Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fasten Your Seatbelts, Part 1

How do you watch a movie? A play? How do you look at a painting or a sculpture?

I only ask because I had friends over yesterday to watch a movie, and the difference in the way they watched it and the way I did was striking and made me wonder if that divergence didn't make me just too weird for words.

Of course, I know enough people who aren't weird in any way to know that I am, or can appear to be, downright bizarre. I admit it. I lug around a good-sized bundle of weirdness on my shoulders, but it's not a heavy load, and I'm strong enough to carry it. I enjoy it mostly. It gives me spiritual bulk and heft.

Let me try to explain what I'm talking about.

Last week, over drinks with these friends, they let it slip out that there were certain movies they had never seen, classic films. One was All About Eve.

I, being old enough to have grown up during a time when it was generally believed that there were certain cultural milestones one should experience in order to consider oneself a viable member of the culture in which one lived, decided to rectify the situation and invited them to my home to see this movie, a copy of which I own. Doesn't everyone?

They were delighted, and we all got together on Memorial Day to watch it. I had asked them not to look it up on the Internets so their viewing could be a real cherry-popper for them. So they didn't. And it was.

But they watched it differently than I did.

They sat back with glasses of wine. They spoke back to the screen. They traded quips with each other and with Bobby and me. One doubled his pleasure by alternately watching the movie in short bursts of attention then turning that attention to researching aspects of it and its cast on his cell-phone.

I was amazed at the flurry of activity. And, although I had once mastered the low art of multi-tasking during my years as a drone in the civil service, I'd never liked it and I considered it unnatural. At least, I found it so for me.

On the other hand, I don't mean to say I'm one of those people who focus on a thing to the exclusion of whatever else might lie in my peripheral vision.

What do I mean to say?

Let me try and get my thoughts together.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Crazy kids ...


My Dad in WWII


His Gift to My Mom So She'd Remember to Do Her Part

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Pratfalling Into a State of Grace

I laughed last night. I haven't laughed much the last few weeks, but I did last night.

All it took was a last-minute invitation to an early night out with friends, and, before I knew it, I found myself stripped of my metaphorical formal-wear and plopped down on a bar stool in nothing but my blowsy boxers and a pair of oversize shoes.

Whatcha gonna do but laugh?

Lately, I'd begun to envy people who seem to be able to shut off the valves that let pain into their lives. I can't seem to do that. It was getting me down.

Some time back in history, an old Greek, Aristotle, one of those dead white males, postulated there were two kinds of stories that served to tell the tale of every life. He named one story tragedy and the other one comedy.

In tragedy, a guy gets above his raisin' and gets knocked down a peg or two. In comedy, a guy gets above his raisin' and gets knocked down a peg or two, too. The difference is we write our tragedies in verse and our comedies in prose. Tragedies are reserved for the VIP's among us and comedies for the rest of us. One person may find himself teetering on a windswept moor, the other approaching a banana peel. The outcome for both is going to be a tumble and a bounce on the butt. The difference is in tragedy, that's the end of the story; in comedy, it's the beginning. Tragedy is lonely, comedy is company.

Last night I had company. I spent some time with friends who lifted me back up on my feet and dusted me off. Then they spritzed me with a stream of seltzer down my pants and slapped me with a custard pie.

The seltzer tickled, and the pie was sweet.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

If You Want It

... Here it is, come and get it:

Spreading It Around

My grrrl Karen is heading to New York this summer. No big deal, you say, lots of people go to New York during their normal vacation times. But I say, no, this is a very big deal, because Karen isn't going to New York to let off steam. Karen is going to New York to do a show.

And not just any show, but her own production of Carolyn Gage's play, The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman.

And she's putting it on Off Broadway.

As she recently told me in casual conversation over coffee,
"The Last Reading of Charlotte Cushman has been selected as the opening act of the 9th annual Fresh Fruit Festival in New York City this summer. The production will appear at the Barrows Group Theatre, 312 W. 36th St. on July 12 and 13, 2011. The festival, produced by All Out Arts, is a two-week celebration of GLBT arts, featuring theatre, poetry, music, dance and visual arts. Artists from throughout the country and the world have been included in the festival."
My little grrrl ...

Sing out, Louise!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Going Nowhere

It's getting harder and harder to leave the apartment. Not "leave" as in "move from" but, rather, "leave" as in "walking out" the front door and crossing the patio to the gate, opening the gate and walking out onto the street and then, from there, making it to wherever it is I'm wanting to go.

