.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Three score and ten or more

Friday, December 28, 2007

Well, I spent some time at the computer reading blogs and commenting, but I didn't write much. I had a blessed Christmas with grown children around and Janet back (almost) to her old self and I ran around most of the time just looking at Janet and giggling about how happy I was. I gave her more "stuff" than she possibly can use but she seemed tickled about all of it.

I don't know if I will get back on line much for the next week. It is a "time share" week of long standing, and we will be at Hilton Head Island in a three bedroom condo (just the two of us, but we bought it when there were more) reading, doing water aerobics, hoping for dry weather (We spend much of our time at home hoping for wet weather) etc. I probably would like to sell this unit, when we bought it, it was always the week we would both be out of school and so would the kids, but now, barring any more immediate surgery, we are out of school all of the time, and we have a week in April when everything is beautiful. Selling a time share is harder than buying one because there are not a lot of schmucks like us who want to buy and will use them. Sellers of time-shares always want a listing fee up front and most of their income comes from the listing fee not the sales. (Pay me to sell something and when I get paid whether I sell it or not, I probably won't work as hard selling it as I did trying to get you to list it) I had a lady call me who "guaranteed " that she had customers to buy a week here, then she quoted a sale price that was only triple what the new units sell for. Wow.

Anyway, we will veg out and have a good time. I hope all your Christmases were as blessed as mine.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I have dried my tears, swallowed the lump in my throat and am sitting here with a full heart. I had a wonderful experience this afternoon.

To really clarify this experience I have to give you some background. Some time in the late seventies or the early eighties, I was Director of Theatre at Georgia Southern College (now University). WE were a small program, part of a Department of Communication Arts, and we were working our selves to death with a pretty large production schedule, sponsoring student directed plays, including a children's play, and a couple of plays in the summer, and I was enjoying myself thoroughly, though I was a bit stressed. One day, my boss (the Department Chairman) came to me, a little hesitantly. He said something like "Could you use some help? No that's not right but could you use some adjunct or part time help from a guy who is supposed to be a professional director from New York?"

Now this was a silly question because I had submitted grants to get help for one of the summer plays, and for a Yiddish Culture Conference (more about this another time, perhaps) that I had sponsored at the school, and noting my surprise, he added, "The President has met with this guy. He is returning to Metter for awhile, and he has had a lot of experience. The president has been trying to recruit black faculty, and this guy is available. If you can use him, the first year salary would be from the President's budget, not ours."

Now, I know a deal when I hear one, and, not caring if he was black, white, or purple, if he had even a "little bit of ability", we could use him to supervise student directors or something, so I said, "Of course."

That was the beginning of a wonderful experience. Mical Whitaker, the "guy' in question, had more than a little ability, and his "one year adjunct faculty status" continued until he retired a couple of years ago. We had had problems recruiting black actors, he recruited from the varsity basketball team. He did things that the rest of us ("Political Correctness" had already made its mark) that none of the rest of us would have had the guts to do. He used black actors in roles that were structured ethnically for white characters, but we had already done that (a little) but he used a white actress to play a role in an "all black" play (without blackface make-up or any such silliness) and directed her skillfully to the point that after the first sixty seconds the audience was unaware. He used a wonderful young Caucasian actor to play Othello and, though my memory may be clouding it, I think he used a couple of black performers to play roles that logically could not have been black in that play.

I confess that he drove me bananas at times that first year until he figured out of the nonsense things that college faculty are supposed to know (from Graduate School), but he became consistently on of the best directors around. (I have never been able to admit that ANY ONE was as good as me, but I'm a little biased in that regard)

He has become a good friend, and I had a wonderful experience (I hadn't acted in ten years) playing the role of Scrooge in his production of A Christmas Carol a couple of years ago and he has otherwise enriched my life.

One of the things he did was get involved with a production of Langston Hughes' wonderful poetic musical Black Nativity. I am not sure whether he was director or otherwise involved when the Richard Allen Center for Culture and Art, of which he had been Artistic Director (remember my statement above that "if he had a little bit of ability, we could use him") presented the play to Pope John Paul in the Vatican in 1981.

