Friday, April 27, 2012

Stage Door Memories

The first musical I ever saw was in Seattle's Paramount theatre.I was 22. It was then called Anna and the King of Siam starring the young Yul Brinner. Fantastic. I got very drunk afterwards; the hangover lasting three days. But that's a different story.
Each summer great entertainment comes to San Francisco. Much as I love live theatre, constraints of time, money and schedules have often prevented me from seeing some of the classic hits, though I so fell in love with the Phantom I saw it four times.
Today I am buying tickets for the musical War Horse at the Curran in August. Yeah!  I can hardly wait. Its staged with giant puppets like Lion King.
A few weeks ago to support my friend Claudia in her first theatre writing and reading I went with friends to see the debut at a small theatre on Valencia.. I joined the two ladies posed below waiting in the rain for the blue theatre door to open.  They looked so dear I asked permission to photograph them and later painted the scene shown here.  My sketching friend Beth was likewise charmed and used it in her blog.  Go to to chuckle at her rendition.
Claudia's sketch is about a hypothetical office worker in charge of buying greeting cards for every staff member.  It rings so many funny memories.
Thank goodness I never have to serve on another school or office social committee! I've learned to say NO!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Forever A Mystery

         It sits in a small slot on the back of my drawing table, hardly noticeable nestled between the larger tools for it is only 5 ¼ inches long.  It is deceptively heavy for a tool that fits so snugly in the palm of my right hand. Try as I might, I seem unable to part with it., though I make serious efforts these days to get rid of my accumulated clutter.
      The deep grey metal patina is what stirs me visually.  The tapered handle sports six rows of engraved leaf pattern one of which boasts in capital letters: PATdMAR19,1867.  The tip of the tiny screwdriver measures less than 1/8 inch, but one can unscrew the larger end and find tucked inside two even smaller interchangeable points.  Occasionally I use it in some art project for I love the feeling of the carved decoration and cool steel between my fat arthritic fingers.
­     How did I come to possess it? I found it tucked in a drawer in Vernet’s tidy basement workshop some thirty years after he died.  His daughter, Lee, and I were cleaning out her folks’ property to sell following the death of her mom. 
     Vernet was a gentle man, next to youngest of 17 children. His sweet personality must have evolved from his mom, for his dad was known far and wide for his cantankerous ways. His parents worked a small truck farm in what was then rural Emeryville, not far from where Ikea sits today. When Vernet was about 14 he observed his father beating the family mule so cruelly that the mule dropped dead. Seconds later, so did his dad.  A massive stroke. 
     Lee grew up playing softball and sharpening her mechanical aptitude with her dad. “I TRIED to teach her to cook and sew”, her mom would complain, “but she only wanted to be outside working on projects with her dad.”
His basement workshop was always off-limits to family. For one thing he kept a few bottles of beer and gin down there to sneak snorts when he wanted to hide the practice from his wife.
     Mostly I picture him in blue bib overhauls and engineer’s cap.  I have no idea where he got this particular tool I love but I can imagine. He was a Southern Pacific hostler and brakeman all of his life except during the depression when there was no work, at which time he sold tacos from a horse and wagon on San Pablo Ave in Berkeley.
     Perhaps he brought it home from the rail yards?  Perhaps it adjusted some small valve on the old steam engines that roared through West Oakland? Perhaps it was his Dad’s? I love it for what it is, and for the tender association I shared with him.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Stormy Weather

Last night as I was watching the Ken Burns special on Prohibition, which was excellent, the heavens opened up and the Bay Area was visited with a thunder and lightning storm the likes of which I have never seen here before. There were over 750 strikes in the bay area. It reminded me of a canoe trip down the Missouri in Montana. Lee and I were alone, sleeping on a small island in the middle of the river. No tent even. Suddenly the coyotes on both banks started a steady wailing, and in ten minutes the sky was white with lightning. That was mighty scary. Last night’s only matched it in the volume of the thunder. I was fortunate to not loose power like many did. I retired early with my kindle and a flashlight and a last word to Kodi that he was nuts to insist on staying out in the storm.

Both my sister and I were born during the period of Prohibition, (1919-1933), and I wonder: “Did it have any effect on our upbringing?” Were folks more cautious and inhibited? I suppose fewer babies were born with fetal alcoholic syndrome, for one thing. That would be a bonus. On the other hand, I think most Americans were either brewing their own or finding illegal means of obtaining it. Crime was rampant as Americans rallied against the restrictions.

I remember my mother telling the story of her first drink, and I think it was when I was one or two, which would have been ‘31 or ’32, and she would have been in her early twenties. My uncle Bill, her sister’s husband, had experimented making bathtub gin, which was literally in their bathtub. Bill gave my mother some and she probably guzzled it. She promptly passed out. It’s a wonder any of them survived.

In my own twenties to forties I imbibed cocktails nightly, and more generously on weekends. I think if the government had passed a law outlawing booze I would have protested madly and gone the route of my uncle Bill.

Times change and now I have been clean and sober over thirty years, for which I have gratitude. It’s been so long I have lost count. Still, I think I’d be picketing in front of the Supreme Court if the government restricted my right to decide myself.

Its kind of like what the Republican Party is trying to do now about restricting women’s rights to their own bodies. Here’s a toast to personal freedom to decide.

Ironic isn't it that I've been practicing painting storm clouds. like in the rural setting above which I did Wednesday. I can see I have a lot to do to improve the presentation. representation.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Feeling Less Like A Goddess

While many of my friends celebrate Passover or Easter, I try to celebrate the Goddess within, an exercise in which I am not being very successful this year, even though I am joyfully having ten for Easter brunch, including Andrea, shown with me above.

My lower back pain which has diminished my positive outlook the last couple of months has now, through the magic of magnetic imaging , been diagnosed as arthritis throughout my spine but especially in L5, where the disc is both deteriorating and bulging. Here I thought it was only my tummy that was bulging. I'm being referred to a spine doc, where the usual treatment is steroid shots. Not sure I want to go that route so any suggestions are welcome. I hope it does not mean giving up pilates, my favorite exercise.

When Catherine and Mary celebrated Christmas in their second home in Santa Rosa they bought a living Christmas tree that turned out to be too large for their living room, so they planted it in the front yard. Now every holiday Cath, ever the romantic, decorates it in objects of the season. Many neighbors walk by and cheer and giggle. I hope it has the same affect on you. Hence the Easter tree pictured above.

The mythological viewpoint is that one year Ostara, the Goddess of Spring, was feeling guilty about spring arriving so late. When she arrived the first thing she saw was a pitiful little bird who lay dying his wings frozen in the snow, so she cradled him in her arms saving his life. Later she transferred him into a pet, or in some versions her passionate lover. Realizing later his sadness that he could not fly, she turned him into a rabbit who could run like the wind. She also gave him the ability to lay eggs, but just one day of the year. Happy spring!