Thursday, December 29, 2011

Untitled New Year's Eve Reflection.....

I get to work on New Year's Eve (well, technically, it'll be New Year's Day when I start, but I'll be sleeping though much of the pre-fab hub-bub that the television will serve up), and as such, my mind serves as host to The Ghost of Parties Past.

First of all, and I believe I've said this before, New Year's Eve is what my brethren refer to as "Amateur Night."  It's a night for people to go out and try to throw as much living into the few hours left in the previous year, so that they can spend the first few hours of the next year throwing up.

I've never bought into the idea that a tuxedo was necessary for a New Year's Eve Soiree, although I have been to several of those kinds of parties.  And still, a few people maintained the idea that they needed to get obnoxiously drunk and hit generally make an ass of themselves.

At this point, I'm reminded of a Dorothy Parker quote:  "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think."

I've spent New Year's Eves in Tuxedos, in Grand Ballrooms with live orchestras; and I've spent them with a trash can filled with a toxic type of fruit punch dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt.  I've danced waltzes just after the countdown with a woman in a lovely red dress; and I've spent it sitting on a couch watching THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHHAUSEN after the traditional midnight make-out session with a girl in black jeans and a white t-shirt.

I've spent them drunk; and I've spent them sober.  And yes, on one New Year's Day I woke up with the feeling that I just couldn't do it anymore.

This year, I'll sleep through it, and work through it, and eat leftovers and drink a toast from the top of the building, and I'll thank the Universal Truth for the good of the past year, and request even more good for the next.

And you all will be in my thoughts and attached to the blessing for which I ask.

And hopefully, somewhere out there, there might be a few people who think kindly of me, as well.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Random things....

The Detroit Lions made the playoffs for the first time in 12 years. That, along with earthquakes in Oklahoma and a Hurricane on the East Coast, means that we are not IN an apocalypse, but you can see one from here.....

Christmas was a delight. The food was delicious, the conversation sparkling, and I received this really cool walking stick with a Raven head. I also was given a Toledo Mud Hens jersey. It was way cool in the prezzie department.

We sent various lovely things to the folks back home, but my particular contribution were some things I picked up when I was over the sea in that far off and well-remembered country; so, each of my family members received the official flag of Cornwall.

My Father was appreciative, but was worried that it would misinterpreted if flown.  I say, fly it proudly, for we are Sons of Cornwall.

Speaking of flags....has anybody else noticed that when you watch A CHRISTMAS STORY on TBS over and over, you notice little things....for example, the American flag up the flagpole at the school has fifty stars....and this takes place in 1940....oh, and the plastic caps on the wagons should be metal.  Oh, and one of the kids is wearing a Davy Crockett hat that didn't come out until like a decade later.....

And then I went to sleep.

And I wish I was still there.

And how was YOUR day?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sometimes, it's the destination, and NOT the journey.

The re-build continues at a less-than-breakneck speed.  The walls were painted yesterday, and in that regard, we can call it an epic fail.  Upstairs in the hallway, the color was correct, but the underlying texture was wrong.  They are correcting that today.  Around the corner in the living room, where I had hoped they wouldn't foray, the color is wrong; it seems the original owner did a strange, three color texture painting which is virtually impossible to copy.  So, that's so wrong, it would have to come up in my estimation just to be simply wrong.  Hopefully, they are fixing that on Monday, and in the meantime, I'll hide the offending repair with furniture.

Downstairs....the main room color is wrong.  And for some reason, they painted the hall with the same color.  They will fix that on Monday.  The office is fine, actually...they managed to match the ceiling texture very well.

There is a carpet guy supposed to come today.  I will not turn blue with the waiting.

I suppose this doesn't bother me all that much; aside from the deductible, my insurance is covering all of this, and any mistake made doesn't cost me a dime.  But the thing is, I'm expecting about sixteen to eighteen people on Christmas Day (have I told the story of the incredible expanding Christmas Dinner?  If I haven't, I will at a later date), and I would prefer not to have the house looking a trifle beaten up.

The presents are wrapped.  And tonight, after the necessary delay, the tree will go up.  We thought about foregoing, but we did that one year early in our marriage, and it was miserable.  Christmas needs a tree.  So, it will go up next to the fireplace on the lower level.  And the presents will be placed underneath.  And all will be well.

I'm looking forward to coming home from work at noon on Christmas Day, cooking some food, eating some food, and going back to bed to be ready for the next shift.

I'll tell you later about how close I came to quitting my job on another day.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Another Tribute

As I think I've said before, during the course of my week, I peruse several newspapers.  One of them is the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

I still have friends out there on the Central Coast, and I follow as best I can the comings and goings.  It takes me back.

When I had just started my tenure out there in Arroyo Grande, I had a series of financial setbacks that caused me to re-arrange my life a little; tighten the belt, and give up some of the those creature comforts that I had come to rely upon in favor of other, cost efficient comforts.

One of them was my car. 

Yeah, to tell the whole truth, it wasn't my idea to give it up.  A couple of strapping fellow came in the dark of the night while I was working and towed it right out of the parking lot.  And I had not the ransom to free it from its prison, so I bid it goodbye.

Now, as some of you know, I'm a walker.  I am not adverse to walking long distances, and often, in my tenure at the Melodrama Theatre in California, I would walk the three or four miles from our home to the theatre...but the loss of my car pre-dates my dating, engagement and marriage.

And I lived further out of town.
About six more miles out of town.
So, I procured a bike.

It was an old ten speed bicycle, with no bells or whistles...and although I didn't know it at the time, it was in need of some maintenance.  A LOT of maintenance.  The gears needed to be looked at, the brakes, and the tires.  The only thing really working on the thing was the seat.

And that's when I met Ira Hughes.  He owned the bike shop in Arroyo Grande.  It was a little cabin-like thing, stuffed full of new bikes in the front, and repairs in the back.  He was a nice fellow with an easy going manner and a disarming smile.  He didn't seem the least put off by my long hair and beard; I think it actually encouraged the warm manner and disarming smile.

I told him what I needed.  I told him I needed a new bike, but I had to make due with the POS I currently had.  He looked at it, told me what I needed and told me to come back two days following.  He asked for my name (but only the first name, strangely), and didn't ask for money, and then, to my surprise, asked me if I needed a loaner.

I looked over at the Penny-Farthing he had sitting out front, and inquired about it.  He told me he only rode that in parades.  And he DID.  With the Straw Boater on his head and a garters on his arms...

Two days later, I showed up; he had cleaned it up, adjusted the brakes, replaced both tires and fixed the gear shifter.  And he charged me fifteen dollars.

It was like he took the thorn out of my paw; we were friends for life.

I eventually got back on financial track (although it was five years before I actually owned a car again), but I saw him frequently about town...he'd occasionally come into the ice cream shop (which was right across the street, more or less), and of course, I'd see him at parades.  When I moved away from the coast to join the land of the Northern State, I gave the bicycle to one of the actors that replaced me at the Melodrama Theatre, and I hope it served him well...and if he needed anything, to go see Ira.

Well, I was reading the Tribune this morning, and Ira got sick about seven months ago; what seemed like the flu was something far worse, and that good guy faded away with family and friends all around at his home last week.

Yes, you could say that I barely knew him; but a good man deserves to be eulogized.  So, thanks for the helping hand when I needed it, Ira. 

I payed it forward.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The smile defies description......

At this time of year, with the snow, falling at infrequent intervals casting a lovely icing upon the Capital City of the Northern State, and the well-placed lights of red and blue are placed upon green trees and wreaths making the evening constitutional a triptych of neighbors' personal stories....and the fragrance of pine and sugar cookies blending into a single aroma that defines the holiday season, my thoughts turn to the idea that Colonel Mustard did with the Wrench in the Library.

Yup.  CLUE.

Not the movie, mind you, although I find the movie a laugh riot; I prefer the THIRD ending, by the way.  But my thoughts always turn to CLUE at this time of the year.

Because it was the only game my Brothers and I could agree on.  And it was a game that everybody would get involved in.  And it was a game even we could win.

Yeah, we played MONOPOLY from time to time, but truly, those games could go for hours, and in some cases, days.  It was always fun to start, but invariably it would lead to acrimony, and on one occasion, near fisticuffs.  But was a game that went as long as it needed to, and there was a decided winner, and almost nobody (except Mr. Boddy) died.

The image that stays forever in my head is sitting on the floor in the living room, the Christmas tree lit behind us, rolling the dice and showing the cards, trying to beat my two brothers to the solution.  The snow was falling; school was out until after the first of the year; and my Uncle from New York was soon to join us, and he always brought a little fun to the holidays.

The family tradition was always that somebody would bring a game, and that would be the thing we did after breakfast and before dinner.  Through the years, there were a ton of them; some of them good (who can forget Trivial Pursuit?  It's a cliche now, but in its infancy it was the game for 'smart people") and some were bad (there was this one game where you had to finish a lyric of a song from a random decade, and I always wound up doing Buddy Holly or Little Richard), but through it all, CLUE always seemed to make an appearance.

