Sunday, July 29, 2007

All Good Things ...

Finished it. Loved the ending, where Ron and Hermione are riding off on one broomstick, and Harry was spelled out the word GOOD-BYE in bedpans.

No, I won't say anything about how it ends. Just about how the whole Harry Potter thing relates to ME, because that's what this entire blog is about.

I was aware of the books prior to 2000, but they were just popular kids books, like, what was that, Goosebumps or something like that. I was almost 32, not my scene.

We were taking a three-week road trip through the South, or at least in a southerly direction. We were taking three weeks, because (according to the plan) this would be our last major road trip before Toni was pregnant. We planned that, see, our having a baby in early or mid-2001. That was the plan.

We'd stopped in Cave City to stay in a cement teepee and check out Mammoth Cave. The cable was terrible and we tried watching Freaks and Geeks (which had already been cancelled) and the local news reported that hundreds of kids were dressing up like wizards and witches and staying up until midnight to buy a book - Number 4.

About three weeks we arrived in Athens in time for my 32nd birthday and Toni's teenage sister Adrienne already had the first three in paperback, which I polished off in a couple days, and read Goblet of Fire before the end of the summer.

I believe the emotional difference of beginning a septilogy of books at age ten, and finishing them at 19 is significantly different than what I have been through. The conclusion did not leave me as dazed and disturbed as, say, the final episode of M*A*S*H did, which I saw at age fourteen. I daresay the Harry Potter books will stand the test of time better.

That photograph up there disturbs me. I think I look older then.

UPDATE: Finally read that sinister, spoiler NY Times book review. I don't get it, what did she give away?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A major medical issue

Our absent instructor returned briefly today. She wants to see if the kids can't pull together the act they were working on before she left two weeks ago. Frankly, I don't know if I would have been able to come back under similiar circumstances. I really admire her dedication to the program.

We had sent her a card last week. Most wishes were of the could-be-any-tragedy variety. "We're thinking of you," that kind of thing. Heartfelt, but vague. I think someone wrote "hope you're feeling better" but I believe that was one of the kids who'd gotten their hands on it and thought it was a Get Well Soon card. There had been no general announcement about her absence, though I frankly told any student who asked me about it directly. Gentle, but frank.

Isn't that a Noel Coward play? Gentle, But Frank?

Even today I heard her situation refered to as a "major medical issue."

Yes. It sure is major.

Anyway, I was the only one writing a paragraph on the card. What you'd expect, "sorry for your loss," mentioning to boy by name, I hope you'll let me contact if you need someone to listen ... I think I cryptically ended, "I know about this."

I was on my way back to class this morning after picking up the students' journals, and she was coming down the stairs. It was just a shocked, I just gave her a big hug, I almost started crying right there. I can't explain it, I hardly know this woman, but there it is.

And yes, it was pre-eclampsia. She said she'd never heard the term before, and now she knows everything. At least, you know, as much as any of us do, which isn't much. "Why don't they tell us about this?" she asked. I mentioned What To Expect When You're Expecting and she was a step ahead of me. She skipped the chapter it tells you to skip, the one which would have helped you keep an eye out for symptoms. What is the fricking point, I don't get it.

Pretty early case, at something like 23 weeks. Must have hit her hard and fast. She went in with "hypertension" and they could tell right away the boy was in distress. She was induced, she had him, but he was too little. She got to be with him, alive, if briefly. He opened his eyes. These are the good things you can count on one hand.

She says she's glad for the things I wrote. She didn't know about Calvin, but I'm not in the habit of telling pregnant women I've just met that my first child died. I don't think it would have clued her in even if I had, who would it have done?

I'll see her again tomorrow, she's determined to get something together for the culminating event next week. We'll talk more.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Workin' it

The Vampyres takes place in a coffee shop, and in spite of my being easily distracted, I found it much easier to write the thing when I was in one. A coffee shop, I mean. I visited Toni in NYC for a week in a bone-chilling week in February, 1995 and sat in Cafe Lalo several afternoons while she was working, with my new, black and white Apple laptop. I think it was the last black and white model they made.

Anyway, sitting here in Phoenix on Lee, procrastinating from writing the New Play, I am reminded of how ... dorky I felt, sitting in a coffee shop, sitting in public, working on a laptop computer. I was the only guy I saw doing that. It felt even odder when I was back at the Arabica on Coventry - I had to do it, but I felt like I was shouting, "Hey, look at me! I've got a laptop computer!"

People would even ask, what are you doing? Because really, it was weird. And I wondered whether or not I would be asked to leave if I actually used their outlet to power my Mac, instead of letting the battery run out.

I come into this place a couple times a week, some afternoon every table has someone utilizing the free wireless here. It's a Sunday morning at 10, I am already one of three.

Friday, July 20, 2007


One year ago today, Orson shattered his skull.

Worse things can happen. But not many.

Today he is tall, and obstreperous. Like another BOY WHO LIVED he has a neat scar on his head, but it's on the back so it doesn't make good cover art. Daniel Radcliffe will be playing him in the movie, however.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Black telegram

Forgive me, I do not know how to write about another person's loss. I do not feel I have the right to. When someone close tells me someone related to them has lost a child, or endured a miscarriage, I do not feel I have the right to "report" about it here. And there have been losses in the very recent past which I have written on privately, tried to help as I can, but did not feel was appropriate to mention here.

