Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Episcopal Church Welcomes You (sometimes)

I stopped by the architecturally inviting church, thinking that if I ever change my official residence I might like to attend there. I had been to the other Episcopal church in the city, and only one person there came to say hello. Even when I went downstairs for coffee, I was ignored.

So, I thought I might try church #2.

I rang the bell on the intercom system (once I finally found the church office door), and the response was much like the Charlie Brown "wah-wah-wah-wah-wah" that we hear on Chuck's great pumpkin special on tv. Announcing that I didn't understand, I got the "Wah's" again - and yet again on the 3rd try. On the 4th and final attempt, I said that I'd like to look at the church. I was admitted with the faint hum of the lock responding to the finger inside that was pushing the OPEN DOOR button.

Following the signs whose arrows pointed to the office, I found an open door on the 2nd floor. I was greeted by a harried secretary who informed me that on the intercom system she was saying what any normal person would say: "May I help you?" Before I could respond with an apology for my ears that couldn't make out her "Wah's", she quickly informed me that she had an appointment at 3 o'clock and that she was late and had to leave and that the church was dark and that she would turn on some lights and that she didn't need to turn on all the lights because it was light enough and it wasn't but she just turned on the entrance lights. Whew! Listening to all that made me tired. My exact thoughts at that moment? If the Interim Rector at St. Peter's Church in Ashtabula heard our secretary greet someone in that manner, there would be some serious ass-kicking going on.

Back in the office, from behind her protective barrier counter she turned to the priest and announced to the good Father that we had a visiting Senior Warden who would like to see the church, ignoring that I had said I might be looking for a part-time church home. The priest, an Interim Rector, waved and informed me that he was talking to the treasurer and that I could look around. My friend, Enrique, who was accompanying me on that day and I went into the dimly lighted church and tried to figure out what was what. Oh, the carved pews and the choir and the stained glass and the ornate pulpit were spectacular, but there was not a feeling of anything but carved pews and the choir and the stained glass and the ornate pulpit. I was even more convinced that this was not a place I would like to have as my church home - or even as a place to visit on a pass though the city.

We went back to the office to say our goodbyes. The priest remained seated, talking still with the treasurer (who I never saw). The tenor of the conversation changed a bit when the priest found out that I was the Senior Warden at St. Peter's Church in Ashtabula, but I was not invited back nor informed about church services or made to feel welcome or wanted in any way.

While I was bidding my farewells, the secretary (still there and still late for her appointment) asked my friend Enrique if he had turned out the lights. He went back into the sanctuary and appropriately, as he turned out the lights, got an electrical shock when he pushed the off button.

God works in mysterious ways.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Starry Starry Night

Josh Groban has become one of my favorite vocalists. This song about Vincent Van Gogh has got to be one of the most moving songs he sings.

I wonder if van Gogh - like Don Quixote - saw the world, not as it is but as it should be.

Lyrics by Don McLean: Vincent 1971.

Starry, starry night. Paint your palette blue and grey, Look out on a summer's day, With eyes that know the darkness in my soul. Shadows on the hills, Sketch the trees and the daffodils, Catch the breeze and the winter chills, In colors on the snowy linen land. Now I understand what you tried to say to me, How you suffered for your sanity, How you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now.

Starry, starry night. Flaming flowers that brightly blaze, Swirling clouds in violet haze, Reflect in Vincent's eyes of china blue. Colors changing hue, morning fields of amber grain, Weathered faces lined in pain, Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand. Now I understand what you tried to say to me, How you suffered for your sanity, How you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they did not know how. Perhaps they'll listen now. For they could not love you, But still your love was true. And when no hope was left in sight On that starry, starry night, You took your life, as lovers often do. But I could have told you, Vincent, This world was never meant for one As beautiful as you.

