Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where Did the Time Go?

Whenever people ask me for advice, which is something no one should ever do, I usually respond by saying, “Time is your friend.”

“Time is your friend” is a good phrase to soothe a scrambled mind.

Unfortunately, of late, my old friend time seems to have been holding out on me. He slips away from me when I need him most.

Like this past Monday.

I had offered to take someone to his dermatologist’s office for a little outpatient surgery. Before going there, though, he wanted to take me out to lunch.

He usually does this. It’s his payback for my transporting him from one place to another. Not having a vehicle of his own, he still hasn’t figured out that filling my car with a tank of gas is cheaper than inviting me to a restaurant.

I don’t complain.

We went to a restaurant he’d heard about and wanted to try. I loved my entree. He hated his. I liked my dessert. He couldn’t finish his. He did enjoy his cup of after-dinner coffee. Mine was...coffee.

No big deal. Some friendships are based on mutual likes, others on contradictions.

But soon we had to take off to get uptown to his doctor’s office, and we did it pretty quickly, considering it was storming, and I don’t like driving in bad weather in this city or in the outer parishes where the people already don’t drive well on a pretty day in Spring.

After his surgery, he asked if I could swing by another doctor of his. This guy had some sample meds waiting for him.

Did it.

Driving away, he mentioned that he had a prescription from the dermatologist he needed to fill, could we stop at the Walgreen’s on Elysian Fields?

Check.

“Any place else you need to go to?” I asked as we were pulling away from the drugstore.

“Nope, we’re done,” he said.

So I began to drive him home.

As we neared his place, he asked, “Where are you taking me?”

“Home.”

“Oh, no, I wanted to go to the Golden Lantern.”

!“ I said as I took a u-turn on Rampart Street to backtrack and get him to his watering hole.

Where I dumped him.

Free at last?

Nope, not quite. I forgot to mention that during the meal I was having up there at the beginning of this saga, Bobby had called me to ask if I would pick him up a burger and fries on my way home.

So it was back down St. Claude to St. Roch, to the Rally’s that Bobby likes.

Then home.

At nearly 4:00 o’clock.

How was I going to take my nap now?

Since my retirement, I have found great pleasure in daily naps. They do something to my body’s chemistry, something nice. That’s how addictions start, and I will admit that I have become addicted to my naps.

But on Monday, there was no time. I had to be at a rehearsal of our play by 6:30, and there was no way I could experience a decent sleep before having to gather my wits about me and face a handful of people who would expect me to act like the authority figure they want me to be. So I didn’t nap.

I fretted.

When it was time to rehearse, I was there. It went well, but when it was over, I didn’t go home.

I went to the Golden Lantern for some “me” time. For some quality time to unwind. And it was there where I found my old friend time, sitting there waiting for me.

“Where you been?” he asked.

“Dude, I could say the same thing to you.”

“I’ve been running, man.”

You’ve been running! What do you think I’ve been doing all day?”

“Them’s the breaks, bro. Sometimes I just need a little time for myself,” he said. “You think this gig is easy? It’s not, man. It’s tough. You think most of my people take the time to pay me any mind? They don’t. They take me for granted, brother. They use me. Oh, yeah. ‘Time’ll take care of that.’ ‘Time heals all wounds.’ ‘Time will bring her around.’ It never ends. Lemme tell you something, asshat. All of y’all work for me! It ain’t the other way around. Y’all need to straighten up.”

I noticed some of the other patrons in the bar beginning to eye my buddy time. I needed to calm him down.

Putting aside my own rough patch of a day, I said to him, “I understand how you feel, bubba. But remember...time is your friend.”

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Buy me a drink,” he said.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where Was I This Time?

Last night was the first rehearsal for the next play I'll be doing, Tennessee Williams' Battle of Angels.

It never gets easy, you know, starting a new project. I felt awkward, didn't know what to say. Did the dumbest thing I could think of which was to blurt out, "Why don't we all introduce ourselves?" So lame. I felt as if I were back in one of those ridiculous committee meetings I used to participate in when I was a working stiff.

The cast was game, though; and the reading went on without a hitch. I think it will play nicely.

Two of my ladies had conflicts and couldn't come, so I read their parts. I have to admit I found myself pretty compelling. I may have to engineer a return to the boards sometime soon before I tumble into the grave. I do seem to have a knack for Tennessee, he said in a Kim-Stanley kind of glissando of longing.

Of course, I could be wrong.

