Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fortunate Sons

Merry Christmas!

I've had a poem published at the online journal, Shaking Like a Mountain. It's more of a summer poem really, but I hope you will head over to their site and read it: I'd like to reach 300 views by the new year!

Thanks and have a fun holiday.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Object Lesson

My personification of inanimate objects, and the emotions I then feel toward those objects, takes up more of my energy than it should. When I was a kid, I felt terribly sorry for boardgames that got left on the shelf, often for years at a time. I would play them by myself just so they didn't think I was angry at them.

As a teenager, I named my car, my TV, an my baseball bat. These were pleading, loving relationships, all of which involved soft caresses. My biggest fight, though, was with that television, which still stares at me now, ten years after I bought it. I've even placed him on probation for months at a time, canceling cable as a punishment for his blizzards. And yet, as Homer Simpson put it, the TV remains "my teacher, mother, secret lover."

Lately, I've directed most of my personal scorn at kitchen wares. As a newlywed, I have a glut of pots, and I rail against their pot-lids the way cranks rail against immigrants. I doubt their usefulness, mutter to myself about how much space they take up, grumble about their clamorous, pot-lid culture.

In a pinch, Luigi--the saucepot topper--does make my life easier with his abilities and I smile at his panache. He's one of the good ones, that Luigi.

With these mild frustrations in mind, I was surprised last night that I couldn't muster any anger at my vegetable peeler. Even after he swallowed a cashew-sized swath of my left middle finger, I felt no animosity whatsoever. As a sat in my recliner, Donald--wrapped in gauze and ice and with my arm over my head--I was at peace.

"I put your nemesis in the dishrack," Megan said. "So be careful."

"No," I corrected, like a holy man forgiving his assailant. "He knew not what he did."

Maybe it's the Christmas season that has me in a merciful mood, but I even felt positive feelings for Virgil, as I like to call him.

This strange favoring of something that cuts recalled certain relationships in which I've actually liked people more after they've slighted me. They've shown their fallibility and, maybe more importantly, they now owe me.

So, in some illogical reach of my brain, I expect to return from my Christmas vacation to a bounty of freshly peeled food, to Virgil standing on the counter looking sheepishly at me. He'll hope that, once again, we can be peel pals, and I'll say, "I'd like that, friend."

And I'll be thankful for the time he's saved me; I'll finally have a chance to give that sonuvabitch can-opener of mine a real talking-to.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


My pesky curiosity brought me face to face with a strange blackhole yesterday when I wikipedia-ed Wikipedia. I wanted to know what the first entry of the online encyclopedia had been. I ventured that in the beginning there was God, or, since the site came from computer nerds, maybe Apple.

Where do you start when you want to compile everything?

I've become interested in the origins of the encyclopedia recently because its pages feature a request for donations; and so I've been sporadically considering how much they started with at first and what bit of info got them going.

Usually I think donations that don't fill a stomach or kill a tumor are strangely a-ethical, but I pondered whether I should send Wikipedia a five-spot. It's slowly replaced ESPN as my trivial opiate of choice, after all, and I have respect for its project of democratizing knowledge (even though that project has been roundly criticized. When I look up dogs, for instance, I'm told that the species with the shortest lifespan is the Dogue de Bordeaux--5.2 years. On the page of that particular dogue, however, a second citizen-editor had told me that they live, mostly sans complications, for 8-10 years. Oh well. C'est la vie).

Whether it's wholly correct or not, I like that I can follow the thoughts of Wikipedia's strange brain from Ytzhak Rabin to Albert Schweitzer to The Gabonese Republic to a map of population density to Earth to Outer Space to Paradise Lost to Star Trek to Star Wars to Turner and Hooch to the Dogue de Bordeaux, as I did today. Mind in the clouds, nose on the ground.

Plus, I would never want the encyclopedia to be overcome by ads such that when I check the origin of the phrase "Head-over-heels," as I did recently, I suddenly feel a compulsion to buy some Dr. Scholl's.


