Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pleasant Dreams

How many of you fall asleep to the television? You know what I mean. You’re in bed for the night, you’re watching something on TV, and you fall asleep. Simple as that. I do it. I do it every night. I cannot fall asleep in a quiet, darkened room. Can’t do it. I need the moving images and the low drone of some program lulling me to sleep.

Lately, I’ve been drifting off to old episodes of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. And every time I do, I’ve been having vivid dreams involving Goren and Eames. They don’t start off as pleasant dreams. I’m always a prime suspect in some complicated murder plot. The two detectives finally work me into an interrogation room, and before you know it, Goren is doing that sideways bend of his, getting his eyes to my level as I sit plaintively in a low chair while Eames is sitting catty-corner from me with that mean, judgmental look she gets in her eyes. Then something happens, maybe I say something, and Goren immediately knows I’m innocent. Because Goren always knows. He knows everything. He even knows Chinese, for chrissake.

Next thing, they’re touching me, holding me ... I won’t go into what happens next, but, oh, they are so tender to me now that they realize I am not the villainous mastermind of this week’s episode. That reprobate will get his due by the close of the episode, but mine is the happy ending.

I’m sorry, Benson and Stabler. You made me feel dirty in my dreams, and I liked it at the time; but, lately, Bobby Goren just plumbs my depths.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Today Is Christmas

I’m not the kind to wish for peace on earth. I’m old enough to think I know there’s no such thing nor will there ever be. I’m not much of a wisher either. Wishes belong to small children and to characters in old books who discover lamps to rub.

But I have always clung to hope.

And so I hope your Christmas is a day spent in a warm place holding onto people you love who are good to you and good for you.

Have a happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Knowing When It's Time to Start Acting like a Grownup

I have this friend. Let’s call him Sam, or “Samus” as he likes to style himself. Sam is a nice guy. The nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. A sweet man. Humble. Kind. Generous. Caring. And also shy, reserved, and reticent.

All of which makes him the biggest butt of a joke on the block.

I’d like to take this opportunity tonight to confess my own transgressions against Sam in the presence of you all and ask his forgiveness for something I once did to him.

Several years ago, for some ungodly reason (okay, I was drunk, and we were at the Lantern), I decided that Sam was too nice, too tender, too...vanilla. He needed some shaking up. As far as I was concerned, he needed a little dash of Worcestershire in his milkshake.

Like I always say, “I prefer my sweetness with a splash of sass.”

So, as I was making my way out of the place to meander my way home, I sidled up to little Samus to say goodnight and instead...dropped trou!

Yep, just whipped ‘em down around my ankles and stood there, my family’s finest flapping in the southern breeze.

Well, Sam nearly died right then and there. Really died. The vodka he’d just swallowed seemed to turn into a rock in his throat. He started gagging. He couldn’t breathe. His face went red. I thought he was having a freaking cardiac event or something.

Oh, Sam, my Samus, I am so heartily sorry for having flummoxed you in such a way.

We reminisced about that night last night. At the Lantern again. With everybody in earshot. I saw no reason to be embarrassed. When you get to a certain age, you find yourself more willing to misbehave; and I view that as a good thing.

Long story short, when it was time for me to leave, I wandered over to Sam to make my last good-nights...and hit him right square between the eyeballs with a great big humongous full moon.

I still can’t believe he wasn’t ready for that! The kid lost it all over again.

Funny thing, though, when I did it, mooned him, I mean, it seems my butt sort of scraped the floor.

I guess reaching a certain age and being willing to misbehave doesn’t always mean you’re going to be able to pull it off.

In a manner of speaking, that is.

Yeah, I think it’s time I start conducting myself in a manner more in line with my current stage in life.

Until I get another chance to say good night to Sam again.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I've Had Enough of Just Passing By Life

As a person gets older, his world grows smaller. Whereas once he might have spent his time accumulating things, now he finds himself disposing of his collection. Friends fall away or die—or, at least, stop telephoning him as often as they once did. He begins to know loneliness in place of what he had once considered privacy.

It can be sad.

Feeling this way recently, I decided it was important that I immerse myself in life again.

Thus emboldened, I betook myself to my trusty neighborhood watering hole. Because of the hour of the day, I expected to see only a handful of patrons, some of whom I might know. I did not expect to walk into a raucous crowd of merrymakers reducing the available real-estate to a stool or two in the back of the joint.

And I knew these partyers. I knew them by name which means I had known them long enough to have memorized their noms de bar.

