It’s a Most Unusual Play

Well, this week is shaping up to be a good one for the thee-atah. Monday night was excellent fun, because “The Play that Goes Wrong” lives up to its name and then some. It’s an off Broadway show, so good I will see it again in early June. It’s marvelously wacky and unpredictable. If your life lacks stability, you might feel threatened by every moment of it. Or it might be just the ticket. Don’t miss it if you’re in the city.

And last night I saw Sam Shepard’s “Curse of the Starving Class,” which, now that I’ve read about it, is worth more laughs than I found while seeing it. In Act I, the young man of the subject dysfunctional farm family walked off stage and returned with his arms full of one young lamb, Annie,

This is Annie, who stole the show.

who he placed into a simple cage. Annie sniffed the environs quietly for a few moments. Then she lay down to rest.

Well…as soon as I saw that lamb, I lost interest in anything else on the stage. Nothing else mattered. They were, as far as I was concerned, another family consumed with angst and/or anger, saying impolite things to each other; and, on the sweeter side of life, there was a fleecy, off-white, semi-large animal there who uttered not a sound and seemed quite content to nap quietly while the humanity around him, unfettered by a cage, descended, kicking and screaming, into hell.

One reason I can make a comment like that about a significant and widely-acclaimed work of great social import written by a man who was widely respected while he was alive, is this: everywhere I wander in New York, I see people of all descriptions (who may be living the lives I saw on stage) who could be actors and who even look like actors or look famous or look like they could be famous…but I have never seen a lamb anywhere—except on that stage last night. That was a real treat. And that lamb IS famous.

The lamb in Curse of the Starving Class is named Annie. She was an orphaned bottle-baby acquired by famed animal trainer Bill Berloni. Bill has been providing animals for theater for over 40 years. This will be his third production of Curse of the starving Class and his fourth production with lambs onstage. In addition to being an animal trainer, Bill is the Director of Animal Behavior for the Humane Society of New York where he has cared for animals for over 25 years. Bill is a licensed exhibitor with the USDA and is under the scrutiny of the USDA, the State and City of New York. Annie currently lives in a house with her handler, Schuyler Beeman, a shepherd. Schuyler will take Annie into his flock in rural Connecticut after the production where she will spend her days producing wool.

And then, wonder of wonders, as I waited for the A train in the 42nd Street station, a handsome young man waited, too, along with a beautiful and sweet-natured Shiba Inu, “She’s two years old,” he told me. He was clearly smitten. I thought she looked like a puppy. She greeted me without fear or hesitation. She had the sweetest, most beautiful face I have seen, and thick, creamy white fur almost as soft as my cat’s. I was enjoying meeting her so much that I didn’t think at all about taking a photo, so I’ve appropriated one that’s close.

If ever I want to have a dog companion, the Shiba is my top choice.

When the train stopped, we got into a brand-new car. The floor was immaculate, devoid of the usual dirty newspapers, splatters, and the half-filled drink rolling back and forth on the floor. The seats were  unmarked and shiny. The metal work, the rails and panels and window frames and all that—every bit looked like art, like a special industrial design project. It rode quietly and smoothly on its air suspension. That air suspension is why you don’t feel hammered riding in these long heavy cars running on steel rails. You’ll see the car’s height shift a bit  at stations. That’s the air suspension doing its thing, compensating for the changing weight of the car as people enter and leave it.

Speaking of dogs, they never fail to harness my attention as I walk through the city. I love all of them—and there’s all manner of dogs here, from mutts to purebred aristocrats. You will see, if you’re paying attention to the scene as a little boy would, that there are lots of French Bulldogs. They’re the overwhelming NYC favorite. They look a trifle haughty, but they’re friendly and quite open. And Yorkies—I think that’s what they’re called—many people have them, too. One man I met briefly had five.

Sometimes I think I live in protected bubble, right here in Manhattan, as the nation goes absolutely crazy around me. Another school shooting, this time in my home state, North Carolina, took the life of a young man who undoubtedly saved quite a few others. That makes me very sad. Everyone’s up in arms over a few cases of measles. Some  want to force everyone to be vaccinated, which is utterly opposed to the freedom that this nation claims to represent, and quite dangerous for some. The usual salivating over the coming election has begun, and it’s just a crashing bore. We know who really runs the country, right?

I am as hungry for change as anyone. But life is funny, and the collective life of a nation is quite complex. We think we walk on both feet, putting one in front of the other. But one gets stuck somehow and can’t move quite as far forward as it should. We make progress, but it’s fitful and sometimes arduous. Something holds us back, and we can’t always know what it is.

So here I am, at 65 and counting, living in a huge city, taking no medications, still wondering what to do with this life. And yet I manage to fill the hours pretty well, and sometimes productively…just ask my cat.

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Of Elephanants and Renstaurants and Strange Occurences

OKay now, just for fun, I happened to recall certain things from my childhood—which is still in progress, but at a later stage.

