Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Long Goodbye

It's beginning to feel like 2009 will never leave. I remember well how I welcomed him twelve months ago as a new guest I hoped would be fruitful and generous; but, truth be told, he's been sacked out on my sofa for far too long, belching and farting in those dirty boxers, unshaven, and bleary-eyed.

2009 was an ungrateful year.

In March, I managed to stage (what was perceived to be by some, at least, to be) one of my best theatrical productions, The Glass Menagerie. During the rehearsals, our producer, Donnie Jay, grew ill, and I was left to mount the play alone. It was shortly after we had closed our run that he passed away. With him ended "To Do Productions", the little company that could - and did - achieve some fine caliber work against imposing odds.

I found myself theatrically homeless.

In August, one of my critical champions, Al Shea, left us, as well. Back in the olden days when I was acting around town now and then, Al had once named me his choice as best actor of the year (I don't remember which year now) for my portrayal of the father in a production of Nuts. When I returned to the local theatre scene in 2006, he had no idea who I'd once been, but he welcomed me with open arms as an exciting new director in town. His enthusiasm and appreciation for what I was tying to do never failed, and he kept me going when others' words would have sent me into hiding.

But with his death and Donnie Jay's, that's where I went - into hiding, offstage, as it were.

Oh, I had my cameras, and I put them to use. I began to take photos on a daily basis. I carried my Nikon Coolpix with me everywhere I went, and by late November/early December, I had begun to make some interesting pictures.

So my spirit didn't starve. It was lonely at first, working alone, not surrounded by other artists working together to build a play, but it was healing and soon exhilarating.

I'm grateful, too, that the friends I had made in this tiny hothouse theatre world of New Orleans didn't walk away from me. They gave me room to deal with my grief, but they were never far away, often popping in and piping up to ask what projects I might have in mind.

Against my better judgment I even agreed to act again, although that decision remains problematical in reality and controversial in my own mind. But, damn it, I got up and did it. No matter what compelling force of resistance I might have felt on a daily basis to doing this thing, I took my place up on that stage, and I was there each night.

Soon after that, I accepted an invitation to direct my friend Karen Shields (my "Great American Writer" in an earlier production of Gertrude Stein and a Companion) in a one-woman piece, The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman by Carolyn Gage, a witty and moving play about the life of the towering nineteenth-century American tragedienne. We're in rehearsals now, and I'm enjoying this assignment immensely.

As for the order in my own house, that has stabilized this year. The Bobble has been gaining strength each week and every month. We even caught the bladder cancer (oh, that terrible word) early on, and he remains disease-free to this day. Old, creaky, crabby, and cranky, to be sure, but healthy enough to drive one mad.

So goodbye, Double-Ought 9. Don't think it hasn't been swell. Whatever I find that you've left behind, I'll leave on the curb for you to pick up when you can. But go. So long.

And, 2010 ... ?

I'll listen for the buzzer when you ring that doorbell. I'll answer it, too. But, let's get one thing straight: if you intend to hang around here for the next twelve months, you're going to have to pull your own weight and earn your keep. You got that?

Good.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Quote to Hold Onto

The other day, I ran across this quote from a review of Frederick Wiseman's film, La Danse. I find it has much to say to me about what I try to do in my theatre and picture work, such as they are:
George Balanchine ... liked to say to his dancers of audiences, “they look but they do not see, so we must show them.”
Eh. I put it out there ...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Reason for the High Crime Rate in New Orleans?

Can it be "they" are actually admitting what our citizens have long suspected? Not only are traffic violations safer to enforce than muggings, drug-dealing, shootings, and other assorted mayhem, but they make money! And it induces a regular domino effect. Why, that ticket you got for an illegal left turn can, in turn, turn into a $100.00 increase in your auto insurance for, at least, the next six months. Everybody profits.

Except for those people lying in the street. But, hey, those are not necessarily "violent crimes".

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, Everybody


It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me: won't see another one
And then they sang a song
The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away and dreamed about you
Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I´ve got a feeling
This year´s for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
Where all our dreams come true.

They got cars big as bars
They got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It´s no place for the old
When you first took my hand on a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me Broadway was waiting for me
You were handsome you were pretty
Queen of new york city when the band finished playing they yelled out for more
Sinatra was swinging all the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night.

And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out for Christmas Day.

You´re a bum you´re a punk
You´re an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse I pray god it´s our last.

And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day.

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can´t make it out alone
I´ve built my dreams around you

And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells are ringing out
For Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Terse Review of Avatar

Oh, not from me. I haven't seen it, and don't expect to soon, but, gee, there's been so much written about it ... "cb", up in Boston, saw it and has this to say:
Yeah, the movie has a lot going on.

And honestly, I probably could have gotten past the whole “kitchen sink” aspect (because I do love the epic good vs evil battles) if it had only managed to grab me and touch my heart.

Instead, all it did was sort of touch me inappropriately like a molesting uncle.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On People Who Give Beggars a Bad Name

I'm dipping my toes back into the theatrical waters down here and was on my way to a rehearsal this afternoon when I happened to pass two young people on the street, a boy and his girlfriend. When we get even with each other, little girl smiles sweetly and asks if I can spare a cigarette for her. Me, being a little old pawpaw man, I'm charmed and graciously open my pack and offer one to her. Young heifer takes two.

When she notices the expression on my face, she explains that the two cigarettes came out together. What she doesn't notice is the string of muttered invectives I utter under my breath as I walk away.

Rule number one for beggars, don't get greedy. Take what you asked for if your mark is willing to share, and don't presume on his kindness. Your youthful good looks won't last much longer if you have no means to at least buy or roll your own.

The other night, I was walking out on an errand when I noticed a little woman receiving cash from a couple of young boys in garbage-bag rain gear. As I walk past, she doesn't miss a beat as she turns to me and starts her spiel to part me from my own lucre. The trouble here is that I've heard her tale before. About two months back, she had stopped me outside my apartment building to explain she needed help to get a bus ticket back home to Shreveport. Back then, I actually did my bit and paid for part of her journey.

Tonight, she was still in need of that ticket. Unfortunately for her, I remembered her and her plight and called back to her over my shoulder as I sped away that I did not have any cash to spare. The last thing I heard from her lips was something about growing a heart.

Rule number two for beggars, develop a memory for faces. Since you'll never have to remember names, at least make the effort to try to discern one face from another, because that "other" will likely be the face of someone you've already plundered.

And, finally, rule number three: learn to deal graciously with invective for that's all any of you will be getting from me from now on.

Hey, I worked for more than thirty years for the right to call what's in my pockets mine. You ought to think about trying that for yourself.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ya Want Bitchy ... ? I'll Give Ya Bitchy, Bitch

I've started posting photographs to a daily photoblog website, been doing it for a month or so on a daily basis. Today I posted a pretty cool picture of a dude walking away from my direction, the whole scene blurred by the motion of his walking in one direction and my walking in another, shot it in color, toned it down, layered it with some exciting textures.

Bitch writes in and says it would be more "spectacular" if I "made a sepia [image] of it".

I think to myself, if I'd wanted sepia, I'd have made it sepia.

Thing is, I hate sepia.

And, anyway, sepia has never been spectacular.

Sepia is Italian for beige.
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