And I realized I know a lot of people, and these people I know are crazy!

I held on for an amount of time that would not have characterized my leaving as a hasty retreat, but I was cognizant while I was there that I was missing my sad old man-cave and its solitude, its seclusion.

The parade may be passing me by, all right, but somebody’s got to stand there on the street and watch it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Looking for the Light

This morning I heard stories on the news of the valor of the teachers at little Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. When people do unspeakable things like this that plunge us into darkness, we look for light.

My oldest brother and his daughters were teachers, and I have always held them up as heroes. I spent time in classrooms after college as a substitute teacher, and I found it was not a road for me to travel. I did not possess the character nor the fortitude for that calling.

Teachers are among the most under-valued and under-appreciated citizens in our Republic. Yet they go on, facing the children who carry the future in their minds and souls, doing what they have been trained to do to mold them and make them straight.

I am sure the teachers in this little New England town never dreamed they would one day be plunged into a terrible place, yet their reactions saved lives, as did those of the teachers in other schools which have borne the weight of national tragedies.

May God bless them and care for them and heal them in the years to come.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Oh, Susanna

Although I'm back to being my normal cranky Christmas self today, my yesterday me was a paragon of yuletide warmth.

It began in the deep, dark hours of the night with a dream I had of being Peter Pan. It was a jolly good dream. I'm told I made flying motions all across the bed, clanged blades with Captain Hook, saved Wendy, Michael, John, and all the lost boys and even screamed, "Do you believe in fairies!?"

I also saw the bruises and welts I left in the legs and torso of the other person in the bed with me who did not share my dream.

But it was a wonderful dream, and it set the tone for the rest of the day. It would turn out to be a day in which I would enjoy myself.

We had shopping to do, so we set off for Lowe's, our first stop, where I intended to buy Bobby a Christmas Light Tester. You can never have enough of those, and he, for some ungodly reason, didn't have one to his name.

Being the efficient shopper that I am, I asked the greeter at the door where I might find this wonder. She directed me to the electric light section of the store. I figured this might not be the direction I needed to go, since a Christmas Light Tester seemed to me to be a seasonal item, but I went anyway.

I was right in thinking her wrong, but another Lowe's associate directed me over to the Christmas-stuff part of the store.

On the way, I passed the Keurig setup and lingered over the display of all the different coffees available. I bought a big box of some rich dark roast. I do not like dark roast, but it looked good there on the shelf; and, hey, it's Christmas. Maybe I can give what's left of the box to somebody else, a gutterpunk sitting on the sidewalk or something. 'Tis the season, after all.

Still looking for the Christmas Light Testers, I came across another Lowe's employee who confirmed to me that I was getting warmer, just a few more aisles to go.

Finally, there they were. I grabbed one from the back of the stack (I never pick an item from up front—too many people have pawed over those) and went on to look for cushions.

Yes, cushions.

Bobby had been complaining about a sore back, and I thought a nice cushion for his Barcalounger might help. Would you believe they were only two aisles away from the Christmas junk? How did those people know I was coming?

Surrounded by all that plush, I thought, wouldn't it be nice to buy a little cushion for Winston, too, so he can bring it with him on our theatre sallies and experience a little tushy comfort on those hard seats?

Done and done.

The next stop was a clock-and-watch shop on Gravier Street. Bobby wanted to get his old retirement watch repaired, and I wanted some expandable watch bands for the two Stauer watches Bobby had ordered through the mail and made me wear with their nasty faux-leather bands.

Done and done.

Next was lunch.

A lady-blogger friend had recently recommended a Japanese restaurant way up on Prytania Street, way, way up, like past-Napoleon-Avenue up. You see, Bobby likes sushi, so sushi Bobby got. The sushi here was edible (I can't say it was good because I don't know sushi like you know sushi), the service was delightful, and that Japanese soup that usually tastes like plain hot water with slices of mushrooms and shallots floating in it had flavor. Even the two ladies who invaded my space by taking the table right next to us instead of any one of the other empty ones in the whole goddamn joint, they turned out to be sweet, as well.

For someone who had recently self-diagnosed as an anhedoniac, I was positively pleasuring myself all over this town! I was something to see.

I even later went out to my neighborhood bar and pleasured everyone there. There was just no holding me back.

Of course, it passed. These things always do. But with a little rest, who knows? I may yet go another round before this year is up.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Am 2 for 2

Well, I went to another show last night. I know what you're thinking, What's going on here? He never goes out.

