Superlatives Reign Supreme

July 23rd, 2014

Lovie and I have been going to a lot (for us) summer theatre productions this year. Venues range from a local high school to college repertory productions and professional productions at the Shaw Festival of Plays in Ontario, Canada. All have ranged from being enjoyable to really enjoyable. Playbill programs from each level of that hierarchy of gigs bear some striking similarities.
I realize these Playbills are put together to gain advertising revenue to help fund the extraordinary costs associated with live theater. Those costs cover items that range from props, sets, venue costs, performer stipends to script rental and royalties.
To encourage patrons to look through these slick advertising programs is information about the production(s) at hand. Acts, scenes, settings and brief bios about the participants.
In most of these bios is where the superlatives begin. Everyone is either excited, happy, so happy, thrilled or ecstatic to be there. And I guess it is no wonder that they feel that way. Is that where the title of the TV show, “Glee” comes from?
It is tough long journey to being a performer. Live performance requires challenging disciplined work over a long time to gain skills necessary to get to the level of performing in front of people other than at family gatherings. It often begins early in life.
“Hey, Mrs. Jones, can Johnny come out to play?”
“I’m sorry, Georgie, but Johnny is busy practicing his emoting this afternoon. In a few years you can come back and get his autograph.”
Performing can take years of study and practice involving or leading to psychoanalysis to get to a level of competence. Or the ol’ casting couch shortcut can hasten the process but that is like ingesting empty calories.
Second, once a certain level of skill has been achieved, finding a place and an acceptance where those skills can actually be employed is another challenge. This frustration results in the adage, “Don’t give up your day job.” It’s not always what you know but also who you know.
The performing arts needs people to perform. (duh!) It chews them up and spits them out with regularity. Age and other forms of discrimination are rampant so there is a constant flow of turnover. Movie stardom is like the Book of the Month Club. Only a few achieve wealth and celebrity. The remaining ones struggle. Without aspiring entertainers, there would be fewer restaurant servers, cab drivers, teachers, birthday party clowns (scary characters), bartenders and Herbalife Salespersons.
So, perhaps my cynical view of the use of superlatives in Playbill bios is uncalled for. Once success is achieved, it is quite understandable that a performer is (the following list comes from a playbill of the Grand Rapids Civic Theater) “excited”, “ecstatic”, “so pleased”, “pleased”, “thrilled”, “not shy”, “proud”, “delighted”, “pumped” and “energized” to “blast onto the stage”, “jump into the scene”, or “explode onto the scene”.
Yet it’s that last one especially that makes me want to avoid the first few rows when given a choice of seating. It could happen for real.

June 23rd, 2014
lunch for one, a feast for another and the need for Lamaze training for yet one more

lunch for one, a feast for another and the need for Lamaze training for yet one more

A Lite Lunch and Lessons Learned

June 23rd, 2014

It was nearly noon and I asked, “Hey, do you want a hard boiled egg?” I had carefully researched the recipe and prepared a few.
“OK”
I gently put an egg for each of us onto a plate. Our little salt and pepper shakers were nearby and a bowl for the shells was arranged in the shared space between us. I poured some OJ and Lovie carried over her latte from our leftover morning brew. Ready for lunch.
We sat down and I started to peel. “Don’t eat it all at once,” Lovie joked – or at least I thought she was joking. I gave a respectful snicker and continued peeling.
Lovie arose from her chair and got a knife and fork. “Do you want any silverware?” she asked.
“No thanks, I’m good.” Knife? Fork? It’s a hard-boiled egg! – I kept that thought to myself.
I resumed peeling teeny bits of shell off the egg.
Lovie popped up again and retrieved the egg slicer from the drawer next to the sink and sat back down. She sliced the egg and spread the pieces artistically across her dish as if for a magazine photo while I bit the top off my now half-peeled egg. I continued peeling its bottom half.
Lovie jumped up again and ran out into the yard. Trying to keep up with her, my neck was getting stiff. She came back inside, over to the sink and rinsed off the greenery she’d gathered. She sprinkled fresh-picked dill onto her egg.
Through the final bite of my egg, I uttered a muffled, “Whatta ya doin’?”
“I’m making a feast!” she declared.
As she finally began to eat, I was gathering up my stuff to take it to the sink.
I looked up and, alas and alack, I was the recipient of the stink-eye. Well versed in the protocol for this look, I sheepishly sat back down.
Lovie smiled, took a leisurely sip of her latte and I slugged the final gulp of my OJ.
I waited…I fidgeted, my eyes darted around the room…I waited some more. What now and when?
Lessons learned? Perhaps I need to have more respect for the chicken’s contribution to this scene before I so frivolously dispatched it. I guess it is also important to know there is more to sharing a meal than just the eating part. They don’t teach you this in Guy School class 101.
The tension was broken with an electronic chime alerting Lovie to a text message on her iPad.
Thank goodness for technology!!