When I started out as an English teacher in 2004, we all used to laugh at the student who would quote from Wikipedia, and our bosses derided it as unreliable. There's something to this, I suppose. Students should still learn to look for the most authoritative sources even if that means checking out a book. And yet, part of a strong English education has to do with being able to suss out the truth of things, being able to distinguish fact from opinion. I know I've read falsehood and spin on Wikipedia; I mostly filter it out. It's far from invalid because of the discrepancies.

David Foster Wallace said that being educated "means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed."

Taking his advice, I've decided that his Wikipedia page is insufficient and that you might like to go here instead. Then again, you might like to ignore me and the rest of this post, which would also be in the spirit.

Meanwhile, I'm still thinking about what Wikipedia's worth to me. Would I pay a dollar a week? A dollar a month? If I knew everyone was willing to pay 1 cent a day, would I join in? I need to read up on Game Theory.

And I realize that I haven't answered my initial question about Wikipedia's first article. And so I realize that my unrealizing is a perfect way to talk about Wikipedia's main fault: it almost always forces me to lose my focus. I didn't need any assistance with that in the first place, and then along came the easy-accessibility-of-trivial-facts: I was like an infant staring at hyperlinked keys.


Sometimes I get to the end of the day (especially recently, since I've been on break from school) and I can't really pinpoint any accomplishment I've made or experience I've had. Suddenly it's dark, and I've learned a few things about Gabon.

The machinery of distraction that I've set up for myself keeps me from thinking about serious things for the extended period of time they deserve, keeps me from being devoted to a task or a new skill, keeps me from the dedicated leisure that allows many of my friends to happily wallow in movies and music.

Sometimes I get to the end of the day and I feel hosed.

Dogs, it's thought, sense that they can run away from pain and so, when achy or nearing death, will circle and circle as if their hurt is a place.

I'm no retriever, and I've got no serious grievance, but my mental-flitting seems to be coming from the same K-9 instinct. Maybe if I can read enough news or compile enough facts or hop quickly enough from one thing to the next (one of my generation's notable skills), I'll somehow also be able to scatter away from myself.


The first page added to Wikipedia was "UuU," a list of countries that included our fair States.

"Wiki" comes from a Hawaiian word meaning "Quick."

For a time, many dogs in Gabon contracted the Ebola virus but did not appear to be symptomatic.

There is no information immediately available on the way dogs sense their topography of pain.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Theatah Stories - Encore

Dramatic truth be told, my theatre career, such as it was, coincided with my career as an actively single man. I was in plays from February 2000 to May 2004; I was a pre-Megan dater for precisely the same period.

During that time I suffered from sporadic attachments I convinced myself were very deep. Like a lot of people, I had a fling-instinct combined with an endemic sentimentality that made me treat every romantic caprice as a very serious matter.

I remember, for instance, Margaret's name popping up on my computer screen one summer evening. I had a reaction to it and, in the confines of my parents' nothing-happening basement, figured the female-inspired flush had to mean 'meant-to-be.'

I wrote to her, right then. Some trite line. Two minutes prior, I'd been perfectly unaware of my feelings. Now they were so urgent and rich. I'm ashamed that I declared myself electronically; but I'm frequently glad that I don't have to date and break-up in the cell-phone era, when that kind of knee-jerk romantic-ish-ness seems almost inevitable.

Back then, though, I just needed something to happen, always. And I worked to make mostly fake things--plays and hasty love--feel true. It worked, I guess. For a year or so, I gave florid speeches to audiences and to Margaret, trying to win them into my imaginary worlds.

Eventually, she went away to study in Europe and I kept playing repressed gay men onstage. We dated from afar--sometimes happily, sometimes passive-aggressively. But I wasn't going to be able to forgive her one thing: during my era of great-narcissism (is it over?), she withdrew some of her attention from me.


While Margaret was away, I 1) noticed Megan, 2) did nothing untoward.

