Friday, June 23, 2006

Personal Notes

Just a few personal notes because I still can't get this new computer to send e-mail. It receives fine, but no out-going.

Happy Birthday, Scott. Wherever you are.

The doctor has said the boo-boo on my arm is healing nicely, so we will be going away for most of next week. We are off to Fort Widerness for a short break in life's routine. They are talking tropical depression so we will push the magic storm shutter buttom before we leave.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Today is my Birthday. Guess what I had for breakfast.

On this occasion I prepared a short speech. I want to thank those who sent cards and greetings. your thoughts are appreciated.

I want to thank my teachers and preachers who have taught me it is a large and wonderful world.

I want to bless my kids and their mothers who have made life so worthwhile and so much fun.

I want to thank friends who have enriched my life with their wit and wisdom.

I want to thank the doctors, nurses, and nursing aids who have made this birthday possible. A word to them, Please keep up the good work!

Most of all thanks to Sally who accepts my love and gives so much in return.

Friday, June 16, 2006


The other day I saw a big bunch of balloons and the sight took me back to thinking about one of my first big disappointments. I don't think it altered my life or created a harmful flaw in my personality, but I must admit to a lifetime of ambivalent feelings about balloons. (Now this HAS to be a serious blog, doesn't it?)

Seventy five years ago children didn't have their desires crafted by TV commercials. A vivid imagination sparked by friends' experiences or a momentary glimpse of something new was all it needed to picture future joys.

Each year, sometime before Christmas, my mother would take me along as she shopped for presents for relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. It was on one of these trips to a department store that I saw the thing I wanted above any thing else. It grew in my mind. I told my parents I just had to have it. I wanted it above and to the exclusion of anything else. I was a total pest and spoiled brat about it. Finally, a deal was reached. If I got my wish, I could have nothing else for Christmas.

I agreed to this in the belief that if I had a kit with which I could make balloons, I would be the hit of the community. I could sell my balloons for classmates' parties and get rich, too. I would make the biggest, best, most colorful balloons that the town had ever seen. I would be more popular than the Good Humorman!

My ballon kit was under the tree Christmas morning. By afternoon I was in production. The burned hand I got from the hot latex was hardly an impediment. But then reality set in. By the next day I realized my balloons were disappointing small - about the size of a little orange. I couldn't seem to blow them up. The skin seemed too thick to expand and tended to have thin spots that broke when an attempt was made to blow them up. As I labored to learn the art of successful balloon manufacture, I quickly ran out of raw materials. When no one volunteered to finance further experimentation, I slunk off to school at the end of the holiday vacation knowing I had made a very bad deal and hoping no one from school would remember my premature bragging before the holiday.

I no longer wonder why I have this urge to take out my pen knife and pop every balloon I see. I've lived all these years as an anti-balloon man. The shame of it!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

AM Twisted Thinking

Ever had one of those mornings when you wake up, you sit down at the computer, your mind is running, but there is no one at the wheel? I call it rambling rumination. This began for me this morning with the extraordinary photoblog, “A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania” by Kathleen Connally. Her latest photo-essays concern the abandoned Bethlehem Steel plant near her home. Go look. durham twnshp
As I aimlessly appreciated her pictures and what they represent, I was struck by an urge (unfulfilled) to get up and exercise. I realized that if that happened to a steel plant unused for just 10 years, think what my poor, frail human body would look like if left untended to.

While the first cup of coffee got some of the gears in mesh, I went over to Google News to get an update on Alberto just off the coast. If you have ever visited Cedar Key, the apparent target; you know why my tummy went tight. Even a small storm surge there could cause a painful situation And you know the folks there will not obey the evacuation order.

Next I read a Florida news commentator that was thanking Alberto for the wake-up call. His point was that ignoring preparation is easy when life is easy. We need incentives, like a scare. We need to be kick-started to insure a comfortable future.

