Sunday, July 31, 2011

One of the Seven.

I can recall sitting in an Elks Club somewhere in Tennessee in the Fall of 1985.  I had been riding around the Eastern United States since late summer, carrying several shows in the back of the van, and there were four of us altogether, from various backgrounds and such, and bound together by that test of endurance known as touring.

We didn't know very much about each other; the truth is, I didn't really know much about myself; but in that year's time, I learned.

Tennessee.  Elks club.  Conservative Bible Belt Elks meet long haired college graduate theatre-type.  Judged by a group of strangers simply by the way I looked.  Wasn't the first time; wouldn't be the last time.  But this was a defining moment...otherwise, I wouldn't remember it......

After the show and the strike, a group of them invited us to join them.  Elks are traditionally friendly folk, but I never met an Elks Lodge that didn't have a bar.  And beneath the bar, of course, was where they kept the stuff that separated the men from the boys.

Shine on, Shine on Harvest Moon.  The homemade stuff.  When done right, it simply burns a little; when done badly, it's like drinking a cup of cold poison.  Liquid fire.  Death in a shotglass.

I can still hear the condescending voice of the 'tender: "Awww, son, you don't want any of that."  And in the meantime, pouring shots for the ladies.

Slow burn.  Silent.  Set up the shotglasses in front of, two, three, four, five.  Even stare at the 'tender.....a simple hand gesture, full of meaning:  "Rack 'em up."  He poured with a secret smile.  I smiled back.  He thought I was a soft Northern boy. 

Five shots.  One after the other.  Straight face.  Boom Boom Boom.  Staring at the 'tender.  No expression.  The liquid is warm and taste slightly like sharp knives, but I've had worse.  Spilled not a drop.  Turned them over as I finished them.  Until there were five spent soldiers on the wooden table; and when it was done, I smiled slightly......

Pride is a funny thing, but youthful pride even more so.  There would be several more shots before the night was over, but there were no more condescending comments, or smiles.  I had proven myself worthy of their respect.

Back then, it mattered.

But today, I wonder why it was so important to impress several small minded idiots in a small Tennessee town who's name has been permanently deleted from my memory.  And, I wonder why my relationship with alcohol became so cavalier so soon.  And I wonder, given the recklessness of my pride, how I managed to live so long.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The sun rises in the North and I get to see it. Again.

I was recently going through old files with the laughable intention of deleting some things.  I say laughable because, as you well know, I am a creature of sentiment and I am loathe to throw away anything that has the smallest significance to my past, present, or probable future.  So, basically, it becomes me either turning something digital into something paper, or turning something paper into something digital...all done with a soundtrack from the late 70's-early 80's....right now, it's a combination of Chapin, Taylor, The Band, and the soundtrack from BARNUM.

I'm not one to keep photos, really; I've recently began to have an appreciation of the art, and the attempt to capture the fleeting moments for all time, but I do tend to keep the written word.

And don't tell anybody, but I do keep letters.

I ran across one just a few minutes ago.

It was like it was written to some other me.

A younger me, certainly.  A less wise me, undoubtedly.  Even a somewhat happier me.

The guy I don't see in the mirror anymore.

It's a million miles to where I would like to be; I have a full tank of gas, a half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and I'm wearing sunglasses.

I need a road map back to that guy.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Portrait of the actor as a waterfall.

Dress rehearsal number three.

Temperature 98 degrees.

Heat index 120 degrees.

"Hey, Mother Nature!  You think you're so HOT?  I still got SWEAT GLANDS!  I'm still SWEATIN'!  BRING IT ON, BITCH!  I've worked in the DESERT!  I"ve worked in GALEVESTON!  I've seen HUMIDITY that would send a CROCODILE cryin' home to his MAMA!"

Talking trash to Mother Nature in a blog entry is far more socially acceptable than doing it from my front porch.  Just ask my neighbor.  He'll agree with me.

Not that I did that.

Not on my front porch.

It was actually on my back deck.

And I wasn't in costume.

As far as you know.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Just a quick one....

A dress rehearsal that will live in infamy.....

Temperature on-stage at beginning of run (6:15 pm CDT): 96 degrees.
Humidity:  75%.
No breeze.  No movement of any kind.

I spent my down-time backstage passing out bottles of cold water, and showing people where to apply the ice to get the most out of the experience.  (It's the pulse points on the neck and the can also get some relief by applying ice to the pulse points in the inner thighs, but that requires a special relationship with modesty.)

It's now about 3:40 AM and I'm suffering the effects of high temperatures and no sleep.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Running from the Sandmen again.....*

Lately, my life has felt like the last fifteen minutes of TRUE ROMANCE; with everybody yelling at each other to put down the guns and get down on the floor, and one guy in the bathroom talking to the ghost of Elvis.

Yup; lots of noise, and a little bit of insanity.

I won't be getting much sleep in the next week; the show opens on Wednesday, and with the extra work shifts I've had to take up, very little down-time.  Oh, and the dreaded 49th rears it's ugly head this week, so I have that trip down memory lane to deal with, as well.  The voices have gotten less pronounced as the years have passed, but the memory lends me a smile rather than a tear these days.