When Margaret came back, I 1) was fired from my position as her boyfriend, 2) was cast opposite Megan in a silly play called Noises Off.

This next story begins with my pants around my ankles.

I should say before I continue with it, though, that, at the time, Megan and I spoke to each other only in averted glances.

But she already drew my constant attention. . .

. . .Like the smell of curry (though she smells nothing like curry).

Like a “don't-open-until-Christmas” package on December 22nd.

Like someone else's karaoke rendition of a favorite song--say, “Brown Eyed Girl”--that's both pleasant and flustering.

Like a bee in the room, like a bear.

Like a dark window during a horror movie.

Like a deer, or a dare.

Like the last stair on the staircase. Is it really there? I step: my legs buckle.

Such was my world-reordering awareness of SHE: said awareness a murk of non-stop anticipation, novelty, and fear; of beauty-lust and adrenaline; of doubt and knee-tingle.

(Our earliest extant picture)

So my pants were off and we were onstage rehearsing for the big show.

The play, a British farce filled to the gills with slapstick, called for me to sit on a prop-cactus and for her to pull the prop-needles out of my behind. This stage direction, as you might imagine, resulted in precarious perspiration for me.

Nothing else can be said about the placement of my stanky ass vis-a-vis her sweet face besides the simple fact that I was truly mortified. This was, after all, someone I was coming to care for deeply (not just fleetingly). I tried to play it cool, but of course I had to wear costume-room-underpants that weren't washed between rehearsals. And of course the director had to see the scene again, one last time, from another angle.

I assumed the position: my life was an abyss!

After that level of embarrassment, why not just ask her out? Well, I kinda-sorta had, which had gotten kinda-sorta no response, but things were a wee-ish complicated, as they tend to be; suffice it to say, I felt rejected and she didn't even know I'd applied.

Things carried on thusly. I had the distinct lower-hand. I don't want to overstate my romantic anti-heroism, but it was pretty substantial at that point. People were even starting to root for me, as if I was some pitiful movie character. (My brother told me not to let my inner Cusack stand in the rain.)

I bucked up. And began a campaign of being great to everyone she knew. If I could get enough of a buzz going, I thought, she'd have to date me! But we got our signals crossed again when I asked her out for coffee (she said yes, but we never went). I'd never been one to take a hint, but it was dawning on me that I might have to move on.

Until, hallelujah, one more show came around the bend just a few weeks before graduation. A Dream Play was more of an experimental venture. She played a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Jesus. For my role, I had to learn to write backwards (college theatre can't be parodied). At different points in the show I had to give Alice/Jesus/Megan a piggy-back ride, strike amorous tableaux with her, and hold her hand while I told her, "You are the hope of the world."

It was cruel. But we had gotten to what I thought was grudging respect, at least. We even had an intuitive friendship, though we still barely spoke.

The night before the show, we had a dress rehearsal until 4 o'clock in the morning. It was tiring and giddy. We were both asked to stay and help decorate a pillar with toilet paper. It was a ridiculous request and we felt loopy under the psychedelic lights. We conspired to escape together; we'd paid our dues.

Outside, there was a light late-spring rain and the sound of a couple bullfrogs, a light-orange haze from the city of Worcester, a light taste of something honey-ish and thick. I felt possessed, calm, conclusive. She still had on an angel's eyeliner, or an Alice's.

By the college's chapel, I slowed my walk to slow her walk, said "Hey," said "I've written you a letter," said "but I probably won't finish it before showtime," said "It just says, 'You're great,'" said "But you probably already knew I thought that."

I stopped.

Everything was eaves-dropping.

Her half-smile told me, "That's so sweet," which, as any guy knows, can be either good or bad. But the victory was in the declaration. We said, "Well, G'night," and took our solitary ways.

The next day I told her, sheepishly, that she was the hope of the world again. The lights changed and the show ended. I assumed that was that for us: but, thanks to her, there turned out to be an encore, one we didn't expect, one that's still going.

