19 December 2009

Energy Circle

A common tradition in community theater - especially community theater involving children - is the "Energy Circle": the cast and crew gather together in a big circle and hold hands. After a few words about having a great show and maybe a suggestion about staying focused, the Director squeezes one of the hands s/he is holding. That person then squeezes the next person's hand and so on, sending the energy surge around the circle, all the way back to the person who started it.

My role in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is playing one of the Church Ladies, a small group of women who serve as the critical, judgmental Greek Chorus. When the Director announced the Energy Circle and one of the Stage Managers came to round every one up, one of the other Church Ladies asked if that really included the adults. Yep.

So I told the Stage Manager that I would participate, but she should know by now that the real Energy Circle in my life is the rim of a Martini Glass.

Snowpocalypse Tomato Soup

The DC area is covered in snow. At first we were told that we'd get a few inches on Saturday. Then it was a few inches on Saturday and some on Sunday. By the end of the day on Friday, the predictions no longer included the word "inches." We were expecting one to two feet of snow over the weekend.

It was snowing by the time that I left the theater at 9:45 pm. (The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is basically an extended one-act.) Just a light dusting, but coming down pretty steadily. I had drinks and gumbo* at a friend's house and set out for home around 1:15 am. By then the roads were snow-coated and slippery, so the driving required a decent level of skill and focus.** I was home by 2:00 am.

Today's performances having been cancelled, I got to have an at-home day. There were several inches on the ground this morning and we're over a foot now. It's still coming down pretty briskly. The Blizzard Warning has shifted to a Winter Storm warning and is expected to last until about 6:00 am.

So for lunch I made tomato soup from scratch. I looked through my cookbooks for ideas and then sort of went my own way. It was easy and tasty and I'm glad that I made a large enough batch that I have leftovers. Here's what I did:

Snowpocalypse Tomato Soup

Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic;
Mince a quarter of a medium onion;
Sauté the the garlic and onion in a generous splash of olive oil over a low flame while considering whether to add some Vermouth to the recipe;

Open two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes and empty into a two-quart pot;
Warm the tomatoes and add the garlic and onion;
Stir and decide yes on the Vermouth - pour in a healthy splash;
Add a cheerful amount of oregano, parsley, and thyme;
Shake in Cayenne pepper until you think you may have overdone it;

Let it all simmer for a little bit, then ladle about half into the blender;
Blend on "chop" for a few seconds;
Pour it back into the pot;
Let it simmer a little longer for good measure;

Grate enough good cheese over it to bring a smile to your face;
Finish with salt and pepper to taste.

*Really good gumbo, with okra and gumbo file. Must get the recipe ...
**Snow driving tip: Proceed at a moderate speed, stay away from the brake pedal. Would that everyone else on the road with me knew that.

02 December 2009


Something happened at precisely that moment. Both Claudia and Jamie tried to explain to me about it, but they couldn't quite. I know what happened, though I never told them. Having words and explanations for everything is too modern. I especially wouldn't tell Claudia. She has too many explanations already.

What happened was: they became a team, a family of two. There had been times before they ran away when they had acted like a team, but those were very different from feeling like a team. Becoming a team didn't mean the end of their arguments. But it did mean that the arguments became a part of the adventure, became discussions not threats. To an outsider the arguments would apppear to be the same beause feeling like part of a team is something that happens invisibly. You might call it caring. You could even call it love. And it is very rarely, indeed, that it happens to two people at the same time -- especially a brother and a sister who had always spent more time with activities than they had with each other.

From From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, the only juvenile fiction I've ever read that contains a map of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

18 November 2009

How to fill your e-mail inbox*

1. Click the "like" button on Facebook for a friend's picture of their cute children.

Ta-da! You're done! Sit back and watch the e-mails roll in!

*I was going to call this post "How to Get More Interesting Mail" in honor of the Direct Marketing Association's booklet for people who wish to receive more rather than less junk mail. But Facebook comments aren't junk mail - they're the conversation.

17 November 2009

Just like the good old days

The best thing about playing a tiny part in a kid-dominated show is that I have lots of down time at rehearsal. So Karen and Felicity and Julie and I can gossip to our heart's content and I can work on my crocheting*. It all reminds me very much of my days in Gilbert & Sullivan choruses. No one will remember that I was in the show but I'm having a lovely time helping to put it together.

*I am making a scarf or two or three for women serving in Afghanistan, a project that my friend Pam alerted me to.

16 November 2009


No one prays more for the good health of the star than the under-rehearsed understudy.

Eat your vegetables, Anna, and wash your hands often.

15 November 2009

Table for Two

On Friday night I was supposed to meet Dave, a theater friend, for dinner at Fajita Coast. He was scheduled to see The Goat at Silver Spring and I was planning to see The Merry Wives of Windsor at my high school, a block away.

I was running a little late and my friend Laura, one of the cast members for The Goat hit little enough traffic that she decided to have a sit down rather than carry out dinner. So she went to Fajita Coast ....

(This is where that wavy screen that they had back in the old days on sit-coms to denote a flashback kicks in.)

Dave walks in a sees Laura sitting at a table. He and I see each other rarely enough that she fit his mental description for me*, so he plunked down at the table with her and said jocularly "I'll just sit here until you get a better offer. "

"I'm sorry?!"

"Augh! You're not Leta!"

"No, but I know Leta."

So when I arrived a few minutes later, they were still sharing a table, happily chatting away.

If they become friends, they'll have one of the better "meet cute" stories I can think of.

* And I quote - thin and brown haired. Delusional. Flattering, but delusional.

14 November 2009

I'm not sure I was exaggerating either

David and I were invited to a gala fundraiser recently. The kind held in Expensive Locations with Open Bars and Important Dignitaries. We would be one of three couples at a table for several couples. I don't have an official link to the organization but the very good friend who invited us does and it is a Very Worthy Organization indeed. I was honored to drink their booze, consume their food, and applaud their Dignitaries.

David is less likely to enjoy these sorts of events than I am, but he is a) a very nice man and b) also fond of the friend who invited us, so he agreed to attend.* But he's a pretty sharp cookie and observed that he thinks the major reason I accepted with such alacrity was the company we would be keeping more than anything else.

"This is just social for you, isn't it?"**

"Well, sure it is. Oh, Honey, as long as we are invited by such good folks, I'd accept an invitation to run through a hail of bullets."

* He may have had other motives, I don't know. I shall not speculate here.
** Usually the correct assumption.

13 November 2009

Like Sarah Chalke. Or Dick Sergeant. Or Brian Forster

Andy: You look different. Why do you look different?
Me: I dunno. Maybe because I'm being played by another actress?
Andy: That's very meta of you, but no.

12 November 2009

Because it's been raining a lot lately

"Fool In The Rain"
Jones, Page, Plant

Well there's a light in your eye that keeps shining
Like a star that can't wait for the night
I hate to think I've been blinded baby
Why can't I see you tonight?

And the warmth of your smile starts a-burnin'
And the thrill of your touch gives me fright
And I'm shaking so much, really yearning
Why don't you show up, make it all right?
Yeah, it's all right.

And if you promised you'd love so completely
and you said you would always be true
You swore that you would never leave me, baby:
What ever happened to you?

And you thought it was only in movies
As you wish all your dreams would come true
It ain't the first time believe me, baby
I'm standin here feeling blue
Yeah I'm blue

Now I will stand in the rain on the corner
I'll watch the people go shuffling downtown
Another ten minutes no longer
And then I'm turning around

The clock on the wall's moving slower
My heart it sinks to the ground
And the storm that I thought would blow over
Clouds the light of the love that I found

Now my body is starting to quiver
And the palms of my hands getting wet
I've got no reason to doubt you baby,
It's all a terrible mess

I'll run in the rain till I'm breathless
When I'm breathless I'll run till I drop, hey
The thoughts of a fool's kind of careless
I'm just a fool waiting on the wrong block, oh yeah
Light of the love that I found...

11 November 2009

Wearing my poppy

When I was growing up I believed that Memorial Day honored those who died in War and Veterans Day honored all service personnel. It turns out that I was mistaken.

Memorial Day (originally Decoration Day) celebrated Union soldiers and the date (last Monday in May) was chosen to match the day of reunification after the Civil War.

Veterans Day (also known as Armistice Day or Remembrance Day) originally honored the veterans of the first World War. When I was in England last November, we stopped our singing and such in time for the moment of silence at 11:11 am and afterwards our host, Bob, asked if any of us had parents or grandparents who fought in that war. His father fought for England as the did the fathers and uncles of several of the people in the room.

I had landed at Heathrow a couple of days before and as I was going through the airport with Carol and Claire and Mariel, I saw a box labeled "Poppy Appeal". Ignorant American that I am, I asked what it was and what it meant. I was told that the Poppy Appeal which offers little paper poppies in exchange for donations, supports the Royal British Legion, the nation's leading Armed Forces charity providing care and support to all members of the British Armed Forces past and present.

