Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Negotiator

I have a grandson who likes to talk. Conversation around the dinning table is constant and lead by Walker whenever adult imagination or interest flags. There are countless, and I really mean countless, conversations during the day about his toy sharing plans, potential nap times, determinations of how many books to read before sleep time, what will be eaten, what will be drunk, what will be watched on television, where to spend play time, who should be pushing him on the swing, where others should sit in relationship to his own location, what is the subject of conversation (both those involving him and those which do not), plans for the near future, and ...well you get the idea. Walker is the king of Yickety-Yak. Now don't misunderstand, Walker rarely is outright demanding. His interests and personal desires are usually achieved through a series of seemingly innocuous questions. For example, instead of asking for a piece of the candy he suspects you are sucking on right now, he will ask a series of questions...''What's in your mouth Pa John?''...''Is it good?''....''Do you have more?''....''Would you like me to have one?''....and the closer, ''Would now be a good time for that? Because I'll be taking a nap soon, and you might feel better knowing you shared.''
Walker's logic and conversational skills are really amazing, and often entertaining, for a three year old. When he grows up Walker wants to be a fireman. Mom and Dad are open to any options, but if modelling has any influence on development, he'll likely be an artist or or some such creative professional. Me, I know he'll be a major Negotiator for tactical SWAT teams in hostage situations. This is how the dialogue would go today.

I've got four hostages here and I'll kill them all. I want the cops to pull back...I want a million dollars and a car in one hour OR THEY DIE!
What if...what if...I get you a train?
TRAIN!? I want a car parked outside, a million dollars, outside the door, one hour!
I want to play with the car. You can have the train.
What are you!?! Put a man on the phone now!
You can't have the Thomas train or the diesel, but you can have Percy, can have Hiro. And are there any little boys there?
A mother, two boys and a little girl. All dead in one hour if I don't get...
Wait, what if...what if...just listen to me...what if you let the boys come out and play with
ARE YOU NUTS?! You don't make demands, I...
We'll just play for 5 more minutes and then back to you...and...and the boy can bring you the train.
I don't want the train! I want the car.
I could let you play with the bus.
OK! The BUS! ...One hour or they're DEAD!
Can you send him out now?
Why not now? Now we can play. If we play now, we can ride in a bus later. We could...we could...listen to me...we..we could...(long pause)
WHAT?...We could what?!
What are you eating? Can I have some nuts and raisins?
What? Who are you? People are gonna DIE in here! Money-Car-No Cops-One Hour!!
Do you have pistachios? We should eat. And then play for 5 more minutes. And then...we should...take our nap.
                                 NBC Reporter  (outside the hostages home)
We have activity at the front door!...THEY@RE COMING OUT! The hostages are coming out!! Followed by...the terrorists with their hands in the air. The siege is OVER!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blue Glass

My daily, morning, summer schedule usually includes a pot of coffee, a couple of hours writing before most folks are up and about, and a walk on the beach. It doesn't matter what kind of weather Scotland is enjoying on the day, but there are a large number of beautiful, sun scattered late mornings on many of them. Often I have the beach to myself, though that isn't a requirement for me to enjoy the activity.

Growing up, I used to see older people on a beach throwing a stone, or moving over the sands with magnetic metal finders searching for small treasures or an ancient lost city. Sometimes there'd be a good Samaritan with a bag, picking up discarded trash. I wondered if I could ever be the guy walking slowly up a beach just to fill my day's hours until another had passed without much to show for it. 'No, that won't be me.', I thought. What an idiot I was (maybe still am...).

I know it all falls under the category of 'stop and smell the roses', but I am always amazed at what I see on the same patch of beach, now that I am filling my day's hours. My beach has the history of an eleventh century church built on the slope overlooking me, and beach landings of Viking raiders on that same stretch of sand. There followed other centuries of settlement fishermen using the beach as their home while they plied their livelihood in the North Sea. I have a vivid imagination and can envision much of this. I putter among the tide pools discovering sea life waiting for the tide to change. Sure, I like the wild-flowers, or the waterfall that runs over the towering, red sandstone cliffs.

 In one of the photo's I took this morning, you can see seagull parents nesting with their young up in a cut in the sandstone. Thinking of seagulls, often, as screeching, feather-covered vermin that poo on my car...I was surprised at the cooing affection they were giving each other up there as they fed and protected the baby feather-covered vermin. Ok...I'll have to adjust my thinking on that issue.

