Thursday, April 30, 2009

Fiddling on the Edge of the Fire

Herds of pigs may be in preliminary maneuvers to conquer the world and erase humanity from the footprint of the Earth, Republicans may be learning to walk in big clown shoes while squeezing themselves into tiny little cars, and our own local and state leaders-in-their-wisdom might be dismantling us and selling our scraps down the Mississippi River; but, damn, I've been reading a book, the first one since I retired - when? - oh, going on three years ago now.

And it's a big book, too.

It's called A Strange Eventful History: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families.

Whew, let me catch my breath.

Okay.

I'm loving the hell out of this book, which means I'm reading it slow. I'm not galloping to get to the end of it, but sauntering my way through it, enjoying the countryside. I'm also not recommending the book to any of you readers. What possible interest could a pair of Victorian actors and their children have for you? But for a theatre-history junkie like myself, the book's subtitle could be spelled C-R-A-C-K.

Like any good book, it's begun to take a sort of obsessive possession of me. Why, just this past Monday, facing an evening of nothing but Two and a Half Men and The Medium, I found myself here instead, cruising the Internets, looking for old, scratchy recordings of Irving and Ellen Terry.

Know what? They're here. For real. Well, maybe not Irving. There's supposedly this recording of him in existence doing a Cardinal Wolsey speech from Shakespeare's Henry VIII that some scholars don't believe is really him.

I ask myself, "How can they tell?"

Besides, if it is an imitation, it's an imitation recorded on a Victorian or Edwardian wax cylinder by a peer of the player who certainly knew what he sounded like since he was doing an impression of him.

I remember reading once that Olivier's Richard III voice was based on someone's impression of Henry Irving doing the role. Sometimes authenticity might just be an approximation. But you still can get the idea.

My search for Irving's voice also brought me to an existing recording of Great Historical Shakespeare Recordings. This audiobook sells itself with not only the Wolsey Speech but also, get this, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Johnston Forbes-Robertson, Ellen and her brother Fred Terry and his wife Julia Neilson (a handsome woman). Can't you just pee? And that's only a few of the choice branches of the tree. Wait a minute, they've even got a recording of Edwin Booth - not doing Hamlet but Othello.

Naturally, I bought and downloaded the recording and spent a goodly portion of my evening listening to it. Imagine my dismay to discover that of all the artists allegedly performing, only three are identified. They are Irving (of course), John Barrymore, and Laurence Olivier.

Now, I have vinyl recordings of Barrymore's radio readings of his Shakespeare scenes, so I knew which recordings were his to begin with. I've seen Olivier's films of Hamlet and Henry V, from which his recordings are taken, so he needs no introduction on the disk. The same goes for Johnny Gielgud. There's no mistaking that voice and those line readings, even though they clearly belong to the younger player and not the aged knight. But who the hell is that first actor doing Marc Antony's speech from Julius Caesar, "Oh pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth", on a single note, but who still sends a chill up my spine when he comes to the phrase, "Let slip the dogs of war"? And what about the next actor who follows up with a speech of Falstaff's?

I know who they are now. Would you?

See, what I had to do was set out on a deeper research of the actors listed to find out what recordings they had left behind, and that, dear reader, is the reason why I've been ignoring you and all that's wrong in the world today these past few days.

And I'm not done yet. You'd be amazed how many of the old birds got off on playing Henry V.

As for that book ... Yesterday, Henry Irving died. A sad death. I cried like a girl. Next up is Ellen's sad descent into sweet-old-lady senility, the rise of Gordon Craig, accompanied by his children-dropping all over what once was called The Continent, and God knows what all else.

Eventually, I expect, I'll return and join up again with the rest of you. Until then, pardon my wallow.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Focus on the Good

While I'm sitting here upstairs, Cory and Barry (handymen extraordinaire) are down the hallway, installing a new sink and cabinet in the bathroom. They've just discovered there is no cut-off valve up here, and as a result, they've flooded the downstairs. Luckily, Bob is off buying a rosebush. Otherwise, he might have gotten wet.

I'm going to just think happy thoughts and contemplate a new hibiscus.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Clouds

On Counting to Ten

I was reminded of something this morning when I found myself in the process of writing a post for today, and that is that it's best to let a little time pass before releasing something that might cause offense or pain to someone.

I had written this for wont of anything else to write about:
In paying one of my now-infrequent visits to a certain local Bulletin Board, I spied this headline (in boldface): Donnie James Passes Away From Ambush Magazine.

