Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!

It's the last of the old (the "double oh seven" as my friend Misti says it) and the beginning of the new. Let us hope that the next year will be better than the last....

To all of you that made me laugh in '07, I thank you and bless you and hope for you all the things that you wish to have in the coming year.

For those who offered encouragement, contributed to my education, added the super growth fertilizer when it was needed, and gave me advice on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie, I thank you and bless you and hope for you all the things that you wish to have in the coming year.

For those who forgave my occasional short temper, who overlooked my occasional lapses of patience, and who stayed in the room even when I was the occasional sh*thead, I thank you and bless you and hope for you all the things that you wish you have in the coming year.

For those of you who didn't do any of those things, I STILL hope for you all the things that you wish to have in the coming year. And PTHTHTHTHTHTHTHTHTH!*

I would like to finish up with a bit of wisdom we can carry with us....

"For those that truly see, no explanation is necessary.
For those that don't, no explanation will suffice."

Oh, and bless the slack, people. Bless the slack.

*that's a raspberry. or a bronx cheer, if you're from nooyawk.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Random Thursday....

Christmas Edition!

1. The Christmas spirit does not extend into airports.
In my job at the place where airplanes occasionally come and go, it is the custom
for travellers to heap abuse upon me and my co-workers; in this day and age, it
is apparently considered one of the perks to airline travel. To those people, I
say unto you:


Oh, and by the way; blaming me for your flight not arriving on time is like
blaming Ronald McDonald for getting a bad Big Mac. NEITHER OF US IS RUNNING THE

2. My wife gets me.
Every year, she gets me toys.
I can't wait to play with my robot.

3. One of the great things about this time of year is that all the people I don't
hear from in the course of a year come out of the woodwork, in the form of
emails, postcards, Christmas cards, etc. I absolutely LOVE that. It is so nice
to hear from people, even once a year. It's wonderful to be remembered. And it
is always a pleasure to flee down memory lane for a while.

Okay, it's short, but it's early and it's my day off so sue me.

Monday, December 24, 2007

We now pause.....

On this particular day, when I put my skepicism and pessimism and cynicism aside, I think about Frank Church, Editor of the New York Sun, who wrote this amazing editorial in 1897, a tribute to the three spirits that will never perish; the spirit of the innocent, the spirit of the hopeful, the spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Christmas Story (as if you haven't heard enough of them)

When I was living in Missouri between the years 1988-1997, there was a professional theatre in the town of Canton called THE GOLDEN EAGLE. It was a building, shaped like an old riverboat. Through the years, there would be many people who claimed to remember it when it plied the waters of the Mississippi, but it never did....largely because the cement hull would have taken it to the bottom in a Titanic minute. But it was a grand place; the auditorium space could hold about 150 people comfortably, and the balcony section could hold about fifty more. A huge stained glass ceiling above. A kitchen in the back of the auditorium, where the buffet dinner was served. There was also a kitchen on the second deck, and an apartment that I lived in on more than one occasion. The view of the river from the top of the boat was not breathtaking, but it was serviceable.

The "boat", as it was called by the veterans, was mainly a summer theatre gig, doing old style melodramas and comedy-musicals, in true summer stock: six shows in three and a half months, with the cast doing everything including setting the tables for dinner. Many actors passed through; some went on to careers, others went to find other things to do, but everybody was effected by their work at the "boat."

But for a few of us local actors, the fun show was the Christmas Show, and every year, from the end of Thanksgiving to just before Christmas, we would trod the boards of the old stage, a holiday tradition in a small river town.

The shows weren't much, really....a series of songs and sketches with a holiday theme for the first act, and then some kind of one act thematic melodrama/comedy, written by the owner of the boat, a most amazing man named David Steinbeck. He would write it, he would play the piano during it, and he would play host to the friendly faces that walked through the door.

Things I can remember from those Halcyon days:

1. Todd Leftwich's annual Tree Trimming party; Todd would always get this ENORMOUS tree, and then invite everybody over to decorate, trade presents, eat and drink and be merry. It wasn't a holiday without it.

2. The night I played a Christmas Tree; It was the second act of the show, and it was something about an unscrupulous tree salesman who winds up AS a Christmas tree. So, there I am, standing in the middle of the stage, dressed in a green cape with a green pointy hat, wrapped in lights, covered in tinsel, and with ornaments hung all over me.
Are you seeing where this is going?
Well, one night, one or two of the ornaments fell off during the show. There was a pause, and then one of the actors ad-libbed:
"Oh, how sad. The Christmas tree had dropped it's balls."
Pandemonium on AND off the stage. The longest sustained laugh in Golden Eagle History.

3. The night that power went out, and we sang Christmas Carols acappella. With improvised harmony. Could have been a train wreck, but it wasn't.

4. It was the first time I ever played Ebenezer Scrooge. I've played it many, many times since then (at last count, I've done just a little over 300 performances of Christmas Carol), but the thing about that particular production was Tiny Tim, who had an interesting way of saying his "signature" line, "God Bless Us, Everyone", like he was asking everyone to God Bless Us. Like we sneezed or something.

5. I can't hear a single Christmas carol anymore without knowing that I've actually performed it at one time or another:

Christmas is coming,
The goose is getting fat!
Please put a penny in the old man's hat.
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do;
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God Bless You.

You don't hear that one very much, anymore.

6. Mostly, what I remember most is walking home after a show, a light snow falling, that silence that often accompanies a snowfall, and the simple beauty of the local Christmas lights, wrapping houses in warm embrace.

The Golden Eagle is gone now.....a victim of riverboat gambling and a general apathy toward live theatre. But the memories remain, like the words of Clement Moore's poem, or Frank Church's response to little Virginia in the New York Sun in 1897.

If you haven't got a ha'penny,
God Bless You.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Thursday.

And more random with every passing week, month, year, decade, and century.

I was listening to the radio this morning, not something I do these days, with a plethora of cd's and mp3's at my command. But it was one of those days where a couple of songs came on the radio, literally one after the other, that took me to that other, happy place....

One toke over the line, sweet Jesus,
One toke over the line.
Sitting downtown in a railway station,
One toke over the line.....

A song that will ALWAYS bring a smile to my face.

And then,

A long December
And there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last....

And I think back to a December at the close of the last century, dancing in a kitchen in Saginaw, Michigan....and still, as each December rolls by, I hope for each of those that survived, continued prosperity.

On to other things...

I understand that Lynn Spears' book has been postponed.
Give me a second to work up some shock.
Seems to me that Zoey 101 should have attended Sex Ed.

Other other things....