Good Heavens! Does this mean that our six months of hurricane season actually help the old-timers of Florida and the Gulf Coast stay healthy? It does provide purpose – to go out and stock up, tighten down, be active and be alert. I don’t feel much better yet, but I will admit to less visible rust that that steel plant.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Shakespeare et al

So many people are shy about Shakespeare, Milton, and even modern poets. I attribute this to plain everyday (unfortunately it is everyday) poor teachers. Kids and even young people rather self-consciously make fun of the classics with an occasional “to be or not to be”. Many kids and young people also do not realize that their favorite movie and stage actors are accomplished actors of Shakespeare and GB Shaw, etc. The problem is that today’s teachers probably had rotten teachers. And as this progression continues generation after generation we, as a civilization, will lose appreciation for genuine talent. Lord knows there is little of that in our cultural world today. It has not disappeared, but it is rare and could approach extinction.

If you like poetry and know how to read it out loud, offer that talent to your local school. Read to high school kids. I know they will enjoy it because I had an English teacher who every day read us Romeo and Juliet, Chicago, The Congo (read that to a class today and they will think it is their kind of “rap” and love it). He varied from lusty for the boys to sentimental for the girls and stories and descriptives for all. He covered the gamut and each of us went away with favorites we never forgot. Some days they could hear him two classrooms away and some days it was a strain to hear his whisper. But, he gave poems meaning!

There endeth today’s exhortation. (I admit, the same could probably be said about the French horn, but I never had a teacher passionate about it.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Haircuts !

For reasons not really beyond my control, I am far overdue for a haircut. My hair doesn’t cover the top of my head any more even when it is what I call long. But these days it is tickling my ears and the back of my neck. It is not long enough to be stylish. It just plain looks like I need a haircut. Maybe this week, but I have five days’ worth of things I am doing, so maybe not. When I passed eighty I found that scheduling more than one major event a day was a trial and was apt to interrupt my nap schedule.

Besides, to use a today buzzword, I think I have “issues” about getting my hair cut. One of my first memories is of the day I found out that my usually calm mother had a fiery temper. (The gene for which I am told she passed along to me.) I was sitting up on that board-like thing the barber put across the arms of the barber chair to prop up little people enough to be shorn. Mother took offense to how the barber was trimming my bangs (do boys have bangs?) or something. Suddenly, she grabbed the “sheet” over me and tore it away. In those days Velcro was unheard of. Big safety pins fastened it together around the neck. The pin opened and threatened my jugular.

Oh, but the embarrassment of being led down the street to another shop with half a haircut and a bloody neck. The explanations were hard to sit through also.

Alas, being little wasn’t always fun and games.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Paper Mill Playhouse

Whenever I think about what to blog about, my mind goes back to high school and the job at the “Paper Mill Playhouse”. Lots of events and adventures influenced my life. I think this contact with real life “show business” left a real interest, if not a passion, for “backstage”. One of our best friends, some one we enjoy being with enormously here at the “institute” is a veteran of a professional singing career in radio, television and recording back in the Golden Age. I know that her stories fascinate me and wonder if it is a throwback to the Playhouse days.

In addition to learning that without makeup show people were real folks and a lot of fun to be around it was by real first opportunity to observe work habits. I learned to respect those players putting their all into a job even when they didn’t feel at 100% or the job had to have become boring. Conversely, I took on a distain for those who cheat.

I am having a reverse Senior Moment this morning. I even remember the name of the guy that used to show up just in time to throw on his make up over a two days’ beard and slur his lines through out at least the first act. It didn't play at all well in "Babes in Toyland". Boy, I disliked him --- while having utmost respect for Dotty Sandlin who did her best to keep the show on track in spite of him.

Somewhere I also learned that a menial job could influence the success or failure of an undertaking. I watched and tried to copy fellow, but more experienced, ushers who could move a whole row of mis-seated patrons to the correct seats without ruffling a feather. (Not easy.) Now understand, the first endeavor was to get them in the right place, but having to know the alphabet backwards and recite it while leading folks down an aisle in the dark sometimes leads to honest mistakes.

At the beginning of the last act all but two of we ushers could leave and go home. When I was one of the two remaining, I used to worry my way through a reread of the emergency manual that covered duties in the event of fire or serious illness. I cheered like mad at the closing curtain, but not for the reason people thought.

Later I might or might not write about the hints I gleaned about flaring hormones among young artists.