Sunday, December 30, 2012

Despite all logic, Happy New Year.

I would like to see people be less concerned with the resolutions of celebrities, and more interested in...well....just about ANYTHING ELSE.

I would like to see the NHL to start playing again, so I can boycott them.  Do they even REALIZE how difficult it is in DETROIT right now?  Tigers got smoked; Lions suck; Pistons are so far past sucking that the light from sucking won't reach them for a decade.....

I would consider my life fulfilled if I get the opportunity to make Tina Fey laugh.

I would like to finish just one writing project.  As I recall, I've written that before.  Last year at this time, and the year before that.

Does this count as a writing project?



Monday, December 24, 2012

Tradition.


It's Christmas Eve, and I just got off of work about an hour ago; when I left, the world was spinning on as usual, with nary an evil-doer in sight....and the USAF was reporting that The Claus has clearance to enter US airspace.

I remember as a kid, getting up far too early and turning on the tree lights, and enjoying that sensation of expectation...all those wonderfully wrapped boxes containing who knows what, illuminated by huge, ancient lights reflected off of gobs of tinsel and what seemed like hundreds of ornaments; like a road map to the family Christmas history.

And school was out for a week.

Well, I've seen Christmas from all angles, I think....I've played Scrooge on various stages over three hundred times, I've celebrated it with my family, other people's family, and alone a couple of times. Even did a Hanukkah in Chicago, once upon a time when I was younger and in love.....

And I've worked through the night, and I've cooked huge meals for dozens and a frozen dinner for one and I can remember one particular Christmas where I had a rapidly shrinking stack of books on one side of the comfy chair and a rapidly growing stack of empty pizza boxes on the other.....

But nothing will ever compare to those mornings, with the lights and the anticipation and the laughter.

So, in the words of Scrooge's nephew Fred, "Merry Christmas!  God Save You!"*

 
*Taken from a letter written recently to my Uncle....yeah, I double dipped; sue me.
 






Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Landscape in white.

The last time I attended a winter in the Mitten, I walked about neighborhood of my youth with the usual state of wonder; how things had changed, and how some things hadn't.

There were a lot more houses; the fields that surrounded my home were long ago replaced by large McMansions, and hastily constructed and re-constructed condominiums.  Two lane roads have become four lane roads.  Even the schools I attended as a wee little Historiclemo have grown past their original boundaries to accommodate a rising influx of students.

Of course, everybody I once knew have long since departed this neighborhood, but I still see them, of course....

The cute blonde girl named Cathy who lived near the top of the hill; my first all-encompassing crush.  And I think she knew; but we flew with different flocks.  And in those halcyon days, the flocks did not fly anywhere near together.

Kurt, the fast talking kid three doors down and across the street; he had this huge backyard ringed with trees where we played baseball all through the summer, from sunrise to sunset.  The house remains, although a lot worse for wear; I don't think anybody lives there anymore.

The Marshall boys; tough guys, to be sure.  Dangerous enemies, but valuable friends.  They threw themselves into everything they did; they played baseball like Ty Cobb, touch football like full contact....and always rode the dangerous rides.

The trees are larger, of course, and the hills are smaller.

The pond where we played hockey through the winter is privatized now.  They built houses all around it and there's no longer any access.  And the last time I was there, there was no hockey played there, either.  The surrounding hills were bulldozed smooth, covered with crisscrossed streets with silly names, and implanted with large houses with no furniture in their living rooms.  Lifeless places that light their lawns and eaves with Christmas lights, but do not seem to glow.

When I went for a walk in the late afternoon, as the sun gives up early and goes to bed, I walked the street that grew up behind the elementary school (Meadowbrook Elementary....back in the day, there was both a meadow AND a brook), and discovered that one of the great sledding hills had not been plowed under, but still remained for that use...

We called it BOX CANYON.  There were three runs on that hill; one called Big Ben, one called Little Ben, and one called Dangerous.  Each had an element of risk.  There was always a story that a kid got killed while sledding on the Dangerous one.  Isn't that always the case when you're a kid?

We sledded that hill rotten; without helmets.  On metal-runner sleds.  We would build elaborate jumps three quarters of the way down, so as to get the best velocity before becoming airborne.  We sledded there until we couldn't feel our limbs, and then we trudged home for dinner...and then, we'd put up torches along the edges, and sled at night under a sky filled with stars.  And we wouldn't come home until Dad blew his horn.

Laughter of children.  Cheering, wheezing, boisterous laughter in the dark.

Even the memory of it warms my soul.  Adults seldom get to laugh that long, that loudly, or that freely.

So, I stood there in the gathering darkness, watching the kids I didn't know sled down a hill that now seemed remarkably tame now that I grew taller and less impressed by anything.  I stood apart, of course, because the world has moved on and strangers are bad, and adult strangers are worse, and adult male strangers are the worst.  I wanted to re-live a memory, not scare a bunch of children into leaving.

And I watched.  And I listened.  And I smiled.  And when I thought I'd stayed too long, I moved on down the street, back to life, back to home.

I hope they didn't see me crying.

Joy and sadness are linked together like madness and genius.

And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ain't that right, Kizzy?

I don't know if I've ever talked about this, but one of my favorite books about theatre is called THE ART OF COARSE ACTING by Michael Green.  Of course, I, AN ACTOR by Nicholas Craig is also very....instructive; but while Craig's book is from a autobiographical point of view, COARSE ACTING is about a whole sub-section of artists.

A "coarse actor" is one that remembers the lines, but not in the right order.
They remember the pauses better than the lines.
When cast as a sailor, the first question they ask the director is "which shoulder do you want the parrot sewn on?"

And such.

I'm just one matinee (or, for you dyslexics out there, manatee) away from the end of an eight show run of INSPECTING CAROL.  I've had a lot of fun doing it; it's nice to be able to work those muscles from time to time, to remember just how fun the job is, when you're not worried about keeping a job, or getting a job, or having your car repossessed.

And yes, the dressing room conversation is just as puzzling to me as it has always been.

There has been frustration, of course; you cannot work with the Coarse Actor without it.  Actors who think that they are far more creative than the script; who believe that "a reasonable amount of ad-libbing is acceptable" (an EXACT quote).  And the politics of the community theatre, and the casting in the face of a lack of viable candidates at auditions.....and people not showing up....and saving it for "the people."

It all goes away when the lights are up and the audience is waiting.

I had somebody ask me last night about the longest run I've ever been through of the same play...and I told them.  A year and a half.

How do you do it?

Well, certain things remain the same....the opening night is always ceremonial and fun and full of all that excitement and whimsy and such...and then, quite frankly, it becomes a job. 

But the thing is, you have to bring your A game every night.  You need to push through all the crap that life brings you, and bring all your energy to bear...because, in the long run, a professional does their job, even when they don't FEEL like doing their job.

And you don't have to be paid to be a professional.

Nobody wants to admit that their performance is sponsored by ATT or VERIZON.  Nobody will ever admit that they phoned it in....it takes energy and engagement to listen and react. 

But seriously....it's your job.  People are paying good money to see you do this thing.  They deserve your best.  Today's best.  100%.

And the next question, of course, was....how do you do that?

And the answer is simple....what ELSE have you got to do today?

Yeah; I love this as a hobby; and I loved it when it was my job; and I loved it when I was attempting to teach other people to do it and love it.

Because I'm not old when I do it.  I'm ageless.

Because I looked behind me last night, as the lights were going down, and damned if I didn't have wings........

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I liked it better when I didn't know anything.

At this particular point in our Human History.....Misanthropy sounds like a desirable occupation.

Good night, good luck, and God bless.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Postscript.

I've been walking down this road for a couple of days now, and although I believe it's run its course, I'll offer one more observation on the idea that what you do matters.....

I have a small group of close friends, scattered to the four winds throughout the country.  We met in various circumstances; from graduate school, back to college.  A few, oddly and wonderfully enough, from high school.  Dozens from theatres during the Acting Wars.  And some survivors of the days of my professorial persona.

Each time we get together (and some are more frequent than others), it's almost like time has stood still from one merry meeting to the next.  The conversation flows; the laughter fills the days like sunshine and the nights like a flaming comet; and though we are saddened by the parting (for parting is all we know of Heaven and all we need of Hell) we know that the next meeting will bring back the music and the magic....

It is the strangers, though, that'll shock you to tears.

I recently received an email from somebody I have never truly met....they are working around the Minneapolis/St. Paul theatre scene, and have been for several years, and by chance they came across my name on the Social Network and dropped me a line.

To thank me.

It seems when I was a young man, a college fella, struggling to find the voice of the actor and falling unflinchingly into the depths of drunkyness, I did a role.....John Merrick in THE ELEPHANT MAN.  I believe it was the last play I did in college....would have been the Fall of 1984.  And they saw this particular play as part of a High School field trip...and they stayed for a Q and A after the show.  And apparently I answered a couple of questions.

And I made enough of an impression that they pursued the craft.

You never know what fires you're going to light.