I asked if a pound was enough (oh, any amount is fine, luv), put my pound in the tin, and took a poppy. I put it through the button hole of my sweater and was severely grateful that I had learned this before I had needed any kind of assistance, as I had assumed that the many people wearing poppies were airport personnel of some kind.

I made sure to wear it that Sunday and also made sure to put it where I wouldn't lose it when I got home.

A couple of months later, I was at the James Lee Community Center for an audition or a rehearsal or something and was chatting with a friend who works there. I noticed a box of poppies on the counter and asked about them. It seems that the American Legion also uses poppies to raise money for the support of veterans.

So now I have two poppies and this week I have worn my British poppy on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday for Remembrance Day and will wear my American poppy today, tomorrow and Friday for Veterans Day. My Boss saw my English poppy on Monday and today is wearing the one that he got on a recent trip to London. My other boss has not been able to find a poppy anywhere locally, so I have lent him my English one. And the three of us are explaining our poppies to the many people who ask about the paper flowers we are wearing.

Why poppies? Because many of the fallen in World War I were buried in Flanders Field in Belgium where poppies grow like poppies.

To all who served my country or their own, including my father and grandfathers, my thanks. Thank you for your service.

10 November 2009

A Bright Side

When Mom moved to Very Assisted Living boxes and boxes of her papers came to me. I am packrat but Mom is even more of one.

The central part of my study has been filed with boxes for the past year and I'd frequently walk in there on a Saturday morning, fully intending to sort, ditch, file, and generally reduce the level of the worst Disney ride ever, Paper Mountain. I'd take one look at it, desultorily move a few items from one place to another, feel totally overwhelmed, and find something else to do. Often something really productive, like play FreeCell.

Well, with Mom running out of money, it's time to submit the paperwork for a "spend down." Mom paid a pretty steep "deposit" when she moved into the facility where she lives and now that she does not have the income to pay the $295 a day that it costs to live in VAL, they will help me organize spending down the deposit. When she runs through that and uses up all but $2,500 of her assets, they'll apply for Medi-whichever it is.

The people in the Finance office are very nice, but it turns out that they actually do need to see paperwork. Lots of paperwork. So I've been spending time in the study and because I have a goal - find X, find Y, find Z - I'm not being dissuaded by chaos and dispair.

So while it doesn't look like it to the average passer-by, the study is tidier and more organized. And I've been getting rid of things outside of the study as well.

Except for the fact that I know it's too much hope for, I'd say that maybe by the time that my nieces have to do this for me, I'll have broken the packrat habit.

09 November 2009


Night flight to San Francisco. Chase the moon across America. God! It’s been years since I was on a plane.

When we hit thirty-five thousand feet, we’ll have reached the tropopause. The great belt of calm air. As close as I’ll ever get to the ozone.

I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening …

But I saw something only I could see, because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules, of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them, and was repaired.

Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there is a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead.

At least I think that’s so.

From Angels in America by Tony Kushner

08 November 2009

Not as cute as he thinks it is

Of all of the tricks that Pekoe has learned over the past 10 years, I think that his new one of tipping his cat box onto its side is my least favorite.

Especially when he does in the middle of the night and I find out by walking though cat litter a little while later.

07 November 2009

It also happens to be true

Living in Very Assisted Living ain't cheap. It's costing my mother $295 a day to be kept in the style to which she would have preferred not to become accustomed. $295 a day is more than her income, so we're starting the process to spend down the deposit she paid when she moved there seven years ago. When that money is (too soon) gone, the facility will help her apply for Medi-whichever.

It depresses Mom to think that she won't have anything to leave me and my neices. I've tried different ways to tell her that, while it is too bad, it's more important to take care of her than to worry about any kind of financial legacy.

Today I may have found a way to phrase it that works for her:

Mom, you worked hard all your life and saved a lot of money, which will be spent to keep you safe and comfortable. You're money should be spent on you. And knowing that you are safe and comfortable means a lot to me.

She said that was "a nice way to put it." Had Mom been more of a fan of Hemingway, she might have said "Isn't it pretty to think so," but I doubt she would have gone to far as quote Brick's "Wouldn't it be funny if that was true?" Mom's never been as much of a cynic as Mr. Williams.

06 November 2009

For my birthday

Don't take to me Nello's for a very expensive dinner. Just buy me a shiny new Passat.* Or a shiny new Eos** and a used Jetta.

*Thunder Blue, manual, sunroof.

**Salsa Red, manual, don't forget the iPod cable-thing.

05 November 2009

And that's the way it is - now

Back in the old days (when I was a child) there was the evening news, in black and white, and there were two newspapers, the Washington "Post" and the Washington " Evening Star."*

Then, in the fullness of time, there was news on the radio. Real news stories that lasted longer than a minute. Real news, not just a few headlines at the top of the hour, mixed with traffic, weather, and celebrity gossip. (Or, worse yet, the AM station that my mother liked that carried Harden and Weaver - WMAL, back then pretty Reader's Digest-y, today a ractionary sinkhole).

And how do I get my news now? From FaceBook. I learn about breaking news stories as I read about them in status updates. Then, later in the day, NPR fills in the details for me.

Lee described FaceBook as what happens in the halls between classes in high school. Apparently, it also has a PA with morning and afternoon announcements, too. Just like high school. What goes around comes around.

*Unless I was visting my grandparents, in which case there was the Plain Dealer, which was thinner and more Reader's Digest-like. I liked the "Plain Dealer."

**Today, by the way, is Morning Edition's 30th birthday. Many happy returns of the day!

***And, of course, people who follow Twitter now get their (truncated) headlines from the Twits.

04 November 2009

How to escape terrible radio

I get two stations at work - 88.5 (wamu), the local NPR station, and 107.3, the local pop and "personality DJ" station. Mostly I divide my time between the two of them, but every now and then - and more and more frequently these days - I need a break. I was reluctant to use Smudge* at work because when my boss needs me, I don't want to have to take out ear buds before I look attentive. Or miss him when he calls for me.

But then one day ... then one day ... ** then one day I realized that even though the external speaker makes the sound a little teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy bit tinny, Smudge still lacks the static of my radio and I could hear it just fine even without the ear buds.

So now when I need to avoid hearing about Virginia politics on NPR or to avoid being subjected to the biggest blowhard DJ in radio on 107.3, I grab Smudgy, chose a random song and hit "genius." Et voila!***

Sometimes I use the wi-fi network that I can get to and use Pandora. Also good. Thank you, Modern Technology!

* My name for my iPod Touch because what have I re-learned from having an iPod Touch? That human beings are greasy little animals.

** Oh crap. I cannot seem to stop quoting from Edward Albee's The Goat. That is so not fair.

*** I've done this a bunch of times, so I really should stop looking over at Smudgy as each next song comes up and thinking "Oh! I like that song." Of course, I do. It's on my iPod.

03 November 2009

She's known me a while

One of the positive things about having lunch with a friend who is taking pain killers and is a rather stresssed is that you can have exchanges like this:

Her: I've had too many people die lately so be careful.
Me: Be careful? Oh! You mean, like, crossing the street and stuff. For a minute I thought you meant "be careful not to say anything stupid and that ..."
Her: Oh yeah, that's a total crapshoot with you.

It's so nice to be understood.

02 November 2009

The bad place

I don't mind Tech Week, which some theater people call Hell Week. In fact, I rather like it. But, oh, how I hate Version Control Hell.

I went to Version Control Hell last week and just got back. Fortunately, it was really only a day trip, unlike some of the extended voyages I've been on in the past.

Upper Management is working on an important document for our company right now. And they are doing it by in-person meetings and by editing the document via our intranet site. And they forgot the most important rule: when editing the document on the intranet site, "save" don't "save as" with a new name.

So I merged the documents back into one and sent the Worthy Gentlemen* an e-mail reminding them not to "save as," but only to "save."

And I included this paraphrase: What Leta has joined together, let no Manager put asunder. **

I'm hoping that the Biblical-sounding injunction will work where "please" and "thanks!" have failed. We shall see.

* Because I work in what is still a very male-dominated field, I am still looking forward to the day when I send an e-mail to Upper Management that cannot start with the salutation "Gentlemen."

** Another reason that I really, really like my job? I ran that sentence past my Boss before I sent the e-mail and he didn't make me take it out.

01 November 2009


"At the end of every rehearsal, we have what are called "notes." If they're not about you, they're boring but if they are about you, they're important."

Amy, giving the best summary I've ever heard for the last few minutes of rehearsal.

She is directing her second show which has a large cast, 90% of which are children, many under age 6, most doing their first show. She is my hero.

