Saturday, June 25, 2011


I was walking through Hyde Park, not far from the Marble Arch, and I saw this.

The first thing that I thought was, "Crikey! Someone made this park an offer it couldn't refuse!"

Yes, I actually thought the work "Crikey."

I blame Danger Mouse.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Your intrepid explorer has arrived at the crossroads of civilization; the heart of the Empire, where once the sun never set, but today it sets at around 2130.

London.  City of my imagination, brought into reality by this plane ticket, opened up by the use of this really cool looking money.

Those that know me, my good friends and comrades from days and wars gone by, know that I present a jaded facade to the world; but that false face crumbles when presented by the world made real.

My first vocal expression upon seeing this city for the first time from the air:  "Wow."

Even from high above, the dichotomy is evident, and almost heartwarming to know that the old can exist within, beside, and despite the desire for the new.  The streets keep their cramped quaint quality, while housing KFC and Burger King.  The Tower looms high over the river, and yet not far from there is the Eye, that strange and popular version of Ferris' Wheel.

If you'll indulge my giddiness, and my occasional lapse into the small-town boy I've been and hope to be again, I'll randomize some thoughts....

I haven't seen anything yet of the city; that comes tomorrow, of course.  But the hotel is charming and small; my room is, in fact, a hallway with a closet, a WC, and a bed.  Thank God for Wifi, because my Blackberry has NOT lived up to it's promises.

I stood in line with a couple of men, waiting to board the plane in Minneapolis, and they were returning to this country....I was allowing the ladies to step ahead of me in line, and all of a sudden, I was doing ten minutes of Music Hall banter with these two Goons.  We got laughs.  I was tired.  And they were clearly better at it than I was, but I held my own for a good three minutes before they took off the kid gloves.  I really enjoyed that.

The flight was, by any standard used to measure, abysmal.  A note to Delta:  you take an awful lot of my charge me for bags, your markup for drinks is obscene, and you regularly overbook flights....could you perhaps take a few seats out and give some leg room to a fella?

Got a chance to watch some things on a little television in the seat in front of me.  I watched a couple of episodes of Nurse Jackie, starring Edie Falco.  I have a long standing crush on Edie Falco.  Long standing.  So, it more than makes up for the fact that the writing is okay, but take away the gratuitous cursing and the equally gratuitous sex, and it's another very special episode of ER.  But I'll need to watch more.  Y'know...for Edie.

Watched The Green Hornet.  I've been a fan of the Green Hornet since I was a kid.  The Green Hornet was created at WXYZ (I believe) in Detroit.  I resented the fact that they turned Britt Reed into a well-meaning idiot.  I liked the fact that Kato was more than a 'houseboy'.  I thought the villain was cleverly created.  But I really want to punch Seth Rogen in the nads.

Turned some dollars into pounds at the bank; I compared it to Las Vegas....I give you money, and as a reward, you give me less money in return...which is pretty much the story of my life in Vegas.  But it's pretty money.  And the coins make a very satisfying jingle jangle in me pocket.

The idea of seeing my old friend has gone by the wayside, sad to say.  After our initial connection, I reached out and did not receive a reply.  He's busy, being a composer of a hit show.  Still.

I'll go see his show, anyway.

I am here, by the way, with my two Brothers and my Father, and the various Sisters-In-Law and the Niece and the Nephew will arrive on Sunday.  I'm still on track for the Globe, the Tower, the Holmes Museum....and anything else I can get from the Red Bus Tour.

The summer rain is lovely and cold.

Monday morning is a train ride to Cornwall, where we'll go to Truro and rent a car.  In the event I have to drive, please somebody tell my wife that I love her......

More as it happens.....

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deep breath, and jump.

There is a certain kind of uncertainty travelling into the unknown.

Yeah, England is not Terra Incognita, but it's only a place of which I've dreamed.  I'm not even sure I can point to something I've read that doesn't paint that far-away city as the Land of Victoria.  In my dreams there are horse-drawn lorrys and flickering street lamps and Bobbys in funny hats.

When the reality meets my dreams, there will be a moment of "eep."

I'm reasonably prepared.  Today was a lot of housework, mowing the lawn, preparing the laundry, going to the store to buy a few things, and closely monitoring my health.  Tomorrow, I'll get up early and pack and by 5 pm, the adventure will have begun in earnest.  And by earnest, I mean I'll be sitting in a small airplane seat, looking forward to the 3 hour layover in Minneapolis.

