Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fire away. I'm comfortable with my point of view.

There was a fellow in the 19th Century by the name of William Winwood Reade, who wrote an interesting treatise titled THE MARTYRDOM OF MAN that had a certain vogue back in the day.  I would invite you to read it, if you've go the time and the patience, because it's a dense thing and a little more archaic than you probably would like.

But it did provide an interesting premise.

A single human being is a puzzle; there is no certainty, on any given day, as to which way the individual will jump given a certain set of stimuli.  We are, in solo, an insoluble puzzle.

However, in the aggregate, we become an almost mathematical certainty.  The more of us there are, given the same stimuli, the more likely we are able to predict the movement and outcome.

In the early Twentieth Century, they referred to it as Mob Mentality.  When a group of people get together, it is far more likely that the group will do something predictable, and in some cases a thing that the single individual would find appalling.

On a slightly less macabre note, we used the idea in the theatre to describe the beginnings of a comedy; you needed to reach those more outgoing people to laugh that first time; because that single laugh will give courage to the others who will hear that laughter and interpret it as permission to respond, and once that happens, the actors own the audience.

And in a literary note, Issac Asimov used the idea in the FOUNDATION series, and called it Psychohistory; that the larger the group, the easier to predict.....even years, decades or centuries down the line......

Which brings us to today.

A single voice transmitted over a video screen; a single sentence written on a social media page; an opinion spouted on the pages of a magazine than nobody reads anymore....and the world goes predictably mad.

And we become sheep, following the loudest voice, or what we consider to be the most learned opinion, or the prettiest, or the most popular.....regardless of the veracity of the voice.

And the few individuals who stand aside and actually watch this happen wonder if the voices that guide the mob are doing it for no other reason but that they can.

Like children with an anthill and a magnifying glass.

Let us resolve to listen before we speak; to research the topics that rile us; to read the books that are quoted and often misquoted; to smile at the opinions we disagree with and understand that the secret to the First Amendment is that you may disagree with the point of view, but you must defend the right to say it.....

Because one of the first precepts of Christianity is forgiveness.  It's also the hardest, because we are wired for revenge, and not forgiveness.....which is one of the reasons that The Christ was sent to us in the first place....to teach a better way.

Where did that path go?  It was here just a second ago........

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Many a day goes by......

I can't count how many times I've looked at my face in the bathroom mirror and emphatically stated, "I f***ing quit."

It was a mantra several times in the 1980's.  In fact, it was a mantra that got me through some very tough times; for I felt that if I could say it, out loud, and MEAN IT, then I could DO it.

I had an exit strategy.  And that was enough to go on for one more day.

My current job has done a lot for the decay of my physical and mental health.  But I have pretty good insurance.  But a bad schedule.

It kind of reminds me of a book I remember reading when I was very young titled, WHAT GOOD LUCK!  WHAT BAD LUCK!

Such things as:

What BAD luck!  You fell out of the plane!
What GOOD Luck!  There's a Haystack to break your fall!
What BAD Luck!  There's a pitchfork in the haystack!
What GOOD Luck!  You miss the pitchfork!
What BAD Luck!  You miss the haystack!

It goes on like that for awhile.

The good luck is that I'm no longer butting heads with my new boss; we've reached a kind of reasonable peace treaty, shook hands and had done with it.  I admitted I was occasionally inflexible, but to my credit, it's a kneejerk reaction and NOT a long standing tradition.....I resist change right off the bat, but after about thirty minutes, I'm ready to concede.  And I also admitted that I was frustrated with every Supervisor coming through my office making it their first priority to adapt the culture to themselves, and not themselves to the culture.

As if changing seven minds is much easier than changing your own.

Oy.

Anyway....there may be something more my speed coming down the pike, but I'm not holding my breath or fashioning any resignation letters....yet.

My eyes ache (no new glasses as of yet) and I've begun the holiday eating far too early.

And I went to a delightful Christmas party last evening, sponsored by my favorite Wife's employer.  They are a fun bunch of folks, and it was worth it to be sitting here with no sleep.  And let's face it; I've burned daylight on less fun stuff than that.

And yes, it's snowing.  And yes, it's cold.

And the wheel turns.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The following was found in the remnants of 100 monkeys on 100 typewriters.

As you probably well know, it's been what can only be described as "cold ASS."

Over the weekend, it did, in fact, get up to a high of 2.

And in fact, it did drop to a legitimate -22 at one point.  WITHOUT a wind chill.

The wind chill turned it into about -35.

And I.....LIVE here.

But enough about that.  There are other things to talk about.

My car was murdered by the cold.  Death due to terminal cancer of the starter.  Surgery required.  Resting comfortably in the garage.

I'm going to exact a wicked revenge upon the Snow Miser. 

In other news, I finally was forced to attend an appointment with an optometrist.  I am the last of my family to do so, and yes, it was a good long half-century run.

My left eye is worse than my right eye.  I have cataracts.  And apparently something in the back of my right eye that deserves some kind of annual attention. 

The last optometrist I attended, back in college, also saw that little something in the back of my right eye, and predicted that I would be blind by about 20 years ago.

Lying sack of crap.

But thanks to the Universe for putting that telegram on hold.

So, I have to have glasses; and I realized when he put the eyes together with the proper prescription that every muscle in my face relaxed.....and I had been attempting to will my eyesight not to be blurry.

That's a workout, kids.

So, I chose a pair of retro specs that'll make me look like I work at NASA in the 60's. 

I'll probably look like an old man.

Because I really do feel my age these days.

I see that the President shook hands with Raul Castro at Mandela's funeral; FOX is going a little crazy about it; I think they see it as just another treasonous act by this foreign born usurper to the throne.

I see it as a man shaking hands with another man, in the spirit of the occasion; the spirit of freedom; and the spirit of peace.

F*** FOXnews.

Oh, now they're back to Benghazi.  Good.  They've gotten really good at that story; they've only been rehearsing it for over a year.

I'm directing a show in a few months.....CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.  I'm thinking of dressing everybody in cat suits and setting the theatre on fire.

Actually, I'm not.  Because nothing is worse than the fragrance of charred actor.  In a cat suit.

In reality, I'm looking forward to begin able to carry the whistle again; it's been.....a long time....since I directed.  I look forward to casting.  And I look forward to moving forward.  And of course, I look forward to finishing it.

It's the closest I'll ever get to anything even slightly resembling childbirth.

And in a year, who'll remember?

Perhaps I should completely butcher it, so at the very least it'll be memorable.

My Christmas shopping is pretty much done.

The useless thing on my wish list THIS year?

Light Sabre.  With sound. 

I'm a geek.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

One Shoe On.

When I was fifteen, I was cast in a play called DON'T DRINK THE WATER by Woody Allen.  It's a very funny play, and is still done today because a Jersey family trapped in an Iron Curtain Embassy just never stops being funny.  But when we did it, there was still an Iron Curtain, and Embassies didn't regularly get gutted and their occupants murdered. 

Cuz that would kill the comedy.

I can remember very few of the cast of that show, but I do remember this one guy; tall, gangly kinda fellow, with a distinctive voice and something in his eye that indicated a knowledge that just plumb eluded me.

In the first read through of this play, I remember he had this line; he was playing the Embassy chef, and he had this one, ranting line about how he was a former chef for the Queen of England, and the former Chef to the President of France, and the former Chef to the Maharajah of Shashneesh....and before that, he did very little cooking.

He did it.  And I lost it.  Funniest line reading.  Ever.

And the director.....made him CHANGE IT.

And it was never as funny after that.

Well, I grew up, and so did that tall, gangly lookin' dude who had the look that indicated blah blah blah.

I became an actor, a teacher, and these days a kind of communications expert.

He became this really cool musician.

Joe Henry has done eight or nine albums, produced God knows how many more, has performed all over the wide world and knows pretty much everybody worth knowing.  His lyrics are to be sought after and read and sung and savored, and in some cases, painted on the subway walls.  His voice is a thousand others, and his own at the same time.....cool and longing and pained and content.

And yes, he's still funny.

I first saw Joe do a show in a high school cafeteria in the spring of 1978; and I saw him again last Tuesday night, in a cool little club in downtown Minneapolis; I was in the company of his Sister, Cathy, on whom I first crushed all those years ago, and am now exceedingly happy to have her as a friend-of-many-tales. 

Of the show, I will say this; I have been, for several decades now, been searching for a time when I could attend one of Joe's shows.  Never could.  But it was kind of this full-circle bucket-list kinda thing with me.  I was there during the early days when he was singing other people's songs, and I wanted to be there to hear him sing HIS songs.

It was glorious.  It was like being stretched through time; both feet planted in the present, and everything else shot into the past.

I had several hours with which to catch up with Cathy; to first tell the stories of there-to-here, and then dancing back in time for a bit......we ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tater tots.  I kid you not.

We ordered drinks, and sat at a table overlooking the small stage, and for the two hours that time simultaneously moved quickly and not, I gobbled up every single nuance; I heard old songs a new way, and new songs in an old way.  I laughed at the comments and admired the quick wit as Joe bantered with an audience that not only knew his work, but knew him, as well.