25 October 2009

Valuable lessons from Old Time Radio

"It's the olives that do it, not the Martinis!"

Johnny Dollar in "The Confidential Matter" episode of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

19 October 2009

Character Reference

"Since you should know something about me, I have asked the Reverend Simon Simpless, of St. Hilda's Church near Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, to write to you. He has known me since I was a child and is fond of me. I have asked Lady Bella Taunton to provide a reference for me too. We were fire wardens together during the Blitz and she wholeheartedly dislikes me. Between the two of them, you may get a fair picture of my character."

A letter from Juliet Ashton to Amelia Maugery in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

06 October 2009

Don't ask for much, do we?

Collect of the Day
Sunday, October 5, 2009

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire to deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We would also like a pony.

01 October 2009

Byron, Bryon

Byron* has been popping up in my line of sight again lately. Sara Joy is rehearsing Arcadia and her Facebook status updates are peppered with Hannah's dialogue; John Malkovich appears in the film version of J.M. Coetzee's novel Disgrace and has this comment about his character, a professor of Romantic poetry: "Probably if you spend your whole life reading Byron and Keats and Shelley, partaking of their worldview, then you might have a different moral compass than those who don't."

So the lame brat is on my mind again.

A couple of nights ago I was reading a Time magazine from a few weeks back and came across a book review. The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes** describes "an era when science was both glamorous and dangerous" and the review by Lev Grossman notes that at that time "Poetry and science weren't wholly separate yet: they were seen as complementary ways of piercing the veil of everyday phonomena. William Wordsworth, Lord Byron and the Shelleys (Percy Bysshe and Mary) followed scientific breakthroughs like sports scores."

And the single hardest part of Arcadia for me to memorize is back in my head:

I had a dream which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguished, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air... ***

In rehearsals, before those words were secure (which nearly required a nail gun) I would get to that point in the script, look intelligently**** at Patrick and say "Bryon, Bryon, end of Byron" and we'd go on with the scene. I think the director was a little afraid that I would do that in performance, too, but I did not.

Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something. Perhaps while I am between scripts, I'll read some Romantic poetry and see what - if anything - it does to my moral compass.

Assuming I have one, that is.

* George Gordon, Lord Byron

** I don't think it's the same Richard Holmes as the baritone who sings for NYGASP, but that would also be a nice piece of serendipity, wouldn't it.

*** Darkness

**** Or so I like to think.

23 September 2009

Camping ... in Pennsylvania

A couple of years ago, when I was working on Taking Leave, I would have dinner after rehearsals with a friend. We'd chat about this and that and I don't really remember how much of my Markland experience peppered my conversation but apparently enough because one day he said something along the lines of "This camping you mentioned: did it happen ... in Pennsylvania?"

Why, yes. Yes, it did. I used to go to the Pennsic Wars every August and be all medieval surrounded by hundreds of other people being all medieval, too. There was very little that was modern as far as the eye could eye could see. Well, except for the coolers.* And the sunglasses. And the paperback science fiction.

Every Pennsic had its own character but certain things seemed to be a given: There would be at least one torrential rainstorm during the week which would teach excellent lessons about the inadvisability of having one's blankets touching the edge of one's canvas tent and about how efficient a process "wicking" can really be; at least one person would get what everyone else called the Plague but more literal me called a flux,** although thankfully not a bloody flux; and at least one someone would hook-up with one someone else with said hook-up turning out to rather regretable and a fruitful source of mockery in the future.

I haven't been to a Pennsic in years, so imagine of my delight when I found this post on Medieval News.***

Ahhh, good times.

* We used coolers for our food because food poisoning is no fun no matter what century you are currently inhabiting. And it's even less fun when you are a modern person sleeping in a tent and sharing a port-a-potty.

** See the reason for the use of achronistic coolers, supra.

***I should note, however, that even though the "Voice of America" video says that the winner of the Pennsic War receives the title to Pittsburgh, them of us what were there, know that it's the loser who takes possession. See? Even those strangers on Wikipedia agree with that.

21 September 2009

Beets - the worst vegetable ever

Quinn and I are quite different in someways, I'm extroverted and like Facebook; she's introverted and likes Twitter, but there's one way in which we are soulmates.

I despise beets in any form. Canned, baked, precious little heirloom ones on a fancy salad, they all taste like iron filings to me. I’d sooner lick a handrail; same flavor and you’re done faster. But beets are very good for you and I’ve always felt badly that I hadn’t given them more of a chance, when I wasn’t shooing them off to the corner of my plate. I’d eat a jar-egg and it would taste in some way of beets and even if I never did another brave thing in my life, I’d have that. If Daughter flinches at the sight of a Brussels sprout, I can lean over to her and say knowingly, “At least it’s not marinated in beets.”

A few years ago when some friends and I participated in CSA*, Stacey and I had half share each**. When the food arrived each week, Stace and I would divvy up our share and try to figure out what we had. Our general fall-back was that if we didn't recognize a vegetable, it couldn't hurt to roast it. This is a very good rule. Well, for everything except lettuce. Just don't even roast lettuce.

Anyway, for a while there we were getting ourselves some beets. We tried all kinds of ways to prepare them and no matter what we did, they remained beets. Roasted beets? They are beets with a slightly less horrible than usual exterior.

So if Quinn is willing to eat a beet-marinated jar-egg in order to set a good example for her daughter (or at least not lose too much of the moral high ground), I can but admire her. Would that I had the same strength of character. Because while I would get up at dawn if I had to in order to provide a good example, I am not eating anything marinated in beets.

*Community Supported Agriculture, or Tree Hugger Food.

**There are four people at Stacey's house. My house is me and the not-very-vegetable-eating cat. Even a half share resulted in much soup being made from the left-overs of each week's bounty.

***Don't know what a jar-egg is?
Read her post. But not, perhaps, over lunch.

05 September 2009

Of course it does

I am enjoying Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma*, but this bit made me laugh:

"Angelo called it rapini, and said the young leaves were delicious sautéed in olive oil and garlic."

Because, really, aren't most things delicious when they are sautéed in olive oil and garlic?

*As I was typing this my fingers really, really wanted me to misspell "dilemma." Which meant that I kept seeing "The Omnivore's Deli." And you know? That sounds pretty good. I know I'd stop in.

03 September 2009

Time to buy some rap

Bill Forman wrote such an interesting piece about Busdriver that I'm going to have to pick up a couple of his songs. Because even if they don't sound entirely like G&S, it's hard to resist someone this engaging. And it will add another entry to the list of stuff that people wouldn't suspect that I have on MyPod.*

As on previous albums, he employs a rapid-fire delivery and convoluted rhyme schemes, like some unholy offspring of Jamaican dancehall deejay Bounty Killer and light opera savants Gilbert and Sullivan. Asked which he found more influential, Busdriver says he appreciates rap's debt to "old-school Jamaican toasters, but I never really sought that out. So I would have to say the latter. Unfortunately, I don't spend enough time with [Gilbert and Sullivan's work], but I know what you're talking about and I do shoot for things like that."

*Or in my bookcase. Unflattering f'rinstance: "You? Like Mamet? You? Really?"

The Birds of New York

Sometimes of late years I find myself thinking the most beautiful sight in the world might be the birds taking over New York after the last man has run away to the hills. I will never live to see it, of course, but I know just how it will sound because I've lived up high and I know the sort of watch birds keep on us. I've listened to sparrows tapping tentatively on the outside of air conditioners when they thought no one was listening, and I know how other birds test the vibrations that come up to them through the television aerials. 'Is he gone?' they ask, and the vibrations come up from below, 'Not yet, not yet.'

Loren Eiseley (via The Writer's Almanac)

01 September 2009

It pays to have smart assy friends

Because then you don't get in trouble for saying stuff like I did yesterday. I would probably never say anything so snarky to my very nice and not Smart Assy Friends.

Smart Assy Friend: So how's your Mom doing?*
Me: Oh, pretty well. She was pretty incoherent there for a while but she's recovering nicely.
SAF: Yeah, I spent some of the weekend incoherent, too.
Me: Yes, but with my mother, we can tell the difference.

*Mom spent a few days in the hospital with the UTI. Between the infection and the dehydration, she was not very lucid for a couple of days, scaring the bejeebers out of me. Yay both for anti-biotics and Mom's dislike of superbug-creating anti-bacterial everything.

25 August 2009

Knee stabilizing exercises

This actually *exactly* what I need! I have what is called a "mal-tracking patella" which means that my kneecap doesn't run vertically in its little grove, but cants off to the outside a bit, in a kind of diagonal action. Remind me, the next time I see you, and I'll show you what I mean.

Thanks, New York Times!

17 August 2009


Via Claire's Facebook post:

David likes to describe the rehearsal hall at the Stage as the place where the stuff in one's attic goes to die. Well, it seems that we missed a bet because the all of the fabulously terrible (or merely impressively outdated) items in Awful Library Books are still sitting cheerfully on the shelves.

