Wednesday, February 28, 2007
I was born on Dec. 27, 1953. Jeni gave birth to my friend since birth Roger on Dec. 25, 1953. Jeni Pearson knew me, in a sense, as long as anyone, since the day I was born.
Growing up, especially once we reached Little League baseball age, Roger and I spent countless hours and days together. This continued on into the 1980's until Roger's marriage and my second marriage and both of our increased responsibilities made the casual hanging out we used to do much more difficult.
In all the time I spent with Roger, the constant source of support and good cheer was his mother, Jeni.
I wrote this already, and I was reminded of it today during the memorial: Jeni Pearson came as close as anyone I have ever known to embodying the Kingdom of God in her cheerful, kind, generous, giving soul. She was beyond admirable in her capacity to give and serve others. Jeni saw to it that each and every person she came in contact with left any time spent with her feeling like the finest person in the world. That was her gift. She affirmed and encouraged and saw the best in people.
The last round of golf I played with Jeni was in August, 1979 at Avondale. I fought all day with a terrible duck hook that rattle of ponderosa pines and had me rattling shots out of the trees all day long. At the end of that round, although my scorecard hardly showed it, Jeni had me feeling like Arnold Palmer.
Today's service took place at Macy and Son Mortuary in McMinnville. Recorded music was piped into the memorial service room as we gathered. During the service, recordings of Jeni's husband, Con, playing the piano, my brother-in-law's brother, Kevin, singing a tribute to Jeni, and a woman singing and playing the flute were all piped in. This music punctuated an ongoing tribute the pastor paid to Jeni throughout the service, a tribute that drew heavily and appropriately upon Scripture, at Jeni's request, as a way of paying tribute to her devotion to God and Jesus Christ.
Jeni practiced Protestant Christianity of the pared down style. When I was young, Jeni worshipped as a Lutheran, a more liturgical denomination. But, at some point, Jeni and Con began attending services at less liturgical and sometimes non-denominational churches.
The pastor leading today's service is the minister of Layfaette Community Church. My guess is that the church zeroes in on the Word of God, without ornamentation, without ritual or rite. I don't know that, but it's what I surmise, without prejudice.
I say this because of how very different Jeni's service was from Jonah's. Today, the pastor asked us to celebrate Jeni having taken residence in her new home, her home in the room of God with its many, many mansions. Jeni's suffering had ended. The pastor asked us to be free of sorrow, to take joy in Jeni's deliverance, and be at peace with her lovely life and glorious entrance into enternity.
Jonah's service was built on ceremony. The sounds were sounds of mourning and wailing. At Jeni's service, the tone was restrained, the emotional expressions quiet, reserved. At Jonah's service, the rites of the Indian Shaker church invited all of us to enter into the wailing and grief of losing Jonah and at many times during the evening, Jonah's mother, Louise, wailed her grief without constraint.
I rarely ask anyone reading my writing to read my words in the way I intend them. I usually let my words do their own work.
Not tonight. Tonight I am asking you to read my words as respectful for how Jonah's tribe sent Jonah on his trail to to join the Great Creator, as respectful for the open expression of emotion and the sense of mystery created by the chanting, the standing throughout the ceremony, candles, turning in circles, procession, the words of worship I could not understand, the raising of hands, the singing of songs I did not know.
I am asking you to read my words about Jeni's service as equally respectful of restraint, of direct spoken words from the Scripture, of the downplaying of mystery and emphasis on certainty, of music played in a style I am deeply familiar with, in a funeral home room where we all remained seated, in an atmosphere hushed.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
2. One of my WR 115 students, Al, is a Colville Indian who has lived in the vicinity of Klamath Falls most recently. He is 35 years old and has returned to school this term. He needed a ride home after Jonah's memorial service and he told me many things about himself and his life that I very much enjoyed learning about.
3. I think that my students understood how the different styles Glenn Gould employed in playing the Goldberg Variations, first in 1955 and then in 1980 could be applied to how the same content makes a very different impact when written in different styles.
I had never heard much about Jonah's talents and gifts until tonight. Jonah was a graffiti artist and several of his fellow artists were present, young men who snuck around at night with Jonah and helped him bring form and color to bare walls. I realize his work was not welcome in some quarters. I realize his work was not appreciated in some quarters. I realize that he had to have fellow artists on lookout for him so that he could sneak into shadows when the police came around to where he was doing is work/vandalism.
Pictures of his work were available at a table at the long house. His work was bright, vivid, full of vitality. Most of the times I'd seen Jonah at Jeff's house he rarely spoke. He seemed lethargic, apathetic. But he had a passion for color, for spray paint. I was happy to hear one person after another bear witness to how much this art meant to Jonah. Knowing about this passion inspired me to see Jonah differently than I ever had before.
Jonah lived an active night life. He lived a life at night near rivers and on the sly on the streets of Eugene. Listening to his street/night friends speak about their love for Jonah illuminated how he had a band of brothers who lived lives full of adventure, escapades, and brushes with the law. I realized, more than I ever had before, that Jonah had fellowship with a lot of friends and that they lived on a particular edge of Eugene society that rolled on the brink of law breaking and was held together by a high regard for and a deep loyalty to one another.