Because, in the long run, the people that walk, run or take up residence in your life may forget what you say, and forget what you did...but they will never forget the way you made them feel.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Be The Change.

Recently, a very good friend of mine put forth a question.  I will paraphrase.

"Why do we spend so much time focused on the things of earth, and not enough time with the things of heaven?"

And I was going to be snarky; but she is a good friend of mine, and I have a great affection for her.  And she's asked a serious question, and it deserves serious thought.

I think my original thought put me in the mind of my Grandfather, who is fondly quoted thusly:  "It is hard to remember that your job is to clear out the swamp when you're up to your ass in alligators."

My Grandmother had a different idea:  That this was Hell.  And we needed to live through this to get to that.

Does anybody wonder how I go to be like this?

Human history suggests (and yes, human history is as varied as the eyes that look upon and interpret it) that in that period of time where the Church was the ruling body of society, the idea was validated that our job on this earth was to prepare ourselves for Heaven.

And that included attending Church several times a day, working hard for just enough to sustain you and yours, and give generously to the Church.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.

Hard work and piety got you into Heaven.  Work hard here and your rest will come.

And that made the Church the moral center, the governmental center, and the educational center of the world.

And there was corruption.  Because power does that.
And imagination and creativity was frowned upon.....which would explain how Galileo wound up under house arrest for daring to state that the Earth was NOT the center of the universe.
And medicine was limited to fervent prayer, or leeches.
And women had three choices:  wife.  nun.  whore.

We've advanced past those days; and we've lost some things in the process.  But to my mind (as unbalanced as that may or may not be) the best thing we lost was the idea that God was a vengeful bastard.  That we didn't have to work ourselves to death in order to get to Heaven.  That the story of the Christ became more important than the story of Job.

And we have Art....for the Artist is touched by God.
And we have music....for music is the voice of God.
We have physics and medicine and sciences....and in those things, we better understand the mind of God, and our place in the universe created.

It is true that we are on this third rock from the sun for a very short time; and there have been many who have come before, and more importantly, many who come after.  And I would like to believe, that in my own small way I've touched lives that will extend past the end of my own.  And the stories of the way I lived....the laughs I provoked; the deep thoughts I shared; the gifts I gave as humble as they are...will comfort, or inspire, or serve as some kind of WARNING to those that survive me.

I have no idea if I'll make it to Heaven; but I know that this....THIS...is not the end of the story.

But how we live HERE and NOW is the important part.

Because.....for all its tedious redundancy, for all its frustrating speed, for all of its loud, polarizing arguments......

There is beauty everywhere you look.

And even with its warts, I'll fight to stick around, even with the surety of Heaven.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

This is what we do.

We're winding down rehearsals now; a few to go before we put the thing before the payin' public.  It's coming in fits and starts...some are better prepared than others, and while in the early days of long silences between the words where the struggle to find the cue and the connection held sway, now people are picking things up that had been dropped, adjusting, taking the piece of the puzzle and cutting a new shape to get it to fit.

You know...the usual stuff.

I tell stories in the breaks of the great moments, and the great disasters of my previous career; and in the telling, the feeling returns.....

That feeling of belonging to a place.  Belonging to a group.

(And no, Audra, not a PACK.  A family...of which you are a part...)

But that group is long ago and far away....or, in some cases, simply far away.  I still have those connections created in the past....the family pieced together by necessity and location, bonded by something bigger...something unspoken....like a nod, or a smile at the right time.  Or a drunken dance in a kitchen at 2 AM.

I don't have that here, and I've been struggling to figure out why. 

I think a part of it is my nature...the people that are still hanging around, far away and still connected, put in some work to get close to me.  I am not, by nature, outgoing.  But they made the effort, and in giving, they made it easy for me to give back.  And for that mutual trust and honesty, they are still there....in my memory, still drunkenly dancing in a kitchen at 2 AM.

Here.....I think I put on my intimidating shirt and do my job and people see that as a wall un-scale-able.  And I don't get a chance to open up, because I can't seem to make the time.

There are a few...and I'm grateful for those who have let me in, who let me share.

There is one I would give anything to have back, but I'm an idiot and I can't stop being one.

I'll close with a story....

I was recently doing a play with a group of talented young folk at the college.  They played around me, not quite sure to make of this aged doofus who answered questions with grace and intelligence and wit, but I was old enough to be their parents, and that's ALSO a wall un-scale-able.  But little by little we managed to find a field that we could both play in; sometimes together, sometimes not...but reasonable.

I am, in some cases, fond of structure.  I feel that since there's enough uncertainty when walking onto a stage where ANYTHING can go wrong, it's good to have as much on the ball as you can; and that's what rehearsals are for.  To plan for the inevitable misstep.  And I have a very low tolerance for people who are unprepared or who think that call times are just a suggestion.

Well, one of them pissed me off.  So, I did what I usually do; rather than rail and swear, I simply shut it out and said, "f**k it."

Well, during the opening night performance, there was an issue.  And I stepped in.  And I held a hand, and talked quietly and it got under control and all went back to normal.

That's me.....able to recognize and help to overcome the panic attack.

The person thanked me.  I nodded my head and said the only thing that ever made sense in situations like that....

"This is what we do."

We take care of each other.   Even when we're pissed at each other.  Like a family.

I could use a few more of those in the area.

But I need to be open to it.

So.

Knowing where to step is the first step.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Have you seen THIS man?

Over this past weekend (Friday, as a matter of record), the crime buffs and conspiracy theorists celebrated the forty-first anniversary of the greatest unsolved crime in the history of American Rapscallionism.....

In the early evening hours of November 24, 1971, a fellow who called himself Dan Cooper jumped out of an Northwest Orient airplane with two parachutes and $200,000 in twenties.

He was never seen again.

There have been oodles of stories...people who have confessed on their death beds; copycats who teased at admission, but eventually took the secret to the grave; a stack or two of bills discovered buried in the sand in 1980; a parachute found deep in the woods.....and even a story about a man who used to money to become a Miss.

In its purest form, this is one of my favorite stories...and while I don't condone the behavior, you gots to admire the guys guts....jumping out of a jet on a rainy cold November night into the dark of the forest on the Washington/Oregon border takes a pair made out of brass.

Perhaps, one day, they will find those brass ones, and call an end to the speculation.

I have, in my files of unfinished works, a play about the skyjacking.  Every year at this time, I pull it out and look at the differences in style between the day I started it (1995) and the last time I added to it (2009).

I have a way with words; no so much with time management.

Maybe someday I'll finish it.....

In the meantime, I'll dream of a rainy night, and a lone individual staring up at the search lights and drinking a scotch rocks, smiling as only the devil himself can.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

From the Desk.

If you've never seen the Elia Kazan film, A FACE IN THE CROWD (1957), then you've been missing a truly excellent film, for two reasons....one, it's a universal story of how our modern media corrupts absolutely, and two, it's sooooo cool to see Andy Griffith NOT be Andy Taylor.  Or Ben Matlock.

Instead, he's like a malevolent Will Rogers....or anybody currently on FOXNews.

I couldn't help thinking about that particular movie as I have witnessed the slow fade of that illustrious organization post-election.  The bloom is off the rose....actually, the bloom is off the carnation that is telling everybody over and over that it's a rose....so often, that people have actually begun to believe that it is, in fact, a rose.

I could go on and on (and have, in the past, referred to it) about the Theory of the Big Lie:  how you repeat a tremendous untruth over and over and often and often until the lie begins to appear as the truth, and pretty soon it's accepted as such.

Aside from the fact that a fairly recent study shows that regular viewers of FOXNews are not only uniformed, but in some cases ILL informed, another recent poll has shown a drop in their viewership akin to the Coyote falling off a cliff, leaving only that little puff of dust when he finally lands.

But the most telling statistic (from my limited research, mind you) is while they claim to be the number 1 news source in America....well.....they are, in fact, the number one CABLE news source...well, they have been regularly up until about two weeks ago.....but even their number one draw (O'Really) only garners about half of what the lowest rated news program on the networks garner.

It would seem to me that FOXNews began to believe their own hype, which as we all know is the death knell.....and that belief that they had the hearts and minds of the American people in their hip pocket made that very uncomfortable Election Night Coverage all the more painful to watch....

I think it's because the only truth of that night was the Mitt Romney DID win the election in the country he was campaigning in.  The mostly rich, mostly white, mostly male country.

I had hoped with a kind of schadenfreudan glee that this lesson would somehow be taken to heart; that FOXNews, as the Official Media Outlet of the GOP would turn that somewhat distorted mirror upon themselves and see just what Dorian Gray hath wrought.

But no.

The continued story remains that the 52.5% of the American people that didn't vote for them are STILL freeloadin', birth control demandin', free housin' and health care wantin' bums who probably want to take their guns 'cuz their homersectional.  Or sluts.  Or Lebanese sluts.

Or, they fell upon each other like the bottom feeding hyenas they are.