I've read, I think, two Shakespeare "biographies" this year, and I'm still looking for a good one. I realize that it's hard to write a biography about the guy, but Peter Ackroyd didn't even try very hard.

However, SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY is a very interesting read.

Other books I'd recommend:

PONTOON by Garrison Keillor
FAREWELL, SUMMER by Ray Bradbury (but read DANDELION WINE first)
DOUBLE CROSS by James Patterson
BELUSHI by Judith Belushi Pisano
WILD FIRE by Nelson Demille
and any of the ODD THOMAS novels by Dean Koontz

For me, movies are called Books.

Other other other things....

I don't think people should blame Jessica Simpson for the Dallas Cowboys losing a game. She should be blamed for the continuing "dumbing down" of America, however. And, perhaps, the mediocrity of contemporary popular music.

And finally:

An Irish Prayer....

May those that love us, love us.
And for those who do not love us,
Let God turn their hearts.
And if He cannot turn their hearts,
Let Him turn their ankles;
So we can tell them by their limpin'.

Good night, and good luck.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I have come to the conclusion, after much research, that THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS is the holiday equivalent of 99 BOTTLES OF BEER ON THE WALL.

If you want funny, dig up Bob and Doug Mackenzie's TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS.

Two turtlenecks and a beer in a tree, indeed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

And the Silence becomes Deafening

There's a ring around the moon tonight;
And a chill in the air.
And a fire in the stars that hang so near....

There's a sound in the wind that blows
Thought the wild mountain halls;
Like the sound of a thousand crying souls.

Dan Fogelberg had a brief stay in the land of top forty music through the eighties, giving the world a couple of hits; the ones remembered would be LONGER, THE LEADER OF THE BAND, and THE POWER OF GOLD which he performed with a fellow named Tim Weisberg. But there were so many albums full of what I consider pretty good music, and sometimes painfully poignant lyrics. I listened to them throughout my college days, and then I fell for a girl who was gaga for him, and little by little, my collection grew. I was especially fond of the one "bluegrass" album he produced, entitled HIGH COUNTRY SNOWS, but my favorite was an album I heard for the first time when a girl gave me haircut in her dorm room, and it was playing on the stereo. The girl's name I have long forgotten, but the album lingers.

The most memorable lyric:

In the passage from the cradle to the grave,
We are born madly dancing;
Rushing headlong through the passage of the days,
We move on and on, without a backward glance.

Dan Fogelberg lost his battle with the big C on Sunday morning, and I'll miss that voice, but the music remains. For those of you interested, I would recommend the albums entitled, PHOENIX, THE INNOCENT AGE, and NETHERLANDS. But they're all good.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

If you could invite ten people to dinner....

It's an old game, used mostly to get a discussion going, and lately I've been thinking about who I'd have in.

1. Edwin Booth. Considered by most historians to be one of the greatest actors America ever produced, it would be interesting to get his take on the changes in acting style over the course of his lifetime. And, if you could get him to talk about it, an account of his younger brother's life.

2. Groucho Marx. If you could actually get him to talk, it would be interesting to hear how a group of actual brothers concocted their individual characters, and how they came out of vaudeville and onto the screen.

3. Harry Truman. Let's talk about history, from the back roads of Missouri to the White House. Let's talk about Roosevelt, Hiroshima, General Mac, and life in Independence after the storm.

4. Ray Bradbury. A great author, and I'd like to pick his brain to see where it all comes from; Martians, Evil Carnivals, Robot Nannies.

5. Thelma Todd. One of the great, overlooked comedic actresses of the early films, whose early death is still a mystery.

6. Aimee Semple McPherson. I'd like to hear her take on modern religion in the age of television.

7. Queen Elizabeth I. Given our society's current agitation at the thought of a woman in power, it would be interesting to hear it from the source.

8. Gandhi. How can you not want to ask questions about this man?

9. Clarence Darrow. So many famous cases, so many stories to tell.....and the comparison between generational justice systems would be interesting.

10. And of course, I would invite you. You must have a story to tell.

Who would you invite?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Random Thought Thursday

I love Thursdays. I don't have to be cohesive.

Until yesterday, I had never heard anybody actually use a Spoonerism by accident. One of my co-workers used the phrase, "looning rage-atic". The sad part was that while I laughed so hard I thought I was going to bring on a stroke, most people around me simply stared.

I often hear the phrase, "Rock and Roll Heaven", largely because of a song from way back. I'd like to think that there's a little part of the skies that contains those greats that have passed too young. But in Ike Turner's case, I'm wondering if there's a rock and roll hell, and who's jammin' down there.

I've been having an on-going conversation with some folks about food......memorable food. You know; the restaurants we've wandered into that make such an impression, that they become staples of our travels.....just a short list.

1. Tony's in Saginaw, Michigan.
If you seek a breakfast, a really BIG breakfast, look no further. Multi egg, stacks of toast,
piles of bacon, and endless coffee. Whenever I'm travelling in Michigan, I tend to stop.

2. The Library in Houghton, Michigan.
I'm not sure if it still stands today. The last I heard, there was a fire. But in it's day, it was
this really cool former library, with the paneled walls and antique sconces, and they served,
hands down, the best pizza and bread sticks I ever consumed.

3. Jocko's in Nipomo, California.
If you seek a steak as big as your head, head for Nipomo. They cook them over an open fire
pit out back, and meals are all-inclusive, including the dessert and coffee. And the waitresses
are amazingly friendly.

4. Ramsey's in Lexington, Kentucky.
An old student of mine introduced me to this little bar not far from the UK campus. They
serve something called a "hot brown" sandwich that's got just enough cheese on it to kill you,
and if you top it off with a slice of brownie pie ala mode, you'll die happy.

5. The International Sandwich Shop in Macomb, Illinois.
I think it's still there, just across the street from the campus, and I have yet to have an
Italian Meatball sandwich as large, or as good as there.

You'll notice that my tastes run to simple foods.
There are more places that live in my memory, but I've got to have something to write about on another Thursday, so I gave you the highlights.

Honorable mention must go to a place called David's Cookies in New York. When I first visited there in the early eighties, David's Cookies was a regular stop on my daily sojourns around the city. Cookies with's a good thing.

Okay. Now, to face the world.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

I'm very fond of....


Yes, I enjoy putting together a delectable smorgasbord of baked goods for the holidays. I think I get it from my mother, who always made the most delicious cookies as Christmas time....but I think it's also in a sort of silent competition with my sister-in-law, who's shortbread is the stuff that dreams are made of.

This year, I intend to create:

1. Kiss cookies; you know...the peanut butter cookie with the Hershey's Kiss on the top.

2. Butterball cookies. My mother's recipe, although I've never been able to match hers. Perhaps it's the whole memory thing; cookies taste better in the past.