In another photo there is a great blue heron walking through a tide pool looking for breakfast. Look closely, he's there...

However there is a particular activity that employs me on all walks on the beach any more. I search for blue glass. Blue glass is harder to find than green, white, brown, or amber glass. The rarest glass to find is red glass, but I am partial to looking for blue. Since the blue glass is mostly incredibly tiny slivers of the stuff, there are some key procedures that have to be employed. I find myself moving very slowly over a scrabble of small pebbles deposited in various spots on the shore, often stopping to hold my eye on one small portion of the sand....waiting for the right angle of the sun to sparkle up a hint of blue treasure. The shard is often so teeny that I have to dab it up on a finger along with grains of sand, and rub it between my fingers, gently blowing the grains of sand away until I have the shard, or the smooth rounded blue trace of glass that I drop into my shirt pocket for later inspection. Then back to staring at another two foot square of pebble deposit. Some days I realize that I have travelled the length of the beach and not raised my eyes off the sand. Today I finally lifted my head and there was a small boy out walking his dog, standing just ten feet away, looking at me oddly. I'm pretty sure I know what he was thinking. I wanted to say, '' really relaxes me and I just enjoy it!...Ok?''.

I've avoided picking up green or white glass up to now, because I'm a purist, and want to believe that my life has more meaning than the lives of those that just collect the glass that's easy to find. Starting today, however, I am also picking up particularly lovely green and white glass too. ' really relaxes me and I just enjoy it!...Ok?!'

Friday, May 20, 2011

Local News from Scotland...Save The Whales

          Excerpt from morning BBC news broadcast...This is why I LOVE news from Scotland...

News Anchor    
                        And now we go to South Uist with Fiona, where there is a pod of mellonhead whales in trouble.

 I'm here with whale expert Calum West, Team Leader of the Cetacean Research and Rescue Unit. Calum, we see a pod of whales out in the water swimming in a tight circle. Can you tell us what is happening? 

Whale Expert    
There is a pod of whales out in the water swimming in a tight circle.

 Is that normal behaviour for whales?

Whale Expert   
Well they seem to be doing it, so I would say yes. It would not be normal if they were out of the water.

Will it become dangerous if they move into shallower water?

Whale Expert  
Well no, not if we don't go into the water with them.

Will the whales be in any danger if they approach shallower water?

Whale Expert   
That would depend on the depth of the shallow water.

What rescue efforts has the Cetacean Research Team made already?

Whale Expert   
We attempted to drive them out of the channel into the deeper waters of the sea. The whales just swam around our boats and returned to this area.

Do you know why the whales did that, or what the whales are experiencing or thinking now?

Whale Expert   
Actually, we have no way of communicating with whales.

What will be done now to try and help these endangered whales?

Whale Expert   
We'll continue our research, and then probably break for lunch, should these whales still be here later.

Thank you Colum. Well that's it from South Uist. We'll be here later in the broadcast for an update on the rescue efforts. Back to you, Devon...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Reaper

Yesterday, the Reaper pulled into Gardenstown Harbour for the day. The ship has been travelling up the Moray coast stopping at many ports to provide a historical experience for locals, school children and their families. The Reaper is a very large Zulu fishing boat, commissioned in 1902. This design of fishing boat was used extensively in the last century and is, sadly, the last remaining one afloat. The Scottish fishing industry once boasted a fleet numbering near 80,000 zulu designed ships. The hold of the Reaper has been converted into a museum, as well as providing meagre quarters for the current crew of eight volunteers. It really wasn't so long ago that the fishing industry in Scotland's small fishing communities bellied up as a mainstay of the country's economy, but that is a completely different story from recent history. Living in a country that supports its heritage, and the rich culture of it's past generations is one of the reasons I moved to Scotland. I love reading and learning about history. I think people in general, though, have become separated from the lessons of courage, character and sacrifice that past generations have grown up knowing and incorporating into their daily lives. No...this isn't the 'why when I was young we walked through drifting snow...' rant. Rather, it is an expression of a sense of loss. Sure there are great examples of selflessness and courage and sacrifice to be admired from individuals of every country these days, but those stories just don't seem to interest most folks or demand the attention of viewing or listening audiences on our television flat screens, films, computers or blackberries. Any American who has ever watched late night with Jay Leno and listened to JayWalk interviews is appalled by the average citizen's lack of very basic knowledge of their own country and history. And we find that entertaining. Memorial Day is fast approaching in the USA, and most people don't even know what it is we're supposed to remember. Winston Churchill said that a country that didn't know it's own history is destined to repeat it's mistakes. And we do. I doubt that most local students could guess why these boats are called zulus, even if you clued them that the design was first introduced in the late 1870's. Last year, American students finish 23rd in a measure of mathematical knowledge compared to the world's leading countries...28th in science...and 26th in history (including their own!). Surprisingly, US students only finished 1st in one category...confidence.  Yikes! So, I guess what I am saying is take your kids out to a museum, an art gallery, or a location of historical interest. Read up on it yourself so you can model knowledge, curiosity and gratitude.  Tell them about what your grandfathers and grandmothers did and accomplished in their lives. If you don't up.
                             (more on  the fishing industry at

