June 30, 2009

What's been going on?

Apropos of nothing herein.

It has been nearly a month since I have added anything here. I guess in part that I just haven’t been in a writing some times the mundane events in life are just that, and I find that I just don’t have anything to say about them. That being said let me see if I can catch up a bit without going thru a blow-by blow of every event.

The first topic is usually the weather, which has been absolute shit for the last month. As of a week or so ago, the Boston Globe was reporting that we were experiencing the cloudiest June since 1903. I don’t know if that record was actually breached, but it is the topic on every ones mind. On an average we are having one day of sun for every five days of rain. The rain of course is usually on the weekends. The upside of this is that the yard is looking better than ever before. I reseeded large patches of the lawn in the spring, and they are doing great, what in past years has been a scrubby patchwork lawn is actually looking pretty lush. Of course is it also a little over grown because the weather won’t cooperate to allow me to mow it. Our plots in the community garden are also doing quite well, although I am sure that the plants would like a little more sun than they are getting. The weeds love all the rain too unfortunately. The Mrs. and I spent a couple hours on Sunday dodging raindrops and weeding. The results from 320 square feet of garden space were wheelbarrow full of weeds. We are starting to harvest a few herbs from the garden and there is some broccoli that will be edible in a few days.

Not my lillys but I walk by them all the time.

Next topic: the boy. He finished school on the June 12, and the 13th was his 14th birthday. He thought it was an appropriate way to celebrate the end of the school year. The last week of school was almost like he was already on vacation. I think he had but one day of actually classes, two days of that week were half days with various events at the school of which parents were invited. And one day was ‘skip day’ on which there were no classes, but one of his classmates decided to have a party. I was a good thing that work has been light for me since the term finish for me as I spent a lot of that week ferrying him to and from school and other social events. There was one day that week that I made 4 round trips to the school and back. Thankfully it is only 3 miles from the house.

He started his summer program this week, leaving us two weeks to keep him entertained or otherwise occupied in the interim. And you wonder why I haven’t updated the blog in a while. I took him to work a couple days and had him help me unpack some new equipment I purchased. His mother took him to work with her a couple of days, I took of work a couple days to do stuff, and somehow we filled the time the available time. The summer program is designed for Native American kids living in Boston to give them a link the their native heritage. It is sponsored in part by the Indian Center and Harvard University. He has been attending since he was 6 years old and it is something that he looks forward to every summer. It is mostly run by Harvard students most of who are also of Native heritage. It has been hit or miss over the years, but is currently on a ‘hit’. It is a nice mix of just fun stuff to do, swimming and games and the like along with workshops and field trips centered on their common heritage. Among the projects this summer are workshops in traditional drumming, dancing and jewelry making, and the summer will be finished by a trip to Washington DC to the American Indian Museum. I am jealous.

As for me, I have been plugging along I have a list of outdoor projects that I need to get to but the inclement weather has been preventing me from doing so. The major project is rebuilding the entry shed over the back door. It has some serious rot issues around the base that need to be attended to before the fall. I just need a few day s of good weather so that I can dismantle portions and rebuild it, but no such luck so far.

I am currently involve involved in car issues. The beast, as I have taken to calling the Dodge Grand Caravan that we drive is misbehaving and is doing it’s best to avoid actually being repaired. We are planning to drive down to the cape for the holiday to attend the Wampanoag pow wow at Mashpee. But if I can’t get the car in condition for a road trip we will be spending the holiday weekend locally. It has two issues, one is a clunk in the front end the feels like the drivers side wheel is coming loose. The second is that transmission which is not shifting correctly. Solving these has required daily trip to the mechanic since Thursday, it took two trips to solve the ’thunk’ but we are still working on the transmission issue, it seems to be an electronic sensor issue but we have not been able to track it down. So far it has only cost $550 but we ain’t done yet. Say a prayer and wish me the best.

Also seen on my daily travels

I won’t go into too much detail about the other technology failure issues that I have faced in the last couple weeks. Let me just say that a hard drive failure on my computer was made less catastrophic by the purchase a week or so prior of a 1TB outboard hard drive for back up. The replacement hard drive cost a mere $70 for 320GB, replacing the original 80GB drive. I was down for maybe a total of 36 hours including the time to reformat and rebuild the files. Salute to the Mac Time Machine for making the process relatively painless.