It fairly set my teeth a-grindin' and made me want to respond, "No, no, no. He died from a brain tumor. Ambush had nothing to do with it, no matter what you may suppose."

"And, furthermore," I would have gone on, "he was either Donald James or Donnie Jay. He never portmanteued his name into 'Donnie James'. If you're gonna set yourself up to be the town crier, at least get your facts straight, ya fuck. And don't capitalize the preposition 'from' in a headline either. That's ignorant."

Luckily for this person, I've long ago forsworn posting to that site.

I'm so glad now that I thought better of posting that. Being ugly is so ... déplaisant.

I give myself an "Attaboy".

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guess He Thought Everybody Had a First Amendment

Pity the fool:
PRAGUE (AFP) - Former Grand Wizard of the Louisiana-founded Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, was arrested on suspicion of promoting movements seeking the suppression of human rights, police spokesman Jan Mikulovsky told local media. ...

Duke, a US citizen, is suspected of denying or approving of the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes, according to the CTK news agency. This crime is punishable by up to three years in prison in the Czech Republic.

Update: They let him go and kicked him out. He'll be coming back.

507 Barracks Street, Three Views



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Track-Stopping Quote of the Day

"He has never killed anyone or raped a woman. He certainly has never stolen a pig."

From the Forbes.com article, "New Guinea Tribe Sues the 'New Yorker' for $10 Million."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Blue Bloom

Turning a Corner

I found myself in a rare state last night.

I got a call inviting me out for "some beers" and decided to go, having spent a royally boring day at home and after having gotten permission from Bobby to go out. So 7:30 turns the corner, and I'm sitting - where else? - at the Lantern, chugging the first in a long line of cocktails.

Within an hour, I started to realize that there was something different about me. I wasn't stressed about all the petty shit that's been invading my life these past few weeks. My perspective was clear, and all those bothersome things were finally unimportant and negligible. So what if I might be held in a low opinion by people I hold a low opinion of. I was carefree.

That ain't like me, but it was nice.

Oh, and Bubba? Sorry I bailed on you while you were in the john. Consider this my postdated good night.

In a Succulent Mood

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I Liked about The Glass Menagerie, Part Three

I never missed The Glass Menagerie's final scene - Scene Seven, the Gentleman Caller Scene. I believe that scene of the play was perhaps the most visually beautiful and the most delicately acted scene I have ever placed onstage.

In it, Jim O'Connor, a former high school classmate of both Tom and Laura, has been invited to the Wingfield home for a dinner that Amanda hopes will be the nudge to his courtship of her daughter. Of course, this is the night the electric company chooses to turn off the lights since Tom has used the money intended for the bill to buy his way into the Union of Merchant Seamen. The stage is plunged into darkness, and Amanda lights "this lovely old candelabrum that used to be on the altar at the Church of the Heavenly Rest" before sweeping Tom away into the kitchen and leaving Jim and Laura alone.

And in candlelight and silence, it began.

Liz Mills, who was playing Laura, Leon Contavesprie, our Jim O'Connor, and Keith were long-time friends who had studied and acted together before. They were the three people who had come to me with the suggestion of presenting The Glass Menagerie during the run of the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. It was on the strength of their casting that I presented the project to my producers. They were responsible for its being done.

They had trained together at the same university, Leon as a graduate student, Keith and Liz as undergrads. The training they'd received had given them a technical proficiency that set them on a higher shelf than the one occupied by pleaser-performers. I might even say they could be profoundly technical.

I had worked happily with Keith and Liz before, but never with Leon. During the early rehearsals, we spent a lot of time just reading the script. It was going to be a while before we had access to a space where we could put it on its feet. Nevertheless, this didn't bother me. I intended the physical production to be simple - mine usually are. I rely less on action than on acting, and read-throughs give me the opportunity to begin to sense how the actors view their roles and to study the relationships they are forging with their co-players. I'm able to figure out in which directions I may want to push or pull them, how to incorporate their personal feelings and opinions of their acting partners into the staging. A Romeo and Juliet who personally despise each other can make for an electrifying balcony scene.

Keith and Liz had come to trust me as a director. They privately assured Leon I'd be an easy mark. They told him I'd give him free rein.

But I didn't.

Perhaps I was wrong (I don't think so), but I thought Leon came in to early rehearsals with too polished a conception, prepared with too little thought. He was ready to play the Gentleman Caller, but he didn't yet know who Jim O'Connor might have been.

