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.


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 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.


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 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 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 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'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 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.