Yup.  The cherished books of my younger days have been translated to a small, portable pad; the music has gone from LPs to CDs to ITunes; and the candles are now electric and the tree lights are LED.

But I would give a ton of whatever is valuable these days to travel over the lake, light a candle or two, pour a glass of whatever is desired, and set up the board with my Brothers again.


Maybe next year.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The time my head should have exploded, but didn't.

I was recently asked if I would have any interest in doing MAN OF LA MANCHA.

Guess what my answer was?

It started with a Hell and ended with a Yes.  And a little tiny exclamation point at the end.

Now, nothing will ever come of this.  But it was nice to be asked, truly nice to be remembered after all of these years out of the profession, and it would have been nice to clear a blot that's been like a finger in my eye since I first did a production of that play back in 199-something.

I have long since forgotten the director's name.  Short of killing him (and it was a very near thing), that's the best and only thing I could do; ERASE that sad sack of s**t from my memory.  But the scars remain.

Among his sins:

Directing the show from the book of a previous production, i.e, directing actors he wished he had rather than the actors he had.  Directing like a Mother-In-Law drives from the back seat.....allowing for absolutely no creative input.

At one point, I moved a little farther right than he had directed.  A step or two.  Still in the light, but allowing for some space between myself and the primary action.  He stopped the rehearsal and literally spoke to me as if I were a child.  And you all KNOW how I respond to such things.


I did it again a few days later, by instinct rather than malice.  Again, he stopped and this time he screamed at me.  And you all KNOW how I respond to that.

VERY badly.

This was a two week rehearsal period, and quite possibly the worst I've ever been through.  If it was possible for a director to completely separate the cast from the production, he did it.  And it seemed as if he was doing it intentionally.

On the day we were to open, he called a full dress rehearsal for the afternoon.  This is the kind of guy who would probably jack off before heading out to the orgy.  Forgive the visual.

The stage manager talked him out of it, and he said, "okay, I'll just give some notes."  And he did.

He gave notes from 9:00 AM until Noon.  And then we broke for lunch.  And then we came back and he continued until 4:00 PM.  Six hours of notes for a two hour show.  He literally had everybody believing that we would have to bring our A game to merely SUCK.

I, of course, was furious.  And, at 3:55, with the possibility of escaping this odious man's presence minutes away, I moved to the back of the house.

"Don't go anywhere, John." he says for everybody to hear.

"Oh, I'm not going anywhere.....sir."  was my response.

Afterward, a fellow in the cast who currently does those United States Postal Service commercials said to me, "I've never heard anybody say 'sir', and make it sound like, 'ASSHOLE!' before."

So, we opened the show, and it went pretty well.  There were some glitches, but we covered them.  The audience was very appreciative.  And just like that, it was over, it was open, and I was pretty sure I wouldn't have to deal with that idiot again.

Oh, but I was so a show of pure, unadulterated narcissism, he makes an appearance in the dressing room!

His profuse praise to his cast?  "Well, that was okay, all things considered."

Our eyes met in the makeup mirror that I was staring into, in the hopes that I would not leap across the room and throttle the sonofabitch.  Pop his head off like a champagne cork.  Nut-punch the smug bastard.  He could not help but see the look of pure malevolence on my face.

He left town the next morning, and I have not seen him from that day to this.  And I can only hope that he took a job as a butcher, because he had some talent in that regard.  To his only credit, he left me with a great story about the worst director I've ever worked with.

Then again, the world is wide, and life is long, so I probably shouldn't put that trophy away so quickly.

Well.  That was cathartic.

So, to sum up.  I would do MAN OF LA MANCHA again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frivolity! Jocularity!

I've been thinking upon the purchase of a truly frivolous item.

Okay, I'll admit it, and if I could get into my office, I would prove it to you; I have several tons of truly frivolous purchases.  I'm the kind of fellow that never grew out of toys and such.

I have a Mr. Potatohead dressed as Darth Vader.  That's right; Darth Tater.
I have bendible Mr. Bill.  And a Gumby.  AND a Popeye.
I have a wind up Bender from Futurama.
I have several autographed photos, procured for various fees:  Monty Python; Abbott And Costello; and Jeremy Brett.
A framed Rolling Stone cover of John Belushi.
A complete collection of THE FAR SIDE, CALVIN AND HOBBES, BLOOM COUNTY, and of course, E.C. Segar's orginal run of POPEYE.
A piece of the Berlin Wall.
A small sandbag from the Mississippi Flood of 1993.

Yup.  Tons of weird stuff.

So, what could possibly be making me itch to possess?  What could possibly top a DARTH TATER?

One share of stock in the Green Bay Packers.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mile posts.

Around this time in the year of some Lord 1985, I was just finishing the first leg of a brutal National tour of three shows in a very small outfit out of Texas.  We drew straws in Cocoa Beach, FL to see who would hump the van back to Corpus Christi, and since I was going that direction anyway, as my CAR was in Corpus Christi, I intentionally drew the short straw.

I set off the following morning, heading north and catching the I-10, and then zipping along on that until I reached the promised land of Houston, and then took a light left hand turn and followed the Gulf coast to paydirt.  I can remember seeing at least one other sunrise.  I also remember sleeping in the back seat for a spell.  But mostly, I can remember the ridiculously cliched country radio stations.  It's a twangy sound that's never left my head.

Did a quick turnaround in Corpus Christi, got the car, gassed her, and headed North toward home. I had two stops to make; one, in Marquette MI, to see some old friends.

I've written about that one before.  You can read about it, if you want.

But before I got there, I needed to stop at a little town in the middle of nowhere, Illinois, called Macomb.

See, before I embarked upon the grueling tour, I had an offer to begin Graduate Studies at Western Illinois University.  They offered about halfway through my last semester of Undergraduate Studies, and I was about as through with classwork as I could possibly be; like the iconic Tom Wingfield, I was tired of the movies and was ready to move.

What a difference a day makes.  Or, to be precise, what a difference 244 days of loading in/loading out, cheap motels and cheaper food, and living out of one suitcase.

So, I made contact and was invited to come up on this day to re-audition, and interview, and all that jazz.  It was almost nightfall when I arrived; but they put me up in a dorm room for the night, gave me tickets to see a production of THE LION IN WINTER, and introduced me to several people that I would eventually work with in the future.

The show was good; the sleep was deep.  And the next day, with a handful of professors in attendance, I went into my song-and-dance (metaphoric) and to make a long story short, they let me in, gave me money to come in, and shook my hand with a hearty, "what took you so long?  we really wanted you last year, and are awfully glad to have you this year!"

There's not much to that particular story, except as aftermath.  I spent two years doing a three year program, fought with and loved dearly the people I came in with, have most if not all of their names on a friends list, and met two instructors that became role models for pretty much everything I did in a classroom for the next fifteen years.

I am in touch with most of them still; some, more than others.  And always, always grateful for the time.

So, in essence, I have always thought that my life turned on the events of later that same December; and yes, that's certainly true.

But the first turn came on a small dimly lit stage in Western Illinois a few weeks before.

Huh.  Go figure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Between the nightmares of daytime, and the work of the nighttime....

It was the spring of 1980 when I remember thinking it for the first time.

"My generation will make it right."

As you might remember (if you're old enough or if you study all of American History, and not just the part where we came off smellin' like a rose), in November of 1979, our Embassy in a certain Middle Eastern country was overrun by a bunch of people with guns and masks and Anti-American slogans.  They quickly subdued the brave Marines tasked with guarding the place (largely because they were specifically ordered not to fire their weapons) and took 52 Americans hostage on what, technically, was American soil and consequently, an act of war.

Those people with the guns and the masks, one of which looked suspiciously like the current leader of that Middle Eastern country, held those 52 American for well over a year, effectively holding the entire country hostage.  The President, hog-tied by his love of public opinion and one disastrous rescue attempt, was eventually defeated by a former actor and former Governor of California; and shortly after the great man's inauguration, those brave souls were released.

In the midst of it, there were vigils and semi-patriotic gatherings around flag poles, praying for the safety of those brave souls, and hoping that perhaps that semi-patriotic gesture would not look as hollow as it felt.

And in July of 1980, they reinstated the Selective Service System, and my generation quaked at the idea of mandatory service, with the images of Vietnam still fresh in our heads.

It turned out for the best, I suppose; if by 'best' you mean that we have been enemies with that country and fighting a cold war with them since that time.  They are the North Korea of my generation, I suppose....a no-win.  They made us look cowardly and impotent, and even though the former actor and Governor of California took us to the gym and pumped us up during the 80's.....we still have the scar.

So, in the spring of 1980, shortly before my high school graduation and my soon-to-be sodden attempt at college, I stood with a hundred of my peers around a flagpole and raised a flag and prayed fervently that I wouldn't be wearing green and carrying an M-16 by Christmas.  And that aforementioned thought ran through my head:

"My generation will make it right."

And, in some cases, we tried.  Some of those people that stood with me that day became soldiers; some laid down their lives.  One became a minister, and through these years continues to be an inspiration.  A few became Doctors.  Most others became, through the natural order of things, Mothers and Fathers, and I hope they raised their children to listen, think and respond, and not the other way around.