The building's maintenance men have been here every day, all day, for weeks now, painting, hammering, sawing, and killing time. It wouldn't be so bad, but their main man is a friendly talker. If I so much as crack an inch in the front door, he can hear the scratch and will immediately wrap me in a monological headlock I haven't learned how to break out of. The other two don't help much because they enjoy my panic. I look at their eyes and I can see the implied message: Brah, just walk on out. You don't have to listen to his shit.

But I just can't break the chain of manners forged over a lifetime.

(I sometimes recollect myself in a previous life as a young man atop one of the great temple-pyramids of Mexico.

"You want me to lie down here on this stone table while your friends hold my arms and legs and you take that stone knife and rip my beating heart from out my chest? Of course. Oh, pardon me, I didn't mean to step on your toe. Ah, here we are. Like this? Oh! That smarts.")

And yet I manage to get out eventually.

Then I have to contend with the guy who plays guitar on the sidewalk in front of the building next door. He's a friendly fellow, but I don't always understand what he means when he talks about a new way he's found to keep his guitar in tune without always having to turn the knobs.

Once I manage to move past him, there's the lady across the street who sells junk jewelry and expresses concern that I haven't seemed so carefree lately, and did I know she just moved down to the Quarter into the Cahn building on the corner? And I wonder, Can she see me from her balcony when I'm in the patio reading?

The Korean ladies at the foot-massage parlor are always cheerful, too, greeting me with smiles and birdlike chatter in the ultimate hope that I will surrender my left sole to them.

Yesterday, I had my regular check-up with my doctor. He swept into the examining room and rattled off the test results from my last visit and congratulated me for passing every battery with flying colors. When he stopped and turned to me and said, "And how are things with you," I stared to cry.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Some Random Notes on Aging

  • You know what day of the week it is by the pills left in your pillbox.
  • It's easier to say "no" to a fun evening that, years before, would only have gotten you into trouble.
  • It's safe to flirt with young people because you're grandparently and, therefore, cute.
  • You no longer give a damn that you're grandparently and cute.
  • It's not disgusting when your dentures slip out of place. It's funny.
  • You get the first serving of the holiday turkey.
  • You know the difference between a heart attack and heartburn.
  • You don't panic when somebody predicts the end of the world. Your world has ended so many times before, you know now how to deal with it.

The Great Rupture of 2011

I'd almost forgotten!

I've been up for hours. I even went out to move the car to a closer parking space.

It never occurred to me until this minute.

Nobody seems to have been swept up into heaven in a swoon, leaving all their worldly possessions behind for the rest of us to pillage and plunder.

Unless, of course, nobody down here was rapture-worthy. This is New Orleans and the French Quarter, after all.

Oh, well, maybe next time.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Consider the Color Gray

What do you see when you look at the color gray?

Don't Google it, look at it. Do you see an overtone of blue, a hue of red? Or do you see a shade of purple gone as pale as it can go before it tumbles into white?

I know when I print the color gray on my HP printer, it can lean in the direction of any of these hues, depending on the degree of quality I select.

But what the hell is gray?

To us, the color gray can be a descriptor. We define it as a color of dismissal, of mediocrity, as a means to characterize someone for whom one bears a cool dislike.

I saw someone last night for whom I have a cool dislike. He's gray to me.

That's probably because I'm gray to him - or even more than gray, translucent, which is a shimmery word to use to say that I am practically invisible to him.

He dislikes me because I once said something rude about him that I did not intend for him to hear, but, of course, it being rude, he did. I said he was a mean and petty and small-minded, insignificant little man. That is a mean and petty and small-minded thing to say of anyone who is not already a close friend, but I did say it, and he heard it, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I did apologize. However, apologies are always late to arrive and, therefore, never wholeheartedly welcomed.

In my own defense, I should mention he already disliked me before I disliked him. The reason for his dislike of me was petty and small-minded, as is certainly my dislike of him. How all that weighs in the final scales of justice, I will leave to a compassionate God.

As for us in the here and now, we both are old and unlikely ever to find a common ground upon which we might shed our piddling animosity. He shall remain as gray to me as I to him.

I wonder sometimes, though, what tones of blue or dashing red or purple shimmer hidden beneath his color gray.

I even wonder sometimes, does he wonder, too?

I doubt it.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Just Because ...

Livery stable blues by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. "Considered the first jazz recording."