Before heading out to rehearsal, I received an email telling me that last July's production of Standing on Ceremony had received a Big Easy Theatre Award nomination for Best Ensemble of 2012. That was unexpected news, and it was delightful to hear. SoC was certainly a "little engine that could." It was a pleasure being a part of it, and the audiences enjoyed it, so its nomination is like a cherry on top of a swirl of whipped cream. Of course, the award is presented to the producer, so, as only a director, I don't get a free pass to the ceremony—nor does the ensemble, come to think of it; but it's the thought that counts.

Now I need to get back to my main chore this weekend: devising a rehearsal schedule for Battle of Angels. One should never have to work with more than three actors in a play at a time. Any more than that, and you find yourself dealing with people who have personal lives that just get in the way.

And who wants to deal with that?


Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Ode to Joy

Mardi Gras day did not dawn auspiciously here in the bear cave. It’s never auspicious when one trundles into the bathroom first thing in the morning, flips on the lights, and the fluorescent bulb above the medicine cabinet flickers and pops.

The other one who lives here decided it was time to ask the landlord for a new medicine cabinet. I thought this strange. Granted, the medicine cabinet we have is many years old and was up on the wall during the previous tenancy, but I hate asking the landlord to spend money because the money will eventually come from me in the form of a rent increase. Besides, we’re talking about a burnt-out light bulb here.

I decided to bide my time until Wednesday when I intended to slip out of the apartment and find a Valentine’s Day card and some chocolates. I would take the time while doing this chore to pick up another bulb and see if that might not resolve the crisis.

Then my USB hub blew out. I would definitely need to take that trip the next day.

Wednesday dawned—as is its usual wont—and when I had decided to leave, I discovered we were  getting that rain we had been promised for the day before. I grabbed an umbrella and set off on my three-block walk to the parking lot where our car is stashed.

Leaving the lot, I proceeded (to use police-report jargon) along Frenchmen Street to Dauphine Street where I took a right turn and proceeded (again) to Elysian Fields Avenue. (Don’t you love when I mention traversing these streets so many of you have only ever heard of in some old Tennessee Williams movie or other?) Once at Elysian Fields, I came to a stop behind two cars that were waiting at a red light.

The light changed to green, and the first car crossed the avenue. The second car did the same. As I was entering the intersection, I caught in the corner of my eye another vehicle racing through the downpour at an accelerated rate of speed, heading at me and showing no sign of intending to slow down.

Ah, but, dear reader, I was sober and slammed on my brakes, and he missed me. I then sat on my horn and raised an alarm to alert the pedestrian to my right so that he might not step out into the abyss that follows being slammed by a speeding car, thrown up into the windshield then up toward the sky before plunging down and landing hard on the asphalt where bones are shattered and life is snuffed.

He waved at me in gratitude.

All this being done, I continued on my way to my neighborhood Walgreen’s for the card and the chocolates. Unfortunately, there was no place to park so I did not stop but continued on to Office Depot where I intended to buy my new USB hub.

From there I headed to another Walgreen’s up on Saint Charles Avenue, that boulevard of stately homes. Yes, O reader, a Walgreen’s sits in the midst of New Orleans’ once-great wealth and opulence. O tempora! O mores!

Now it was time to find that light bulb. Finding it turned out to be easier than I had expected because I had written down the strange code on the old bulb that identified its size and wattage. The person waiting on me at Mary’s Ace Hardware (on North Rampart Street, a block away from Basin—remember Basin Street Parade?) was thus able to find it in a snap, and I was off again home.

“What surprise did you bring me?” asked Bob, and I revealed the new fluorescent light. He seemed indifferent, obviously having a honey bun in mind, but I was brimming with anticipation as I rushed up the stairs to the bathroom and coaxed the bulb into its fixture.

I flipped on the switch, and the bathroom burst into light, a cool, white flood of radiance.

I was astonished at the brightness and laughed with joy.

A feeling of happiness came over me and clung to me for about twenty-three minutes. That’s a pretty fair happiness-duration in my experience, and I was grateful.

My question, though, is this: what the hell was that all about? Why would plugging in a light bulb make me as giddy as a slightly-overweight seventeen-year-old girl on a prom date with the captain of the football team?

It occurs to me that life is strange. Perhaps nothing she gives us can truly be anticipated. We go out in the rain, on a hunt-and-gather expedition; we get what we’d intended to get and end up with something in our hands we never expected. Sometimes it’s a broken egg or two in the carton at the bottom of the shopping bag; other times, it’s just a bright light.

