Getting ready for Oregon Shakespeare Festival

This has been gradually composed over a period of several months starting in November 06: It turns out that when you donate a certain amount of money to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival they invite you to special events, like opening nights in late February in the mountains of southern Oregon. Hmm. Not the wisest thing to be doing, at least for us but I suppose a pretty good deal for them.

A guy from rural Wisconsin can’t be put off by a winter storm, right?

I enjoy poring over the play brochure sometime in early November, imagining what would be a nice pairing or perhaps a sequence of three plays to see on a weekend, trying to avoid the weekends that our Symphony performs or the Rimrock Opera is singing, or one of our grandchildren has something important going on.

Our habits have changed over the years: we used to go for a week and saw a play every evening and sometimes a matinee on the same day; then we switched over to long weekends but still took in 3 or 4 plays. This doesn’t work out very well these days: perhaps we process more slowly or less surely with too much input. Instead of plays on Thur, Fri, Sat and Sun evening we usually have a nice dinner and early bed on Thur, and then maybe a matinee on Fri and an evening performance on Sat or Sun but not both if we can help it. Lately just two plays on a weekend seem to be even better. Sic transit middle age. We are scheduled for two matinees on this Opening Weekend. Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard on Saturday afternoon, and then a new play by David Lindsay-Abaire called Rabbit Hole on Sunday afternoon.

We are taking the afternoon Horizon flight to Portland on Thursday, 22 Feb 07, and then driving to Ashland, we hope on Friday, though it still is winter in the northwest and weather is changeable. Which is why we try to keep some hours or a day in hand when we have to be somewhere at a particular time. For us, this is a lecture on Saturday morning in Ashland and a play that afternoon. I wonder if the desire for matinees increases as we age because we tire more easily in the evening, or is it because we look forward to some good food and drink after the theatre? It is very embarrassing to fall asleep during a play.

We are still undecided about staying in Portland or somewhere nearby Thursday evening. There usually is something going on in Portland worth seeing or hearing. Arriving early in Ashland is not a problem as there are several worthwhile places to while away any excess time we may have.

We have never been to Ashland this early in the season. The drive down the I5 was as expected: the road was crowded and it rained most of the way. I am ready to declare I5 full and no more vehicles should be allowed on it, especially when I am driving up or down it. The visibility was hampered more by big trucks throwing up their spray all around them than by the verticaly falling rain.

We did manage to find a decent restaurant in Salem for a late lunch though we thought that after we passed the usual cluster of fast food places near the Big Highway we would easily find a decent place to eat. Not so easy as we thought: we had to look fairly hard to find the Best Little RoadHouse on one of the main streets that run through Salem. Good food, especially some nice fish and chips with a very light and flaky covering on the fish. Didn’t need to use any sauces which usually means pretty good stuff.

We arrived in Ashland just as it was getting dark: we saw a surprising amount of snow on the ground. Apparently the snow was fairly fresh and had caused power shortages in the valley. A light supper at the Oak Tree was not that good. Windsor Inn was quiet and fairly cheap, a long way from downtown, and once again revealing the wisdom of the old adage about getting what you pay for.

Saturday I went to a lecture in the New Theatre by Lou Douthit, one of the main dramaturgs at the OSF. Funny and sensitive and insightful, both the woman and her talk, mostly about how she has worked with Libby Appel for a long time and the complexity of putting on regional theatre in Ashland OR. She gave it on the set of Rabbit Hole. Then in the afternoon, we went to the Bowmer to see the magic of Libby Appel and the OSF as she directed Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. All good people and done extremely well, even on the opening performance. The director had a seat just down the row from us. A nice contrast with the more recent play to come the next day.

Stone Street Brewery put on a pretty good spread for dinner. Some very good soup. Very quiet there as it was all over town, at least compared to most days in spring and fall and certainly all of the summer.

Sunday afternoon we saw Rabbit Hole, a modern story of loss that compared and contrasted nicely with The Cherry Orchard’s losses. We eventually find out that Howie and Becca had lost a 4 year old son to a traffic accident 8 months before the play started. Becca’s sister, their mother and a high school boy who was driving the car that struck the boy are the rest of the characters. We get to look at 5 different ways of grieving and their interactions. Very nicely done by some of my favorites. Tyler Layton is really an all around actress.

A few new things noted in Ashland, like a totem pole near the Square, next to a new building that looks like it has been there for a long time. And some old things were nice too like Paddington Station for the shopper in all of us. The space between Medford and Ashland seems to be gradually filling up. They now have a Home Depot and a WalMart out in Phoenix, or is it Talent?

I trust all my readers will have noted that this post marks a certain technical accomplishment of mine, which is to figure out how to link things in the above text to other pages. It feels good.

So Monday morning we find a snow storm in the mountains of southern Oregon such that all the trucks had to put on their chains, and it took us over an hour to get to Grant’s Pass, and then another hour to Roseburg where the snow finally turned to a light rain. I doubt that we will be back this way in February again if we can help it.