But.  I guess it didn't turn out quite the way we hoped back in the days when we were green.  Every opportunity to unite the world, in triumph or tragedy, was squandered, and rather than evolve, we de-volved into the fourth grade playground we now occupy.

I am so disappointed.

But not dead, yet.

So, as feeble as it may be.....the fire still burns.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Niagra looks nice, but you DON'T want it in your basement.

Let me just catch you up on some things.....

It's snowing again; a lovely, slow falling snow that looks like something out of a Charlie Brown Christmas Special (and yes, even now I'm humming the Vince Guaraldi Trio music).  Everything outside seems chilly and peaceful.....

And inside, it's a freakin' disaster area.

Last Sunday, I was awakened by my Favorite Wife, who gently whispered into my ear at 4 PM (which, as you well know, translates into about 1 AM on my schedule) that there seemed to be something wrong downstairs.  Sometimes, my wife is a little vague on the specifics of the concept of 'something wrong'; it could be that the computer is frozen, or it could be that one of the cats needs a trip to the vet; or it could mean that water seems to be leaking out of the ceiling, walls, and floor.

Yes.  That last one is the big winner of the day.

I shut down the water, called the plumber, cleaned up a little as best we could, and went back to bed, which I will call a major victory on my road to person-hood:  in the past, I would yell and kick and whine and moan and think what an awful tragedy, but instead, I made sure that the library was intact, that no lifeboats were required, that no electronics were injured during the filming of this part of my life, and I went back to bed.

There is a reason, after all, why we have plumbers, and homeowners insurance.

For the last couple of days, there have BEEN plumbers, and insurance people and people who address themselves as 'Disaster Cleanup Services' that have been traipsing around my basement, looking, photographing, writing, and systematically ripping up carpet and drywall and setting up industrial sized blow dryers and asking me about how it all started.

Apparently, inside the wall, a leeeeetle pipe leading to the shower in the Master Bathroom broke, and while it wasn't a problem when running a tub, when the shower was begun, the water pressure was pushing some of the water back into the wall.  Invisible to the human eye. house looks like Swiss Cheese.  There are industrial sized blow dryers humming away in the basement.  My library looks like a scene from OUTBREAK, and people keep knocking on my door.

How's your day going?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Tribute to the American Storyteller on his 176th Birthday.....

I encourage you to watch the whole thing. It's a bit long, but what lovely words. Even in the midst of the trial and tragedies of the last years of his life; even as he fought the cynicism that comes with what we would now diagnose as clinical depression; he could sum up the whole of a life with a TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST reference.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Clemens!  Genius lives forever.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Take these chances......

This song always reminds me of a smoky bar in the middle of the mitten, and a very long cross-country drive from Michigan to California done in two and half days......

And now, it's a celebration of the new venture of a friend who promised me a corned beef sandwich.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happy Holidays, Oceano!

In the magic days between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and right up until the stroke of the New Year), were the hardest working days I ever had as an actor.

Yeah, I know; it you've ever toured in a Children's Theatre van with a load of scenery and a two-show-a-day in who-knows-where, usually starting that first show before most people actually had their second cup of coffee....well.....yeah, that's pretty harrowing as far as work schedules go.....but......

Okay, maybe it's not so bad, after all.

The Great American Melodrama in Oceano CA does a Holiday show every year; it opens just before Thanksgiving, and runs six days a week for awhile, and then runs two shows a day six days a week, and then sometimes seven.....and you're also working the bar and the crowd.....and there are children in the cast, lovingly referred to as 'human petri dishes', and it's not a question of 'what will you catch?', but 'when?'

Three acts:  The first act, an adaptation of Christmas Carol (where I played Scrooge from 1999-2002), a half act 'opera', which was just a very funny fractured fairy tale set to music (my favorite continues to be The Three Pigs Opera....always laughed out loud, even after seeing it sixty or so times) and a Vaudeville Review.  Two and a half hours of constant movement, thirty minutes of turnaround, and do it again.

It was sometimes painful, most times tiring, one or two times damned near impossible, and all the time memorable.

Painful:  The first year I did Scrooge, the director wanted an effect where the ghost of Jacob Marley would levitate Scrooge.  They built this contraption hidden behind a curtain that I could back into; it would create a kind of saddle between my legs and two burly guys would haul on block and tackle and slowly raise me off of my feet.  It got a heckuva reaction from the audience.

And I felt like I was getting a twice-a-day 2x4 enema.   and yes, they dropped me once, and it felt like they drove my tailbone into my throat.

Painful:  The Ghost of Christmas Past jumping the gun on a cue, and pulling me off of my feet so I could faceplant center stage.

Almost Impossible:  Caught a bug from one of the kids one year, and it hit fully on the 22nd of December.  Two shows with a fever of 101 and unable to really project without attempting to eject a lung.  I can recall standing on stage left, watching Young Scrooge get dumped by his Young Fiancee, and bursting into tears...and then realizing that I couldn't.....stop.....weeping.  Felt like it went on forever.  Then, once I got it reasonably in control, and managed to justify this overblown emotional display within the characterization, I turned to the Ghost of Christmas Past, and she was crying, too. 

'Twas an interesting night.

But something amazing happened through all of that.  The laughter in the dressing room was easier; the smiles infectious; the work at the bar became less stressful and more festive.  The lights on the decorations made life a bit brighter.  The spirit really came alive during those stressful halcyon days.......


I miss it.  I miss the piano, and the people.  I miss the smell of the air coming off of the Pacific and the smell of the cramped backstage; I miss the people, every single one.

Another memory, trapped in amber.

And I say Thank God.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The lull between leftovers and napping....

As I wrote on my Facebook page yesterday, it IS nice when family holidays only have intermittent David Lynch moments.  I will not go into detail (modesty and a court order prevents elaboration) but suffice it to say that there is nothing quite like a Thanksgiving.  I wouldn't trade it for ALL the ones I spent by myself.

Turkey and stuffing and all the other fixin's are infinitely better in the middle of a friendly crowd of people.

I made two cheesecakes for the occasion; a pumpkin cheesecake and a chocolate/peanut butter cheesecake.  Both received good reviews, and I was a little leery going in; I made my own crusts this year.  But I was particularly fond of the pumpkin; it had just the right spice.

The football games were all disappointing.  I had hoped the Lions would look better, and in fact, they did; through most of the game, they were leading in every stat but the score.  The first quarter looked very good, but Stafford (Bless his heart) couldn't find a receiver with both hands and a flashlight.  And don't get me started on SUH.

Memo to NFL football players:  if you team is firmly in the playoff hunt, then it would be wise to put your testosterone-fueled ego in your pocket, turn around and run to the sidelines, you f***ing moron.

Sorry; that last part was aimed at SUH.

I just finished my Christmas shopping.  The interhighway has Black Friday deals, too.

Love to all.....30 days until Christmas.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Random Thoughts. Twelve of 'em. You don't have to count; I numbered 'em for ya.....

1.  You can Boo the President of the United States all you want.  But Booing his wife is just plain tacky.  Take that, NASCAR fans.  You're tacky. 

2.  Yeah, that's a revelation.

3.  After hearing the umpteenth story about a child or a woman or a tourist or an elderly dementia patient going missing in Florida, I've decided that it is, in fact, the worst place to raise a child, have a vagina, visit, or get old in.

4.  And yes, Florida DOES make it look like the United States is pissing on Cuba.

5.  My congratulations to the NYPD for their grab of another monster-in-waiting in this never ending war on my right to sleep peacefully at night.  It proves a number of things:  first off, the NYPD is an excellent investigative body; secondly, those that seek to do us harm are American, too; and thirdly, the FBI, who refused to get involved in the investigation, can kiss my DHASS.

6.  Doesn't let the NYPD off the hook for the whole OWS f**kup, though.

7.  I just made a Pumpkin Cheesecake that looks and smells like what Thanksgiving in HEAVEN should be like.

8.  Once again, as I walked out of my house to go to work this morning at 2 AM, I shook my head at my willingness, back in '06, to move to a state that had the word NORTH in it's name. 

9.  Yesterday was eleven years.  We've been together twelve.  I went over to her house for a pizza and a movie one night in August of 1999, and never left.  Longest first date in history.

10.  Justin Verlander is the AL Cy Young Award Winner, and apparently the AL MVP.  And rightly so; he tore it up this season. 

11.  The Lions actually came from behind AGAIN yesterday.  But it was against a non-contender.  Green Bay on Thanksgiving.  Can you smell UPSET?

12.  No, I can't either.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Reason Why.

Over the past few years, since I began writing, I've had a few people ask about the Genesis of the title.

Well....the fact of the matter is, I began this under the premise that I would be telling stories to my Mother, who was, at the time of the beginning, in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's Disease.  When she and I were both well and hearty, we would talk once a week by telephone.  When it became too difficult to do that, I began writing things down.  And here we are.

For those of you that don't follow regularly, I lost my Mother back in February of 2010.  I used one of my entries in this blog as a part of her eulogy.  I haven't been back to re-read that part since.

But there is a further, underlying story of the title, and that comes from a song by Stan Rogers.