Seriously, somebody gave him Birthday greetings.

When it was over, and we sat at a table waiting for Joe to finish his signature obligations, I met a few other, great witted and charming people, and in the instant Joe came to the table, the thought struck me.

I have been a fan of his since before the first album; but for the love of GOD, I knew this guy, cumulatively, for about 20 minutes back in the 1970's!  What the HELL was I doing there?

He remembered me.  Which was remarkable.

He invited me to join them for dinner, which was even more remarkable.  The three of us talked about a thousand things, of home, and family and art and music and travel and how I wound up in a frozen wasteland and became a DHS spy.

And in the end, both Joe and Cathy hugged me.  He put his arm around my shoulder, and together we took the worst picture in the known world.  Apparently, we both smiled just before, and just after the picture was taken.



I traveled to the venue leading a snowstorm; and the following day I traveled back into the teeth of that storm.  And I was fine with it, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Because some things are absolutely necessary.

And this was like forty of them.

And all day today, as the car died from frostbite and my eyesight finally faded enough to provoke action, I sang softly to myself...

Take me back to your house
And turn on the lights;
Everyone must pass this way
Tonight......

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Meandering.

A month ago, I made arrangements to see a fellow named Joe Henry in concert in Minneapolis.  I knew Joe briefly, many years ago, and attended an impromptu concert he put on while we were all young and in high school; I think that was the spring of 1978.  and now, a little over 35 years later, I'm going to sit and watch again.

His sister, Cathy will be there, and has been instrumental in getting me to go.

Instrumental, as in, "Hey, Joe's doing a concert in Minneapolis, you wanna go?"

Cathy was a stalwart companion during the early years of high school.  And I haven't seen her in about 33 years.  Give or take.

I'll be heading that way on Tuesday; and you'll never guess......we're expecting a blizzard and bitterly cold temperatures starting...well...Tuesday.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

And probably going anyway.

On Friday morning, something happened in my head; perhaps some of the unsightly calcium buildup in my brain shifted or something, but I suddenly remembered doing a play that I had so thoroughly repressed that it was a shock when the dim recollection came roaring back to full-bright.

It was a play called....gulp.....Opal's Million Dollar Duck.  And I wish I could say it was in my youth, but it was a production at the old Golden Eagle Riverboat.  It must've been 1988, or 1989.  I have no other specific recollection, except that the woman playing the title character seemed to think she WAS the title character, and I remember a scene when I was supposed to try to brain her with a baseball bat and she kept screwing up the timing (mostly because she had no timing) and since I was behind her she had no idea how close she came to leaking brain fluid out of her ears.

I don't remember anything else about it.  I don't remember any other actor in the show.....I don't remember the set, and my collection of old play scripts does not include that particular play.

I was......disconcerted at the memory.

I've been pulling together the various threads in the beginning process of directing Williams' CAT.  The first parts of the process are scary for me; looking at schedules and wondering about time....looking at the calendar and wondering if anybody will come an audition....wondering if my poor reputation as a serious theatrical professional will scare people off, regardless of my actual reputation as a first class idiot, which can never be off-putting.

Seriously, I have a merit badge in Idiocy.

I have a set in my head; no walls, just doors and furniture.  Everything can be seen from everywhere; there is no hiding or lying.

Most importantly, I have begun to hear the voices; the characters are beginning to talk to me.  I can hear the music.  So, I'm less worried than I was a while ago.

And of course, auditions aren't until early February.  So, I have time.

The outside of the house is decorated in the traditional Historiclemo way.  The interior will wait just a little longer.  I have made some purchases, and will make a few more before the end of the week.  A list of wants has been requested by my better half, and I am having a terrible time coming up with anything resembling a list.

One thing, apparently, is not a list.

Can you believe how quickly things more these days?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Fall Feast To Remember.

The weather has turned; I couldn't stop it.

And since it has, my mind turns back to a wonderful time in my life.

Grad school.

I'm being a bit sarcastic, of course.  The program at the Prairie School of the Arts (not its real name) was a two year program, which provided a tremendous amount of information in the classroom, and  more than several opportunities upon the various stages they used.

And that first semester was somewhat akin to being buried alive in a really cool place, surrounded by really nice people that are also being buried alive.

At one point, we had a list of things that were better than Grad School.

One of them was, "Having an umbrella rammed up your ass."

I assume that the payoff was having somebody OPEN the umbrella.  I'll just leave that image with you and move on.

A lot of things happened in that first semester.  I fell head over heels in like with a pretty red headed girl, and was dashed on the rocks of reality quickly.  I began to lose weight quickly and suffer from almost constant exhaustion, which the doctor worried was Leukemia.  That was a rough couple of weeks.  Shoved a lot of stuff into my head in diverse classes, and had a ball working on a show that semester that actually went a long way to relight my fire.  Met a LOT of people that continue to guide my life in the lessons taught and the lessons learned simply by marvelling at how those people worked, and lived.

It's a three year program now, it was two years back then.  I wonder if they still think they're being buried alive.

That was the first year; the second year was even......more wild.  Faster.  Busier.  I fell in like again, and met one guy that could make me laugh by coming into the room; I performed in front of a huge crowd in Madison, WI, barely able to talk and not really being able to focus due to God's own Sinus Infection....which lasted so long I thought I was going to have to charge it rent.  I did a couple of other plays, moved around the town, had one of the best roommates EVER and smoked and drank and ate bad food and attended a wedding six hours after I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts Degree.  I was finally considered a Master, without actually being one.

Fall of that year was the best Thanksgiving I ever had outside of my Family.

We all met in a small town, at the home of the guy who could make me laugh by entering a room.  There seemed to be a ton of us that year, and the truth is, we didn't get that much of a break at Thanksgiving....so we all gathered together to eat and drink and socialize and sing.

We stood around a piano and sang old songs.  And we laughed like fools.

And halfway through the longest movie ever made starring Babs, we went out on the front porch and did the Antler Dance.

I think I've taught the Antler Dance a couple of times in my life; you basically put your hands on your head in the shape of Antlers, and you dance around in a circle.  And you laugh your head off.

At least we did.  Your actions may vary.

And we drove home at the end of the night, sated and exhausted and with visions of our friends and co-workers with their hands on their heads, dancing circles and laughing their heads off.

The Graduate School version of Howling at the Moon.

I really love those people. 

Always will.

Cuz that's how I roll.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hope in the Face of It.

There are thousands of men and women showing up for work today.

They're putting on their uniforms and attaching their identifications and adding, for today and a few days after that, a small black band over their DHS badge.

A tribute to TSO Hernandez, who lost his life in the service of his country yesterday to a sorry sonofabitch with problems of his own.  Officer Hernandez would have been 40 next week.

And there are probably more than a few of them who wonder now; could it happen again?  Could it happen here?  To me?

And still they go to do the job.

If you're at an airport today, take the time to thank them.

They have a thankless job, a job that is successful only in the LACK of things; the lack of weapons and dangerous people on aircraft.  And they are held to an almost impossible standard, to find everyone who seeks to do harm, every bullet, every plastic gun, every ceramic knife.  They are asked to be more than human; to not show fatigue or anger or outrage in the face of hostility and ignorance and long lines and furloughs.

They are unarmed and unloved.  Even the IRS is better respected.

And I wonder how long it will take for somebody to call the events at LAX yesterday morning as, like the old joke about 10,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean, "a good start."

And they come to work, every day....for the cause is noble and cause is just.

So, if you're at an airport today, you'll probably see the shiny metal badges dulled a bit by a black band; and our flags will be at half-staff for the time being.

And in the absence of fear, the job is done.

So, thank them today.

You can go back to the abuse tomorrow.

Or not.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Strong start, weak ending. And no cake.

Why are people so interested in the so-called, "End Times?"

It would seem to me that Dylan Thomas' point of view should be the correct one; Rage, Rage against the Dying of the Light.

But instead, we have people in the pulpit, people at the dais, and people on the television almost gleefully referring to the coming of the "End Times."

So, let's do a quick fact check.

The Holy Book of Christians states that No Man Shall Know of it's coming.  And yet, even in this decade, several people have claimed to not only recognize the symptoms of the "End Times" but have on at least two occasions predicted the exact date and time of the Rapture.

Date AND time.

I'm assuming it was in Eastern Standard Time.  But I paused at the moment in every time zone, just to avoid being taken by surprise.

Yeah.  As if I'D be raptured.

The last thing I'd see are a whole slew of nekkid asses, ascending in the Heavens and waving back at me.

I hope at least one has the presence of mind to yell, "So Long, and Thanks For All The Fish!"

And it seems to me that the description in Revelations in The Big Book of Christian Fun paints a ghastly portrait of what is to come in those "End Times".

Apparently, there will be oceans of blood and stinging insects and a war between good and evil that will decimate the planet, and indeed the Universe.

Where's Flash Gordon when you NEED him.