Now I notice that the CDR drive in my ‘puter isn’t functioning. Is it something in the stars?

But to finish on a happy note: the boy received in the mail the other day a letter from the head master of his school. It was an official “Head of School’s Letter of Commendation’ for his work in drama.

It read: ‘P.. deserves special commendation for his contributions to the Schools drama program this year. A three-season ‘varsity’ player P.. has demonstrated his acting talents and range by bringing to life the characters of the Baker in Into The Woods, Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Phil the Techie in Ax of Murder. P.. is a true ensemble player who leads by his quiet, focused discipline and his love for the dramatic arts.’

June 7, 2009

The Patched Pants

I started writing this a year or so ago when I heard a story on NPR about the 40th anniversary of HAIR. At the time I couldn’t figure out how to finish the story, and I put it down unfinished. With the revival of HAIR on Broadway, I thought I would go back and see if I could pull it together as a story.


I have a story to tell for a change. This is one of those brushes with sort of famous people tales. I was listening to NPR in the car the other day, and they ran a story about it being the 40th anniversary of the opening of the musical Hair. The article was complete with interviews of the authors and some of the original performers. It painted a very vivid picture of the time, and it brought back a memory that had been pretty much forgotten.

The original production opened in NY in 1967, in 1970 a local professional production opened in Seattle. At the time I was just out of high school and attending community college and doing a lot of community theatre. One company I working with was called Le Pensee Players, they made their home in a former church. They mostly were doing touchy feely avant-garde works by playwrights like Jean-Claude van Itallie. That particular summer we were doing a production of his called The Serpent. It was an improvisational piece set in the Garden of Eden, sort Greek tragedy in shape, including a chorus of women who commented on the progression of the story; I remember it being described as a ritual and a celebration.

Being the ensemble improvisational piece that it was the costumes came mostly from ones personal closet, drawer or laundry bin. My costume was a tie died sleeveless t-shirt and a pair of old 501 Levis. A note about this particular pair of Levi’s, I am not sure exactly when I bought them, but I recall that in those days I could get a pair of button fly Levi’s for about $6. By the summer of 1970, this pair had seen better days, much better days in fact. When they first got a hole in the knee, I patched them, and it being the last of the 60’s, the patch was brightly colored. As more holes developed, more patched appeared of a variety of fabrics in a variety of colors, until the point that the patches were beginning to overwhelm the Levi’s. They soon became known as the ‘the patched pants’.

As part of my costume the patched pants showed up on the stage of the church turned theatre every night in the summer of 1970. This is where I get to the crux of the story.

There was a party, it may have been a closing night party or just one of the pretty regular parties that we had after rehearsals and performances. There was a lot of wine flowing, and I am sure a bit of smokeable material as well. The guests of honor at the party just happened to be James Rado and Jerry Ragni the principal writers of Hair who were in town for the local production. They had seen our show and were quite enthusiastic about it as I recall. As the night went on and the wine went around, I found myself sitting (on the floor) next to Jerry Ragni. Eventually the conversation came around to ‘the patched pants’, which I was wearing. He was wearing a pair of Levi’s that were signed by cast members of the various productions of Hair, and wanted to trade jeans with me.
Being a somewhat insecure 19-year old, I was wary of his motives, my first thought was that he wanted to get into my pants more than he wanted my pants. But actually what had me more uneasy was the fact that I wasn’t wearing any underwear. Jerry worked the trade for a while, pointing out names of different actors signatures.

This is the point where the story should take a turn where I decided to accept the trade and I am now the owner of a historical pair of jeans, and my life took a magical turn. But in fact I demurred and turned down the offer; I kept my jeans and he kept his, and my life, I don’t have too many complaints. It has been an adventure if nothing else.

I wonder what happened to his pair? My patched pants became iconic over time. The number of patches continued to increase, but their wearability decreased, and eventually they could be worn no more. Being the labor of love and creativity (questionable) that they were, I never parted with them however, and to this day I keep then as some sort of relic of another time.

I wonder if they would qualify as a family heirloom?

