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Monday, June 23, 2014

First Day of Summer

The first day of Summer was the other day, from an astronomical perspective. We have already reached 90 degrees, with a zillion percent relative humidity a couple of times; so from a meteorological perspective a calendar date is somewhat ho-hum.
At times such as this, writers extol the merits, joys, and delights of the season. This ain't one those.
Recently, I have been making some observations. Oh, I know, there are the usual run-of-the-mill observations we all make. Such as cats chase birds, dogs chase cats, angry cat-owners chase dogs. Things like when the needle on the fuel gauge drops about a quarter inch below the “E”, your vehicle will soon cease to function. You know, the little things such as testing 15 year old black powder by pouring some into a small pile and proceeding to drop a lit match on top, producing a POOF of flame and smoke. Perhaps the singed eye-brow look will make a come back soon. (NOTE TO SELF: there is no expiration date on black powder). These are just the normal observations of Life.
I have been noticing some BIGGIES.
For example, did you know people with OCD tend to do things in a certain manner? I am OCD, and never noticed this until grocery shopping one Saturday with my Lovely Bride.
As we meandered aimlessly about the store, placing various items in our cart, I was making a concerted effort to have some semblance of order. You know, the fresh produce over here, the eggs and other dairy go there, canned items have their place, cereals here... a very simple, straight forward approach. What does the woman do?
She grabs stuff from the shelves or the freezer section and chucks it anywhere!
Good Grief! I was appalled to see her toss a bag of frozen peas right on top of a bunch of bananas! Then, without a moment's care or concern, she plopped a bag of frozen broccoli on the peas!
Frantically, I moved these intruders to their proper space, when-WHAM- a box of waffles lands on the canned tomatoes!
My word, our cart was transformed from order to utter chaos within the length of the freezer section! Frozen fish for making dog-food was nestled by the butter. Mixed vegetables were cuddling with the cottage cheese. Somehow the London broil had slipped its moorings with the other meat and was getting cozy with a bunch of curly parsley.
Thankfully, the eggs were spared these indignities, being nestled in the kid's seat. They and the blueberries gazed upon the turmoil below with a sympathetic “there but for the Grace of God” expression.
I abandoned all attempts to restore order somewhere near the deli. I forced myself to repress the disturbing images; which is a classic coping mechanism, knowing the check-out line would offer a chance to set things aright.
I simply trailed LB, all the while in a near catatonic state. I cringed upon witnessing the atrocity of bathroom tissue being plopped atop the eggs and berries. I agonized in silence for the peaches when a miscreant jar of Vap-O-Rub tumbled upon them.
Finally, the check-out lanes beckoned; gleaming with their promise of Hope, Order and Decorum. Like the New World must have appeared to Columbus, they danced upon my sight.
With a great sense of relief, I began to happily arrange items in their proper spots; produce with produce (subdivided by type), cans with cans, frozen items with their kin and so on. I only regret there not being time enough to have all the can labels facing the same way. But....
Reality descended upon me. THUMP!! THUMP! BANG!! My Lovely Bride was-get this now- TOSSING stuff all OVER the moving belt!! I gave her an imploring look while whispering “Please, I can do it.”
Our private moment was shattered by the most grating of laughs. Looking up, I saw a Neanderthal man actually encouraging her! “Har-har-har! There you go, Lady! Just throw that bleep on there! Har-har-har!” Good grief.. talk about waving red in front of a bull! She giggled, all the while commencing to render my neatly arranged belt to a state of total dis-organization.
I could only stand by in stunned silence. I liken it to seeing a train-wreck, you don't want to watch, but you are too mortified to look away. I stifled a sob as canned good mingled with the lettuce and frozen fish.
Finally, we loaded our bags and left this chamber of horrors behind us. We headed to the safety and comfort of our home. I tried to ignore the cries of outrage and despair emanating from the bags in the back of the SUV.
I am making fairly rapid progress now. I can talk about the incident without hyperventilating . The prognosis is positive.