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Grand National

What a weekend. I was so lucky to have this experience! Having been introduced to the interests of horse racing last summer by my friend Janet, a former jockey turned horse trainer/owner, she hosted both me and a mutual friend, Phil, to the greatest steeplechase race in the world, the Grand National. Yes, the same Grand National Elizabeth Taylor made world famous in film as a child star. I drove down on a Thursday headed for Lincoln as I wanted to include a viewing of Lincoln Cathedral on the trip.

 I chose to travel through an area of England called the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful area of rolling pastures, cross-hatched by stone walls, surrounded by rugged, rock faced peaks. Two villages I drove through, only miles apart, were named Giggleswick and Wigglesworth. In comparison though, there were many neighbouring towns with names that were just silly. In some historical circles, this feeds the theory that early Norman town fathers must surely have smoked a bit of the doobage.

Another side trip on the way to Lincoln took me to Nottingham and Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood fame. The legends and many stories of Robin Hood have been an important part of my literary life since childhood and I am a believer. I also clap to show an acceptance of Fairies and their health care system, and leave  a carrot for Rudolph next to Santa's cookies and milk. I discovered the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest. I could clearly imagine Robin, Will Scarlet, John Little and sundry merry men scattered and lounging in it's massive, twisting boughs. This tree is reported to be the secret meeting place of Robin's band of Saxon outlaws. This makes great sense when you see the convenient parking area right next to the Major Oak.

The city of Lincoln sits perched on a solitary bluff overlooking the vast, flat plain of Lincolnshire at its base. Even from 15 miles away on a hazy day you can see the towers of the cathedral rising above the skyline of the city. The streets of the city fall higgledy-piggledy down from the plateau, twisting around the cobble stones, presenting a historical picture of delightful medieval architecture.

 I entered the Cathedral just as the final tours were closing and was able to pretty much have the experience to myself. It is reported to be one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in the country, and I am in agreement. Having just sat down to take it all in, the organ began playing and a single, stunning soprano voice started singing. I was transfixed. A choir joined in. They were all hidden from view by the ornate wooden screen behind the central alter, but the music rolled around and descended on me from all directions.

 I listened to Mozart, Benjamin Briton and Bach. I had stumbled into a dress rehearsal for a concert to be given the next evening. I won't soon forget the experience.

Southport was our home for the weekend of the Grand National. It is a Victorian, sea side family resort complete with beach front Promenade, grand streets lined with wrought iron covered walkways, and many outdoor cafes and coffee shops. Check my Flicker photos for more shots of this stunning city and the weekend in its entirety.

Phil had done a wonderful job driving us to Aintree for the race. However, we parked on a side road several miles from the entrance and racing stands. On the plus side, we had a glorious morning walk along the canal bordering the race course, passing canal boats floating in to moor right alongside the Canal Jump and watch the race from their floating homes.

The Grand National is an event of magnitude. 120, 000 spectators dressed fashionably, punters, horse owners, sports enthusiasts, and the social elite gathered to watch seven races, including the namesake National where forty of the best horses and jockeys in the world compete for the penultimate prize. I have always considered myself a lucky man, and that held true for this day as well. I had picked the winners and a runner-up for the first three races before missing completely on the fourth race. Though I had some good picks for the National, after watching the horses in the paddock prior to the race, I whimsically placed a twenty quid bet on Ballabrigs, a horse from Ireland, on the way back to our seats.

That's how I came to pick the winner of the Grand National, finishing up a most wonderful weekend. As a sidelight, the ladies next to us having an office party outing from their boss, thought I was brilliant. Sorry ladies, just a bit of luck, really.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

You Don't Know Jack!