Grief engulfed Jonah's mother Louise. As tradition dictated, she had cut her hair very short. Throughout the dinner preceding the service she buried her face in the shoulder of one family member, one friend after another. Behind her sunglasses and with her hair shorn and with her diabetic shaking, Louise seemed years and years older than she is. Grief aged her shockingly. Her wailing, as friend after friend and family member after family member came to comfort her, filled the longhouse to overflowing. I've never heard pain so mournfully expressed.
When, after the formal Shaker ceremony, she addressed the congregation, it was as if Louise visited us from a higher plane of reality, with prophetic insight about the deep value of the Indian traditions she had learned as a child and had passed on to her children. She told the youth present to slow down. She wailed with confusion about the fact that her husband had died shortly after his twenty-ninth birthday and now the same had happened to Jonah. The meaning of this coincidence was lost on her. It was lost on all of us. It was eerie and grievous. It is unjust.
I know little to nothing about Indian traditions: last night we shared a generous buffet dinner; friends filed to the front one by one to shake Louise's older son David's hand and tell us about Jonah; the Shaker ceremony followed; the family gave each of us a gift; Louise spoke; David sang a prayer.
I thought the entire night, the entire experience of death seemed profoundly familiar to the gathered friends and family of Louise. Too familiar.
Monday, February 26, 2007
First was Lamar Lundy, the former defensive end for the L.A. Rams and member of the Fearsome Foursome. Although I was a fan of the 49ers, I admired the Rams' defense a lot, and Lamar Lundy was my favorite of the four because I thought his name sounded so cool!
Then the Supersonic/Sun/Celtic guard Dennis Johnson died suddenly on Friday. I was sad to know both men died. I was particularly shocked by Dennis Johnson's death. I loved his game. When he was moved into the starting lineup of the SuperSonics, he elevated their team's play in the late seventies with his dogged defense and his uncanny ability to hit shots at key times in games. He was the MVP of the 1979 NBA finals when the Sonics won their only NBA championship. Most people know Johnson for his play with the Celtics and well they should. He came to the Celtics and solidified their backcourt, gave the Celtics a reliable guard to handle the ball and run the offense, and a defender who could make Andrew Toney and Magic Johnson work harder. He was part of two championship teams with the Celtics and was a player who I enjoyed and who inspired me.
On Friday, two other deaths occurred, but I didn't hear about them until over the weekend. I was born on December 27, 1953 in the Wardner Hospital and two days earlier my life-long friend, Roger Pearson was born. Roger and I have done things together ever since church nursery school, kindergarten, Little League baseball, going to Whitworth College, and both moving to Oregon.
Roger's mother, Jenny, died on Friday at the end of her struggle with cancer. For most of my life, I've looked for people who seemed to me to embody the Kingdom of God, who are true disciples of what Jesus Christ taught and embodied in his life. One of these people was always Jenny Pearson. She was a generous, kind, comforting woman who lived what it meant when the gospels tell us we should be the word become flesh. She and her husband Conrad moved to Oregon many years ago. Services for her will be in McMinville and I'll be able, thankfully, to pay her life tribute at her memorial service.
That same day, my long-time friend and fellow English instructor at Lane, Jeff Harrison, lost his step-son Jonah to liver failure. Jonah's life was always difficult. Jonah is an Indian, born on the reservation in La Push. He lost his father to suicide. He was always a big boy, teased when he was younger. In his teenage years he began to drink heavily and was not receptive to help. He, I'm afraid, drank himself to death. It's another sad chapter in Jeff and Louise's life. Tomorrow will be a dinner in memory of Jonah at the University of Oregon longhouse. I am fortunate to have the time to join in.
The next two days will hold the joy that comes from my work and the company of my students and fellow teachers, and will hold the grief that comes from the loss of Jenny and Jonah.
1. Tamar, my writing student from England, explained to me what marmite is. I now understand English blogg(bb)er marmitetoasty's nickname.
2. Mandy was in our division office trying to figure out her spring schedule and I came out from the back, thinking I was just going to the men's room and I stopped to visit with her and before we knew it, she was enrolling in the team-taught course Margaret and give in the spring in research writing and working class literature. The two classes fit her needs perfectly, she's had both of us as teachers before, and she left the office beaming after coming in in something like despair. (Added funny note: she had skipped my class earlier in the day. She was nervous about seeing me. Class had only been over for about 45 minutes and I had already forgotten she hadn't been there!)
3. I found out today that among women bloggers in their late twenties and early thirties, Alan Arkin is quite popular. Mommy Dearest, Katrina, Therese, and Student of Life were all kind enough to affirm, each in their own way, my man crush on Arkin!
Sunday, February 25, 2007
2. Well. Well. Well. Alan Arkin won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. I am very happy. (Man crush?)
3. Finding out that Alan Arkin was nearly turned down for his role in "Little Miss Sunshine" because the directors' feared he was too virile for the role. (Man crush?)
To see his other work, including wonderful shots from Othello, go to Michaelbrinkerhoff.com
I play the graying Senator on the left here, intent on learning more about the impending Turkish invasion of Cypress as our Duke reads the new message about the attack.
Saturday, February 24, 2007
2. Mommy Dearest and Snug became myspace friends tonight!
3. I spent my first Saturday evening in weeks at home, emailing, blogging, listening to the basketball game, and reading others' writing in the blog world.