(And yes, I know....Flash's Theme is running through your head RIGHT NOW......FLASH....AH AHHHHH....SAVIOR OF THE UNIVERSE.........)

And some of the people touting the "End Times" are almost gleeful about it's approach; as if, somehow, the knowledge is proof that they are closer to Buddy Christ than the rest of us.  As if being first in line to shed the clothing to rise buttnekkid into the Heavens is the Ultimate Told You So to the rest of us filthy unbelievers.

And I can't help thinking again about how much Jesus really disliked a bragging Christian.

"Hey, everybody!  Look at me PRAY!  Ain't I just DEVOUT?"

Well......I don't necessarily want this sometimes lovely, sometimes rocky party to end, but if it must, I wish you all well.  And I'll hold the door for you.

But I'm not ready for Heaven just yet.

But honestly, if I needed to sacrifice a few days down here to get away from that annoying Steve Doocy, then Rapture away.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

In the Meantime......

I took a short vacation back to the land of the Mitten, back in August.

I wanted to see my Father; and since he had decided to spend a month in the cabin in the woods, I decided to join him; by way of a short visit to my younger Brother in MQT, and afterwards a visit to my older Brother near the old homestead.

Visiting family is like finally getting a deep, cleansing breath.  Longed for in the pre-; lovlingly thought of in the post-.

I love the long drive; I always have.  You can stop along the way at some of the old haunts.  You can buy some pasties on the Mac; you can buy some fudge and some delicious chicken in Frankenmuth; you can even stop in one of those little towns along HWY 2 and buy some exquisite smoked whitefish, and top it off with one of those planet sized sweet rolls from The Hilltop in L'anse.

And that was just the Upper Peninsula.

It was so calming to spend some time at the cabin at the end of the road; yes, the ghosts still speak, and in some cases sing, along the road....and the river is still the best lullaby on the planet.  The days are warm and the nights are cool.....and the tinny, static-backed broadcast of the Tiger games were a joy to listen to.....and there was a very nice tavern in Gladwin that served a great burger and had several televisions so that the Bengal Boys could show off.

At home, I had several opportunities to see old friends...some that I had not laid eyes on in multiple decades.  Stories were told, smiles were shared and the heart that went pitter pat back in the days of Jimmy Carter went pitter pat again.  Unapologetically.

And there was cake.

Someday, I will spend a month at the end of the road; and someday, I will get a chance to spend a bit more time with some folks in the UP, so I can tells them that my life was shaped by them; that I am who I am because they let me be a part of their lives for awhile.  That I learned more about what life was about in those short years by the Great Lake that I did after I left to seek my slim fortune.

I want to buy the drinks again.  Because the first time I did it was tremendous fun.

So, here I am...back in the Capitol City of the Northern State.

I'm doing a play. 

Right after I got back from the trip, I went to an audition.  Good, farcical play.  Reminiscent of those great shows at the late, lamented Golden Eagle on the banks of the Mississippi.  Four actors; many different characters.  Lots of room to play and making the most of it so far.

Some issues.  Some of you know what I mean; the kind of issues that make an overly experienced and equally overprotective individual to paint his face and pick up his Claymore and scream about FREEEEEDOM! 

Habits die hard.  I am comfortable in a rehearsal or a performance, on a stage or in a rehearsal room.  I can deal with pretty much anything that has ever been thrown at me, with various stages of frustration and creativity.  And if it ever gets too bad, I can always walk, but ALWAYS as a last resort.  And I insist, ABSOLUTELY INSIST up respect for everybody in the cast, regardless of their personality or level of experience, and I will PROTECT them.

Especially when they allow for the suddeness of my creative insanity; the indulge my taste in comic bits; they laugh at my Popeye-like asides; and they take what I give and use it and give back and they make me work harder, and think quicker and be better.  And hopefully I do the same for them.

It opens in October.  Come see it.

I've been lead to believe there will be cake.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bye for now.

My writing as of late has been limited to simple status updates and the occasional comment on a friend's page.

I no longer really care to speak.  Or write.

Or care.

The world went mad a while ago; and it's done nothing remotely close to an attempt to heal, or even so much as understand what the disease is......it seems satisfied to continue to hurl abuse at the symptoms.

Infusing us in self and vain conceit, as if this flesh that walls about our life were brass impregnable.

So...I am going to put up the "gone fishin'" sign for awhile, and let nature take its course.

Good luck to us all.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Spirit Moved Me.

I recently received what is basically a chain email, stating the following:

This morning on the Today Show, Matt Lauer interviewed one of the wives of one of the Navy Seals killed in Benghazi. he asked her what she would say to her children about their Dad and how she would want them to remember him....she said, and I quote, "He love for Christ" and then continued with a few other things....through out the day on the MSN homepage...when the story is replayed they have edited the "Love of Christ" part out....

Why?  Because using the word Christ might offend someone...well I am a Christian and I am offended!  Offended that they would edit it out.  Offended that we as Christians are asked to tread lightly so as not to offend someone of another religion.

I think anyone who missed the original broadcast this morning should know what NBC has done.  This man loved his country and loved his God and gave his life for both, just as Christ gave His life for him...

Please feel free to copy this and forward it to everyone on your email list. There are emails that go around saying, "If you believe in God" then forward this...well I am starting one right here, right now..I am not ashamed of God but I am becoming ashamed of my country...It is time to take a stand.

Please GOD, have mercy on us and help us all.

But let's do a little research....

It wasn't yesterday that the Today Show interviewed the wife of the brave man who gave his life for his country...and he wasn't killed in Benghazi.

His named was Aaron Vaughn and he was killed on August 6, 2011 in Afghanistan, along with 29 of his brothers-in-arms, when the helicopter they were in was shot down by Taliban fighters.

And his Love of Christ is intact as well; the interview on the Today show was not edited in any way on either the MSNBC site or the MSN homepage.

My point is this:  Why are Christians so eager to appear oppressed?

Especially when there is so much real oppression going on, right now.

I don't blame the person who sent this to me. I blame the person who created it.

A Karl Rovian Christian.

And then this morning, I saw that a group of Atheists in Florida have erected a monument to their disbelief next to a monument of the Ten Commandments.

And that, my friends, gives me hope for this country.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hey....Where's Perry?

I was reading the Detroit Free Press this morning, and learned that Jerry Abu El Hawa died suddenly earlier this week.

I didn't know Jerry personally, of course; there are a lot of people in Detroit I don't know.  But I've probably seen Jerry from time to time, given that he was a kind of permanent fixture at American Coney Island on Lafayette in Detroit; and I've been there a couple of times and probably saw him.

His picture looked friendly.

And it got me thinking about a guy named Perry Fezat.

When I was but a pup, making my way across the great world, I found myself in a strange land called Yooperland; and I made my way from wide eyed Freshman to closed eyed Senior in the theatre building at Northern Mitten University.

It was a good place to play, the Forest Roberts Theatre; a womb-like building that nursed and encouraged young artists, many who have gone on to Hollywood and Broadway careers....and one that became the guru of all things organizational.  There were people to look up to; people to fight with; people to compete with; and at the end of the day the flags were furled and the bar stools were occupied and the drink flowed as well as the mirth.

At the end of the day, we were all members of the last, lost tribe.  Or, if you're into cartoons, we were the sheepdog and the coyote at the end of the day, punching out and getting a drink together.

And there were constants through those years of change; Dr. P of the bouncing cigarette (he's long since given them up, of course) would in the same breath compliment and condemn you, but with the foreknowledge that he was fond of you....and would at your darkest hour appear with an invitation to dine; Vic of the scene shop who was easy to laugh and slow to anger and always made you work hard and rewarded that work with a kind of appreciation I've rarely felt since; and Ms. S, who was the first professorial type to make me cry....and she cried as she did it.

They're still there, by the way.  And they remember most of it.  And they're always surprised when I show up. 

Secretly, I think they're surprised I'm still alive.  But that's to be expected.

But one of the other constants was a guy named Perry Fezat. 

He was a big bear of a man, large of body, small of head, and bald as a gear shift lever.  I remember he had this somewhat strange voice, kind of gravelly, but once he saw you more than once, he knew your name and was as friendly as all get-out.

He was the custodian of the Fine Arts Department; he fixed it, he cleaned it, he polished it and he took care of it...and when necessary, he took care of the people IN the department as well.

There were many late nights in that building; rehearsals didn't have an expiration time; photo calls could go into the wee hours.  Preparing for juries had people staking out square feet of space all over the building, muttering monologues and perfecting dialect and singing to themselves like the inmates of a Hahahacienda.  And Perry was liberal with his access; allowing us into the theatre after hours, coming down into the catacombs late to make sure all was well.....and small snacks and cups of coffee magically appearing to bolster our artistic strengths....

Oh, but if you didn't belong there, he was adamant in his requests that you leave.

Everybody knew Perry; the Freshmen were invariably introduced to him by the Upper Classmen.  I remember meeting him; he shook my hand and I swear to GOD he powdered several of the smaller bones in the demonstration.  The next time we met, he called me by name....and my FIRST name, which pretty much never happened in those days.