Regardless of the nature of his involvement in that production, he directed a production of the play two years ago. (He was directing it at the same time he was directing A Christmas Carole, I do admire folks who multi-task. When I direct a play I sometimes get so involved I forget to eat.). I saw the production then, and loved it. It is becoming a yearly even here in Statesboro GA, (It toured a little this year, should tour a lot, but these performers are, for the most part amateurs who have to have other jobs in order to eat.)

We missed last year's performance while Janet was recovering from her strokes and heart surgery, but we didn't miss it today, we went and dragged along three of our kids .

It was a heart pumping, breathtaking wonder. I will never figure out how Mical finds performers of really professional caliber just wandering around the neighborhood. He does usually get a professional or two involved (This year, more than two, he used the Wardlaw Brothers), but they are in company where they become part of a large ensemble.

I was initially a bit troubled by some technical glitches. The lighting was generally good, but occasionally masked folks who seemed important, and the band was new this year with a few transitions that seemed awkward, but these minor things soon fell out of notice as I was forced to give myself to the show.

The play has two parts; the first part is a depiction, mostly using traditional Black hymns about the actual nativity story, with Joseph, Mary, the townspeople, innkeepers, wise men and those you would expect in such a story, but not in any way that one might confuse with the "bathrobe pageants" seen in so many churches and schools (well, not now, but in my youth). The movement is powerful, the characterizations unique and intense, and the music is wonderful. The Wardlaw Brothers were marvelous as the shepherds in the field "keeping watch on their flocks by night", but there was really not a voice or group that did not inspire.

Edward Ellis whom I had known mostly as the specialty chef from the university dining service who made so many of our spring dinner theatre productions memorable for the food as well as for the performance is, I think, an even better performer than chef. His vocal solos leading hymns in the nativity segment were super. I haven't mentioned the second half of the show, where the performers come back as member of a Black Gospel Church, but in that segment he was even better.

This part (the church scene) is my favorite. The anonymous drone who pitched such a fit in this blog last May because this old Mormon went to and reviewed a Gaither Family Fest in Gatlinburg, since he obviously felt that no Mormon could appreciate nor understand Southern Gospel Music, could have really attacked me here, though I doubt that he would have understood or appreciated this as much as I.

My experience in black churches is very limited. I listened to the Black Gospel Choir at Georgia Southern and loved it, but actual experience stops at reading, sometimes listening to the radio or TV, and watching the occasional play like Amen Corner by James Baldwin (also directed by Mical). I was particularly caught up in this church.

Every character was distinct and real. Edward Ellis, whom I mentioned before was outstanding as an old man who, though hardly able to walk, sings through his memories with the hymns that everyone knows and follows, and he even dances a little. I wish I could comment on all the characters by name, but the show moves so fast and most of the singers are identified in the program as "Chorus". I feel silly praising the "lady in the red dress" and the "lady in gray" but there were many outstanding soloists in the chorus.

The "back stories" in the show were wonderful as folks in the congregation flirt, roll their eyes, gossip under their breaths, discipline the kids, and react in so many different ways to the Eucharist. I don't know how to explain the reverent venality of the collection, but it was wonderful to see.

One of my favorite singers (noted in the program as both Featured Soloist and Chorus) is Shaunta Ellis. I have watched her and listened to her voice since she appeared in Amen Corner more than twenty years ago. I remember urging her to go to Atlanta to audition for the road company of Dreamgirls a number of years ago. I don't know whether she did or not, but if she did, and they didn't grab her, the casting directors were idiots. When she sings, the heart moves. Her solo during the collection was remarkable and in the finale she made it clear that her voice came from Angels. I would pay almost any amount to sit and listen to her concert, if she gave one.

When the show ended, I was exhausted, weeping, spiritually fed, every old dramatic theatre bone in my body wanted to have been a performer in the show (An unlikely possibility for a seventy plus year old white Mormon who really has trouble walking).

I should mention that the producer (who put up the funds for the show) was Cleve White, a local Nissan dealer who was once my student in a public speaking class, gave me a good deal on my last car, and is doing such a service to the community by sponsoring this show.