12 August 2009

Still a few bugs in the system

Google tells us that we can now use Google Maps to get transit information. "Oh, how nice!" I thought, because WMATA's website isn't always very user friendly and Google Maps usually is.

So I went to the site to give it a try and I picked a pretty darn simple trip: from my office to Silver Spring Stage, which is about 2 1/2 miles, largely up a main road served by about a zillion buses. I typed in the two addresses and got the following:

[my office address], Silver Spring, MD 20910

Travel time: about 46 mins
Showing Trip 1
Walk to 10145 Colesville Rd
About 46 mins

Beta: Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.

1. Head west on [] Ave toward Georgia Ave/US-29 194 ft
2. Turn right at Georgia Ave/US-29 0.1 mi
3. Turn right at Colesville Rd/US-29 0.9 mi
4. Slight right to stay on Colesville Rd/US-29 1.2 mi

Walk to 10145 Colesville Rd
About 46 mins

Hmmmmmm. So I figured it was some kind of little glitch and ran it again using the car option (worked fine) and then ran it again using Public Transit. Apparently, Google wants me to get more exercise, because it still suggests that I walk the 2.3 miles. (And it seems that Google thinks I won't actually make the hike if they tell me how far it is because the total mileage figure doesn't show on the "public transit" results.)

So I tried WMATA. They have a newer, spiffier, prettier website since my last frustrating experience with them. I typed in the office address* and the theater's address and voila! I got three different suggestions, with cost information.**

I wouldn't have thought to go to WMATA's new site without the prompt from the less-than-optimal response from Google Maps.

So - once again - Google has quickly and easily provided me with lots of useful information! Just not in the way they had intended.

*Important trip: Type in only the street address, not the city, state, or zip because that's apparently just TMI and confuses the software.
**WMATA really, really wants us to use SmarTrip cards. One gets a ten-cent discount on the bus fare with a SmarTrip card.

10 August 2009

What I learned at the Neurologist

Mom had an appointment at the neurologist's office the other day and I went along for moral support and, possibly, practical assistance.

Mom has been living with Multiple Sclerosis for the past twenty years. An auto-immune disorder, MS is a particularly vicious foe which attacks the nervous system of the body, destroying the myelin sheath which covers nerves - effectively cutting the phone cord in the house of the body, like the villain in a thriller. Only MS isn't all that thrilling.

Mom has chronic progressive MS*, and suffers from spasticity and muscle loss. She hasn't walked at all in nearly ten years, her vision is affected, and her cognition is somewhat impaired. She can't write legibly very often and cannot remember things long enough to tell them to me if I'm not standing in front of her when they occur to her, which means that when she does remember, she tells me things over and over.** I know quite a few people with MS and Mom has it the worst of all of them. She now lives in a "skilled nursing facility" which wasn't how she intended to spend her retirement years.

So, anyway, one of the staff where she lives noticed that Mom hadn't seen her neurologist in the last five years and suggested an appointment. The appointment was duly made and I met her there and we saw the neurologist. He asked some questions, checked her muscle strength in her arms ("Push against my hand. Uh-huh.") and her coordination ("Touch my finger. Now touch your nose. Now touch my finger. Uh-huh."), and then sat down to talk to us.

What he told us I essentially regard as good news. My biggest fear about Mom has been that she would get worse and worse and eventually be in a lot of discomfort all the time. But the doctor told us that if we could see her the nerves coming off of her spinal cord, we wouldn't see any active lesions, just areas where the nerve had withered. Mom has stabilized. In other words, he said, she is a paraplegic, and could be compared to someone who had been hurt in a riding accident as Christopher Reeve was, rather than to someone with, say a slowing progressing cancer, such as Elizabeth Edwards has. The flood has been and gone; Mom won't be living in the middle of a river with the water getting ever higher.

Which is good news for appropriate values of good news.

After the appointment, we went to Baja Fresh for lunch and I learned that while Mom zips around the nursing home in her electric wheel chair at speed, she is much more sedate on the sidewalks of Wheaton. And that when she crosses the street at less than a mile an hour, the kindly drivers wait for her very patiently. Thank you, Kindly Drivers!

A very educational trip. If one is supposed to learn one new thing every day, I'm up two.

*The other kind is relapsing/remitting where the patient has good days and bad days. Mom generally has bad days.

**Of course, I tell people things over and over and I don't have MS. Maybe it's a mother-daughter thing.

24 July 2009

I'm a loser, just like Sarah

From Triumph Dining's Essential Gluten-Free Blog's list of Celebrities with Celiac Disease:

Comedienne and author Sarah Vowell, who says she has a “wheat allergy” is obsessed with the magaine “Living Without,” which she says “has the most downbeat name of any magazine since ‘Downbeat.’” She wonders why “the publishers don’t come clean and call it “Loser?” She also admits that the “corny” and “reassuring” magazine makes her feel less alone because her friends have “an underwhleming grasp of the pros and cons of various brands of soy flour.” Her hilarious segment on This American Life about living without wheat* is worth a listen (it starts at about 17:35).

In case, you are wondering, no, I don't subsribe to "Living Without." David offered me a subscription not long after I was diagnosed but, frankly, for me it would be like getting a heapin' helpin' of depression in the mail once a month.

I also liked this bit from the GF Celebrities list. Sarah mentions Governor Swift in her piece.

Jane Swift, the youngest women ever elected to the Massachusetts State Senate who later became the first female Governor of Massachusetts, underwent many medical examinations before being diagnosed with Celiac disease. When she goes to a political function, her staff calls ahead to tell the food servers about gluten-free options. Unfortunately, Swift often finds that people think she’s being difficult.

*Episode #256, which originally aired on 9 January 2004.

18 July 2009

The cost of doing business

David is off on a field trip this morning and while he was out the phone rang. Message from the Guy who is supposed to give David an estimate on replacing his derelict back fence reminding David that he would be by around 2:00 for the walk-around. David should be back then and is very responsible about his appointments (as he generally is about everything), so I didn't worry too much about it.

I went about my business, including retrieving the very lovely flowers that I was given last night by Brian and McCall to celebrate the opening of the show that Brian wrote and I directed.* The flowers were a little overdue for some water and TLC and I don't get flowers so often that I am cavalier about their care, so I brought them in and noticed some guy in a car outside.

A few minutes later the phone rang and it was Jack (the Fence Guy) again. I didn't quite catch what he said, and I don't normally answer David's phone, but I tried to pick it up to let him know that David is out and would be back in time for their appointment. Didn't quite get there in time. So he called again and I answered.

I confirmed that I wasn't the Mrs. but a very good friend. Told Jack about David being out but coming back.

"Oh." (Pause) "Did I just see you carrying flowers into the house?"

"Yes. Is that you outside?"

"Yes." Jack was now hoping that I would let him walk around and look at the fence. I told him that I would be right out and then the Imp with the Weird Sense of Humor that serves as a brain for me added "Of course, you realize that the cost of me doing you a favor is a dozen roses, right?"

"Uhhh... Uhhhh ..."

"Which, of course, would be a pass-through. You'll include it in the estimate."

"Uhhh... okay."

I got outside and Jack (a very pleasant man) told me that, you know, his wife doesn't actually allow him to give other women flowers. She is pretty emphatic about that.

I suggested that he remind her that In This Economy, we have to do what we can to secure business, even if that means giving women-not-his-wife flowers. He was dubious as to whether or not she would believe this but seemed willing to give it a try. Or was willing to pretend he was in order to see the fence.

I walked him around, we looked at a fence that is the Board on Batten equivalent of drunken stupor. He said "hmmmm" and measured things. He made some notes. He rolled his eyes at the way other fences nearby had been installed. We agreed that he would call David this afternoon and then send him the esimate by mail unless David objected.

We parted on good terms and my share of the good-byes included the cheery: "The flowers can be delivered here."

He smiled and laughed. That's because he thinks I'm kidding. Hey, it's a tough economy out there.

*Which played to a full house! Come and see it! "Dictionary" at Montgomery Playhouse at the Kentlands Arts Barn! Playing in rep with five other spiffy one acts! Alternating performances July 17, 18, 24, & 25!

14 July 2009


Part of the fun of one acts is comparing and contrasting how things are going for each show. I especially enjoyed this exchange between a couple of actors in different casts after a couple of pages were skipped in the later show:

"Well, we managed not to do our 35-minute show in 45 minutes."

"Yeah. We did our 30-minute show in 25."

03 July 2009

My kind of lease renewal

I moved into my apartment in August of 2007 and signed a lease agreeing to pay a rent of [large sum]. In August of 2008 my lease came up for renewal and I thought I'd be looking at a rent of [large sum + $100]. So I was pleased to get a letter from the management company saying that, as I am a valued tenant*, they would like to renew my lease at a rent of [large sum + $85]. Oh, how nice! I promptly signed it and turned it in.