The Patched Pants - Front

And from the rear

Bonus photo - production photo ca 1971 - Doors at LePense Theatre

June 3, 2009

Bleeding: a Rite and a Privilage

Warning: The following entry is not for the faint-of-heart. If you have an aversion to the to the thought of blood or the description of physical injury, do not read any further!

This picture of Alejandro Escovedo performing with David Pulkingham and Susan Voelz performing at the MFA last November has nothing to do with the following entry, but serves as a last warning for those who are squeamish.

I cut my finger while preparing dinner last night. Nothing serious, I just bumped the back of my index finger with my excruciatingly sharp favorite knife. The cut was small but deep enough to start bleeding immediately. A curse on my part, and few tissues, blood droplets around the kitchen, a nice tight band-aid, and the bleeding stopped within 5 minutes, and I was back to chopping.

But it got me thinking. The boy who turns 14 in a couple has never really bled to any great degree. It may be due to the protected life he leads, and he is not a physical risk take. He has had a few skinned knees and bloody lips over the years, but nothing that require much more than a band-aid and certainly nothing that required stitches. I mentioned this to the boy, and he said that he didn’t see the need to change the situation.

I don’t care to change the situation either, but I remember back to my childhood and it seems to me that some one was always bleeding for some reason. Growing up in a family of 8 kids, with six being boys, perhaps the ratio per person was low, but added together it just seems like there was just lots more blood. Among my brothers, there are a couple of legendary events that required trips to the emergency room, which fortunately was just blocks from the house. There was the time when Pete was about four and he walked into the bedroom just as another brother kicked the door closed. Pete took the doorknob to the side of the head. Lots of blood and hysterical crying of course with the result being several stitches and a shaved spot on his head. Then there was the time Mike was playing in the woods across the street and fell on a broken coke bottle, it was one of those old thick green glass ones. He cut the palm of his hand pretty deeply, as I recall it took something like 13 stitches to close that one up. I recall that a couple of my brothers could produce a nosebleed at will. This was particularly useful in preventing themselves from being pounded to a pulp by their older brother (me). The blood would stop the fight without any real bodily harm actually being inflicted. (A side note: In spite of the sometimes knock-down-drag-out fights we had as kids, we are all very close as adults, even if our behavior is still childish.)

If it wasn’t our family, it was one of the myriad of other kids in the neighborhood courting disaster. Moe R. rode his bike down the ramp to their garage, unfortunately the door was closed at the time and he took the garage door handle in the mouth. (Moe was not considered the brightest kid on the block.) There were bloodstains on the concrete for days afterwards. Eddie K. stepped into Kirk A’s back swing with a 9-iron, taking the golf club at almost exactly the same location as Moe took the garage door handle. My recollection of that was mostly the resultant swelling and range of purple, greens and yellow that his face was for days after that. Lance R. who had mild cerebral palsy lost his balance walking from the garage to the patio and put his arm through the glass on the door. I don’t remember a whole lot of blood, but I do recall seeing all the tendons and muscles on the underside of his arm for that one. I there when that happened, and having been in Boy Scouts, I grabbed a towel and did the old direct pressure thing and brought him back over to his house. Again it was luck the hospital was just blocks away. I don’t recall anyone being permanently disfigured by these incidents, and with the exception of Moe, they were all just chance accidents.

As for myself, I never required stitches of any of my mishaps, but I did my share of bleeding never the less. My most memorable mishaps took place in 5th grade. There as a cul-de-sac on the block behind us, with a nice long sloping decline to it. Near the bottom, a neighbor kid had propped a slab of plywood against a concrete block making a crude ramp. I peddled my bicycle pell-mell down the maybe 100-yard length of the street and launched the bike and I into the air. The launch went fine, the landing not so much so. I think I tumbled entangled in the bike for another hundred yards before coming to a stop. I was bruised, scraped and lacerated, and bleeding from my scalp above my right ear. I somehow managed to peddle home before collapsing in tears at the back door, crying that I had cracked my head open, a fear of every boy of the 50’s and 60’s. I spent a day or two on the sofa after that one, and I can still feel the scar on my scalp.