You might want to check out more from the new National Jukebox.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Embarrassment of Riches


Last night, one of New Orleans' nicest theatre lovers, Jay Stanley, presented his Marquee Awards for the best work done in 2010.

Our little production of Frozen was touched.

Liz Mills was cited for her supporting performance as Agnetha. Diana Shortes was named Best Actress in a Drama for hitting one out of the park with her characterization of Nancy. Keith Launey (in a tie with his friend Jonathan Mares) accepted a plaque as Best Actor in a Drama for his breakout performance as the sexual predator and murderer, Ralph.

The production itself tied with the Jonathan Mares Production of Touch, and direction honors went to myself and Touch's Kris Shaw.

[Author's note, May 11, 2011: Oops. The official list of winners has been posted, and it appears yours truly was not awarded a prize for directing Frozen. In order to gain some clarification about this seeming omission, I contacted the person who posted the list, but he made it clear to me that he was only doing what he was told to do. If I had any questions, I should take them up with the person who gave him the list to post in the first place. (Sadly, this poster seems to be unfamiliar with Hubie's Axiom of Delegation which states, "Shit flows down. It does not flow up.")

I apologize for my confusion.

Oh, well ... WWGRD?]

Monday, May 9, 2011

It Had to Happen

Sooner or later, it will happen to everyone in or passing through New Orleans: the opportunity to single-handedly make a monetary contribution to help keep City Hall afloat on Perdido [noun, from the Latin, meaning "lost"] Street for a couple of more hours. I'm speaking of that ubiquitous speeding ticket generated by a random traffic camera stuck up on some politician's pole.

Saturday afternoon, Bobby opened an envelope sent from Tempe, Arizona (!) and pulled out a letter-sized, two-sided, glossy laser-colored sheet of paper that must have cost at least fifteen cents per side to print and that declared itself to be a speeding ticket. On it were some photographs. One to prove that the robo-cam had, in fact, photographed Bobby's car, and others purporting to show yours truly putting the pedal to the metal in our Scion and plowing it through an intersection near City Park at a death-defying 31 miles per hour in a 25 mph zone!

Bobby immediately said, "You have to fight this."

But I can't see how. The photograph clearly shows me barreling across Marconi Drive, putting other drivers at risk through my careless operation of a vehicle. Add to this incontrovertible evidence the fact that an off-duty police officer with highly-placed relatives on the force looked at the photo and verified my guilt. What else can I do but pay the fine?

Not good enough for Bobby. He grabbed his little Nikon CoolPix and had me drive him to that intersection. He positioned himself in the same approximate position as the robo-cam and had me drive through the same intersection twice.

Here I am driving across Marconi at 15 miles per our. There are actually two other drivers behind me, angrily blowing their horns and waving dirty hand signals at me because I will cause them to miss the green light.


In this succeeding photo, I am traversing the same area, but at a clocked speed of 82 miles per hour!


I have to admit it's purt' near impossible for me to determine how fast or slow I am going in either one of these pictures. But then, I'm not a police officer with highly-placed relatives on the force.

Still, I don't know about trying to fight City Hall.

I'm reminded of the time Bobby found a parking ticket on the front windshield of his car. The meter maid had determined he was parked within three feet of a driveway. He was bound and determined to prove that he wasn't. In order to accomplish this, he set up measuring devices showing the true distance to be between four and five feet. He even got our friend Sam, who is very tall and has a wide arm-span, to stand between the front of the car and the driveway so we could photograph him being clearly wider than three feet.

Bobby had me print out all these photographs in triplicate to take with him to the hearing. When his name was called, he marched himself righteously into that hearing office like a little soldier and confronted his administrative hearing officer for the first time.

The damn judge was blind.

So, no, I don't intend to fight this ticket. I'm going to wait. The payment isn't due until early in June. By then, there might not be any more traffic cameras.

It might be like they never existed.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In the Moment

There is a story told by Mark Rylance at the end of a recent interview published in The Economist. I like it. In it, he says,
I met a wonderful jazz musician when we’re doing Boeing-Boeing. He was clearly brilliant, and I said to him ‘Where can I get a recording of yours?’ And he said, ‘Nowhere.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Are they not available anymore?’ And he said, ‘No, why would I want to make a recording?’ I said, 'I don’t know, maybe you like people who aren’t able to be there to hear your music?’ ‘Why?’ he said, ‘I won’t be there when they’re listening to it. Why would I want anyone to listen to a recorded piece of music rather than play something so they can listen themselves?’ He literally never made any recordings; he only was interested in the live, present moment. And the more I thought about what he said, the more I thought, ‘yeah, I really agree—that’s what's most exciting to me: the live, present moment, with a group of actors and an audience and the curious communication that goes on.'
I like that. It reminds me of a time when people lived their lives in miniature, without exclamation points or musical underscoring, not as pseudo celebrities or persons of importance, before camera phones recording the innocuous became ubiquitous. Life was shared with those who were there.