Perhaps it's that road that I travel once a year (a road that's branched into several as the time has flown) that has made me think of the far-away friends.  Of quiet and shy Kristi Ann, her of the long fingers and freckles, but a laugh like the sound of crystal; of handsome Ed, mortal and immortal and greatly missed; of Kevin, who in the short time I knew him made me laugh without trying, and listened without laughing; of Morgan, like the invisible LeFay of old, who for a time created worlds of delight out of spider's silk.....

I think about how far I've come; from sanity to crazy and there and back many places I've seen and the list grows longer.  The roles I've played, both in real life and in fiction as well.

A life wrapped in love.


Love is the smooth nougat; and it's surrounded by the crunchy peanut shell of experience.

Hand in hand to create a pretty tasty treat.

Wow.  One metaphor too many, I think.

That's what 5 AM will do to ya.

*If you understand the reference, give yourself several hundred points; if not, please see LOGAN'S RUN.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The height of Summer, the depth of Memory. Go figure.

I often wonder why I don't have any recent, specific memories of Summer's past.

Of course, I have some romantic memories of distant Summers.....back when the days all started cool, and the endless games of baseball started early enough that the dew made the baseball and the tops of your tennies damp; the sounds of the Meadow Brook Music Festival wafting over the early evenings, and you could sit on your front porch as the lights came on and get yourself a free concert; and of course, that bumpy cake my Mother always got me for my Birthday.

But the Summers of my adulthood always seemed to include the theatre.

I could tell you that I could name every single play I've ever done during the thirty years of Summers since I first walked on a Summer Stage.....but I remember, most of all, the people.

I am not, by definition, a joiner.  I don't introduce myself well.  I spend a lot of time in the backs of rooms, hoping that somebody will stick out as somebody who could make heads or tails of my public flailing.  I hide my vulnerability behind sarcasm and wit.  I'd do my job, and that would be enough.  But every now and then, I'd find a person or two who's company I enjoyed immensely, and they would stay with me throughout the decades; either in person, or in my memory.

In 1990, I met a group of people that made me laugh louder and longer than I had in a long time; and that laughter usually was around a table in which a furious game of Spades was going on, often all night.

In 1988, it was a hot summer, a drought that turned the Mississippi to a trickle, but there was another group of people that would light a fire on the shore, bring a couple of guitars and some liquid courage, and we'd sing and laugh and look at the stars.

Several times, I would be blessed with the kind of companionship that keeps the darkness at bay for awhile; and even though I broke my heart upon the rocks a couple of times, and broke one once, I am warmed by the memory of them.

One of my best friends became one of my best friends when he laughed out loud at a reference I made to a Kurt Vonnegut novel.  I held out my hands and said, "See the Cat?  See the Cradle?", and he responded, "Why don't you take a flying f**k at a rolling doughnut?  What don't you take a flying f**k at the mooooon?"

And he actually drew out the word, "mooooon."  Which made us friends for life.

Summers were always filled with that new frontier of people, stages, audiences and scripts; the new experience, the new space....and one more opportunity to make life-long connections.  And even in those long summer runs, I never got bored.  Not once.

I find, as I approach an age that I never expected to get to, that I miss the audiences, and the stage beneath my feet.  There was never a place where I felt more in control, more at home.  But more than that, I miss those specific people; and I long to set eyes upon them again, and hear them laugh and see them smile and sing and listen to the crickets as the sun goes down.

If Heaven is what we make of it, let it be filled with those moments.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oh, HELL no.

I was watching The Suze Orman Show over the weekend.

I am sure that she is a wiz when it comes to money matters; I have occasionally watched when people call in and ask her permission to buy something, and after getting all sorts of information from these people (and probably secretly selling that information to News of the World...oh, wait...never mind) she stands as the last Court of Appeals of the Financially Challenged...and if you're really cockeyed, she'll make fun of you before she says "No."

But she says it in such a way that instead of wanting to burn her studio to the ground because she's denied you your right to buy a fancy car when you're already $80,000 in debt, you actually THANK her.

The other day, she was talking about how much money you'll have if you work to a certain retirement age.  And, with a big smile and a tone of voice that exuded the feeling that, "What I'm saying is a GREAT idea!", she suggested that I would have far more money if I worked until age 70.


My first thought:  "Well, F**K that."

In fact, that was my second thought, and my fourth. 

My third thought was to look in the Yellow Pages to find the address of her studio, and if I could find my gas can and matches.

Sure, Suze...I'd have all that extra money, and absolutely no energy to spend it.

Seventy, my ass.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wandering Mind.

And I was getting sooooo used to NOT working.

Back in the saddle, as they say, and I have the saddle sores to prove it.  My trip the the imaginary land did not really destroy my sleep habits; being six hours ahead of the Central time zone, when I was rising at 6 AM, it was like Midnight, and I was used to living in those hours.  But when I got home, and acclimated...well....last night's shift was pretty close to unbearable without actually BEING unbearable.