A few months later the prices of everything were exploding, so we got a note informing us that rents would have to be raised to compensate, at which point my rent became [large sum + $85 + $35]. Well, less nice, but oh well.

In all the time that I have lived here the building has never been full, so as the time for my lease renewal approached and I steeled myself to see [large sum + ($85 + $35) + $100]** on the lease renewal letter, I decided to ask my Boss for some help.

Before he (for his sins) became my Boss, he was, among other things, an accountant and an investment banker. Now he is the CFO of a medium-sized*** engineering firm, so he knows a bit about markets and negotiations. I figured that he could give me some guidance on how to ask for certain concessions in exchange for the rent increase. Maybe one of the covered parking spaces ($30/month) at no charge or something.

But before he and I could sit down and map out a Rent Concession Strategy for Someone Who is Too Nice for Her Own Good, I got this year's lease renewal letter.

Dear Resident:

Due to the increasing costs of maintaining the community, it is necessary for your rental rate to increase effective 9/1/2009.

As required by Section 29-54 of the Montgomery County Landlord/Tenant Code and other applicable provisions**** of law, this letter is to provide you with sixty (60) days noticed of your rent increase. The voluntary rent guideline set by Montgomery County of 4.4%.


We look forward to your continued residency with [building name]. Below you will find your renewal lease options. Please mark your choice for renewal and return this form to the office by August 10, 2009.

___ Yes, I/we wish to renew my/our lease agreement for one year at the rental rate of $[exactly what I'm paying now], a 0.00% increase. You are currently renting at the rate of $[large sum + etc].

What? I re-read that paragraph.

___ Yes, I/we wish to renew my/our lease agreement for one year at the rental rate of $[exactly what I'm paying now], a 0.00% increase. You are currently renting at the rate of $[large sum + etc].

Yup, that's what it said. Moving on.

___ Yes, I/we wish to renew my/our lease agreement on a month to month basis at the rental rate of [large sum + ($85 + $35) + $100] a 6.49% increase. You are currently renting at the rate of [my current rent].

If you feel this is excessive, you may request the Montgomery County Department of Housing & Community Affairs to review this matter.

Whoo-hoo. My Boss and I agreed that my best choice is to leave this sleeping dog slumbering happily in place, so I have signed that puppy pretty quick and will be dropping it off at the office at my first opportunity.

*Which I am assuming means that I pay my rent on time. But I don't discount that I am relatively clean, quiet, and cooperative. And they would really value me if they knew that I am typing this with the air conditioning off and the windows open. No point in using all that store-bought air when it's so nice out right now.

**Huh. Someone who didn't know me who read that might be lead to think that I am not as much of a math imcompetant as I sometimes am.

***Read that as "small-sized" if you represent the Small Business Administration, please.

****It actually says "provisiions," but let that pass. Let she who is without typo ...

27 June 2009

My thought process: a cross-section

"Now pay attention, because it's very muddly and half the time I won't know what I'm talking about."

Roderick Alleyn in Death in a White Tie by Ngaio Marsh

25 June 2009

Not to mention the obligatory scantily clad girl

These two words usually keep me out of a theater: Ray Cooney. Cooney is an English typist who cranks out one feeble farce after another. These lamentable confections jumble together stick-figure characters to recite stale jokes and play out thinly stretched, formulaic situations. Think six-minute Carol Burnett sketches expanded to 2 1/4 hours. But without the laughs.

Michael Toscano, in the Washington Post in a glowing review for It Runs in the Family at Little Theatre of Alexandria

07 June 2009

Not the conversation she planned to have

On Memorial Day I was attending a cook-out in Falls Church just up the street from the town's Memorial Day Fair. I wandered around the Fair, mainly looking for the friend who was handing out show fliers for All My Sons, figuring that I could give her a hand. I couldn't find Tina, but I was individually intercepted by several members of an environmental group*, who were working the fair in order to fundraise and educate.

They had been well trained and thus got right and my path with a cheery hello and a some kind of "Do you know about [Organization]"-type question. I blew each off with something like "No, but I'm looking for a friend. Maybe later."

Never did find Tina, but I figured that the young environmental volunteers deserved their turn so I went back to the last of the interceptors and we started to talk.

"I didn't find my friend, but you wanted to tell me about [Organization]."

"Yes! We ---" and she actually got a few words into her pitch before I stopped her.

"Actually, I have one question." Pause "What is [Organization]'s position on hydropower?"**

And then we had the big pause as truth battled with telling me what she deduced that I wanted to hear.

She told me slowly and carefully that she, personally, did not have a position on hydropower and wasn't positive what [Organization]'s position was but she did not think that they support it.

We looked at the binder she was carrying which showed pretty pictures of wind farms and solar and no pictures of Eagle buffets.

So instead of her telling me how important it is to save the environment and couldn't I make a contribution today (no, not based on looking at a binder at a fair), she got to hear my Benefits of Hydropower speech.

(Summary: Hydro is clean and renewable. No form of energy is without cost or limitation: wind farms can often have the same effect on birds that Captain Sullenberger's Flight 1549 had on that flock near the Hudson and they can be very noisy, disrupting wildlife reproductive habits; solar works well in areas with lots of sunshine, so Forks, Washington wouldn't get much use from it; geothermal is expensive to build and maintain; nuclear power plants are hideously expensive to build and I'm still not sure about the waste issue; etc ... Hydro has its costs and limitations as well, obviously, but it should be part of the energy mix.)

I told her that I'm in favor of any clean/renewable source of energy, including nuclear power. "Basically, I am in favor of prett' near any energy source that doesn't involve scrapping the tops off of mountains." She liked that sentence. Most people I've said to do, but then I don't have a lot of close friends in the coal industry.

She also seemed to agree with my assessment that "clean coal" - like compassionate conservatism*** and, oh, kindly spouse abuse, tries to twist-tie an otherwise not only unrelated, but actually opposite, attribute onto something unpopular.

Just for good measure I threw in my fun fact about electric cars: They are only as clean as the electricity that powers them, so great if you live in Idaho which is largely hydro-powered and terrible if you live in West Virgina, also known as the Mountaintop Removal State.

I believe I also mentioned that the word "hydropower" has not - to my knowledge - appeared in Time magazine in any context in the past several years, unless they are covering China. Environment + China = bad.

I'm not suggesting damming free-running waterways, just perhaps adding a hydro component to the 90% of Americans dams that don't yet have it. And keeping hydro as part of the menu of alternative energies.

So we left it that I would check [Organization]'s website - and I would if I had been smart enough to write down their name - and she would consider bringing up the concept of hydro with the people who send her out to be lectured by random passers by at Memorial Day Fairs.

I'm glad we had this little talk.

And, for the record, here is Maryland's energy mix for 2007****:

Coal 23,509,862
Petroleum 3,571,272
Hydroelectric Conventional 2,298,910
Natural Gas 1,522,443
Nuclear 1,251,416
Other Gases 488,197
Other Biomass 371,074
Wood and Wood Derived Fuels 149,118

Total 33,162,292

Maryland’s coal-fired power plants typically supply more than one-half of the electricity generation within the State. Nuclear power typically supplies more than one-fourth of generation, and petroleum- and natural gas-fired plants supply much of the remainder. Although Maryland produces a small amount of coal in the West, most of the State’s coal-fired power plants burn coal shipped from West Virginia. The State’s only nuclear plant, the dual-unit Calvert Cliffs facility, supplies all of Maryland’s nuclear power. The Conowingo hydroelectric plant on the Susquehanna River, one of Maryland's largest generation facilities, provides almost all of the State’s hydroelectricity. Approximately one-third of Maryland households use electricity as their main source of energy for home heating.

Coal includes anthracite, bituminous coal, subbituminous coal, lignite, waste coal, and synthetic coal.

Other includes non-biogenic municipal solid waste, batteries, chemicals, hydrogen, pitch, purchased steam, sulfur, tire-derived fuels, and miscellaneous technologies.

Other Biomass includes biogenic municipal solid waste, landfill gas, sludge waste, agricultural byproducts, other biomass solids, other biomass liquids, and other biomass gases (including digester gases and methane).

Other Gases includes blast furnace gas, propane gas, and other manufactured and waste gases derived from fossil fuels.

Petroleum includes distillate fuel oil (all diesel and No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 fuel oils), residual fuel oil (No. 5 and No. 6 fuel oils and bunker C fuel oil), jet fuel, kerosene, petroleum coke, and waste oil.

Wood and Wood Derived Fuels includes paper pellets, railroad ties, utility poles, wood chips, bark, red liquor, sludge wood, spent sulfite liquor, and black liquor, with other wood waste solids and wood-based liquids.