Neither of us has been in a play since that strange dream. We're done with that scene, at least for now. I am still working on her letter, though, and I'm nowhere near finished.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Theatah Stories - Act III

I'd caught the bug.

Though I'd still yet to perform in front of more than 38 people, I knew I wanted to be in more plays--as many as possible, quantity over quality. I'm not sure I even really liked to act that much; it was more the hyper-charged atmosphere that attracted me, the feeling of community and a collective goal.

Standing around backstage for eight hours trading ribald stories with co-stars (though I was more of a co-quark, really) is probably the least difficult way to feel productive, so it was perfect for me, who likes little resistance. I could convince myself that all of it was educational, that practicing spit-takes while dressed in purple tights was my ticket to cum laude.

And there was a lot of waiting around once I broke into school plays. I didn't have any lines that first year, but I still spent most of my time in ludicrous situations being asked to emote, mime, and/or swordfight in the background.

In one critique of my performance, I was told, "David, I'm not sure what you're doing with that broom." My only purpose in that show was to sweep, and I was failing. But learning, too. Things like: stagehands love the singer Meatloaf, unequivocally and all of them; Chekhov wasn't just a character on Star Trek; and purple tights can tend to chafe during emotionally-mimed swashbuckling.

I decided to take my new-found wisdom to the director's chair. There may be nothing more arrogant than calling oneself a director, especially when that title comes with no real skill attached. Yours Truly wasn't One to think lowly of Himself, though. If the Little Rascals could put on a show with only an afternoon's prep (and in a barn no less), I could put one on with a month to spare.

The show was called The Taxi Cabaret, and it badly taxed my leadership skills. I needed six people who were willing to work very hard for basically no reason. I nearly cast an actress named Megan--whose talents had recently caught my eye--as a young woman considering marriage, but we weren't nearly ready to play that scene together yet. (More on plays and that young lady as the situation develops).

I dropped $250 on this play to get the rights and tried to start rehearsals wherever I could--my dorm, the laundry room, the library steps, over the phone. As soon as I'd scraped together a full cast--with promises of stardom or promises of future regrets if. . .--someone would drop out. I felt like a kid at recess slowly realizing his made-up game wasn't catching on.

Adding to the difficulty was the fact that Taxi Cabaret was a musical and I didn't know how to read music. For awhile we rehearsed with a CD. I'd tell people to move certain ways, basically on a whim--whatever I felt like coming up with at the time. I was in over my head.

Two days before the show--we'd gotten a room with a spot-light and everything!--I suffered another defection. My friend Will had gotten a date for the night of the opening performance and couldn't do his part. I frantically called Dr. True's Soup and Read's vice-treasurer (emeritus) and State Photographer, Rob Strong: he'd performed in the same play only a few months before and I hoped he could fill in last-minute.

The next day, I found someone who could play the piano. A small detail. We had 18 hours or so to go.

When another cast member told me he'd be late, I had to shift Rob over and take a part myself. There were two songs I'd have to wing.

The late-guy did end up getting there, the piano started, I had to play a gay stockbroker, and we were off!

Yes, my character slowly realizes he's gay as the show progresses. For some reason, I found myself playing gay guys quite often. In this one, I had a song where I told my dad about my new-found orientation. My own dad was, of course, in the audience. Could be it was one of those moments of parenthood when you ask yourself (I figure there are these) How exactly did I get to this point? And How did he? This sense of wonder might have been made more acute by the fact that I was dressed as Fred Flintstone.

(Notice my loafers)

I sang:

With a spear in hand I fear I'm ineffectual.

But I might just be the world's first homo (. . .)
who's an intellectual!

I love misdirection rhymes! I love feminine rhymes!


I found a real feminine presence I rhymed with not long afterwards. That discovery, unlike my last sentence, was a fantastic transition for me.

We started hanging out--Megan and me--during a show called For Whom the Southern Belle Tolls. She was the Belle. I was her perverted, mentally-challenged son, Perry. Inauspicious, you say? At least I wasn't a gay caveman opposite her man-phobic spinster, but this was not a good portent.