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SUD—Sudden Unexpected Death—Strikes Again

A physician acquaintance of my age did not wake up yesterday morning. His coronary arteries looked surprisingly normal. Not much else to see except some minor evidence of good living. These things are difficult to explain to those who have watched Quincy and his contemporary derivatives.

My motto is nil nisi veritas. Sometimes that leads to disappointment in those who sit on the other side of my desk.

I can, however, with a straight face, opine that suffering was minimal and maybe absent, which sometimes helps.

this ain’t your father’s A&F

This morning as I buttoned up one of my favorite shirts, The Big Shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch, which I probably have had for 20 years, I noticed that the cuffs were more than a little worn. Thank Heavens I could still button it. (I would have a picture here if I hadn’t lost my little digital camera.) So I thought I would check out the A&F store at the mall, you know, the one that shows those large pictures of skinny teenagers just about to fall out of their jeans. Click the hyperlink above if you have forgotten what they look like. I must confess that these pictures caught my attention though I suspect it was because I probably would not be able to resist walking up behind this guy and giving a slight tug to his trousers, up or down I’m not sure, it would probably depend on how big he was.

I guess the pictures should have warned me that big plaid shirts that sold well to middle-aged men some 20 or more years ago in what was then a vaguely upscale outdoorsy kind of place for the well-off male middle classes were nowhere to be seen. In fact, hardly anyone was to be seen and those shopgirls I did see managed to ignore me, which was probably their nice way of dealing with an out of place old man. Had I enquired I am almost certain they would have asked if I was looking for my granddaughter.

The walls seemed plastered with buffed—I believe that is the current term—young boys, doing slightly lewd things with obviously underage and underfed girls. Clearly, the preferred customers in the A&F of today are the good looking anorexic girls they picture on the walls and perhaps the scantily clad boys who they have draped around themselves. Maybe they should change the name to Abercrombie and Crotch.

Sic transit gloria.

Life II

When we moved back to Wisconsin We lived in the upstairs apartment of Grandpa Mueller’s house in Hustisford. Probably still there on the corner of Main St and Hwy 60, or the old highway before it was moved further south, right next to a garage that used to be a movie theatre. Across from a large white house belonging to a Mrs ?Gladys Reynolds, ? sister or some other relative of Hazel, who taught Sunday school in the Presbyterian Church. I remember this house for a couple of reasons:
        1. I remember waving to my Dad in the back of the bus as it went through Hustisford on its way to Milwaukee with a load of fresh draftees in 1944.
        2. After Dad left we had some army uniforms with helmets and play rifles. One day we marched up the hill to the local grade and high school. I remember how all the older kids enjoyed our little game of playing soldiers. I am pretty sure even the principal, Mr Wiegand? came out and talked to us. We must have made quite a stir.

We went to the Presbyterian Church because my grandfather had been kicked out of the Lutheran Church and because they had a Sunday school there but not at the Lutheran Ch. Hmm. Odd, no SS.
Of course, the LC was the Wisconsin Synod, the most conservative of all of them. When I was studying Bible History in the 6th grade I am pretty sure that little blue book we read taught us that the earth was only 6000 or so years old. They ex-communicated my father, and I’m sure I would have been as well had I stayed around.

When my father came home from the War, probably in 1946, we moved into what we called the Bartsch building, right next to Lehman’s Tavern, and later that building was bought by Ozzie Lund, the other barber in town for many years. The only barber that I remember before Ozzie was Murphy Dornfeld, who had a shop next to the bank. I saw the 1950 World Series on TV in the barbershop. I also kept doubling my bets on the outcome of those games. I learned something about the nature of probability in that Series.

I think my father started playing baseball again in his 30s, having last played before the War. We kids were worried because we had no idea he was such a good hitter. I played at least one game in the Rock River League with him. I was in left field and he was in center field. I think it was Slinger that we played. I got a Texas Leaguer the first time I came to bat. The first baseman asked me how old I was and shook his head when I told him 15.

My first teacher, a Miss Garbisch, taught grades 0ne through Three for many years. Then 4th through 6th was a Mrs Randall, who I’m pretty sure I fell in love with in the 5th grade. She was probably in her 40s and good looking as I remember. 7th and 8th grade was taught by Mr Martin, a one-eyed guy who seemed fairly tough. He was the first intellectual I ever knew. They started on a new school, actually just additions to the old, of both the elementary and high school the year I was supposed to be in 8th grade so they moved us down to the City Hall, a drafty place we used to play basketball and plays and musicals were also put on in this place. I think I had only one other boy in the grade, a Michael Kintopp as I remember. About a week or two into the year, the teacher whose name I have forgotten, I can only remember that she had thick ankles, said that we had to go up to the principal’s office. I thought I was in big trouble as Mr Schlicht knew my father, in fact, they used to play cards together. But it turned out she wanted to kick me into the 9th grade. Which was fine as far as I was concerned because that is where most of my friends were.