And of course, at the end of A FACE IN THE CROWD, with Lonesome Rhodes howling in the night for somebody to love him, the writer (played by Walter Matthau) states that he's down now, and there will be a temporary silence, and the usual amounts of mea culpa's, and he'll be back....though never at the level he was when he fell.

So.  The old saying is true.

You can catch the Devil, but you can't hold him long.

And in the end, you take a breath and hope that sanity trumps saber rattlin'.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I have random thoughts.


I am going out on a limb with the hope that the Hostess Bakeries aren't, in fact, dead.  I would miss some of their products.....I was fond of the Ding Dong and the Cupcakes.....not so much the Twinkie.  But I'm pretty sure that somebody will buy the manufacturing rights and we'll see them all again...perhaps with another name.

Hmn....what would be a good name for a golden tube of cake filled with cream?  Anybody wanna take a stab at it?

Sonny Elliot, a newscaster of great humor and excellent wit, and a mainstay in local television and radio news broadcasts through my childhood, passed away yesterday at the age of 91.  He was one of those guys who would draw on the weatherboard (old school.....no electronics at that point), and no matter WHAT, would always tell you the weather in Engadine, Michigan.

It wasn't until I read a bio of him recently that I discovered that he had survived the camps....because, as he often stated, "I was tougher than they were."

As we draw nearer to the Holiday season, I need to do some shopping, decorate the outside of the house in my traditional manner (I'm never ostentatious), and consider what kind of baked goods I will produce....I've already found places to procure the various candy elements....and I have, in fact, procured a box of Cadbury Flake and a sizable portion of Clotted Cream Fudge that became favorites of mine when I visited Cornwall back in '11.

Rehearsals continue on.  The book is down, for the most part, and I have three weeks until we open.  I'm cautiously optimistic that the lines will stay in my head, in the proper order and that I'll be able to decipher a cue when I hear it.  INSPECTING CAROL opens here in the Capitol City of the Northern State on December 6; it runs for two weekends.  You could come see it.  It's funny.

I don't talk specifics about politics, or my job.  I'm always worried that I'll: a) piss somebody off, which is never my intention, and: b) give something away that could actually get me charged with treason.  But I will say this......

I think, at this point, it LESS important to find out who said what or hid what, or who forgot to throw the security switch and place blame so we can force the people to believe that "The system works but the people fail" and spend MORE time tracking down and punishing the actual PEOPLE who killed our Ambassador.

I mean, it's simple.....stop trying to find the rock that fell out of the dam, and FIX THE LEAK.

The Tigers procured Torii Hunter.....if he stays healthy and thinks young, he may help out.  Victor Martinez should be back after missing all of '12 with an knee injury....and, it's about 93 days until Pitchers and Catchers show up in Florida....and 107 days until I walk the white beaches again....

Perhaps this year, I should see the Pirates play.....I don't have a Pirates jersey yet...and it would be way cool if I could find one of those flat-topped caps they wore back in the 70's.

No hockey yet.  Probably not this season.  Sigh.

I'm out....Peace!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Going to Pittsburgh.

It's Jim Rapport's Birthday today; Daddy Bear would have been 84 today if he had not been drafted into the Society of Harp And Halo.....but he is fondly remembered and sorely missed.

I was in rehearsal on Monday, making my way through a run of the middle of Act II of INSPECTING CAROL, pretending I knew my lines as well as miming getting the obligatory nut shot from Scrooge's tombstone......and my mind was wondering a bit.

And up popped a Daddy Bear story.

There are moments when the mind wanders; it can't really be called distraction, but it's just that the gray cells get ahold of an idea and that leads to something else and the next thing you know, several seconds, and in some cases SIGNIFICANT amounts of time have passed.

I'm reminded of a guy I worked with in an outdoor drama who was playing one of the Native Americans; and on one particular day, the guys decided they were going commando beneath the loincloth.

They were rebels.

Well.....this particular drama was a long run, and this particular guy was unused to a run longer than a couple of weekends.  He was sitting on the stage, in front of a fire pit, and there was dialogue going on around him, and his mind began to wander.....and it wandered to the night before, when he and a friend engaged in a particular event.....and one thing led to another....

I'll only remind you of the lack of covering beneath the loincloth, and leave it at that.

I think that particular story illustrates the point, but is not necessarily the point of my story.  I told you THAT to tell you THIS.

Daddy Bear used to call that momentary loss of concentration, "Going To Pittsburgh."  Of his actual opinion of that great Pennsylvanian city, I know not, but it is what it is.

And a small group of friends embellished upon the idea; that there was, in fact, a little bar outside of Pittsburgh...and THAT'S where you went.

The bartender was very open minded about the clientele, seeing as they were popping in and popping out, seemingly at random.  It was "Come As You Are"; meaning, whatever you were wearing is what you were wearing.....so, it was not surprising to see guys dressed as Centurions sitting next to Cross Country Truckers....and of course a few Hookers.

The drinks were cheap; and most of the time you didn't pay for them.

It was like most places that you really enjoy; it was comfortable and warm, but you didn't get to stay long so you really cherished the moment.

So, a few times today, as a tribute to the Great Man, I went to Pittsburgh.

I'm pretty sure that the security of the country did not, in fact, suffer.

Happy Birthday, Daddy Bear.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Naps. They're not just for mid-afternoon anymore...

Hi.

It does seem like forever since I've been here.  The truth is, I haven't had all that much to say; and my philosophy has always been, "don't live out loud if you don't have anything to say."

Which explains my absence on Twitter.  Nobody wants to know what I had for lunch.

I'm currently in rehearsals for INSPECTING CAROL at the Dakota Stage here in the Capitol City of the Northern State.  It's a very funny piece.

I hope we can get more people to show up for rehearsals regularly.  I don't like rehearsing with ghosts.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come notwithstanding.

I was gratified to see that the world did not end last Tuesday.

Now, hopefully, Ted Nugent can go back to singing, or hunting.  Kid Rock can continue to Rock.  Donald Trump can go back to Bankruptcy Court, and Victoria Jackson can continue living in her timeshare in the Land of Irrelevance.

These are serious times and we need serious people and your fifteen minutes are up.  His name is Barack Obama and he is the President.

I'll say no more on the subject, except this:  Bring me a candidate that speaks for the people, and I'll vote for him, her or it.  Party membership be damned.

Cuz any student of history can tell you what blind allegiance to a Party will get you.

Now, if you don't mind, we have a winter storm coming and I need a long winter's nap.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Is it over yet?

The first snowfall up here in the Northern State has come and gone.

That first snowfall has always caused a kind of chemical change in my system; the end of times, so to speak.  The long days are now turning to long nights; and in the words of the House of Stark, "Winter is Coming."

But at the same time, the snow covering provides a fresh coat of paint to the landscape.

And we can advance our technology in directions unthought, but a snowman is still fun to build.

Rehearsals for INSPECTING CAROL continue; it's a fun little play, and honestly, I would've paid them to do this role, where I get to basically skewer the whole Scrooge thing......the second act of this play (if you haven't seen it) is giving the NOISES OFF treatment to A CHRISTMAS CAROL.  I couldn't help laughing through the blocking rehearsal.

I need more sleep and less food; or at the very least, better food and deeper sleep.

And I need the campaign to be over.

Good luck to all, and to all a Good Grief.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

He doesn't look a day over 79.


Paul W Clemo

I remember a conversation with my Father, back when acting was my full-time profession.....

Actually, I need to start with the conversation I had with my Father when I decided to leave the Midwestern College for a job in the theatre.  It was quick and to the point:

"Let me get this straight," my Father said.  "You're giving up a career....for a JOB?"

Then he gave a sigh of exasperation, and the silence that either meant assent, or surrender.

The conversation after that was based upon a very bad series of days I was having during a run in Kentucky.  I jokingly referred to myself as the "Black Sheep of the Family."  Keep in mind that my Father is an Mechanical Engineer, and both my Brothers are, for the most part, Accountants.

My Father's response?  "Your Brothers are both Accountants...that could make you the White Sheep of the Family."

He was kidding.  I think.

Yeah, I'm going to go with kidding.

My Father was there when the acting bug bit.  We were walking home from the Jr. High School, across the athletic field behind the school that separated it from the neighborhood in which I lived.  It was nightfall, it was October, and I was bouncing around with the elation that only comes with youth in the spotlight.

He said afterwards that his only thought was, "oh, CRAP."

But he never once told me to stop; never missed a performance he could get to.  Was pleased when I got a Master's Degree; was pleased when I went into teaching, and accepted when I stopped.

He gave me his trumpet when I began to learn it, back in the fifth grade; I kept that trumpet with me until just after high school, when I gave it back.  He gave me a bugle for my 14th birthday, and it still sits on the organ in the living room of the house.  I've often thought about heisting it, but thought better about it.

The man still thinks he has the power to ground me.  I would hate to challenge that authority.