Today surprised me, even though, whenever a mother goes on bedrest, when there are the symptoms, I worry. I spend more time worrying, preparing for the worst, that thinking those "positive thoughts." And I do not pray.

One of our instructors at arts camp was five months pregnant. She was so excited about being a first-time mother. She had just found out she was going to have a boy last week - the day before she disappeared, sent to the hospital. I heard her ankles had been swollen. I hoped for the best. I feared the worst.

We were about the start class this morning, just about to call all the students in "Group 1" to join us in the sanctuary. Tim whispers to me, "I thought you should know, Xxxxxxx lost her baby. We're all going to get a card."

I was shocked not only be the news, and its delivery, but my own reaction to it. I just said, "I'm sorry, Tim, you should already know this - you hold the black telegram until after the performance." I just told him to start class and walked into the playground outside and wept. I was surprised at how much I wept.

I've met the parents of so many lost children in the past six years - so many just last month, in England and Nothern Ireland. But they were all in the past, there was nothing to do except be sympathetic. The loss was past. And I had seen this beautiful young woman I'd just met, I met her a little over three weeks ago as an expectant mother, she was so obviously happy about having this boy.

I'd like to be in contact, to help how I can. She and her partner want everyone to leave them alone and I can certainly sympathize with that. I hope, in a week or so, I can reach them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

How I'm Spending My Summer Vacation

Photo: The mysterious and difficult-to-understand theatrical ritual known only as "Zip-Zap-Zop."

This summer I'm working with the legendary Tim Keo as part of the free, summer arts camp for Cleveland Municipal School kids, Smart in the City - excuse me, that's smART in the City. You can read the inital press release here. There are eight sites in Cleveland, ours is at Nottingham Methodist Church in Collinwood.

It was a bit of a terrifying headache for me starting out as a) I was arriving home from England on Sunday the 24th, b) Toni was not even leaving Hopkins but heading straight out again to Goddard, leaving me alone with the kids for eight days for the first time, ever and c) the camp started the very next day.

We're halfway through and everything is working out just fine, thanks. Tim is an excellent partner with whom to work, all of the teachers we are collaborating with are fabulous - our site coordinator Marquita is a dream, she's our stage manager, showing up first thing and always being the last to leave - and the students are all happy to be there ... at least, the ones who have made it this far. A few have drifted away during the past week or so, which I would only have imagined from a free arts camp in the middle of summer. Just too many other options, you know?

Photo: Members of Team Three - Kalen, Ontario and Andre'a - stand proud before the just-composed "Modern Seven Ages".

We've been sharing Shakespeare and improv, playing lots and lots of games, and now we have a good two and a half weeks to prepare a "culminating event" to be presented on August 1.

The Moderns Seven Ages of People (with no apologies to Shakespeare)
The world’s like Playhouse Square, and we are all actors.
Everyone has to enter and exit, and in our lives, we all play seven parts.
First the baby, with spoiled milk, spoiled Gerber – eats anything that’s spoiled, and then throws up.
Next the student, a noisy game-player who still thinks Santa Claus is real.
Then a teenager, whose hormones are going crazy and disrespects his mother and watches MAD TV.
And then, a partier, still watching MAD TV, he doesn’t work or like George Bush, and gets his money off the street, the fool.
Then an actor, working with children in a church basement, in mismatched socks and a big loud voice, and so he plays his part.
The sixth, the grandparent, so old he knew Burger King when he was a prince, retired, a geezer, needy and moaning.
Finally, the cat-lady, surrounded by cats, still watching MAD TV, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

“This is like children’s theater for 40-year-old gay people!”

Heaven on Wheels, and in Leg Warmers
By Charles Isherwood
New York Times: July 11, 2007
Can a musical be simultaneously indefensible and irresistible? Why, yes it can. Witness “Xanadu,” the outlandishly enjoyable stage spoof of the outrageously bad movie from 1980 about a painter and his muse who find love at a roller disco in Los Angeles ...(more)

...also ... ‘Susan’ Sought As a London Musical
Arts, Briefly 7/11/2007
Featuring hit songs by the rock band Blondie, a musical version of the 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan,” an early Madonna vehicle directed by Susan Seidelman, will come to the London stage in October, Agence France-Presse reported yesterday. Deborah Harry of Blondie has written a new song, “Moment of Truth,” for the West End production ... (more)

Speaking as someone who has been plumbing the depths of 80s pop culture for theatrical inspiration since the mid-90s, I find this all rather fascinating.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Salute to 1985

JacMac and RadBoy ... GO!

Twenty-two years ago, in the summer of 1985, my brother Denny had graduated from college but didn't have a job yet. I was about to start my senior year in high school. We'd never spent any time in each other's company before, not really, not by choice. When I was five, he was twelve. When I was twelve, he was nineteen.

"Road to Nowhere" - Talking Heads

While he was waylaid in Bay Village, waiting for a response for one of the NPR affiliates he had sent a resume to (which was all of them), we got to know each other a little. I was 17, he was 24. Denny taught me the value of Heineken, how to tell if your onion dip is any good (is the first ingredient 'sour cream' - or 'water'?) and the joys of late-night tee vee.

Max Headroom on David Letterman

I remember the days being very, very dull that summer. But at night, we laughed our asses off.