Friday night was almost a disaster.  Had a whole night for working the stage fights from Romeo and Juliet, and everything was going swimmingly, until one of the actors took a sword in the face.  Yup.  My worst nightmare, made real.  The actor in question is okay; he was thoroughly checked out and there is no lasting damage outside of a bruise; but he won't be fighting for a couple of days.  I've rethought the fights over and over and have decided that I'm not changing that moment.  It was a legitimate accident, folks.  On Friday, they had done the same bit a half a dozen times with no problems and this one time things got weak and an accident happened.  I do not see any reason to change the fight.  Every single moment of each fight has the possibility of just such an accident, and I cannot second guess every choice I've made in the choreography of these fights.  So, they stay as is.

This does not alter my feelings of regret at the accident, however.  I hope never to feel that feeling again as I ran to the stage, fearing the worst.  I am glad it wasn't worse. 

My performance, at this point, is a little one-dimensional.  I do a lot of chastising, and I find myself raging far too much, and thinking far too little.  I need to unclench my fist a little and look beyond, but I'm about five rehearsals behind due to my travels, so the book is still in my head.  But it will come.  I don't know how.  It's a mystery.

One of the sad truths of my adulthood is that I've completely forgotten the joy of Summer.  Work schedules, obligations, and a newly discovered allergy to the sun has taken all the fun out of summertime.

Yes, you read that right.  I have developed an allergy to the sun.  Too much sun, even with the sun block, has me breaking out in a painful rash.  As of now, it's usually limited to my hands and arms, but it's ugly and painful.

There are some delightful snippets of Summertime, though.  Corn on the Cob, for example.  Chicken grilled on the fire.  Homemade ice cream.

And the Tigers are playing pretty well.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

You probably figured I would have an opinion on this, so here goes....

I don't know.

A group of people are chosen for a jury; it can't be easy in this case, because it's a very high profile case, involving the disappearance and death of a child, and had become the chief ratings-grabber for a certain perpetually incensed former prosecutor on a certain three-lettered news network.

The defense was very good; but in America, the burden of proof of guilt is on the prosecution.  And, I believe, the prosecution was rushed into action by the media, and was unprepared.  The jury, after rendering the verdict, admitted to being sickened by the verdict, but there was nothing they could do; there wasn't enough solid evidence to prove the cause of death, let alone the people responsible for it.

Recently, I read of a case from the 1950's, where a child disappeared in a small town, and was found some miles away.  Horrible.  No suspects.  No real clues.  Two months ago, a clue showed up; an unused train ticket in the belongings of a former member of the law enforcement community, and a 71 year old suspect was taken into custody. 

There should never be a rush to judgement.  And you should never trust the information you get from the television.

The Mother in this case is a reprehensible individual, and I can think of a lot of punishments that would suit my sense of justice.  But she may be a drug abusing, alcoholic, narcissistic slut who danced and drank and sang and f**ked her way through life while her child's disappearance went unreported.  We have evidence that she is, in fact, completely unfit for anything resembling parenthood, but self-love and self-delusion are not punishable offenses under the law.

There are, at present, 276 missing children in the state of Florida alone.

St. Jude, pray for us.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I will often dream of returning......

Yes, I'm home.
I have supped full of images and ideas, sights and sounds of the various parts of England, and yes, if I have an opportunity, I'll return again.  And I encourage you all to go; or to return to it.

I don't think, even after a few days of sorting through the pictures and mementos of the trip, that I can even begin to put it into words, except to say this:  if you've ever been in a place you've never been, and felt comfortable....well, that's pretty much it.

What can I show you?
After exiting Paddington Station, I walked a block in one direction (my hotel was only three blocks from the station) and came across this sign on the side of St. Mary's Hospital.  My response was, "that's fortunate, for syphilis was invented on the floor below."
Iconic images abound.
Everywhere you look.
And Legends, as well, as I discovered as I stepped out of the Baker Street Underground Station.
And just so you know, I purchased a Deerstalker Cap at the Sherlock Holmes Museum.  And I sat in the great man's chair.
And I saw a show at the Globe Theatre on the Thames.  Dr. Faustus.  Pretty amazing.
I wish I could show you some of the sites from the road to Cornwall, but the roads and the tracks of the train are sided by large rock walls, or tall plant life, or both.  It kind of looks like this.....
There were a couple of times that I feared for my life.  But only a couple.

There were two surprises along the way:  The first was that around St. Austell in Cornwall, there is a walking path called, 'Clemo's Way.'  I believe it is named after a Cornish poet by the name of Reginald John Clemo, called Jack Clemo.  There was no sign indicating the path itself, but it did start here:

Every small and large town in Cornwall has a church as a centerpiece.  Truro's was especially beautiful.
But this is the image I enjoy the best; the one that just screams quaint and Cornish and country and city all wrapped up into one.

My poor photography skills belie the images in my head, of course, but I've done what I could.  And towards the end, the camera was not behaving, and I was forced to use my phone, and I haven't transferred those yet.

So, a few more days of rest, and back to work.  But boy, oh boy....I wouldn't have missed this trip for the wide world.