The last time I saw Perry, he was in the catacombs below the stage, making sure my then-girlfriend was secure in the costume shop; we were about to open a play and it was "crunch time."  We said goodnight to Perry, and then to each other, and I went home to get some sleep for the week of techs and dress rehearsals and such.

The next morning, I was comforting the girl, for she had found Perry in the elevator later that early morning; he was in the elevator when that big heart of his just gave up. 

It was weird in the building for a couple of weeks after that.  It was an alien place for us that knew him.....and we learned so much about him after he was gone.  Apparently, he was a decorated soldier in WWII, who avoided the crowds welcoming back to town upon his discharge by getting off the train a stop early and walking the rest of the way.....and later, when the University awarded him a watch for thirty years of service, he didn't show up for the ceremony.

So....he was brave, and dedicated and above all, humble.  He didn't want a fuss made.

I'm assuming that passing away in such a public place must have been embarrassing for him.

But the story doesn't end there; does it ever?

According to a couple of websites, as well as a group at Northern Mitten University that specializes in Paranormal Activity....Perry is still around.  By several accounts, he closes doors and rattles trashcans and will unceremoniously push you out the door if you're not supposed to be there.  Several people have gotten into the habit of saying, "Hello, Perry" when entering the building.

By all accounts, he has never appeared in the elevator.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Inside jokes and inside responses.

Do you remember that sense of absolute hilarity that you often felt as a younger person?  That feeling of laughing so hard you might just stop breathing?

There are moments I can distinctly recall; and the thought of them brings that strange grin to my face, and I can feel, ever so slightly, that hilarity must behind my face, daring me to look away for just one minute so that it can burst forth and remind me that such things are possible.

If I'm alone, I'll let some of the laughter slip.  But if I'm not alone, I find that it's far too difficult to explain, so I let it go.

But I treasure it like the last bite of that brownie pie, consumed in a corner table of that quiet little bar in KY.

"Big hair; Little Richard."

That one gets me, every time.

It was a conversation in a small house a long time ago; those conversations always seemed to get away from us, somehow....and the results of that freedom was usually....well.....fun-filled.

I don't get those conversations anymore.  And I can satisfy myself, 23 hours of a day, that I had my fill and it was a good run, and I have the memory of those laughter filled evenings, and that's good enough.

But in that one hour......that one hour when I let the Wild Rumpus Start......I get very angry that I no longer have that outlet, and the alleged reasons behind it.

It's often called, in those times, as the feeling of the loss of nameless things.  And if I were less cynical, and less used to disappointment, I assume I could weep.  But I do not.

I dream.

And wait for that next hour to come.

I have replaced Orwell's Two Minutes Hate with a Lost Hour of Laughter.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My life is filled with random meetings......

When I arrived here in the Northern State back in '06, I took a month off from work.  It was truly the first and (so far) only long stretch of unemployment I had ever been through.  And it was okay, because we got out of the Golden State just before the bust, and we had a little extra lying around, so it wasn't necessary for me to work.

Except I was new in this area; and I didn't know anybody.  And I didn't know anything about the place except that it took me driving constantly for about 38 hours to get here.  And I was pretty sure it would snow.  So, the time off was pretty unbearable after about....well.....four days.

So, I went looking for a job, and eventually found one in the airline industry.

I was one of those guys you see when you look out the window of the aircraft, putting your luggage in the plane, driving those carts around, waving those lighted wands about to signal the plane to go and come back and such.

Remind me to tell you the story of attempting to load a plane when the temperature was -30 and the wind was howling at around 40 mph.  You learn how to dress for conditions.  And yes, you do wind up looking a little like the Michelin Man.

But that's not the story.

About five months after I joined the airline, the Government called.  And since it was better pay and indoors, I jumped at it.  I put on a uniform and learned to do stuff and I treated people with respect and most of the time they gave it back.

I was one of the guys behind the machine that looks in your bags and waves a wand around you to hear it go "beep."

I answered a lot of questions about a lot of beeps.  And no, I never caught a terrorist.  But I did find several knives, some bullets, and a gun.

Remind me to tell you just how many times somebody says that they forgot the loaded gun was in their bag, when it was right on top; the LAST thing they would have put in the bag before bringing it to the airport.

Also remind me to tell you about my Security Motto:  I don't care if you're building a bomb in your garage, just don't bring it with you to the airport.

But that's not what I was going to talk about, either.

I want to talk about a guy named Bill Carns.

He flew regularly out of our little Northern State Capitol Airport; and he was a very nice fellow in a lot of obvious pain.  He was in a wheelchair; he couldn't use the left side of his body, and his speech was a little slurred.  But he was very friendly as I approached him to do some screening.

He said, unbidden, "I was Richard Ramirez' last victim."

In 1985, the Night Stalker serial killer broke into his California house, killed his girlfriend and shot him in the head, leaving him for dead.  That very evening, a keen-eyed teenager caught a license plate number, and shortly thereafter, Ramirez was captured.  He was tried, and sentenced to death.

And he sat on Death Row from 1986 until his death from reasonably natural causes last night.

I heard the news this morning, and thought of my first encounter with Mr. Carns; how easily he talked about his ordeal, and the scars he carried with him with not even a hint of "why me?"  I thought about how he would take the news, how he would react to the death of the monster that rearranged his life so horribly, so completely.....

But if there was a just God in Heaven, Mr. Carns would have miraculously regained the use of his body, and all his faculties, as Mr. Ramirez began his long awaited trip to Hell.

But the only justice here is that Mr. Carns unwilling sacrifices brought about the end of this monster's spree, and saved lives.

Good wishes to you, Bill Carns.  Thank you for sharing your story.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

There was cake, and Stroh's, and laughter. Lots of laughter.

I walked through the town of my young manhood, looking for the concrete remnants of an ethereal past.

Because when you go back to your boyhood home, you're not looking for your home; you're looking for your boyhood.

I found myself in the Lake Town on a Sunday evening; the sun was just so in the western sky, and although it was deep summer, the air was cool as I walked along the Great Lake.

I hoped, somehow, that all those voices and all those people would magically come out of the woods or the woodwork, changed not in the least, and take me down the road to a clearing where we could all play kick the can and Rod Serling would make us young again.

Actually, I was hoping to see one familiar face; and terrified at the same time that I would.

So, I walked.

I found myself on the high end of town, somewhere between Town and Gown.  The shadows were getting longer as I walked what was once a familiar path down the street to the house on the corner of Avenue and Street.....the intersection between past and present.

The site of my first marriage.

Now, before you jump out of your skin, let me finish my story........

When I was a young man, in the Fall of Eightysomething, I played a scratcher game in the Mitten Lottery and won a sizable amount of money.  I can remember the night clearly; I bought the thing at a place called The Sunshine Stop, and was scratching it as the a very attractive girl drove us down the street toward my rented abode.  When I finally counted up all the numbers, I was shocked to find out just how much I had in my hand.

I mean, I would have settled for a hundred.  Or even a thousand.

This was waaaaay more than that.

And I announced it, quite loudly, in the car.

The very attractive girl's response was unforgettable: "No, you didn't."

So, in that moment, it became more important to convince her of my veracity than it was to actually enjoy holding the golden ticket in my hand.

After a while, she believed it.

And on we went to my rented abode.  But not for what you may think; that came later and is a much longer story.....

We eventually wound up at a party the house at the corner of Avenue and Street; and as I came into the room, there was an announcement (thought not by me) that the room was in the presence of a reasonably wealthy guy.....

The next thing was a blur.

Literally, a blur:  a petite blonde girl apparently launched herself at me.  I distinctly remember her knees hitting me in the chest, knocking me flat with the petite blonde girl on my chest, screaming a proposal of marriage at me as if I was the finish line of some long dreamt-of race.

Did I mention she was petite and blonde?  And I was a guy?

Flash forward a few months, when the winds began to blow and the rain began to fall and the frost began to frost......it was time for a party.....

So, the petite blonde and myself put together a wedding; well, more to the point, it was a reception, followed by, perhaps, if we got around to it, a ceremony where we would betroth ourselves to each other for.....well, it turned out to be quite a long time.

For we are married to other people, and we live in different parts of the continent, and we have not set eyes upon each other since about nineteen eightysomething.....but we still refer to each other as "first husband" and "first wife."

It was a party for the ages.  And I went home alone; which was okay.  For the blonde girl meant much more to me at that time than could be measured by any intimate conclusion to the evening.

Flash forward several decades........and I'm standing in front of the house.  We are both much changed.  And I can hear, distinctly, the sounds of the house at full tilt......and I can see the faces of those people, all spread to the four winds now......replaced by a whole generation of new faces and new experiences in that old house.

I don't stand there very long; I don't want to be mistaken for a peeper or a stalker...I continue the walk, back to the Lake shore, back to life in the present......

Those are the moments you wonder why people don't just ask you why you're grinning like an idiot.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

And you wonder why Diogenes lived in a cave.....