He invited me to play in quartets with him.
He bailed me out numerous times when the Gods of the Automobile wreaked a terrible revenge.
He remembers every single stupid thing I have ever done, and regales crowds of people with the story at every.....SINGLE.....opportunity.
He taught me how to drive a standard, and drive a golf ball.
He sowed the seeds of my affection for Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe and Huckleberry Finn.
And he always made pancakes on Christmas morning.


He turns 80 today.

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Sudden Journey and the Fond Farewell.



I wrote to a local friend of mine yesterday that I had felt "a disturbance in the Force".

This morning, I received word that my friend Rae Stone had passed.

I had last spoken to Rae about eight months ago; she was still living in Paso Robles, and the Actors Warehouse project we had both worked on (well, she started it, and brought me to do some freelance work) had become less of a cyber workshop, and more of a real place where real children with real troubles could find real help.

I first met Rae through the kind of strange accident that was common in my playing days; she was doing a film, and I auditioned.  And I didn't get the part.  But she invited me to help out with a staged reading of a play called NICKELED AND DIMED, and we hit it off...professionally speaking.

I got a lot of calls from Rae.  Filling in here, working on this, writing critique of local theatre, having coffee and discussing the state of the art.

She was free with her time, and generous in spirit.

And, as you can see in the photo, she had an Emmy, as well.

And for the faith that she showed, the friendship that she gave, and the mountain of evidence she produced to prove that there is goodness and decency in the world, I offer my love and eternal thanks.

We'll see you when we get there.

Frying pan....fire......

So, I finished up DANCING IN LUGHNASA on Sunday afternoon, went home, slept, and began a new rehearsal period on Monday evening.

I haven't done such a thing in a loooong time.  Back in the days when people paid me for my talents.  Back in those delightful halcyon days when people wanted my talent.

The running joke for the fifteen minutes I was in rehearsal was, "have you learned your lines yet?" and my reply was, "I took the weekend off."

I didn't take the weekend off.

It's a play for the season, a delightful farce called INSPECTING CAROL, that had some popularity a while ago, and is still pretty popular among the amateur theatres.  It's fun; quirky characters and A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

And I play the guy who plays Ebenezer Scrooge.

This guy haunts me like Jacob Marley.

I played him at the Melodrama Theatre in California from 1999 until 2002.  Over three hundred performances; two-a-days, mostly.  Some years, it was like butter; some years, it was like a really bad visit to your sadistic dentist.  Twelve hours a day in the theatre with huge audiences that hadn't quite gotten into the spirit of giving; eating from the snack bar and pretending it didn't hurt; working with little tiny petri dishes that called themselves the Cratchett Children; getting sick as a dog on things that Typhoid Tiny Tim brought with him to the theatre.

And of course, the annual party at Casa Clemo.  Food, a fire in the fireplace, a gift exchange, and a nice, long soak in the Jacuzzi......high stress becomes brotherly love.

But it's October and it's wet and it's cold and I'm tired and there are lines to learn and software to become familiar with and there is a stack of reports to read and sign off on and new hardware to tame.....

Staggering onward, rejoicing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rack 'em.

Well...the weekend was busy busy busy.

I wrapped up a show at one of the local colleges.

It's always fun to do them; you get the opportunity to get your teeth into a good role, you get a little more leeway from the director (but still, some reallllly good notes), and you get to witness the evolution of the young actor; you get to see them climb a few rungs on the ladder.  And sometimes, you get the feeling (however fleeting) that perhaps you have something to teach just by doing.

But it's also nice for them to end. 

So, went home, unpacked my satch, had some dinner, and sat with my wife until the exhaustion overcame me.  Slept for eleven hours and woke up suprisingly whipped.  Did some laundry, ran some errands.  Trimmed the beard and got a haircut.  And took a nap.

Wound up the evening at the annual Lewis and Clark/Fort Mandan Foundation banquet, where the creme de la creme of Capitol City society meet.  I hung out with former Governors, famous Authors, and my Family, eating, talking and listening to speeches.

The cheesecake was delightful.

Went home, watched several innings of the ballgame, flipping occasionally to MNF (Congrats, Giants!  BOOOOO Lions!) and came to work.

I start rehearsals for another show this coming evening; INSPECTING CAROL.  It's basically A CHRISTMAS CAROL meets THE INSPECTOR GENERAL.  A farce.  A new cast filled with people I either don't or barely know.  An interesting role.

UPTA sent me a very nice email.  I sent an application ten days after they opened.  I was 1330.  I managed to score a non-singing audition on the last day in what is probably the last hour.  I'm well past my prime; I'm finally secure where I don't need to succeed in order to eat, and for some reason, I want to do this.

I have no idea as to why.

But be that as it may.  At least I CAN.  Or NOT.

I have CHOICES.

I should go just to see some old faces.

And even the old faces are going to be younger than mine.

This is quite possibly the weirdest midlife crisis ever.

Most of them get the young girls and the fast cars.  I get the cholesterol, acid reflux, and the apparent feeling that there just isn't enough STRESS in my life.

Crazy.



Still thinkin'......


This may take awhile.  Smoke 'em it ya got 'em..........

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Ditty for the City......

This song, in all it's wonderful cheesiness, is a remnant of my FIRST World Series, in October of 1968. The Tigers took the Cardinals in 7 games, and even though a felon named Denny Mclain won a whopping 31 games that year (STILL a record, and virtually unbeatable in the modern era), the real hero on the mound was a guy named Lolich, who pitched THREE complete games in the series, winning them all. They don't make 'em like that, anymore.

Oh, and by the way....the Great Ernie Harwell wrote this song.


 
Bring it home, Boys!



Thursday, October 11, 2012

A post that started out as one thing, morphed into something else....but I'm just contemplative, and not terminal.

Stacey Dash is being somewhat crucified for her Tweeted support of Republican Nominee Mitt Romney.

This is giving far too much attention to Twitter support, Mitt Romney, and ESPECIALLY Stacey Dash.

Why is it that for every Sandra Fluke, who for the most part brought an important point of view to the not-so-civil discourse on women's issues, we have a Madonna, who simply cajoles her already wasted audience that they, "have to vote for Obama."?

That's like listening to an impassioned speech, followed by the rah rah of some drunken cheerleader who thinks it's still 1983.

It's all about relevance.

Another example......Nobel prize winners were announced today; and at the same time, Yoko Ono presented the Lennon Prize to....Lady Gaga. 

I just saw a headline on my homepage.....it read:  Honey Boo Boo Threatens The Kardashians.

Okay....aside from the unfortunate headline writing (did you get a really amusing picture in your head?  I know I did....), I'm wondering why my homepage is worried about the latest soap opera, entitled, "The Bland and the Empty Headed."

I know, I know....some of you might watch either the Kardashians or the Boo Boo....they are like an auto accident.   You know want to, but you can't look away......or perhaps it's schadenfreude.  Either one will do.

But it's all about relevance.

It seems to me that a lot of people on the planet spend far too much time worrying about what's going to happen to them after their life is over.....to the point where they forget to live in THIS life.

And, on the flip side, there are many of us who grasp at the trivial to avoid the mundane.  There's a kind of satisfaction that comes from watching the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous so avoid thinking about The Rough and the Underpaid.

And a worried few trying to figure out just where they fit inside the sacred, the trivial, the mundane, the rich, the famous, and the rough and underpaid.

Like a Christian espousing on the dangers of Socialism, we have lost our way.  We have forgotten that the only time in the bible that Christ gets pissed is when the people in the Temple of God are changing money.

We must get back to the very basics of our interaction with this life.

Enjoy the world, add to it's charm and beauty.....but pack out your own trash.

Offer encouragement.

Apologize when necessary.

Thank frequently.

Shake your head and laugh at other people's foibles as you acknowledge the innate silliness of your own.

Remember that growth always requires work; the plant has got to bust out of the seed and through the earth to become the rose.

You can't have a light without a dark.

And not everybody wins.

I'm pretty sure that at the end of my life, I'm not going to be thinking, "Shit,that was a hellava ride!"  And I'm hoping that Satan isn't thinking, "Oh, CRAP, here HE comes!"

I'm just hoping that somebody, somewhere has a story of my limited greatness, or my reasonable goodness, or my occasional moments of optimism, rather than my penchant for darkness and pessimism.

And I would be flattered as all Hell if somebody would carve Spike Milligan's "last words" in Gaelic on my stone:

Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite.

"I told you I was sick."

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Random Optimism comes hard for me.

I can't say that I'm a good man.

That is a label best applied by the outside world, and not myself.

All I can do is try to be a good man, and hope that it happens.  To focus on fairness and kindness and compassion and universal peace.

And yes, there are times when I want to tear the human race a new one.

It's a work in progress.  And, I suppose, the end result is a trip to see family and friends in that little acre in Northeastern Eternity.

But while walking across the skin of the world for several decades, I believe that there are certain universal truths:

If you think you're a hammer, then the world will look like a nail.

Or, as it was put succinctly on Facebook recently.....When you're dressed in Riot Gear, everything looks like a Riot.

People without conscience will take advantage of good nature; but that shouldn't prevent good nature.