A better one came later in the year when Megan replaced another woman in "A Chorus Line," which I'd been stumbling my way through for a few months. We found ourselves next to each other every day. I had to wear these shorts:

(My legs have never looked better. I was also playing a gay man in this show. Megan played, in her words, "The Ugly One." We were both cast against type: Megan because of her acting strength, me because. . .listen, I just don't know).

We got to chatting. I'd mumble inaudible jokes to her out of the corner of my mouth. She'd keep dancing correctly. It was a solid exchange really. But by the end of "A Chorus Line," she was the only cast member I didn't feel a real connection to. This was the perfect romantic comedy set-up.

We did the show, maybe said "good job" to each other.

But, even then, she had the butterflies in my stomach doing kick-lines.

We took our bows.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Theatah Stories - Act II

As I've mentioned, my stage debut in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat didn't go smoothly. The stakes are pretty low in community theatre, though, and tall, left-footed men trying to step-ball-change and sashay are catnip to local stage-groupies (75 year old women), so I had fun.

My big moment came in the second act. In some performances, I'd said my line--"Napthali"--at the proper time and at others I hadn't; either way, the success of my night always depended on that second act chance.

Having betrayed Joseph, the eleven brothers are wandering through the desert, starved. It was my job to stagger toward the front of the stage--famished, fainting--and fall in a crowd-pleasing heap.

Now, the pratfall is a subtle art and the master of it must proceed placidly and with empty-mind. In preparation, I studied the great tumblers--Chaplin, Van Dyke, Ritter.

(John Ritter as Jack, ahem, Tripper)

Their gracelessness had such a grace!

I considered the Buckle-knee fall, the Damsel-in-Distress, the Banana Slip, the Face-Plant, and the Kansas City Kollapse.

Technically, a pratfall should include falling on the arse since 'prat' means 'buttock.' (See 17th Century British Poet Thomas Dekker's line: "by the Salamon, No Gentry Mort hath Prats like thine.").

'Prat' can also mean 'fool,' though, as in British playwright Melvyn Bragg's line: "He had been looking for the exact word to describe David and now he found it: prat."

Whether mine was an idiot fall or a butt fall, I knew it needed to be a great fall. On the last night of the show, I went for it, spinning on one foot before landing square on my back--a direct hit from noggin to coccyx.

Napthali advances downstage right. He looks very hungry. Lights up on Napthali. He rolls his eyes back in his head and collapses. Actor playing Napthali knocks himself temporarily unconscious. Exit (temporarily) actor playing Natphali.

Lights out.

I imagine my fall got a response, but I'd muddled my hearing, blurred my vision, and lost my wind with the effort. It was an ecstatic feeling, though. And probably the only time I actually did the Method Acting thing, embodying what my character was supposed to feel.

I survived and made it out for my final bow. At the cast party, the guy who played Joseph told me I had quite a stage presence. That was almost definitely a back-handed compliment seeing as how I'd drawn some unwanted attention with my errors, but I took it at face-value and felt my first post-show-glow. I'd made it! I was praiseworthy!


One of the strange things about performance--even on a small-scale--is that people tend to judge your actual character while they're watching you. If I'm a bad painter, it stops at that--I don't have the gift. Bad actors, though, are often considered faulty people somehow, people with little access to truth and humanity.

Think of your response to a terrible high school basketball player versus your response to a terrible high school actor. In the first, there's a head-shake and a smile probably. He's gangly; he can't help it.

In the second, I'll bet you feel some kind of shame (and some kind of anger that this gangly kid has made you feel that way). You may criticize him afterwards. While you'd never say, "What makes that guy think he can hit a free throw?" you might very well say, "What makes him think he can act?"

Sensing that pressure, I'd always been frightened of going onstage. But since I liked my second act moment so much I knew I had to confront the fear. After Joseph I became a double-major in college: Theatre because I'd knocked myself out that one time; English because I'd been head-over-heels for Sally. Both cosmic pratfalls, really.

