it’s different this year

For one… I would be leaving by mid-day (today) for San Francisco… but… I’m not. I canceled all reservations I had a few days ago. This (the trip to SF) has been a minor tradition for me for the past few years… a sort of a self birthday present.

The reason? Funds… or at least the lack of it. Truth be told I’ve been dipping into my savings the last few months due to circumstances… plus, gigs have been pretty sparse since my last one in October.

Does it break me up or destroy me inside? No. I love the city but if it is not to be… it’s not to be… for now… and I’m not going to cry in my scotch about it. There will be other trips up… sometime… hopefully soon… just not tomorrow. I will just enjoy my time here… and that will be just fine.

So, I turned 58. What does that mean? Honestly, it’s still just a number to me. Getting older is not something I fret about… it’s gonna happen anyway. Might as well just join the ride.

Oh sure, I don’t move as fast as I used to… and there are aches where there didn’t used to be. But for the most part… I’m O.K. Still doing most of what I do… including breathing.

I’ve lost friends of my generation and even younger the last few years. It’s sad but it hasn’t shocked me. It is a reality one has to face up to and accept at this stage in life. Actually, if you accept life… death is part and parcel of the deal.

I resolved a while back to make every encounter I have to count as much as I can. This helps me bypass the “If I only had…” regret that many experience at the demise of someone they know and/or love.

My generation has reached that stage when warranties are running out. The ferryman is hearing a lot of 70’s funk, rock and R & B as he guides the craft across these days… at least from the friends I’ve said goodbye to.

But… there is still life to live as well. How much of it is left? No one really knows. The trick is to live as much of it as one can… while one can… and to do it with as much gusto as time will allow.

That doesn’t mean that everything should be a big production number. Savor the quiet moments as well. Those are just as essential to the full experience as the more spectacular ones.

So, that is my intent… and hope… for me… and for you.

Cheers!

But just in case I should not be here (cause that could happen) play this when I’m gone.

but first to order pizza

I was going to title this post “carrying on forward?”… but did what the present title states before embarking on this writing quest. Yes, the pizza is on it’s way (in 45 minutes to an hour) and so my challenge is to complete this post before it arrives.  Such are the hazards of writing without a clue an inkling of topic as this might involve periods of pondering between spurts of actual writing.

So, a New Year is upon us… and (coincidentally) I am heading into the 58th year of existence… technically the shift occurred at 9:10 AM today.  (Yay, Me!) With this, I am also acutely aware that less days are ahead than behind me. No, I’m not being morbid… just stating a fact. Besides, I have been aware of my mortality since I was a wee child.

Within this ongoing journey I have experienced moments of excellence as well as those of strife… and many other various moments inbetween. I don’t say “every” because this life is still an ongoing one, yo!

Ah, the pizza has arrived… thus illustrating the long periods of pondering just to get three paragraphs into this post.

(Please play incidental music here while I pay for said pizza and gobble up at least three slices.)

:: BURP::

O.K… where were we? Never mind. It’s not like I had any design in mind for this post.

Actually, the only thing I wanted to say is that the learning continues… in this life.

Is that it?

Pretty much.

No pearls of wisdom here. Nothing significant. I’ll let you get on with your day then.

(BTW I would have abandoned this post (and posting) if not for the fact that the first three paragraphs took 45 minutes to ponder and write. Waste not want not, eh?)

The pizza was good though.

Cheers!

 

 

another passage

Another year goes past. Along with it events and experiences that touched or changed our lives. It is the time of the year when most look back and forward almost simultaneously… assessing or at least contemplating what was and what is to come.

Many on social media are cursing the outgoing year… mainly because of the demise of many cultural icons. Though that is not the only reason. World and political events have also helped shape and give rise to this collective angst. The term “major shifts” applies easily to what occurred as the year bore on.

I don’t “blame” the year as so many are wont to do… but I do acknowledge that events did seem to unfold in more and more surreal ways than what is considered “normal”. It almost seems as if somewhere along the line we slipped into an alternate parallel universe.

On the personal front I have lost friends… but I’ve also gained new ones. On balance… that is not a bad thing. I came to accept the reality of my age a while back… that I’ve reached the point where my generation is not only burying our parents but surely and slowly burying each other.

Accepting that reality does not take the sting and ache of sadness out of the loss. However, it does sharpen my resolve to make my encounters with the people in my life count more. So, this year my perception and actions have shifted more in that direction… and that is a good thing.

What’s up ahead? Who knows? But I truly believe living as honestly as we can will help us cope with what is ahead. Here’s hoping for the best.