(This is an example of what can happen when a role is in the hands of a technically proficient actor. The actor's technique can make it appear that he is presenting a true characterization when, in fact, there are no shadows present, there is no depth; there is only veneer. Technique should be a buttress for the actor or a springboard, a supporting thing that enables him to communicate his intended interpretation of the text to his audience. Relax and nuzzle into it, get comfortable in its surroundings, and it will function like an overstuffed lounging chair and induce sleep. For the actor, not necessarily the audience.)

Whenever we'd get to his scenes, I'd stop and challenge him. He'd start again, get a little further, then I'd stop and challenge him again. The scene with Jim and Laura began to take up so much time, we reserved special nights for them alone. Keith and Lyla could take time off, Leon and Liz would work.

I understand he soon thought Kieth and Liz had set him up by telling him I'd be easy, but, luckily for me, he appreciated my attention. I think he did. I'd like to believe he did.

The rehearsals with Leon and Liz came to be uproariously funny. Their scene together is not humorous, but we laughed like fools. I cannot fathom why we behaved the way we did, why we thought we had to annihilate Laura's delicacy and Jim's self-confidence; but I know we did have to respond to the scene in that manner, and I know what that treatment accomplished because I was to see it every night in performance. Through some kind of instinctual response to the material, we were stripping away the patina with which time and previous productions had coated the characters. We were getting to know them as they were.

Up until this scene, Laura might be fragile as spun glass, but she is not broken. We see that break when it happens. Williams puts it smack at center stage where we cannot miss it, at a moment when we cannot look away. Jim, on the other hand, enters the play already broken, but not knowing it.

Yes, broken. The way a horse is broken in the process of its training when it comes to realize its relationship to its rider. Jim had been a top high school athlete, the lead in The Pirates of Penzance, now he is another nail in the same shoe factory where Tom works. Unlike Tom, he is a convert to the American Dream and takes night courses in electronics and the art of influencing people. Some day, if he doesn't die in World War II looming just around the corner of the coming years, he will retire with a gold-plated watch and his memories. We are left to wonder if those memories will include his long-ago, short visit with a funny girl named Laura.

This is all there in that one crucial scene, buried under the surface for the audience to mine it, if it will; but how was I going to have these two special actors play the goddamn thing?

As simply and as quietly as possible.

I wanted to focus the audience's attention on two tiny people sitting on the floor of a darkened stage, lit by candles and a faint blue glow. I wanted awkward silences, soft speech (the kind you use during a power outage when you become aware of the soundlessness surrounding you), and rare movement. These things are not easy for actors to deliver. Actors instinctively want to act, not be still, not be. It takes a level of trust a director has to earn.

I think I may have managed to earn it, because what I saw onstage was pure and limpid, two young people thrown together, gradually revealing to each other their past acquaintance, exposing their hearts to one another, establishing trust - before any imagined, hoped-for future is dashed to the ground and left broken like Laura's glass unicorn.

Unforgettable moments:
  • Jim, trying to break the ice with Laura by offering her a stick of chewing gum. Yes, chewing gum. It was boylike and touching.
  • Laura, struggling never to look into Jim's eyes. (Liz told me later this was the direction that unlocked the scene for her. She gives me too much credit.)
  • The way Jim wallowed in Laura's admiration of his singing and the funny way he signed her preserved souvenir program of the old Gilbert and Sullivan operetta he'd performed in in high school.
  • The waltz when Jim insists that Laura dance with him after she has declined, saying she will step on him, and he replies, "I'm not made of glass." In that one line, Jim became all chivalrous maleness.
  • The freedom Laura begins to experience while dancing just before she twirls into the table bearing the unicorn, sending it flying.
  • Jim's apologetic sorrow, culminating in the slow, slower, slowest, almost imperceptible movement of their two bodies toward one another and into a brief kiss. (The tension behind this movement into the kiss was excruciatingly expectant. Imagine what I experienced at the final performance when their two lips met two beats too soon!)
  • Jim's horror at what he has done by kissing Laura, and his devastating confession that he can never see her again because he is already engaged. Laura's response: silent, expected, accepting, her blank affect revealing her final psychic wound.
  • Jim's awkward line to Amanda, "I hope it don't seem like I'm rushing off." The cast had questioned the grammar. Would Jim really say those words? To me, they revealed his Achilles' heel, the fact that he was not yet what he intended himself to be. Here was a man in the process of becoming something. Would he go forward or would he revert?
What was left after this? Just for Laura to blow out her candles.