The truth is, I received an invitation (in the mail!) from one of the cast members with whom I had worked this past summer in another show. Since he shelled out the shekels for a stamp, I figured I owed him one, the cost of stamps being what they are today.

I, in turn, invited my friend Winston to come with me. I like going to plays with Winston. He and I are of the same generation, once removed (Winston is much, much older than I), and we share many of the same ideas about how theatre ought to be done. We weren't disappointed.

The play we went to see was a production of David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly, produced and directed by Frederick Mead. (Full disclosure: I discovered Frederick Mead in 2006, and all his subsequent success is entirely due to the lessons I imparted to him. Okay, so I'm trying to steal a little of his limelight. His success belongs to him.)

Well, Frederick did me proud last night. In fact, he humbled me. He mounted a production of a very good play, and his production was clear and lucid and worthy of being the crowd-pleaser that last night's audience found it be. I always like to say to a company of actors before a performance, "Astonish me!" That might be considered a hard thing to ask, but it is what I want theatre to do.

And M. Butterfly did it.

Unless you've seen the general run of New Orleans theatre, you cannot imagine the simple pleasure of having a troupe of actors performing to the assembled people in the room rather than to some imaginary camera with a close-up lens only inches from their faces. These actors were grown-ups, armed with technique and experience, and the simple pleasure they took in their performances was infectious. They hit their marks, they said their lines, they made their points and moved on, all with a sense of delight in being there with all of us.

I applaud each of them: Michael Cahill, Joshua Smith, Doug Mundy (my friend, a real pro), Nancy Hartman, Suzaune Yee McKamey (I'm in love), Mary Pauley, George Patterson, Natasha Lowery, and Olivia Purcell. Winston applauds you, too.

The only negative thing I will say about the show was that last night's was the closing performance.

I really need to start catching these things at the beginning of a run.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I Went to This Show Last Night

I took my own advice yesterday and fought my funk by taking a walk. It was a walk with a purpose because I was hauling my tired old ass to the Allways Lounge and Theatre on the corner of St. Claude and Marigny to catch the opening night of Sweeney Todd.

I admit, I went with some trepidation. My heart was skipping beats as I considered the possibility of running into people I knew, but didn't like, and having to talk to them. Or maybe it was skipping beats because I was walking down Elysian Fields after dark. Either way, my heart was playing hopscotch in my chest.

I shouldn't have worried. I only ran into two people I knew, sweet people, so I had no trouble relaxing in the foyer of the theatre.

Once the doors opened, we all scrambled to get inside for good seats.

(Forgive this momentary digression, but I would like to mention to the spry, elderly lady with the big wine glass who tried to cut in front of the old man clinging to his walker, don't do that. It's rude. It's doubly rude because he's the guy who gives out the Marquis Awards every year, and you don't want him to start a show with a bad taste in his mouth—or a broken hip from being bowled over. And to the two entitled chicks with short do's and big chests who did cut in front of me, don't wait until you meet the house manager to dig through your purses for your tickets. Have them ready. You kept the rest of the audience waiting for two minutes. Preparation is all, bitches. I'm just saying.)

To resume...

Once over that little speed bump, I was startled to see what the company had done to the theatre. Dennis Monn (the producer and director of the show) and his set designer, Adam Tourek, had transformed the space into a steampunk chamber of Victoriana with fog and soft organ music playing in the background. I found my seat with a smile on my face and took in the visuals of the whole room with a sense of wonder. Not many of the people who direct plays in New Orleans have any clue, or any desire to learn, how to make stage pictures; and I had the warm, safe feeling that Dennis would be doing just that.

I quickly noticed that I was sitting next to the person making the organ music. It was a scrunched figure in Victorian rags and a head scarf obscuring the face. I immediately thought this must be Ratty Scurvics, the evening's Sweeney, but I was wrong. The figure was later revealed to be a young lady known as Altercation who would be playing the role of the Beggar. If you know Sweeney Todd, you know what she's there for (wink, wink).

And if you do know Sweeney Todd, you would have been in for some surprises in this production.

Dennis has a distinctive style. Not many here do. I call his style Bywater-Weimar. It's a distinctly New Orleans gumbo of hipster, gutterpunk, and George Grosz pansexuality. It's rough-and-tumble, and loads of fun. It was sufficient to carry me over the moments of uncertain pitches that occurred now and then. (Don't let my quibble put you off. These are all musicians. They should have the opening-night nerves and glitches ironed out by tonight.)