I've written about Stan before, of course; he is one of my favorite Folk artists, and one of the greatest tragedies of my life is that I never got to see him live; he lost his life in an airline fire in Cincinnati back in the 1990's.  I have every recording he made, and he's gotten me through some tough times, and some good times, as well.  One day, I will attend the Stan Rogers Music Festival in Nova Scotia, which was one of his favorite venues to play.

The song was called, It All Fades Away, and it was finally released back in 2000, on what was supposed to be final release of Stan's unreleased material.  The song spoke to me the first time I heard it.

And that's why this is named as it is named.

IT ALL FADES AWAY by Stan Rogers
An Unfinished Conversation
And a picture of the past,
Like the one that I just found of you,
Among many that I had.
I remember I saw you laughing
With my camera close at hand;
We were minutes from a quarrel,
And forever from understanding.
 You were just a bit excited
and a little more displeased,
How you hated candid pictures
When I took them just to tease.
Then you told me I was crazy,
I said I was born that way,
And we must have said those same two lines
Twenty times a day.

Now, I'd swear you don't remember why we parted,
Just like I cannot remember why we loved.
Ain't it funny how the past
Makes the better memories last
'Cause the pain fades away, it all fades away.

An Unfinished Conversation
That I'd somehow like to end,
If I just knew where to find you
Or where a letter could be sent.
But I know I'd not be welcome,
I know you'd nearly die;
All conversations fade away
When the love-light leaves the eye.
Now, I'd swear you don't remember why we parted,
Just like I cannot remember why we loved.
Ain't it funny how the past
Makes the better memories last
'Cause the pain fades away, it all fades away.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's a Chronilogic Illusion. Like an Optical Illusion, but with Time.

I'm not quite certain that I can justify this logically....but this schedule is killing me.

Prior to my brief vacation a few weeks ago, I worked in this tiny office on the Sixth Floor in the building that looks like a stack of pancakes from 0000 until 1000.  Now, I work from 0200 until 1200.  It's the same amount of time....but starting two hours later and going two hours longer is driving me to distraction.

There seems to be some kind of stigma to waking up at midnight to get to work at 2 AM.  This morning, as I was walking up the stairs (for the exercise), I ran into another intrepid explorer who works on the fourth floor who has the same Godawful schedule as I.

Scared the crap out of us both.

My stomach is all messed up; my arthritis is flaring; and my mood is as sour as Grandma's Rhubarb Pie.

Is it too early to take another vacation?  And, right after that?

Thank GOD these windows don't open.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I miss him.

All morning long, I have felt the need for a good, old fashioned Belushi RANT.

The kind he used to do on Weekend Update, back when Saturday Night Live was cool.  He did one about voting on Election Day that made me laugh out loud.....but, I couldn't find it anywhere online.

So, I have to settle for his most famous rant, from ANIMAL HOUSE.

Enjoy the fun; and say a little prayer of thanks for the talents of John Belushi, and Doug Kenney, and his famous, "what the hell we supposed to do, ya moron?"

May they both rest peacefully......

Monday, November 7, 2011

Wow. I think I can see Montana from here.

Harry Truman was once quoted as saying to the press, "Remember, boys...always do the right thing.  It'll gratify some people, and astonish the rest."

Harry never really said, specifically, what the 'right thing' is, or was, or can, or will be.  It's probably not a concrete thing.

For example....shaving bananas could be 'the right thing.'  but I'm doubting it.

I think, at this point in our continuing evolution as a society, we should concentrate on civil discourse.  Talking, AND listening.  Finding common ground.  And within the common ground, finding out 'the right thing.'

I do have some suggestions.  And if you're a regular reader, that should come as no surprise.

To start with, don't shave bananas.

But more importantly, let's all just stop watching anything put before us that rewards uncivilized behavior.  I'm not suggesting that every ending be a happy one, and I'm pretty sure that there will always be a fictional character that has bad behavior to emulate, but can we eliminate it from our 'reality?'  Can we please stop rewarding questionable behavior by giving people television programs because we confuse 'contemptable' with 'colorful?'

Can we possibly be happy with the direction of our own lives without indulging in schadenfreude?

And if we thank The Almighty for the Blessings, then we should also thank him/her/it for the Challenges?

F**k blame; let's find the 'right thing'.

Finally, if one more person comes to me and tells me it takes 16 muscles to smile and 22 to frown, I'm going to tell them it only takes 14 to ball up my fist and punch them in the crotch.

Yeah, I know.  I'm still looking for the right thing.

Friday, November 4, 2011

We either need more drugs, or less.*

About forty years ago, a fellow who gave his name as Cooper hijacked an airplane, and escaped with two hundred thousand dollars by parachuting out the back of the plane.  He has not been seen from that day to this, although lately, there have been more than a couple of people stepping forward to claim that their dead husband, or their crazy cousin, or even their transgender best friend did the deed.

There's a kind of romantic quality to the crime, of course; a mystery for the ages, even though the sure bet is on this Cooper person going into the ground like a tent peg following his night jump into the wilds of Washington State, and two hundred thousand smackers nothing more now than wet pulp.


Since then, of course, 'crazy' has become something more foul.  Crazy has gone from extorting money from corporations to shooting each other for athletic shoes.  Or knifing each other because the voices said they were evil.  Or, simply killing somebody in the aisle of a Walmart with an aluminum bat because they the aisle of the Walmart.

As far as hijacking goes...well, we've seen how bad it can turn out....airplanes make dandy weapons when all you want is to make a misguided point.  But I don't believe I have stepped onto an airplane in the years since that fateful morning thinking that this was going to be my last day on earth.

But I'm beginning to wonder about walking into a Walmart.

*For the word 'drugs', you may substitute 'hope.'

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

It's a long walk.....

There is a place on the Lake Michigan shoreline, in the Northwestern part of the lower Mitten State, called The Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes.

It's a very large pile of sand.  Very large.  As I recall from my last trip there, going up the dune is like climbing a mountain; it's a sharply vertical trip. 

Coming down is easier.  And faster.  And occasionally painful. 

But the view from the top, when the sun is shining and the sky is blue, is breathtaking.

But there is always a caveat.  Lake Michigan is a very large lake.  It is quite a bit like a small sea, actually.  And from the top of a sand dune, it looks inviting.  "Come on down, and take a dip!" it seems to say.

Like a siren's song.

But don't you listen.  That lake is TEN MILES AWAY.


And yes, there is a life lesson there.

But the thing with that particular lesson is, it's a tough one to learn, but the view is still breathtaking.


There's that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Portrait of the Artist as an Alchemist.

And just like that, a brief run of four nights and an afternoon, it's over.  It was a good run; and more than made up for the sleep deprivation of the past few weeks.  It's a great thing to be able to flex those muscles again; and there's a kind of melancholy that comes with the idea that I may not get another chance for awhile.

And it gets me to thinkin'......

At the Midwestern College I used to work at, way back in the 80-90's which seems less ago than it actually is, I would direct two shows a year; usually, one in the Fall, and one in the Spring.  I never had the opportunity to direct the Guest Artist Show, though....that one was reserved for the Department Chair.  And hey, it's his money and his baby, so I didn't kick.  And he did give me Carte Blanche to choose what material I wanted to play with.

There are a few plays I wanted to do but never got a chance; but the ones I GOT to do were each fun in their own way.  And in each, I swear to St. Genesius, there came a transmogrification that never ceased to astound and delight me.

I would get all manner of folks to audition for the plays; theatre students, music students, and in some delightful occasions even some student athletes would come and try their hands.  And my reputation (I believe) was that I never preconceived anything.  Everybody had a shot at anything at all.  I can remember one kid, I hadn't seen him before, but he came in to read...and I put him together with somebody that had some experience...and this kid held his own.  He finished, and the people in the room politely applauded.

"Very nice," I replied.  And there was some good natured rumblings.  And then, one voice spoke up.

"That was his first time."

I stood up from my table, walked around, and embraced the kid, and quietly said, "Excellent.  You've taken your first steps.  If I don't use you, you must promise me that you'll come back."

Oh, I used him.  And he fit in well.

In the last show I directed, I had almost 100 students audition.  That's ten percent of the campus population.  I hope it was a testament to the respect they had for me, and not some prerequisite for passing a class.

But the true joy was sitting and watching a show in front of an audience for the first time.  Watching them work the audience, find the seams, the places to hold for a response, the places to glide through ahead of the audience, and the places to wait for them to catch up.....and realize that the production is a far better piece than the one you actually directed.

Lead into Gold.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


One of the best compliments ever aimed in my direction:

"You are really very good when you're having an off night."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The sigh of relief heard 'round the world.

There is something special about an opening night.

Some people get that surge of adrenalin you usually pay good money to feel; you can feel it coming off of them like shock waves.  They are figuratively (and in some cases, literally) bouncing off the walls, talking a blue streak.  Usually, loudly.

And there are other people who can be heard making deep, exhaling noises, shaking themselves to remove the tension, running tongue twisters to loosen the tongue; ticking off scenes in their head.  Making one last look at the script.

And others, hoping to keep their dinners on the inside.  The actors with Olivier's Stomach.