No, not “just a bright light.”

Say, rather, a brilliant glow.


Monday, February 11, 2013

My Kind of Mardi Gras

This year, I am officially taking it easy. No more frenzy for me. No wading through the edges of smothering crowds. No more stale beers spilled on me. Okay, I did have a drink sloshed across my torso yesterday, but that was vodka. No more shrill cackles piercing my eardrums like ice picks. No more otherwise grown-up women and men behaving badly.

I’ve packed all that up, and I’m moving on. To peace and quiet.

The weather’s helping matters. It’s too chilly and wet to be out there.

Do I miss the mayhem? Nope. Just a little? Uh-uh.

Been there, done that, never caught an STD.

Or a bullet.

Besides, at my age, it takes way too long to get pretty. And all that product is expensive for a little old man on Social Security.

So, goodnight, ladies. It was fun while it lasted, but the high old times will always, sooner or later, drag and sag.

It’s time to turn the corner and head on home.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

My Current Most Favorite Map of the City

From Quarter Rat Magazine, Mardi Gras 2013 Edition


Serendipity

I just stumbled onto this and wanted to remember it. The best way I could think of doing that was to place it here. It feels as if it were written by a big-hearted man with wide-open arms.
Fragments from an Apocryphal Gospel

3. Wretched are the poor in spirit, for under the earth they will be as they are on earth.
4. Wretched is he who weeps, for he has the miserable habit of weeping.
5. Lucky are those who know that suffering is not a crown of heavenly bliss.
6. It is not enough to be last in order sometimes to be first.
7. Happy is he who does not insist on being right, for no one is or everyone is.
8. Happy is he who forgives others and who forgives himself.
9. Blessed are the meek, for they do not agree to disagree.
10. Blessed are those who do not hunger for justice, for they know that our fate, for better or worse, is the work of chance, which is past understanding.
11. Blessed are the merciful, for their happiness is in the act of mercy and not in the hope of reward.
12. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they see God.
13. Blessed are those who suffer persecution for a just cause, for justice matters more to them than their personal destiny.
14. No one is the salt of the earth; and no one, at some moment in their life, is not.
15. Let the light of one lamp be lit, even though no man see it. God will see it.
16. There is no commandment that cannot be broken, including the ones I give and those the prophets spoke.
17. He who kills for a just cause, or for a cause he believes just, is not guilty.
18. The acts of men are worthy of neither fire nor heaven.
19. Do not hate your enemy, for if you do, you are in some way his slave. Your hate will never be greater than your peace.
20. If your right hand should offend you, forgive it; you are your body and you are your soul and it is hard if not impossible to fix the boundary between them…
24. Do not make too much of the cult of truth; there is no man who at the end of a day has not lied, rightly, numerous times.
25. Do not swear, because every oath is bombast.
26. Resist evil, but without shock and without anger. Whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him, as long as you are not moved by fear.
27. I do not speak of revenge nor of forgiveness; oblivion is the only revenge and the only forgiveness.
28. To do your enemy a good turn can be the work of justice and is not difficult; to love him, a job for angels and not men.
29. To do good for your enemy is the best way to gratify your vanity.
30. Do not accumulate gold on earth, for gold is the father of idleness, and it, of sadness and boredom.
31. Believe that others are just or will be, and if it proves untrue, it is not your fault.
32. God is more generous than men and will measure them by a different standard.
33. Give what is holy to dogs, cast your pearls before swine; the important thing is to give.
34. Seek for the pleasure of seeking, not of finding…
39. The door, not the man, is the one that chooses.
40. Do not judge the tree by its fruits nor the man by his works; they may be worse or better.
41. Nothing is built on stone, everything on sand, but our duty is to build as if sand were stone…
47. Happy are the poor without bitterness and the rich without pride.
48. Happy are the brave, who accept applause or defeat in the same spirit.
49. Happy are those who hold in memory words of Virgil or Christ, for these will brighten their days.
50. Happy are the loved and the lovers and those who can do without love.
51. Happy are the happy.
— Jorge Luis Borges


Friday, February 8, 2013

Losing It at the Movies

I didn’t want to do it. I’d managed to avoid doing it since before Christmas, but I couldn’t come up with any more excuses not to do it anymore. So I did it.

I took Bobby to see that movie, Lincoln.

It was okay.

I mean, the theatre had the sound turned down, so we couldn’t hear the dialogue all that distinctly. Why do they seem to turn the volume up on action flicks then keep it low in movies heavy with plain speaking?