Remember the story of a tree falling in the forest? There is something right (might I even consider it noble?) about that.

Just a thought.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Endurance

Today, we have been together for thirty-five years.

I don't believe that I deserve to be patted on my back for that, nor do I view it as cause for a gold star. It is just a bare fact.

And don't think those thirty-five years have been blissful or easy. Life's highways are hard. Thirty-five years ago, we chose to travel them together, and we have honored that promise. During these thirty-five years together, we have never been so far apart for so very long a time that we could not reach out a hand and clasp the other's in our own.

We have endured.

In the face of hardships, and sometimes in spite of ourselves, we have endured.

At times, we have even chanced upon sweet, unabashed moments of happiness. The kind of happiness that leaves you robbed of words, and breathless. The kind of happiness that holds you, unfeeling, unknown, in a burst of eternity.

The kind of happiness that is the hidden kiss of God.

They may forget you, yet I never will.
Look. I have scrawled your name in the palm of my hand.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Pondering Imponderables

The other day, my little friend Debi asked a question on her Facebook (!) page. She wrote:
Why is it that so many stars become pregnant out-of-wedlock and think it's okay? Maybe it's my Catholic upbringing, but what happened to getting married if you want children? Just a thought.
Well, Debi, I've given it a little thought, and I'd like to share my opinion with you.

In olden days, when a glimpse of stocking was considered shocking if women wore them, real men roamed the earth (and women were glad of it). Men went out on adventures, conquering tribes, accumulating real estate, building castles and stuff like that. Women hung around the house and cooked and sewed.

Everybody was pretty okay with this arrangement. They figured it had always been done this way, so why change it. They didn't have history books, you see, that might have pointed out alternative lifestyles of the past.

Now, sometimes these adventures that the real men kept going away to have could get kind of hairy. It might happen that the people he intended to conquer didn't want to be conquered, or they didn't want to be conquered by him because something about him just didn't appeal to them. Who knows? What matters is that the real men discovered they might get hurt or killed, and it gradually dawned on them that this conquering thing might turn out to be altogether too much of an adventure.

What to do?

Gradually, it began to dawn on these real men that they might more easily accumulate land and livestock by making friends with some other real man who already had a lot of both. What he would do is this.

He'd wrangle himself an introduction to this guy and over the course of a few missives would manage to get himself invited up to his new friend's castle for, say, a week of grouse hunting or a joust or two.

Then one night over dinner of fowl and boar and swigs of ale in the great hall, he'd look around and say to the lord of the castle, "Say, majesty, I notice you got a few daughters hangin' around loose."

"Aye, that I do, my lad."

"Nice stocky stock there. What do they do? I mean, other than your average cookin' and sewin', raidin' your larder, know what I mean?"

"They pray, lad. Why do you ask?"

"Well, see, I been wonderin'. What would you give me to take one of  'em off your hands?"

So marriage was invented, along with the dowry. The dowry was very important since it gave real men everything they could want and more without having to run the risk of getting an eye put out with an arrow or, God forbid, getting chopped up with a broadsword.

And what did the women get?

Protection.

And servants they could boss around.

And kids. Kids, kids, kids, kids, kids. Lots of kids. Girl children were all right because the new husband could always trade them off for alliances with other real men. But boys, they were ideal. They were the prize.

Why?

Because, since this was a man's world, it stood to reason that the best person to inherit all the cool things the daddy had collected during his long life of thirty-something years was a boy who was unmistakably his real and rightful son, the recognized fruit of his and his spouse's loins. Otherwise, what were you going to have? A mess. A bunch of little bastard boys the real man had been dropping all over the countryside, wanting a part of the pot. Gimme this, gimme that. Gimme, gimme, gimme. They would start quibbling over who got the fancy north side of the estate or the bigger half of the west end. Next thing you know, they'd start shoving each other. One would haul off and sock the other one in the nose. Swords would be drawn, armies drafted, and everything would go to hell.