Authors note:  I wrote this at a very low point this morning; and was instantly reminded of a quote from Ben Franklin:  "He who lives on hopes, dies....farting."

I hope to feel less.  Soon.

________________________________________________

In the early morning hours today, the television news agencies began a looping report of an innocent soldier, murdered on the streets of Woolwich.

They quickly escalated their reporting by playing (more than once an hour) snippets of one one of the murdering bastards giving an interview to a witness, who recorded it all on his phone.

His hands were wet with the blood of his victim.

He still held the instruments in his hand.

And he spouted vituperative horseshit thinly disguised as regular horseshit.

The police showed up, and shot the murdering bastards in the legs.  They have since arrested two more people for the crime.

I think they should shoot them in the legs, as well.

The truly annoying part was that these purveyors of sensationalistic news, these morning news jockeys, had the nerve to look astonished that the witnesses seemed unaffected by the murder.  One women simply strolled nonchalantly past the murdering bastard as he spouted his aforementioned horseshit.

Strolled by.

Astonished?

Not me.

When you're inundated with this stuff 24/7, on the television, in the papers.....when it's brought to you in living color into your living rooms and such.....how can you NOT be desensitized?

And that, my friends, is the truly frightening part.

'Cuz some other murdering bastard is lookin' at this and thinking.......

"Cool."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Good faith gifts and the reactions they elicit....

I'm a snob.

I suppose that's not easy to admit; but it's certainly true and I'll own it....because you have to go through life down your own road.

So.  I'm a snob.

I recently received a good natured gift from a friend.  A coffee mug, which is one of the strange things that wind up collected.  I have a few dozen of them in various places of the house; some in the kitchen for practical use, and a few on a top shelf in my office to serve as decor.....the rare, retired ones.

I thought about creating a whole "retirement ceremony" for the coffee mugs; a ceremonial last cup, followed by the hand washing while a dirge like version of the Folgers jingle played on a single bugle.

But I digress.

The mug was a simple white one, and I believe that this person did actually go to pains to procure it...it looked liked something purchased from CafePress or some similar place.  Functional, to be sure.

I objected to the slogan on the side.....

"I'm not crazy.  I'm an actor."

God, do I HATE that.

First of all, yes, I get it.  From the outside, it would seem that the career choice is one based entirely on a fractured mental state:  hard work, little pay, no hope for long term success.  Even writing it down seems crazy.  And I did it for a long time.

But I'm not crazy.  I've never truly been crazy.  And if anything, the vocation actually contributed more to my sanity than it did steal it.

Yes, I have my peeves about actors.  I despise actors that treat the rehearsal process cavalierly, like it was some kind of inconvenience prior to getting in front of an audience.  I despise actors that do not give proper respect to the text, as if their words are better, somehow, than the ones created by the Wright.  I despise actors that spontaneously break into unbidden or unwanted song at dinner, or on the street and justify this behavior by stating, "It's okay, I'm an actor."

Seriously....my Father never broke into spontaneous Engineering in public.

It smacks of the need for attention, and although I acknowledge the need for attention is one of the reasons people do what they do......there is a place for grabbing attention, and in the line at McDonalds while waiting for your McChicken isn't it.

Being involved in a creative, performance-based PROFESSION is not an excuse to act like an a**h**e.

I'm not crazy.  I AM an actor.  Even when I'm NOT acting.  It's what I do, it's ingrained in my soul.
And I wear my adornments upon my soul, and not like a peacock.

I thanked the giver for the gift.  It was personal; it was thoughtful; and it was nice.  And I will put it in a place of honor on the top shelf in my office, among the retired mugs.

But I'm not crazy.  My Mother had me tested.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The younger me would just never stop slapping me.

I'm reminded of something that the current Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Culver-Stockton College said, back when he and I were basically both back in Graduate School....

We were working the Summer Music Theatre at the WIU, and the days usually started around 8 AM and ended sometime just before 8 AM.  Three shows, one after another, in two months.  Doing the tech in the morning, rehearsing in the afternoon, and performing in the evening.

Long days.

So, a bunch of us are sitting in the lobby of the building, drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes (you could still do that in buildings back then) and looking generally hang-dog.  We worked hard, and played hard.

The current Chairman rolls up, looking like a half eaten pot pie, and in one phrase, sums up the entire experience...

To wit: "Mom told me there would be days like this.....but I thought the b**ch was lying."

And then when we all composed ourselves, we dumped the coffee and flattened the cigs and went to work.

Hard work must've killed somebody....but not that summer.

The itch has begun in earnest; that thing that comes every spring around this time....when in my youth I would be preparing for the summer season.  Things and feelings I took for granted.  People.

The world was full of really great sunrises. 

There's nothing with which to scratch that itch, in this place and time.  There are THINGS to do, mind you, but there comes a time when the desire to do SOMETHING becomes less important than the desire to ENJOY the experience.  And I'm tired of playing down to a level.  Tired of being the pace horse.

So.....as of right now, if I'm going to do anything, I'm going to have to do it myself.

And I am having a series of days, my friends, where the echo of the words of the current Chairman of the Department of Fine Arts at Culver-Stockton College rings in my head.

Mom told me there would be days like this......

She did NOT say that there would be an entire series of them.

I'm waiting for the revival that comes with the sleep of the just, and the calm of the righteous.

I fear I will be waiting for quite.  Some.  Time.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Compass points.

"We've decided to go in another direction."

Which, as you well know, means that the "direction" is away from you.

But most of my life has been about rejection, so I am......accepting of it.

And yet, not.

I remember the world of academia, and the path to tenure.  Most people worked hard for tenure; played all the games, put the best foot and the best face forward, and got through the process of application in order to accept the burden of the academic Teflon coating.

But if you didn't get tenured, you only had one choice, and that was to exit.  Usually under the cover of nightfall...leaving no trace behind.  The higher education version of falling on your sword.

Yeah.

F**k that.

I'm going to go in a different direction, as well.

I'm tired of being used.  I'm tired of being called an asset, and being blocked from any upward movement.  I'm tired of being wooed and dismissed.

And I'm tired of pretending I'm not pissed beyond the definition of the word.

You hurt my pride, and dismissed my abilities.

Don't ask me for any favors.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Oh, Lord....we're giving awards for rank stupidity now.......

Yesterday, while watching a national news network, I observed a story about a man who spent his "life savings" at a carnival, trying to win an X-Box. 

Instead, he won a stuffed banana with dreadlocks.

And apparently, he paid almost $3000 for it.

At a CARNIVAL.

Of course, I think I've mentioned the story about the Northern State weekend anchor person who, on his first night of broadcasting, used several profanities as the camera was firing up.

On his FIRST BROADCAST.

You would figure that in the course of getting a college degree in broadcast journalism, the first lesson would be, "Don't use profanities when you're MIKED UP."

Of course, he didn't get a second broadcast.  He was fired before the camera went dark on that fateful Sunday night.

Of course, this fellow was given national attention; with his moments of glory on TODAY, LETTERMAN, mentioned on CNN, FOX and all sorts of LATE SHOWS...and interviewed by the ghastly Kelly and Michael.  And further rewarded with a red carpet gig at some such award show.

And the banana winner has people opening Indegogo accounts to get him his money back.

My question:

WHY ARE WE REWARDING THESE PEOPLE FOR ASSHATTERY?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Calm in the Chaos.

A physician once gave me a warning, just before he administered a test:

"This test may cause vertigo and nausea."

And when I was done throwing up, I realized that the test itself was a metaphor for life.

It's a test; and it may cause vertigo and nausea.

Of course, that's a dark way of looking at it, but I tend to look through the mirror darkly.  I have a couple of things hanging on my office wall.....


And....

But fear not.......every so often, when the wind is right and the sun hits that certain part of the sky where white becomes gold.....THIS comes to mind.....


And all is well.

May the God of your Faith watch over you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This is a rant, not an argument, not a discussion. A. RANT. Comprende?

I put up a status update on Facebook yesterday, after discovering that the Congress of the United States once again behaved like a well oiled Society of Idiots.

I took a label from P.J. O'Rourke; I called them a Parliament of Whores.

And for that, I apologize to Whores everywhere.  It was insulting to lump them in with that inept group of......oh, fill in your own adjective here.

I deleted it, and fixed it with humor, in the hopes that some fringe friend on my list wouldn't go all Second Amendment on me....the rights...blah blah blah....will not be infringed.

Over 90% of the American people support a change in the way we do background checks on guns in this country.  More than a few individual states have tougher controls than the ones suggested by the Federal Government.

And this illustrious body of cowards thought that their NRA rating was more important than the deaths of innocents at the hands of mad people who just MIGHT get caught in the net if there were adequate, universal checks and balances in place.

I could accept a "MIGHT" over the positivity of dozens of child sized coffins.

But in a world where 51% is a majority, it's actually 60% in the hallowed halls of the Capitol Building.

And the American people (like myself) get angry and shake our fists in impotent rage and energy draining angst, and think that we don't have a choice.

We do.