My therapist feels I will be able to enter a grocery store again before Summer is over.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Father's Day

The other day was Father’s Day. Or “dios de Padres” for some. This is the masculine equivalent of Mother’s Day, except with no frilly, lacy flowery stuff.

Have you ever perused the greeting card racks at these two commemorative days? Mother’s Day cards feature flowers, song-birds, pastel tints, soft-focused photographs, perhaps a close up of a toddler’s hand grasping Mom’s.   Such is the typical stock-in-trade for Mother’s Day.

The verses contained within Mother’s Day cards lean toward the “I-am-so-blessed-to-have-you-for-my-Mom. You-are-a-saint” sort; all written in flowing script. The typical Mother’s Day card is so sweet, it should carry an FDA warning for the potential of sugar shock; “Warning! If you are diabetic, you may want to get another card!”

Mother’s Day cards tend to be rather ornate, with frills, bows, and delicately crafted pop-up images contained within.

Father’s Day cards, on the other hand, tend to have a somewhat more limited color palette available to work with. Primarily, you will find browns, tans, blues, greens; the occasional red or yellow for contrast… that is pretty much the color range in Dad’s cards. Nothing gaudy to be found here, no siree Bob!

Images on Father’s Day cards veer off toward deer, pheasants, ducks, rainbow trout, fishing equipment, hunting gear, classic cars, boats, classic tools, or sports equipment, with golf items leading the pack. No cutesy soft focus photos here. I mean, Dad wants to count every tine in that buck’s rack.

The sentiments in Dad’s cards are somewhat shorter, printed in block type. There tends to be a preponderance of one and two syllable words also. The usual tone is something like this; “Thanks-for-being-my-Dad.  I-guess someone-had-to-be-since-Mom-didn't-hook-up-with-Batman.”  Sometimes, they are less mushy, more along the lines of “Glad-you-are-my-Dad. Thanks-for-teaching-me-to-belch-the-alphabet.”

Oh, one more little thing: the price. Mothers casually glance at the price (which is tough to do while fumbling for her reading glasses), and think “Well, a seven dollar card. How nice!” Dads will stare at those little figures, and think “Two-fifty? What were you thinking, Girl? That can buy a gallon of milk for the kids! Good grief.”

On Mother’s Day, Mom is “given a break”, and is treated to a wonderful meal at a nice restaurant in the company of 200 other Mothers with their families. Dear Old Mom gets some special time with her children gathered around her; all gazing upon her with rapt admiration. If one glances about the room, they are nearly blinded by scores of light beams descending from the Heavenlies upon all the Moms.

Dad’s day is somewhat simpler. All that is required is a trip to the grocery for some form of animal protein to slap on the grill. Add some home-made baked beans, slaw, tater or pasta salad, and the old boy is happy.
Being in the yard, standing at the grill while his family is enjoying a beautiful Spring day is perfectly alright by him. Toss in a nap, and Life is very good indeed.

Mother’s Day gifts run toward flowers, live plants, chocolates, cologne, items of apparel, and so forth. 

Dad’s day gifts gravitate toward tee-shirts, tools, fishing or outdoors stuff, maybe a book or DVD for the more cerebral Fathers out there. And, neckties…how can I forget? I have ties from 30 or more Father’s Days ago. Although I no longer wear ties on a daily basis (Thank you, Jesus!), I will periodically run my fingers along their silken length as a memory generated smile creases my countenance.

However, to me, Father’s Day is so much more.

I reflect upon the four little lives God saw fit to bless me with. If it were not for them, I would have no reason to acknowledge the day.

My greatest honor is being called “Dad” by Char, Shannon, Aubrey, and Gabe. I have been double blessed with my four “later in life” children; Bill, Eric, John, and Teri. They are not my “in-laws”; no, I feel for each of them as if they were my biological children.

And, the grandchildren; Dalton, Domenic, Dakota, Delaney, Bailey, Skeie, Gwen, and Rocky, all the way from the age of 21 to 4 years; they are the best grandchildren anyone could want. I don’t care what all the other grandparents say.

Thank you all for being my family.