3. Kahlua balls. My own recipe. Tasty, and safe for people like myself to eat.

4. Buckeyes. The peanut butter ball dipped in chocolate. I prefer dark chocolate.

I'm also going to indulge in some candy making; trying a peppermint chocolate bark this year. Last years attempts at a peppermint candy forgotten.

Also, I'm thinking, if time permits, to try and match the recipe for the chocolate brownie pie that I once had at a little place in Lexington KY, called Missy's Pies (don't pass it by if your in the neighborhood). And a Shoo-Fly pie.

And some egg nog ice cream.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Memories of a snowy evening

I love the way the snow plays against the charming street lamp outside my house, making the world look beautiful for the moments before the snowplough comes and messes it all up. And when that magic happens, I tend to wander through the dustbins of my mind....

When I was younger, nights like this were usually spent in a warm little pub called The Portside Inn on Washington St. in Marquette, Michigan. Great pizza, the best breadsticks I have ever eaten, and the company I often kept there helped to shape my sense of humor.

Warm and comfortable.

And then, there was Barbara Anderson.

Barb and I shared a sphere, but we travelled in different hemispheres of that sphere. She was a year behind me, we were busy with many different projects, and we shared nothing but the occasional social moment. The thing was, I had a crush on her.

I had graduated and returned for a brief visit, having been out on the road for the previous six months, doing three shows at various venues around the southeastern US. I was exhausted, mostly, and longing (as we all do from time to time) for familiar places and faces. So, I headed back north, and stepped through the door of the Inn.

We talked for what seemed like the first time. We shared things we hadn't shared before. And we lived an entire relationship in just a few days......for she had a crush on me, as well.

Anybody who knows me knows how stupid I am about things like that. A woman has to do everything but kick me in the face for me to understand that they have any feelings for me at all.

She didn't kick me in the face; but she did lay one on me that changed the color of my hair.

We spent a few days together, and lived an entire relationship in about 72 hours. Draw what conclusions you may.

And then, I had to go. Places to go and commitments to uphold.

The last time I saw her....we were standing in a hallway outside of a dressing room in a theatre. She was preparing for A Christmas Carol, and I was preparing to leave.

We embraced.
She told me how she felt, briefly.
I reciprocated.

And as I walked away, I heard her giggle. I love the sound of a female giggle.
And then she said, in a sing-song voice, "I don't believe you."

And literally, seven days later, on a snowy evening, on a lovely but lonely stretch of road between Marquette and Escanaba, she was gone.

Many years have passed now; I'm married to the best and greatest women I have ever known, a life I could have only dreamed about just a few short years ago, and I wouldn't trade anything for it.

But there have been times when I wish I had a place like the Portside Inn.
There have been times when I wish I could look upon a snowfall with that sense of wonder and amusement.
There have been times when I wish I could hear that sing-song voice again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Following Would Get Me Fired.

"Excuse me, sir, but do I come to where you work and tell you how to do your job? Seriously, do I come to the crack house and tell you how to sell the rock?"


"Based upon what you've just told me, I am of the opinion that you are not just a jackass, but all the jackasses in the world look upon you as their patron saint."

Some days, friends and neighbors, I can truly understand why Socrates drank the hemlock.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


As of late, I've had an almost overwhelming craving for a scoop or two of an ice cream called "Doc's Java." It comes from a little ice cream parlour in the village of Arroyo Grande, California called Doc Burnstein's Ice Cream Lab. It's a quaint little place: large windows look out into the street, wooden booths with marble table tops, and a model train that runs on a track near the ceiling, running around the entire room.

They make their own ice cream there, as well as a couple flavors of frozen yogurt and one or two sorbets, and there's a window in the back room where you can watch them do it; hence the whole, "ice cream lab" name.

Every Wednesday, they do this little show where they show how they make the ice cream, and then they give the audience the opportunity to actually invent a new flavor. That flavor is produced, named by the audience, and put out in the parlour for general consumption. For ice cream's pretty cool.

Doc's Java, by the way, is a coffee ice cream (and not namby- pamby coffee ice cream, folks; it's the real deal, caffeine and all) with bits of chocolate covered espresso beans, and a creamy caramel swirl.

I'm also craving the Peanut Butter Cup Delight (which is chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirl and peanut butter cups);

And S'mores (marshmallow ice cream with fudge and graham cracker swirls)

Cayucos Crunch (dark chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate chips, fudge swirl, and a caramel praline swirl as well)

And finally, Strawberry Cheesecake (Cheesecake ice cream with Strawberry swirl)

If anybody gets over to Doc's, tell Greg (the owner) that John in Bismarck, North Dakota is craving a scoop of everything. Maybe he'll send some.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A Eulogy. An Eulogy?


Evel has gone from the world.

And the last legend of motorcycle bus jumping has left us forever.

Before Evel, not many people knew:

Where the Snake River was.
How many bones there were in the human body that can be broken.
That you could make money jumping over things on a motorcycle.

Now, all we have left is men jumping barrels on ice skates.

I've just been informed that they don't do that anymore, either.

So far, the twenty-first century has been a barren source of amusement.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Another Random Thought Thursday

I miss Gilda Radner.

Now, mind you, I never even MET Gilda Radner. I read her book (Ironically, I finished it just hours before it was announced that she had died). I read a really touching book by Alan Zweibel, titled BUNNY BUNNY, which made me feel like I knew them both; and I really wanted to know them.

Now, with the recent release of the first season of SNL, and the imminent arrival of SNL season 2, and with a digitally remastered version of the soundtrack of GILDA LIVE, I find I miss her a lot. Her comedy came from a kind of innocence, I think. She was funniest when she was playing characters like Emily Littela, or the hyper little girl who created shows in her bedroom.

Of course, she could be crude, as well.....if you consider Roseanne Roseannadanna crude. It was the only character I couldn't abide, but I watched it anyway.

I can remember her last appearance on television: it was on IT'S GARY SHANDLING'S SHOW, which was wonderful it it's own right, but there was an episode when there was a knock at his door, and in comes Gilda. "Hey, everybody, it's Gilda!"

The audience fell apart. Standing, cheering. And every time Shandling turned his back, she encouraged the cheering.


Other thoughts:

It's very cold here in North Dakota today. It's been cold all week. It's not so much the cold as it is the wind. Frigid wind from Alberta.

Damned Canadian wind.

And yet, there are people this morning out on their roofs, putting up Christmas decorations.

You ain't gonna pry me out of my comfy chair today, thankyaverramuch.

