23 April 2007

Congratulations, McCall & Brian!

I knew the bride (when she used to rock and roll) -- Nick Lowe

Well, the bride looked a picture in the gown that her momma wore
When she was married herself nearly twenty-seven years before
They had to change the style a little but it looked just fine
Stayed up all night but they got it finished just in time

Now on the arm of her daddy she's walking down the aisle
And she catches my eye and she gives me a secret smile
Maybe its too old-fashioned but we were once close friends
But the way she looks today she never could have been

Well I can see her now in her tight blue jeans
Pumping all her money in the record machine
Spinning like a top, you shoulda seen her go
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll

Now a proud daddy only wanna give his little girl the best
So he put down a grand on a cosy little lovers nest
You could have called the reception an unqualified success
And a posh hotel for a hundred and fifty guests

Well I can see her now drinking with the boys
Breaking their hearts like they were toys
She used to love to party, she used to love to go
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll

Well I can see her now with her headphones on
Jumping up and down to her favourite song
She used to love to party, she used to wanna go
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll

Take a look at the bridegroom smiling pleased as pie
Shaking hands all round with a glassy look in his eye
He got a real good job and the shirt and tie is nice
But I remember a time when she would never even look at him twice

Well I can see her now drinking with the boys
Breaking their hearts like they were toys
She used to love to party, she used to love to go
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll
I knew the bride when she used to rock and roll

For Hjalti

"Bicycle Spring" by Kevin FitzPatrick, from Down on the Corner*
© Midwest Villages and Voices

Bicycle Spring

Windy, sunny, and Sunday,
the afternoon of your father's promise,
you will learn to ride your bike:

your father breathing hard
pushes, runs at your side,
one hand on the handlebars,
the other firm on the seat,

launching you like a glider
to soar long seconds
before wobbling to crash
in the soft green field

until you know how to ride
suddenly except for the brakes
and your father suddenly
is a speck waving way behind.

as you pedal toward strange sights
in blocks where he
has forbidden you to walk.

*I got this poem from The Writer's Almanac, the proofreading of which is not always quite what might be hoped. Mr. Keillor's peeps listed the poem as coming from the collection "Down on the Cornor" and you can see how many folks also lifted it from them by doing a Google search with the typo. I did the Google search after I noticed the typo which I would have ignored had I not previously noticed other typos in The Writer's Almanac. But then, I answer to a higher authority than they do. David finds all my typos.

19 April 2007

Ring forth, ye bells

Those of you who keep up to date on my theater life are aware that I am between shows. Red vs. the Wolf closed on Sunday and I'm not rehearsing anything right now, nor likely to be soon. And you're probably wondering how I plan to fill that those horrible empty hours.

Well, I found a way. And it doesn't involve watching more pointless TV either. Or sitting on the sofa, which Pekoe regards as rather a pity.

My church has a hand bell choir which meets on Tuesdays and this week I attended for the first time. The other members of the group have actually been meeting for several weeks but when I told Danny, the church's music director, that I could already read music (and that I had rehearsals on Tuesdays) he gave me a pass until after Red was out of the way.

I love bells - big bells, small bells, great bells and little ones. I've never before touched a hand bell, let alone played one, but I sing and I had enough piano lessons during my wastrel youth that I can count to four unassisted. I can even - though not as well - count 1-uh-2-uh-3-uh-4-uh if we're using 8th notes.

As my friend Andi can tell you, far too many singers are lazy counters, depending instead on either what they hear from everyone around them or their own sense of "timing." Really and truly, this is what separates singers from musicians. I am a lazy counter (and thus a singer instead of a true vocal musician) because I don't count well in my head and usually mouth the numbers. But, hey, if one is playing a hand bell up in the balcony, out of sight of the congregation, mouthing the numbers is no big deal.

So the way that a hand bell choir works (for those of you not yet in the know) is sort of like playing a piano by assigning everyone just a few notes. We were working with pieces written in C (thank you, Lord!) and covering about three octaves, so for my very first time I only had to play the G and the A bell. Or rather, the G5 and A5, which are the G and A on the treble staff.

The technique is pretty easy: wearing cotton gloves, hold the bell so that it rests lightly on your chest, but on neither the clavicle nor the areas of the breast that are chock full of nerve endings. Count as though your very life depends on it and when it's time for your note, use a generally oval motion with a wrist-flick at the end of the oval to cause the clapper to strike the casting. At the end of the note, damp the bell against the non-clavical, non-breast home position. Just like it looks when you see other people do it.