The Story of my So-Called Life I

It would seem to be wise to try to recall the events that would most likely disappear from my mind and get them down on paper before that happens. the only problem with that approach is that I have no idea where to start. One would think that the earliest would be the first to go but that is obviously not the case. Sometimes scenes from early childhood pop up in the mind’s eye without even trying and something important from a few years ago or a few decades ago seems to be lost forever. It may be possible to go over some old pictures to try to stimulate the mind.

I have a few memories from 1944 and earlier with no clear chronologic order: if we hadn’t moved from Harvey IL in 1944 because my father was going away to war I probably wouldn’t remember these things either.
        1. I can remember walking to what was probably the equivalent of a fast food place. I remember the delicious taste of the hamburgers, especially the pickle relish they put on them. this was a special treat for what reason not sure. It was within walking distance from our home on 145th Place or Street?? probably the former as it seemed to be a dead-end street with an elevated railroad at the end of the street.
        2. I have a memory of being in a train station, very crowded, must have been in Chicago and we were going to Wisconsin. The trains were very large and loud. Frightening. Finally we found a seat. I started looking out the window and my mother quickly snatched me back thinking that I would either fall out or perhaps be struck by a passing train. Were they that close together?
        3. I remember some people across the way from our house, a Catholic large family. In fact, according to things I remember my mother saying a teenage girl used to baby sit for Gerry and me. She later became a nun, Sr Mary Ripplinger. Still living, I got a Xmas card from her last Xmas 06. The young boy got an electric train for Xmas one year. His older brother kept teasing him by removing the engine as it went around the track.
        4. I remember the people who lived in the little house in our back yard. The father and mother drank excessively and had large cans in which potato chips and maybe popcorn were kept. They had a son who went away to war. I wonder if he came back?

I don’t seem to have any other memories of the first four years. I only have a picture of my mother in my head but not my father. Some vague recollections of other train trips, perhaps just to downtown Chicago. I think I have a yellowing newspaper showing me riding on a tricycle somewhere. No memories of grandparents but I do have pictures showing at least the Rohrschneiders. Wait a minute, I seem to have a memory of going to visit some military base in the Chicago area where my uncle Wally was doing something. That would have had to be in the early 40s as he joined up fairly early and went to North Africa I think. amazing how if you just let your mind wander things come back into it.

Tunku does it again

Last week Tunku Vararadajan (I checked the spelling this time) wrote in the Wall Street Journal a short essay on the death of Anna Nicole Smith which was the most sensible of the few that I read or listened to. This week, in the same place he writes an even better column on culling the herd of books one collects over the years.

I recommend this little essay because I am in a similar fix, not because we are moving, but because the size of our house is finite. In the past whenever I was moved to make some room on the bookshelves I think I just took the purpose to be that I would never look at the ones I was hauling to Rocky Mountain College Library again anyway, and if I changed my mind, I could always hike over to the library, only about a 10 minute walk from my front door. I was a little miffed when I discovered a downtown used book store had shelves of my stuff soon after I donated it.

After giving it some thought, other purposes come to mind: What would be useful books to have close at hand for the rest of my declining years? The problem with this approach is that I might wind up buying a whole lot more when I realized the large number of books around that I should have read many years ago. What about some nicely bound classics or some first printings to impress one’s book-knowing friends? I do have a few friends in this category. How about the 100 or maybe 1000 Best/Necessary/Useful Books to have in your personal library? There are problems with that approach as well.

Anyway, go read Mr Vararadajan, this week in the Wall Street Journal, and probably in the future too. The only thing I can add is a reply if someone foolishly asks you “Have you read all these books?” You quickly say that “if a man has read all the books in his library, then his library is too small.”

Minnesota Economist takes Trip around the World

A nice contribution to the conversation about globalization can be found at this site: word freaks might enjoy the new word “glocalization.” Sorry, one day I will get these references to be clickable. [Later I found that my browser, Safari, was handicapped. When I switched to another I found I could do the linking and other things.]

Professor Mendis is a friend that I met in 2004 while doing the Semester at Sea. Although Sri Lankan by birth he considers himself a true Minnesotan (ice fishing and all; probably a Vikings fan too) temporarily living and working in the DC area. That is him on the left. We are posing just before taking a little post-breakfast walk in one of the national parks of Tanzania. Our walk was shortened when we came across one of these big fellows having his or her breakfast. We looked at each other for a few seconds, long enough for me to take a picture or two, then all three of us quickly went our separate ways. Prof. Mendis borrowed a few of my pictures. Not sure he put these in. The flora and fauna in Tanzania were incredible. These large baobab trees are amazing. And the starlings are fairly startling with their bright colors too.

Check out Dr Mendis’s book on Globalization. He does short informative essays on various parts of the world. The royalties go into a fund for helping poor Sri Lankans recover from the devastating tsunami of Christmas 2005.