Other other thoughts:

I do my best to keep up with old friends, either on their facebook pages, their myspace pages, or their blogs. Strange things happen when you do this. In the past week, I've gotten messages from two ex-girlfriends (nice to hear from them, but oh, BOY those echoes from the past can make you crazy), one former crush from waaaaay back in the early eighties (your humble scribe was far too insecure to ever try to make it more than a crush), and I have been following the travails of two old friends from my children's theatre tour days.

We had a rallying cry back then. Within our circle, we could rag on each other, but if anybody else did it, there was a-gonna be a war, and when that happened, we would draw our imaginary swords and cry "Freeeeeeeeedoooooooom!" And then, we would fall on the floor laughing.

All these years later, all the miles betwixt and between, and I still keep the sword ready, just for them.

Let's enjoy it while we can...
Won't you help me share my load?
From the dark end of the street
To the bright side of the road.........

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving is approaching, and it will soon be time for the traditional flying Bullwinkle balloon through the streets of Manhattan, football games (three this year, spaced evenly apart throughout the day) and of course, food to consume until you cannot sit upright and must lie down and prepare for the second helping. And of course, if you've a mind to, you can physically and mentally prepare for the social phenomena that is "The Day After Sales."

Interesting thoughts on the subject of Thanksgiving:

If Ben Franklin had gotten his way, and made the Turkey our National Bird, would we be eating Eagle on Thanksgiving?

I'm curious about stuffing. If it's made on the stove, can it truly be stuffing? And if it's authentic stuffing, why do people who have a phobia about eating things off the floor have no qualms about eating bread out of a turkey's ass?

I do believe that people think that Cranberry sauce is SUPPOSED to look like the can it came out of.

A traditional staple on the North Dakota table is Lefse. I really don't see the excitement. It's a potato tortilla.

Oh, and don't get me started on Lutefisk. Here is the Dictionary definition:

A traditional Scandinavian dish prepared by soaking air-dried cod in a lye solution for several weeks before skinning, boning, and boiling it, a process that gives the dish its characteristic gelatinous consistency.

Yup. I'll have me a big bowl of that.

Somebody asked me yesterday about which wine I would serve with the Turkey. I recommended a white wine, and around our house (although I don't imbibe) we prefer a nice Riesling. I did mention that it would all depend on the way the turkey was cooked. Riesling for a roasted turkey; Beer or Jack Daniels for a deep fried turkey.

It's interesting how many house fires are created by those people deep frying their turkeys. My brother-in-law fried the turkey last year, and he did it marvelously, but I gots to tell you, it looks frightening.

Okay, wrap it up......

To all my friends, their families, my family and their friends, to all that are serving in the desert, and to all that served before that; to the thinkers, and the dreamers, and to those who use their powers for good and not for evil, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, two days in advance.

Monday, November 19, 2007

From the People at The Obvious News Network

I read recently that the city of Detroit has been named "The Most Dangerous City in America."

It's going to take me a little while to work up some shock.

I was born there. At a young age, just after the riots of '67, my father moved us north of 8 Mile into the suburbs, where we remained to this day. And we weren't the only ones. Through the seventies, the people with the jobs and the money moved out of the city and into the 'burbs, and the people left behind....simply.....fell upon each other like jackyls.

The last time I was down there, was back in September. I took the family to a baseball game. The stadium is really beautiful, and the surrounding area has been completely refurbished as looks great. But, as you look out over the right field wall, and see what could be a beautiful skyline, you realize that all those buildings have been abandoned. As the sun goes down, no lights go on.

And just when I thought that the place was a total loss....I noticed something.

Just down the road from Comerica Park, where the Tigers presently reside, is the old ballpark; Tiger Stadium. Also known as Briggs Stadium. Also known as the Palace at Michigan and Trumbull. It's still there, even though a game hasn't been played there since 1999. Apparently, it's been declared a historical structure.

And there is not one smear of graffiti or spraypaint; no tag of any kind.

So, there's hope.

Saturday, November 17, 2007


My friend Don Winsor had an idea. Turned out it wasn't a very GOOD idea, but at the time we thought it had merit; what we would do is write a story together, on each other's FACEBOOK wall.
It's not as easy as we made it look.
Okay, that was sarcasm.

By popular demand I present to you, in it's entirety.....

THE BALLAD OF CLEMO (no relation) AND WINSOR (no relation)
(dedication added: For Vanessa and Patti, whether they'd want it or not.)

There were too many trees, and something had to be done. Winsor sighed a heavy sigh and wondered what had gone wrong. It was an idle sigh, and while history had shown him unlikely to affect any change, his disquiet with the changes of the past five years was building in him like the pressure in a particularly reclusive teenager's pimple.

There was a knock at the door...The kind of knock that betrayed the knocker.....while it did satisfy it's obligation to alert those inside to a presence outside, the knock itself lacked a kind of commitment; so much so that Winsor mistook the knock for a ring, and immediately answered his phone. It took a moment to clear the confusion.

Once Winsor was satisfied that the phone was not the culprit of the mysterious rapping (a musical artform heretofore sadly unexplored), he realized that he was expecting a pizza. "Be still and await my response, courier of Italianized flatbreads," he exclaimed, to no response. Winsor warily began to negotiate the distance between couch and entry portal.

It cannot be described, the look on Winsor's face upon opening the door and finding not which is heart desired (the above mentioned "itailianized flatbread") but in fact a slightly mussed and most hunger-sated Clemo, who acknowledged the aforementioned indescribable look with a hearty, tomato scented, "Have you ever had their pizza? I just tried it, and I've got to tell you, it's quite possibly the best pizza I've ever tasted. I mean, I've been around this great big world of ours, and I've tasted many things, but that pizza was just ambrosian."

Clemo seemed a bit stumped at Winsor's apparent impression of a Gorgon victim, but was less than surprised when the tall gentleman produced a Laser(tm) gun capable of producing a beam of pure anti-matter and casually pointed it in his direction. You see, it was this very device which Winsor and Clemo had inadvertently developed together whilst attempting to start a theatrical production company together.

Clemo laughed a tired laugh, and lamented casually, "Ah, yes, the Laser (tm) cannon we developed while trying to devise the perfect staging of THE MERRY WIVES OF TUMBRIDGE WELLS, that little known Shakesperian piece written, I believe, by Francis Bacon, pretending to be Christopher Marlowe. I thought it was a toaster."

Winsor smiled at the memory, and quickly lasered two slices of bread to toasty perfection. "Jam or Marmalade?" He queried. Clemo stammered a quiet response. "How dare you, Winsor? You well know of my strong views on the evils of spreadables." Clemo then soundly rebuffed his offender with a gentlemanly slap. "Just making sure it was you, J.C., and the best way to do that was to tempt an impostor with things wiped on bread." "Touche, my friend. Now, to the business at hand!"