There is a  long standing friend of mine...Jack Mettier. We taught together in the art department for decades. We've been through a lot. I don't think Jack would mind my describing him as an often blustering curmudgeon, frustrated by negative influences and quick to realize and be influenced by poor administrative decisions and educational forces that tend to undermine positive, creative efforts of teachers and students alike. He could storm around a campus with all others scampering to get out of his way as he carried his frustrations and angst on his sleeve as well as his lined, scowling face. But you needed to know Jack. He was so creative and inspired creativity in students that stayed with him in his art classes for years. He was a great soccer coach. Jack is parenting his adopted grandchildren at an age most men are happy to hug theirs and then send them on their way with a grandfatherly wave. Jack, who has unsuccessfully and unendingly tilted at educational windmills for an entire career, now culls through endless web humour and inspiration to send me daily the best of his searches, some of which I appreciate completely. He sent me this yesterday...a remembered list of his highlighted fond memories of our friendship. I live on the other side of the world, often feel too remote and disconnected from many that I love, and I, like most of us do (and Jack himself did professionally)...feel marginalized or weighted down by our immediate challenges or failures. This simple list sent to me by a friend, to remind me of our love for each other, has lifted my spirits all week. Take time to write a good friend, a loved one, and remind them why they've been important in your life. It's the best gift giving you'll do this week.

John....a reminder
 Group hugs on the 15th after my 12th stroke,

LVC (Law of the Vacant Chair)and Lunch splatter on Timmy’s shirt at the round table,
Camaraderie and laughs at break time,
Single malt treats,
Sneak out lunches with Rich at Lolo’s on Thursdays,
Margie’s worry about us ending up lost in Ireland if we got on the Whiskey Trail,
Agreeing to disagree and then working together for the better good,
Hugs and kisses instead of handshakes,
Importance of humor that is kept and shared,
“Players” never - “Competitors” always!,
“I love babies – let’s go meet your new granddaughter”…..12 years ago,
Sunshine, rainbows, rain and snow, light years of oceans away,
Important memories to keep so that friends are never lost.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I am writing music, and some of it pleases me. I also have a new program for recording my music and when I learn how to post it on this blog, I will be including several pieces. I look forward to that. I just copied this most recent song onto this post from the inside of a novel I was reading yesterday at the beach with Jack (I actually did most of the reading)...the book with the lyrics now on the inside cover is a great story by Robert Crais, CHASING DARKNESS...having nothing to do with these song lyrics. A line came to me while I was reading, I grabbed a pen and wrote all of this down as is. When I got home, the melody for the song came as quickly, and I actually like the music better than the lyrics. I love to write, but it always surprises me when something jumps onto the page this quickly. I love when that happens in a scrip I write. I almost have to get out of the way as my characters dialogue back and forth far quicker than I can type. Fortunately, many of the characters in my head speak slowly and are willing to repeat themselves for the sake of the page. I hope you'll revisit the blog when I record this in performance.

All The Stars Are Out Tonight

All the stars are out tonight
And I've found one to wish on once again.
Have I used them all before?
Will I keep up my search until the end?

Between the darkness and the light
There are answers to the questions of the heart.
And if I find you there in time
I'll hold you close and never let us part.

Are you out there my love?
Standing 'neath this universe of stars
Searching for me,
Wishing that I'll find you in the dark?

Other lovers came before.
They have brought you to my door.
We'll leave the past behind
For us there will be more.

Are you awake and can you hear?
I can feel you beside me in the dark.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Moon Grows Larger

Tonight scientists tell us that the Moon is actually closer to the Earth than it has been in over twenty years. To the eye, the full Moon actually appears 14% larger. So it must produce greater sense of love and awed wonder to some, and bring about a greater level of madness in others. It is so very darkly beautiful.

                                     CLOSER TO THE MOON
         He has his books, his music, his pens.
         He stays very active, he has many friends.
         They all say for a man his age, he's looking rather well,
         He'll find someone soon...
         But with every passing hour he comes closer to the Moon.

         Twelve months, eight days, eleven hours since she stopped being his wife.
         He released her from his arms as she exited his life.
         How did he end up here? What comes next? What comes now?
         But no one answers as the firelight skitters across the room.
         Each moment she is farther away he grows closer to the Moon.