Going into this show, I'd expected Liz to be a fine Laura. I did not expect her to break my heart as irrevocably as she did. She was incandescent in the role, as close to it as Williams could have imagined. No one can ever convince me otherwise. After we'd closed, I asked her to promise to let me direct her Amanda when it came time for her to take up that part.

Going into this show, I'd never expected to care for the Gentleman Caller. I'd figured Leon could make it work with his eyes closed, but we'd both kept our eyes open, and Leon created a figure of mystery and challenge, one who stood on equal footing with the overwhelming personalities of Amanda, Tom, and Laura, someone who possessed his own story, as worthy of a potential future as the other three.

Sometimes, I think, the stars, they just align themselves, and we should simply acquiesce to what is happening and trust that what will be will be all for the best.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

What I Liked about The Glass Menagerie, Part Two

Tom's opening monologue is only the beginning of Scene One. When he has finished speaking, the lights come up to reveal the Wingfield apartment as Amanda and her daughter Laura enter with dishes, and Amanda calls Tom to dinner. Early in rehearsals, this scene took on an importance to me that went beyond what is laid out in the text.

I had cast Lyla Hay Owen in the part of Amanda. Lyla is considered a legend in New Orleans theatre. That isn't really saying much. In New Orleans, every third other person on the street is a legend to somebody in this town. I live across the street from another New Orleans theatre legend. Her, I've seen in the morning without her makeup or foundation garments, and she doesn't deserve to be a legend, but Lyla is the real thing.

She was returning to the stage after a long absence and some personal tragedies, and it was imperative that I show her off to her best advantage. She deserved nothing less.

The problem I was perceiving had to do with Lyla's style. That style is flamboyant, dependent on poses and arm-flinging gestures, a barnstorming style. There's nothing wrong with that if it is anchored in the actor's conviction, and Lyla truly was convinced; but, being surrounded by three younger actors whose approach was internal, I worried that our audiences might be too aware of the dichotomy of styles onstage and find her out of place.

Of course, this shouldn't have been a worry. Williams often pits flamboyant, past-obsessed characters against others grounded in a contemporary reality. But I was still concerned.

The first scene of the play establishes Amanda's controlling machinations toward her children, then sends her off on an aria recalling one distant Sunday afternoon on Blue Mountain and a convergence of seventeen gentleman callers. Lyla delivered this speech with dance-step punctuations, coquettish glances, coy poses, and fluttering hands.

It was lovely movement, but I was afraid some people viewing it might find it to be too much, over the top, extraneous, even risible.

Until one rehearsal when I noticed that Keith, as Tom, was beginning to mock her. There he was sitting at the far end of the stage, and I saw him start to mouth her lines (this story was one Amanda often told) and ape her gestures. Eventually, he would leave his place and move to sit with his sister where he would continue to poke fun at her exaggerations. On his cross, he mimicked her walk.

Liz Mills, as his sister Laura, tried to stop him but was helpless in fits of giggles at his dumb show.

I think the first time he did this, it was just a bit of horseplay to pass the time, but it seemed right to me. As soon as I could, I told him privately to keep it up, even to feel free to go further with it, knowing he'd be incapable of going too far.

The mockery incited sympathy for Amanda and gave Lyla the framework she needed to validate Amanda's rococo flamboyance.

And because we were able to establish her character's muchness, the later poignancy of her simple act of listening to Laura's tale of a high-school crush in Scene Two and the heartbreak of her final maternal act of comfort-giving to her daughter after the devastation of the Gentleman Caller scene were simple and beautiful and wondrous to see.

Donald James, April 24, 1944 - April 16, 2009

We just received a phone call telling us that Donnie Jay passed away in his sleep last night after a long illness. I'm numb.

My relationship with Donnie revolved around To Do Productions, his theatre company, in which he allowed me to participate. It was a rollicking second childhood, and, like one's first, over too soon.

God bless you and keep you, Donnie.

Take a bow, y'old queen!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What I Liked about The Glass Menagerie, Part One

We worked so long and hard on this production that, by the third performance, I didn't have it in me to sit and watch it's total progress night after night. Instead, I would find myself slipping out of the theatre to sit in the foyer, only to slide back in occasionally because there were certain scenes I could not not watch.

To begin with, I loved our opening.