And…an extra special recognition to my Lovely Bride, were it not for her, I would be a pretty lonely guy.

I just pray I can be the husband, Dad and Papa they all deserve.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Confessions of a Movie Extra

This past weekend was somewhat unusual for my Lovely Bride and me.  No, the Lake Erie Monster didn’t wash ashore.  Gold was not discovered in the river at the base of the hill. And I am still waiting for those Publisher’s Clearing House people to show up with the balloons and huge cardboard check made out to moi.

Rather, we were extras in a movie. Honest to goodness.

LB has always loved to act, and one of her aspirations was to be in films. As so often happens, Life comes along, dreams get placed on the back-burner. From the back-burner, they are moved to the counter-top, and finally become nestled in the pantry of our hopes.  Rarely, is one able to breathe some life into those long dormant dreams.

We have both been fairly active in theatrical productions over the years. Still, it is not the same as being on camera.  She learned of a local website which posts auditions, casting opportunities and such for both theatrical and film. While perusing the site, she came upon an independent producer filming a short in the Cleveland area.  There was a need for extras to be in church service scenes.

The film, the title I will let you all know when it is finalized, is slated for inclusion in various film festivals, such as Sundance and The Cleveland International Film Festival; among others.

The film is a contemporary telling of the Old Testament book of Hosea. For those who may not be familiar with the account; let me provide an annotated Cliffs Notes version. (I wonder, are the venerable yellow and black Cliff’s Notes still published? If anyone knows, let me know.)

Hosea was a minor prophet of God in pre-Christ Israel. He is considered a minor prophet due to the brevity of the book which bears his name. He did not make his living by extracting minerals from the earth while proclaiming God’s Word, nor did his prophesying have less importance than Isaiah or Daniel or Ezekiel would have.

Essentially, the story goes like this:

Boy becomes man of God. Boy meets girl. Girl is a harlot (in today’s terms “a ho”). God tells boy to marry harlot, named Gomer. Boy says “What? Are you serious God?” God confirms He is serious. Boy marries girl. Girl keeps up same old same old. Boy and girl have children, a real Maury Povich “Who yo’ Daddy?” event. Boy tries to get girl to give up working it. Girl says “No way”, and bugs out. Boy finds girl on slave auction block, worn down, haggard. Boy purchases girl. Boy gives girl freedom. Girl and boy stay together. God uses this as object lesson to Israel about spiritual adultery caused by worshiping idols.

You know, just your basic love story.

All of which leads to our entering a small, converted storefront church on the near east side of Cleveland early on Saturday morning. LB and I saunter in Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church on East 93rd Street.  Immediately, we conclude we would be fairly easy to pick out in the crowd scenes.  We met the producer/lead actor Desmond. He introduced us to other cast members, telling us the premise of the film. We then took our seats in the small sanctuary with other extras to wait filming.

The scene we filmed initially was when Gomer (who is seeking the Lord), brings several of her friends to church, so they can give up the World’s Oldest Profession as well. The congregation was to respond in a manner representative of good church goers should a bunch of ladies of the evening come slipping into the Sunday morning service.  There are some  twists in this story, all of which add to the interest.

We filmed one take. The director didn’t really like that one, so we filmed another take. One of the speakers bobbled their lines. So, we did another take, and yet another take. Finally, about 10 takes later, the director was satisfied he had enough to work with. Glancing at my watch, I saw it was about 11 A.M. Great! We could get out of here and get some stuff done.  Besides, my back-sides were becoming numb from sitting in the same pew for so long. Other needs were making themselves known which required my urgent attention.

No, now he wanted to take shots from about a thousand different angles. When that was concluded, I was sure we could bug out. Au contraire, as now it was time for close-ups. Finally, at approximately 1:20, we broke for lunch.

We chatted with other cast members; LB got some very valuable networking accomplished. For my part, I made small talk with other folks.  Then, we were called back for another church service scene. And… much to our chagrin, we forgot to bring a chance of clothing for a “different Sunday”! I ditched my sport coat, borrowed a tie from another cast member, and rolled up my sleeves. LB borrowed a jacket from another lady, and Voila! A whole different look was accomplished. The magic of films!