At lunch time, I went to a pub near Victoria Station that I had come to enjoy. It was a pretty good-sized pub, dimly lit, and I went to the bar. The man working the bar saw I was alone and immediately recognized by my voice that I was from the USA.
He'd just been to the United States over the New Year. He'd been to New York. He told me a story about walking in Central Park and being accosted by a couple of young guys who wanted to take his wallet.
"I told them, 'No.' There was no bloody way these blokes were getting my wallet."
I was impressed.
He then went on to say, "They wouldn't leave me bloody alone, so I punched on of 'em, right in the bloody nose. 'Twas prob'ly daff of me, but they ran off, and I've still got me wallet!"
He was a gracious man and while I laughed in awe of what he had done he said, "So, enough about me. Where are you from in the states?"
And almost the second I uttered my home state's name, a voice came rising out of the smoky low light of the pub, "Ahll right, I-duh-ho!"
The bartender looked at me a little askance. But I recognized the voice's tone. I hadn't heard a male North Idaho voice for a couple of months. I wasn't sure I wanted to know who owned this one.
Out of the dark of the pub a wobbly figure emerged.
"Ahll right, man! You're from Idaho, huh? Ahll right!! Where you from, man?"
"Kellogg! Oh man! Ahll right! I know Kellogg. I drove truck up there lots of times. I've lived forever in St. Maries!"
He was fairly incoherent. As he rambled on about having just driven a truck for a guy from St. Maries to South Carolina and back to Idaho and how his old lady said let's go to England and how he didn't want to go to any goddamn country that didn't know what side to drive on and as he he told me how he hated to fly and drank whiskey the whole way over and had just got off the plane and the first thing he did once his old lady passed out in their room was look for a bar and goddamn it wouldn't ya know I find a guy from Kellogg goddamn Idaho. Ahll Right!
"So what you doin' here, man? This is so awesome, man. I'm off the plane forty-five minutes havin' a beer in jolly ole goddman England and look! I run into a guy from Kellogg....Ahll right! What was I sayin'? Right...what you doin' here, man?"
I was feeling wary. This guy was in a jet lagged, sleep deprived, Pan Am whiskey/ English Ale incoherent stupor and I needed to get some more stuff done. I hoped I could shake him.
"I'm just here takin' care of stuff. My wife's up in Stratford--"
"What! You some kinda Shakespeare nut?"
"and I'm doin' some stuff here. I have a train to catch pretty soon. It was good to meet ya. Have a great time here in England."
"Ahww Right! If I keep thish up, I won't know where I been."
He gave me a drug/brotherhood/peace/love handshake and stumbled back to his table.
"Cheers, man. Have a nice ride back to Stratford."
I tipped the bartender and headed back into the London afternoon. I was a long way from North Idaho, but North Idaho had managed to find me.
I enjoy the talents of my family members as well as people I've become cyberly acquainted with through Snug's myspace.com page and through the world of blogging and through web surfing. Let me recommend that you check out the following:
*Orange Television records compelling, moody music. I have no genre name to attach to it. You can find his music here and his earth-bound surreal video here.
*My younger step-daughter has begun recording acoustic/folk music accompanied by the ukelele and has a couple of sweet old tunes here. I hope she'll be posting more.
*I don't know why, but during her high school years, my younger step-daughter would sing the National Anthem over and over again in the basement. Now, she's submitted one of her versions on YouTube. I don't know what to make of it...parody of show biz National Anthem singers? showing off her voice? I don't know! You can decide here.
*My stepson studies graphic design at Oregon State University. He began these studies at Lane Community College. He has posted some of his work here.
*He also composes electronic music. I won't try to categorize it. Listen here.
*Mommie Dearest writes often about the legend that is The Otis, her husband. Part of the legend is his rock band, 40 ounce J. I hope they'll post more, but right now their only song for public consumption is the North Idaho anthem, Beer Run. Hear it here.
* Toriaroyale is a talented photographer. I discovered her in myspace because she loves English Springer Spaniels. Her work stuns me. See what you think here.
Friday, February 23, 2007
2. Three books on the existence and difficulties of social and economic class in the USA arrived today from amazon.com. They will help Margaret and me a lot in our "Fat Cats and Underdogs" course this spring.
3. Every chance we got, Linda and I debriefed the Ducks win over the Cougars last night and we did what we always do: tried to figure out where the Ducks are strong and where we think they need to improve.
When I get overextended and am not getting enough sleep, I start losing things and over the last two or three weeks, I've been losing stuff or forgetting things I shouldn't forget. In no particular order, in the last two three weeks I have:
- Twice left my car lights on and required the assistance of AAA
- Lost my camera
- Lost two student papers
- Forgot students' names in class, students I have been working with over the last six weeks
- Lost track of time, unsure of what day it was or where we were in the school term
- Lost a Netflix DVD
- Lost one of the textbooks for my Intro. to Literature: Poetry class
- Lost track of a stack of stage makeup entrusted to me by Sparky, the director of Othello, for me and other men in the play to use
Time can't really be lost. It remains constant, ticking away, even as I lose track of its movements and find myself in a kind of twilight zone of confusion as I try to find something on my computer screen or something in my immediate environment that will tell me what day it is and what hour it is. I want so badly to be relieved of the anxiety that I have missed a class or forgotten an appointment.