The curtains opened in darkness. A shaft of white light cut across the stage from left to right (I am speaking of the visuals here and not the stage conventions of Stage Right or Left). That was all the audience saw for about ten seconds, an empty, partially lit stage. Then, before anyone could think that something was amiss, Keith Launey as Tom Wingfield would step into the light and start to cross the length of the stage as he made his way carefully to a little table set on the auditorium floor to the right. That cross and the way Keith made it made it clear that Tom was in a bar in some port city, that he was not yet - if he ever would become - a successful writer, and that he was in the middle of a progressive binge. When he reached the table, he set himself carefully down, taking his time to settle into his chair before looking at the audience and smiling. He reached out to a half-full bottle of rum, unscrewed the cap, and poured himself a shot. He drank it down, caught his breath, and, finally, smiling at the audience again, he said, "Yes, I have tricks in my pockets ..."

I don't know many local actors who could have managed that length of silence, but Keith has worked with me before and trusts me. Whether that is something good or a bad mistake on his part, I cannot say; but I've never knowingly made a fool of him onstage.

I also believe he's not the kind of actor who is dependent on dialogue alone. He perceives the world created by the dramatist's whole text and places himself with its confines and learns it's geography. That way, he inhabits his characters and is free to behave as they would within the terms of the story being played. In hand with that ability to occupy a role, he is able to deliver on my notions of timing and rhythm as opposed to pacing as it is commonly understood here in New Orleans.

Pacing is a major component in the local style of acting, and it is understood by its practitioners as speed and the picking up of cues. That definition should have died with old George Abbot, but then New Orleans is a city of the dead.

When I am working on a play, I hear rhythms and tempos, active silences that bridge two movements. One scene might require a mood best described as being played by dark woodwinds while another might be played by yearning strings, and still another, a pounding timpani. This requires an actor to be continually alive throughout the passage of the play, both while active and at rest.

There aren't many of those, and they're not terribly well-regarded by the privileged cliques around town, but I've been fortunate to have been able to work with some of the best of them. And some of the best of them performed in this Menagerie.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Final Word?

The final word on our recent production of The Glass Menagerie comes from Patrick Shannon, writing in the current issue of Ambush Magazine:
“There’s such a high price for negligence in this world.” (T. Williams, Glass Menagerie, Amanda)

Recently To Do Productions presented a very splendid interpretation of T. Williams’ lyrical and lovely play The Glass Menagerie at Theatre Marigny. Glenn Meche directed a very moving production with an all star cast, including one of our own top talents, Lyla Hay Owen, in the starring role of the neurasthenic and opportunistically self-deluded mother, Amanda Wingfield. Ms. Owen created a completely unique and earth bound Amanda very different from the ones I have seen on stage several times in other productions. Instead of a totally deluded T. Williams’ heroine, all flighty and fluffy in filmy flowered dresses, Ms. Owen took the character with both hands like a dying azalea bush, cut and slashed her weaker parts away and planted her with deep demanding roots in the richly Indecent-Proposals-imagined soil of her own mind and determination... she changed her from a spindly little bush with one anxious azalea blossom past its prime into an iron camellia growing from an evergreen plant strongly rooted in her hopes and dreams. Ms. Owen was a refreshing and more realistically realized Amanda, a mother who was determined to get her fragile daughter a husband. It was a bravura display of acting keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Brava, Lyla Hay Owen who was brave enough to change Amanda from a shrinking violet into an iron camellia and do it without sacrificing feminine grace and charm.

And bravissimo to the rest of this all star cast: Keith Launey who seems to have a natural instinct for the art of acting and who did a heart-breaking interpretation of the son, Tom Wingfield; and ditto for the beautiful Liz Mills who was an outstanding Laura Wingfield. Leon Contavesprie made for a handsome, hearty but sensitive gentleman caller, Jim O’Connor. Glenn Meche both directed and did the workable sets. This production was stunningly beautiful. There was not a dry eye in the audience as the play ended. What an elegant kind of cathartic experience this Glass Menagerie turned out to be!

Final word ... ? I don't know. I think I might jot down some of my own thoughts about this production and the actors I had to work with. Check back in a day or two.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Nice Policeman Is Your Friend (Round 729)

When you got it, flaunt it:
The frantic mother of a 6-year-old boy killed in this morning's triple murder in Terrytown was subdued with a Taser gun by Jefferson Parish deputies at the murder scene, a sheriff's spokesman said.