When I began sophomore year at Holy Cross, though, I was still caught up in community theatre instead of my new acting classes. I'd been cast as a cowboy in a production of Bus Stop, a play about travelers converging during a snowy Kansas night. At the time, the role seemed big enough to warrant a commute from college back home--a 90-minute drive.

(I rehearsed in this get-up in various church basements and sometimes had to lower my voice during the nightly rosary)

My small-potatoes stage "success" also gave me misplaced confidence; I started dating a friend of mine, Margaret, assuming that with enough rehearsal our relationship would be a hit. Though we had some good scenes, that assumption was hasty. Regardless of our future second act problems, though, Margaret and I were off to a solid start that Fall of 2001.

Trouble was, my cowboy character in Bus Stop, Beau Dekker (no relation to British poet Thomas Dekker), had to plant a huge kiss on a chanteuse named Cherry. In the film version of the play from the 50s, Cherry was played by Marilyn Monroe. I couldn't get over the fact that I'd be smooching a proxy-Monroe! I worried that this was cheating, though, finally figuring it wasn't as long as I didn't enjoy the lip-wranglin'.

My co-star Josie, a pretty young mother, said I was doing alright with the kiss but that maybe I could use a little more practicing. She was aware of my new quarter-girlfriend and said this with a wink, but I was shaken. So, I tried to use the logic on Margaret.

"I don't want Josie to be the person I've kissed last," I said to her. "Plus, I need to rehearse." (I puckered). This wasn't a smooth way to upgrade from hand-holding and I didn't get the run-through I was looking for.

But I needed to do something.

So, on my highway journeys home to Josie "Marilyn Monroe" Collins--in the empty-sky days following September 11th--I'd try out different lip configurations, desperate for a little practice any way I could get it.

By the time the show went on, I was run-down by national trauma and by the juggling of two women; for a time, I thought I actually was a cowboy. I remember pacing around backstage talking to myself about chuck wagons and cattle drives. I was going a little bit crazy. But I was glad to be able to act out, to have the chance to kiss the woman I liked (sorta), and at a peaceful middle-American bus stop.

It was good, old-fashioned escapism. Plus, I got to fall again when a drunken sheriff flattened me with a right hook to the pretend jaw. I went with the Face-Plant.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Theatah Stories

From the time I was in fifth grade and played The Narrator in a production of James and the Giant Peach (a role originated by Brando), I wanted to be in plays. My acting career, though, had a few notable false starts.

In middle school, I croaked through an audition for L'il Abner and was one out of, well, one students who wasn't at least made an alternate. (Perhaps my membership in AV club made Mrs. Schneider feel less guilty for cutting me--at least I'd be working the lights).

After a few years of singing lessons and the re-summoning of my crushed, post-Abner courage, I had a two-line solo at a spring concert in high school. My pseudo-debut.

"Maria," I shouted, beginning the song of the same name during my choir's medley of West Side Story songs. Nevermind that I was no Gangland Romeo: I gave it my all. "The most beautiful sound I've ev-ah hea-hd. Ma- Reeeeee- A."

My character was a street-tough from ethnic New York, longing to bed this new bodacious woman he'd met; I, however, sounded like a British castrati singing to his nursemaid.

(Fine, so maybe he sounded like that, too.)

About the same time as my mellifluous "Maria," I tried out for a play mainly in order to hang out with a girl I liked, Dana (I just met a girl named. . .). Even though she was the star-actress in school, she decided not to try-out and, of course, this was the one play I got into.

It seemed I'd be spending another winter cruelly un-girled.

When I think about high school, I'm amazed by how many of my decisions came about in this feminine-induced fashion. Because of them, I tried out for plays, played certain sports, bathed more thoroughly.

In fact, sometimes I think I study English because of the particular cuteness of one girl, Sally.

Warning: I am about to examine my life-path and trace who-I-am-now back to a series of arbitrary decisions I made when I was 16. This will have the worn-out tone of "What if that hadn't happened exactly the way it happened? Where would I be now?"