In the words of the Blessed St. Reagan:  Trust, but Verify.

Finally, I would like somebody to stand up in a debate in the future and say, "My counterpart is a good man, an honest man and a man who wants what we all want for our country:  we both want every American to have a job and a future.  We both want our children to be safe.  We both want universal peace and prosperity.  Our only disagreement is on HOW to go about getting those things.  And disagreements are mitigated by discussion and open mindedness.  No matter what happens in the next few weeks, we must not forget that we are all in this together."

If you're reading this, Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney....I DOUBLE DOG DARE YA.

PS:  I just sent a variation of this in an email to the White House.  I'll let you know if I get a response, either in the form of a form "thank you" or a visit from the black helicopters.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The romance of the flame.

I've been around a lot of bonfires in my life.

A bonfire in the summer is a silly thing to attempt; invariably, there's some kind of fire danger that puts all the local gendarmery on alert for smoke and spark, and it's usually too damned hot to sit near a fire.

There are exceptions to that rule; there were several summer bonfires on the Pacific beaches that turned out all right; the temperature drops quite nicely when the sun goes down, and the Pacific breeze is cooler than the one on the Gulf.

But I have found the the Fall is the best time for a bonfire.  The temperatures are cool; there is usually the lovely scent produced by the sweet rotting of the leaves, and there is something intoxicating about the smell of burning wood in October.

And the stars are oh, so much brighter.

I have my favorite places, of course; and favorite memories.....

I can recall being invited out to a small farm south of Lexington KY in the Fall of '97.  I couldn't find it again if you paid me.  But the wood was dry, and there were enough leaves on the trees to rattle and hum as the Fall breezes blew through....and the stars shone down on the cool, crisp evening as the sound of drums and pennywhistle floated up from the circle surrounding the fire. 

In truth, the evening began as a force of nature dragged me along like the current of the rushing river; and by the end of the evening, as I fell asleep near the indoor fireplace in a remarkable cabin, I had  given in completely.  I entered as Patty Hearst and left as Tanya.

I still hear the echoes of the drums every year as the first Fall rain falls.

But of course, my favorite place was this pit of sand up the road from the Cabin of Legend.

The last time I lit a fire in that area was sometime in the mid-80's.  A walk had turned into a conversation, and the conversation continued as the sun went down and the thousand thousand stars lit up the moonless night sky.  I lit a fire, and we sat and talked and danced....

And I often wonder what happened to that girl.  I hope she is well and happy; and I hope that she knows that years have passed, but she is there still.  Every time I go there.  Every Time.

There have been other fires; fires to cleanse, for example, as I systematically burned the letters from one of the many "she-who-shall-not-be-named;" fires to cook upon, and there is no greater treat than a fire-baked s'more; and, of course, the eerie look of the fires in the orange groves, tended through the night to keep the crops from freezing.......

The first great harnessing of elemental power.

I am drawn like the moth.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thinking of Sonny as the rehearsal goes on.....

One of the things I remember most is sitting in a chair in a single light, doing a monologue I have done a hundred times before.

The dreaded Chair Exercise.

I was in my first year of Graduate Studies at the University in the Middle of Nowhere, and the first instructor I really connected with used this particular exercise to rend and tear his students to shreds.

That last part should read, "allow the student to get in touch with a different perspective to comfortable material."

He had the unique ability to see insincerity; although without taking anything away from his abilities, I'm not sure I was oozing sincerity to begin with back in those early days.  But he had put several of my fellows through this exercise, and there had been frustration and tears and now.....it was my turn.

I learned something in that simple exercise.  Okay, two things.

First....I freakin' HATE the chair exercise.

And second, it's important to take in everything all around you; and use those things that are happening now; not what happened yesterday or last week or last night or last YEAR, but right there, right then.

Be here.  Now.

His name is Sonny Bell.  He is an Sherpa to actors.  As a director, he would show you a map of where you were, and where you were supposed to go, but the course and heading was yours to find.  And if you trailed off, he would bring you back on course with a few quick questions.

Seriously.....I remember doing Horatio in Hamlet and was stuck on a certain scene that just wasn't going right.  I stepped into Sonny's office to talk about it and he asked me three questions, and by the end I knew what to do.  And I don't remember the questions...except I'm pretty sure one of them was, "so, what did you have for lunch today?"

He had the capacity to make a read-though exciting; and wasn't above standing in the back of the theatre during a rehearsal and do a little dance when things went well.  No matter how busy the day was, he still brought energy to the process, and inspired that same energy in everybody.

He directed me in a couple plays in the two years I spent there; he gave advice to the one-hander I did on Harry Truman (in fact, he suggested it), and helped out with some scene work that the Great Breen and I did for an Irene Ryan competition.  He eventually became the guide for two of my best friends, and one of my students.

He has since retired to the Southeast; he still dabbles in the art, communes with nature, and even though he's had some illness lately, he's basically approached it with courage and stamina, and kicked ass.

Thanks, Sonny.  I'm still learning.

And I still get that rush.

And I even do a little dance when it goes just right.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lunatic Dancing.

I'm uncomfortable.

It happens from time to time, of course; I think all human beings have a certain latent ability to know that something is coming before it arrives.  Some people see it clearly; some people ignore it as a daydream or a fantasy; and some people get the heebie jeebies.

I'm sitting on the corner of Heebie and Jeebie.  Willie and the Poor Boys are playing; pay your nickel, tap your feet.

My discomfort manifests itself in several ways:  I become less attuned to the world around me, but also suffer from horrible bouts of insomnia.  I eat more than I want.  I start quoting random passages from old songs.

September morn.....we danced until the night became a brand new day.....

See what I mean?  Neil Diamond, fahcryinoutloud.

I'm doing this play.....DANCING AT LUGHNASA...it's a good play and I'm not comfortable yet with it.  All the facts are in evidence, but I can't seem to make the case.  I'm trying to give myself the time; I'm forever impatient with myself, I'm always trying to be further along than I am.  But it opens two weeks from today and I need a Little Christmas, right this f***ing minute.....

Damn, I did it again.  Mame, for GOD'S SAKE!

I have done this all my life; pushing the bounds of what am, in order to get what can be.  Pushing myself past what I know I can do into what I should be able to do.  It annoys people around me, most of the time, and for however long it lasts makes me look like Captain Ahab after one too many Red Bulls.

I apologize, of course.  Sometimes, they are even accepted.

But what I'm looking for....what I WANT....is that moment where all the stars align, the wind blows from the right direction, and you hit the right notes at the right time, and you can feel the light from the smile of God.

You know that moment?  The moment when you know that you're the best there can be....but for just that one moment.

I'm mean, I'm not an egotist.

Not all the time.

Monday, October 1, 2012

We will all go together when we go.

I was reading through a few things this weekend; the weekend here at Mount Neverest are usually filled with fixing things that are broken, replacing the things that cannot be fixed, mowing that which grows, raking that which falls from the neighbors trees, and listening through temporarily open windows to the sounds of a distant marching band and wishing I was watching a football game.

But I was reading.

Random things I would like to say to total strangers:

Do not confuse your religion with your faith.  Your faith, in the long run, is a communication, both spoken and unspoken, to your Deity.  Men are corruptible, and will seek to use religion to control the sheep that confuse religion with faith.

Faith opens doors.  Religion tends to lock them.

There was a quote from Morgan Freeman, which was good; but there were people who were concerned that is was produced by Atheists.

I know deeply spiritual people; and I know Agnostics and Atheists.  Don't be fooled by the Atheist who wants to ban every public religious totem in the country; and don't be convinced that somebody who does not believe in a God or an Afterlife is without merit.

Those who don't answer to a religion have more freedom to see exactly what there is to see.

Some people worship trees.
Some worship the God of Baseball.

In the long run, it's not the words that matter, but the deeds performed.

Oh, and by the way.....Tigers are three games up with four to play.

Still pleeeenty of time to break my heart.

Love to you.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Little Victories....

It seems that I fall into patterns as I write these things....I am either nostalgic, telling stories of my life based upon some beginning, or ending in the present that suggests the story from the past.  Or, I am incensed by some sociopolitical nonsense.  Or, I just get tired of apologizing for being the smart guy.

I admit to getting a little depressed at the idea that our societal norms peaked in high school.

I'm still being tormented for being the smart guy.

But I'm not talking about that today.

Today, it's about the little victories.

My old friend Ben Benedict will, on an almost annual schedule, remind me of a piece of advice I gave a cast of actors after a particularly difficult rehearsal.....I stated that rehearsals are a lot like a round of golf.

If you play golf, no further explanation is necessary...for those that don't....

Golf is a frustrating sport.  And I've had terrible rounds where the I'll hook it this way, or slice it that way, or just flat-out shank the thing every which way but the hole.  I'll four putt an easy one, and double bogey on a hole so short the only thing missing is the damned windmill.  You haven't lived until you've hit a nine iron straight up.  But I have, in fact, found every single tree, rock and natural impediment on a course that there is to find.