Lovie calls this her “Miracle of miracles” photo

June 22nd, 2014
Lovie calls this her "miracle of miracles" photo

THE KITCHEN FLOOR

June 22nd, 2014

For the past month or so, I have been thinking about washing the kitchen floor. This is NOT a condemnation of Lovie’s housekeeping…it is an admission that I, too, must share in the responsibility. But my testosterone fed brain has been telling me to not jump right into such an activity or set of activities. I must study the situation and make sure I am not over-committing to more than I can, or am willing to, handle. Sometimes the best of intentions become overwhelming as they snowball into an epic daylong drama that interferes with the ballgame scheduled at 1 P.M. I have to remain steadfast in my vigilance to guard against such things. The Tigers have won three in a row and I must watch – they and their beer sponsors need my support.
Our kitchen floor is covered with what they call laminate, “wormy chestnut” pattern so it is a pretty good stain hider. But certain times of day, when the sun travels across the sky, light reflections reveal little blotches that were not in the original pattern. “Oh, that’s where that glob of yogurt landed the other day!” I had lost track of it after it fell from the spoon and gave up on finding it after an exhaustive search that lasted actual seconds.
More than a year has passed since we got our amazing Shark steam cleaner mop thinggie. The novelty of it had me trying it out right away and I was “completely satisfied” so I did not have to go get my guaranteed money back.
Happily, and generously I turned the joy of its use over to Lovie. Even if I must say so myself, I’m really good at unselfishly sharing these kinds of life’s pleasures with her. The aura of this new device had worn off (quickly) and I’ve forgotten even where Lovie has kept it since then.
Perhaps it is the arrival of the summer solstice, but the floor is looking pretty gamy with the daylight patterns of the new season. So this morning I became self-righteously cavalier announcing, “Today is a great day for I, the man of the house, shall clean the kitchen floor.” It was as sincere as a congressman announcing in a press conference that he actually cares about something other than his re-election.
Lovie took me up on the offer. Now what am I gonna do? I have to deliver the goods. Now, where is that thing?

A Small Town Celebration

June 21st, 2014

Today, Saturday June 21, is a big day! Summer solstice begins and what better way to usher in this wonderful season of planetary balance in the northern hemisphere is a barbecue.
All peoples of the western world love to celebrate and small town America is no exception. We’ve seen wine festivals in Germany, cheese fests in Switzerland and at Green Bay Packer games, our own Tulip Time in Holland (MI) and now it is topped by another.
Celebrating 110 years in business, a celebration is occurring in Brookfield (home of the Zoo) Illinois.
Imagine! In these days of the volatile world of business, one in particular has survived through four generations of family ownership, threats of corporate takeovers and fluctuations in the marketplace and it continues to go strong.
So CONGRATULATIONS go out to the Hitzeman Funeral Home on 31st Street in that fair burg.
To celebrate this amazing feat, Hitzeman’s is holding a highly publicized Open House – no invitations necessary – casual dress a must – with barbecue, live (for now) music and a magician!
You can probably figure out the potential this information contains.
I’m intentionally avoiding discussion about the barbecue – but the magician? That’s another story.
Hmm – let’s think about some of the standard tricks of magicians. Forget the doves and bunnies in top hats – all too lame for this one. Sawing a person in half? No problem here! Running swords through a person in a box? Same deal, no problem. Making a person disappear? By golly, that is what they’ve been doing for over a century so what’s all the hoopla about? When volunteers are requested from those present, failure to respond might be considered as a default affirmative.
I hope they got the magician for half price – it’ll be the easiest gig he’s ever had.

June 17th, 2014

HAIR

June 17th, 2014

You can comb it (if you got it) but you cannot hide it.