I fall into the last two categories, of course.  Openings are nerve wracking. It's not Christmas Day for me; it's more like the Cask of Amontillado.

And like the proverb that speaks of the darkness before the dawn, it gets worse just before the lights come up.

The first lines are the hardest, but once they are out and you hear a reaction, then the muscles relax, the focus becomes lasered, and it's "lead, follow or get the f*** out of the way."

THAT'S the moment I look forward to.

It's a good solid show; it gets subtle but telling reactions from the audience.  The pace is solid, if occasionally breakneck, and as the old saying goes, "ten thirty always comes."

It's a good group of kids, who came to work every day and put in the extra time to build the set and hang the lights and all the stuff college theatre students do.  They are, at this point, pristine; they are doing it not for a paycheck, but strictly for the love of it.  For the fun of being part of a group; for the fun of playing make-believe for a few hours a night, for a few days a month.

I met Dan Rogers, the director and Sherpa of all theatre travelers, two years or so ago, while doing THE TAMING OF THE SHREW for Capitol Shakespeare.  There are a lot of reasons to immediately like somebody; usually, it's because you think alike.  Dan reminds me a lot of another one of my major influences, the Great Sonny Bell.  Dan, like Sonny, and by extension, like ME, looks at the play, and the character, as living breathing things....with stories from the past, untold things of influence to them.  As an actor, he LISTENS.  As a director, he allows for a great deal of collaboration; he allows for experimentation; and he admires creativity.

And he tends to forgive exhaustion; which was fortunate for me.

We do this for another couple of nights; if you are in the Bismarck area, come see it.  It's on the campus of Bismarck State College, the evening start is 7:30, the Sunday matinee is 2:30.

Hey.  You don't get a chance to see me on stage that much anymore.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The art of finding quiet in the cacophony.

There are times when you need to just....stop.

The trick is to easily identify those times, and take advantage of them.

The busy is going to continue for at least two more days, and then there will be a respite, followed by several more days of busy.  You know I'm busy when I look thinner and the shock of hair that began to grey in my thirties turns white.  It's by "busy" barometer.

So, I'm ten pounds lighter and I look like a skunk.

But I was talking about stopping, not how busy I am presently.

There was a little place on London Street, just up from Sussex Gardens near Paddington Station.  I stumbled upon it by accident, of course, but necessity is the Mother of Exploration as well as Invention.  I was hungry, and I didn't want to rely upon the stand-bys I could get in the States; even though KFC and Burger King and McDonald's were everywhere.

Can't even remember what the place was called, but it was on the corner of London Street and an alleyway that would have made The Ripper feel at home.  There were several tables by the windows, and several more outside, and that's what I chose.  I felt the need to eat, of course, but I didn't want anything as mundane as eating interfere with my seeing.

An English Breakfast, with White Coffee.  And listening to the sounds of a metropolis walking past you; the sounds of strange and melodic dialect, the sounds of the tiny cars driving in jarring configurations, and a charming lady asking me if I wanted more coffee and how brilliant the day was and how smashing my accent was......

I loved that; no matter what pub I was in, no matter what I ordered, it was the same reaction:

"I'm going to have a small puppy, boiled in peanut oil and stuffed with several fluffy bunnies."
"Brilliant!  We'll have that right up!"

The English Breakfast:  eggs, back bacon, potatoes (hashed), half a grilled tomato, baked beans, and toast.  I was soooooo tempted to ask for Spam as well, but I was afraid I would either be serenaded by a chorus of vikings, or brained by a skillet.

But the thing of it was this:  I had no other place to be.  At all.  In the middle of a sunny morning, in the middle of this strange and wonder-inspiring city, in the middle of my first trip, I had no other thing to do at that moment but listen to the city and drink my coffee and think about how fortunate I have been.

So, I did.

So, in honor of that treasured moment, let us take the time to treasure this moment.

And now, THIS moment.

And now, let's treasure the memory of those three moments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

You can't really appreciate rational thought until you've been sleep deprived.

Okay, so it went like this:

On Friday night, after an afternoon rehearsal, I managed to take a two hour nap.  Up at 8:00 pm, showered, shaved, and to work at midnight.  Worked until 10:30 am, and then off to a tech rehearsal which started at 9:00 am.  Gave it my all until about 2:00 pm, where the hours began to take their toll; a quick calculation had me awake for all but two of the past 31 hours.  Took a quick nap while the others took a quick lunch, and finished up around 4:30 pm.  Went home and fell into unconsciousness until about 10:30, showered, shaved and OH MY GOD WHEN DOES THIS TREADMILL END?

I would like to say at this point that it may not look like it (for zombies always look pretty much the same way, regardless of their emotional changes), but I am having a pretty good time with this play.  Aside from the fact that I've always enjoyed a good rehearsal process (it's the inner detective in me; I enjoy figuring out the whys and wherefores of the character, and how other people's processes affect my own), I've gotten a chance to get to know these people a little better.

They make me laugh.
They make me think.
They give very interesting stuff at every rehearsal, which is so very cool to play with, and off of.
And when I come into a rehearsal looking like I got run over by the steroid-using older brother of a Mac Truck, they laugh at the fact that my mind starts going into all directions, and the filter in my head that usually prevents it spilling out malfunctions.  A little.

This thing opens on Wednesday, so I've got a couple of extra tries to fine tune it; and costumes to wear.  And stuff.  I'm looking forward to it.

And to paraphrase:  A bad day on the stage is far better than a good day doing anything else.

And I know you agree.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Rainy night in a tired town.

Yeah, I'm tired.  And against my better judgment, I'm having some health issues.  Nothing serious, mind you....the kind of health that are more of annoyance than an actual threat.  The show opens in a few days, and I'm finally beginning to THINK, rather than attempt to stare at the mental image of the page in which the lines are printed.  So, even if I hit a snag at this point, I can fumble around it, and fake it 'til I make it.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

My brain is adjusting to the huge ball of crap in the middle, by rolling around the ends; and these are places where I have not been for awhile.  Here there be tygers.

There's a life lesson is the smallest things, you know.

Years ago, when I was young and full of more, I came around the corner and saw the last person I expected.  She was standing in a small group, and as I came around the corner like a magic rabbit in a lame magic show, every eye turned in my direction.  Hers, as well.

Our eyes met for just a second; and even that second was more than I could bear.  I looked away.  I looked for an exit.  But it's never that easy.  I was slowly sucked into this small knot of people, not farther away from this person, but closer.

I was treated like a long lost friend, questions asked and answered, snarky comments made, and laughter earned.  When I looked up, she was gone.  Around the corner and through the looking glass.

And I made my excuses and went away as well, for I was late for something.  I was always late for something.  But what I really wanted to do is to give chase.

Smile at me again, as you did before.

But it was far too late for that.  Door closed and bolted; bridge burned.

But the glowing ember remains.

And I wish I didn't say what I said.  And I wish I could say what I wanted to say. 

And there's my life lesson.  Sometimes you need to think before speaking; and sometimes you need to speak without thinking. 

Friday, October 7, 2011


I'm getting there.

There are more lines in my head at this point than not.  Yes, some of them are paraphrased, and I'm working on it.  And as things become ingrained, then Doctor Austin Sloper begins to come into focus.  Connections are attempted; listening comes more easily. 

It's always easier to see and hear what's going on around you when you're not in your own head, struggling to find the words.

I'm waiting for the click, of course.  Have I ever described the 'click?'

It's actually not an original thought; it's based upon something I read once upon a time.   When I was a drinker, I was always waiting for the click.  The click in my head that indicated that I had had enough to ride the wave.  And once the click occurred, I could concentrate less upon getting TO the click, and more upon what was actually going on around me.

Weird, but true.  And for me, the progress of the development of the character is somewhat the same.

Get the blocking; get the lines, put them into your head, and wait (patiently works best, but...heh...have we met?) for the moment when you get the click; when the words and the movement and the brain and the heart all moving in the same direction at the same time.  All of a sudden, the inflections are working, the connections are made, you can react off of the other people on the stage rather than reacting off of what you THINK they're giving you, and you know what to do with your hands.

Almost there.

I'm a little sad, though; apparently I intimidate.  It's not a new thing; I've been told that before.  I am intense; another positive trait disguised as a flaw in my character.  And that sometimes puts people off, puts them on the defensive, or drives them to a hasty retreat.  And the connections I thought I was making on a personal level disappear in a puff of self-delusion.

The click of everything working on a stage is just as addictive as Comrade Vodka was.

Maybe just a tad healthier.

I hope.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hit a round ball with a round bat, and hit is square.

As I walked across the college campus just before the weekend, I dotted and dashed upon my Ipod, looking for one particular track.  It's kind of a tradition for me to listen to this particular track, in fact the whole soundtrack, as September becomes October, and the remnants of the Boys of Summer line up to grab the Brass Ring.

I still get goosebumps, every time I hear it.

At around 10:30 last night, it was the top of the ninth, two men on and two men out and Jeter was at the plate.  The crowd in Detroit was working on two levels; one level was the whooping, towel swinging, vocal intensity that you could hear all the way to Winsor; the other was a quiet intensity, a laser intensity, leveled at that square area between the knees and the letters, as wide a the plate.

