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.