Clemo pulled out a large manila envelope. He dramatically opened the top, and pulled out the contents. "Surely, you are aware of what these are?" He queried. Winsor looked on in a kind of stunned admiration. Of all the things to keep, after all these was a sign of respect, certainly, and a kind of affection, to put so much emphasis on what seemed a trifle at the time of it's creation, but to see it here, now, after so much time

"I cannot believe that you kept this!" He cried, "My 3rd-grade Crayola sketches of every Beatles album cover, including 'Live in Las Vegas,' which never actually existed! How did you get these in the first place?" Clemo scoffed,indicating these are not what he wished to be noted. He reached deep into the envelope. Deeper,it seemed, than should be possible. He groped as a man who is sure something was in that pocket gropes, in the hopes that a sudden movement of the hand will reveal something hidden in the altogether limited space. His eyes widened and he turned a strange, whitish kind of pale. Finally, he spoke the words that would chill a man's soul. "Don. As strange as this may sound, something me."

At that moment, there was a strange kind of sucking noise; the kind of noise you would hear at the annual "Drink a Very Thick Shake Through a Very Thin Straw" contest, held every year in Zanesville, Ohio. Clemo's entire arm jerked, and began to disappear into the envelope.

"Grab my hand!" yelled Clemo
"That's fairly intimate for two gentlemen to become, Clemo."
"Curse you, Winsor, and your fear of intimacy! It shall be my undoing!"
With a dismissive sigh and a look that said "oh, very well," Winsor grabbed Clemo's remaining hand and tried to help free him from the mysterious pull of the envelope. What could he have brought in the envelope?
Clemo shouted, "By Achille's mittens, you shall not have my phlanges!"
With a mighty final tug,the two gents pulled free of the manila prison.

They fell to opposite corners and after the release of tension that sounded like something underwater yelling, NI NI NI!, they rose from their corners, and stared across the room at each other. "If I may be so bold as to ask," stated Winsor, politely, "What in all the green glades of Gilson's Creek was THAT?"
"I'm not sure, my alliterative friend, but trust me when I tell you that I will not be opening that manila envelope again. It seems to be possessed." And with that, Clemo absent-mindedly opened the envelope.

A small piece of paper, about the size of a smaller version of an 3 x 5 card tumbled out from between manila sheets, and floated to the floor as if being drawn to it by a very forgiving magnet. Clemo drew his trusty Webley revolver from somewhere within his voluminous cloak, and prepared to fire, but was interrupted by his compatriot who, in his charming and yet self deprecating manner, said:
"Ekerty wip boble neffle tiptop bang, hycvwa."

For a moment the gentlemen locked eyes upon this utterance, neither of them seeming to have any idea what it meant. Winsor held the confused gaze whilst slowly kneeling and retrieving the card. When he returned to full height and looked at the card, his brow furrowed. One word shown clear in black sharpie on the white face of the card. He turned the card so Clemo could see the card fairly shouting:

Clemo put away his gun. "There is only one thing this could mean which does not involve Meredith Wilson, or perhaps does, but it is certainly is a puzzle. First of all, we must ask, EULALIE who?"
"Please, practice your yodeling at another time." Sneered Winsor.
"Quite right. There will be another time to fine tune my Alpian singing style. Perhaps your little black book will hold some answers."
Winsor nodded solemnly. There were few things he hated more than bringing out that part of his past. But, if it could possibly help the situation, he would put on the mask of stoicism, and attend to the matter. He walked across the room, pausing only to pick up a lamp which had fallen in the recent "manila envelope" adventure, and placed it on the table; which was in itself difficult, for the table had been mangled in the aforementioned adventure.

Winsor opened his book, a stark reminder of the strange time when, for many years, he would only date older women. More specifically, older women who had once been panelists on THE MATCH GAME television program. Even more precisely, older women who had been panelists on THE MATCH GAME between 1973 and 1979. He flipped through the listings.
"Joanne Worley? No... Vicki Lawrence? Possssib...nooo... Betty White, no... Mary Wickes... definitely not. Avery Schreiber... no... Leslie Nielsen... no..."
"Wait," said Clemo. "Aren't those last two... aren't they men?"
"Yes... terrible mistake, that. Their names are rather girly, though. An easy mistake... two, rather. And two very awkward dinners."
Clemo was supportive. "Yes, I can see how you could make that mistake. Both of those....gentlemen.....are very.....well...."
"I do so hate to interrupt you," injected Winsor, and Clemo was grateful for the exit, "But I do believe I have stumbled upon a clue."
He opened the book wide, and there, in all it's glory, was the name Eulalie Page.

"Eulalie Page...."mused Clemo.
"Eulalie Page....." muttered Winsor.
"Any bells ringing?" Asked Clemo.
"Not a one" Replied Winsor.
"So, it's a long forgotten Page then?" Said Clemo.

Winsor sighed, for it seemed that Clemo was falling back upon the Pun, which was, in his opinion, the lowest form of verbal humor. Winsor considered hitting him with a Good Humor bar, which he had just been musing upon, feeling a bit peckish after this trip down memory lane.Then, Winsor noticed that the card was not only inscribed on one side, but fully covered with pencil marks on the opposite.

"I fear, J.C., that we may have overestimated the importance of the prominent Eulaliness of the forward side. It seems the back may be where our answers lie."
"Or," countered Clemo,"it may be that this is simply a piece of random paper that fell into my envelope."
"Clemo, if you in fact filled this envelope, why all the guesswork as to the contents or message?"

Clemo's eyes widened, his eyebrows raised and furrowed, and his mouth opened with a sharp, pre-speech intake of air; an expression that indicated that he desperately WANTED to retort but was faced with unconsidered truth.
After a moment, he managed a response of "BURMA!"
Winsor was puzzled.
Clemo raised his left eyebrow apolgetically. "Sorry about that. I panicked. Let's have a look at the BACK of the Eulalie message."

Clemo took the piece of paper and stared at it like a starving man would stare at the Mona Lisa. He turned it clockwise; counterclockwise; he flipped it in the air; he wore it like a hat. Finally he said, "Well, that's interesting."
"Yes," said Winsor, "I especially liked it as a hat."
"Well, you always had an eye for style, but that's not what I meant. Apparently, these chicken scratchings are exactly that....the scratchings of a chicken. But, much like twenty monkeys will evetually write HAMLET, this mystery fowl has given us the beginnings of a quest..."