It has been done for the last three years and is planned as a yearly event the week before Christmas. If you are anywhere in travel vicinity I would urge you to fly, drive, walk, swim or crawl and be here for that performance next year. I have flown a thousand miles and paid a lot of money to see things that couldn't even compare.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I have a couple of things that are important to me that I want to write about, but I am having so much trouble composing what I want to say that I have decided to just review some of the symptoms and results of age (or coothood, if you will.)

Last week in a television show that involved detective work and doctors I noted an actor who was once a pretty good friend. We worked on our doctorates together, and worked together at the Lincolnland Summer Theatre where I was company manager and he was the star (Young Abe Lincoln). It brought back a lot of good memories, and the role in the show was superbly acted (he played an old man, somewhat tragically reliving early parts of his life) . I dashed to the computer and began to write when suddenly I realized that I no longer had any idea what his name was. After some thought, I finally came up with David but couldn't remember the rest.

This was frustrating because I knew that many of you had seen him perform, and that even as a doctoral student (with a lovely wife) he had become a teen idol playing Quentin the werewolf in the daytime drama DARK SHADOWS. I was about to regale all with his story of how that role had evolved from his work on the history of a well known amateur theatre when I reflected that
the story would lose much of its punch as it became apparent to all that I didn't remember my "good friend's" name.

Yesterday, I was surfing the channels on the TV before giving up and going to bed when I came across, perhaps the last ten minutes of a TV movie, starring Ben Affleck, I think, wherein he plays some lonely rich guy who paid a family in his home town to let him share their Christmas (which he destroys). The final scene showed a ten second flash of my friend playing the father of some girl in the town who sees "Ben" kissing a girl who had introduced him to the town as here brother. As the father he tossed out a couple of lines, well delivered but which, for an actor as talented as he, could have been mailed in. (He probably had a major role in most of the film, but I was only watching the conclusion.)

Immediately I thought "there's David again", and wonder of wonders I remembered his last name, David Selby (Quentin the werewolf as well as the lead in one of the major night time soaps for several years, etc.)

I rushed to the computer again because now I remembered his name and could write something coherent, only to realize that now, I couldn't remember the name of the show in which I thought he was brilliant. It is pretty obvious that I also can't remember the darn name of the night time soap, that I could remember well until I sat at the keyboard.

One of the most frustrating things about being "three score years and ten-- and more" is the amount of time one spends trying to fill in the blanks of memory that come up in conversations, when writing, when giving speeches, even when one watches a play in which he has played a major role and can't remember how it comes out. (One advantage is being able to read books over and over again, still being surprised at the ending. We often go to yard sales and pick up books, which I will often hand to Janet asking "Have we read this?" She has a great memory in spite of illness and strokes, and can always remember.)

One other comment. My friend David looked appropriately aged in the medical/detective drama whatever it was, but in the Ben Affleck movie he was absolutely disgustingly young with red hair. Has he no shame or concern for his friends who become decrepit normally.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Above left is daughter's delightful house, to the right, her front yard, below left is the daughter's side yard, and right of that the back yard (she has several acres) . It was remarkable how the fall colors are strong in Columbia and 150 miles southwest where I live it is still green.

The picture at left is Meow. On "Black Friday" daughter bought herself a new mixer. Meow found the box and adopted it. Below are three other pictures of Meow, the
Basset Hound's pet (or vise-versa)

The darn program seems to put picture where it wants, but
beside the text is Roscoe's portrait, below that, he is guarding the flowers, below that is just a full length portrait. His full name is Roscoe P. Coltrain and he is usually called Wigglebut by his owner (or pet, as you think about it.)

Above you see the yard without the construction, looking across the pool into the other side. The back ten or fifteen feet of the yard is protected wetland, so it is mostly scrub oak with some rhododendrons and a vast quantity of wild grapes (yummy).

In the above pic you can see across the slab and the pool into the yard (about an acre)

Blogger decided I needed these pictures before the text rather than after. Oh well. In the above picture you can see the spot where I am preparing to pour the slab for my hot-tub (done now), and you can see the pergola that one of the sons is building for his mother.