This sort of logic can almost always be refuted and, unless people have deep knowledge of String Theory, belongs only in vague conversations with the recently redeemed or with fate-obsessed adherents of E-harmony. But I can't help myself. I like the tracing; I like the hunt for my origins--probably because of something that happened to me when I was 8.

So, I was standing outside my Sophomore year English class, which I didn't love, and I saw Sally drinking from the water fountain. Her bookbag was huge for her, which was cute; her last name was styled onto it in huge block letters, which was cute. She was super-cute, which was cute.

Thus began a two-year, mostly-unspoken crush. I knew very little about Sally, but I could glean, mostly from hearsay during choir, that she liked to write and got great grades. Going into senior year, then, I was ready to make my push for her. Would I ask her on a date or get her a card or even say hello? No. I would sign up for as many English classes as possible. I begged into the honors class I thought she'd be in and added a Shakespeare seminar for good measure.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Hero declares,

O God of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man

Yes, I thought. Indeed I didth! And yet Sally was in neither of my classes. It turned out she belonged to a secret cabal of English scholars to which I couldn't pretend. They would be studying in England in March; I, un-girled, would be reading dozens of books to scrape by in the double course-load.

That first day of school was bleak, but there have been collateral benefits.

Since then, I've looked back on that moment at the water fountain and those romantic enrollments as the reason I've gone on to study English. Taking the two classes convinced me I was a word-guy, that I liked arguing, interpreting, complicating, bloviating, and being in college for 10 years to learn how to do those things.

And I do like them. So I can only thank my lucky stars that Sally wasn't an Astronomy person. I've never really enjoyed Space, but I might have gone there (twice) for cute bangs.

After the initial disappointment of senior year and Sally, I moved on to Dana. In high school, I was serially-serious about girls and never really without a love-interest. That same attraction to melodrama also led me to try out for the school-play, notably called Compulsion.

I was to portray the stodgy older brother of Big-Man-on-Campus, Trey Stewart, in the Depression-era show. I practiced for months for my big line.

During a party scene, I was supposed to say, derisively, "Russian Jews."

During that time, I could be seen around school mumbling, trying out different inflections.

Russian Jews? Russian Jews! Russian Jews?!?!

Three days before the play, though, Trey, 16, decided to go for a few beers at the local bowling alley. He was suspended and, without its star, the show did not go on.

I had to wait another year and a half before I had lines again, this time in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I'd gone to the theater that summer hoping for an ushering job, but the director had me audition by singing "Happy Birthday."

For the part of Napthali, one of the twelve brothers, it was down to me and a woman named Melody Stankiewicz. Despite my gender advantage and the fact that Melody's extreme vibrato made her head shake like a can of paint in a mixer, she scored the role.

When a better part opened up for her, though, I was their man. Happy Birthday to me!

Opening night arrived. During the first song, I was supposed to jump out from behind a Pyramid and introduce myself: "Napthali!"

I could be seen around the theatre mumbling.

Napthali. NAPTHALI!

Just as I heard my cue, though, I tripped on a styrofoam camel and swallowed my one and only line. I'd done plays to feel like a more exciting person, to be noticed a little bit, but, when my time in the lights finally came, I couldn't even say my own name.

As far as theatre success went, it felt--woe was me--like I just couldn't get over the initial hump.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plants and Plickas

Dr. True's Soup and Read's Accu-weather Meteorologist Joe Plicka and his wife Emily gave Megan and me a tremendous wedding present: our first Christmas tree--a 5'6" Douglas Fir. We picked it out (along with many other Yuletide trimmings courtesy of the P's) and put it up tonight.

And under your tree tomorrow? The triumphant return, after a three day hiatus, of my circumlocutions and silliness, covered in tinsel, and with a dash of the serio- thrown in, as always. Shake it to see what's inside. Rip a corner of the paper slowly to prolong the excitement.