"Let me see that. Hmm... chicken scratches, indeed. But this list... bread, milk, eggs, chicken... Why would a chicken make a list which includes eggs and chicken, which are surely in ready supply in their immediate vicinity?"
"Perhaps it is a lonely chicken, and that is a personal ad," posited Clemo.
"No, Clemo, I propose that it is neither a personal ad, nor a code. We are dealing here with a fiendish list composed by a forgetful, serial killing chicken. Of course he has to put chicken and eggs on his list..."
"She," interrupted Clemo. "It would have to be she, for it to be a 'chicken.'"
"What? Fine. She, or he, would most certainly be caught if they were to murder chickens in their own coop, or to steal eggs from nearby hens. Wait, HENS are female chickens, you dolt! I think. Anyway, of course they'd have to go OUTSIDE the coop to satisfy their bloodlust, else risk capture!"
"They are already captured. They are chickens, in a coop."
When faced with that kind of logic, both men simply stared at each other, wondering what the other was thinking.
"I wonder what Clemo is thinking?" Thought Winsor.
"Hot Fudge Sundae." Thought Clemo.
Then it came to them, simultaneously:
"Round up the usual suspects!" they exclaimed, in perfect four part harmony.
"Find the nearest coop!" cried Winsor.
"I've got a map!" cried Clemo.
"Where to begin?" said Winsor.
"Kentucky?" queried Clemo
"Too obvious." countered Winsor.
"California?" Clemo queried. Again.
"Hot chicks, but not the ones were looking for." Winsor replied.
"Well, then, I'm out of ideas." muttered a devastated Clemo.
"And you've completely destroyed the vaudevillean concept of the Triple." said Winsor, Triumphantly.
"Curse you and you attachment to ancient comedic technique!" roared Clemo, churlishly.

And there they sat, like protagonists in a Beckett play.
"Shall we go?" said Clemo.

Hours passed.

Still, more time passed.

One of them sat down, and turned away.
The other yawned.

Finally, at just the right moment, Winsor answered."I think it's time. Let's go apprehend the serial-killing chicken that apparently sneaks out of its coop to murder other chickens, to steal and destroy eggs."
Clemo furrowed his brow. "Why did you just restate everything like that?"
"For people who lost track of us while we waited for the commercial break to be over."
"Of course," acknowledged Clemo.
"Now, why exactly is this our responsibility? Truth be told, I was coming over here in hopes of maybe getting a bite to eat, or having a game of Six Degrees From Kevin Bacon, and perhaps some stimulting conversation about the sorry state of morals in the American Cinema. Instead, I'm on a chicken quest."
Winsor looked outraged. "Are you suggesting we simply ignore our responsibilities to the rule of law, and in a smaller sense the fowl community in letting this alleged crime go unpunished?"
Clemo thought of a moment."Yes. That is, in a nutshell, what I'm suggesting."
Winsor was caught off-guard by this thunderbolt of honesty, as well as the complete negation of a sub-plot."Well. Then. I guess we'll just..."

At that very moment, there was a terrible ghastly silence, much like the sound of a set of bagpipes being put through a food processor.


The Evil Chicken had landed.

Winsor turned to look at the chicken which had just landed upon his open terrace with surprise, disbelief, and an a shrug of apathy."Well, I guess this tears it.We stick with the chicken."
"CAWWWWWWW brrrrrAAWWWWWWHK CWAWW,"threatened the chicken.
Clemo responded quickly."You don't frighten us, you paltry poultry!"
"Clemo, we are not comicbook superheroes.We do not need to resort to calling him out in such a manner.Perhaps the evi... Perhaps the chicken would like to have some tea with us. Etgay the ungay."
"Bkawww?"The chicken was perplexed.
"Ikcenschay antkay eakspay igpay atinlay,"observed Winsor as he set the table for tea.

True, thought Clemo, as he went to the bookshelf to remove the hollowed out volume of Kelsey Grammer's autobiography "So Far"which held Winsor's pistol. He remembered the day they'd hollowed the book-"It is now as empty physically as it is in every other way," he'd observed.

As he stood gun-getting and remembering, Winsor and the chicken finished having tea.

A brief side note on the effects of tea upon chickens, or in fact any of the domesticated fowl. The inherent caffiene within the various varieties of tea can affect the chicken in many a varied ways; for example, Earl Grey tea tends to make your average chicken somewhat lethargic, and in those periods of lethargy, it becomes quite easy to lull the chicken into a coma (and, with the proper hand gestures, into a casserole) with the music of Mannheim Steamroller or, in a pinch, The Alan Parsons Project. However, Lemon Zinger tends to make the chicken cranky.

"Winsor," asked Clemo, "Whatever tea have you served our guest and OH MY GOD how could you do such a thing to Kelsey Grammer's heartfelt autobiography?"

Winsor's doubts upon the intelligence of his friend surfaced like an Orca in the Artic Circle, but being unaware of the effects of tea upon the average chicken, he let it pass."I have, of course, served the chicken a hot cup of Celestial Seasoning's Salmonella Suicide tea," and with those words, as if on cue, the chicken did a spit take, its eyes bulged in surprise, and it collapsed forward onto the table.
"I keep this tea on hand for guests I hate but want to be civilized toward."

Hours later, as they sat enjoying the last of the fried chicken they'd just made, both men realized something important. "Winsor," said Clemo, "we have been entirely sidetracked from our true purpose here this evening."
"Have we?"
"We had dates. A double date. I just remembered... the envelope had the tickets to MAME starring Jude Law; we were to escort our respective redheads to the show tonight."
"Egad," exclaimed Winsor in a way not heard often enough these days.
"Egad indeed," Clemo screamed, for no reason.
"What time is it?"
Pocketwatches were produced from pockets.
"Smurfette's little hand is between then seven and the eight! There is still time!"
Clemo looked incredulous. "Where is Smurfette's big hand?" he asked.
Winsor gave Clemo the look a slot machine might give the man who pulled the many options, so many combinations, none that would be appropriate, and only one that would be realllly funny.
"We must fly!" Cried Winsor.
"Yes, to pick up our loved ones, and off to an evening of maiming!" cried Clemo, trying on the veneer of excitement for size.
"Mame-ing" corrected Winsor, looking for his car keys, his wallet, his autographed photo of Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, and his Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring. He found everything but the tickets to the musical nightmare they had promised the ladies that they would be attending.
"Have you seen the..." he began.
"...rain? Have you EVER seen the rain? I want to know."
Clemo had, in fact, but was more curious about the tickets to MAME. Then he remembered he had stuck them to the soles of his shoes with bubblegum, because they were important and should not be lost. They were still there, and not too much the worse for wear. Clemo was examining the tickets, when he stopped suddenly and asked, "Why are we going to this horribly miscast horrible musical?"
"Because of the women.They deserve a date night."
"But they are smart women. We all enjoy theatre. Why would we want to see MAME? Why would we want to see Jude Law playing Mame?"
"This town is a cultural wasteland," explained Winsor. "Our only other options are low-budget horrible semi-professional or community efforts. At least this will be ridiculously high-budgeted and horrible. We will be able to laugh about it afterward over drinks."
Clemo nodded in agreement.Tonight they would forgo mystery-solving,crime-fighting,and hyphen-misuse, all for Love.