I don't live like this all the time. It only happens when I cross the line from busy to overextended.
But, look how much grace is in my life. I keep hearing people say how people don't have as much concern for others as they used to or how we have a deficit of values in our society. I disagree. In every case over the last two weeks, people came through: didn't keep my camera, forgave me a lost essay, mailed the lost DVD to Netflix, acted like my stupidity around my car was no big deal, and so on.
Ealier I posted pictures of RBT and Spencer helping Dave Oliveria jump his battery at last week's HBO blogfest. No deficit of values there. Up and down the street I live on, up and down the rows of seats in my classroom, up and down the hallway I work in, where my colleagues have their offices, and up and down the aisles of stores I shop in and encounter people who are polite, forgiving, friendly, and helpful, I encounter more grace than malice.
They make the world I move in a forgiving place. They embody a surplus of values, not a deficit. I'm amazed when I hear people say that people are not nearly good to each other as they used to be,when I see and experience how good people are in the places I go, whether at stores, school, church, or our neighborhood.
So, I've been lost over the last few weeks. The consequences, however, did not punish me. Quite the opposite. I found out how helpful, forgiving, and trustful people can be. At least in my small world, people don't seem lost. They seem to have a reliable moral compass.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Patrick at Making Flippy Floppy got me thinking about penny candy. For me penny candy meant Walden's grocery on Cameron and Hill in Kellogg. A big cat at Walden's lay across the penny candy, but it never seemed to deter me or my friends from buying it.
It didn't deter my life long friend Don Windisch either. Don and Scott Stuart and I were on our way from Sunnyside Elementary school to Junior Choir at the United Church on a Friday afternoon. Scott and I didn't know that Don had cobbed penny candy from Walden's. We found out when he showed us the candy and said in a sixth grade criminal growl: "The hand is quicker than the eye." If Scott and I want to make each other laugh to this day, all we have to do is repeat Don's declaration of handspeed over eyespeed.
I had a dream about Walden's grocery over a month ago. Walden's was in Eugene instead of Kellogg. It was closing. The shelves were nearly empty. The beer cooler was full. Many of us were in Walden's to buy beer. It was weird to buy beer at Walden's and walk out of the store onto Blair Blvd. in Eugene.
I can't help but remember that Pat Birch, a lost soul from KHS class of '48, my dad's class at Kellogg, returned to Kellogg after being in California for quite a while and married a Walden woman.
When I was playing junior high school basketball, Pat Birch asked me if I could shoot as well left-handed as right. I knew I couldn't. This deficiency in my limited aresenal haunted me all through high school. I could always hear Pat Birch asking me about my amidexterity. I always knew I could have done more to improve the dexterity of my left hand.
Another small grocery shop in Kellogg was Swanson's. During Christmas break in 1972, Tom Arnhold, who was a senior at KHS (I was a freshman at NIC) bought the two of us a half case of Falstaff beer and we found a remote spot on the Cataldo Flats and drank the beer. We had a great talk. I don't think I've seen Tom since then. The next day I went to Spokane to drink and stay with Ed Bailey who lived in Spokane. I've only seen Ed Bailey a few times since then. I bought an LP by Argent with the song "Hold Your Head Up" on it. We also listened to Jethro Tull play "Thick as a Brick".
I missed the 1986 all-class reunion at Kellogg. I was at Shakespeare Camp. Ed Bailey picked up my sister, Inland Empire Girl, and carried her in the streets of Kellogg. I don't think she's seen Ed Bailey since then.
Ed Bailey used to tease my younger sister, Silver Valley Girl, without mercy. I think Silver Valley Girl was relieved when Ed was no longer around to tickle her and lift her in the air.
Ed Bailey and I rode in his Datsun to Blue Creek Bay for our graduation party. We listened to Elton John on his eight track player in the car. Whenever I hear Tiny Dancer, I think of leaving town that night to go to Blue Creek Bay to drink beer well beyond my capacity.
Last summer Scott Stuart and I went out in his boat and went to Blue Creek Bay. We both wanted to see what things looked like there and to remember our graduation party from thirty-four years ago.
This summer will be our thirty-fifth year since we graduated from high school. We plan to have a summer party in Kellogg and are asking members of the classes of 70,71,and 73 to join our party. I'm sure if members from other classes showed up, they'd be welcome.
2. At dinner, the Deke had Molly read a story she wrote for one of her education classes at Pacific University about the time her Corgi, Maggie, rescued a Jack Terrier out from an initimidating snarl of blackberry bushes at the dog park.
3. Above all, I urge my students to write authentically. More students read their papers responding to Bach's Goldberg Variations and what made the papers work was my students were at liberty to write authentic essays, and did so. They surprised and moved each other with their writing.
2. Listening to another group of WR 122 students who wrote about memories and other associations that listening to Bach's Goldberg Variations awakened in them.