Danny conducts and tells us the measure numbers as we go along, so if one might, like a sheep, go astray (a-a-a-a-a-a-ay), one can rejoin at the top of the next measure. Counting is to hand bells as breathing is to diving - not the most exciting part until you do it wrong.

Each of us has a copy of the music and because Danny is both efficient and nice (and because he is trying to delay the inevitable descent into madness that is inherit in being a church music director), he has circled the notes for each position: blue for left hand (for me, G5) and red for right hand (A5). So I only have to look ahead for the next occurance of red or blue and count until we reach it. I've spent enough time turning pages at Gilbert & Sullivan get togethers (sing-ins) and enough time singing choral music with wretched BPTs* that I know to look ahead and turn the page as soon as I can once we hit the middle measure of the last staff.

David and I saw Into Great Silence not long ago and I can amuse myself - if not necessarily others - by imitating a contemplative monk blowing with complete focused attention on the glue on a boot he's repairing, but those monks have pretty much exactly the right attitude for playing handbells. Count and ring. Dance if it's helpful, but focus, count, and ring. Be your notes.

My internal (yeah, okay, mouthed. Whatever.) monologue was 1 - left - 3 - left, or 1 - uh - 2 - right - left- right - 4 - uh. Which will fascinate folks at the next sing-in I attend when I practicing doing that with the solos I'm not singing. Hmmm. Maybe I should sit at the back.

We started with Amazing Grace, one of my favorite hymns, and it was delightful to hear order come from chaos as we went over it a few times and the actual tune surfaced. We also played another one (name escapes me) and "Shall We Gather at the River." I feel like a pilot who has made an actual plane go up in the actual sky and brought it back down again without actual lose of life. And the view is amazing up there.

*BPT = Bad Page Turn which is when one has a fairly immediate entrance with something complicated on the upper left hand side of the page. People who don't mark and pay attention to BPTs usually screw up entrances and say stuff like "oh, crap" a lot under their breath in rehearsal. They also get yelled at a lot. Don't be one of them.

The bells! — hear the bells!
The merry wedding bells!
The little silver bells!
How fairy-like a melody there swells
From the silver tinkling cells
Of the bells, bells, bells!
Of the bells!

The bells! — ah, the bells!
The heavy iron bells!
Hear the tolling of the bells!
Hear the knells!
How horrible a monody there floats
From their throats —
From their deep-toned throats!
How I shudder at the notes
From the melancholy throats
Of the bells, bells, bells —
Of the bells —

An early version of "The Bells" by E.A. Poe

18 April 2007

The best bus ever!

If I lived in Lee County in Alabama, I would take this bus all the time. And right now I am considering changing my "About" text to read:

Take advantage of the Lee County Transit Agency’s (LETA) convenient bus schedule and routes. [...] It’s an easy, inexpensive and convenient way to travel. LETA is for anyone who needs transportation, wants to protect the environment, or wants to save money on gasoline costs. Whether you are traveling to work, to school, or to shopping areas across town, LETA will get you where you want to go!

Maybe this is what they meant in all those pop songs when they sang "you take me there," or "I'll take you there."

(Thanks to David.)

17 April 2007

Job Description

Folks who ask you for a job description - what do you do? - come in two varieties: people who need to know for financial reasons, in which case the answer is that I support the CFO and the contracts department of a radar engineering firm; and people who want to know for social reasons, usually as small talk, in which case the answer is I work with very smart people who can take a joke. And give one in return, too.

For instance, one time I needed a list of Acronyms spelled out for a report. I sent the list to one of our senior engineers with the note "Could you please tell me what these acronyms stand for? Leta." His reply spelled out all of the acronyms along with the bonus:

Leta = Low Elevation Target Acquisition

I've been campaigning ever since that management name a project that and if it were up to them instead of the customer, they probably would.

Aging beautifully

All Things Considered ran a piece the other day on Tom DeBaggio, a nurseryman who has been living with Alzheimer's Disease for the past several years. I was listening in a sort of "oh, how sad" kind of way as I drove home but eventually the voice of Tom's wife, Joyce, caught my ear. She must have grown up around here because she sounds like so many of my friends. Which reminded me of something that I've been noticing lately, that is that none of us are getting any younger.

Yep, nothing gets past me.

(Warning: the following contains a Lifetime TV level of gushy content.)