Starry, starry night. Portraits hung in empty halls, Frameless head on nameless walls, With eyes that watch the world and can't forget. Like the strangers that you've met, The ragged men in the ragged clothes, The silver thorn of bloody rose, Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow.
Now I think I know what you tried to say to me, How you suffered for your sanity, How you tried to set them free. They would not listen, they're not listening still. Perhaps they never will...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

High School Science and Buck Rogers

Zombies from the Beyond
by Roger Smith

The publicity says that “Zombies from the Beyond” is based on early, low budget Science Fiction movies of the 1950’s. I remember the Buck Rogers serials that appeared on the silver screen every Saturday at the Margie Grand Theater in my hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. I remember my 9th grade science teacher, Miss Parker, chiding us ‘not to laugh’ at those serials because someday man would go to the moon. Of course, we didn’t believe that anyone could ride one of those tin bucket rockets to outer space. Based on what I saw at the Ashtabula Arts Center, I still don’t believe it.
Unless readers understand Buck Rogers and ‘tin bucket rocket’ and ‘serials’ in movie theaters, they aren’t going to understand the theatrical attempt at reviving and poking fun at those early black and whites.
The low budget aspect of those early movies is duplicated in spades on the stage of the Arts Center. The show is written to be farcical and hokey beyond belief and at times, that happens; and even though there are some merry moments that bring guffaws, it still falls short of the intent.
It’s evident that lots of hard work went into this production, and many hours have been spent in rehearsal. I would venture a guess that the cast had lots of fun in mounting this show. But it just doesn’t work. Sometimes, even when all the ingredients are measured correctly and the baking temperature is just right, the finished product just doesn’t match the description given in the recipe.
“Zombies from the Beyond” runs weekends through October 18 at the Ashtabula Arts Center. Dinner will be available prior to the show on Oct. 11. Reservations and pre-payment are required for all dinners and can be made by calling the Arts Center. Cost of dinner is $16 plus the price of theater ticket. The box office phone number is 964-3396.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Dumpster Diving: Searching the trash of a political opponent to find something to 'use'.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

G.O.P: See above definitions.

Don't Stand in Line Behind Me

Heed my warning!

If you have the opportunity to stand in another place, do it. If I am in line at the grocery, when it's my turn to have my groceries rung out the register either runs out of paper or the computer chip dies. The gas pump malfunctions when the auto needs fuel.

If I'm on the freeway and there is a traffic jam (stau - my first German word) I always move to the wrong lane. Without fail I choose the wrong handyman, the appliance that breaks down as soon as I get it home, or the clothes that fall apart at first wash.

I bought a Honda Accord in 2006; for 3 years the teckie has been searching for what causes the rattle. The crown molding separated. The GE Adora microwave has been repaired two times in 4 months. The Cuisianart Grind and Brew coffee pot leaks from the inside. The Mohawk laminate floor creaks. The painter did a crappy job of painting the woodwork. The wood floor was stained with odd markings.

I won't even write about the bagless vacuum cleaner. Did I mention the gash made in the leather chair when it was taken out of the box for delivery? Or the hole in the 'left facing arm' of the sofa when it arrived - and the 3 subsequent appointments it took to get it repaired? Or the 'not quite right' tailoring on the garnett chair from Macy's? Maybe you'd like to know about the JC Penney draperies headers that came apart, or the solar shade that hangs just a bit crooked.

I buy milk that seems to sour in the jug on the way home. When I'm in a hurry, my Dell isn't.

Social Security was not happy with the amount of part-time job money I made, so I was subjected to that nightmare for 8 months. Now, they owe ME money! And Medicare. Now there is an adventure in itself. Aside from the aches and pains, I understand why "Growing old is not for sissies."

Every Monday during the summer there is an old car show next door - with music from the 50's and 60's. At least I can understand the music, and the cars look familiar.

Even my condo that affords me a great view of Lake Erie sits beside a township park that is 'blessed' with Methodists who think it's just groovy to have their church services at the lake from the 1st Sunday in June through Labor Day. I don't mind the services so much, but the soprano (way off-key) who feels as though she must practice beginning at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday so she can hear herself on the public address system gets on my last nerve. I'm thinking of blasting her out with some Beatles music.

Luckily, my friends are solid and well put together and pretty much don't break down.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Pruning! Not as in 'prunes,' even though I could benefit from a healthy dose or two daily at my age, but trimming back, lifting up and chopping so that vines become fruitful or grow or do what they do best.