         Two months, sixteen days, eight hours since she walked out of his heart.
         The fashion consciousness of friends would now keep the two apart.
         Why could that happen? How does the Earth suddenly shift direction?
         He still gets out and around, but suffers from a lack of sharing it all with her.
         And no one is there to hear him howling at the Moon.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Shroud of Turriff

The excitement started to build as we drove through the forested hills of Speyside, Scotland, and finally into the town of Turriff. After driving by several churches with no special signs, we parked outside the one with the tallest spires, sure this must be the place! I walked through the massive wooden door and up the aisle to the obvious cleric near the alter.
     ''Excuse me Father?''
     ''Well, Father, I need directions.''
     ''Don't we all...But I'm nae a Fatherrrr.'' He spoke with a thick Scottish burr. ''That would be Catholic. I'm just Donald Brown.'' And he extended his hand to shake.
     ''This isn't a cathedral?'', I asked.
     ''Noo, nae sa grand. This is the Chairrrrch o' Scotland.''
     ''Well,'' I said, releasing his firm grip,''Could you direct me to The Shroud?''.
     ''Excuse me?''
     ''The Shroud...where in town can we find The Shroud.'' I repeated.''My wife and I have come over 12,000 miles on a pilgrimage to your city to see The Shroud.'' My eyes gleamed with religious fervour.''You see, she has declined to have a heart/lung transplant that she really needed, but we truly 'believe'...'', and I said the word 'believe' from my soul,''...that if she can just see the Shroud of might help her condition.'' And I wiped a single tear from my eye.
     ''Ach, I see.''he said compassionately, placing his hand on my shoulder. ''It's no herrre.''
     ''Yes, but if you could give me directions...''
     ''No Lad,'' he interrupted,'' This is Turriff. It's no herrre.''
     ''You've sent it on tour some place?'' I asked disappointedly. ''When is it due to return?''
     ''The Shroud is in Italy. It's in Turrin, not Turriff. Italy........nae Scotland.''
I stood there with his hand on my shoulder for what seemed like minutes.
     ''Are you sure?''
     ''Aye, it's in Turrin.................Italy.''
We drove out of Turriff into the beautiful Aberdeenshire morning, my wife glowering at me in silence.

What Is It Really?

Sorry I haven't been on my blog for awhile! I actually optioned a script to BBC and have been working on it's been an emotionally challenging time for me. But reminded by my daughter that there are two or three readers out there, I thought I'd tackle the great question of all writers and philosophers...what is this thing called love? The answer is never definitive, and everyone adds to it. I've been thinking a lot about love, almost constantly lately, and here are the few views I am, or have been, fortunate enough to experience.

I want to help you realize a dream...every one of them.
My pride in standing behind you is equal to standing at your shoulder
or leading the way.
Times can be hard, but I know we can make them better together.
Every moment is opportunity, no restrictions, no denials, no limits,
no fear of failure.
All pain is shared, experienced, released, and dispersed.
Joy is abundant, achievable, and increased with you.
I am so deeply aware of my gratitude.
Physical touch always brings peace, excitement, pleasure.
I am a better person with you.
I get you when others don't, I see you when others can not.
I want to share everything with you.
I'll wait for you.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Just Outside the Window

America is beautiful. There are sights of scenic wonder spread out in every country in the world. You can't see them all, but it sure is grand to have the time to seek a few out, and have even more time to sit and really take them in. It's one of my favorite pastimes, and a major reason I moved to Scotland. It is a reality that everywhere in the world there are neighbours of yours that haven't been to the coast 20 miles away, or haven't paid the entrance fee and walked through the world renowned museum located nearby less than a days drive, or just haven't gotten around to travel from their local community. I love travelling through Scotland. Every mile brings new vistas, different landscapes, local and national history, art, architecture, and the undiscovered adventure of new folks and new places. The connection below will take you to my photos. This sunset series of photos were all taken as a result of the great effort of leaning out my bedroom window. The Salmon House photos are of my home. The other collections are selections of the many memories of travelling throughout Scotland. I've greatly reduced the photo numbers in each collection listed on the chance you might actually get through them all. If you are wondering what to do with your life today, get out and really explore your immediate world, there are life changing locations waiting for you. You can click on to see my photos at Flickr

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Homage to Robert Frost

The Tawny Owl perched high in the copse of birches
At the Edge of the well wooded glen
And surveyed the scene of unending snow
That rippled in blues and whites
Clear to the Cairngorms.
Proudly, because he could,
He swivelled his head around in a 180 degree arc
To see what lay behind his hunting blind.
More snow and ice.
Same as yesterday.
'What if', he thought, 'I had been hatched a Swallow
And followed my natural inclinations
To winter in North Africa in the sun baked heat.
A nest in Marrakesh would have been best.'

