Ode to High School Teachers

In high school I loved two teachers. One taught Algebra, the other Literature. I had flunked Algebra and I would need to take it again. The teacher knew she had me as a second attempt student. Perhaps there were more of us in the class than I knew, but we never divulged our dull brains to each other. She was young, thin, with dark, short, curly hair. She deconstructed the concepts and made them easy. And for some reason, this time around my brain opened up like a Monet’s lily and I mastered the class. You’d think for such a milestone as this I would have remembered her name, sent her on a world cruise, given her a parade, blessed her continuously, and still kept in touch with her, but I didn’t do any such thing. I was just relieved to be finished with Algebra for the rest of my life and I could graduate. Life is filled with people along the way that help you master certain skills, even some you will never use like Algebra. They impart their gift for a moment and then vanish like shooting stars.

Image result for tony statueMy English teacher introduced me to plays, novels and poetry. She was fond of having me read out loud in literature class. That led to auditioning for the school play and getting the lead role. On opening night, after the performance, the mother of stage actor Richard Kiley, who was playing the role of Don Quixote in The Man from La Mancha in SF, urged me to study acting in college and go into the theater. But I had no self confidence. My mother had died two years before and I couldn’t picture myself doing it. And there went an opportunity I regret to this day. Could have I made it as an actor? Would I have become a Vanessa Redgrave or a Meryl Streep? I’ll never know.

Calvin says, “You’re actor enough for me. Especially when you’re yelling my name when you think I’m lost.”

Another Year Done

I’m eating leftover deviled eggs and freezing. There’s a cold wind whipping the dead leaves into swirls today. The kind of weather that belongs on the east coast, not here. What’s happening to this side of the country? This is California, not Connecticut.

The deviled eggs, well I made too many this week and my guests didn’t eat them all. They left them for me to do that. Calvin, of course, is too eager to oblige, but I know better. He’ll rip one or two or three throughout the day that make me want to fumigate the house. He gets a bone instead. IMG_8942

Alf is buried in blankets, Calvin is under the bed comforter with only his tail showing, and I’m at the computer dashing this off. A rather inauspicious end of the year, I admit, but I’ve never been one for noisy cocktail parties with fireworks in the background. That’s better left for Hollywood, or New York City, or maybe Paris. And since I’m not there, I’m happy to huddle by the fire, even if it’s a spare-the-day day, reading my book, and saying cheers to all of you. Thank you for visiting my blog this year and being a gracious readership. Happy New Year to you!

Calvin says, “I read your blog, too. It’s time to give me a starring role. I want more lines. I need a make-up artist. My own chair with my name on it. And I certainly need better food. Including eggs.”  beagle

 

 

It’s All About the Drama

“People are basically insane,” playwright David Manet says in a writing class I’m taking. “We miss a connection, we have an evil impulse that wants to lead us astray,” he goes on. “We live on the dark side and the cure is religion. Another word for religion is drama.”

Did I hear him correctly? Yes. Manet is a devoted Jew, and espouses his religion with conviction and fervor.

“All drama is failure and lies,” he says.

You can say that again. Story of my life.

“Don’t be boring,” he warns. FullSizeRender (20).jpg

How can you be boring if your life is full of drama? Everybody’s life is dramatic. It’s so dramatic Hollywood couldn’t invent it, I say. And since you’re the protagonist in your own story, make it good.

“Dialogue is just gossip,” he tells me. Now he’s talking. I’ve got enough for several books.

“Narration is the death of drama,” he continues. No wonder school is boring.

“The live audience in a play are idiots individually, but collectively they’re genius,” he says. “They paid you a compliment by coming to see your play. Drama helps them face the truth and they come for the truth.”

“Movies don’t challenge people, drama does,” he says. I’ve been saying that for years. To prove the point, just listen to a child explain away something he did, like break the TV screen with a baseball. It’s drama at its best.

Calvin says, “It’s drama for me when I go after a rabbit. My nose quivers, my body is on alert, and my singing voice takes over. Better than opera.”  beagle

 

 

The Politics of Illusion

I had always known the Oscars were political, but my convictions grew to the size of Mt. Everest last night.

This year there were more actors of color nominated for awards than ever before. Why? Because public opinion had made a stink.  oscar

Why standing ovations for those of color who won? I think it was a way of assuaging collective guilt for only honoring white actors over the years.