*And if I remember the name of the group, I'll update this post with it.
**Disclosure statement: I worked for two years for the
National Hydropower Association.
***Which is not to say that conservatives are not compassionate. Most of the conservatives I know are kind and generous people. But when the brand has Dick Cheney, Anne Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh as the front people, "compassion" will have to be attached by way of staple-gun.
The Energy Information Administration of the Department of Energy.

20 May 2009

Haaave you met Ted?

It is a cheery myth among my friends that I know everyone. One time I was presenting an award at Silver Spring Stage's annual awards party and Michael introduced me by saying that I needed no introduction as I know everyone. I got to the mike and something like, "Not quite. There are eight or so of you here that I haven't met. Please see my on your way out."

So tonight after the Nats game*, David and I decided to take the Circulator bus back to Union Station instead of fighting the crowds getting on the green line. David waved his wallet (which contains his SmarTrip card) over the reader on the bus and then I began explaining to the bus driver that I didn't have mine with me.

"Throw her off the bus!" commanded a voice from the front. The driver laughed and waved me back and David and I went and sat with theater-friend Blake (for the commanding voice was his), who was on the bus and who had been at the game. How nice to run into someone we knew!

We were chit-chatting waiting for the bus to get underway and someone near by took a closer look at me. "Leta?" It was Brick, one of my Markland friends, who I haven't seen in probably ten years or more. So that was nice, too!**

David watching me begin to ping-pong a conversation between these people from the disparate parts of my life and asked me if there was anyone on the bus I didn't know.

"Yes," I said, pointing to the nearest stranger. "Him." I stuck out my hand, "Hi, I'm Leta."

"Brian." He smiled and shook my hand.

So that's one more down and only 5 billion and some to go before I actually do know everyone.

*Pirates 8, Nats 5 in ten innings. Alas.
**Actual tally for the evening: Lauren from work was at the game but wasn't there with us, I saw her near the consessions; Jacki and Evan were at the game and I got to say "hi" to them during the 6th inning; Blake and Brick (and Brian) were on the bus; Blake introduced me to his friend Ashley and her friend while we were underway; and Rich and Peggy were on the Metro. Brett is going to be surprised to read this, but I didn't see anyone from my high school all evening.

18 May 2009

Best Bio Ever

I do the programs for Silver Spring Stage and I see a lot of theater. Nonetheless, this is the best bio I have ever read.

Samantha (Sprintze) is a 6th grader at [school] and is overjoyed to be part of Fiddler on the Roof Jr. This is her first time ever on stage. She loves acting, singing, swimming, and cooking. She would like to thank her Aunt Leta for getting her into theater, and Mr. Johnson for the training.

17 May 2009

Thanks, Mr. Keillor

"The Episcopal Church - where the Lamb is free-range."

paraphrased from the "A Prairie Home Companion" re-run this weekend.

On the shopping list

My church, like most churches, has baskets in the narthex* to collect nonperishable food for the hungry. As the food went to Silver Spring HELP, the baskets were informally known as the HELP baskets.

I've been contributing off and on all my life, usually whatever random staple I happened to have on hand as I was leaving for church. And after Mom moved from her apartment to Old People's Prison**, I put all the gluten-containing food from her kitchen in the HELP baskets, which was rather a bonus because Mom had pretty wide tastes in food and she didn't buy store brands too often.

I haven't worried too much about what I was putting in the baskets, but ITE*** food and money are walking a little closer together in everyone's minds. I've mentioned before that gluten-free food often costs more and is harder to find than "regular" food. I'm not talking about gluten-free cupcakes, but a more standard cupboard item: breakfast cereal. I gave up eating breakfast cereal when I couldn't find any that either wasn't sweetened with barley malt (which has gluten) or didn't cost a depressing amount of money.

Chex Cereals (owned by General Mills) has recently taken the barley malt out of Rice Chex and replaced it with molasses. They also work to prevent cross-contamination, making these cereals appropriate for Celiacs. This is good news, but cereal is still - comparatively - an expensive food item and food pantries often mention that it is something that they run out of quickly.

So if you read this blog and if you contribute to your local food pantry, I am asking a favor. Please consider buying a few gluten-free items when considering what to donate.

Some suggestions:

Nature's Path - they're Canadian! They must be nice.

EnviroKidz cereals**** - Thanks to my friend Doug I have a sentimental attachment to the Leapin' Lemurs cereal;

Rice Chex;

Amy's Organic soups - Several soups are gluten-free (and clearly marked so) and a few are even corn-free. (And if there is an allergy more annoying than gluten, it's corn because HFCS is in every damn thing.)

** Come on, really, if the door to your room gets shut and someone else has to open it, or else you can't leave your room, isn't that rather prison-like? If you can't go into the courtyard unless someone holds the door open; if your
vitamins are confiscated by the staff; if you get out of bed and go to bed on their schedule - doesn't that justify the phrasing?
***ITE = In This Economy. Thanks, David for the initialism.
****Nature's Path owns Envirokidz

12 May 2009

Treat of the Week

When Sara and I were kids my Mom instituted something that even then I thought was really smart and admire more as an adult: The Treat of the Week.

We would go to the grocery store with Mom every Saturday and would each be allowed to pick out one treat. One. It could be anything we wanted - and thank goodness we weren't required to share - but it could only be one. One box of sugary cereal? Sure, fine. Two? No. One box of Pop-Tarts filled with chocolate frosting? Sure, fine. Two? No. One entire baked ham? Sure, fine.

Mom didn't put restrictions on what the treat could be,* nor did she parcel it out during the week. We could ration it for the week or eat the whole thing on Saturday when we got home. They were our treats. But once it was gone, it was gone. No more treats until the next Saturday.

Sara and I had a nice sense of empowerment about being allowed to chose our own treats and Mom was the spared an entire grocery store of of us whining for more stuff.

For what was probably several months straight, Sara and I each chose a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough. We'd keep it in the freezer and snack on it, usually making it last until the next week.

Instead of baking the cookies, we'd eat the dough raw**, sometimes cutting off lady-like pieces, sometimes just gnawing on it straight from the tube, which prett' near grossed Mom out of existence but as the rule about not micromanaging our Weekly Treats was hers, she'd just arrange to be out of the kitchen whenever we went looking for a snack. She was probably grateful during that period that she worked a sixty-hour week because if I was awake, I was probably looking around for a snack.***

As an adult I was delighted when Ben and Jerry's introduced Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream and considered it an homage to the Treat of the Week whenever I had some. Then I got that stupid auto-immune disorder and can no longer eat CCCD ice cream.

But thanks to Whole Foods I can at least go back to having random bits of raw cookie dough. Until they realize how much I like it and discontinue carrying it, they have gluten-free cookie dough made by a company called French Meadow that tastes remarkably like anybody else's cookie dough.**** It comes already sliced, which while reducing the level of just-like-when-I-was-a-kid inheirant in consuming raw "food," it does make it more office-friendly.

I buy a couple of boxes, put one in the freezer and one in the fridge, and most days after lunch I wander down to the "coffee mess" and collect one to nibble on back at my desk. Corporate at our company (I work for Corporate) is pretty much a junior UN so no one questions any one's possibly odd-looking food.

It's from Whole Foods and it's gluten-free so it costs enough to enforce a one-per day rationing.

And there are nine per box, so it's more like Treat of the Every Other Week.

* Which is an impressive example of self-control as most of our choices probably made her gag.
** See what I mean?
** This is still true. I am constantly hungry.
**** In the gluten-free world, tasting like the ordinary product is a very good thing.

05 May 2009

Family-friendly theater

In the middle of the front row of the dress circle on the rare occasion of the first performance of an original English play sits a young lady of fifteen. She is a very charming girl—gentle, modest, sensitive—carefully educated and delicately nurtured—very easily flurried and perhaps a little too apt to take alarm when no occasion for alarm exists—but, nevertheless, an excellent specimen of a well-bred young English gentlewoman; and it is with reference to its suitability to the eyes and ears of this young lady that the moral fitness of every original English play is gauged on the occasion of its production. It must contain no allusions that cannot be fully and satisfactorily explained to this young lady; it must contain no incident, no dialogue, that can, by any chance, summon a blush to this young lady’s innocent face.

Well, gentlemen, I have no objection to this young lady. I think, on the contrary, that the presence of this young lady has exercised a most wholesome restrictive influence on the character of our few original plays, and I shall be sorry indeed if the day ever comes when her parents and guardians will find it advisable to prohibit her attendance on the occasions I have described. I look upon her presence at my own “first nights” as a direct and most gratifying personal compliment—the more so, as I happen to know that, on no account whatever, would she be permitted to be present at a première of M. Victorien Sardou or M. Alexandre Dumas.