It was a formula (and real men love formulas):
1 man + 1 woman = 1 happy marriage = 1 principal, legitimate heir and maybe a couple of dukes and duchesses and stuff, spare parts. (The offspring of the real man's dalliances? Rumors, dear, all talk.)
Today, however, perhaps sadly, things have changed. Real women now stalk the earth (and men are glad of it).

These women can now go out and have their own adventures. Armored in navy power suits and striding the land in stilettos, they no longer need husbands to provide protection and servants. They're quite capable of doing all that on their own.

But the dreary dread remains, who to get the spoils when the facelifts wear out and sweetmeat finally drops?

Who indeed?

As long as the kids have played their cards right, momma's not going to chuck it all over to Pepsico, now is she? And having a daddy around would only complicate matters.

That's the difference, you see, between men and women. Men like order, but order demands laws and regs and lawyers to read and explain them. Women, on the other hand, will always keep it simple and to the point. "Yes" or "not tonight."

And there's no shyster born who can drive a wedge into that.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Man with No Shame - I mean, "Name"

Clint Eastwood himself wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole, but the Washington Post did.
Who shot Osama?

He’s out there somewhere, an instant icon in the annals of American conflict, the ultimate big-game hunter. But an enigma, too, his identity cloaked for now, and maybe forever.

He is the unknown shooter. The nameless, faceless triggerman who put a bullet in the head of the world’s most notorious terrorist.
Can you feel it? The anticipation? The knowing that he walks among us, unseen, unknown. Or is he?
He’s likely between the ages of 26 and 33 ... A “positive thinker” who “gets in trouble when he’s not challenged ... a man who “flunked vacation and flunked relaxing.”

He was probably a high school or college athlete ... a physical specimen who combines strength, speed and agility. “They call themselves ‘tactical athletes’ ... It’s getting very scientific.”

“He’ll be ripped ... He’s got a lot of upper-body strength. Long arms. Thin waist. Flat tummy.” [Tummy?]

... “This is playing in the Super Bowl and getting the Oscar all in one breath. He wants credit ... But only among his peers.” Many SEALs consider themselves “humble warriors ... But among his colleagues, the shooter’s identity will be well-known. And right now, he’s probably in for some locker-room-style ribbing.
Don't you love war porn? I'm already sweating from the heat my body is generating.

I'll bet he relaxes to classic jazz in a dark room with just a table, a chair, a single brass bed. He smokes thin cigars, the kind that stink. He probably only bathes twice a week. In cold water. He says dirty words all the time.

I'll bet he congas.

'S Up?

I feel a disconnect. So much is happening in the big wide world while my world continues to shrink. With no project to work on, I'm pretty much housebound - and not particularly minding it. It all leads up the perfect reason to write a blog post, doesn't it? With nothing to say, why, get up and say it.

(Side note: I came across an Internet article the other day that said blog writers should utilize bullet points. So I shall be using bullet points. No slacker, me.)

  • Speaking of bullets, our military just put a few into the head of Osama bin Laden. Ba da boom. Hip, hip, hooray for the U S of A. It only took ten years, two (?) wars, and countless soldiers and civilians dead or wounded to track him down to a nice house in a nice neighborhood of a nice town in one of our nice ally countries; but, by gum, we did it. Right before our next big election cycle. And we're proud. We're hopping up and down and pounding our chests, hootin' and hollerin'. The Greeks had a word for that.
  • The Southern United States was just swept and dusted by a rash of killer tornadoes. Charlie Sheen has toured the damage. What is wrong with that picture?
  • On the home front, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival opened last week, and it didn't rain. Some are taking this as another sign in the endless cycle of recent signs of the End Times, since it has always rained on the opening weekend of Jazz Fest. In fact, until last night when it rained and turned cool, the weather has been "nekkid-in-the-courtyard" perfect. Oh, well, long pants again for a while.
  • Wait. I almost forgot. Pope Benedict just beatified Pope John Paul II in a seemingly unseemly rush to sainthood that led some people to wonder if the Church was trying to cover something up. Piffle. Catholics just like to pass a good time. (Did I ever mention I saw John Paul once? I did. He was in New Orleans, and he drove by me in his Popemobile. He was younger then and in his Papal prime. Is it wrong to call a pope who wasn't a Borgia sexy? He was.)

Well, wow, that was good, invigorating even. Was it good for you, too?

I hope everything is going well in your world.
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