The mother ... grew irate with authorities when she arrived at the Monterey Court apartment where the rampage happened before 4 a.m., Saturday. When she got physical, deputies stunned her to bring the situation under control, Col. John Fortunato said.

The woman's name and condition were not immediately available.

Olivia would have handled it differently.

Discarded Sink

This past Monday, Cory and Barry, the two maintenance men it took to replace Kenny (the earlier maintenance man who had left the job after Hurricane Katrina in order to move to a place in Mississippi far from the fabled Gulf stream waters south of us that help to make this land the land for you and me), finally came over to install the ice maker in the refrigerator our landlord had installed to replace the old pre-K refrigerator that didn't need to be replaced in the first place.

Let me backtrack a bit.

Shortly before Katrina paid her eventful visit back in 'ought-five, Bobby had purchased the left hindquarter of a very large cow and deposited it in our refrigerator's freezer. Yep, that Whirlpool was a keeper.

When the time came to make our move to evacuate, we unloaded all the food and condiments and packed them in ice chests with all the ice cubes we'd accumulated up until then from our trusty ice maker.

Because of that quick thinking, when we returned from our exile, we found our refrigerator free from spoiled edibles, mold and mildew, and maggots.

What we didn't count on was our landlord's quick thinking in filing for the insurance to replace all the other soiled refrigerators in our building. So it was that, as soon as trucks could start to make deliveries in the city again, we found a shiny new refrigerator outside our front door.

We pleaded not to lose our baby, but our landlord, being a lawyer and a former Louisiana state legislator, wasn't about to cheat an insurance company, so we had to say goodbye to our trusty and dependable companion and welcome this new tin and plastic box into our kitchen.

Even though she didn't come with an ice maker as part and parcel of her dowry.

This was something Bobby could not endure. He cajoled and badgered, making himself a nuisance for the next three years, to get an ice maker added to this new appliance, and early on Monday, there stood Barry and Cory on our front step, holding the little box that would complete Bob's world.

All of the hardware from the previous installation was still in place, but Cory could not get it to work. He put the blame on Kenny's shoddy workmanship, ignoring the fact that that workmanship had indeed worked in its day and ignoring, too, the probability that any unused plumbing might go bad after three years of disuse.

The hookup for the original ice maker had been done in our tiny first-floor bathroom whose back wall adjoined the left side of our kitchen. After their masterful inspection of the previous setup, Cory and Barry decided all the hardware had to be removed and renewed. In doing this, they found that the little makeshift cabinet under the tiny sink in the teeny bathroom was pulpy and dilapidated and had to go.

Say, did we want a new sink?

Well, now that you mention it, and having already dismantled the cabinet, I guess we do.

Now, rather than wait the three or four days it would take for them to get permission from upper management to make the replacement purchase, I gave them a hundred dollars to go and buy another sink.

Off went Barry and Cory on their reconnaissance, and since they only shop at a certain Home Depot out in Kenner near the airport, they were back in a mere three hours with what they considered a beauty of a sink and cabinet combination and ten bucks plus a few coins in change for me.

As they proudly unpacked their trophy and carefully pulled out the new porcelain sink, something about it struck me. What it was that struck me was that it seemed to be - what was the word I was looking for? - large. Well, larger than the other sink, the old one they'd just taken out.

I hunted down a tape measure and examined the dimensions. Yep, it was larger, seventeen inches deep, in fact, when it should have been no more than twelve. Too deep to allow the door to close.

This was not a problem for Bobby or me, but there are occasions when ladies might pay us a visit (it's happened), and ladies, you know, always use the bathroom wherever they happen to be (that's just something ladies do), and ladies like the privacy a functioning door provides.

"We didn't think to measure it," Barry said.

"I did," said Cory, "but they don't make 'em that small no more."

"We'll take it back," said Barry.

But Bobby said, "Why not use this one to replace the sink in the upstairs bathroom?"

"Will it fit?" I asked.

"I'll check," said Barry as he raced upstairs.

"It'll do just fine," he shouted down.

"Then here's what I'll do," said Bobby. "I'll go to Lowe's - it's not that far - and find one smaller. That's the one we'll put downstairs." To me, he said, "Do you want to drive with me?"

"I think I'd like to take a walk instead," I said.

Some time later, when I returned, the new new bathroom sink and cabinet had been installed. (The old new bathroom sink and cabinet were sitting back in their box in the middle of the living room, waiting for Barry and Cory to return another day.)

I went into the bathroom, swung the door. It closed with plenty of room to bypass the new sink.