For two Sundays in a row from the Rector at St. Peter's, I have heard about pruning as a necessity for life to be its best.

Three days ago, while I was standing in my loft on the stepstool (one of the few items I was granted in the divorce) ready to lop off the vine that grows at breakneck speed from atop my schrank, I wondered if plants have feelings. Anyway, I scissored away at the lengths of leaves until I could see that the tops of the wall storage units needed a good dusting and subsequent damp wiping. There! That was fruitful.

And I had to move items that I have seen but not seen for 3 or so years. There were the 3 Coolie hats - I purchased them in China when I visited - standing against the wall alongside the Waechtersbach red coffee pot I collected while living in Wurzburg, Germany during the first Gulf War. Many things from Costa Rica sat alongside, as well as the world's largest salad bowl from Bibee Pottery in Berea, Kentucky - given to me by my friend, John Leeson. My grandparents' stereopticon with the history of WWI in 3-D photos is there,too. Look up stereopticon. Stereo views were a new fad in 1889. Photographers liked being able to sell their pictures this way, since printing photos in daily or weekly (weakly) publications or books was still difficult and expensive. More fruit, for I took time from my pruning labors to look at photos of the war, a semi-naked 1889 lady, and a billy goat eating the wash from a clothes line.

I returned to my wondering. Leaving the flora, my mind wandered to the human animal, und Ich fragte mich if we have feelings. Then today, I decided that some of us do and others of us don't. I watched the news report about the young man (illegal) from Guatemala who is here to earn money to send to his poverty-stricken family in Central America. While here, he developed severe heart problems. He is dying in a hospital in a little town in Georgia. He has captured the hearts and love and smiles of the entire staff there. The dying young man's wish is to see his parents one last time before he goes. The staff and townspeople have raised the money for his parents' flights from Guatemala City, but the Department of Immigration seems to be the problem now. It is not clear if the parents are eligible by law for a visa, and if so it is not clear how long they can stay.

Come on, Immigration folks! Prune yourselves a bit. Be what you were intended to be; pruning causes the roots to take a firmer hold and the fruit to be sweeter and the flowers to be bigger and more colorful and sweeter smelling.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Poetry, Piano and Pasta

With the arrival of warmer weather, the schedule of activities at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Ashtabula is bursting into full bloom. Poetry, piano and pasta are on the schedule for the weekend of May 16 and 17.

At 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, May 16, parishioner Dr. Janet Green will present a reading of her poetry in the Guild Room of the church. She holds a Ph.D. in Elizabethan English from the University of North Carolina. She has recently published a small paperback memoir describing her life with her mother, Elizabeth Lay Green, a memoir by her daughter Janet McNeill Green. The family name is no stranger in literary circles. Dr. Green is the daughter of Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green. All are welcome and invited to attend.

On Sunday, May 17 at 2:00 in the afternoon, the Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio will return to St. Peter’s to perform a program of classical music. Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio members Stephen Rose, violin; Richard Weiss, cello; and Joela Jones, piano will be joined by guest artists Maximilian Dimoff, double bassist, and Dr. Timothy Kalil, pianist, for the concert in the sanctuary.

A pasta meal in the Parish Hall with members of the Trio will follow the concert. Seating for the meal is by reservation only. Anyone who wishes to make reservations for the meal should phone the church office (440-992-8100) between 9 a.m. and noon Monday through Friday. The deadline for reservations is noon on Friday, May 15. The poetry reading, the concert and the meal are free.

The Fine Arts Committee of the church sponsors the classical concert and pasta meal. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church is located at 4901 Main Avenue in Ashtabula.

Another Opening, Another Show!

Published March 17, 2007 12:23 pm - ASHTABULA - -

The only thing missing from the set of "Over the Tavern" at the Ashtabula Arts Center is the smell of cigarette smoke wafting up the stairway into the Pazinski apartment and maybe the 'thump, thump, thump' of the jukebox that - - ...'Over the Tavern' will keep you Entertained
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA - - The only thing missing from the set of "Over the Tavern" at the Ashtabula Arts Center is the smell of cigarette smoke wafting up the stairway into the Pazinski apartment and maybe the 'thump, thump, thump' of the jukebox that - - without a doubt - - pours out polka music in Chet's Bar and Grill below.