 

a pall

img_0012It hangs. Quiet yet unnerving by it’s very presence. It has been gathering since before the election. Now, post-election, it sits thick and palpable.

There have been palls before. I recall the one that hung after Reagan was shot and when the space shuttle exploded. It could be argued that the pall that gripped the world with the tragedy of 9/11 still hangs a bit… a good 15 years after the fact.

The first I remember experiencing one was when I was all of 4 years old when Kennedy was assassinated. Then again when both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King met similar fates one after another.

All these palls were global and were born from tragedy. Mourning and uncertainty woven into it’s fabric. For the most part the thread count of the former surpassing the latter.

These palls are known to lift or dissipate into “getting on with it” or via a positive event that shifts the zeitgeist.  The current one may not.

You see, there is also a different type of pall… like the one I experienced in 1969. It started before the elections in Malaysia that year. The thread count of uncertainty dominated in the cowl of that one. One could almost feel a low rumble sparking intermittent glows and pops of anger like the bubbles in a lava lake.

That particular feeling of unease was justified. Soon after the elections, on May the 13th of that year… bloody race riots broke out.

The current pall feels similar… and uncomfortably familiar.

 

 

and then the morning arrived…

image from http://http://uk.pcmag.com
image from http://uk.pcmag.com

… to a great gnashing of teeth, the pulling of hair, the tearing of garments and mounds of mournful wailing. This was soon followed by finger pointing and the start of the blame game. At least, that is what greeted me on Facebook this morning. I suspect this will go on for the next several more weeks.

I’m not making light of it… believe me. I totally understand the despair felt by this segment of the citizenry. But please remember this also happened 8 years ago with a different segment of the population. I only know this because I have friends on pretty much all sides of the political spectrum… it’s a perk of being an independent. That’s perspective, eh?

The winning candidate was not one I would have chosen either for very many reasons that would be moot to go into now. I can also say that for a fact, he wasn’t the choice of many friends who sway to his side of the aisle either. I also have friends who did vote for him but I chose not to hold it against them… because it was their right to vote for whomever they chose – that’s democracy.

At this point I realize some of you reading this might be entertaining the slight urge to smear runny dog-shit on my face the next time you see me. I urge you to read on… at least before acting on that.

You see, I first arrived in this land while the 1980 election cycle was playing out. I’ve lived through five different presidential administrations. I thought some were better than others and mistakes were made by each and every one.

In that time, I have observed:

  • That political discourse has gone from “a gentleman’s disagreement” to “hateful vitriol” from both sides of the aisle. And when the subject is broached in conversation, both sides of supporters will fiercely claim. “They started it first!” or “Ours is not as bad as theirs!” Really?!
  • That political divisions have also devolved into the ugly side of team sports mentality where winning now means the annihilation via smears of one’s opponent instead of the sound excellence of the argument… which hopefully leads to a compromised solution to the issue. Is it any wonder very little gets accomplished?
  • That political engagement by the citizenry occurs mostly on social media via memes, insults, and various forms of “armchair activism”… none of which accomplishes any change in the real world. Sure, on occasion an issue will arise and gain popular momentum to spur on actual (boots on the ground) activism and even accomplish changes to the law of the land. My point being there is more armchair activism than actual engagement.

If it is one thing I know it is that the price for a democratic society is both vigilance and engagement. Yes, as a system it is messy, unwieldy and often times mind numbingly slow. There are more stops than starts, ebbs and flows… but that’s democracy… it is a process… and it is never ending.

Many have forgotten that fact which sadly seems to have led to a sense of instant entitlement. Perhaps the instant gratification from the speed afforded us by technology has had something to do with it… or perhaps it is living in a longer stretch of better times? I don’t know.

And on vigilance… many were surprised by the voting turnout by those who have felt disenfranchised for far too long. Have short memories made us forget the clues provided by the tea party or occupy movements not too long ago? I don’t know.

What I do know is this… it is a speech I would give during the first class of the school year when I was teaching:

“When I was growing up halfway around the world, I always heard about equality and opportunity in America. When I got here I learned that opportunity wasn’t handed to you – but you could create it for yourself. And on equality… the only time you really are equal is when you are in school. Every time you don’t do the work or sluff off you are making yourself less equal than someone who has. Knowledge provides you with more choices.”

It is something I still believe.

True, this election is very different because unlike the five administrations I lived through before, this individual has had no record of public service. Should be interesting to say the least.

In all the time I’ve been here (and as recently as last night) I have heard the phrase, “this great American experiment” bandied about. I think we can all agree (and if those who voted him are to be honest with themselves) this experiment is about to get a rigorous workout.