Been losing it lately in more ways than one. But I’ll only relate about my hair and Lovie’s too.
Mine? Not much to say…more skin, less hair. I refuse to go the comb-over route. I used to go to a boutique kind of joint, with black drapes over my shoulder, cool jazz on the intercom and “hair stylists” named, Mr. Cleo or Miss Conception at the helms of their cubicles and for $45.00 I got a haircut done to make it look like I didn’t get a haircut. But at least Mr. Cleo had something to work with then.
But alas and alack, the ravages of time and circumstance have taken their tolls on my pate. Half a hundred (including tip) is a bit much of a fuss to invest in nothing much. It’d be as silly as living alone and still closing the bathroom door, as in, “What’s the point?”
I switched to the cookie-cutter discount franchise in the strip mall near Walgreen’s. Even there, I had to re-direct the cutters to not leave the four hairs near my male-pattern baldness longer in an attempt to cover the emerging shininess. My formula there had to do with numbers. Number 5 on top and number two on the sides with a rounded neckline – all for the senior discount rate of $8.00. The numbers, I finally learned, had to do with measurements of hair length in eighths of an inch.
Thrown-in for good measure was the haircutter chit-chat litany of, “So, what are your plans for today?” (That’s from the first ten minutes of their intensive two-hour complete haircutter training correspondence course titled, “Chairside manner”). My usual response is equally inane, “This is the highlight of my day! It’s all downhill from here.” It kills. Sad truth is that most days it is true.
Emboldened by friend Juan’s shaved head, I have taken another step toward practicality. No, not shaved (yet). I actually think my shaved pink pate would resemble a certain male bodily part after a Bris. So I told the cutter, “Number 2 on top and all around.” I like it and it seems to be fine for me. Peach fuzz, hat required – even inside. I am on to something for sure. Got a Stetson floppy newsboy cap and now I know that “the moment is right” for me.
Now to Lovie. Blue hair. I never thought I’d see the day but I am married to a blue-haired grandma. But wait! There’s more. It’s not your basic old-lady blue, it is wacky, “I’m following the Grateful Dead, got any weed?” electric-blue, with streaks of purple and shocking pink tossed-in.
Even though margarita season is in full swing, no alcohol or green leafy substances legal in Colorado were involved in this process – just some fun friends in the north woods of Michigan getting together.
Lovie has been spending a lot of time trying to re-arrange things up top and no matter what she does, it shines through!! To ease the stress of it all, in the evenings, we sit quietly with some vintage Pink Floyd on the stereo and sip our margaritas.
Ready for the Senior’s Center? Perhaps.

Pull-Ups

June 9th, 2014

There was a time when our next door neighbors included a little guy named Ross. He was about 3 and I was considerably older than that.
In the summertime I turned our free-standing garage into a woodworking shop and Ross, as three-year-olds occasionally like to do, would wander over to chat some guy chat with me. It’d be “big boy” talk.
“Hey, Ross, how’s it going?” kind of stuff. He called me “Jack.” I am usually uncomfortable with formalities like “Mr.”
One hot summer day I was out puttering around and I turned around and there was Ross.
“Hey, Ross, what’s up?”
“Not much, Jack” He was learning the lingo.
I turned away to do something and I hitched up my elastic waist cut-off shorts.
Ross spoke up, “Do you wear pull-ups?”
“I guess you could call these that, I just pulled them up.” I didn’t exactly know what pull-ups were but I was beginning to get the idea.
“Do you wet?” he asked.
“No, I don’t wet. I used to wet when I was real little and I guess when I get real old, I may wet again, but right now I am in my dry period.”
“Oh.”
Serious guy talk.
We did a few things and he disappeared back home.
I smiled the rest of the day.

I still chuckle when I recall that little exchange. Ross is probably about 30 now and I am still in my dry period. Life has been kind.

Patience is a Virtue

May 19th, 2014

In January it was, go to the store for a quart of milk, a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs but now that spring has arrived it is different.
Today I went to the store and the list Lovie’d handed me was; 5 bags of river rock (good for minerals, I guess), a BIG bag of potting mix, a bag of bone meal, 10 bags of cypress mulch and three bags of cow manure.
At the gardening department of the Skinned Knuckles Home Improvement store out on the highway all was going well until I came to the final item on my list. I had to track down a clerk, “Where can I get the cow manure?”
“Over in the corner of the outside lot,” I was told as the clerk gestured outside the store.
Over to the corner of the outside lot I went. No bagged cow manure was in sight but I was startled to see a half-dozen dairy cows munching away at the grass along the fence (you can tell where this is going). Next to them was a roll of big plastic bags and a sign, “Self-Serve Cow Manure”.
I know many stores are going to the self-serve mode–it saves them payroll costs and pads their bottom line but this seems to be taking it a bit too far!
An hourly employee was nearby multi-tasking, doing a little cleanup and making sandwiches for the crew. Noticing my chagrin, she said, “It’s just like the frozen yogurt store downtown.”
“Yeah, right!” I thought.
The fine print under the sign read, “Directions: remove bag from roll, shake it open and hold it open behind the cow of your choice and wait.” On the wall was another sign: “Patience is a Virtue”.