Monday, November 30, 2009

Savor The Spirit

Lovers brook not hours,
Unless it be to come before their time,
So much they spur their expectation.


Another thing I have never understood is why some actors show up for work at the last possible moment or even a few minutes late, and then rush to get ready. What are they doing? What is more important to them than the play? I always wanted to arrive early, sign in and read the call board, check out the dressing room to see that my costumes were ready, walk around the stage and look at the scenery, have a cup of coffee, sit in the green room, think about the show and soak up the ambiance of the place. I was well known among stage managers as the actor who was always the first to arrive.

One winter I was hired to play Ebenezer Scrooge. Near the end of the play, after his epiphany, he dresses up in his best suit, overcoat, hat, scarf and gloves to visit his nephew Fred. On the way he buys a goose for the Cratchet family. It's a quick change. To cover it the director had arranged for a small group of singers doing a Christmas song. It took about 2 minutes.

My dresser was a retired actress who had spent many years on the Broadway stage. When we first rehearsed the change it took about 5 minutes. As the days went by we were able to do it faster. On opening night we did it in the required 2 minutes.

We kept getting better at it and one night we did it in one minute. I went back on the stage and joined the singers. That quite impressed my dresser who said that while I could have stood there and rested I chose to go back on the stage which told her that the stage was where I wanted to be.

I can honestly say that I was never more comfortable than when I was on some stage performing. It was there that I felt the most complete and confident. I was where I belonged. The theatre. The magic temple, the place where lives unfold, dreams are found and ideas masquerade as tears and laughter. The true workshop of the human spirit. I loved it.

So now I can't do it. So what" There are still plenty of things for me to do. The ironic thing is that the slower I get the more tasks I have. I've got to put things away and take out the trash. I've got to call this one and write to that one. I've got to mail my checks and check my mail. I've got to organize this and clean up that. I have to read this and listen to that. I have to write this and paint that. Good grief, will it ever all be done? No. Life is unfinished business.

I admit that sometimes the tail wags the dog. But I look at it this way, as long as the tail is wagging the old dog is pleased.

DB - The Vagabond

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Leaping Over Life

Youth is largely a habit. So is romance.

Richard Le Gallienne

One thing I have never really understood is some people’s prejudicial and limiting attitude about age. To label oneself or anyone else in terms of age is a conspiracy against human happiness and ability. It may seem as though I am dwelling a lot on this topic these days. That’s because it was an issue during my recent six weeks of misery.

If a technician asked me to read something off the screen, it took my a while because the font is small and I don’t see that well. If he told me to write something in a box, I had to ask him to slow down and repeat himself so I would get it right. If he asked for my phone number I had to stop and think about it. It’s not on the tip of my tongue because I never dial it.

Put it all together and what have you got? Simple. I’m a stupid, senile old toot who can’t understand anything.

I met a girl recently who told me she was 14 and a half years old. I chuckled to myself that for her a half of a year was an important milestone. I told her not to grow up too fast. Youngsters never want to hear that. They want to grow up as fast as they can and emerge into adulthood where they will be free of restrictions. Ha, ha, ha.

I was directing a production of “The Fantasticks” and the young actor playing the boy had a line about the girl which read “She makes me young again.” In rehearsal he kept saying “She makes me FEEL young again” which isn’t humorous. I corrected him each time. But he kept getting it wrong. Finally I told him this true story.

I was hiking up Middle Moat Mountain in New Hampshire one bright summer day. The mountain is almost all open space and rocky. I had my shirt off, tied around my waist and my back pack on my shoulders. I was about 40 years old and feeling great. Up ahead I saw two girls coming down. It’s unusual to meet people on a trail. Usually you just say hello, nod and keep going. As they passed me they were talking about a boy. One of them said “I still see him. But he’s old now. He’s almost 20.” I felt like turning around and giving them a lecture about oldness.

After I told the story I asked the young actor how old he was. When he said he was 19 I said “Oh, my God. You’re old. You’re over the hill and on your way down. It’s over for you. There’s nothing left. You’re done for. You’re old.” Pause. “And what does she do for you?” “She makes me young again” he said. He never got the line wrong after that.

I knew a woman in her mid thirties whose widower father was dating a woman. My friend couldn’t understand it. “What does he think he’s doing/” “He’s looking for some romance” I said. “But at his age” she said. “He’s old.” “So what” I said. “You’re never too old for romance.”

Now I’m 70 and a half years old. There are some bad habits I would like to get rid of, but I don’t want to lose my addiction to youth. And if I met the right woman, no matter what her age, I would gladly say “She makes me young again.”

DB - The Vagabond

Friday, November 27, 2009

Future Fetching

A lost battle is a battle one thinks one has lost.

Ferdinand Foch

Ignorance is an awful thing. Arrogance is even worse. But a combination of the two, with a jigger of prejudice against the aged and a dash of an impenetrable foreign accent makes a nasty cocktail from which I had to sip frequently during my six weeks of forced banishment from the Internet.

Some techs felt obliged to instruct me as to where the “Start” button was, as if I didn’t know or couldn’t find it on my own. Fortunately the annoyance about that has become laughter. I was frequently ahead of them but then if I wanted them to be patient with me I had to be patient with them.

I sometimes had to tell a techie that I was 70 years old, not stupid, just slow. One time I was on the floor with a flashlight in one had and my phone in the other trying to read numbers off the back of the computer. The tech was so frustrated at how long it took me he just hung up. Another one was abusively condescending to me. I had to stop him in his forward motion and ask him to knock it off. He hung up.