I looked at the sink.

"Bobby," I called out, "is this a crack across the front of the sink?"

"Um, Cory knocked it against the door post. They're going to return it and get a replacement next week."

I wondered if a Lowe's would replace a part of a package, but I kept my thoughts to myself.

As for the old sink, well, Barry left it in the alleyway alongside our apartment. I don't know why. I imagine, after some time has passed, that Bobby will plant a plant in it. Until that happens, I hope I don't forget it's there during one of my early-morning perambulations - nekkid - round the courtyard. I'd hate to trip over it and go sprawling, gashing my head against the pavement, and dying there from blood loss.

I mean, what would the neighbors think when they stepped out to start their day and found me there dead in front of them, a big, fat, pulpy, bloody mess?

I'd die of embarrassment.

Oh, and as for the new ice maker ... It doesn't quite work. You see, it seems that Cory and Barry cut the copper tubing a little too short. Instead of pumping water into the little ice-cube cubicles, it shoots its stream directly into the basket set underneath to collect the cubes.

We have, instead, a block of ice, the kind our great-grandmothers used to buy from the iceman as he passed along the cobblestones with his horse and cart.

Barry and Cory are going to fix that, too, next week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Belles-Lettres

From the stylists at Nola.com:
St. John the Baptist Parish firefighters are on the scene of a mobile home fire in LaPlace.

The trailer, at 110 Vicknair Place, is fully involved in flames, but no one appears to be inside.

"Involved"? "No one appears to be inside"? Smells like teen passion.

Rising

Good Friday

Jesus ... yielded up the ghost.
- Matthew, 27.50

Good Friday is a good day for laying the dead to rest. Oh, no body has died, no body I know. Just pieces of spirit.

These past few weeks have been tumultuous. I've batted at so many bricks thrown at me that my arms are taut and tired. I seek the solace of some metaphorical tomb carved out of rock and set apart.

I've striven so hard and for so long to belong to a world that will not have me. That was foolish of me to try to do. I'm not a joiner. I'm a separate, an outsider, an observer. But I started to care for things that neither mattered nor, in their turn, valued my concern. A bitter mistake.

For a time, I forgot my place. I recollect it now and will return to it. For now, for me, it's time to rest and let my spirit purge the poisons from its system.

Don't feel sad for me, nor pity me. This is not a time for sadness. Rather, it's a common thing, unremarkable, and rarely noticed ... this dying thing. We die in many ways each day, but the soul rejuvenates.

Resurrection always follows crucifixion.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sonuvabitch!

So ...

Here I am, living my goddamn life, and this tall, overweight motherfucker from Canada who knows me for one reason, and that reason is because someone was once taken in by him and introduced him to me ... So ...

So.

So, anyway, Bobby wants to go out tonight. So ...

So.

So we do.

And so this motherfucker comes into the Golden Lantern with his psycho boyfriend and starts to have one helluva gay old time before he sees me and starts in to whispering sweet nothings about me to the boyfriend as they both flagrantly begin to stare at me across the bar and giggle and all whatnot ...

So ...

So, eventually, tall, heavyset motherfucker from Canada comes around the bar to talk to me, leans in close ... like, real close to my ear ... to tell me, hey, stay cool, cause I just recently told my new boyfriend - yeah, him, over there - that you and I went to this hot-tub party a couple of weeks ago ... no, I know it wasn't you, but I'm using you as my alibi, so back me up, okay? Okay, dude?

Like ... um ...

No, motherfucker!

No!

I don't even know your fuckin' name, although you obviously know mine - but, dude, if you're gonna tell the psycho that you went with me cause you were taken with my big dick, then you need to know that the psycho has seen this equipment and knows, on his own, firsthand, more than you.

So ... you, my friend, don't belong in public. Go away and find a rock - under which to crawl ...

... And die and rot.

What the hell is going on in this world?

Huh?

So.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Coulda - Shoulda - Left a Comment ...

... But, for some reason, I thought it might be better to send this open letter to the kid instead.
Dear Son,

Now I know you're not really my son (you aren't, are you?), but you're young enough for me to be offering you advice.

Several days ago when you left a comment here about finally finding work in the Big ole Easy, my heart sank a bit. Another loss, I thought, to the bright-colored rainbow of young, vibrant life in the city. I pictured you taking your place in the long, grinding line of gray-faced zombies trudging lifelessly through the nine-to-five soul-sucking grind.