But when a comparison is instituted between our original English drama, such as it is, and the drama of France, such as that is, I think that the restrictive influence exercised—and most properly and wholesomely exercised—by this admirable girl should be fully, freely, and frankly admitted. And it is a never-ending source of wonder to me that, with the whole gamut of human emotion to play upon; with no restraining influence of any kind whatever; and with the dead certainty that no innocent girl of fifteen will ever run a chance of being affected by their improprieties, the dramatists of France can only ring out threadbare variations of that dirty old theme—the cheated husband, the faithless wife, and the triumphant lover.

(reprinted in The Era, Feb. 21, 1885, p. 14 from a speech by W.S. Gilbert)

27 April 2009

I am really right

The only thing better than being proved right is being proved right about the same thing more than once. Being proved really right.

Okay, so four years ago we established that my friend Samantha's theater job is that of stage manager. At the age of seven she was noticing as much about the technical stuff as she was about the story.

She is now a very pre-tween 11* and, it seems, has not changed in her basic nature. She may sing and dance - she has been cast in her school's upcoming "Fiddler on the Roof" as one of the younger daughters and she also sings very nice solos in church - but she is a stage manager at heart.

How do I know this? Because her cousin Charles (the future producer) was in the 6th - 8th grade play at school which I saw on Friday and Sam saw on Saturday**. Our conversation after church on Sunday went like this:

Me: So did you see Charles's show?
The Stage Manager DBA an 11-year-old-girl: Yeah. The scene changes took for-ever!
Me: I know!
The Stage Manager DBA an 11-year-old-girl: Charles said they only had two people moving sets, but ---
Me: -- even so!

I think for her next birthday I'm going to buy Sam a bunch of black long-sleeve t-shirts to wear backstage while she calls shows.

And next month Charles and I (and the rest of the crowd) will be seeing Sam in "Fiddler." I'm also willing to bet that The Producer DBA an 11-year-old-boy will have some suggestions for how to improve the gross.

*Some 11-year-olds are still little girls, some of them are seconds away from teendom. Sam is 11 going on 17 and yet still a sweet girl withal.

**And he was adorable. His best moment was as the train conductor in an early scene. He warns the New Yorkers to avoid Lonesome Polecat because of the big feud going on. They are determined to go. And with his father's deadpan delivery Charles says "Well, I hope you've got lots of insurance." "Insurance? Why?" "Ricochets."

06 April 2009

Very very rare

See? It is possible to take a picture of me where I don't have my camera smile.


I have a pretty decently developed case of CRS* It has gotten to the point that prett' near any time I agree to something I request a follow up e-mail because the chances that I will remember whatever it is all the way to my car are remote. Or even to the other side of the room. Sometimes I forget by the time I hang up the phone.

I was explaining this to someone the other day and said that one day someone will ask me the Important Question and my answer will be, "Oh, darling, you've made me so happy! Yes, of course, I'll marry you. And I'll love you forever. But do me a favor? E-mail me and remind me?"

*Can't Remember Stuff

01 April 2009

Not what you'd call shy

An interview with Leta Who Never Runs Out of Things to Say.

Although, tragically, Mike did edit out my chirping "Hi, Honey!" and "Hi, Sweetie!" every time someone came in the room, which could practically have served as a DNA fingerprint that it was really me talking.

24 March 2009

How to listen at work

Radio in this area is pretty bad. And the cheap little Sony that I have on my desk generally picks up about 5 stations, three of which I actually listen to: NPR on 88.5 (WAMU); classic rock on the sad, pathetic remains of 94.7; and Top 20* on 107.3.

Whereas I like to complain, David is a problem solver at heart, so he gave me a very nice JBL iPod dock for Christmas. I have it on the desk at work and I listen to Morning Edition on the radio until 10:00 and then plug in myPod for the rest of the day. I generally go through about 50 - 80 songs between 10:00 and whenever I chose to leave and, because they are on myPod, they are all songs that I like, although that doesn't stop me from glancing over every so often and thinking "Oh! I like that song!" Such a genius, I tell you.... (At this minute, it's Gene Kelly melting me with "Singin' in the Rain" from a collection of movie music.)

I had been very foot-draggy about ripping my CDs to the computer, but now that I use myPod at work so much, I'm more inspired. As of this morning, there are 901 songs on myPod and I'm hearing music that has been just sitting and waiting for me, feeling all neglected.

The other inspiration to better populate those bit receptors is that Carl, with whom I'm performing in Rehearsal for Murder, is a DJ (weddings, not radio) and we tend to talk music a lot. He has challenged me to put together a mix-CD of songs I like and he will do the same for me. If I'm going to put it on a CD, I need to have it on the computer, so I've been ripping up a storm.**

Because no one should ask for a CD of my favorites and not find the Partridge Family on it, I jumped ahead in my mostly alphabetical ripping order, which means that I get the occasional "I Think I Love You" or "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque" at the office, which only improves my day.

The hard part will be narrowing down the playlist to something manageable, but I have decided that it should be a true sampler: pop music new and old; what David calls "art music" and everyone else I know calls "classical;" some jazz; some nonsense; some show tunes; some G&S.

And speaking of G&S, I am very fond of the Savoy operas, but myPod is strongly preferential to them. I only have Gondoliers, Sorcerer, The Zoo, and Iolanthe on so far (loaded for different singing projects), but I hear much more Sullivan (especially Sorcerer) in a day than I do, say Warren Zevon or Mary-Chapin Carpenter.

And, as I like to point out, the reason that pop music is such good office music is that it has just the one dynamic (mf)*** whereas jazz is often softer and classical is all over the map. So I am constantly diving for the little volume buttons so that my co-workers aren't unexpectedly dealing with something fff after a mp Josephine Baker piece.

This morning before work I copied music from The Little Rascals played by the Beau Hunks which includes the particularly nice "Jazz Wedding." Tonight Ludwig van joins the gang.

Hmmm. Maybe Carl is open to this being a box set.

*Based on their extremely limited playlist one could not call them Top 40 without feeling dishonest.
** If you can call it ripping up a storm when the computer crashes and needs to be restarted after each CD, but let that pass.
***Uhh -- mezzo forte. Jeez. You people. Honestly.

18 March 2009

How to kiss a friend on stage

Henry: (Turning to Alais, opening his arms.) Forget the dragon in the doorway: come. (Holding her.) Believe I love you, for I do. Believe I'm yours forever, for I am. Believe in my contentment and the joy you give me and believe -- (Breaking, turning to Eleanor.) You want more?

The Lion in Winter by James Goldman

10 March 2009

Welcome on my team any time

Stage Managers come in as many varieties as any other group of people but we seem to get a lot of certain types:

Calm and organized;
Stressed and organized;
Chatty and disorganized;

Mike, our Stage Manager for Rehearsal for Murder is from the calm and organized pool. He calls less attention to himself than anyone else I've ever worked with in theater and I've yet to hear him snap at or be rude to anyone.*

On Saturday a bunch of us went to lunch and were joking about whether Director Chip would kill if we just hung out in the pretty weather for the rest of the day rather than return to the theater. I joked that Chip wouldn't kill us; he'd send Mike to kill us.

We thought about that for a second and then I said "And you know, if Chip did, Mike would be calm and he'd be pleasant and we'd be dead."

*Of course, the show doesn't close til early April and it ain't over 'til it's over, but we've already had two long tech working days.

24 February 2009

An RC Cola

The only Mardi Gras I ever attended was in Mobile, Alabama, so it was awfully nice to hear this story yesterday on All Things Considered about Mobile's claim to have been celebrating Fat Tuesday before Neworlens was even a Blackened Cajun spot on the map.

I don't remember catching any Moon Pies, but there were definitely beads, and candy, and trinkets, and dime store junk a-plenty flying through the air. My cousin, Robbie, was living with my grandparents in those days and he was taller than we were, so he caught as much as he could for his younger girl cousins from up North.

And here is a little more about the Land of My Father.

23 February 2009

For Charles

Devoted readers will remember that one of my functions in life is to lose to Charles at Monopoly. I'm not sure if Scott Meyer's tutorial will improve the experience for me, but it's worth a shot.

24 January 2009


My Boss wanted to give me a to-do list yesterday while I was sitting at the front desk. And, of course, the only thing I could find to write on was a 1 1/2" by 2" Post-It note pad.

He started to tell me what he wanted and then looked down and said, "I want you to know that that is a completely inadequate platoon leader's notebook."

"Oh, I know," I replied, "it's like a fountain pen-and-pocketknife tracheotomy kit."

I think, or maybe just hope, that it's quick similes-in-kind that help keep me employed here.

22 January 2009

Sorry, wrong "number"

It was like a misdial for our modern times. I got a request from my e-mail service that someone named D-- wanted to be able to chat with me. I didn't recognize the name but couldn't be sure that I didn't know the person, so I let it hang for a couple of days.