Every four years.

Heidi Heitkamp (D) ND stated that she couldn't support such a thing because, "It places undue burden on law-abiding people."

The law abiding have nothing to fear, do they?  And wouldn't the law abiding actually not horribly mind a law that protects them?  Or are law abiding gun owners only interested in the law of the gun?

Stupid sh*t being spouted by high-handed Government officials is STILL stupid sh*t.

So, Heidi Heitkamp (D) ND, whom I voted for....Enjoy your four years.  You won't be getting four more. 

You can stay at home and clean your guns.

Oh, and by the way.....I remain INCREDIBLY DISAPPOINTED in my generation.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Most days, I look back and laugh; just like we told ourselves we would.

Woke up this morning with a sore throat.

And by, "this morning" I mean, "Eight PM."

I croaked out an ironic, "Good morning" to my favorite wife, and immediately got caught up in the movie version of SLEUTH, starring Olivier and Caine.

Great flick.  Based upon a great play.

I had enormous fun back in the 80's, playing the Olivier character at a little theatre in Iowa.  It's a two hander, very complex plot.....lots of lovely twists and turns.  Great ending.

It was my first real success as a professional.  I never really had a bad review as a professional, but the one from SLEUTH at that little theatre on the banks of the river in Iowa was kept until the paper turned yellow.

And I think I've talked about stories from that production.....my favorite being the night that too much black powder was placed behind the door of the safe, to help the effect of it being blown open.  And it blew open.  It blew off its hinges and flew over our heads.

Two guys, simultaneously shouting, "JESUS CHRIST!"  In perfect Standard British dialect.

As most of you know, there is a test of your equipment when you leave the womb of the educational theatre and head out into the professional; you work your way up, doing non-speaking roles, carrying rifles in the outdoor heat, and getting killed by Indians or white guys every other scene.  You set tables at dinner theatres and build sets and paint floors and in some cases, help to reupholster the seats. 

And when you get to the moment when you're carrying a show, you get to see if all the stuff that well meaning professors stuffed into your head, and all that stuff that you read that was written by the Legends of technique and method, and all the things you saw and observed and critiqued and occasionally stood in awe of, have made any difference at all in your work.

Or if you have any work of your own to begin with.

Because at the bottom of the list is the final analysis:  Can you hold the audience?  Can you move the play?  Can you get them to suspend their belief in what's real, and buy into your reality? 

Can you work?

And with that play, in that small theatre along the banks of a mighty river in a little town in Iowa in the middle of the Reagan years, I learned that (sonavabitch!) I could.

So.  I have a sore throat.  And I have a voice that sounds like it was treated to being dragged six miles behind the back of a car along broken glass.  And I have this small smile on my face.

Because I could work.  I have a really yellow piece of paper that proves it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

715

On this day 39 years ago, a quiet man stepped to the plate and hit a ball over this part of the fence.



About 55,000 people were in the stands that day in Atlanta, at the old Fulton County Stadium; and several billion were watching on NBC.  I was one of them.  It was like the fourth game of the 1974 season, and as a treat my Father allowed me to stay up and watch.

My Father was keen on his boys witnessing history in all its forms.

In the fourth inning, the ball came zipping in, and then it went zipping out.  Cannons fired; a couple of young men jumped the fence and patted the great man on the back as he rounded second; there were grins on their faces, knowing full well that they were not only a part of history, but they would soon be part of the docket on the Fulton County Courthouse for trespassing.  The great man scowled a bit; but can you blame him?  He'd been getting death threats since the Fall of 1973....he was most probably jumping out of his skin when they came at him.

He was met at home plate by his teammates, the media, and his Mother and Father.  His teammates tried to hoist him onto their shoulders, but he demurred in order to approach his parents and receive the best of all possible rewards; a hug from his Mother.

He was quoted in the media as saying that he was thankful to God that it was finally over; and that he never knew his Mother could hug so tightly.

I don't remember who won the game.  I probably was ordered to bed before the end of the game.

715 home runs.  It was considered an impossible record to beat. 

And the record still stands; the pretender to the throne is simply an asterisk as far as I'm concerned.

Hank Aaron, the Hammer is in the Hall now.  Number 44 still works for the Braves organization.  His #44 hangs in Cooperstown; and that section of wall that the ball sailed over is a monument in the parking lot of Turner Field.

But that lovely feeling, that tingling sensation at being thrilled and proud of a man you've never met never really goes away.

And that's one of the reasons I love baseball.

Well, that, and I love watching the Yankees take a beating.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Actually, the hopeful ending suprised me a little.

Yesterday, I received by email the last of the "Thank you but we've gone in another direction" letters from the last of the theatre companies that looked at any of my material.

When I was younger, something like that would have been like a humiliating kick in the crotch.  As if there were any other kind of kick to the crotch.

I'm older now.  And with age comes either wisdom, or the lack of the ability to continue to care at that level.  I'm banking on wisdom.

A small part of me was looking forward to the challenge; first, the challenge of the audition (which I've written about and am firmly convinced that it wasn't bad), and the imagined challenge of working on a new show with a new cast in a new place.  A breath of fresh air for my oxygen deprived soul.

But younger days had fewer responsibilities; gas in the car, rent paid.....post office box paid for.  Now, there are larger bills and a lovely woman who gets quite irritated at prolonged absence.  She has a vivid, yet misguided imagination.  I was/am never quite the target of female attention that she believes I am/was.

And my days of throwing in with anything that sounds fun and pays a little has been replaced with something sounds fun and pays a bit more. 

Oh, yes, and I'm ancient by any "travelling actor" standard.

So, my head with its enormous brain (which I occasionally use to work crossword puzzles and income tax forms) is of the belief that "to everything there is a season" and my season in the sun has become a comfortable seat in the dugout; and it was a good ride and great fun and I have a ton of memories that continue to make me smile as they play on the movie screen in the back of my head.

My heart is in self-loathing.

I'm heavier; and slower, and jowlier.  My eyesight is going.  The old injuries are collecting their dividends like a hoard of Mr. Monopolys.

The spirit is willing.  I still have keen analysis skills.  I can still tear a passion to tatters, to very rags to split the ears of the groundlings.  And I can occasionally make like Yorick, and set the table at a roar.

But the flesh is weak.  Stoopid flesh.

There may be one more great project out there; something that I've been working on for a long while, but this malady of slight misery has given me a direction for it I can truly play now.

Working title:  Holmes in Twilight.

So.....TAKE ME....TO......THE VOLCANO!

Because nobody knows anything; and I'll just jump....and we'll see.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Take me out.....

The sun may come up cold in a lot of places today.  There may be more than grass on the infield; there may be a bit of frost as well.  And the shadows will be long on the fields that lie roofless and open to the Spring skies......but not for long.

For today is the day when dreams begin again.....another summer in the sun, rooting for men playing a boy's game.  A summer of wooden bats and pristine white balls with bright red stitching.

Where your home team (wherever it may be) are heroes, and everybody else is a bum.  Where the heroes of your youth come out in their true skin, the uniforms of their youths, and the ghosts of Clemente and Ruth and Robinson and Paige and Cobb and Shoeless Joe walk amongst us, and in Ruth's case, try to steal our red hots.

Where you always sing during the Seventh Inning Stretch.

And all the boys that wish they could have, imagine themselves like this......


Play ball.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

If religion were only as simple as baseball.

The path to salvation is narrow; and as difficult to walk as a razor's edge.

But for those that believe that this place is NOT the end, there is a certain path.  I believe this.  And I believe that the difficulty in walking that path is that it takes work to walk the path pointed out by the Prophet all those years ago, which we are celebrating now.

For me, it does not matter if he was the Son of God; he was Touched by God, and that's enough for me.  And although I love you as friends and relatives, I don't care what you think on this particular subject.

Because that's the thing that came to me in the midst of the worst, and almost unbearably sustained pain I have ever felt*:  the path is narrow, difficult to walk.....and unique to every individual that chooses to believe.

Your path and my path to salvation are not the same.

You can't get me to the next destination, be it Heaven, or a new and better version of this place.

Your beliefs cannot get me there, as noble and as cherished as they are.

Mine only can.




*The pain has eased, thanks to some assisted stretching.  Physicians are touched by God, as well, I find.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When the valve begins to whistle, the proper response is to evacuate.....

There used to be a rule among the students of mine, back in the days when I spent my time in a classroom with my long hair and my moccasins.

The rule was simple:  you could tell the weather by how I walked.  If it was cold, I was walking slowly with a bit of the crippled-up.  If it was warm, I moved more quickly.  And the standing order of the day was, if I was moving slowly and crippled, do not approach if you valued your skin or your self-esteem.  I was known to be kind, most of the time....and I would always apologize for a bitter invective...but I WAS able to lash out, if the day was cold, the pain in my joints was high, and my self control at low ebb.

I was diagnosed with the beginnings of arthritis at a fairly young age; I was 28.  I tried to take care of myself, keep myself reasonably limber, pop the really good pain killers, and laugh when I could.