Now I discover, instead, that you are tottering on the Natchez for a daily four-hour tour. How can I express my relief to you? And you are spending that time shooting pictures of our beloved tourists! As you probably know, I sometimes take pictures, too, although I rarely shoot people (not that there aren't times I long to do just that, but not with a camera, if you get my drift ...) - I find it difficult to objectify sentient beings: they tend to look back.

You, on the other hand, seem to have the gift. Treasure it. Hold onto it, and never stop the mockery. Sanity lies there.

So keep on truckin', vive la revolucion, and may you stay forever young.

Sincerely,

The ole man

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ah ... [sigh] ... A Tiny Glass Figure ... So Small ... a Glance

A new review of our Menagerie, this one from Delia Nakayama, writing in Hokubei.com.

I admit to being nonplussed at Ms. Nakayama's slant on Williams' play. But, as our publicist wrote me soon after he first saw this ... , "it is 'good press' ".

Herewith, a few of Ms. N's cherry blossoms:
  • Local, well-loved and revered Lyla Hay Owen (“Amanda”) stole the show with her hilarious interpretations and intonations.
  • Keith Launey (“Tom”) also savored Williams’ words and perfectly timed “...the luckiest people are dead!” when airing his frustration about a dead-end job that he has to keep to support his sister and mother.
  • Liz Mills (“Laura”) beautifully portrayed her character’s fragility contrasted against an indifferent world and her adoration of her glass menagerie, her only friends. She also emotionally illustrated a poignant, unrequited love for “Jim,” Laura’s only gentleman caller, played by Leon Contasvesprie, who presented a strong performance as well.
All in all, another fitting[?] bouquet to what may very well turn out to be my swan song.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A New Review ... Another Memory

The current Gambit isn't yet online, so I give you a portion of the print edition. It's legible if you click on it. Forgive the synopsis, but, surprisingly (or maybe not), there were some in the audience who had no idea what the play was about.

Ah, I see it's online now. You can find it here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What's with the Weekends?

You might not know this, but I'm a stat whore, a flagrant, voracious stat whore. I spend most of my online time perusing my daily list of visitors. I enjoy it, seeing what cities and countries you're coming from, your service providers, the lengths of your visits, how you found me, the browsers you use ... even your ip addresses, especially your ip addresses.

I know who you are, and I keep all your data on spreadsheets.

Don't worry, I would never misuse the information I have nor abuse your trust.

I'm only curious about a trend I've been noticing.

On weekdays, Mondays through Fridays, I have a steady-flowing stream of visitors plashing in and dashing out. But on Saturdays and Sundays, it's as though some bitter beaver had erected a dam right up there before the final bend in this little rivulet whose currents would swirl you here to me.

What's up with that? What happens to you on weekends?

Are you sleeping late and having breakfast in bed? Are you doing laundry? Playing T-ball with the kids? Shopping? Copulating like rodents? What?

All of a sudden you've got no time to call or write?

If I were selling appliances here I'd be worried.

I think I know, though. You're reading me from work, aren't you? Uh-huh, as soon as the boss has checked in on you and left to make the rest of his rounds, you swoop that cursor up to your bookmarks and open me like a titty mag.

That ain't properly right, you know. Some would call it stealing - time and pay - yeah, employment theft.

Now, I'm not telling you this to scare you or anything. Like I said before, I wouldn't use the data I've amassed to inflict harm on anyone.

But a little visit on a Saturday or on a lazy Sunday morning would be nice. A quick hello to see how I'm doing. Nothing more.

Wouldn't that be nice? It would.

See you soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Pros Outweigh the Cons

There are many sad things about growing old. You hear about them often enough. But there are some perks to the process as well.

You're allowed to tell a young person to her face how attractive she is and all the things you would like to do with her - if only ... oh, if you were young again. Likewise, you can chase people away from your front gate or tell them to get out of your way as you walk down the street. You can hit passing cars with your cane when they don't let you cross. You can get away with public farts.

I think, though, that one of the sweetest perks is learning to tell what matters and what things you should care about.

So many things we strive for throughout our lives turn out be comfortless a day or two after achieving them. They're as needful as the approbation of sycophants we do not respect.

The things that matter are simple things. Kindness. Courtesy. Stringing words together. Making a picture. Making a play. Making a small change in the tiny world around you.

Think about that while I step outside for a minute. I can hear a gaggle of gutter punks singing bad bluegrass. Hand me my cane. This will be such fun.
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