We took one shot. Then another shot. That was followed by a third, and a fourth and a couple dozen more shots. Finally, we heard the final “Cut”, and were released. Returning the articles we had borrowed to their rightful owners, we bid our goodbyes to our fellow actors.Shaking hands with one young man, he stated; “Well, see ya in the movies”

Then it settled in. We are in a movie!

Six hours of our day may result in 30 or so seconds of total on screen time. I walked away with a much deeper appreciation of what is entailed in the production of a film or a television show.  I had some sense of what was required, having written, directed and been in many stage performances. However, as a stage director, I only have to be concerned with sight lines, vocal inflection, actors motions, lighting, sound, set design, costumes, scene continuity…yeah that is about it. A film director also has to take into account various angles of scenes, lighting for each angle and sound recording from various directions… so much more than I ever have to deal with. 

As well as the editing process. At least, they can edit out bobbled lines, things falling on the set, sounds from off set. What happens with a live performance, I have no control over. I have truly learned when opening night comes around; all I can do is let go and let God take over.
To all the film makers out there, I tip my hat.
Oh, yeah… see ya in the movies!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fire of Time

The other night my Lovely Bride and I traveled eons in time.

Who would have imagined a short two mile drive could be so impactful?

We left the air conditioned comfort of LB’s SUV to begin our trek across the grassy plains. The deep forest primeval loomed before us. From the edge of the daunting woodland, Mankind’s first friend and foe gleamed.

With every step, the wilds of suburbia became transformed to another epoch. Finally, we gathered around the fire, family, close friends and dogs joining us.  Sure, we rested weary derrieres in comfortable lawn chairs while enjoying cool beverages.

We heard a turkey calling, watched the shadowy movement of deer through the trees with no worries about our place in the food-chain. We had no fear of saber - toothed tigers, cave bears or even over-sized birds of prey. We only had to contend with that nemesis of every continent on the planet; the blasted mosquito!

The fire was not a survival necessity; the evening meals had been prepared on modern stoves and consumed in comfortable homes. Fending off hypothermia certainly was not a concern on this pleasant late May evening. It was not required for illumination, as there was access to outdoor lights, flashlights, and candles.  To a pragmatist, there was no reason whatsoever for the fire to exist.

Others could (no, probably would) condemn the fire as a blatant act of global irresponsibility. With callous disregard for the planet, we spewed unknown amounts of carbon aloft, while destroying the Earth’s lungs by felling trees; with gas powered chain saws none the less.
It would be of little consequence to those of such a view to point out the trees which had been cut were American ash; killed by the non-native, invasive Emerald Ash borer.

As the evening shadows deepened into night, the fire became a beacon summoning grandchildren, their friends, and the dogs to its comforting light. Also, the siren song of s’mores, those delectable sugar laden treats. There is something about toasted golden brown gooey marshmallows, a slab of chocolate lightly melting between crispy graham crackers that are irresistible.  (Note to self: s’mores are not a good snack choice while sporting a full beard).

Soon three generations were gathered around; sharing stories, laughing, enjoying a small portion of life. It required little imagination for our little group to be transformed to a long ago time. Perhaps on this very spot, early humans gathered for a fire. Encamped in a deep forest, they could hear the river splashing over newly formed rocks. The crackling and snapping of burning tree limbs provided a comfort and security. Beyond the ring of firelight, eyes of wild animals glowed eerily in the darkness.  But, all fears were negated with the application of another branch to the fire.

Time slipped by, stars glistened through the tree leaves high overhead. A soft wind moaned, and a cry of lament went up as a marshmallow slipped off the weenie fork, to a fiery demise. Soon, the eyes of grand-children become heavy, marshmallows, chocolate bars, and crackers are packed up.  Our little band withdrew from the fire, all except for one keeping watch as it gently burned itself down..

The aroma of wood smoke lingered in the air, beckoning us to return soon.

I know we will.