3. My bipolar/anti-depressant medicines sometimes affect me in haywire ways. At 9 pm my hands started leaping all over my keyboard involuntarily and I started to experience vertigo. I had to stop responding to student essays and go to bed. The beautiful part? Going to bed at 9:00. I fell right into a deep sleep, only interrupted once by my bladder calling for attention. Sometimes I think the hand leaping and vertigo occurs because not only is my medicine helping stabilize my mood, it might also be helping me acknowledge that I need more sleep.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
When I performed in my first play in Eugene, it took me a whole day to let go of Prospero, the character I played. I was morose. I didn't want Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead to vanish. I wanted to hang on to it. I was attached to it. But, then when I played in other plays, I began to enjoy the idea that like the pageant of life itself, there is actually very little that happens in a given day that we can hang on to.
Life is transitory. Live theater magnifies this reality. It is futile to hang on to the moments and events and experience that pass. Yes, we can have a record of them in pictures or verbal description or on video tape, but these records are not the thing itself. The thing itself is always gone, vanished, into thin air.
So, Othello is gone. It touched our audiences. Our cast had fun together. I hope the tech crew had fun. They were under more pressure than the actors. Their work, too, has vanished.
Saturday night's performance was video taped. I doubt I will watch it. I'd like to keep the memory of Othello in my mind where I will stretch it, magnify it, give parts of it special emphasis, and move away from the documentary truth of the play. In many ways I would rather have the truth of this play live in the subjective reality of my mind. I'm not that interested in the objective truth of the video tape. I want to live in the experience of our performances vanishing. It's the mystery of live theater that so much pleasure is derived from something that is worked at so hard and turns out to be so impermanent, something that vanishes into thin air.
2. My WR 122 students write a paper exploring the impact of Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations. They read the essay aloud in class. Jack didn't like the impact. He hates Bach. He wrote a series of wonderful similes describing the pain listening to this music put him through. (I think the other students wondered if I was going to come unglued or something. They've never seen me come unglued. I laughed and enjoyed Jack's essay. My enjoyment relaxed the students.)
3. Mommie Dearest/BrodH20 commented that she saw Neko Case live and thought she was beautiful. It's wonderful to find others in the world who enjoy Neko Case. Is there a more lucid, clear voice singing better songs anywhere in the world of recorded music?
Monday, February 19, 2007
2. When I went grocery shopping, I drove the Subaru and could listen to Neko Case's latest cd,
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.
3. I went to Great Harvest and bought a nice loaf of bread and put it on the passenger seat. Snug came from the back seat to the passenger seat and sat on the bread, smashing half the loaf. Once home, I fixed a ham and swiss sandwich with the smashed bread. It tasted great. No harm done!
- This time it was my turn to give me and my sisters a writing assignment. I asked that we all write about a particular time that Mom did something that made us swell inside with respect for her. Underlying this assignment, of course, is the assumption that this happened many times, but I asked that we each write about one such time.
- On consecutive Sundays, February 18, 25, and March 4, 1962, CBS ran a three part Lassie story called "The Odyssey". In it, Lassie gets locked in a produce truck and is taken hundreds of miles from home. The three part series alternates between Timmy's inconsolable heart-sickness that Lassie is gone and Lassie's courageous odyssey back home.
The story began with Timmy and Lassie making a friendship pact with each other in front of a fallen log which Timmy declares to be their special secret place and he buries a bone there as a sign of their everlasting friendship.
It was a heartwrenching three weeks for me. I was seven years old. We lived at our little house at 14 E. Portland. Near the end of part three, Timmy goes out to his and Lassie's secret special place by the fallen log and digs a hole. He tosses Lassie's toys in the hole. He begins to cover the toys with dirt. Above him, at the crest of the hill, he hears a familiar bark. The Lassie theme song swells. Lassie comes over the horizon. I cried and cried and cried. It was the first time I ever cried for joy. I'd never felt so happy. Lassie came home.
In my mid-twenties, I began to realize that Shakespeare's two most famous tragi-comedies touched me in the same way that Lassie's Odyssey did. Both "The Winter's Tale" and "The Tempest" move us by their end because characters who have been long separated from home, return again.
I began to realize that being lost or separated from home and finding home again is not just an external reality. I began to realize that Lassie's return, Leontes' return, and Prospero's return stand for an internal state, an inner reality of being at home within oneself. It is the return to the safe, the protected, and the familiar.
The first time I realized this truth about home was in the summer 1965. I was eleven years old. I went to Boy Scout Camp at Camp Easton for the first time. Upon arriving at camp, we were immediately taken to the lake for a swim test. I jumped in and the water was ice cold to me. It made me afraid of the lake for the rest of the week.
I didn't ever realize I could shower at camp. I didn't swim. I didn't shower. By mid-week, I quit changing clothes. About that same time, I was sent to the rifle range to bring Craig Lenhart back to the camp headquarters. I arrived at the range and naively called out that Craig was wanted back at headquarters. The rifle range director went ballistic. He vociferously got in my face and yelled at me. He claimed that my calling out while boys were shooting rifles could have caused a serious accident. I cried going back to headquarters, despite Craig's comforting me that it was all right. (By the way, I'd know Craig all my life. When we lived at 14 E. Portland, he was our next door neighbor.)
I badly wanted to go home. On Friday night, visitor night, I thought Mom was going to come to camp. She didn't. Something came up. It was legitimate. I think Joan Dorendorf told me Mom couldn't make it. I ran up the trail back to camp and dove into my tent and sprawled out on my sleeping bag and cried. I wanted to go home.
