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.”

Resistance Is Welcome

Alf has surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers popping up this summer. My garden has never looked so colorful even though we have the worst soil on the planet. The Sahara has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, that when broken up with toil and sweat, smiles at you for a moment, and then calls out to the clods and they come scampering back to form an impenetrable layer of steel that refuses all welcome to things green. 

Sort of like the attitude people have when confronted with the truth. It can be about anything. Health, food, books, religion, even where to take a vacation. Nobody likes to be told about something they haven’t thought of themselves. There’s an immediate revulsion. Never mind that what you’re suggesting is really good stuff, and will help them. That doesn’t seem to be the point. It’s being told something they have to do that makes them bristle. So I ask why the TED Talks are so popular, or the online seminars for turning you into a celebrity for 10 minutes garner thousands of likes on social media? Maybe the clue lies in this: if you appeal to a person’s ego instead of his well-being you stand a better chance of being heard.

There’s a word for that – pride.

Calvin says, “Hey, I run away when I hear the word bath.” 

Two in One

Alf and I made our semi-annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week. I was craving the fall colors, the rushing creek, and rain, lots of rain. To my disappointment, everything looked dry and dusty, as if it had come out of grandma’s attic for airing, and too much like drought-intolerant California. Even the theaters had the air conditioning on. In October. Shakespeare would have stopped writing and gone to the Black Sheep for more pints.

Ashland’s city leadership is a protective bunch of environmentalists and zoning Pharisees. Over the years they’ve been very careful who builds what and where. They give out building permits sparingly, but lately, it seems to me, they’ve been imbibing at the Black Sheep too many times themselves, and loosened their grip. So there’s a condo boom in town for rich retirees coming from California who want a little bit of city with their Shakespeare setting.

There’s an Ashland we discovered on the other side of the city. It’s on rolling hills with horses and sheep dotting the landscape giving it a pastoral look. Some of the properties have vineyards that wrap around the houses like scarves. The homes are large and impressive affording views of the city and the majestic tree-studded Mt. Ashland, which in winter with its snow hat on must be a glorious sight.

We sawAdo Much Ado About Nothing, a hilarious romp with a lot of word sparing set in today’s society. While I applaud the effort OSF is making to hire actors of different ethnic backgrounds, the actor who played Claudio needed some help. When he first came on stage and delivered his first line he sounded like he had eaten a mouthful of tortillas and he never really swallowed them during the rest of the story. The other play was a Chinese classic that defied clarity. It was two plays in rehearsal on the same stage, which eventually morphed into one love story. It took dogged determination to stay in your seat to the very end because nothing really made a whole lot of sense during the first act. In case you don’t want to see it when it comes to town, it’s called, Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land. It’s been a raging hit in China since forever.

Calvin says, “They forgot to throw a dog into the Chinese mix. Hey, they had everything else including an actor in a wheelchair, why not a dog? He could have howled his way through both stories.”beagle

Not Yet, Maybe Later

One of my favorite authors is coming out with a new book.

It’s called Scary Close by Donald Miller.

Apparently it’s about intimacy.

I find that comical. Don is single, or was. He recently married at 42. And his book is about what it’s like to live with another person after so many years of being a self-proclaimed hermit. Well, writers are hermits. That’s part of their DNA. You can’t write while you’re carrying on at a party, or watching a movie, or attending church. You can’t write while having a conversation with your spouse either.

I’ll bet his wife is an extrovert dragging him into public places with friends and family and ruining his writing time.

I think he should have waited at least 7 years to write it. He’s still in the honeymoon stage of married life. Nothing he says now is going to be true later. But it’s too late. He didn’t consult me.
Jacqueline Osborn

I loved his Author’s Note:

“Somebody told me we will never feel loved until we drop the act, until we’re willing to show our true selves to the people around us.

“When I heard that I knew it was true. I’d spent a good bit of my life as an actor, getting people to clap—but the applause only made me want more applause. I didn’t act in a theater or anything. I’m talking about real life.

“The thought of not acting pressed on me like a terror. Can we really trust people to love us just as we are?

“Nobody steps onto a stage and gets a standing ovation for being human. You have to sing or dance or something.

“I think that’s the difference between being loved and making people clap, though. Love can’t be earned, it can only be given. And it can only be exchanged by people who are completely true with each other. I shouldn’t pretend to be an expert, though. I didn’t get married until I was forty-two, which is how long it took me to risk being myself with another human being.

“Here are two things I found taking the long road, though:

“Applause is a quick fix. And love is an acquired taste.”