There has been a lot of fear and projection of what may lie ahead. Let’s see how and if the system holds together.

cha cha cha

img_3174

That was a private joke my Dad and I shared. I think I was ten or so when it first emerged. Like most private jokes, it didn’t make much sense to anyone else but us.

It happened at mass one nondescript Sunday when he caught me smiling in  the middle of a call and response section between the priest and the congregation. Then, during a sung prayer I was struggling to restrain the guffaws that were aching to be let loose in this sanctified sanctuary.

My 10 year old mind had replaced the words “cha cha cha” with whatever response the congregation was replying to the priest’s call. It also fit neatly into the dramatic pauses hymns were wont to have. (See, I told you it wouldn’t make any sense… unless you were the 10 year old me.)

Part of the post mass family Sunday ritual was to catch brunch at Chong Kee, a coffee-shop/restaurant. While Mum was off ordering her favorite popiah… Dad leaned over and asked me what I was laughing at in church. I hesitated… only because I thought the only decent response to what had run through my mind would be frowned upon at best.

Finally, I relented and tried to explain it to him. He really wasn’t getting it. So, I decided to demonstrate what I was trying to explain what was so hilarious to me. I began singing a section of the mass…

Lamb of God,
cha cha cha
Who takes away the sins of the world,
cha cha cha…

As I sang softly his smile got wider and wider. I felt like I was on top of the world. He genuinely thought this stupid joke was funny… plus, “Dad approval” is always a cool thing to get.

Then Mum returned and brunch was back to normal.

Yeah, it was a stupid joke. We never shared it with Mum… ever. Simply because she took the ostentatious nature of mass much more seriously  than the two of us did. At least, I discovered this fact about Dad that day… betraying the often stoic face he often wore in public. Soon after I had forgotten about the joke.

Then, two weeks later, in church, when the “Lamb of God” section of the mass came up… Dad tapped his fingers three times each time the pauses between came up. I looked at him as he betrayed a sly smile with a fleeting glance at me.

He had remembered and “secret coded” the joke back to me. How cool was that?! I nearly bust a gut but restrained myself. From that point on this became “our thing”.

This was a memory I recalled a couple of nights ago as I was about to drift into dreamland and it made me laugh out loud. It took me over an hour to get back to sleepy time.

It wasn’t something I had thought about in a long time and I couldn’t be happier that it has sneaked back into my life. It’s the little things, eh?

 

we shared a birthday

randynmeIn fact, I’m pretty sure this picture by Cynthia Cooper was taken when we were out celebrating several years ago.

We met in college. Both of us ensconced in the theatre department where we did shows together. We even shared the stage at the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts in Washington DC for ACTF in a production of “The Taming of the Shrew” – he played “Petruchio” and I “Gremio”.

Over the years we would still be connected via the theatre. Long after college I had the crazy notion of putting on shows in my backyard and calling it WeedWacker Theatre. Early in the planning stages I ran into Randy at Livingstone’s. While drinking and chatting I casually mentioned the insanity I was planning for the Summer. He perked up and said, “Give me a slot… I’ll put something on.”

Well, I did give him a slot. To the delight of the audience that night… Randy, Marie (his then wife) and a couple of other friends put up a cardboard set and performed an episode of “The Honeymooners” with Randy playing the Ralph Kramden part. It was years later that I realized how close he was to that character.

We were even business partners for a time. In the early days of Theatre J’Nerique… Jeff White, Randy and I produced shows under that banner for about a year at The Laundromat… a fringe performance space in the Tower District. Heck, we even made money doing this. OK… to be fair we did lose money on a show to the tune of $3.76… something we laughed about over the years.

There’ll be many stories about Randy. How after college he had gone to LA to try his hand at the biz… or how when he got back he finally got into teaching… and everything in between.  He did have a good many accomplishments and many others will tell of those.

My latest association with Randy was that of slumlord to his tenant. (Something else we joked about.) He lived here the last 4 years of his life… until we had to get him to the hospital 3 months ago.

Like Ralph… Randy was a big lovable lug. At times blustery… funny… infuriating… supportive… he could be an asshole… he could be a gentleman… he could be all that and yet those who really knew him knew that it all hid essentially a sweet and generous interior.

He had more talent than he gave himself credit for. And even though he battled his own demons… even through that… he had the capacity to inspire. This was evident in the passion and “can-do-ness” his students exhibited and I witnessed when shooting many of the school shows he directed over the past few years… yet another legacy.

Randy passed away in hospice care last night. I last saw him a couple of days ago… in our own way we said, “See you around… somewhere, someplace… just not here”. Good night to a fellow actor & director, tenant, partner in crime… and above all… friend.