But there were days when it would be ALMOST overwhelming.

I'm sure there's something to be said for simply GIVING IN.  Just giving up that well-tuned self control, lie down on the floor, and just groan and scream for awhile.  Let it out; it'll be good for you and you'll feel better.

And there have been moments in the last couple of days that have sorely tried my patience.

I woke up a few days ago with a nagging pain near the base of my spine; it made it difficult to walk, naturally, and the resulting compensation for that pain resulted in pretty much twisting everything up into a mess. 

I look like freakin' Ed Sullivan.

And yes, I should be attending to people who know how to fix such things; and yes, I WILL.  Until then, I have my pills and my heating pad and my rapidly increasing feeling of rage.

And an hour ago, a thought occurred to me.

I'm tired of this.

I'm tired of putting up with pain so I can be somewhere, doing something I don't want to be doing at a time in the day when GOD HIMSELF is napping.

I'm tired of twisting myself into a pretzel so I can be considered a "good soldier."

I'm tired of being in recovery.  Constantly in recovery.  I'm not healthy; the damned denial was supposed to make me healthy and I'm NOT.  NOT HEALTHY and NOT HAPPY.

And IN PAIN.

So, come sunrise, I am going out on the roof, I'm going to take a deep breath and I'm going to shout to the rush hour traffic EXACTLY what civilization can do with itself in GRAPHIC detail, and then I'm going to rattle my wrecked ass to the elevator, go down to my car, and either go home and go to sleep or find a tavern that will serve me something large and cold and tasty, along with the LONGEST cigarette ever seen or lit by mankind. 

And I don't care what anybody thinks.


Now.  Which do you think I'll actually do?

State you answer in the form of a question, top it with hot fudge, put it in a box, tie it with a ribbon, and throw it in the deep blue sea.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

...........

I have been feeling poorly lately.

Not physically, mind you.  Yeah, I overdid a little on my vacation......but you can't live paces from a beach, and fewer paces still from great food and drink without attempting to turn yourself into something that has its own gravitational pull.

So, I indulged in a deep fried hot dog, loaded to the rafters will all manner of goodness, and yes, Guy Fieri, I ate the whole damned thing. 

And yes, I had a scoop or two from Big Olaf's Ice Cream shop.

And oh, HELL yeah I would have bought stock in Heavenly Cupcakes if I could have; at the very least, camped out in the store and inhaled the lovely morsels.

And you can't go to a baseball game without the various edible props.

So.....I'm a little bigger.  But I'm workin' on it.

Baseball.  I can't say enough about Grapefruit League baseball.  There's a kind of purity to it.  Most of the guys you're seeing in the early days of the Spring are hungry to advance; and without a decided goal, there's a remembrance that it's a freakin' GAME.  And I swear to GOD I saw the ghost of Clemente.  And Puckett.

And no, there's not many better sounds than the sound of a wooden bat on a white ball.

But back to the point.  I've been blue.

I get that way, from time to time.  I call it being, "beyond the capacity to care."

And not caring that I don't care.

So, you hunker down and wait for the storm to pass; and it does, my friends.  No storm I have ever lived through ever lasted forever.  It's only in hindsight that it merely SEEMS to last forever.

So.  If I'm quiet, you'll understand.

Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Not feeling the writing, but do like the video.

Sometimes, when I think I'm pretty good and pretty creative, I see something like this.
 
It simultaneously makes me want to get up and work harder, and just give up.
 
But within that mental tumult, I thank the God of my comfort that there are people out there that create so that I may envy, and dream, and strive.
 
And to top it all off, it's funny.
 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Crazy in all forms, gathering together like Supastorm Sandy to make my waking life a bitter agony.....

In a kind of tribute to both the current insanity that has become a part of my life, as well as memorial to one particular woman who permanently screwed me up in college, I offer this humble number from Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers!

Enjoy.....


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I've had a very bad night, and I'm taking it out on Oscar.

It's that time of year when I admit that I don't watch awards programs; at best, they are nothing more than extended commercials for fashion designers, the studios and their films, and the award winners social and political beliefs.  At worst, they are all of those things as well.

Of course, some are worse than others.

The SAG awards, for example, seems to me to be the most masturbatory of them all.  Actors awarding actors.  The voice toasting the echo.

The Academy Awards, however.....I don't know what it is that grinds my wheat about them.

I mean, there are always surprises; and I'm always grateful for the surprise.  It flies in the face of all reason that some people win, even after all the studios have literally campaigned for the award.

But I think the chief reason is always this.....

The Best Picture Award is for people with really short memories.

The earliest release date for a nominated film was July 5, 2012.  That was BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, which had a total box office of 12 million dollars.

SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK was released in September
LINCOLN and ARGO in October
LIFE OF PI in November
AMOUR, ZERO DARK THIRTY, DJANGO UNCHAINED, and LES MISERABLES were released in December.

So, are we assuming that all films released from January to July were crap?

And let's not forget the ageless argument about genre.

I believe that we could arguably place SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK in the comedy genre, strictly speaking.  But the rest......

At any rate......at least we have pretty people in pretty clothes with pretty opinions on pretty subjects, and a pretty orchestra to pretty much shut them up.

But I miss the streakers and the fake Native Americans accepting awards.

But I often wonder what those first awards ceremonies were like, with no television cameras; just a bunch of movie-town folk having dinner and handing out trophies.

But that was fun.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

More tales of boyhood, or: It's Like Drinking a Sparkly Cloud.

I'm always really entertained by the idea that I begin each of these posts with a kind of introduction.....of course, it's not a kind of James Michener introduction (he always seemed to begin each of his novels with the beginning of time, moving forward quickly to the current predicament of his main characters), but I suppose it's for the few people who may randomly stroll to my humble ramblings while looking for something else that I do so.  I wouldn't presume to be on the same level as Mr. Michener.  However, I do like to confuse him with the Michelin Man.

I was raised in Detroit, and as such there are certain memories I have that are tied directly to the specific qualities of the city and its suburbs.

Mostly, it is connected to food.

Oh, and with one exception, I always owned an American car.

And there are stories of my upbringing in places in the great city that no longer exist...specifically, Olympia Stadium, Tiger Stadium, and the Hills Theatre.  But I've talked a lot about those monuments at length.

I almost bought some old Tiger Stadium seats last month....but they were the blue plastic ones, and I'm holding out for the old wooden green ones.

I do have a story about the old Olympia Arena and a performance of Peter Pan featuring Olympic Medalist Cathy Rigby....and how I mentioned it to her when I met her about a decade later....and what she said to me....but that's for another time.

But now I'm back to food.....

I've talked about the Sanders Bumpy Cake....a staple for my Birthday; and I would be remiss if I didn't mention that they made a truly excellent white cake with Caramel frosting, as well.

I've talked at length about the Coney Island, which was NOT invented in New York, but down on Lafayette Blvd in Detroit...and how several places are palaces for the good bad food.  They are good with fries, but also very nice with Better Made potato chips....oh, so good.

And there are some people who read my ramblings that know of my fondness for Vernor's Ginger Ale...another staple of Detroit living.  It's an acquired taste...you either like it, or hate it.

My Uncle Tom introduced me at a very young age to a Brooklyn Egg Cream, and they're lovely:  a little seltzer, a little Fox U Bet chocolate sauce, a little milk, and a spoon to blend it to a lovely frothy treat.

My Mother introduced me to the Boston Cooler.

It was NOT invented in Boston.  It was invented at a little parlour on Boston Avenue in Detroit.

Tall Glass.  Scoop of Vanilla ice cream (don't skimp, make it a good vanilla....if you want a really specific De-treat (get it?) use Stroh's Ice Cream), and fill the rest of the glass with Vernor's Ginger Ale.  Let stand for a bit, and consume with both straw and long spoon.

There isn't a hot summer day that goes by that I don't think about drinking one of those lovelies under a shady tree, in a rickety lawn chair, with the chik-chik-chik of a sprinkler serving as rhythm to the day.

Perhaps it the memories of the warm summer days that get me through these almost unbearable winter months.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Post Game

I am returned to the land of snow.

It was a very interesting week, which as you well know culminated on a Monday with a ninety second audition in Memphis, TN.

Of course, nobody but the people who are looking for actors see your audition; so you don't usually get any outside critique of your brief performance.  Your own opinion is usually the only thing by which you may go.

I thought it went pretty well; the responses in the right place....the highs and the lows feeling really good in the body....that sort of thing.

As you probably know if you read along, my plan was always to get up and do it.  To see if I could still do it.  I was not picky as to how or when I got up.

So, success in that regard.

The problem, of course, is that they've changed things around a bit....all the non-singers are placed at the end of the day...which means that anybody who is casting a musical will leave the room before you get on the stage.

So.  Not a whole lot of people in the room for me.

But the backstage was fun; lots of energy bouncing off of the walls.  The warm up room was just as I remember:  a bunch of young people mumbling to themselves, or striking a note on the piano and wailing as loudly as they can, or sitting in little cliques and having the same conversations that every single clique of actors have had in every single warm up room at every single cattle call since I was walking about, and probably even before that.