That's about it.
The end of the road; the end of the story.
It could be said that after the musical, they went to dinner at a nice place; they talked of many things; the past, the future, and all was well.
"I say, Winsor" said Clemo. "I hate to interrupt our reverie, but isn't that Jude Law?"
And surely it WAS Jude Law, looking every bit like a dollar bill caught in a change machine, trying to put cream in his coffee while negotiating his Moons Over My Hammy.
"What's that in his lapel?" asked Winsor, but the tremor in his voice gave away his fore- knowledge.
It was a chicken feather.
A perfect chicken tail feather.
The game was afoot.
But THAT is a story for another time

The End

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Random Thought Thursday

During a promo for a game show entitled, "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?", a celebrity (I suppose) named Pickler was asked, "Budapest is the capital of what European country?"
Her response? "I thought Europe was a country."
At that point, the host should have said, "I'm sorry, you're nowhere NEAR as smart as a fifth grader, you and your parents and your teachers should be ashamed and get the hell off my soundstage."

A ten year old boy will not be charged with arson for starting one of the wildfires out in California that destroyed somewhere around 38,000 acres and something like 20 homes. Apparently, when he was playing with matches, he was not actually intending on burning anything.
This is one of those stories where your eyes bug out all cartoon like and you say, "hurrmmmm?"

A friend of mine recently wrote to me (after a lag in the conversation about 20 years long) and sent me a copy of quoteable quotes from our of them (which he attributes to me) was fairly interesting, and I wish I could remember to take credit for it:
"Life is that period of time between the moment that the trapdoor opens and the moment the rope goes taut."
Bless the slack, people. Bless the slack.

I've always wanted to be able to think like Sherlock Holmes. I think it would be very cool to be able to look around a room and identify characteristics, and then put together the whole story based upon those observations. Much better than other super powers.

I've become more and more disappointed in Stephen King. Lately, I've been giving him all this money, and his last four books have been crap on the half shell. Actually, it goes back even further than THAT. Let's see......the last book of the DARK TOWER series.......CEL......LISEY'S STORY.......THE COLORADO KID.......BLAZE.......
Yes. I still bought them. Shut up!

These days, my life reminds me of a Far Side cartoon, where a bunch of cows are standing in the field, and one of them finally speaks up and says...."Hey, wait a minute! This is GRASS! We're EATING GRASS!"

I found if you read the preceding random thoughts in a voice that sounds like Larry King, they are much more funny, and far more profound.

Or, you could try Paul Harvey. But you would have to put in really weird pauses.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Yup. November in ND.

Well, even though the weather has been flirting, almost giving us the snow, it's comin' down now. Not so badly as to cause trouble....unless it's that hard, small, nearly sleet kind of snow we all know and love.....but enough to stick a little to the ground. Oh, and if I haven't mentioned the wind.....well, you can probably hear it over my shoulder as I write this. It's a stiff breeze, gusting at somewhere about 60 miles an hour.

I usually like this time of year, though. I do like the first snowfall, where the accumulation takes away the sins of the world, for a brief time. I just don't like it when it's flying at me at the aforementioned 60 miles an hour.

In other news, my Father is coming for a visit over the holidays, the first of it's kind since my wife and I moved here to Bismarck. He's going to share Thanksgiving with us. Of course, I don't get the day off, so he'll be sharing it with my wife. I hope he enjoys the holiday football games on my big screen television. Insert grumbling here.

Ah, Michigan vs. Ohio State on Saturday. Which I'm going to miss as well. Insert louder grumbling here. Here's hoping that Lloyd Carr pulls a rabbit out of a hat and delivers a win for the Wolverines. I don't think it's going to save his job though.

Usually, I have a point.
This time, I don't.
I don't even have an ending.


Monday, November 12, 2007

The Leader of the Clan

Yes, another re-run. I hope to have time to be original very soon. But these were original once, and like I've said before, if you haven't seen it, it's new to you.....

On October 25, my Father will celebrate his 75th birthday.

He is, quite possibly, the strongest man I have ever known.

He taught me how to play the trumpet, which I wanted to learn because he played it. He played for a while in the Rochester Symphony, and those concerts helped me to develop a "taste" for classical music; in fact, his record collection gave me an appreciation for big band, and modern jazz; and Sunday afternoons when there was no game on the television, it was the Metropolitan Opera on the radio....that, I never really got the hang of.

My Father has plenty of stories to embarrass me with, and is more than willing, at the drop of a hat, to pull them out and tell them to whoever is around. To tell the truth, I deserve it....apparently, I was an idiot as a boy, a young man, and indeed, I am STILL an idiot, and he can prove it. Just ask him about the various times I destroyed an automobile. Or tried to burn the house down. Or completely failed to grasp the concepts of anything he was the master at: mathematics, science, mechanics....the list goes on and on.

He tells the story of the first time he knew that I was going to be an actor. I had done a small part in a middle school play, and even though it was safe that day, he would walk the short distance from home to the school to see that I got home safely. As we were walking back home, I was jabbering about what fun it was, yadda yadda, and he thought to himself, "Oh, CHRIST. I'm going to be supporting him for the rest of my life."

As a father, he had an obligation to at least TRY to steer me in a direction that would get me out of the house and off his payroll. He always mentioned teaching, and was relieved when I went into it.....and not so happy when I left it to go back into acting. When I told him I was leaving the college to take a job with a touring company in the spring of '97, this was his only comment: "Let me get this're giving up a career for a job?"

Even then, whenever he could, he would attend one of my productions.

We didn't always get along, but what father and son does? I can recall a time when he grounded me "for life." And then, forgot he had done it. I stayed grounded for two months before I asked if I could be let up off the mat. His response? "When did I ground you?"

To quote Mark Twain: "When I left home, I though my father was the biggest idiot in Christendom. When I returned, I was shocked to find out how much he had learned when I was away."

His retirement wasn't all he had hoped it would be; my Mother took ill, and he spent the first years of that illness being her caregiver, and although I know his heart was heavy, he never EVER let me see it. Even now, he spends a large portion of his days visiting my mother, talking to her, walking with her, and we should all be so lucky to be loved and to love so completely.