But there is going to be one shot.....one five iron shot, say, that feels so right, moves where you want it, looks great comin' off the club, and lands, miraculously, three feet from the pin.

And you think to yourself, "if I could put three shots like that together, I could par a hole...." and pretty soon, you can convince yourself on the basis of that one shot, that you have the untapped potential to play at Augusta.

It's the one shot that brings you back next week to try the damned game again.

Rehearsals are like that, as well.  The accent isn't hitting right; the lines are spinning all over your brain; the blocking has disappeared completely, and nobody is feeding you the right cues.  But you'll hit one line, just right....and that's what brings you back the next day.  Or, even, what brings you back after a five minute break.

Little victories.

I know the lines; I just need to put them in the right order.

I have found evidence that I've actually directed a few things; some videotape (ancient), some reviews (kind), oodles of prompt books and programs...and a resume that actually lists the things I've done.

I filled out a form that may get me into the UPTA for the first time in ten years.

And while I'm not setting the world on fire.....

That last shot looked good.

Three feet from the pin.

And I'll be back tomorrow to see if I can find Augusta on a map.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I've come from the land of the Rat Pack with a message of Hope. I hope to get back there soon.

Vegas is a kind of medicine for a flagging soul.  But be warned, 'tis a dangerous narcotic.  It is fine in small amounts for whatever ails you, but too much and you become an addict.

I do gamble, but for small stakes and for fun, not for profit.  I like seeing shows and walking about the various shops.  I buy strange souvenirs, and watch the people.

The best people come out just after the sun rises.  And they're not in the casinos.  They are out on the street.

Two guys, several blocks apart, talking to nobody and dancing down the street.  I considered introducing them to each other, so at the very least, it would look like they were having a conversation....with dancing.

Two women, trying desperately to flag a cab on the street; not realizing that it's illegal in Las Vegas for cab drivers to do street fares.  Flagging and cursing; flagging and cursing.

Joggers.  I admire their tenacity to run in even the early morning heat, but I most admire the funny clothes they wear.

People staggering into the early bars.  People staggering out of the same early bars.  The ones staggering out look the happier.

People walking around with these huge, foot-long glasses of various alcoholic drinks.  Those are the people I want to find in the morning, and follow them around doing a marching band cymbal solo.  Just for fun.

Oh, my GOD the food.

If you're ever at Bally's....try the Steakhouse there.  It's old school, and I will dream of that lovely cut of beef for a looooong time.  Or, the Chicken and Bacon Club sandwich on Sourdough bread at the cafe in Paris.  Ooh.  La. La.

Now, I'm back to reality.

Pity.

But if occasional trips to the City of Sin is the only vice I have remaining.....PLAY ON.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Powder Milk Biscuits....has your family tried them?

The best laid plans of a tired man on his day off were magically pushed away thanks to a movie on the television.

A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. 

Robert Altman's last film; starring Garrison Keillor and four (COUNT 'EM, FOUR!) Oscar winners.  And Lindsay Lohan.

I thought the movie charming, with a series of backstage subplots revolving around the on-air performances.  Lots of lovely folk and gospel music.  And the stylings of the All Star Shoe Band.

So, I spent two hours watching the movie when I could have been doing just about anything else that would have been productive.  But sometimes you have to screw your productivity to the sticking place, ya know?

And it took me back to October of 2009, Halloween, to be exact, when Mr. Keillor brought his show to the Capitol City of the Northern State.

He had been here before the previous summer, doing a cut down version of the show....the summer show was long on music and short on everything else.  I'm not complaining, I like folk and gospel music, but I also like Guy Noir and the comedy bits in between.

The show on Halloween was great fun; there were hundreds of people dressed in costumes, all smiles and good cheer.  The lights went down, the music started and the "ON AIR" sign lit.  And for two hours, I had not one single care in this world.

I can't describe all the events that took place that evening; if you'd like, you can go onto the website and pop in October of 2009.  In fact, at one moment, you can hear me laughing.  I'm only ten rows from the stage.

I wish he would return to the area.  I wish I had the time to travel to Minneapolis to see the show in its element.  More to the point, I wish I could hunker down at the cabin and just listen to it on the radio as the day turns to night, with the fragrance of cedar trees and wood smoke in the air.

As lullabies go....nothing better on the skin of the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tedium does not mean boredom.

Blocking rehearsals are tedious.

But you have to do the steps, in the order they come; or your dance is going to be all f**ked up.

The memorization process always seems to be divided up into three phases:

Phase One:  The book is in your hand, and you're ocularly tied to it.
Phase Two:  The book is out of your hands, but you're still seeing it in your minds eye.
Phase Three:  You have completely integrated the action to the word and the word to the action.

Blocking rehearsals have always helped to me focus the line; and in some cases, created an interpretation I had not thought of before.

Case in point:  Way back in 199-, when I was a lad of plenty four, I was in a blocking rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet, which was being directed by some recently retired soap star.  Her rehearsal schedule was....shall we say....optimistic.  And she scheduled 30 minutes for the balcony scene.

One hour later, we were still at it; I couldn't find the hook.  There just seemed to be something so trite about it; so.....manufactured.  So....."done before."  You know what I mean?

And after an hour, I did what any red blooded American actor would do; I screamed in frustration and threw my script into the tenth row of the house.  I made it rain Shakespeare up in there.

And as the pages all went where they may, the thought occurred to me that would serve to get the damned thing blocked sixteen minutes later.

It wasn't the blocking that wasn't working.  Okay, YES IT WAS, because the director was trying to paint a picture without giving the actor the proper given circumstances. 

It was the PACE.  As the script landed in the tenth row of the house, the calcification that had been affecting my brain broke away and I remembered that Romeo is in the garden of his enemy, and if he gets caught, he is going to DIE.  So, he wouldn't be swooning, he would be attempting to close the deal.

And then, with small modifications, the blocking was re-worked and all was well.  And while I earned some respect that day, and learned a lesson myself about the necessity of thinking while working, the lovely director never stopped calling me "Jackass" for the rest of the run.

But she said it with affection.  I think.

Tonight, it was blocking a scene where I literally talk for three and a half pages.  And my friend Dan the Director had some preliminary ideas, and we played around for a little while, and then it all became clear, and I went to town.  And by the end, I'm racing around the stage, and dancing, and almost singing (and that may come later), which makes the end of the scene that much more poignant.

Tedium can sometimes provide insight, which invites creativity, which inspires action.

And for those moments, for those hours, I am alive.

I wish I could be alive alllll the time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Life Parable.

I'm not one to use sick days.

I think I have something like 400 hours of sick time accumulated; but I think I can count on one hand how many times I've called in to ANY job with a sickness.

Of course, in most of the theatres I worked at, there was no such thing as "sick days."  You were allowed to be sick on your own time.  But other than that, you got your ass on the stage and were as brilliant as you could be.

And the theatres I worked in that DID have understudies...well, more than once the understudy would come to me and beg me, BEG ME to never get sick.

Remind me to tell you about the time I worked in an outdoor drama for six weeks without being able to feel my legs; or doing two performances as Scrooge with a high fever and unable to speak above a whisper without coughing up my lungs; or the famous food poisoning incident of 1985.

Yeah.  I'm a tough guy.

Until yesterday.

I had a headache that turned into a migraine that turned into what can only be called a concussion. It radiated from behind my eyes, down the back of my neck and into my arms.  I tried to stay the course, but wound up bailing after 8 hours.

Went home, scared the wife that wasn't expecting my home at that hour, went to bed, and did not awaken until five o'clock in the afternoon.

With a headache.

But a bearable one this time.

Let that be a lesson to me.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lighting the candle to forgive the darkness.


In 1963, Medgar Evers was murdered; shot to death in his driveway with his wife and children waiting for him in his house.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard was murdered; he was tortured and beaten and left to die alone in a cold Wyoming night.

In 2009, Dr. George Tiller was murdered; shot to death in the foyer of his church as he handed out pamphlets to the congregation.

In January, a thirteen year old girl was beaten unconscious by seven other students and left for dead on a school bus.

Some were hated for the color of their skin; some for the legal acts that some considered sinful; some for their orientation; and some simply because they said or did something that was considered wrong.

I suppose you know, and so do I, that it is an endless cycle.  A cycle of misunderstanding; of close-mindedness; of blind allegiance to doctrine; of hate.

Hate cannot be conquered by hate.  Thinking persons know this to be true.

There is no inoculation against it.  The cure must come from the infected, and not directly from the environment.

I am not a fool.  Most of you know that; some of you would like to believe it; and my Father, of course, suggests that only a fool claims not to be one.

And as a thinking man, I will admit to some hatred on occasion; and I'll also admit to some shame as it passes through.

But I have never hated somebody simply because they disagreed with me.

And I started writing this a few minutes ago, and as I was.....Gabby Giffords crossed the stage on my television.

And it comes home to me that if she can forgive, so can I.

And strive to be worthy of forgiveness, myself.

