Monday, September 22, 2008

A Craving For Power

So … okay … there was this hurricane down in Texas. It made a mess in Galveston, and flooded Houston … Hurricane “Ike.” Maybe you heard about it.

Okay, that’s in Texas, ya know? Texas. Wa-a-a-y down there on the map. On a child’s puzzle, Texas was always an easy piece to find, because it’s big. And it’s easy to know where it goes, because IT’S WAY DOWN THERE!

So … then … so … how could a hurricane from Texas knock out the power in my house? I mean, I’m HALF A COUNTRY AWAY from this thing!

It couldn’t, ya know? Couldn’t possibly reach me. Couldn’t. NOT NOT NOT! Are you listening to me in the weather bureau? NOT NOT NOT!

In the future, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your storms where they’re supposed to be, thank you very much. I’d appreciate that. I would.

Anyway. The power went out a week ago, Sunday evening at 6:05pm. It didn’t come back on until this past Saturday. I’m not sure what time it came back on, because my clocks are electric, and I DIDN’T HAVE ANY POWER!

(In the desire for full disclosure, I must admit that my power did come back on last Wednesday. In the middle of the night I was awakened by my downstairs TV screaming at me to buy a vacuum cleaner shaped like a large ball. I know it was a large ball because I had just managed to stumble down stairs and was reaching for the kill switch when the power again went off, leaving me in a pitch black room and mood. I concluded that this whole episode was the electric company’s attempt at dark humor …)

So … what can you do for a week with no electricity?

Well, you can watch food spoil. That’s always fun. You can wander, zombie-like, around the neighborhood. You can shave by flashlight (By the way, that’s not NEARLY as romantic as everyone says it is.) You can become re-acquainted with radio, reminding you why you stopped listening to it in the first place.

You can talk to people on your cell phone (for awhile. Until it needs to be re-charged. Another illusion demolished. I always thought the cell phone fairy came around in the middle of the night and took care of stuff like that. Guess not.)
On the other hand, I was surprised by how many people genuinely care about me – wanted to be sure I had hot water, a place to wash clothes, and meals that didn’t automatically come with French fries. To those of you who knew and called and cared, thank you. I love you very much.

On the OTHER hand, I had plenty to keep me busy. Every day I would type on the revisions for the play Julie Morrison and I have written. (Of course I didn’t have any POWER to the computer, but just punching away at the dead keys made me feel a little better.)

And then there’s the acting class I’m supposed to start teaching this week – gotta get everything ready. Gotta print all the forms that are stored in my computer, and … ohthat’sright … great googely woogely …

Oh. And I’m directing a production of Blithe Spirit for a local theatre company. I received a call last Monday, asking me if I would/could replace a director who was forced to drop out. Since I wasn’t doing anything except running into things in the darkness, I readily agreed – something to occupy my mind.

“When do rehearsals start,” I inquired. “When is the first one?”

“In about two hours,” came the sheepish reply.

Okay …

The power came back on a little over a day ago. No more quiet, no more naps in the afternoon. No more casual walks around the neighborhood. No more instant communication with every disaster in the world. No more –


Maybe I should think about this some more.


And how was your day?


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Maybe I'll Run For President

So … maybe I’ll run for President.

I could do that.

Secretly, I’ve always wanted to be President ever since I learned that in the White House there’s a chef on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Think about it. If I wanted a hot fudge Sundae at 3:30 in the morning, it’s only a phone call away.

“Say, George, are there any Secret Service down there?” (If I was the President, I would know that Secret Service always hang around the kitchen.)

“Good, good,” I’d continue. “I’d like a hot fudge Sundae, George. Would you send someone up with one? Thank you so much. Oh, and … George, are you still there?” (I knew he would be.) “Would you make it the way the day chef does? You know, I like the hot fudge at 81 degrees, not that tepid 75 degrees that you sent up for me last time. Will you do that for me? Thank you very much.”

I hang up, satisfied. Yesterday I ordered a limburger and onion sandwich on Moravian
Olive bread and tomorrow I’ll likely order a ham sandwich slathered in Yak butter.

But tonight I’ll be happy with my hot fudge Sundae. Being President is a good thing.

Oh – and if I wanted to go somewhere? Would you believe this – I have my VERY OWN airplane. (Sort of) No waiting in lines. No luggage to check in. Good snacks, and they don’t cost extra. And I could smoke if I wanted to. (I don’t smoke, but I could if I wanted to.) In fact I wouldn’t even bother to fly anywhere. We could just taxi the big thing around town. Who’s gonna stop me? I’m the president.

And see – now I know what you are thinking. What kind of President would I be? Well, I’ll tell you. I’d be a great President. I have a secret. I’d go into the White House and hide for 4 years. I wouldn’t go out, I wouldn’t answer the phone – nothing. So how would that make me a great President? I’ll tell ya. Truthfully, at the end of 4 years the country would be no better off than it was when I took office. BUT … on the other hand, by doing nothing, the country would be no worse than it was before I became President. So how about that, huh? Think about it. How many other Presidents can make that claim, huh? Hm-m-m. Maybe I’ll use that as my campaign slogan – “No worse than we were before.” (Hey. Don’t scoff at the idea. It worked for Eisenhower.)