I thought I would edit these pictures into that last post, but decided, since I am going to picture you to death to do it in a post of its own. If all goes well, I am going to show you the backyard of my new house (My oldest son says we bought an okay house with a great back yard- that we are trying to improve and will probably spoil) I will go from those to Roscoe the dog and his cat Meow (I never could get a picture of them fighting. When they saw me get the camera, they quite fighting and posed). and from that to my daughter's house and yard

Monday, December 10, 2007

Time Flies

Well here it is December 10. It has been about 20 plus days since I tried to write anything here, and they have been busy days. Some days I couldn't write because it hurt too much (physically), and some days I just had to work too hard to make up for the days when I was incapacitated. I went to my daughter's for Thanksgiving, and it was wonderful. Two of my sons came, and I fixed the turkey (spending some time sitting on a high stool to do it, but I got it in the oven and out of the oven and it was good. (I am going to try to mount some pictures of the bird, but I don't guarantee a thing.) The son's went home Thanksgiving eve. with pressures of going to work, but daughter wife and I got up early and did our duty to the nation. We went shopping on Black Friday. Janet and I were both hobbling a bit, so we didn't infuse as much cash as we might have into the national piggybank, but we did our best.

We had planned to stay over till Wednesday to dog, cat, and house sit since daughter had to go to Baltimore for some kind of conference. (I used to do that, don't anymore, and I'm glad). We had to cut the visit short to be back home Friday night to get ready for- - - are you ready for this? --another funeral of another good friend. We lost three wonderful ladies and friends in five weeks. This one was a particularly poignant one for me.

When we moved to Georgia in 1970 she had just recovered from cancer of the colon and was very weak, but she and her husband were among the sweetest people in Georgia, and in the small Mormon congregation that was here. About the third week we were here, I sang a solo for our evening meeting, and after the meeting she took me by the hand. "I know how you college people move around," she said, "but you can't move from here for a little while. You have got to sing that song for my funeral." At the time, I am sure that she thought her funeral was only a little while away. For years, we, kind of, joked about that. I told her a couple of years ago, right after my quadrupal bypass, I told her that we were going to have shift gears and she would have to sing at my funeral. About a month ago she had a heart attack. When I saw her in the hospital she was still feisty and determined to go home. About a week before Thanksgiving Janet and I went to see her in Hospis, and we knew that there was not much time. As luck would have it, I was in South Carolina when she passed, and I never did get to sing at her funeral (except very quietly, under my breath as they took her from the chapel to go to the cemetery.)

When we went home from Columbia on Friday we took Roscoe with us (Roscoe is the basset hound that owns my daughter). We had a good time dog sitting though Roscoe missed his mistress and his cat (the cat "Meow" really belongs to Roscoe. One only has to watch her bite his ears and see him, in punishment, pick her up by the head and toss her onto his bed, to recognize the relationship. It is hilarious.)

The funeral was beautiful and sad, though my friend was well into her nineties and her beloved husband had passed many years ago, and I think she was eager to join him.

I will try to sort pictures of my daughter's lovely little house in Carolina (It was originally a one room school house) and the beautiful fall colors in her yard, as well as photos of Roscoe, Meow, and even our new home, but I will have to add them to this post a little later.

Janet is getting useful treatment for the pain in her hands, and, although I still have an appointment with the neurologists at the Medical College of Georgia at the beginning of next month, thanks to lorcet and enough ibuprofen that I think I can hear my liver going down for the count, I am functioning with a minimum of pain. I helped pour slabs behind my house for my hot-tub (much needed, I think I can cut down on the ibuprofen once it is functioning), and my sculpture studio (I haven't sculpted in a year and a half, since before we went to Finland, and I may never use it, but my spirit needs a place to shape clay and cut wood. (That's another thing I have to start posting, some of my old puppets and dolls- - - and maybe, when the studio has returned to function some new ones.

I have been frothing at the mouth to post political stuff, but , so far, have limited it to posting on other blogs. (Yes, I AM one of those.)

I will try not to let so much time go by without posting again. Writing, like sculpture (or acting or any of my other outlets) is really necessary to me whether anyone reads it or not. When I can't write, I'll dig up some more stories out of my memoirs (ah, youth, where is it now that I need it.)