Valverde wheels and deals.  And the evening's air is shattered by the force of Jeter's blow.

And there's joy in Motown; Mighty Jeter has struck out.

Is there anything like Baseball in October?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Drowning my sorrows in a bag of caramels.

All of us that ever trod about the stage with varying degrees of success have had....that dream.

You know the one I'm talking about; Christopher Durang captured it quite nicely, back in the early eighties.  You're on a stage, but you can't remember the play; OR, you are stunned that the lines you know are NOT from the play currently being done; OR they are speaking a strange kind of foreign language.

At yesterday's rehearsal, it was that kind of nightmare; and there was no waking up, shaking the head, and letting out a relieved 'whew!"  It was just a nightmare.

I will freely admit that my skills have rusted a bit; in the days of two week, one week, or nine day rehearsal periods,  you get in the habit of making the choices at home, and bringing them to work with you.  You get into the habit of learning quickly, so that the actual work can begin.  But if you don't use the skills, they atrophy. 

Oh, and I'm older now, so the synapses are not firing quite as well as they used to.

So, there I am, with fourteen pages of dialogue in front of me, and none of them sounding the LEAST bit familiar.

To my credit, I toughed it out for the first hour and fifteen minutes; but my calls for line became more frequent, and more frantic, until finally I had to put my head on the desk and wonder what the hell I was doing there.

A voice came from the edge of the stage.

"Would you like to pick it up?"  The kindly director, indicating the book.

"I think it would be better for everybody else if I did," I admitted.  I mean, you can learn a lot when you're standing in the fire, but there are other people who actually DID their jobs, and they shouldn't be punished so that I can bang some lines into my head.

Thankfully, as the old adage goes, no matter how badly the thing goes, it always ends, and I quickly left the theatre hoping that nobody would see the truly pensive look upon my face.  And I went home, curled up in a ball, and slept for five hours until it was time to earn my wages.

I hope that the sleep comes easy this morning.
I hope that the lines come easy after that.

And of course, I hear the voice of Benjamin Franklin quoting himself:  "He who lives on hope, dies farting."

So, work it, old man, for the winter is coming.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A short conversation indicative of the way the day has progressed....

'How are you?'
'I'm well....and you?'
'I'm well as long has it been?'
'How long HAS it been?  Well, I haven't seen you since...'
'I haven't seen you...'
'We haven't seen each other...'.
'Yes, we haven't seen each other......before.  Have we?'
'No.  We've never seen each other before.'
'Well.  What a small world!'

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thoughts like skyrockets, soaring and exploding.

Random things:

I REALLY hate commercials where people eat; in particular, if I can HEAR people eating.  Seriously, which advertising agency thought that the sound of people chewing was good for sales?

I wish good luck for all the new series' that are debuting, or have debuted recently.  I won't watch them, of course, but I wish them good luck.

It took me several years to even watch THE BIG BANG THEORY and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.  And I began watching them after watching just about everything else on the menu on my flight to London.

Learning lines was easier when I was 30.

It was harder before, because I was Drunky McLushface a lot.

It's Fall.  Upper Michigan is beautiful at this time of year.

If you watched every episode of LAW AND ORDER back to back, you'd be sitting in front of your television for 19 days.  But I never get tired of Lenny Briscoe.

Justin Verlander won 24 games this year; just missing out on 25.  He is singularly responsible for the Tigers making the playoffs.  In the first round, I suggest letting him pitch three games out of five, and hoping for a ton of rain-outs.  Or, since it's October in Michigan, snow-outs.

I can't remember the last time the Tigers were in the playoffs, and both the Wolverines and the Lions were undefeated.  At the same time.  I'm not sure it's EVER happened.  Along with the Tsunami, the Hurricane, the Earthquake on the East Coast, and Steve Carell NOT winning an Emmy, it's a sure sign of the Apocalypse.

You really need to see the view from the sixth floor of the big round building in the Capital City of the Northern State.  You can see to Montana from here.

That means it's flat.

I can see Medora from here.  You should see Medora.  It's North Dakota's number one tourist attraction.  It's at the beginnings of the Badlands, which are beautiful; even IF a certain civil war general referred to the area as 'Hell with the fires put out.'  They have a great golf course, and several tourist-y things about the founding of the town and it's connection with Teddy Roosevelt.  And there's the Medora Musical.....

The Musical is a huge deal; they have an amphitheatre specifically built for this entertainment.  But the term 'musical' is a bit misleading.  It's got music, certainly....mostly country music.  Everything from the hits of last year to way back into Patsy Cline.  And there are horses, and soldiers and Teddy Roosevelt and flags and occasionally circus performers.....but not much on plot.  But good family entertainment.

We stayed at the big hotel....very nice.  Library of local history in the lobby.  Expensive restaurant attached.  It was a good weekend.  And I wound up with a Teddy Bear.

Seriously.  It's a Bear that looks like Teddy.

Okay....enough random.  I must be going.  It's early and I'm late.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The need for certainty trumps our need for revenge.

In 1997, I spent a brief but lovely time with a girl from Chicago.  Had I been braver, it might have lasted longer.  But that's not the story I want to tell.

She introduced me to the story of Alan Beaman, who was convicted in 1993 of a murder in Illinois.  He was a college student at the time, a theatre student, and he spent some of his time in a haze of suspect smoke, skipped some classes, and would occasionally be snarky to his fellows.  He said things in jest that could be taken seriously.  And he had a tumultuous relationship with the victim.

Yes, they had fingerprints in her apartment.  They were lovers.  And there were witnesses, included family, that saw him in Rockford, Illinois, about 140 miles away, at the time of the murder.

But he was a long haired stoner college student; it was a small town and a small town police force; and he was cocky and arrogant.  And he was found guilty and sentenced to 50 years in Joliet.

In 2009, the Supreme Court of Illinois perused the case, realized that there was no actual physical evidence, that the prosecution fudged a little on their evidence, and they threw out the case.  After 16 years, he was free.

The Innocence Project is a worthwhile endeavor.

I am not certain of the death penalty. I've often said that I would be comfortable applying such a permanent sentence when the suspect is caught, standing over the dead body, holding the smoking pistol and yelling, "I got you, I got you, you son of a bitch, and I'd kill you again with this gun in my hand if I had the chance!" But things aren't ever that simple.

Now, Troy Davis is going to be executed tonight in the State of Georgia for a crime he might not have committed.  You've probably heard the news stories, and you've perused the various online databases.  In this case, it's tough to know the truth.

Troy Davis was not an exemplary citizen when the crime was committed.
The victim was an off-duty police officer.
There was no physical evidence linking Davis to the crime.
And there were LOTS of witnesses; most have since recanted or changed their testimony.

So.  You'd think that the powers-that-be would like to take a second look, juuuuust to be sure.
But no.

The cynic in me states that He's a black man in Georgia convicted of killing a white cop.  He's got no chance.  Georgia isn't Alabama, certainly....but it's still Georgia.  Still the South.  And it's an election cycle; it always seems to be an election cycle.

But the law is created by man, for man to obey in the hopes that these laws create an environment where civility thrives.  The people, in the end, should have the final say.  If the people have doubts, the government MUST step in to slow the that justice can be served.

William Blackstone stated, "Better that ten guilty men escape than that one innocent suffer." 

Let us put aside our need for revenge just long enough to be certain. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

In development.

Some stories stick with you, they surely do; even if you don't remember the source of the story.

Theatre stories stick with me the most; yes, I have a few of my own, but it's the stories the I've read over the course of my life, the ones that always seem to apply not only in the development of a character, but in the living of an artistic lifestyle.

Everybody's heard the apocryphal story about a very drunk Peter O'Toole (or sometimes, Richard Burton) who takes an old friend out to dinner before doing a play in the West End, getting wildly drunk, and winding up in a private box of the theatre.  The show begins, and at a certain point in the show, things come to a grinding halt.

"You'll love this part," says the drunken O'Toole (or Burton).  "This is where I come on."

I love that story.

But tonight, as I'm working a script in the wee hours of the night, another story comes to mind.

The famous actor was doing a choice role in a play in London back in early days of his career, and even though it seemed to be working, there was something not...quite....right.  He had tried everything to smooth over the bumps; he tried changing the pace, the volume...all the mechanical things an actor tries first.  Failing that, he went back into the text to try and find the solution, but nothing came.  So, despairing, he decided to broach the subject with another actor, who diligently saw a performance of the production and offered his critique.

"You're playing the hell out it," he said to start, "but let me ask you like him?"

The famous actor was slightly dumbfounded by the question.  But, when he came to think about it, he told the truth.  "No....I don't like him.  He's reprehensible.  I would cross the street to avoid meeting him."

The other actor smiled knowingly.  "That's what's not working.  You are standing in judgment of the character, rather than committing to thinking the way he thinks.  I sincerely doubt that he finds himself reprehensible.  He's got his justifiable reasons for doing what he does.  In order for you to work here, you have to like him."