I’m going to share them with you here. These are among the most intimate details of my life, so please, laugh gently and kindly if at all possible. Forgive me my current trespasses. And if something I’ve written strikes your fancy, just nod your head and smile.

1. My sister did not call them “elephants.” She called them “elephanants”.

2. In a similar vein, I did not refer to places outside the home where people ate food as “restaurants.” They were “renstaurants.”

3. Like many children (I hope), I sucked my thumb, and I had a favored blanket, which I called my “foofing yay-yoh.” I’d carry the blanket as I made my way around the house, holding it close to my face while I sucked my thumb. It takes guts to admit to stuff like this.

Proof that I was a little boy. But which one?

4. These next are rather obscure. I say that because I can’t recall their exact origin, though I think it was some cartoon. I’m not even sure how to phrase these. Anyhow, there were two dogs to which I sometimes referred. They were the “Nelson dog” and the “Pillow dog”. Please don’t ask for any more detail about this one; they’re long gone.

5. One day during third grade, I stuck a female classmate with one of my favorite pens, pretending I was giving her an injection. Mrs. Mumford immediately confiscated all my pens. From that day on, I frequently plotted how I’d break into the classroom after hours and get my pens back. Of course, nothing came of that, because it involved breaking glass and picking locks. And I assume Mrs. Mumford took my pens with her when she left the earth. She was that sort of schoolmarm.

6. One night at supper we had a guest, Mr. Goldsmith, who was my grandmother’s boss. He had very large ears, which my sister did not fail to notice. She told him he looked like an elephant. After having his fill, Mr. Goldsmith fell fast asleep in his chair at the table. He never again came to supper at our house, and we never saw him again.

7. Then there was that Saturday when we, meaning my sister, my friend Joel Josephs and I planned (I use that word “planned” very loosely) to open a travel agency in a vacant store in my father’s building in downtown Raleigh. We started our venture with a power lunch at the Hudson-Belk cafeteria. The big problem was none of us had money when time came to pay. My sister and Joel remained behind as hostages while I stole lunch money from the petty cash in my father’s office a few blocks away. We never opened the travel agency.

8. On another Saturday, which was our movie day, there were three remarkable people in downtown Raleigh’s long-gone State Theater: the man who couldn’t stop coughing; the man who fell asleep and snored loudly; and the woman who was so large her tummy stopped very close to the back of the seat in front of her. I remember remarking that she was as big as a 1958 Oldsmobile. The movie was something like “Move Over, Darling” or “Pillow Talk” or the one where Doris Day drives a Chrysler Imperial convertible through the car wash with the top down. That’s the sort of stuff we watched.

There may be more to come, but I’ve run dry. Maybe someone else out there has some outrageous history to share?

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Relief in Manhattan

If you’re in Manhattan and you need a bathroom, now you know where it is: on the east side of Madison Square Park, quite close to 23rd Street.

As you can see, it’s out of commission right now. That doesn’t surprise me one bit, knowing as I do the fate of anything “public” here. Its door is open and the amber “Out of Order” lamp is glowing.

It wasn’t very clean inside. It showed the usual public bathroom maladies, situations similar to those pranks that your delinquent high school friends pulled in your school toilets.

Well, the deal was that someone in NYC wanted to install these units around the city, but the idea never flushed—I mean fleshed—out, because no one wanted the thing too close to their shop or store or office. So another attempt to lay a much-needed veneer of civility and public accommodation over the gritty City was lost.

Which is really a shame. Many great cities in other lands have public toilets. And In NY, even in places that allow you to use the toilet, there’s never enough equipment.

To end this post on a high note, I’ve included a nice view of the Empire State Building, to the top of which everyone who visits Manhattan should go whenever possible. The view is beyond stupendous, and you will feel wonderfully terrifying sensations in your lower legs that you won’t feel anywhere else.

Have a nice day!

❤️ NY.

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Macy’s Has Everything

Those of you who are tuned in to my Fbook page know that I was in Macy’s at Herald Square, where I did not buy a KitchenAid mixmaster. Continue reading

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Radio Italia

The bomb fell a mere two weeks after I landed in India, after my friend Alam

Sahidul Alam, wearing a shirt that only Indians might be able to explain. Here he’s preparing to meditate. He has a rare sweetness and a huge heart.

and I had already endured a sleepless train ride,

the rigors of air travel, and long hours in the car. Continue reading

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On the Move in the Air, Once Again

After a noisy, restless 6 hours from New York on an aging Boeing 747, I’m enjoying some silence in London’s Heathrow airport, mercifully uncrowded on this first Sunday morning in February. Continue reading

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Reclaiming lost ground

 


This morning a storm of thoughts blew in while I lingered in bed in the dark, silent basement of a house in Fairfield, Iowa, where I’ve been since Saturday afternoon, December 1, to break from city life using a couple of weeks where the familiar faces are. Continue reading

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