I will have more to say about the technicians I spoke with, some of whom were intelligent, patient and eager to help me. But somewhere in the first week of November I realized the problem was not going to be solved soon. I saw I was going to have to face not being able to write and send journal entries, emails or complete and edit any of my stories for a long time. That was a big problem for me at first. I spent a lot of time staring into space, dreaming up scenarios I couldn’t write except with pen and paper. Then I recalled an event that happened to me many years ago and that left me with a great lesson which I frequently forget.

I was traveling from New York City to Boston for a long engagement. I put all my necessaries in a large duffle bag, bought a bus ticket to Boston and got in line at Gate 9 of the Port Authority. There was a frequent announcement: “Passengers going to New Haven, Hartford, Springfield, Worcester, Framingham and Boston board at Gate 9.”

A few minutes later a Red Cap came by and I gave him a dollar to stow my duffle in the luggage compartment of the bus.

Then the same announcement came over the speaker about boarding at Gate 9. But it was followed by one that said “Passengers for Boston may board at Gate 11.” I looked over at Gate 11 and saw a bus driver standing there. I excused myself from the line for a moment and went over to him. He told me the first bus was overbooked so they put on an extra one. I told him I had luggage on the other bus but he said that bus would get to Boston only about ten minutes later than he did. So I gave him my ticket and got on. At that point I was the only passenger. I sat down to read my book but something was bothering me.

I thought to myself: Well, in the long run it doesn’t matter where this bus is going or where that bus is going, what matters is that my luggage and I are on the same bus. So I got off and went around behind to the first bus. The driver was busy taking tickets and letting people on board. I looked into the luggage bin and saw a large duffle. I reached in, pulled it out and saw that it wasn’t mine. I shoved it back and saw another large duffle. I pulled that one out and it was mine. No one stopped to question me as I hauled it back around to my bus, put it in the luggage bin, got back on, sat down and said, “Who’s in charge here? I am.”

After a few days of staring at the floor, feeling sorry for myself and the loss of my Internet connections I decided well, if I can’t write I can still paint, plan and find other things to do. Bits of the body here and there may not function right but the brain still works. So I got busy. I didn’t know it but I had a big surprise in store for me.

The present is over with in a flash. Life isn’t in the past, it’s in the future. Who’s in charge of your life? You are.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Favorite Friends

Love is the reason for it all.

Dorothy Fields
I have some more thank yous to pass out. I was very impressed by some of the comments I received about the last entry I made before the disaster, Enlightened Ebbing, Because of the computer trouble I wasn't able to read them until last Tuesday evening. I'm grateful for the good thinking of the commenters. I am also very pleased with the responses from people who are glad I'm back on line.

I was talking with someone the other day about former friends. We have all known people who have passed from our lives, not always necessarily for good reasons. I was thinking about people I used to know and thought that I had more former friends than I have friends. But then there's a strong possibility that there are friends I haven't met yet.

Friendship is a difficult thing to measure. Good time friends are fun. But when the dangers and fears of life start to threaten is when real friendship is tested.

One of the hardest things about my recent trouble was that I could not tell anyone why I wasn't communicating any more. Along with that came the rage over the injustice of not being able to put down my ideas and explore the ideas of others. It may seem like a small matter considering how much some people are suffering, but a wrong is wrong no matter how big or small it is. And no one should have to abide them.

The purpose of my journals has always been to share and exchange, not to complain, pass harsh judgement or be abusive to anyone. It is a practice of love that prompts it. To be deprived of that practice for a stupid reason, or for any reason, is not acceptable to me or the world.

When I signed on to my computer October 13 the first thing it said was that it could not connect with Windows. I called Verizon and was told to insert the Windows CD. That didn't work. I then called Dell who while attempting to fix it discovered that I could not get on the Internet. He advised me to call Verizon. Thus began a series of phone calls, some of which were 3 to 5 hours long, as one technician after another tried to fix the problem. Picture me with feathers flying back and forth across a net.

I discovered today that by a stroke of good thinking I had saved all of my stories on one of my journals. Everything is there, including all of "Brian and Christine." The only one missing is the tale about Blackie the Bristol Python. But I know I printed that one out.

Simple joys are best.
DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Journey Continues

Never give up.
Even when you have nothing left, don't give up.

DB - The Vagabond

Yo! Vagabond! Tsup? Where you been?
Told me to tell you they're lookin for you. I mean?
On October 14 I suddenly lost my Internet Connection and my Windows. 42 days, 53 hours on the telephone and about $240 spent, I'm finally back.

The nightmarish saga I've been through is too complicated to describe in a single entry, so I will spill it out in Lego blocks over time and try to find the laughs. I and my sense of humor have been severely beaten, but not broken, I hope. My rage and frustration will have to be imagined.

I'll just make a few comments tonight, First, I have to express my thanks to all the people who helped to get me set up with a new computer. My heart is filled with gratitude and appreciation for what you did. I want to thank each one of you individually though most of you are anonymous at the moment. Two special thank yous are important: to Linda in Washington who kept in touch with me regularly to check up and see how I was doing, and Just Plain Bill who delivered the computer to my door and schlepped it up 3 flights of stairs for me. I was completely surprised. I had no knowledge that it was happening and when it came I was speechless. Bill will tell you, I probably mumbled something stupid like "Oh, wow."

Secondly, it was a major heartbreak to me that I couldn't send a journal entry to tell you why you weren't hearing from me. I sent a letter out to the few people I had addresses for, but I had to leave the rest of you with no explanation.

Thirdly, I'm looking forward to reading your journals and comments and my 258 emails. Unfortunately the font size is so small now that I need a magnifying glass to read anything. It's going to be a slow and painful process unless someione can tell me how to make the print a normal size. Like this.

I appear to have lost all my stories, the ones on Word that weren't transferred to Vagabond
Tales. I guess I'm starting over in many ways.

If you live in the USA, or even if you don't, have yourself a joyful Thanksgiving, you hear me?