I have a friend, whom I will refer to at the Amazing Becks, who plans EVERYTHING.  And she's just a little bit appalled that I'm planning almost nothing.  I'm pretty much playing it by ear.  The only thing that is really planned is that on Monday, I board a plane to go from London to Truro in Cornwall, and then the following Saturday, I get on a train to go back to London.  And then, of course, I'll get on a plane and come back here, hoping that the cities of Bismarck, Mandan and Minot are still reasonably above water.

Minot is in a bad way; the river jumped several feet, thanks to lots of rain in Canada.  If you got a minute or two, send some good thoughts their way.  It's may get worse before it gets better.

And I've warned family and friends; if I like it, if it sings to me like a siren without the rocky shoal, I'll send word...pack the cats, sell the house, come on down.

If that does NOT occur, you'll hear from me.  Transmission might be hazy; my hotel in London has
wi-fi of course, but I cannot be sure of the country manor.  I'll take pictures.

Talk to you soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Random thoughts, and a tribute.....

I watched a tornado begin to form over my house late yesterday afternoon.  It was simultaneously an exciting and terrifying sight.  It spun itself up, and then dissipated.  All I kept thinking was, "well, this is going to ruin my day."

Discovered that I DO NOT have tickets to see MUCH ADO with Tennant/Tate.  I am more than unusually unhappy about that.  I will attempt to avoid crushing disappointment by seeing LEND ME A TENOR, the Musical (music composed by my old friend Brad Carroll) and perhaps something at the Globe...they're doing Marlowe's Faustus.  I'd like to see the RSC, but it's a two hour train ride, and my time is limited in London to a Friday (as long as I can stay awake) a Two Saturdays and a Sunday.

If this goes well...I may have to do it regularly.

I have my twenty four lines memorized for ROMEO AND JULIET.  All the fights are choreographed, and I would be literally going down for the third time if not for my fight captain, Austin Flemmer, and the fighters.  They've allowed me to tinker and toy and I think they look quite nice.  And the really great part is, we don't open until the middle of July.

THE UNTOUCHABLES is currently playing on the television.  I can remember seeing this with my Uncle during a Christmas break....I can recall it being a little melodramatic, but it had a really cool soundtrack....oh, and Sean Connery.  My feelings haven't changed:  melodramatic.  Sean Connery.  Good soundtrack.

Here's an open question....if you had a small amount of money to do something theatrical, what play would you do?

It's Father's Day.  In all the random thoughts, I'd like to take the time to speak of my Father.  He gave me my first Trumpet, which was his.  He gave my second car, and forever reminds me that I've pretty much destroyed every car I ever owned, or borrowed.  He tells the story of when my parents brought me back from the hospital, he somehow managed to destroy the paint on his car by scraping it along a snow fence.  He swears that the Car Gods were not after him...they were after me.  He attended all my early attempts at acting; and a few after I learned what I was doing.....He saved me from a swarm of bees when I was a kid; he taught me to relish the simple quiet that the cabin could provide.  He took me to baseball games, and bought the pizza during Superbowls.  He made the best chili I ever ate.  He grounded me when I was a rotten kid; he gave me a work ethic I carry to this day; he put three kids through college; and he's, bar none, the strongest man I've ever known.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Books for Schooks.

Well, it's that time of year again, where I take a book off the shelf that I've tried on several occasions to get through, to no avail.  This year, it's SHAKESPEARE'S DOG by Leon Rooke.  I saw an adaptation of this book in play form in Chicago many years ago; I was dating a woman who was the stage manager for the production.  I liked the woman more than I liked the play.  The play was okay.  The woman was like finding a lee in a storm.

The book is like wading through cement.

I've been through this before, though.  I'll read a review of a book, and think that in order to justify my reputation as an erudite fellow, I need to read that book....and then I pick it up, and after a few pages here or there, I realize that being thought of as erudite is vastly overrated if I have to admit to liking this steaming pile of cr*p.

I'm not going to mention any titles.


Now, it took me several years to get through that book; and several more to learn enough about life to begin to understand it.  And six months after that to understand why the author only wrote the one book.


Here I go.

Chapter one.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Mr. Northrup's in the Field of Dreams, hittin' 'em where they ain't.

Jim Northrup, a hero of my youth, passed away a few days ago, at the age of 71.

He was a ball player.  I was seven years old when he hit the ball over Curt Flood's head for a triple, scoring Horton and Cash, breaking a scoreless tie in game 7 of the '68 world series.  The guy could put a hurtin' on the ball; I think he hit more grand slams than anybody I knew.  He always came to play.

Quite a eulogy for a ball player.