Calvin says, “Oh no, why can’t he leave well enough alone. Intimacy is a well loved bone by the fire.”beagle

 

 

A New Friend

I met a woman I instantly fell in love with. Her name is Cordelia Spencer and she’s a retired family therapist of 30 years who now wants to spend her time writing mysteries.

She’s moved out of the Bay Area for Southern Oregon where she’s among her kind – writers, actors and impersonators.

“Having spent so many years listening to patients I feel I can become them,” she says with a chuckle.  “Oh the stories I can tell.”ashland trees

Her one companion who is allowed to distract her is Maurice, a 2-year old Cardigan Corgi who was bequeathed to her by a patient who died.  You will find Maurice with a wary eye constantly by her side. “At first I was angry at having to take him, but he’s become my best friend. I suspect he plotted his way into my heart.”

Cordelia and Maurice live in a condo overlooking a beautiful park filled with trees and a roaring creek. They have no furniture in the apartment except for a bed and a computer table for Cordelia’s laptop. Cordelia prefers it that way. She spent 30 years in a home with a husband and two children surrounded by clutter. Now she has the space she craves and likes it that way. Maurice, on the other hand is not so sure because he spent the first two years of his life on silk sheets and enjoyed a pampered life. Since being adopted he’s had to learn to be a dog.

So far Cordelia has been unable to write a word. Every time she opens her laptop her children call or a friend drops by. And they usually need help. And Cordelia can’t say no.

Calvin says,”I have to meet this Maurice character. Silk sheets? Are you kidding me?” beagle

 

 

 

 

Bringing Up Kate

We just returned from our annual trek to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

They’re dumbing down Will. In an effort to appeal to a younger generation, this year they’re serving up The Taming of the Shrew in a boardwalk setting with the cast in 50’s diner costumes and a live band on stage.

Petruchio, wearing Elvis hair and Country-Western garb, struts and swaggers his way into Kate’s life, with the help of her father, and begins to deconstruct her until she’s a pliable and submissive bride.   Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM

His tactics? Starvation and sleep deprivation.

Okay, it was the way Will wrote it, so nothing new here.

Underneath the tantrums, Kate sees the shallow lives around her. She’s smart, quick witted, capable. She isn’t going to settle for stupid. But there isn’t a man worthy of her. The suitors that come courting are besotted with Bianca, Kate’s sister, who personifies a beauty as airy as meringue.

In contrast, Kate is a ferocious woman. No doubt prompted by her father’s lack of affection because he too favors his younger daughter. Nobody that comes to woo Bianca is Kate’s type.  She would squash them like bugs. What Kate needs is a man, not a limp fashionista.

Petruchio rises to the challenge. He is confident and determined. He takes Kate to be his wife and disciplines her so she grows up to be the woman she is meant to be.

It’s an interesting story for today’s young audiences who have been brought up on reality TV with all its raw vulgarities and blurring of the sexes.

Traditional values between a man and a woman still play well.

Deep down we resonate with it whether we admit or not.

Calvin said, “I would have used other ways to mature Kate, like licking her face and rubbing my nose in her hair.”  beagle

 

 

 

How To Enjoy Failing

There’s a saying on my wall that goes like this:

INEPTITUDE

If you can’t learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.

I love it.

If I’m honest with myself, I do everything poorly.

For most of my life, I wouldn’t go near things that interested me because I was sure I wouldn’t do them well.

I was a perfectionist.

But over the years I learned that perfectionism paralyzed me.

I had no fun.

I was a grouch.

So I took the plunge.

For example, cooking. I didn’t know how to boil water. That kept me away from a lot of recipes I wanted to make.

Now I boil water like a pro. Big bubbles, medium bubbles, and small bubbles.

The rest of the recipe, ask me another time.

Take painting. All my life I was told that to be a good painter, you had to learn to draw.

Drawing bores me. Too much attention spent on details. I don’t have the patience.

So I mess with watercolors on the best paper I can afford to buy. The paper produces some really good stuff, and I take the credit.

Writing. The ability to write a novel alludes me. I’ve tried so many times, only to get stuck in the middle with no way out of the maze I’ve created.

But I’m terrific at beginnings. Great characters. Lots of action. Compelling hook.

Anybody out there need an epic first chapter? Talk to me.

The truth is, I live with failure every day, but I don’t let it stop me anymore.

It scares me. I’ll admit that, but I’ve gotten used to being frightened.

I tell myself somewhere in all this mess, there’s a gem in there.

Most likely it will take somebody else to spot it.

Calvin says, “I see it. It’s the bone I buried under the chaos in your study.”