Cuz I'm an ornery bastard sometimes.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Right mind. Left Brain. Iron Fist. Wooden Leg. Piece of Twine. Swanee Ribbon.

I was reminded, quite forcefully, after my latest rant that I need to concentrate upon "accepting the things that I cannot change."

And I agree.  I tend to get bent out of all shape when faced with unbelievable idiocy.

But there is a certain calmness that comes with the idea that I am just one of the many sheep.

If I offended anybody ELSE, let me apologize.

And no, I'm NOT an Atheist.  I'd like to think I'm a man of Faith, with no Religion.

But enough of that......

I auditioned this afternoon for a play, locally.  DANCING AT LUGHNASA.  There' s a role in there for me; let's see if the "other eyes" agree with me.  If so, I get to play for awhile with some kids.  I've done it before and it was fun.  And if they don't agree, I always have my job and.....

Oh, f**k.

I think I've mentioned this before, but as I've aged, I've come to enjoy auditioning more than I did in the old days.  I love the idea of the cold reading; where you get a quick look, make some quick choices (and by the way, the choices don't need to be RIGHT, exactly...they just need to be MADE) and go and do it; take your choices and match them to the choices your scene partner has made; or, in lieu of choices your scene partner has made, bring them into your choices, and together create a universe for just a little while.

Such fun.  The closest I will ever get to Creation.  In that moment, the choices you make, the scene you create, shall be unique and original, and never to be repeated.

Early rehearsals pale in comparison to the instant fun of the audition.  But it soon comes back.

You have to work before you can play.

And we tend to forget that the essence of "a play" is "to play."

There were two plays being auditioned at the time, the other being called THE MOVIE GAME.  It is an intriguing script, and another role in I thought I'd have a shot at, but I was shut out of that one.

Made me sad; I like the director of LUGHNASA, he's one I consider a close friend and one of the few in the Northern State whose opinion and work I trust and enjoy.  But the other director is also somebody I would've like to have worked with; for I've enjoyed her work in the past and.... 

And I could really use some friends.

But until then, I have the auditions; and if I don't get, it's okay....I still have my job and...

Oh. Yeah.

Already pointed that out.

But for those of you that missed it.....

Oh, f**k.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Avert your eyes, for I am ranting; and I don't care what you think at this point....come back tomorrow when I'm in a better mood.

It seems that every time there is a natural disaster, there is a gloom-and-doomer (usually on the right, and usually of the religious variety) that states that it's an Angry God, punishing us for our latest offenses....in this case, it's all about Gays and the "A" word.

Yup.  We're being swiped at by the Angry God for a violation of his laws.

And I'm sure we've been swiped at before; certainly, He was probably behind the whole Black Death, which killed 100 million people world wide, in a most hideous manner.  And lest we forget the whole Spanish Flu Pandemic that killed somewhere around 130 million people worldwide.....

I wonder what we were doing back then to raise his ire so?

Could it have been the seemingly calculated extermination of the indigenous populations of the New World?

Could it have been a war that involved the entire world?

And yet....the Angry God seems to let us off the mat time and time again.

We never, ever learn, it seems.....there seems to be one way, and one way only, to keep an entire population enthralled and controlled and in fear for their very souls.

Religion.

But I am a wretched sinner, my friends;  for I believe in the words of John Scopes, who stated in his now-famous trial, "I believe that religion is supposed to comfort people; not frighten them to death."

Religion is not supposed to explain life to us; for if that were true, we'd be selling slaves and our daughters, and stoning people left right and center...cuz that very un-Christian Old Testament says it's A-OK.

Stop telling me we're doomed because the world doesn't think as you do.

Because in the final analysis, the Crusades failed because apparently, God wasn't on our side.

And RIGHTLY so.

Sorry.  I'm furious.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Seething, but functional.

It's been awhile since I did some random thoughts.

More accurately; I have random thoughts alllll the time; I just don't always write them down.  But it's a peculiar season, and my mind wanders off, and contemplates, and seeks parity.

So, why should I suffer alone, when I have all of you to foist this upon?

So.

I had a discussion with a co-worker of mine regarding the media fall-out over the Congressional fellow from MO who took his head out of his a** long enough to put his foot in his mouth.  My co-worker friend and I bandied ideas about and agreed to disagree, but my point was clear:

I would never want to have to join in on the decision to terminate a pregnancy; but I defend to the end the woman's right to choose.

And "Pro Choice" does NOT mean "Anti-Life."

And yes, we should be spending our time finding people do protect the innocent, rather than re-define the violation.

Religion is man-made.  Faith comes from God.

And somebody is going to need to get Jesus something to settle his stomach.

And the more I write, the most frustrated and angry I become.

Damn it.

And I continue to think about abandoning my post and retiring to the riverside.

And I think of some Jimmy Buffet lyrics:

"Mama, I'm fine, if you happen to wonder;
I don't have much money, but I still get around...
I haven't made church in near 36 Sundays.
And f**k all your West Nashville Grand Ballroom Gowns..."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Does the First Amendment apply to those with an overabundance of Bile?

Recently, I have been having an on-going conversation with one of my oldest friends, regarding our recently discovered difference in political views.

He had posted the picture of the business owner in Portland OR, who placed in his store window an anti-Obama sign; and my friend commented on the fact that the "Liberals" are trying to silence this man's first amendment rights to free expression.

I had to point out a homeowner in Chattanooga TN who placed an anti-Bush poster on his front lawn, and was told by the local courts to take it down.  I indicated to my friend that I doubt that the jurist in question was probably NOT "Liberal."

It brought home to me two things: 

First, our collective memory is about as long as the thirty second commercials that sell us our clothes, our cars, and our Government.

Secondly, as we all know, the right to free expression does have limits; and if your anti-Bush or anti-Obama sign causes rioting in the streets, then it is NOT covered under the First Amendment.  You cannot yell "FIRE" in a crowded movie house.

It is, however, completely legal to yell "MOVIE" in a crowded firehouse.

Civility is not dead in America, my friends; it's in the ICU, under heavy guard, because people keep trying to kill it.  But it will rise, and when it does, it won't be pissed.  It will be forgiving.  And we will breathe a sigh of relief that the long National Nightmare is over.

Take THAT, Nattering Nabobs of Negativity.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I've always been Historic, 'cuz I lived in a log cabin.


I always imagined that I could use this little place as a means to achieve the White House.

Because we all know that the American public approves any candidate raised in a log cabin.

This is actually the first family cabin; it's a little ways up the road from the current family cabin, located in the middle of the Mitten.  This is where I spent virtually every other weekend and two weeks a summer. This is the back of the cabin; the side that faces the road.


This is the front; this faces the river.


And this is the river as it runs past all the cabins on the road.  This picture is important in the history of my life; for I am standing at the very spot where I began being stung by a hive of wasps when I was very young.  It was an accident perpetuated from a frog-catching trip, and while by Brothers escaped, I did not.  I was stung upwards of 40 times.  And I lived to tell the tale.  But I still have a pathological terror of the flying stinging things in all their myriad shapes and sizes.

I hate the bees; I love the river.

If you go back to the first picture, you'll see another example of family legend; the three trees in the foreground.  My Father planted each tree upon the birth of his children; one for each son.

The cabin itself is quite tiny, of course; it was divided by what can only be called temporary walls; one space was living space and dining space and kitchen; the other two spaces were the bedrooms.  The "bathroom" was up the driveway near the road, and was as old school as you can imagine.  The kitchen did not include running water; there was a hand pump.  Hot water was created by heading the cold water on the stove, or on the wood furnace.

It was rustic, yes.  But the food tasted better, the water was sweet and cold, and the river sang that same lullaby it does today.

A few years ago, I was walking along the river and ran into the current owners; they knew who I was based only upon my resemblance to my Father; and they asked if I would like to look around inside.

Twist my arm.

It was different, and yet the same; the furniture was different, of course, but there were actually some of the original pieces still in evidence.  The old furnace was done, and they had put in running water.  The old bunk beds were gone...but there was one thing that went to my very core.

There were two paintings that hung in the boys' room; and I always wondered what happened to them.  My Grandmother (Dad's Mom) had apparently painted them.  They were of twin clowns, and they were hanging almost in same place I saw them when we left that cabin back in the mid-seventies.

And all the memories came flooding back.

To my credit, I managed to get outside and up the road before I began to cry.  But they were tears of wondrous reminiscence.

Kind of like this post.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Further Adventures.....


A quick trivia question:  What do you think is the first line that Popeye ever spoke in the comic strips?

The answer:  "D'ya think I'm a cowboy?"

Popeye the Sailor was supposed to be a temporary character in EC Segar's THIMBLE THEATRE back in 1929.  Instead, he became so universally popular that he soon took over the comic strip, and many of the main characters slowly drifted away into obscurity.

Yes, many of you remember Olive Oyl and Swee'Pea, and the lovable J. Wellington Wimpy.  But poor Ham Gravy (Olive's original fiance), and Olive's family: her brother Castor, her Mother Nana and her Father Cole, disappeared forever.