I love that story.  I think it comes from ON ACTING, by Laurence Olivier.  There's also a story in there that states that he based his Richard II on a director named Jed Harris, who was also the inspiration (or so the legend goes) for the Big Bad Wolf.

I'm in the middle of such a dilemma right now, in my rehearsal process.  Intellectually, I understand the character, but truly I find some of his tactics hateful and cruel.  I've developed a bad habit of exiting the stage muttering, "What a DICK!" under my breath.  I really need to stop doing that.  I need to give him the life he wants, not the life I want for him. 

Villains never see themselves as such.

I must give in to the dark side.


Friday, September 16, 2011

The unbearable heaviness of nothing.

When I was in college, I lived with several guys in a dorm that will soon be a parking lot.  I've told that story; you can look it up if'n you don't believe me.

Go on.  I'll wait.

Got it?  Good, I'll go on....

We had this theory, first brought forth by a particular night of debauchery, that inside each of our heads was a Fraggle-like fellow, sitting at a command console and pulling levers to create behavior.  This Fraggle-like fellow was unchangeable; he was well when we were ill, sober when drunk, nice when nasty, etc.  And, we could hear this Fraggle's voice in our heads when we were well on our way to doing something....inappropriate.

Which was often.

At present, my Fraggle is screaming.  I think he's afraid that I'm going to bore him to death.  Which is a possibility.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We can do the Innuendo, we can dance and sing...but when it's said and done, we haven't told you a thing....

I like the Eagles.  And I like Joe Walsh, because he makes me laugh.  And somewhere in my collection, I have a Glenn Frey solo album that doesn't include, "The Heat Is On."

But I own more Don Henley than all of those others, combined.

Who woulda thought that when this song came out in 1982, that it would be, in fact, prophetic?

Oh, and the girls in the first row of that concert are not old enough to remember the original release of the song.


Me feeling old.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

May the morning rise quietly.

It's quiet here now.

It won't stay that way of course; not today.  But right now, where the silence has lease, my thoughts spin through a familiar, yet unrecognizable dance.

Random, but structured.

There are songs, of course; there is always music in this gentle, vicious cabaret.

Here's my favorite.  I'll dedicate it to a friend of mine whom I've not seen in awhile.  With love and apologies.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

While you were sleeping.....

"Good morning, John....are you ready for a shit storm?"

These were the first words that came out of the phone at me on Tuesday morning, at approximately 0430.  And no, I was not ready for a shit storm.

We had already had ONE shit storm in the previous 24 hours.  Some royal jagoff with a voice modulator and a cell phone decided to see if he how fast he could evacuate an airport.

The answer to that question is, in fact, "lickety-split."  The next obvious answer is, in fact, inconvenient and dangerous and he should be strung up by his genitals.

I call him a jagoff because while he DID disguise his voice, he did NOT shut off his phone's ID.  Yup...the evil genius was tripped up by Caller ID.

So, right after calming the nerves of everybody in the state and testing the effectiveness of our own strategies, one phone call shut everything down for several hours, delayed several flights, and had several stranded passengers got it....the law enforcement officials who were trying to make sure they weren't going to blown to Hell....all they saw was a bunch of uniformed guys keeping them out of the airport.

Anyway.....six hours later, I get the phone call.

Do you remember when you used to fly, the airline would ask you questions about packing your bag, and has the bag been out of your possession, and has anybody asked you to carry anything for them?
These are questions you are supposed to answer in the negative. 

Until somebody gets off the plane and takes a laptop computer bag to the airline saying that 'some guy' asked them to 'take this bag with them' and 'deliver it'.

It's like the person who got off the plane with this bag recently fell off a F***ING TURNIP TRUCK.

And, this potentially dangerous situation is compounded by the airline ACCEPTING THE BAG, and locking it in a FILING CABINET for six hours before calling anybody.

"Yes, Ken....we see that there is a low pressure system heading for the Northern State, and it's bringing a 90% chance of evening shit storm..."

Three hours later, it was all settled down, with only minor inconvenience to the passengers, the organizational bomb guy, the local police department, and everybody I had to call at 0430 on a Tuesday morning.  It turned out to be nothing.  The story at 0430 became a completely different and benign by 0600.

This is what we do.

And if that doesn't make you feel better, I can tell you that over the weekend, 25 people were stopped at checkpoints around the country for having a loaded firearm in their carry-on bag.  Each one of them stated, with a straight face, apparently, that they had 'forgotten that the gun was in my bag.'

I much prefer theatre.

If I drop a line, nobody dies.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Scattered thoughts on a previous lifetime....

Many years ago, when I was young and just down from the trees, I decided to add to my already copious amount of education by attending graduate school in a small town in Central Illinois.  It was a nice place with theatre spaces and instructors and other students, so I fit in much like a square peg goes into a round hole.

It wasn't the institutions fault; it was mine.  I spent a year on the road with four other people, so essentially alone, I was fighting to a stalemate with the bottle of vodka, and I had just enough money to pay for two years of education, even with the scholarship.  I have always leaned to the loner side of the equation, and I was slightly older than your average Grad Student.

Oh, and by the way, I was as rusty as hell.  Doing three shows for a year in country clubs and military bases can take your edge off in no time at all.

I survived the experience, of course, and the education has served me well, but I didn't want to talk about that.

I wanted to talk about Becks.

Okay, I called her Becks.  Her name was Becky, or Rebecca, but one reminded me too much of Becky Thatcher and the other smacked too much of SunnyBrook Farm; although I preferred the latter to the former.  So, I just called her Becks.

It was my second year of the program; it was a time for Master's Theses, a loathsome Children's Theatre Tour, and a couple of really intricate theory-based classes.  I had a roommate in the summer, but he was booted before the Fall, the house we had chosen was too rich for my blood; I tried another house, but soon abandoned the idea, and finally wound up living in the Infamous Tree House, a second floor apartment that contained oodles of Monty Python, every Metal Band that ever existed, my roommate Steve who kept me sane, and everything but rubber swords to play with.....everything a good Tree House should have.

Yes, Vodka and Rum included.

I met Becks during a Fire Drill.  We were standing out in the quad as the siren wailed, and the Costume Shop Guru called me over to introduce me to her.....apparently, she thought we'd hit it off.

Strangely enough, we did.  We started in simple conversation, which of course probably included me making jokes and her rolling her eyes.  We went from that to making a pact that every time we saw each other in the hallway, we would kiss.  That went very well.  And then, conversations in stairwells and finally, a loose kind of dating.

She got me to wear a suit to a party.  Those that know me will understand the relevance of such a thing.  I wore a tie.

Here's where the demon rises up to erase my memory.  Some things I remember, some things I cannot trust to be true.  I can say this:  I was an idiot.

I missed signs.  I was selfish.  I was insecure.  I was burned out.

I was drunk.  Most of the time.  Functional, but whacked out.

And it faded.  We went our separate ways.  I went to Missouri.  Becks joined the circus.

Years passed.  We couldn't stop them.

Years later, we met again.  The first conversations were awkward, of course.  Part of the whole recovery process is taking responsibility, and that tripped me up for awhile.  We danced around topics.  We joked about the things that hurt.  But slowly, things smoothed out.

The girl I knew had become a woman who had seen the world; who had made her mark; who married and had two children; and, as she told me later, kept a piece of me with her.

But no photos; it was something she subtly cursed me for in later life.  I was camera shy in my drunken days.  Another regret.

One day in those years, we met at a reunion of a kind at the sight of our original relationship.  We had dinner with Steve (the Tree House roommate) and his wife Michelle, who saved my life one night by driving me to the emergency room when my head was in danger of exploding.  But that's another story.

We met in front of the theatre building, just steps from where that Fire Alarm years before had placed us.  We walked about the campus, seeing places we didn't even know existed back in the day; we walked around the town, looking at the places we stayed, and the conversations had there.  The buildings had different tenants, but everything looked the same.  And slowly, the years melted away, and it became what it was supposed to be, back then.  It became easy, and comfortable, and warm. 

Age brings wisdom, sometimes.

Between us, I was the only one that aged.  She was still the same girl, with the backward laugh and the smile that relaxed you.  Oh, and the cutting wit.  She had it back in the day, but she used it sparingly.  Not so much with the sparingly anymore....but I'm a big boy.

Friends a neighbors, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Love is an energy, and as such, can be created but never ever destroyed.  It hangs around the universe, it permeates your idle thoughts, and if you're lucky....very VERY can relive it again, for just a minute or an hour or a day.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

My zeal to seek their understanding caused instead a poke in the eye.

One week from today, the organization for whom I work will pay tribute to "The Event."  They do this every year.

Some of the tributes are, to those with souls, perverse.  One year, the powers-that-be placed posters of the wreckage in New York City in every airport in the Northern State.  To my credit, I objected, strenuously.  I suggested, in no uncertain terms, that the average American does not want to be subjected to such images just before they board an aircraft.  But I was outvoted.  In fact, I was shouted down.  Literally.

It was at that point that I began to give up.  That slow trickling away of my 'give a shit' continues to this day.

In the last couple of years, I have played my variations on a theme:  If, as some members of Congress would like to proclaim, we are a Christian nation, they we should damned sure start acting like it.....but I don't want to do that this year....