My mother has advanced (and advancing) MS and a several good friends have relatives with Alzheimers and these are frightening and cruel things to happen to intelligent, productive, interesting, good people. Like most people, I am afraid of those cruel fates, but I've realized that I'm not afraid of getting older. At least not at the moment.

I've had a bit more free time lately and have spent as much of it as I could with my college friends and the extended social circle that we've built up. One of the things that I've always liked about this crowd is its ability and willingness to increase and include new people. The sole criterion seems to be a desire to be with us. (Or as I like to say about my Friday lunch group, "a willingness to endure what we consider to be interesting conversation.") So my "college friends" crowd include a lot of folks I never went to college with and some that I did, although we went in different decades. It also includes a lot of my friends' children who range from little babies to actual adults, so grandparenthood isn't too far in the future for some of us. (Or, rather, them.) I am, by the way, constantly impressed with the amazing level of niftiness of my friends' kids. And by what really great parents my friends are.

Brett for years claimed that there was no way that his little sister was [whatever her then current age was] and that she was only 16. Stacey was 16 for at least a decade. Brett allowed her to move up to 19 after she and John got married and he may even be admitting to over 21 now that Stace and John have children, but I'm not completely sure about that.

I don't go to great efforts to hide my age, especially as Mom's genes and neither smoking nor tanning means that I don't look my age, so why worry about it? But I don't advertise it either because I know enough age-ist directors that I'd rather lose a part to a better actress than to my birth certificate. For the record, I'm ..... I'm ..... well over 21. Very well, indeed, I guess.

But anyway, I'm noticing that we're getting older. Hair is graying or not, weight has been gained, or lost, or regained. Lines are showing up around our eyes. We're complaining less about our knees and more about our backs.

I thought that I'd be worried about this because our society doesn't exactly reward getting getting older but it doesn't bother me. Instead, I think it's really kind of cool to watch everyone as we pass through time. Yeah, in general we're aging pretty gracefully but I've realized that looking at Brett or Emily or Graymael or even Alice (well, not really Alice; she's only "19") and seeing gray hairs or crows' feet where none were when we all met gives us a kind of ownership in each others' lives.

Every time I look at my friends I don't just see now, I see the years that we've known each other getting to now. Some of us have lived longer than our parents. I'm older now than my mother was when she became a divorceé with two kids. We've raised and lost pets. I feel like Hume Cronyn looking at Jessica Tandy. And I'm reminded of one of Peter's best lines in The Pavilion when he tells Kari that he's missed getting to watch the little lines appear around her eyes because of the stupid way he treated her when they were young.

I am so lucky to have these people and so thankful that no matter how stupidly I've treated them now and again, I still get to be around - and they are still around - for me to see the lines coming out. I'm not sure if I'll have the same "life's rich pageant" attitude when we all start using walkers or require home health care, but I hope I do. We've joked for years about having wheelchair races at the Old Folks Home and I'm kind of looking forward to them.

Well we know where we're goin'
But we don't know where we've been
And we know what were knowin'
But we can't say what we've seen
And we're not little children
And we know what we want
And the future is certain
Give us time to work it out

The Talking Heads

12 April 2007

Why I go to church - in just 45 words

And why I wear pantyhose when I go:

God does not need me to pray five times a day. This is for my benefit. I am better if I pray like this. I am better if I wash before I pray, because I am clean. It is good for me, not for God.

Hamid - quoted on A*W*A*C

I found A*W*A*C - Afghanistan Without a Clue - though a Google alert for "Leta" (other returns usually include the Law Enforcement Thermographers Association and an eastern European new agency). Another Leta is a "long-time reader, comment poster, and supporter of the troops" and A*W*A*C, which is blogged by Capt. Doug Traversa (USAF) who is stationed in Kabul. Hamid is one of the translators attached to his group.

10 April 2007

Getting to me where it hurts

I have tendinitis in my left shoulder which has been uncomfortable and inconvenient but hadn't really messed up my life until now. I mean, one can sleep only on one's right side and if I can't really lift my left arm well enough to completely shave under there, well I can't lift it well enough for anyone to see that, so it works out, right?

My wonderful pal John, the Grumpy Gecko, diagnosed the tendinitis for me. I can completely recommend having at least one friend who has banged, bruised, scraped, and cracked himself into walking reference material for injuries because I had no clue what was wrong with me and John told me after asking about three questions. And no co-pay, either. So after I got the informal diagnosis, I went in to see my GP and get the co-pay diagnosis. He agreed with John's assessment, suggested that I take Advil with every meal for a while, and wrote me a 'scrip for the 600 mg pills. (Drugstore Advil comes in 200 mg pills.) He also gave me a sheet of exercises to do and suggested a follow-up in 30 days.