This fun little show that delves into the lineage of Catholic school troublemakers at St. Casimir's Parochial School in Buffalo is packed with laugh lines from start to finish. Playwright Tom Dudzick has found the right mix of family, faith and fun to keep an audience entertained for 2 1/2 hours.

Even though the show begins slowly, it livens up quickly as cast members find their footing. The foreboding nun in charge of religious education for the 7th graders is Sister Clarissa; that role is habited by Martha Sorohan, a seasoned AAC actor. Sister Clarissa is the only non-Pazinski in the script. However, her influence on three generations of Polish Catholics in her charge is evident. Sorohan gets it done with a mixture of love, determination, frustration and adeptly wielding the ruler.

Douglas Eric Anderson is cast in the role of Chet Pazinski, bar owner and father of the four children about whom the show revolves. Anderson's transition from an angry man who is overworked and saddled with an alcoholic father to someone who awakens to the needs of his own children is subtle and well done. Cast opposite Anderson as his wife, Ellen, is Kami English in her first experience with the theatre. English, though too soft-spoken, does a good job as the mother of the children; however, she could define Ellen's personality just a bit more.

The four youngsters in the show are talented students who seem to enjoy their roles. Bryan Gildone, cast in the role of Rudy Pazinski, is the child who gives Clarissa palpitations with his questioning of the Baltimore Catechism and God's reason for putting us on this planet. His look, his actions and his gestures are perfect. Unfortunately, Gildone does not speak loudly enough for everyone in the audience to hear his lines. Often, I had to imagine what he was saying.

Ryan Oatman as Eddie Pazinski has no difficulty in getting across his lines or his personality. He rebels against his father's abuse and leaves the house. I got the picture that in later years Eddie was probably a parish priest somewhere. Sara Ruane as Annie Pazinski personifies every uniform-wearing girl who ever rolled up her skirt waistband to make her skirt shorter while managing to get across in her character that awkward stage that young girls go through just before boys begin to notice them.

A very interesting character is that of Georgie, a differently abled child in the Pazinski family. Georgie, who has Asperger's Syndrome, is played by Blaise Beach. Beach does an outstanding job with his character, taking in all that goes on around him but giving out with his own 'colorful' evaluations.

If you grew up Catholic in the 50's or know someone who did, or if you just want some good laughs, then "Over the Tavern" is for you. Scheduled for a short run, this production continues tonight and Saturday night at 8. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the arts center at 440-964-3396.

Star Beacon Print Edition: 3/16/2007
Click here to order our 3/16/2007 Archive edition.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

First Dog

At one time, I fancied myself to be a poet (I was the only one who did). I tried to write a poem about my dog, Lulu. It began, "Which muscle connects the tail to the wagger?" That was as far as I was able to get with it. After 25 years of trying to come up with the 2nd line, I have decided that the beginning and the end are the same. I'm turning it loose.

I was practically raised by the first dog I loved - Cindy. She was my guardian as I wandered the countryside as a little boy in Baxter, Harlan County, Kentucky. Actually, it was Gatun, Kentucky - a whistle stop on the L&N Railroad line. lists Gatun as a populated place in Harlan County, Kentucky. Good days! Yep, I'm a real hillbilly.

My daddy started the Poke Salad (Salet) Festival in Harlan; I was 12. It's still going 54 years later. So am I. My college roommate and friend, Wendell Ogrosky (eventually the Dean of Students at several colleges and universities and Vice-Chancellor at others) used to 'clog' at the Poke Salad Festival; that was before I ever knew him. Wendell used to introduce himself as being from a town so small that they didn't have a town drunk; they had to take turns. He hailed from Jeff, Kentucky, a 'suburb' of Hazard in Perry County.

I wonder if Bo, the First dog, is actually named for our president Barack Obama. Socks, the First Cat under President Clinton, was named so because of the white coloring on his paws that made him look as though he was wearing socks. Socks was also the First Cat in Arkansas when Clinton was Governor there. Lulu was named for an opera. I don't remember how Cindy got her name.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Theater Review

One of the things I do in some of my life is review theater for the local newspaper, the Ashtabula Star Beacon. Here follows a recent review.