I want to say something else.

One of the elders of the city said, "Speak to us of Good and Evil."
And he answered:
Of the good in you I can speak, but not of the evil.
For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?
Verily when good is hungry it seeks food even in dark caves, and when it thirsts, it drinks even of dead waters.
You are good when you are one with yourself.
Yet when you are not one with yourself you are not evil.
For a divided house is not a den of thieves; it is only a divided house.
And a ship without rudder may wander aimlessly among perilous isles yet sink not to the bottom.
You are good when you strive to give of yourself.
Yet you are not evil when you seek gain for yourself.
For when you strive for gain you are but a root that clings to the earth and sucks at her breast.
Surely the fruit cannot say to the root, "Be like me, ripe and full and ever giving of your abundance."
For to the fruit giving is a need, as receiving is a need to the root.
You are good when you are fully awake in your speech,
Yet you are not evil when you sleep while your tongue staggers without purpose.
And even stumbling speech may strengthen a weak tongue.
You are good when you walk to your goal firmly and with bold steps.
Yet you are not evil when you go thither limping.
Even those who limp go not backward.
But you who are strong and swift, see that you do not limp before the lame, deeming it kindness.
You are good in countless ways, and you are not evil when you are not good,
You are only loitering and sluggard.
Pity that the stags cannot teach swiftness to the turtles.
In your longing for your giant self lies your goodness: and that longing is in all of you.
But in some of you that longing is a torrent rushing with might to the sea, carrying the secrets of the hillsides and the songs of the forest.
And in others it is a flat stream that loses itself in angles and bends and lingers before it reaches the shore.
But let not him who longs much say to him who longs little, "Wherefore are you slow and halting?"
For the truly good ask not the naked, "Where is your garment?" nor the houseless, "What has befallen your house?"

So there.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

I window who mini off ewe rollease that lets of popple air inuble to pronince the onglish linguage?

I am attempting to break myself out of a funk by watching several episodes of A BIT OF FRY AND LAURIE.  It's working, up to a point.  But the sun is not shining and the birds are not singing and it's the traditional day the the Northern State reminds us all that Fall begins on September 1.

Cloudy, raining and a high of 64, thus far.

I auditioned for a play on Tuesday....I think it was Tuesday.  Is today Wednesday or Thursday?  Okay, if today is Thursday, then it was Tuesday that I auditioned for a play.

The plays produced by the College 'Round the Corner are open to community members, but of course, as an institution of higher learning, they give priority (and rightly so) to the students.  But, they need a Father figure, and since I'm at least as old as a Father....and I would like to work with the director....and I would like something to occupy my time for awhile....I thought I'd throw in.

Callbacks tonight.  Then, we'll see.

It's THE HEIRESS.  They made a movie.  Olivia de Haviland and Monty Clift.

Other than that, I'm quite under it.

But Fry and Laurie are helping.

Hugh Laurie is quite good at playing a git.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

If it's Tuesday, I must be soul sick.

Introspection should always begin with a soul-shaking sigh.  And, Goo Goo Dolls lyrics.

And I don't want the world to see me;
'Cuz I don't think that they'd understand....
When everything's made to be broken,
I just want you to know who I am.

I suppose the best way to describe what's going on is by analogy, or allegory, or some other such bullshit that scholars and saviors use to mask a personal truth with a universal one.

I went through a period of time when I had to contort this sorry excuse for a body into the fictional proportions of John Merrick.  I would warm up, of course, get the muscles all pliable and stretchy, and slowly work my way into the posture.  And then, I'd walk.  And talk.  Sometimes, a lovely but sadistic director would dress me in hat and cloak and send me on a forced march, to experience being shunned by normals.

As if I needed any help with that.  Have we met?

And after a while, this posture became, in my mind and in the muscle memory of the aforementioned 'poor excuse for a body', normal.  And proper posture became abnormal.

I can remember the first time I pulled up to my full height, and felt every...single...muscle in my back to *pop!*

And then, in adjusting to that mess, it became a different kind of thing, and pretty soon, every picture I have had my head doing some weird ducking thing.  And I became old before I was supposed to.

Are you ahead of me now?  Do you see where I'm heading?

In truth, my soul is suffering from the same thing as my body did; it's been twisted up for so long, it now longer recognizes 'True North."

So, exercise is in order.  Introspection necessary.

Maybe not so much with The Goo Goo Dolls, though.

Perhaps Wang Chung instead.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hail and Farewell to a Legend.

In the summer of 1980, I was a young alcoholic-to-be artist just about to start the adventure of a lifetime.....University education in the Great White North of the Mitten.
I have a few distinct memories of the summer's introduction to the campus of the Northern University; I can remember it was damned hot that July; I can remember some instant friendships formed, some that exist to this day; I can remember a fairly good 50's band playing in the parking lot, and a girl in a poodle skirt that haunted my dreams for several years.
And I remember Daddy Bear.
My first introduction to the Great Man was sitting in his office as he gave me the spiel about the theatre program and which classes I should take my first semester.  I can say that the man wasn't intimidating, but he could fill a room.  But, he had this way about only needed to be in his presence for a minute or two, and you wanted to be his friend.  You wanted to know him.
He directed me in several things, as I recall; a very memorable production of TAMING OF THE SHREW where I first discovered that I could be creative if I just stopped thinking.  And I also learned that directing sometimes means sitting back and letting the actors do the thing they do.  He cast me as Applegate in DAMN YANKEES, even though the day of my audition, I could hardly speak due to a throat infection. 
When he taught Intro to Theatre, he convinced generation after generation that ROMEO AND JULIET is a comedy.  And yes, if you look at it in its entirety, it IS.  Cuz he said so.
But the thing I remember most is after a production of a student-directed one act called LOU GEHRIG DID NOT DIE OF CANCER.  He took me aside for a moment, after I was cleaned of make up and running around to catch the next production in this evening of one acts.
He took me outside the room, and looked me in the eye.  If you knew the man, you knew that when he looked you in the eye, he LOOKED you in the EYE.
"You're a hell of an actor."
He went on for a few minutes, supporting his thesis, but I didn't really hear it.  All I heard was his confident assessment in my abilities.  The rest was a warning about not f***ing it up with da booze.  Then he put his arm around my shoulder and we went back in.  He probably never knew that I was six inches off of the ground.
And after I graduated, when I came through the Northern Town, I always had a table to sit at and a bed to lie on. 
And a man to admire.
James Rapport, known forever to all that knew him as Daddy Bear, exited this stage on August 28, after what seemed to be a very short illness.  I will cry for a short time today, and smile for awhile after that.  And I hope to see him again when the time is right.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Come in, she said........

It's been awhile, I know.  And it will be awhile longer, I'm afraid.  But in the meantime, in honor of those hunkered down on the East Coast for the rarity of Irene, I give you one of my favorite Dylan tunes, appropriate to the occasion.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Carnival ramblings.

I remember fondly the novel, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, by Ray Bradbury. 

My uncle, highly adored but somewhat estranged due to a strange family dynamic, sent me a few Bradbury titles during one of the periods of my early high school days when I suffered from something that could have led to a failed convalescence; it was the days before cable, of course, so the pickins were slim on the television after the Today Show went, I fell back on what Peter Falk in THE PRINCESS BRIDE called, "In my day, Television was called Books!"

It was the beginning of a love affair with the imagery of Bradbury that lives on today.  I ate his work up with a spoon.

THE MARTIAN CHRONICLES. (I wept when they made an abysmal mini-series based upon this book.  Wept.)

But the story of two friends at odds with the owners of Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show, the last, late carnival of the year lives on and on.  (And yes, they made a movie of this, as well, back in the 80's, and I dragged some poor date to see it with me, and it was good, but not great.  Date ended with a whimper and not a bang, as I remember....but I was a notorious failure at such things.)

I've never been able to go to a Carnival or a State Fair since then without needing to see it at nightfall, with the lights and the colors and the sounds.

I even worked at a theme park in the late 90's, and really enjoyed the nights.....the lights and the sounds of the rollercoaster riders, a wave of screaming people, the nearly invisible coaster streaking by above your head.....but also the look of the people as they carried their prizes and their balloons and their funnel cakes and their memories off to their homes.

I never did see a Bearded Lady, or the Rubber Man, or the Strong Man.  I dated a clown, once upon a time.  And a girl who made a living in a dinosaur suit.

But the clown wasn't really funny after awhile (not that I blame her; it was the late nineties and I was hip deep in sobriety and sorely in need of anti-depressants), and as far as the girl in the dinosaur would have been easier and quicker just to be consumed by at T-Rex.  My luck.  Sheesh.

I still like the Carnivals, when I can get them; and I dream of the Carnival that comes into town in the Fall of the year, bringing secrets and dreams and yes, even the occasional nightmare.

Even the sound of the Calliope on the foredeck of the steamboat as it travelled up and down the river would bring me to the shore.

And I dreamed of running away.

Still do.


Sometimes, I dream of doing BARNUM, too.

Or writing like Bradbury.

But that's juuuuuust crazy talk.