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.