It got me thinking about the nature of the games.  In light of Dallas' victory over the highly touted and apparently overpaid Miami team in the NBA Finals, I begin to wonder if the quest for a championship begins to overwhelm the simple idea of playing the game.  Enjoying the game.

There is a legitimate argument that if the ring is all you want, then you tend NOT to play the game at the highest level all the time, as you would if you simply LOVE playing the game; when a championship is on the line, you play hard, but if you're behind in the game and the game doesn't matter in your quest for a ring, then all of a sudden you're not running out the grounders or moving quickly back onto defense.

Which means, you're really only playing hard when the spotlight is hard upon you.

What a sorry state that would be.

I can remember when I played the game as a boy.  We'd play all day, often until it was far too dark to see the ball.  Every pitch was an opportunity; there was joy with every crack of the bat. 

I can remember a quote which I will attribute to Leroy "Satchel" Paige, quite possibly the greatest pitcher who ever took a mound on a summer's day.  "I feel so good," he'd often say, "I think we should play two."

Oh, Satch.  The Spirit is willin' but the knees are weak.

Give me no awards or accolades, my friends; give me no rings to wear or trophies to put on a mantle to gather attention and dust.

Give me a sun-filled Saturday on a green, green diamond, with real wooden bats and leather gloves.  And a gleaming white ball.

And when the sun goes down, let me dream of the glory of those times.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Meandering Thought.

When I was younger, during a period of...shall we success, I was asked to join a union.

Now, you all know where I'm from; I'm from the land of Unions.  So, you'd think I would have a soft spot for an organization that would be looking out for my best interests, while taking just a small portion of my hard earned wages.

I didn't join the union; largely because I had found in that period of...shall we success, that by taking the Union card, I would for all intents and purposes be cutting myself off of about two-thirds of the work I had just finished.....and I'd be paying for that right. 

It seemed.....shall we say....suicidal.

And, knowing myself as I do, I knew that I was not a unique entity.  There were a hundred or more in the Union just like me.  It didn't make sense to limit my job opportunities, and give myself extra competition, and pay for that opportunity.

After a while, I realized what the point of Unions were:  the object of a Union is to keep people OUT of the Union.

And then, I began to see that some of the people around me began to see the Union as some kind of Holy Grail.  And they thought I was crazy for NOT wanting to be in the Union.  And that, somehow, not being in the Union was like walking down LaFayette Blvd after dark with several thousand dollars taped to your clothing, singing, "I cannot run very fast, and I don't see no cops around, do dah, do dah".

Union=Happiness.  No Union=Death and Despair.

It's that attitude that keeps me from Organized Religion, as well.  When the billboards go up, stating that I'm going to Hell without some Church's blessing...well.

I carry my adornments 'pon my soul.  My Faith is not a flag to be flown, a statue on a mantelpiece to be cooed over and envied.  And RELIGION.....

in the words of Bertram Cates*:  "Religion is supposed to comfort people, not scare them to death."

Did you ever notice that I start out with one topic, and end with another? 

Can you imagine what it's like to LIVE in this SKULL?

*Bertram Cates is a fictional character, and the focus of the trail in INHERIT THE WIND.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Random thoughts in a really quiet office.

I understand that Leonard Stern, the creator of MAD LIBS, has passed away at the age of 88.
This makes me very (Adjective).

To the producers of HOUSE:  Two words to solve your problem at the exit of Lisa Edelstein:  JENNIFER MORRISON.

While a lot of the country is scorching, we didn't actually break 65 degrees yesterday.  This is not to be envied.  Remember, we had snow in May.

The Missouri River is not rising as quickly, or as far, as they anticipated.  Instead of rising to 21.6 feet (which would be around 6.5 feet over its usual level...and yes, that's about eight inches over my head) it's only going to rise to about 19.5 feet.  The dikes are in place and being monitored, but several hundred houses are already lost to it....and this is supposed to go on until July or August.  But they tell me that the snow melt in the Montana Rockies is almost halfway done.

Can you still use the word Dike to describe a levee?  Or, in the words of Robin Williams in GOOD MORNING, VIETNAM, "The river broke through a protective dike yesterday......what is a protective dike, anyway?  Is it a butch woman in flannel standing nearby, saying, "don't go near the river...stay away from there!"

Forgive the previous, if it offends.  Remember the words of Will Rogers:  "If there's no malice in your heart, there can be none in your jokes."

Has anybody, besides me, ever heard the soundtrack from a review called, UPSTAIRS AT ONEALS?  Apparently, it was Bebe Neuwirth's big break.  Some clever music.  For a four stool review.