It was good for their collective soul that they had a major blunder at the end. It revealed how choreographed and scripted the evening was, everyone on automatic, with no one paying attention to the details. It also humbled them, made them a little more like us.

The comment that gagged in my throat was Ms. Davis’ that “actors are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.” What? You mean playing someone you’re not and have never been is the only way to live life? Really?

Calvin says, “She was in LA LA Land, didn’t you know?” beagle

 

Chaos on Parade

We’ve had two weeks of President Trump and the country is upside down in turmoil, or so the media tells us. Now the speculation is whether Melania will be joining her husband in the White House or keeping to her high-rise luxurious surroundings in New York. Either place she can’t go very far anymore without a Secret Service detail following her every step. Where’s the fun in that? She might as well immigrate to the White House where the action is. I hope she emerges as one of the best First Ladies we’ve had in years because she’s certainly going to turn heads wherever she goes.  img_1402

Now there’s talk of California wanting to secede and become its own country. Sort of what England has done with the EU. Except are we ready for Hollywood to run the place? You don’t think they’ll keep Sacramento as the state capitol do you, when they have studio lots galore where they can set up a throne for the president? And who would be president? Arnold Schwarzenegger? At least he had a real run at politics as governor. Martin Sheen? I suppose he could refer back to his fake experience as president in the West Wing. I know. Tony Robbins. He’s so popular and has helped so many lost souls regain their emotional equilibrium that he’d win by a landslide. Besides, how long can Tony keep walking over live coals and bellowing, “You can do it!” He needs a new gig.

Calvin says, “I like the sound of citizen of California. I’d get a beagle green card and better food.” beagle

 

 

Stagecraft

I watched the last debate. Alf left the room saying, “I’m exhausted.” He was right of course, the entire nation has been on a marathon run of insults, lies and scandal.

We have arrived at reality TV status. Not surprising since we thrive on this genre. Why would we expect our candidates to be anything less than entertaining?

What was missing for Trump was a hair stylist and a script beyond toscarhe one-liner attack. There were moments, especially up close, he looked like the Grinch in pancake make-up.

Clinton looked starched and at moments scared. Behind her rehearsed poise, she was bracing herself for the inevitable questions about the disgraces in her life. However, she was so well scripted that she pulled off the performance of a lifetime. She deserves an Oscar for the best performance of an actor in a leading role. It’s no surprise that her personality type either goes in for acting or politics.

If Trump wins the presidency, we will get all the glam and eye-candy we crave. The media will drool capturing Melania’s every model move. She will light up the White House and elevate it to mogul status. That in itself will distract Putin and ISIS for a while.

Clinton, on the other hand, will be returning to her old digs with her scandal-worn philandering partner. A rather stale spectacle in comparison.

Calvin says, “Do you know what’s really a shame? There’s no mention of a dog coming to the White House. But then again maybe they’re too many already.”  beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow

September 21 was World Gratitude Day. I completely missed it. Probably because I was grumbling. It’s my default mode.

Alf and I were on vacation in Ashland, Oregon at the Shakespeare Festival that week. One night we saw Sully, the Clint Eastwood movie. I can say I was grateful I wasn’t on that heart-stopping flight. You forgot it was Tom Hanks. He was Captain Chesley Sullenberger making life decisions in that pilot’s seat and you were right there next to him.

I was grateful to have seen the best Hamlet and Richard II ever. They rivaled anything you’d see on Broadway. fullsizerender-28

On the drive home we came to a snarl of traffic on the highway. “Now what?” Alf said. “Probably an accident,” the know-it-all in me said.  As we inched closer we noticed a full grown deer splayed dead blocking the four lanes. The lines of cars sat there with engines idling. “Now what?” Alf said again. This time I didn’t have a response.

Suddenly a car closest to the dead animal veered off to the right. The driver, a tall, strong muscled man, got out, his wife too, and he ran across the highway and grabbed the 120 pound animal by the front legs and dragged it to the left side of the road and left it there in a heap. Then he ran back to his car and got in. Nobody honked thank you. Nobody waved. Nothing. In a flash the traffic started up again and began rushing past the deer without any thought to what just happened. Stunning.

I was thankful for that man who took the initiative in front of oncoming traffic. Fortunately the drivers in the front lines acted as a blockade otherwise who knows what carnage could have transpired with man and beast.

Calvin says, “How gutless of the driver that killed him to drive off like that leaving others to pick up the mess. If this had happened in the woods, my tribe of beagles would have surrounded the beast and howled for help.”  beagle