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

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

Finally a Chance!

I’ve been away in Toronto, Canada at the Pan Am Games. I had never heard of them. They don’t get the publicity or the coverage the Summer Olympics do, but they’re similar.

The Pan Am Games are the Olympics of the Americas. I got the impression they are a venue for second-tier athletes who aspire to be Olympians. They get a chance to compete against others of similar standing in an international arena. If they do well and come home with the medals, they’re on their way to being Olympic hopefuls.

The Americans came home with 265 medals. No surprise there.

What excited me, though was to see Brazil with 141, Mexico with 95 and Argentina with 75.

These guys never stand a chance at the Summer Olympics.

Argentina excelled at tennis, rowing, canoeing, fencing, water skiing, and golf. Golf? Yep. IMG_2144 (1)

Mexico outdid the others in squash, racquetball, archery, table tennis, diving, and synchronized swimming. Mexico synchronized swimming? Who would have thought.

You’d never see that at the Olympics.

So I give high praises to the genius who thought up the idea of the Pan Am Games.

What’s still missing is a venue for Middle Easterners, Aborigines, Native Americans, and the gauchos in Patagonia. Then I think we’ve covered the planet.

Calvin says, “Not so fast. What about Hound Games? Every year to see who medals as the top-speed rabbit finder. Even the rabbit has to train.” beagle

Shakespeare with a Spin

We just returned from the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon where we saw four plays, two of which were from the Shakespeare canon. The Comedy of Errors was ridiculous, The Tempest was great. The other two were modern dramas full of angst and despair, the kind of thing I like because it’s kinda where I live. It also brings out the best in a cast.

Alf and I have been going to Ashland for 27 years now so you can imagine how many plays that translates into – yikes we should be experts, but we’re not. Acting companies muck around with the settings and costumes and even with some of the lines so every play looks and feels different from year to year. We’ve seen Julius Caesar performed in gym outfits, The Taming of the Shrew in a boardwalk setting (right picture), and Romeo and Juliet with a Mexican backdrop.  Screen shot 2013-05-11 at 2.46.42 PM

ErrorsThis year an African-America cast did the Comedy of Errors (left picture) and the director set it in Harlem, so you can imagine the farce and mayhem on stage. The costumes were everything you’d expect to see in a Sunday church setting. Alf loathed it. I enjoyed the spin.

Our biggest adventure was missing out on the Groucho Marx play, The Cocoanuts. All the other plays were at 8 pm and I assumed this one was too, but no it wasn’t, it was a matinee, and we were at the mall shopping while Groucho was yucking it up with the audience. I could have kicked myself. We rushed to the box office, told them our plight, asked to be added to the next performance only to be told it was on the day we were going home. So Groucho came and went without us. “Man does not control his own fate. The women in his life do that for him.” Alf couldn’t agree more.

Calvin says, “All those settings, all those new smells, why don’t you take me with you? I know the hotel takes pets. I checked online.” beagle

 

A Zooey Christmas

My sister and her husband gifted us with a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo over the holidays.

I’m not much for zoos because I feel sorry for the cooped up critters and spend my time not enjoying them, but plotting their escape.

This zoo, however changed my opinion.

It’s small, well cared for, and the animals seemed if not content, peacefully resigned to their habitats.

The highlight was feeding the giraffes. The docent gave me a handful of lettuce leaves, and told me to offer them to Michael, the alpha giraffe who was at the railing following my every move. Michael was three stories high, wore an apricot-brown colored coat, with liquid brown eyes, and long dark lashes. I offered him a lettuce leaf, and in a blink, Michael rolled out a very long grey tongue, and with the dexterity of fingers, grabbed the leaf, rolled it into his mouth and chewed.  IMG_1952

It was a real tongue and cheek experience.

He consumed the leaves in a nano-second and never said thank you.

The snow leopards were my next favorite, but they had just woken up and were in no mood to be sociable. Or maybe they’re always that way. True introverts who only want the comfort of their cave.

The penguins were the most gregarious, honking their way through their morning bath, as were the two red amazon parrots squawking from their perch as they preened each other.

I did feel sorry for the two elephants. They could have benefited from a good book or a stimulating conversation.

The flamingos ignored us and bent their necks into their wings and went to sleep. But that’s what flamingos do, especially in Vegas, decorating people’s front yards.

There was an enormous grey-headed vulture, the size of a small car, in his cage with a docent who was cleaning his habitat with a broom and dust pan. She moved, he loped, following her like a shadow all around the cage. We named him Hitchcock.

I’ve never understood why zoos don’t have a pet purchase policy. I would have emptied the place out. Except for Hitchcock. I don’t like stalkers.

Calvin says, “Pity. Hitchcock and I would make a great team. I’d find the rabbit, he’d take it from there.” beagle

Digging in with My Bare Heels

I made up my mind that I wasn’t going to submit to the full body scanners at the airport.

I’m convinced all that radiation is bad for my health no matter what reassurances we have been given.

So I waited my turn in line, barefooted, beltless and breathless. I moved closer to the dreaded machine.

When it was my turn, I said, “No!” with conviction.

“No?” said the TSA agent. cropped-rubbed-my-tummy.jpg

“Yes, I mean no,” I said.

“It’s the law,” the agent said glaring at me.

“It’s not the law for my health,” I said.

“Very well. That means a pat down,” he said.

“Fine,” I said.

The agent stretched out both arms barring me from moving away and held me there. He called out, “Female agent. Pat down here.”

The other passengers in line were getting free entertainment even before boarding.

I didn’t care.

A female agent appeared. She put  on a pair of latex gloves with a fanfare and gave a little snap at the end. It was clear I had interrupted her coffee time.

“This way,” she said and motioned for me to follow her.

“Do you want to do this in a private room or here?” she asked.

“Here,” I said and smiled. I wanted witnesses.

“Very well. First, I have to tell you what I’ll be doing,” she said.

“Skip that. Just do it,” I said. I smiled again.

“I can’t. It’s the law.” Then she slanted her head upwards to show me a camera that was recording everything.

Witnesses! I loved it. I smiled even more.

She asked me to stand with legs apart and arms outstretched.

I complied.

I smiled at my audience in front and above me.

The agent ran her hands all over me, from head to toe, in a professional manner.

“You’re free to go,” she said when she finished and removed her gloves with another snap.

After reading so many horror stories in the media about pat-downs, I was prepared for the worst. Instead I was shocked at how decent an experience it was.

Calvin says, “If that had been me, I would slobbered all over her face.” beagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blaze of Glory

I spent the week in Oregon gawking at the trees wearing their fall fashion colors.

One was more beautiful than the other.

The palette went from reds, pinks and beige to oranges, yellows and sage greens.  photo (78)

I enjoy walking under the trees and looking up. The experience is so beautiful it hurts. I’m enveloped in color, but it’s more than that. It’s as if the tree itself is apprehending me and all my senses are being acted upon, whispering its message.

I call it a porthole to heaven, a sample of what’s to come. And it creates a longing for more.

The experience lasts and gains strength, even as I reflect back on it later on. I am gripped by it. It wrenches me away from myself. It forces me to pay attention to the clues all around me that point to another place, just beyond my reach.

Calvin says, “Oh brother, you’re waxing too philosophical for me. Those trees are there for peeing, for telling the world I was there.”beagle