Every job I've had in the last twenty years has provoked, at one time or another, the following phrase: "This really is a stupid f***ing way to make a living."

For the actors in the house:  How many of you have left a theatre after a performance and said to yourself, "you know something?  I really am good at this."?  I think I've done it twice.  Since 1980.  Once in the fall of 1984.  And once in summer of 1999.  Every other time, I thought to myself, "Huh.  They bought it."

One of my favorite bits from Mitch Hedberg is about him ordering a sandwich:
"I'd like a pastrami sandwich."
"What kind of bread?"
" wait, got any banana bread?"
"No....what kind of cheese do you want on that?"
"Get the f**k out! I'm not making you a pastrami sandwich and cottage cheese sandwich on banana bread!"

He goes on to say that he always orders the club sandwich, and he isn't even a member.

Goodnight, y'all.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Hobby continues.

It's that time of year again; time for your humble scribe to get involved with the Capitol Shakespeare again.

Last year was the first year I tried it; I had wanted to before that, but could never make the schedule work for me.  Last year was SHREW, and it was a lot of fun; it was the first time I had stepped onto the stage here in the Northern State, and the first time since my artistic sabbatical began in 2003.  There were a lot of people who had been there before, and for the most part, they made me most welcome.

The nights were fair and cool for July, and the audiences were generous in their laughter.  Then again, if you cannot get a laugh doing SHREW, then it's time to consider another hobby.

This year, it's ROMEO AND JULIET; a bit of a departure, for the first three 'seasons' were comedies.  For those of you familiar with the play OUTSIDE of the many motion picture interpretations, you know that right up until the first scene in the third act, it's a bright, shiny and funny play.

Side note:  The trick to playing it is to a) allow for the suddenness of love and b) always remember that Romeo is sure he's going to live.  You have to play the positive, otherwise it's a play that makes you want to tear your own eyes out, and then turn to the person to your left and tear their eyes out as well.

The director (a fine lady named Erin, who is probably the hardest working person I've met in the Northern State, and who seems to run the thing single-handedly) has given me a ton of leeway.  She took into consideration that I would be missing some rehearsals as I venture out of the country to assist my Father in seeing with his own eyes the very birthplace of the family name, and cast me anyway.  A small part; I come in from time to time to threaten people with death and occasionally banish somebody.  Lots of meat on that bone.  And she's letting me choreograph the various fights.

Tonight, we choreographed the first fight of the night; one guy bites his thumb, another guy takes exception, and suddenly we've got one guy wearing a basket for a hat, one guy getting clubbed with a log of wood, and one poor sap screaming as he's helicoptered around the stage on another guys shoulders....and Benvolio manages to not die when faced with Tybalt The Terminator.

Choreography is time consuming; and tiring.  You know everybody's moves, and are constantly have to keep your energy up, so everybody else matches that energy.  And I'm almost 50, so I don't have the get-up-and-go that I used to.  But when it comes just makes me smile.

Ear to ear.

I have an assist; the most generous and talented Austin, who will watch and fix and tinker and such in my absence.

It's going to be fun.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

And that has made all the difference.....

There once was a girl, a long time ago.

And no, this doesn't end tragically. 

I won't use her real name; the name is a common one, and I don't want somebody reading this thinking that this song is about them.

We went to high school together; actually, we went to elementary school through high school together.  She lived in roughly the same neighborhood together, but we didn't really associate on a personal level.....

Except this one time.  I don't really know how it happened.  We were in this place, and sitting next to each other, talking.  The music changed, and then we were dancing.  The lights went low, and when two high school students are holding each other and the lights go down and the music is just right.....memorable things happen. 


From that day to this, the Bob Seger song, TURN THE PAGE, reminds me of her.

So, we liked each other well enough to connect at the lips.....but that's not what I'm thinking about today.

It was one winter night, sometime after that dance.  I was leaving the house to attend a gathering; it was a weekend, and that's what we did on weekends.....and headed up the road.  I can dimly recall a figure walking through the snow in the opposite direction I was going.  I didn't really notice other than a person in coat and a hat. 

It was her.  She'd had a tough day, and she was heading to my house, seeking my company.

Two ships passing in the night.

I occasionally wonder, when I'm sitting in an office in the middle of the night, about the crossroads, and the mystery of the road flirted with, but not taken.

Maybe I would have been more confident; maybe less lonely; maybe more social.

The illusion of those other roads can occasionally be comforting.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I should really plan these things beforehand.

When I was a younger man (but older than a young man), and was a junior professor at a college in Missouri, one of my constant friends was a fellow who served as a self-professed, 'lion tamer' in the elementary school in town.