The incredibly talented EC Segar died in 1938; and even though many others have taken up the mantle of Popeye writer/artist, the humor is changed forever.  But Segar is not forgotten.......

In his hometown of Chester, Illinois, located on the bluffs above the Mississippi River in the state of Illinois, have added to the legacy by producing a statue of a Popeye Character every year since the middle 1990's.  Popeye, of course, was the first.....but they now have Olive and Swee'Pea, Bluto, Cole Oyl, Castor Oyl and his Whiffle Hen, and the Sea Hag, and Eugene the Jeep......they are located at the various places around town, and in my brief sojourn there, I was not the only one travelling from one to the other to get a picture.

They will continue to do so until sometime around 2020.

Someday, I'm going to attend the Popeye Picnic.  I hear they have a costume contest.

Oh, and by the way, if you DO go there, make sure to stop in to SPINACH CAN COLLECTIBLES.  They have a great little museum of Popeye trinkets, and a gift shop for swag.  And they are, quite possibly, the friendliest people I've ever met in a tourist trap.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Not Shangri-La, but Harrodsburg.



Once upon a time, there were a group of people known as "Boonies."

They would come together in a centrally located city in Kentucky, to tell the story of one of the greatest explorers of early America, Daniel Boone.

The above photograph is a photograph I took recently, on a sojourn through my past.  I had to actually sneak in to the amphitheatre; apparently, they had a small production running, but the theatre was closed up, and I knew a secret entrance through the adjoining Fort Harrod.

The place is showing its age, alas.....they haven't really been big on the upkeep.  The area that was once an indoor "blackbox" theatre is now a conference center.

But I've always felt that this particular place, as with all outdoor theatres that run historical drama, have certain....magical properties.

For example....upon entering the space, all the sound around....dimmed.....significantly.

And in that silence, I heard allllll the voices.

I laughed out loud as I recalled the now infamous "Shatner Night."  It was a game that was supposed to be played by the more.....experienced...members of the company.  We were by no means bored with the performance, but we wanted to be able to keep it fresh by trying to provide thinking elements into the run.

We each had to do one line as James T. Kirk, with all the pauses, and radical changes in tempo included.  And we had to do it so well, that only the people who were playing the exercise would know.

Because if you got caught doing such a thing, you could be on the hook for what was called, "Unprofessional Conduct," and you could be fined a days salary.

Well, it started fine.

And then the damned thing blew up.

Somehow, word began to spread that we were playing this game, and everybody wanted to try their hands....but it blossomed beyond "a line as Kirk" into "Ad-libbing madly on a Star Trek theme."

The Indians were showing up with Trek Insignia applied to their war paint.  In fact, for some reason, they appeared in one scene in a transporter circle.

Everybody seemed to be flashing the Vulcan salute.

One of my favorites:  "These pants sure do Kling On, don't they?"

Yeah.  We got caught.

I would tell the story of the night that the actor playing Boone got kicked in the head and was taken to the hospital at intermission; and the understudy wasn't even CLOSE to knowing the lines; but was so very arrogant, he thought he could pull it off.

In the modern parlance:  Epic Fail.

Seriously....we did a forty five minute second act in 22 minutes.

Good times.

It's good that the old place is still in use; but sadly, the living accommodations, lovingly called Boone Manor, has disappeared.  Replaced by a Mobile Home park.  And not one of the really NICE Mobile Home parks.

But I have my memories.

And that picture.

So.

That's something.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Several pictures, as precious as Gold...


At the end of this road, which lies a couple of miles from the nearest collective civilization, lies what has been the escape for my family for as long as I remember.


It's quiet an peaceful and full of a lifetime of memories.


And this river, named for the Cedar trees that surround it, is the sweetest lullaby I have ever known.

In the words of The Great Gonzo, "I'm going....to go back there....one day....."

It was the Eighties, after all.....

I can remember that I had just started my career at the College on the Hill in the Show Me. 

I was living in an apartment at the back of an antique house, with the windows facing just ever so, so the natural light of the sun never seemed to make an appearance into my sorry rooms.  The rest of the place was filled with college students that had very little care that while they DIDN'T have to be coherent for the eight o'clock classes, I DID.

I had no relationships; the theatre had just closed and everybody had moved on, and I was a virtual stranger at the college.

I had not stopped drinking.

It was a perfect storm for the formation of a depression, and boy, that's what I did. 

'Cuz everybody had to have a hobby.

Anyway, one of the first things I did as Summer turned to Fall was to get just about as sick as one can get without actually having to call an ambulance.  A tremendous infection of the entire head that left me unable to stand up, deaf in one ear, and feverish enough to have some reallllly strange dreams.

I dreamt that I had fallen asleep, and when I woke up, the College on the Hill had disappeared; all the building were gone, except for the holes in which they were built.  There were even pipes sticking out of the ground, still shooting water and steam into the air.....it was like a giant steamshovel had come along and dug the College right out the ground.

The people were still there; execept that they were walking in circles and all deaf in one ear.

I awoke with healing powers; but when I went to help the perambulatatory-circular and deaf-on-the-left remnants of the College, they not-so-politely declined.  Actually, they'd throw rocks; and as I recall, they would all kind of synchronize their counter-clockwise movement, and wave after wave of rocks would come soaring my way.

I awoke, fever broken, but still deaf in one ear.  The thing would hang on for quite some time, so I saved up money and went to a doctor, who gave me antibiotics and sent me on my way.

And, after much internal debate, placed a personal meaning on the dream, and went upon my merry way.

So.

What do YOU think it means?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'll be brief, this time.

I don't want to ruffle anybody's feathers, truly.

However.

My philosophy has always been that discussion is a way to seek understanding.  And, if understanding is impossble, then tolerance is the order of the day.  And if tolerance is impossible, silence has lease.

As far as corporations go....well, if I disagree with a corporate point of view, I simply don't put my money in their coffers.  But I don't start a website in an attempt to destroy them.

It reminded me of a quote from a Roman Senator by the name of Tacitus:

"Men are more ready to repay an Injury than a Benefit, because Gratitude is a burden and Revenge a pleasure."

Surely, those that seek to destroy because of a difference in philosophy are no better than those they seek to destroy.

We must be better.

We need to live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sweet Airs That Bring Delight.

I am at an undisclosed location.

And I like it.

In the last few days, I've been a few places and I've seen a few things; places that are familiar and new simultaneously; people with familiar faces and old stories and love that never ends.  Genuine smiles.  Hearty embraces.

In a sense, a large part of my self image has had to be restructured.

People remember me.

And while I always thought my body of artistic work was memorable, I never thought that *I* was.

Bobby saw me from a distance; he hadn't laid eyes on me for several decades....and his smile was a mile long.  And his hug was as genuine.

One of the first things Christy L. said to me was, "I woulda recognized you in the dark."

And a couple of reasonably recognizable Hollywood types sent very nice Birthday greetings.

And of course, if you were watching my Facebook wall, you will have noticed that three delightful people showed their love by carrying me around with them like Flat Stanley in Chicago, New York, and OKC.  The very act was enough to reduce me to tears of laughter, and warm humility.

And the trip down memory lane continues.  Who KNOWS what tomorrow will bring?

And WHY can't I feel like that EVERY DAY?

Yup.

I need to reevaluate.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

It's Going Down Slow......

Bruce Cockburn is one of my favorites; I first discovered him in 1979, with an album called DANCING IN THE DRAGON'S JAWS. That album included one of his only serious US hits, called WONDERIN' WHERE THE LIONS ARE. We used to sing the song every time the Lions lost. Which was a lot. But I digress. I first heard this song in 1987, when I finally began to collect his works. I was especially touched by the last verse of the song, which I used as some program notes for a show I did in graduate school.



"God damn the hands of glory
That hold the bloody firebrand high;
Close the books, and end the story
Of how so many men have died;
Let the world retain in memory
That mighty tongues tell mighty lies;
And if mankind must have an enemy,
Let it be his war-like pride."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Mortality Flip-Flop.

I have a secret habit, which I indulge late at night.

Eyes up here, people.  Out of the gutter.

It's STORAGE WARS on A&E.

Normally, my idea of "Living Out Loud With Nothing To Say" would prevent me from watching such a thing, let alone enjoying it.  And I'll admit to a couple of twinges within my psyche as I watch these interesting people work their way through other people's stuff.

The chief twinge, of course, is that of mortality; that eventually, somebody is going to go through my stuff like a malevolent mole, looking for the pricey, and tossing the things that I have collected as trash, when in fact they are the collection of a misunderstood genius....and thereby, priceless.

My collection of Twain, in the original red covers; the first officially sanctioned complete collection, gathered from antique stores and online auctions, will wind up at a library sale.

My collection of robots will wind up in the trash, probably with an eye-roll and a passing thought as to the sanity and taste of the owner.

Theatre posters, programs....food for the fire.

The autographed photos might be worth a few bucks......maybe.

I've managed to depress myself.

I've changed my mind......

STORAGE WARS sucks.