Bicycles are a great device for providing cuts and other physical damage to kids. Another time while riding down the street, a friend riding along said’ Never try to steer you bike while crossing your arms and holding the handlebars.’ So, what did I do? Of course, I crossed my arms and grabbed the handlebars! The nearly immediate result was that I lost control and I found myself lying in the crushed rock on the side of the road. Arms were lacerated from taking the force of the fall. A word to the wise; the voice of experience, do not cross your arms and try to steer your bike!

There were numerous other incidents beyond those. I tended to lead with my head; I can find at least another 5 scars on my head beyond that previously mentioned. There was the time I didn’t duck low enough under the half-opened garage door, and took the front edge at my hairline, and the time I slipped on an area rug in my parents bedroom and connected my eyebrow with the cedar chest. That eyebrow has one other scar in it, and the other side eyebrow has at least one as well. I could go on, but my purpose here was not to list my entire history of bloodletting encounters, rather to illustrate that blood was an integral part of the growing up process when I was a kid.

So by my figuring, if the boy had been growing up at that time, there would have been a half-dozen times that he would have had bloodied himself by now. I think that they must find all their risk taking adventures in video games these days. Again not that I want him bleeding all over the place, but I wonder if he hasn’t missed out on some rite of passage.

June 2, 2009

Missed Opportunities #2

This was taken a few weeks ago and the Springfest at the boy's school. (Did I neglect to mention that in a previous posting ?) There was an activity area for little kids to learn circus skills, and this beautiful little girl in tiger make-up was working very hard to learn to walk on stilts. I must have taken a dozen shots of her between my regular camera and phone camera, and this was the best of the lot. Either the light was wrong, or there was movement that ruined the picture.

This was another moment where that item on my list 'get a decent camera moved way up the list. I think I have a birthday coming up...

Rambling Road

I guess that last posting of a photo and a pithy statement do not a blog entry make.

Ok I have totally neglected this blog the last few weeks. I guess it is a case of bloggers block or something. I thought that with the end of classes a few weeks ago that I would have more time on my hands, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. I keep thinking that the weekend will be the time to collect my thoughts and do an up date, instead the weekends are fuller that the weekdays.

For example last weekend went like this:

Friday night: 3:00 Pick up boy after school. 5:30 bring boy back to school along with Mrs. for school play. Work on makeup crew before show. 7:30; watch school play. 10:00 clean up make room then proceed to JP Licks for ice cream for impromptu cast party 11:30 home again boy to bed and a tall glass of bourbon before bed.

Saturday rise 7:30, throw some clothes into the wash. 9:15 leave for karate class. (Boy skips karate to rest up for school play.) 11:00 class over, stop at CVS for makeup supplies on the way home. 11:30 arrive home prod boy into activity, switch loads of laundry. 12:15 leave house to return to boy’s school for matinee performance of school play. Again work on make up crew before show. 2:00 show time. 4:30 clean up after show and head home. More laundry. 6:00 head to work for benefit show at the theatre. (Mrs. and the boy attend graduation party for friend while I am at work.) 11:30 return home, more laundry, a glass of bourbon and bed.

Sunday: Sleep ‘til 8:30 more laundry, coffee and newspaper ‘til 9:30. Followed by shower and breakfast. Noon, help desk duty until 2:00 while folding laundry. 2:30 to 3:30, domestic chores. 3:30 to 5:30, Mow triangle and backyard, and clean street side planter box to prepare for planting. 5:30, rack a beer. 6:00 attend online meeting. 6:45 assist with dinner preparations. Following dinner at approximately 8:30pm, clean kitchen while Mrs. assists boy finishing his ‘anthology project’. 10:00pm watch a little TV before bed at 11.

I don’t recall seeing any entry for ‘sit back and meditate on the meaning of life’ in there.

So as you can see I have managed to fill the time with out too much trouble at all. It hasn’t been all hustle and bustle, but it seems like it at times. We have managed to put in an expanded plot in the community garden, that has been a lot of work but very satisfying. In the past we have had trouble finding the time to get up to the garden and tend to it. It is now nearly double in size, but the time available for it hasn’t doubled. We share the plot with out neighbors, but like us, they both work and they have two adolescents in the house.