The elementary school itself was on the east end of the small town, and if the levee didn't hinder the view, the students in his particular classroom would have a lovely look-see of the Mississippi River.

If your view of the Mississippi is limited to the views seen from St. Louis or Nawleans, then you're missing out; I have fond memories of the summers of the late eighties and early nineties, when we could finish a show at the local dinner theatre and make our way out to the other side of the levee to light a fire, have a tasty beverage or two, and pick at the guitars and sing old songs and laugh like no one was listening.  The river was fickle thing; it could be so shallow you could walk across it (such as the drought of '88, one of the hottest summers of my recollection) or high and huge (the summer of '93, where the bravery and tenacity of several thousand townsfolk kept the aforementioned levee from being overcome), but there was nothing so comfortable as sitting in the sand along the shore and listening to it simply slide by.....and wishing, just for a minute, you could be Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn.

That is not my point, alas.  It's merely a digression that my reading public has come to expect from the humble scribe.

My friend, Scott, the elementary school teacher, once asked his students a routine geography question:  "What river is that on the other side of the levee?"

They spoke as one.  "The Missouri!"

Scott had to explain that it was the Mississippi River, one of the longest rivers in the country.  They scoffed at him and his lack of knowledge.  How could THAT be the Mississippi River, if they lived in MISSOURI?  If they are, in fact, in MISSOURI, then that river must be the MISSOURI RIVER.

A lack of knowledge can always be supported by geographic pride, it seems.

I can remember Scott being somewhat tired after that incident; largely, because even though he won the argument (no matter how what you do, you cannot change the fact that that river was the Mississippi and NOT the Missouri), he knew, in his heart, that he didn't really change their minds, and that they left the classroom thinking he was a big fat liar.

That story came to mind this morning (and please remember that my morning begins at just about the time you're calling it a day) as I did a quick scan of the news websites, making sure my life was complicated by something that somebody did when I was sleeping, and I came across a story about a certain once and future politician who suggested that Paul Revere was warning the British by ringing bells and shouting that they weren't going to take our guns or our freedom.

Eventually, I'm going to get to the point when I'm not surprised anymore.  I had hoped it would have come by now.

Now, a while back, when this once and future politician claimed that the Health Care bill contained something called , "Death Panels"....I thought that surely a thinking person would never believe that kind of hokum and humbug.

Yup.  Surprise, surprise.

When asked a simple question about what kind of newspapers, magazines or websites she reads to keep up on current events, she couldn't name....a single one.  And she blamed the interviewer for throwing her a trick question.

Surely, nobody would buy that....oh, wait.  Head-shaking-inducing Surprise.

Combine this whole story with the recent studies that a large portion of the population of the United States feels that a college education is useless, and overpriced, and you'll see that we're on that path that Herbert George Wells wrote about back near the turn of the last century......the Eloi who caper and cavort with no cares, and the Morlock that eat them.

However, I do sleep well enough with the knowledge that my kind will be the first ones up against the wall when the revolution comes.

So, I got that going for me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Even the Four Horsemen need a guy with a shovel....

My office has had a catastrophic failure of the satellite dish.

I hate satellite television, by the way; it works fine when the sun is out, but God help you if it rains, sleets, or there is a wind of any kind. Or, if some idiot wants to repair the roof on which your satellite sits.

So, in order to stay connected, I am forced to listen to the radio.

AM radio.

I've been listening to a call-in show; and I'm scared.

There seem to be many, many people out there that are thinking, and in some cases, HOPING that these are the endtimes.

I have faith, friends and neighbors, even as I lack religion. I pray that there is something after this; for if I cannot see again all those that have gone before me, I am going to be very disappointed.

But I am a patient man. I can wait to see them.

And I don't think (read: I really hope) that they are in no hurry to see ME.

Sometimes, I feel that these people are not all that interested in being witness to the end of all things; they just want to be RIGHT. They want to stand on the precipice of paradise and be able to yell, "SEE? I TOLD YOU SO!!!"

My secret desire is that St. Peter punches them in the crotch. It they are right, and they have the nerve to rub it in my face at they enter the kingdom of Heaven as I attempt to make all nice-nice with the Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse, then I want them entering the kingdom of Heaven doubled over, groaning, with tears streaming from their eyes....

Yeah. I know.

I'm screwed.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Side of the Story

I have a lot of things running through the little grey cells this morning; and in the attempt to create some order out of the chaos that is the average day in the Historicranium has been.....futile.

So, as you well know, when words do not come, I go to song.