Now, I'm no critic, and this is no review; but here are some moments that were highlights for me:
  • All the choral work.
  • Helen Gillet performing one of Mrs. Lovett's numbers accompanying herself on the cello.
  • Tobias (Barron Burmaster) passing out meat pies to the audience at the beginning of the second act. Thank you for giving me one. (I took it home to Bob. He ate it. It wasn't priest.)
  • The second-act reprise of "Johanna," sung by Anthony, Sweeney, Johanna, and the Beggar-woman. Dennis had placed each singer in four points of the theatre, their positions mapping an image (in my mind, at least) of an inverted cross. It gave me chills.
At no point in the evening did I have an uncontrollable urge to slip out of the theatre unseen and scramble home; and that's saying a lot.

And by the time I did leave—after the curtain call—my funk had evaporated.

I didn't even run into any Sweeneys on the way home.

For the record, here is the cast of Sweeney Todd:

                            Sweeney Todd  Ratty Scurvics
                            Mrs. Lovett  Helen Gillet
                            Anthony  David Symons
                            Lucy Barker/Beggar  Altercation
                            Johanna  Pandora Gastelum
                            Tobias  Barron Burmaster
                            Judge Turpin  Steve Walkup
                            Beadle Bamford  Raymond "Moose" Jackson
                            Pirelli    Aurora Nealand
                            Bird Seller/Fogg  Brian Coogan

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Vanity of Vanities; All Is Vanity

I woke up in a strange state of mind this morning.

I woke up thinking it was time to stop doing, that it was time to let go of those activities I consider worthwhile since they seem to give so little delight to anyone else. I woke up thinking it was time I surrendered to age, decrepitude, and eventual forgottenness.

Why trudge on?

Of course, having lived as long as I have, I know this is a natural feeling, perhaps nature's/the cosmos'/God's way of preparing us for coming changes. Maybe it's a cyclical thing, attuned to the seasons. It could be plain dysthymia. Or nothing more than my own reaction to the deep winter months couple with the mild anxiety of  mounting another play early next year.

Nevertheless, it is a real darkness; but not one to sleep through.

Why trudge on?

Some questions have no answers. The body does what it will to move on, to keep living.

So we go on.

And we walk through the night to another daybreak.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Beat the Holiday SADs

One word.

"Keep-'em-coming rum-and-cokes served in the midst of convivial company."

Okay, so that's more than one word. What good is one word? At a time like this, when those dreary moods start overtaking the jollity, every little word needs to be one of an aggregate of other words.

For instance, one word: "Hmm."

What's with that? Isn't this better?

"Hmm, do you think it has enough lights and ornaments? I can still see tree in spots."

One word: "Oh."

How about?

"Oh, my God, that dress is fabulous! Take it off. Take it off right now. What's that you say? Honey, I will make it fit! and I will make it work far more than you could ever dream of working it!"

Do you see what I'm getting at?

When you have a word like "sit," why not corral some other words to play with it?

Words like, "Do I really want to sit here? No. I'm going to get up and take a walk. Hell, I might even get lucky. Who knows?"

Isn't that better? Even Moby Dick began with three words. Melville didn't start off by saying, "Meh ... "

'Tis the season to be profligate. The bills won't start coming until January!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

'Twas the Month Before Christmas

...And the lights are already up in the patio. In fact, the whole of it is festooned with garlands, plastic candy canes, poinsettias, and wire-sculpted reindeer.

The six-foot-tall, live (well, live once) Christmas tree—outside, near the archway to the front gate!—is strung with little bulbs and hung with multicolored balls. Our neighbors' balconies, too.

Me, my back hurts; and every other muscle and joint in my body is screaming for prescription painkillers with every move they make. I am way out of ladder-scrambling practice.

Bobby seems pleased, although I believe in a day or two, he will decide it's still not enough. But for now, I'm grateful for the opportunity to rest.

He's taken to standing outside the gate after dark, luring tourists and passersby inside to get a closer look. He even has special glasses he passes out that make the lights look like snowflakes.

Last night, he managed to get an accordion play, a banjo picker, and a girl who plays the pan pipes to come inside and serenade the night with carols. He never dreamed they'd demand money. Cost me sixty bucks.

Now he wants me to learn to make hot buttered rum that he can serve to his "guests."

The holiday season has descended upon Decatur Street.


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