30 days later .....

"So, Doctor, that Advil thing?"
"When's it supposed to work?"
"Your shoulder still hurts?"

And I leave with a 'scrip for Vicodin, a referral for an MRI to check for soft tissue damage, and the following thought in my head: "Vicodin! Jeepers! That's what cranky Dr. House is addicted to! Agh!"

I fill the 'scrip and largely leave the pills in the medicine cabinet because they scare me. And because my mother used to counsel the opiate addicted and I remember exactly how much fun hanging around her office was. And because Mom says that my family has "addictive personalities." So it took me two weeks to fill the 'scrip and I've only taken three of the pills since.

The MRI showed no soft tissue damage and if I have "frozen shoulder" it can possibly work itself out over the course of the next 2 - 24 months (oh joy) without requiring a surgical intervention.

Things have gotten better. I can unhook my own bra without wanting to cry and if someone bumps into me I don't gasp, turn pale, and bite my lip for a minute. At least not as often.

So, basically, just another in my continuing adventures. Except that things have now taken a brutal turn. I was seeing a show the other day and at the end learned that it now hurts to applaud. And I see a lot of shows, so applauding is my most consistent exercise.

Fortunately, Brett has come to the rescue. Instead of pills or surgery or anything, he suggests that I simply cease applauding. And to cover, he suggests that instead of sitting up front and looking cheerful and engaged, I sit in the back and appear to be filled with ennui. Smoking clove cigarettes and wearing a lot of black - maybe even a beret - wouldn't hurt either, he says.

Fortunately, I know enough people who already act this way - which I had never before regarded as a good thing - that the learning curve should be no problem. Unfortunately, I doubt that I will completely master the scornful-yet-blasé comment or the openly rude one:

"I saw your show yesterday."
"Oh, how nice. I hope you enjoyed it."*
"Eh, it was children's theater."

Guess who's going to be getting a clove cigarette extinguished in his food sometime soon?

And, of course, I'm scheduled to see several friends shows in the next few weeks, but I hope that all those folks will remember that when I see their shows that even if I'm practically a goth college student on the outside, I'm smiling and applauding on the inside.

*"I hope you enjoyed it" doesn't actually require an answer, as it is a pleasantry, not an interrogative. Changing the subject works just fine if the truthful answer is "no, not really."

09 April 2007

I'd put these on my car

The lovely Stacey called me the other day and left a message saying that she was stuck in traffic and that the car ahead of her had two bumper stickers that she knew I'd enjoy:

Will quote Shakespeare for food.


Theater is in my blood - which I have to sell to pay the rent.

She was so right because I smiled at them as I typed them out just now.

04 April 2007

The 6:00 PM Poetry Club

Another reason that I love working here - our CEO just quoted my all time favorite poem. He and another staffer and I were discussing the other staffer's tendency to burst into poetry, so the Staffer quoted the most famous lines from The Walrus and the Carpenter and our CEO responded with Mr. Wither's masterpiece. We finished up with something else that has just escaped my memory, but it warmed my heart, none the less.

The Lover’s Resolution

George Wither (1588–1667)

SHALL I, wasting in despair,
Die because a woman’s fair?
Or my cheeks make pale with care
’Cause another’s rosy are?
Be she fairer than the day
Or the flowery meads in May—
If she be not so to me
What care I how fair she be?

Shall my foolish heart be pined
’Cause I see a woman kind;
Or a well disposèd nature
Joinèd with a lovely feature?
Be she meeker, kinder, than
Turtle-dove or pelican,
If she be not so to me
What care I how kind she be?

Shall a woman’s virtues move
Me to perish for her love?
Or her merits’ value known
Make me quite forget mine own?
Be she with that goodness blest
Which may gain her name of Best;
If she seem not such to me,
What care I how good she be?

’Cause her fortune seems too high,
Shall I play the fool and die?
Those that bear a noble mind
Where they want of riches find,
Think what with them they would do
Who without them dare to woo;
And unless that mind I see,
What care I how great she be?

Great or good, or kind or fair,
I will ne’er the more despair;
If she love me, this believe,
I will die ere she shall grieve;
If she slight me when I woo,
I can scorn and let her go;
For if she be not for me,
What care I for whom she be?