I ran the e-mail address through Google and got a link to a real live person who seemed harmless enough, so I okayed it. I am just well known enough in theater that more people know me than I know, but most of them don't live in Texas, but what the heck. If D-- turned out to be evil, I could just block her.

So all is quiet for a day or two and then I get an IM from D-- asking me to e-mail her: e-mail me at [e-mail address] bye!

I ignored it because I still wasn't sure I even knew D--. And then I'm starting to think that D-- is some kind of spammer or other internet villain. Then this I get this IM. I keep my answers short because I still had no clue is this was someone I knew (and therefore didn't wish to offend) and because I was hoping some kind of penny would drop.

11:40 AM D--: hey
11:41 AM me: Hi.
D--: how r u?
me: Fine - you?
D--: great ...... new grandson born yesterday all are doing good
me: Congratulations!
D--: Carl jr's first child
11:42 AM H-- M-- H--
6 ;b 9 oz 18.5
i didn't get an e-mail from you
me: No, we were closed the last week of the year and I'm still digging out.
11:43 AM D--: i'm at a workshop so i may need to exit at any time ....
just didn't know if it had bounced
me: Ahhh.

Then she's gone for a little bit. Okay, it's someone old enough to be a grandparent, (but of course, as I like to point out, if my neice Cheryl had done what her mother did, Sara would have been a grandmother at 32). She sent a picture of the very cute baby, but it's a close up of only the child, who looks like.... well, like prett' near every baby I've ever met. And very cute. So no clues there.

12:09 PM D--: kearly lunch break love you talk to you soon
12:11 PM me: Later!
12:12 PM A*dor*able!
(The baby, of course, not lunch.)

Longer break this time. Without context I probably have no chance whatsoever of figuring who she is. But she seems very nice.

1:41 PM D--: ok we're back ... hope all is well for you ... hope your day is great
1:45 PM me: And to you. :-)
1:47 PM D--: are you at work?
1:48 PM me: Yep.
1:50 PM D--: i didn't know you could be online at work you still work at the hospital?
1:51 PM me: No, I've been working for an engineering firm for nearly ten years. Hospital?
D--: ok this must be a different leta hall than the one in paris tx?
1:52 PM me: Oh my. Ohhh-kay. I feel better now. Yes, I am a different Leta.
1:53 PM I thought I was just totally failing to remember someone.
D--: that is unbelievable! and quite interesting ... not an everyday name!
have a great day and one day we'll talk again!
me: No! I didn't meet another Leta until I was an adult and never another Leta Hall.
When next you talk to her, please send my regards! :-)

D-- found me because "her" Leta and I have (not surprisingly) very similar e-mail addresses. She and I have talked once or twice since then and I think that her friend is on Facebook because the search features shows a Leta Hall in Texas. I may have to friend her...

As it turns out the Texas Leta was, according to D--, also named for her grandmother Oleta and also has the middle initial M. As interesting as I think it would be to meet her, I'm beginning to suspect that we shouldn't, lest that whole matter/anti-matter thing kick in.

And oddly enough, this past summer I got a LinkedIn request from someone who I would have thought would have been the last person ever to join a site whose purpose is to connect people. I was surprised to say the least, but I accepted the request figuring why not? Turns out that it is a completely different person with my friend's name whom I have never met. Perhaps he also thought I live in Texas...

20 January 2009

Inauguration Day 2009

Simple Gifts by Elder Joseph Brackett

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

(Kathy Sobansky of Clam Chowder wrote second verse of:)

Tis a gift to be simple,'Tis a gift to be free,
For the proud are cast down deeper than the sea,
The first shall be last and the last shall be first,
And the meek at last shall receive the earth.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

15 January 2009

25 Things

Andy posted a meme on Facebook that he got from Michael wherein one lists 25 facts about oneself. It was actually a pretty interesting exercise, although I'm still not sure that there are 25 interesting facts about me. Anyway, here they are:

1. I was born in Monterey, California and my sister was born in Annapolis, Maryland. And that's about as close as we ever got.

2. Everyone I tagged is someone that I have known for more than 20 years. (At least one of whom ignores being tagged.)

3. Prett' near everyone in the US with the last name Reichenbach is related to me.

4. I hate most pictures taken of me, but not as much as I used to.

5. I didn't become a nervous flier until I was 25. I used to love to fly.

6. Even though I hate to fly, if that's how to get somewhere, I get on the plane.

7. A friend once told me that narcissists start most sentences with the word "I." I've been very concious of how often I do that ever since.

8. The name of the person I would call for help in the middle of the night because I know with absolute certainty that he would help me and would yell at me if I didn't call him hasn't changed in 25 years.

9. I don't care what personal questions people ask me so long as I can stipulate that I might not answer or might answer with something that merely sounds plausible rather than actually being true.

10. I very rarely get sick, even when everyone else is getting sick. That's because I drink roughly 50 nice, hot cups of tea every day. Sometimes more.

11. I am constantly amazed by the awesome, generous, kind, and intelligent, people who are willing to be friends with me. I am far luckier than I deserve, always.

12. E-mails and texts are fun. Phone calls are work.

13. I hate heights. A lot.

14. I like all my parents.

15. Crappy with money, am I. (Trying not to start sentence with "I". Sounding like Yoda.)

16. Not really sure that there are 25 *interesting* things about me. We may soon descend into 25 really dull things about me out of my stockpile of millions.

17. I don't have any kind of life plan. I usually just stumble into the next job, home, or hobby, like it a lot and stay.

18. I've work for the same company for nearly ten years. It's still fun.

19. I went from wanting four children to not wanting any. Still think that's the right decision for me.

20. My friends' children are just as awesome as their parents, making me even luckier as I get to know them, too.

21. My grandparents were Lutheran, Catholic, and Baptist. I was raised Episcopalian and didn't know that we had been anything else until late in my teenage years.

22. My great-uncle was a communist and edited the weekend edition of The Daily Worker for eleven years. I never got to meet him and didn't know he existed until I was in college. He wasn't estranged from the family, but he did sever all ties when my Dad was a child to protect the family from negative reactions to his political opinions. They were re-united after my father retired from the military.
Robert Hall bio.

23. Frustrated as I am by clutter, I have a lot of it.

24. I would totally understand if someone unfriended me to get a free Whopper. We do what we have to for free food!

25. Got all the the way through this list without including any factlets about my current major hobby/obsession. :-)

08 January 2009

Be it resolved

I don't make many New Year's resolutions, but this year I did come up with two that I think I can live with*:

1. If the temperature is above 40 degrees as I am getting dressed and I don't have to be somewhere immediately after, I will walk to work.

Progress report: So far, so good. Or so far, not so good. The only day the temp was above 40 so far this work year, was the day that I had to return the laptop to the office, so I drove.** All other days were cold or cold & rainy.

I will probably have to walk on Inauguration Day not matter how cold it might be as all the bridges from Virginia to DC will be closed and I live on a major Maryland to downtown DC route, so getting out of the parking lot for my building could possibly take all day.

2. I will cook at least one thing from one of my cookbooks each month. My friend Stephanie, who lives in Michigan, made the same resolution so we going to cook together long distance. Whenever one of us tries a new recipe, we'll e-mail the other and say what cookbook it came from and what we thought of it. David thought it sounded like a cool idea and would also like to play.

What prompted this resolution for me is that when Mom did the apartment to Very Assisted Living downsize, I got many of her cookbooks. So I have lots of cookbooks in kitchen and if they are going to take up that much real estate - they completely fill the roughly two-foot wide, four shelf baker's rack - they should get used.

I'm utterly dying to use a cookbook of my own that I've had for years, The Norman Table, largely because it's pretty and prett' near every recipe calls for Calvados. Just for fun, though, I decided to start with the top shelf and work from left to right. And as I shelf my cookbooks by height, I am basically going from shortest to tallest.

The other "rules" for this game***:

1. The recipe should be one I've never made before. No fair using the recipe for Cinnamon Toast from my Winnie-the-Pooh cookbook. Turn to a different page, girl! Show some initiative!

2. The first time I make the recipe, I will prepare it as written. Henceforth, I can use the text as a series of suggestions. Except for flour substitutions, of course.

3. Mom always put the date under a recipe if she was making it for the first time and it's nice to see that in her old cookbooks. I think I'll give preference to recipies with dates in her handwriting. And I'll add my dates.

First up is the James Beard Cookbook, which has dates in Mom's handwriting and my teenage handwriting.

*If I really need a third, I could add something easy and fun like "spend more time watching tv with a cat on my lap." The cat would definitely vote for that.

**Carrying a laptop that one does not own for a mile is: a) heavy, and b) asking for a trip-and-fall.

***Which only apply to me. I'm not goat-roping Stephanie or David.