I warmed up my voice, shook the nerves out of my muscles and read my book, smiling like some demented troll.

I did not receive a whole lot of call backs; far less than ever before at this particular venue.  But my tastes have changed in the ten years I've been away.  I no longer NEED to do stuff; so I'm through with children's theatre, and touring, and cruise ships and the like.

And I didn't sing.  So naturally, people don't look at the resume to see if I ever HAVE.

I did have a couple of fun callbacks, though.  So, there may be some action coming down the pike.

There were visits to the places I've worked in the past; smiles and hugs and reminiscences and trading of paperwork.  I enjoyed that.

But four moments of fun......

Seeing Michael Detroit again after ten years.  A grip and a grin and a hug and a quick talk because he was quite busy running the show.  It was nice to see him.  Michael told me that a common friend from our Yooper days was in the theatre.

And the second moment of fun was then.....I walked the stage, checked the acoustics, and looked into the house and saw the woman, who's name is Valerie.  She was deep in thought, and paying no attention.

I stepped down, walked over to be in front of her, and simply stated, "Excuse me....did we date?"

It took her exactly a millisecond to give me a glorious hug.

We had a good talk, sitting there in the theatre, catching up briefly and talking about the strangeness that was our relationship all those years ago.  It was a series of near-misses, and she explained why.  Which was nice.  We talked about many things, and was glad for it.

And by the way.....Marty, if you're reading this.....the mystery of the appearance of the bra at an inappropriate time at that apartment on Fitch Street has been solved.  I hope you remember the story.  I told it to her, and she laughed.  And well she should; it was a truly funny story.

Third fun moment....came around the corner and a woman yelled, "John!"  Looked into the eyes of a lovely woman named Francene, who was in fact another Ghost of Girlfriends Past.....or, more to the point, a Ghost of Almost Girlfriends Past.

The last time I saw her was in Boca Raton in 198cough.  We spent a few minutes catching up.

You may not realize, but under the right circumstances, time travel is completely possible.

There was one other magic moment, but I'm going to save that one for another time.

So, we can call this a success.  I came, I saw.....I ate ribs at BB Kings on Beale Street, and listened to the blues; I took a tour of Sun Studios and stood in front of a microphone that Elvis used.  I bought souvenirs and looked out over the Mississippi River....and I found, after much searching, the stone that commemorates the loss of the Steamboat Sultana.

Had a great time.

And now, we'll see what the fruits will come of the labor.

But in the long run, as I've said before.....Enjoy the Game.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Can we just play the Freakin' game?!

 
This is dedicated to Alicia Keys, who broke the record last night for the longest rendition of the National Anthem in Super Bowl history.
 
The ending of this is especially poignant.
 
 

 
And if you like this, I encourage you to watch the entire series of A Bit Of Fry And Laurie.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It isn't just one of your holiday games.....

What draws a person to a particular audition piece? 

This is one of those questions that Tom Robbins insists will eventually go a long way to solving the purpose of the moon; though, not AS important as "how do you make love last?"

Prior to my marriage, no relationship ever lasted as long as my relationship with audition pieces.

You take them; you read them; you cut them.  You curse and swear and paste and re-cut and look at the clock and wonder how much more you can gut it before it becomes less the material you like and more the material that lasts less than 60 seconds.

You attempt to strike a balance between giving the material the attention it craves, it DESERVES, and making sure that those that sit in the darkness watching don't dismiss you because you didn't plan for the time constraint.

Because there is nothing like missing the meat of the matter because some college sophomore staring at her BlackBerry's stopwatch application just yelled "TIME!" with just enough enthusiasm to make you believe that she actually enjoyed it.

So what DOES draw a person to a particular audition piece?

I like the humorous...and when in doubt, I go for the funny.  The truly memorable auditions I've watched were the ones that made me laugh.

One of my favorite guys, now a PhD and working at a college down in FL bonded himself to me forever by performing a monologue in St. Louis in 1994 that made me laugh out loud.  In my mind's eye I can still see him doing it.

Memorable works.  Funny works.

I'm okay with the "Dramatic"...(capital letter intended for effect) monologues; if possible, I like to throw in a short one with the slightly longer humorous contribution.  It shows range; but I'm also a believer that "Dying is easy....Comedy is hard."  And if you can get the laugh, you can get the tear.

There are exceptions to every rule, of course.....but generally speaking......if you can make 'em laugh, you can make 'em cry.

But never in ninety seconds, which is what you got.

So, no music this time around...it was either the waiting list for singing or getting in on the non-singing audition.  And this has never been about the job.  It's been, since I first decided that perhaps I wanted to try this, ONE MORE TIME, just to see if I still have the heart, and the stuff, to do it.

This is about getting up and doing it.  So, I didn't want a waiting list. 

I wanted the light.

Comedy first for 45 seconds; then the other for about 40.

I just have to make sure to fight against my instincts to hold for the laugh. 

Because the clock is ticking.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Woof.

I had a moment of clarity.

I was having a conversation which turned into a difference of opinion which turned into a dispute.

And it was about the dumbest thing.  The DUMBEST thing.

And what happened between the beginning and the middle was that both participants fell into the pit of necessity; that it was of VITAL IMPORTANCE to win.  It wasn't important to be right; it was important to win.

And sometime between the middle and the end, it was like a fist unclenching in my soul. 

There is nothing on this green (or in my case, white permafrosted damned cold here in the north) earth that is THAT important.

I am going to try to be quiet.  Satisfied with my own "rightness" and not too much overly concerned with my "right" being THE "right."

Because I don't need any more fists in my soul.

I need a little more soul in my soul.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The last first time.

So, T-Minus 14 days until UPTA.

Resumes completed; photos old but still serviceable.  Reservations made.  Audition pieces prepared and under time.

Breathing normal.  Pressure....minimal.

And I'm reminded of the first cattlecall I ever attended.......

It was back in the early 80's....and in those tumultuous times, there were several regional cattlecall auditions; primarily, the SETC, the MWTA and the NETC.  That first year, that first time, the SETC was in Virginia; the MWTA in St. Louis; and the NETC in Boston.

And I was in Marquette, MI.  Hundreds and hundreds of miles away from any of these places.

The program up at Northern Michigan University was a good one, and it has only improved since then; and one of the great programs was the Auditions class.

Okay, the material was "old hat" by contemporary standards...Shertleff's book was only a few years old at that time and everything was new.  The faculty took a keen interest in our progress, and we were put through the paces.  The critique was brutal.  They would put you through a "real world" simulation, going as far as renting a hotel room and doing a mock call back audition. 

But the benefit of all that work was that they would pay all the audition fees; and, in some cases, provide transportation.

The SETC was the largest of the cattlecalls in those days, primarily for college students and those just out and about.  But they were (and I assume, still are) very careful about inviting people to audition that weren't technically within the boundaries of the Southeast.  In order to audition at the "big show", you first had to audition at an "out of region" venue first.

So, my first experience with a timed audition of prepared material in front of a group of strangers who were judging my worthiness was at Centre College in Danville, KY.

I don't recall how I came upon that first material; pretty sure I had help.  But I do recall that the material wasn't really my thing.  But, in my defense, I didn't know much of anything back then.  I do remember not being totally....comfortable with the material.

That comfort was multiplied by the fact that fifteen of us were packed into a van and we made our way in the dark of the night from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the Center of Kentucky, straight through.  800 hundred miles and 13 hours in a van.  With 14 other people.  Knowing full well that not ALL of us were going to be advancing past this particular audition.

So, I would like to say that it was a stellar performance.

Nope.

I wasn't comfortable in my clothes; I wasn't comfortable with the material.  I was sleep deprived, and the little devils that lived in my head even then were whispering dire things.  I was watching actors from other schools and they seemed so much better prepared than I.  I saw really good; and I saw not-so-good.  And as the clock ticked.....I could feel my shoulders making their way up past my ears.

And then the magic moment came for me.

And I pushed through the monologue; and I lost the lyrics for the song and pushed through that, as well...knowing that as the lyrics disappeared, so did my chances for advancement.  And I shook my head and sat back down with a rueful smile.

Three long, angst-filled hours later, with a sad sandwich in my stomach and dire predictions in my head.....they posted the list.

Out of the fifteen of us.....seven advanced.  Seven people trying to simultaneously celebrate and sympathize with those that did not move forward.  Seven people who were going to sit in a van for another 13 hours with eight others......not talking about it.

Me and seven six other people feeling blessed; myself wondering how I could have possibly moved on after such an AWFUL performance.

Still wondering.  With every movement forward; still wondering.

Went to Virginia; got a job out of it.  My first professional job.  Never looked back after that.

I began to choose my own material; I began to put it together the way I wanted to....and lo, these many years later, I have a file in my head that contains several "go-to" pieces for every occasion.

Two weeks to go.

Hope I have fun.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thank God for all I missed.....

Every so often, a song speaks to you.

And makes you dance.

So.

Do what ya gotta.