I also went to the movie with the knowledge that Tony Kushner’s script had stacked the deck against Connecticut for no good reason (and his explanation for screwing around with historical facts is a gobbledygook of patronizing arrogance), so I was ready to stop suspending my disbelief during the scene in which the House votes on the Thirteenth Amendment.

I also confess to a certain personal aversion to Steven Spielberg’s tender touch with every film he makes.

For example, is there a pitiful little boy in all of this man’s movies?

I didn’t see Amistad. Did it have a pitiful little boy in it, too?

Was Oskar Schindler really just a big old cuddly Irishman? He sure seemed to be.

However, to give him his due, the man does know how to make movies; and if I enjoy being manipulated by somebody like Alfred Hitchcock, I ought to extend the same courtesy to Spielberg. So I will willingly spend fifteen minutes in the corner with my head hung low.

I enjoyed Daniel Day Lewis more than I thought I would. All the press I’d read about his acting in this movie made me think I was in for two-and-a-half hours of Great Acting. Instead, I discovered Abraham Lincoln was in reality another big old cuddly Irishman. I think I would have liked sitting around a campfire with him, listening to his yarns, both of us with our shoes off and in our socks.

I enjoyed all the performances, as a matter of fact, even the pointless ones like Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasting his time and talent playing Robert Todd Lincoln just so he could have a Spielberg credit on his resume. I liked Sally Field. She made me want to see a movie about Mary Todd. I also like Tommy Lee Jones a lot. He made me want to see a movie about Thaddeus Stevens, of all people! And his ending up in bed with S. Epatha Merkerson was almost worth the five-dollar matinee ticket price and the thirty dollars I spent on popcorn and Sprite.

Like I said, it was okay.

Going to see Lincoln did accomplish something good, though. It got Bobby out of the house and gave him a nice time. So I ended up doing a good deed today, even if I hadn’t wanted to do it. And I feel good about that.

I also told Bobby afterward that he can order any pay-per-view movie on DirecTV from now on since it’s gonna save us ten dollars for tickets and allow us to chow down on some of our own Orville Redenbacher we’ve already bought at supermarket prices.

Hey, wait a minute. That’s two good deeds!

Damn, I’m good.


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bleh

Things are easy and copacetic down here right now. Life is like a limpid pond somewhere in the woods.

And you know what?

It sucks.

It means I have nothing to talk about—nothing to celebrate, nothing to rant about, nothing to say. I’m sure you don’t mind, but it drives me crazy when I open this blog and stare at old posts, wanting to open up to you, but having nothing to open up about.

Sucks, I tell you.

I mean, the last thing I wrote was a lamentation over the boorish tourists dropping into the city for the Superbowl. And look what happened. The universe conspired to turn out the lights! It’s like I called down a curse!

I didn’t mean to do it. I mean, not really.

I keep reminding myself to be careful what I say here because words have repercussions. You put them down in black on white and set them free, and then they have a life of their own. They can soar through the air like doves or zip like arrows into somebody’s chest. You can’t ever be sure.

But at least having something to say is better than not, isn’t it? I mean, to hell with collateral damage, right?

Right?


Saturday, February 2, 2013

NOLA Manners for Tourists

It’s that time again. Mardi Gras. And in addition to that, our leaders in their wisdom have gotten us the honor of hosting the Super Bowl right smack in the middle of all that.

This has resulted in a disconcerting number of tourists dropping down into our city like a plague of locusts.

I would like to offer a few suggestions to you, dear visitor, to make your stay in the Big Easy as pleasant for us locals as it certainly will be for you.
  1. Don’t change your baby’s diaper in the middle of a sidewalk. It will create a bottleneck. And some creepy person will surely stare at your baby’s naked bottom. You don’t really want that, do you?
  2. Speaking of sidewalks, they are meant to be walked upon. Don’t stop suddenly and stare at the top of a building across the street. Someone is sure as hell going to rear-end you.
  3. Always remember, a recessed gateway in the French Quarter will not shield you from the sight of passersby, nor will it hide from them the fact that you are taking a piss.
  4. I have come to regret the fact that I have spent a lifetime deferring to other people’s right of way, and your mama never taught you to do the same.
  5. It is rude (if not downright criminal battery) to push a little old fat person out of your way so you can get to the sterling silver jewelry counter at the flea market(!). You never can tell. That little old fat person might be a blogger who will rush to his computer and tell the whole world what a crass asshat you are.
Got that?

Good. Now carry on and enjoy your stay.


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