Now here’s the REAL secret. The important thing is not BEING President. What’s important is having BEEN President. Where else can you work for 4 years and then retire on a government pension? With full medical? And the Secret Service is still there, in case you need a babysitter or a hot fudge Sundae in the middle of the night. And people will actually pay you good money to come speak at the PTA or Little League banquet.

And here’s the best part. What are the qualifications to become President? Would you believe it, THERE AREN’T ANY! None. Zip. All you really need is an obnoxious campaign manager and a plastic flag pin to wear in your lapel. Works for me. I have the pin, and I know lots of obnoxious people.

Oh. That reminds me – I need a Vice President. So … you doin’ anything for the next few years? The way I see it, you will do even less than I do, and it’s SUPPOSED to be that way. And maybe … maybe maybe maybe … if you do the job well (and don’t shoot anybody while you’re in office), then you could be the NEXT President.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

So think about it. I think we still have a month or two. And if you need incentive, think hot fudge Sundae. I have it on very good authority that Sundaes consumed while in office are not fattening.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

My Uncle Jack

Did I ever tell ya ‘bout my Uncle Jack?



(Did you catch the inflection in “well”? The inflection that says have a seat ‘cause this is gonna be good and take awhile?)

If you didn’t … do, because it is and will.

So here’s Uncle Jack – or at least the way he looked when one of the Disney artists sketched him. I always thought he looked very continental in this drawing. He thought he looked like a 1930’s Chicago gangster. And since I knew he’d lived a few years in Chicago, I would suspect he knew what he was talking about. But I don’t know that for a fact.

Uncle Jack had been a merchant seaman. I think. He told me that he had once climbed a mountain in the Himalayas. I was told that at one time he had been employed as a rodeo clown. At another time he had managed a New York modeling agency (briefly. It was owned by another relative, and Jack could have inherited it if he had liked the business. He didn’t.) He did own a few Texas oil wells, and knew by first name every man who worked for him.

And there are a whole SLEW of stories about the things Jack did for a living, and I believe all of them. For one thing, I never knew my uncle to lie (or brag, for that matter.) Most of the things I knew about him I learned from other people. Jack always had an abiding interest in a great variety of occupations and social activities, and tried “hands on” to as many of them as he could.

I not only found his life fascinating, but only later in life did I realize how much I had emulated it.

When I knew Uncle Jack he owned a real estate agency in Pasadena California. He was a truly gentle human being, open and soft spoken. Men felt very comfortable around him, and women … well, he outlived three wives.

I never met anyone who didn’t like him.

And the feeling was mutual. Jack loved people – all types and sizes. The picture above shows the corner of Hollywood and Vine in Hollywood, California. Uncle Jack lived in the building you see in the background. From the corner window at the 2nd floor level, Uncle Jack could comfortably sit in his living room and watch humanity traipse back and forth in front of him. (And I knew this to be a fact; I distinctly remember sitting there with him while we watched a quite attractive young lady in a bikini leading a purple French poodle down Vine Street at three in the morning. At another time we were sitting there when we heard a resounding “crash.” Looking out the window I saw what looked like a cannon ball imbedded in the side of a truck. Looking up Hollywood boulevard, we saw a man bowling in the middle of the street.)

Jack was involved with the movie business at the time. He didn’t participate in any way – he had absolutely no use for actors. But since he headed a most successful real estate agency, I think a number of producers wanted very much to be his friend.

Jack’s real friends were artists and still photographers, He was on such good terms that a few were so comfortable that they would simply walk in without even bothering to knock. (I personally found this a little unnerving, but Uncle Jack seemed to take pride in this lack of pretense regarding formality, so we never talked about it.) On one such occasion we were sitting there when the door opened and a – creature – whisked past me. Whoever (or whatever) it was headed straight for the bathroom, leaving a pungent odor in it’s wake. Jack and I looked at each other. Even for him this was something new.

A moment later we heard the shower running. Another moment passed, and a man entered that Uncle Jack obviously knew. This man also went into the bathroom, dropped off a large bag, and returned to the living room. Jack and the man talked for about twenty minutes before the bathroom door opened …

… and out stepped Sandra Dee. She had been shooting still pictures in the desert, and had stopped at Uncle Jack’s for a quick shower because she “smelled like a horse.” They left, to meet with the press in order to promote the movie she had just completed.

According to my Aunt, this sort of thing happened all the time.

I was in a movie shooting in a remote location the day Uncle Jack died. I didn’t even know about it until after the funeral. His ashes had been scattered over a park he loved and helped create. The day I went there it rained – hard. My uncle was reminding me of how he felt about actors.

It’s interesting, I think, about how profoundly you are influenced by some people and are unaware of it until years later. That’s how it was with Uncle Jack. I often wish I could talk to him one more time.

I guess if there’s a moral here, it’s that you should appreciate people when you have ‘em.
And how was your day?