An Evening of One Acts
by Roger Smith

For those who enjoy short bursts of entertainment coupled with a variety of themes, the Ashtabula Arts Center is the place to visit this weekend. An extra added bonus to the evening is the production of two very well-written one act plays by local playwrights Ken Johnson and Clay Nielsen.

Up front: there is some foul language on stage during the evening, but the advertisement for the shows indicates ‘for mature audiences.’ That having been said, there are some extremely creative touches to the evening of theater. The interspersing of Ken Johnson’s play throughout the first act rather than having it acted all at once is imaginative in the writing as well as the direction.

A bit of “The Twilight Zone” with Rod Serling flashed through my mind as I watched Nielsen’s offering. The actors reveled in performing this delightful one act play.
Throughout the evening, there was a quality on the stage that befitted the experience of the cast; they were excellent from start to finish – and Nielsen’s entertaining one act benefited from that.

The themes of the six one-act plays are different in that they address different issues, but they are similar in that they all are related in how they affect people. Of particular interest to me was the treatise on how the coal miners in Appalachia were treated by the coal companies. Having grown up in Harlan, Kentucky where coal was ‘king,’ I understood exactly what Linda Fundis (soliloquist) was talking about in “The Cure.”

Steve Rhodes as the Walter Mitty type character in “Degas, C’est Moi” was nothing short of spectacular. His performance is worth the cost of the ticket. Chris Nappi as the would be suitor in the 5th of the six plays transformed himself right in front of audience eyes into a dozen different characters.

Mark Pendelton and Cathy Fasano gave performances that could well be the best they have done. Maureen Tanner and Fred Robsel were equally as entertaining in their respective roles. Meeghan Humphrey, in her cameo appearances, fit the bill.

This evening of One Acts is very entertaining, thought provoking, and wrenches laughter from every corner of the room. Perhaps it would behoove the Arts Center personnel to create a one-act play writing contest, winners to be performed at next year’s evening of one acts.
The show continues tonight and tomorrow night at 8:00, and Sunday afternoon at 3:00. Tickets may be reserved by phoning the box office of the Ashtabula Arts Center at 440-964-3396.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Day 2009

Smelling of incense and lilies, I came home from St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Ashtabula, Ohio to get ready for my daughter and her boyfriend; they were coming to brunch at 2:00. I knew they would be late, because that is her wont. That particular trait is probably genetic, handed down from her mother. In 26 years of marriage, I remember that her mother was on time twice. She was late for our wedding.

The steaks were ready, the Elise salad had been prepared the night before, Mrs. Smith's apple pie was waiting to be sliced, and a 3 day old blue cheese cheesecake was ready for the knife. My friend, Enrique, had cleaned the condo, so I just had to finalize the 'vittles' and set the table.

About 5 minutes before 2 p.m. the phone rang, announcing that my daughter would be late. I was grateful for the time; I was running behind.

As I finished my chores, the door opened and my daughter appeared by herself. Her friend had begged off, claiming that he did not feel good. Just as well.

The blue cheese cheesecake became victim to our crackers and glasses of wine. While the steaks grilled on the balcony, we rapidly diminished the size of the cheesecake.

The timing was good. As soon as the Elise salad was eaten, the red skinned rosemary potatoes came out of the oven, the steaks came off the grill, and we dug in.

Because my daughter was scheduled to work at 5:00, we skipped dessert but chose to fill her Easter basket with Malley's chocolates, colored eggs, Ronald Reagan type jelly beans, a chocolate bunny, and some ham that had been left over from the AGAPE meal at church the day before. A couple of cupcakes were tossed in for good measure. She was off and running to change into her work clothes; I hurried to get the dishes into the dishwasher and then scooted off for a much needed nap.

When I woke, I polished off a piece of pie a la mode, watched a bit of drivel on BBC, read that Captain Richard Phillips had been rescued, found that the Cavaliers had thumped the Celtics, and saw that our weather the next few days will be inching us into Spring.

I have been inspired by a friend to begin blogging.

It has begun.