The next day, the canteen sold candy and I bought a huge amount and comforted myself with Milk Duds and Big Hunks. The drive back to Kellogg seemed to take all day. When I got home, Mom was in the living room. I opened the door to our house, face dirty, clothes dirty and smoky, hands dirty, and fell into Mom's arms sobbing.
Mom understood. It would have been so easy to mock me. I was a wreck. She ran me a bath so I could get cleaned up. She listened to me sob about how I felt the night before when she didn't come to camp.
Looking back, I deeply respect how Mom helped me feel better. Moreover, that moment helped seal for me the fact that our house at 516 W. Cameron was not just a shelter, but a home, a home with pot roast, meatloaf, hot showers, diet Pepsi, a place for my family, a place for Snug, a place I can come when in need.
I've always been homesick when not in Kellogg. I was homesick when I went to Boys' State and my only achievement was being elected County Coroner. I was homesick when my first marriage failed and Mom made sure that when I came home for Christmas without my wife in 1981 that I wouldn't be judged and could have a place to start trying to pull myself together. I was homesick when I was comatose with meningitis in 1999. I cried for my mother. In the spring of 2000, I went to Kellogg for several weeks. I was on sabbatical. Mom's house was my home where I continued my recovery.
The need for home is our deepest need. That Mom has always made sure that I always have a home to return to in Kellogg makes my heart swell with respect for her -- and with love.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
2. No schedule. Rest. Sorted out my del.icio.us bookmarks which got me back to thinking about some books I've ignored lately and got me listening to Playing in the Band and Uncle John's Band from the 6/23/90 Grateful Dead show at Autzen Stadium here in Eugene...if you were there, please tell me so in a comment.
3. Snug was velcro dog today. I've been so busy with the play and with work that I haven't been home for long stetches of time and today Snug stayed with me on the bed and was at my feet when I sat elsewhere. We'll have another day tomorrow together. I enjoy so much when I have hours in a row with him and today was the first such day in quite a while.
Three Beautiful Things Plus a Bonus 02/17/07:Sisters' Blogs, Window Commercial, Closing Night....and the Camera's Back
2. I succeeded this morning in my role as the man whose windows are so beautiful that people from up and down the street gawk at them and I come out of the house and look puzzled and then say, "Oh! The windows! Mark and Company did them." I then walk toward my car. Bryan, who produced the commercial, filmed our performance of *Othello* tonight and I talked with him before the play. He gave the shoot a huge thumbs up and said editing the commercial is going very well already.
3. *Othello* closed tonight to a beyond capacity full house and as I left the stage during our curtain call I could see tears in audience members' eyes and saw looks of awe as the standing ovation formed and cries of "Bravo!" rang through the theater.
Bonus beautiful Thing: I went to LCC's Lost and Found yesterday and there was my camera. The thought of having to buy a new one was fun, but I'm glad I have my familiar one back.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
2. I enjoy Patricia Clarkson a lot ("Pieces of April", "Station Agent" and others) and watched movies of hers the last two nights. Last night was "Good Night, and Good Luck" and tonight, "The Dying Gaul". Her role was too tiny in "Good Night..." and she was marvelous in "The Dying Gaul", but I found the movie strained. The premise was interesting, in the tradition of "Betrayal", with Clarkson playing a role similar to Ben Kingsley and with her husband having a love affair with another man, but this movie lacked Kingsley's evil glee and was way too pseudo-spiritual for my tastes. The resolution made no sense to me. I loved the acting, though.
3. I wish I could do all my teaching in individual conferences. I had several very satisfying conferences with students today and think they all left our conversations with more confidence and better direction.
Friday, February 16, 2007
2. Snug at the foot of the bed chewing on rawhide while I write these beautiful things.
3. I can't find my camera. I'll try LCC lost and found tomorrow. Why is this beautiful?? I'm thinking I have to buy a new one if it doesn't turn up.........(but I do want it to turn up).
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
2. Janice wrote an exceptional essay about her cancer; her central insight was how the frantic pace of her life rendered her utterly disconnected from her spirit and body.
3. Ellen has just started school after losing her marriage to her husband's meth/crack addiction and wrote beautifully about how she is working with her own anger and the disillusionment her children feel. Two of her children joined their mother for our conference. I was happy to see the children, in part, because Ellen had emailed me last week to say that her kids love Snug's photoblog (snugdaily.wordpress.com).
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
2. Then my student from Thailand did the same. Nancy is twenty-four years old and holds a master's degree in chemistry and is attending school here to sharpen her English. She explained the rigors of her thesis. I doubt anyone in the room had thought that they were in class with more than one holder of a master's degree.
3. Amy is also facing pressures, very different from Nancy and Myat. She's right out of high school. She lives on her own. She moved to Eugene from Grants Pass. It's a culture change. She's unsure of her direction but feels she should have direction. At the break, students from the class surrounded her with words of encouragement, especially the students who are thirty-nine and thirty-five and still don't know exactly what they are doing yet. I hope she found reassurance that she'll be okay.
2. My students wrote wonderfully insightful components to a single sentence about *Into Thin Air* that covered the whole blackboard!
3. Burning copies of the Goldberg Variations for my students made me think of the time I took a long walk in Kellogg while my dad was terminally ill and Glenn Gould brought me relief from my worry and sadness.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
2. I have been listening to XM Satellite Radio Channel 49: Big Tracks. It's like one guilty pleasure after another. Tonight the programming seemed especially fixed on the Electric Light Orchestra. Guilt, guilt, guilt: Pleasure, pleasure, pleasure.