So, to my Father on his birthday, I say thank you for teaching me pretty much everything that is worth knowing, for giving me enough rope to hang myself when the occasion warranted it, for treating my cuts and bruises, and for giving me a home to which I can always return.

I also thank him for my distaste for carrots and spinach, but if you want that story, you're going to have to ask him.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The True Unfinished Conversation....

Another re-run, although if you've never read it, you could consider it new......

My Mother, Elizabeth (not Besty, or Beth, or God Help You, Liz), once said to me, "I don't think you'll ever settle down." She said it with an ache-inducing sense of sadness in her voice that I can still hear in my head after all these years. This pronouncement came about three years before I met my wife, and prior to that bolt of Motherly futility, she was always encouraging, saying the usual, "oh, there's somebody out there for you." And I would joke that I could see her across the street, oh, she's coming this way, oh, look out for that car, oh, damn. And she'd laugh a bit, and tell me to be patient. And then we'd argue with good humor about politics (she hated Clinton and loved Bob Dole) or who was the most beautiful Hollywood star (she always kind of leaned toward the young Hepburn, Bergman, and such).

One of the last things I can remember my Mother saying to me was, "She's beautiful." She was referring to my wife. And this wasn't the first time my Mother ever saw my wife....this was the third time my wife and I had visited her and my Father at my boyhood home in Michigan. But for my Mother, it was like the first time....because by the time I got married, my Mother was in the throes of Alzheimer's Disease, and every day was like a clean slate.

Now, in the winter of 2007, my mother spends her time in a very nice assissted care facility not far from the family home, where my Father visits her twice a day, every day. He sits with her, and he shares the events of the day, much like Cyrano would share his "Daily Gazette" with Roxanne. But if my Mother understands, she has no way of transmitting that idea, for the ability to articulate is now gone. She is reduced to sounds. And laughter. My Mother has a whooping kind of laugh that causes laughter, if you know what I mean.

My sense of humor was largely developed by the tastes of my Mother. She was the one that introduced her young son to the works of Danny Kaye, the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and Abbott and Costello. This woman, so apparently staid and conservative would whoop with laughter and the most over-the-top slapstick comedy, and giggle girlishly at the whole, "The pellet with the poison is in the chalise from the palace and the flagon with the dragon holds the brew that is true" schtick from THE COURT JESTER. At a young age, I don't know which was funnier; my Mother or the movie.

She also loved the films of Doris Day, the music of Frank Sinatra, the dancing of Fred Astaire, and figure skating. She never got over the fact that Sonija Henie was a nazi sympathiser. Or that Rock Hudson was gay.

My Mother made the best chocolate chip cookies ever.

She named me for my Uncle John, her older brother, who was killed in Korea. But in thirty eight years of my life, she never mentioned him more than a half a dozen times, and those times came in the early eighties when they reinstated the selective service registration, and her sons had to sign on the line, just in case of a draft. But the memory of the end of her brother's life outweighed the rest of his existence, and I never got to know about him.

That's what this is about, really.....I had every opportunity to quiz my Mother about the family history, or even where she kept that damned recipe for cookies, and I thought I had all the time in the world......and now, all I really would like is a day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Since I've just moved over to this new spot on the blogger map, and in honor of the writer's strike in Hollywood that is causing late night television into the endless re-run loop, I've decided to "run" some of my previous postings, seen only by the people who subscribe to Myspace, and who, apparently, have a lot of time on their hands to read the semi-articulate ramblings of a sanity-questionable fellow such as myself.

And, if you've read them before, remember that the fast forward key is down, and to the left.

This first one is from June of this year. I start with this one, because not only is it long and filled with words, but it also gives a small glimpse of me, to save you all the trouble of looking me up on

raining reminiscences for four and twenty hours.....

At this time of the year, when all the summer theatres have begun to bloom, I think back to a few particular times from my days in the "wars"....

At the outdoor drama YOUNG ABE LINCOLN, working on the first new song to be put in the show since it's beginning. God, it was FUN to have that much creative input, putting together a new opening number. It was equally fun to come back a few years later and see how much of my "creative imput" remained. But my favorite moment is when the actor playing the role I'd played for a few seasons comes up to me at a get-together and says, "So, YOU'RE the John that they kept talking about.....what did John do at this point? John did this really great thing here, do you remember?"

I love being remembered.

Far back in my memory is a fellow named Todd Conaster. He and I did SLEUTH many years ago in Clinton, Iowa. It's a two person show, with this wonderful set, a lot of twists and turns, and Todd and I played the shit out of it every single favorite story from that was the night that somebody loaded too much flash powder into the safe....

You see, Todd's character is supposed to blow the safe open, and the effect is: a) Todd puts plastic explosive on the outside of the safe door. b) Todd puts fake electric fuse into plastic explosive. c) Todd and John hide behind desk downstage of safe. d) Todd presses button, which cues Stage Manager to perform effect. e) effect is that flash powder goes off behind the safe door, blowing it open slightly, with smoke.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED: a) Todd pushes button, which cues Stage Manager to perform effect. b) too much flashpower causes large explosion. c) safe door is blown off hinges, flying over the heads of John and Todd hiding behind desk downstage of safe. d) Todd and John simultaneously scream, "JESUS CHRIST" in family-oriented theatre, but to their credit, do it in their british accents.

I haven't seen Todd Conaster in 22 years. But I remember that show like it was yesterday.

There are many stories, and not enough time, but I couldn't finish it without speaking of the late, lamented Golden Eagle Riverboat Dinner Theatre in Canton, Missouri. If you've never done legitimate summer stock theatre, you've been pampered, and your training as an actor is filled with a large hole. The Golden Eagle was a great training ground; you built sets, collected costumes, served dinner, and performed material that was less than perfect; more to the point, the material was what you made of it. Your job was, quite simply, to turn lead into gold. I worked with a lot of actors at that joint, and I'd work with most of them again in a heartbeat.

My favorite was during a production of THE BOYFRIEND, which was a bit over-built, set wise. The third act took place in what seemed to be a yard, and the designer put a WORKING fountain in the middle of the set. This involved a small pool, a statue, some tubing, a pump, and about one hundred gallons of water. All it would take would be for one person to get too close to the fountain during the dance, kick the small plastic pool in the wrong place at the wrong time, and......

Well.....I'm in the dressing room below the stage when I hear a line I've never heard before..."THAR SHE BLOWS!" I start running toward the noise. I am met at the bottom of the stairs by one hundred gallons of water.

God, I LOVED being an actor.