In addition to the community garden there is the triangle across the street to tend to. This is another community space; it is in fact a vacant lot that the neighbors have kept up for the better part of 30 years. That up keep is pretty intermittent, so I have taken it upon myself to at least keep it mowed. Another neighbor own a power more, so once a week of so I traipse over to his place grab the mower. I own a rechargeable weed-eater that I take to the edges, and in an hour or so I can get the place looking pretty good. Later in the summer as the weather warms the neighborhood gathers of the community cook outs. I am looking forward to that and showing off the new grill this year.

Did I mention that I bought a new grill? My old one finally rusted thru on the bottom. It had put in 8 years of service while spending the four seasons out doors. Not bad for a $50 grill huh? I am a bit of a purist, as I prefer a good old charcoal grill. I just think that if you are gonna char a hunk of dead cow; charcoal is best for flavor and carcinogens.

I have managed to fill my time with other things, many of them revolving around the boy’s and his social, academic and athletic life. I posted a picture of the karate exhibition so you are up on that. The following week he got his senior belt in class. He swears that he will be black belt by this time next year. I am not going to hold him to that, but it is great to see him with. Finding a decent charcoal grill however proved to be a challenge. Going into one of the popular big box hardware stores, the majority of what I could find were the console like propane grills with prices starting at over $200 and going to $500 or more. Costco had a set up that was bigger than my kitchen and was priced at $6000! In the charcoal category, All they seemed to have was a flimsy collapsible clamshell affair, or enormous grill smoker combination that seem to be made from a 55 gallon oil drum sawed in half. (I have never been a Webber fan, in that you can’t adjust the height of the grilling surface over the coals.) That hardly seems suitable for my postage stamp back yard. Eventually after many stops at different store Target, Lowe’s, Home Depot, I found one in my neighborhood grocery store. For the princely price of $100, it is a smoker style grill, but a compact version that fits in the yard and can easily be rolled down the street for the neighborhood cookouts. Best of all it had a large cast iron cooking surface the distance between the colas and the grill is adjustable and there is a warming rack. It is quite the little gem. I have managed to season the grill and have done a couple of test runs on it, but I can’t wait to really fire it up and give it a good run.
My new baby; don't phone cameras take great pictures?

The back yard is providing a little satisfaction, it is in the process of bursting forth into height of its bloom. It has passed thru the blue phase, which was the grape hyacinth and the violets, and has moved into the fuchsia stage with the peonies and dianthus bursting forth. The colors are by chance we just planted liked and Mother Nature did the rest. The yard has reached the point that we need to do little to it other than basic maintenance; every available space is filled with annuals. Maybe this is why I have been expending effort on the other gardens, I need more raw materials.
Backyard 4/6/09

Backyard 6/1/09

Amazing the difference that two months makes.

I guess I should mention the school play. As usual the boy chose drama rather than any of the other daily activities for the post class period from 2:45 to 4:30. This time they were performing a trifle of a play called Ax of Murder. It is a murder mystery comedy set in a theatre, and takes place in the course of a rehearsal in front of a live audience. The boy played a stagehand called Phil Jenkins, and is repeatedly called upon to fix the lights after a number of mysterious blackouts. When all is said and done the production values were pretty low but we are talking about a middle school show, so I will with hold judgment there. I do have to say that he boy has an easy relaxed manner of stage, while others are on stage, acting their butts off, he has the ability to walk out onstage and do his business like he belongs there. I over heard one of his teachers say to some one. ‘There is everyone onstage and then there is Padraig’. I have watched him grow and develop over the last 3 years in shows, and I am beginning to think that there is something there. He seems to have the ability to find the ‘moment’. When everyone else onstage is trying to ‘show’ the audience, he just goes out on stage and ‘does’. He is a bit shy by nature, and perhaps it is that quality that causes him to underplay enough to make the moment real. Maybe there is some real talent there, at any rate, he seems to have tapped something that gives him stage presence without having to overact Admittedly I am NOT a unbiased observer, but I have also seen enough acting over the years to know when it feels real. Ok he is only 14 – almost, who know where this will go, but if he is serious about it as a craft and an art, he may be able to make something of it.

Ok Enough! ..

Flower shots from the back yard: