilgrim shadow;
"Shadow, " said he,
"Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the Mountains
Of the Moon
Down the Valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride,"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

Eldorado was one of the many poems that I had to memorize as a high school junior. Nearly forty years ago, I thought that I knew what Poe was saying. I thought that the poem was about a man's determination to realize his dream. If he seeks something as lofty as the golden city of Eldorado, then that person must marshal all of his hopes and boldly ride toward Eldorado.

I haven't always put my interpretation of Poe's message into practice. After sheepishly riding about without total commitment to a goal, I wonder why success seems so elusive. For example, my Eldorado is becoming a successful writer. Accomplishing this dream would allow me to take a teaching position at a small college as well.

It struck me at the theater, why not try to interview John Astin? I asked an usher whether he thought that Astin was the type that would give an interview to a struggling young writer? The usher, who was my senior by no more than a dozen years, looked at me incredulously while taking special note of my gray hair. I realized what I had said and rephrased my question, "Would Mr. Astin give a columnist from the Dixon Telegraph an interview?" He said that he didn't know but if I wrote a note on a business card, he would personally give it to him. Within a week, I was sitting down with John Astin for my first celebrity interview.

Reflecting upon getting the interview, I had put my interpretation of Poe into practice. I had ridden boldly in my search for Eldorado.

However, when I asked John Astin to talk to me about Eldorado, he didn't understand the poem the way I did. "Eldorado is a summation of the philosophy of this play: no matter what happens in life, you suffer that which is to suffer, enjoy that which is to enjoy, and you keep on riding forward with boldness and courage. That courageous journey is Eldorado itself. It is nothing outside of our lives. It is not another land where we will find solutions to all of our problems. Eldorado is in our own lives. If we learn to challenge the Mountains of the Moon with boldness and ride through that shadowed valley, we will live Eldorado."

Driving back from the interview, I thought about what it would mean if John Astin's interpretation were correct. If Eldorado is the process and not the destination, then boldly facing life is the reward. If this were the case, whether or not we achieve our dream isn't what counts. The manner in which we attempt to discover our dreams determines whether or not we find our Eldorado. By boldly riding, we can find the elusive city of gold whether it is over the Mountains of the Moon or down into the valley of the Shadow.

An important thing happened to me while interviewing a most talented and thoughtful actor. I learned an important lesson about life.

Check out the entire interview with John Astin.

More at... www.astin-poe.com/