3. I was very happy to learn that Sarah, the stage manager for "Othello", loves the movies "Dirty Pretty Things" and "Pieces of April". She glowed when talking about them and I hope I glowed back!
2. George, Sam, and I were told by our assistant director to project our opening lines more fully. I got a good laugh when I told George, "I want thunder, not a butterfly fart in a hurricane." Credit goes to Albert Finney in "The Dresser" for that line.
3. Rain freshened the air today and it began to smell like spring. I even found two daffodils in bloom in our neighborhood.
Saturday, February 10, 2007
2 . I heard someone was looking for me before *Othello* started tonight. It was my former student, Bryan. He runs a video production company. He's been hired by a window cleaning outfit(I think that's what he said) to shoot a commercial on Saturday. He asked me to be in it, so I get to try out another new avenue of acting.
3. Reading Palestinian poetry today in ENG 106 gave all of us the experience of looking at the experience of living in Palestine from a poetic perspective, very different than always seeing it as political.
Friday, February 9, 2007
2. I was assigned the job of make-up queen. I make sure the make-up containers are closed and the dressing room is cleaned up a bit.
3. Lee Leonard joked with students of mine as I was talking to them: "Don't tell me you listen to this guy."
Wednesday, February 7, 2007
2. Mandy contributed brilliant comments today in class in response to the Buddhist metaphysics of *Into Thin Air* and in response to our class's study of Darcy's essay.
3. In our house this afternoon, we experience a brief time when we were inbetween having power and losing power. The electric light was brown. The quality of the light reminded me of the movie "Gaslight". It didn't last long. The power went out. It had returned by the time I got home from tonight's pick up rehearsal. But that inbetween time made me feel like I lived in a new, dimmer world.
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
2. Matt, Jeff, and I talked about the production of Othello and I reiterated that I am no longer a Shakespeare scholar. I'm not really an actor either. I am an in the moment Shakespeare sponge, soaking up as much of his music and beauty as humanly possible.
3. Memories of Jack Jacobs flood back in the wake of this death yesterday. We'll not see many like him: a reformed drunk, worked hard right up until he was hospitalized with colon cancer; he was a loving father, a man whose vocabulary was rich in profanity, a gambler, worker, hunter, fan of boxing, a gazer upon women, and a man untouched by social reforms that would encourage him to be more polite and more accepting of a world where people of all races live in closer proximity to white people and where white people are not the best, merely by virtue of being white. Whenever I heard people talk about how awful people are who held and expressed some of Jack's attitudes, I always new he had some blind spots, but he was a generous and loving man, especially with his son, my good friend, Ron (Jake).
I experience the Talking Heads as playful dada musicians, with David Byrne the dada front man. That pretty much inspires the videos I've chosen below.
I wanted to show Psycho Killer because this video is from about 1976 and is a clip of the Talking Heads when they were a trio. I wanted to play a performance of this song before Byrne became more manic with the song. Lastly, CBGBs is one of the most historic venues in the USA. Home to the Ramones, Patti Smith, the Talking Heads and scores of other musicians and bands, it's great just to have some early footage of
the Talking Heads on their home turf.
Psycho Killer at CBGBs
I've always loved the way "Once in a Lifetime" explores the way the temporal things in life like beautiful wife and car come and go and we don't always know how we came to be where we are in life. But while all the mutable stuff occurs, underlying it all is the constancy and continuity of
Letting the days go by/let the water hold me down
Letting the days go by/water flowing underground
Into the blue again/after the moneys gone
Once in a lifetime/water flowing underground.
Once in a Lifetime
This pairing together of "Burning Down the House and Life During Wartime from the splendid movie "Stop Making Sense" portrays the contradictory nature of The Talking Heads' art at its most entertaining. Both songs are disturbing. But, the performance of the songs is upbeat; I'd call it celebratory. I read it this way: while danger exists in the world, we keep being happy. When "Stop Making Sense" was made, the aerobic craze had been alive and well for over six years. That's about how old "Let's Get Physical" was in 1985-6. The Talking Heads embrace the aerobic energy of aerobic video tapes and people doing aerobic rountines in church basements and community halls across the country, and generate all this upbeat energy and joy while singing songs of paranoia and big brother. It's perfect dada. It's the essence of The Talking Heads, I think.
Burning Down the House/Life During Wartime
Monday, February 5, 2007
1. I enjoy messing around with taking self-portraits. I took this one during my ninety minute break when I'm not on stage in Othello.
2. I got bills paid today. I did my laundry. I cleaned my study. I spent time with Snug. In other words, I took a day of sick leave to mentally refresh myself after so many days of not being home while performing.
3. Snug is sleeping on my bed. I can't bring myself to disturb him so I can put clean bedding on it and go to bed myself. You can see Snug enjoying my bed here.
Sunday, February 4, 2007
2. I finished watching the movie "Dirty Pretty Things" and found it deeply moving and beautiful. This was my second viewing. I'd loved the movie before and was even more affected by it this time. It's a harrowing story and a sublime one.
3. I do not have to hear any more reporters on ESPN radio wonder when Peyton Manning will "win the big one".
Each time I've watched "Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould", I've watched this scene and thought of my own experiences listening to music as a very young child living on 14 E. Portland in Kellogg, Idaho.
Until my mom and dad bought our family a legitimate stereo (see the story, here), my world of music centered around a little turntable that played little records at 78 rpm. The record player's needle was long, like a sewing macine needle, and records came in decorated covers that looked something like this.
My favorite of these little records was Tubby the Tuba. I'm amazed how often I think of this funny little story about a tuba in an orchestra who is mocked by the sexier and lighter instruments like the violins and trumpets and even the trombone, but who learns a melody from a bullfrog and takes it back to the orchestra and the instruments love it!
I know this tale is primarily a learn the orchestra story, but, for me, as a little boy, the melody Tubby learned awakened something sensitive and melancholy in me.
Before I was in kindergarten, I played this record repeatedly. I enjoyed the story, but what I really enjoyed was the way Tubby's melody made something rumble in my belly and gave me the feeling that I wanted to cry.
It was the first melody to affect me this way. It was the first to move me to sit still, absorb it, stare into nowhere, and feel like crying.
The melody worked on me this way largely because of the story it helped accompany. I loved how Tubby found acceptance. I loved how Tubby became an admired member of the orchestra. I loved how that melody travelled through the orchestra and each instrument wanted to play it and soon it developed into a sound created by the orchestra playing in unity.
But, even more, I remember feeling sad for Tubby. I didn't like how the snooty instruments treated him. I remember how grateful I felt that Signore Pizzicato didn't have a snooty attitude toward Tubby.
I know I didn't live up to my feelings about Tubby in that I was guilty of picking on certain kids at school, but the more lasting impact Tubby had on me was, in fact, a desire to see the underdog treated fairly. It might sound weird, but Tubby had more impact on me about loving others than Sunday School did. I recognized as a pre-schooler that Tubby was being treated badly and I knew I shouldn't treat others like he was treated.
That early sense of compassion has been inseparable, even to this day,with the Tubby the Tuba melody. Today during the ninety minute period of inactivity I have during Othello, I listened to Tubby the Tuba again. The CD I listened to was a gift from my step-son-in-law, a tuba player with the U. S. Army. I listened and I could feel the tugging at my heart. I felt for Tubby again. I was on his side as he was teased. Then he learned the melody from the frog and as Tubby played it, not only was I back in the bedroom at 14 East Portland, old, old feelings of sympathy and empathy welled back up. Early feelings were back. Innocent feelings. Feelings that still, to this day, guide how I try to treat others, especially my students, many of whom are unprivileged, many of whom have been shunned and knocked around.
Many of them are Tubby the Tubas, treated poorly, but looking for the melody that will transform them.
These masks are Desdemona and Othello and are the faces of huge puppets that appear three times in the play and act out dimensions of Desdemona and Othello's fate. These masks are many times larger than the ones above.
Saturday, February 3, 2007
2. This isn't exactly a car, but for this woman it's quite a vehicle. It gives her a means of transportation and a rather comfortable vehicle to recline on and read.
3. If I had any guts at all, I would have interviewed this woman.
Friday, February 2, 2007
A cry of deep joy rose up from all present and I had this expanded moment when I had a kind of magnified vision and seemed to be able to see the individual faces of each reveler across the two sides of the stadium and the music engulfed me and I abandoned myself to dancing and laughing and joy. It was as if I were the Grateful Dead and for a moment I experienced something like spontaneous, unconscious universal sister and brotherhood.
2. Opening night roses:
3. Full house, riveted audience, raucous applause: and I didn't trip on my Senator robe going over the bridge in the play's prologue. Can I cross the bridge nine more times, nine more shows without tripping? I'll give it my best!
I have been teaching and working and then rehearsing every day this last week from about 7 a.m. until around 11 p.m. at night as we have done a week of dress rehearsals in preparation for tomorrow night’s opening night. It’s been a week of Taco Bell, Diet Pepsi, forgiving students (as I’ve been behind), lost keys, a slightly neglected Snug, sleep depravity, frayed nerves, flu bugs, a glorious show, and, little writing in this blog.
I’ve missed it a lot.
What’s been on my mind the most, has been my series of posts exploring the accident that occurred in 1973 at the Bunker Hill Zinc Plant.
So I think I’ll close this one, and get back to the Zinc Plant. Tomorrow.
- The smells of hair spray, hair gel, hair color spray, foundation, make-up, hair dryer heat, soap, cold cream, liquid eyeliner all combine to make the atmosphere of the dressing room a memorable sensory joy.
- The small audience who viewed our preview performance of *Othello* tonight raised such a thunder of appreciative applause, it sounded like ninety of them were there instead of about nineteen.
- I took a letter of recommendation for Angel to the U of O this afternoon and by accident parked in front of a former student's house. David and I talked for a few minutes and he seemed deeply happy to watch his children play in the front yard, enjoying the sunshine.
Thursday, February 1, 2007
2. I was playing Pink Floyd in the dressing room area hallway and George popped out into the hall and wondered where the Pink Floyd music was coming from, as if he thought it might have been heaven sent.
3. Jake is a happy barista at Starbuck's. He's on a wedding day countdown and told me today he only has 52 days to go.