Robert Frost stood in a yellow wood
Looking down divergent roads
And choosing the grassier, leaf covered
Road less travelled by.
Perhaps the other path home would have
Brought him happiness as a woodcarver.
As a teacher,
Or a swinger of birches.

And what if, as I stood at the ticket counter,
I had, just as haphazardly, purchased a ticket
Bringing me home
On that road that bent through the undergrowth
One week earlier...
Would I have found my Marrakesh
In the sun baked warmth of your smile?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Warning.....CHILDREN'S STORY......Warning

                                               Cutter, The Show Dog

Cutter gave one thump of his tail when Pa John walked up to his winged back chair and sat down with his cup of tea. The old man reached down and scratched the old dog’s head which was resting on his front paws on the floor at the foot of the chair. Thump went the tail once more.

Just then, Sarah came running in to the living room and clambered up into her Pa John’s lap with a squeal of excited laughter. She gave him a big hug around his neck. “Whoa, what’s all this about?”, said Grandpa as Sarah kissed his cheek.

“ We’re going to auditions today!”, said Sarah. Sarah’s dad walked into the room buttoning up his coat.

“Dad, why don’t you take Cutter for a walk while I take Sarah into school. You could both use the exercise.”, said Sarah’s father.

Pa John looked up and smiled. “We don’t do exercise.  My knees hurt and Cutter is older than I am. Not a pup any more are you, Boy.” Thump went the tail on the floor.

“Why don’t you come with us and watch me sing?”, said Sarah putting on her coat.

“Well I wouldn’t miss that for the world.”, said Pa John pushing himself out of his  chair. “Can Cutter come? You know how he loves to ride in the car.”

“It’s not exercise…”, said Dad ”but ok, let’s go.”. So Pa John, Sarah, Sarah’s dad and Cutter loaded in the van and headed to the audition.

Sarah was so excited. The community theatre group was going to put on Annie, the musical, and Sarah wanted to play the lead role Annie so much she could barely breathe. When they called her name, she walked up and on to centre stage. As the pianist began to play she began to sing. Sarah’s dad beamed with pride. Pa John nodded his head and wiped a tear from his eye. Cutter sat up in the aisle and thumped his tail two times. When Sarah returned to her family, her father hugged her and whispered in her ear,” You are the best.”.

Later, after the last singer finished, the director’s assistant walked up the aisle to their row. “Very nice audition, Sarah.”

“Thank you.”, smiled Sarah.

“Is your dog ready to audition now?”, he asked.

“Oh, he isn’t here for that.”, said Pa John. “He’s too old…just along for the ride really. Cutter is no show dog.”

“He looks like the Sandy we need if he’s not too excitable.”, said the director’s assistant.

“Oh he’s not excitable at all!”, said Sarah as she took Cutter’s lead and headed to the stage.

But to be Sandy, Cutter had to be able to walk onto stage from the wings up to an actor playing the part of Annie and sit next to her on centre stage without being distracted. The director’s assistant told Sarah to hold him offstage in the wings and let him go when she called for him. Sarah knelt next to Cutter in the wings and said,
” Ok, Cutter, I want you to walk out there and be a star.”

When the director’s assistant called,” Here Boy, come on, here Boy!”, Cutter took three steps onto the stage, stopped to look at the vast open area of the theatre, and then turned around and walked back to Sarah.

“Oh well,”, said a voice from the back of the theatre,” He did look the part.”.

“Wait.”, said Pa John walking up the aisle to the director’s assistant. “Give him one of these. He’ll do anything for a cookie.” And he handed two small snack treats to the woman at centre stage.

She walked back into the wings, knelt down next to Sarah and Cutter, and gave the dog one of the treats. The assistant scratched Cutter behind his ear and told him,” All right Boy, let’s try this once more, ok?”. She walked back to centre stage and called,
” Here Boy, come on, here Boy!”. This time Cutter walked three steps onto the stage, stopped and looked out into the vastness of the theatre, and walked straight up to the director’s assistant, and sat down. When the assistant knelt down and put her arm over his shoulder and said, ”Good Boy!”, Cutter raised his paw to shake hands and thumped his tail on the stage once.

As she gave Cutter the second treat, the director in the back of the theatre said,
” Right. Looks like we have our Sandy.”. Sarah clapped from the wings and the other actors in the audience applauded. Cutter smiled and thumped his tail again.

Pa John leaned over to Sarah’s dad and said,” I never saw him shake hands before. Who taught him to do that?”.

So Cutter got the role of Sandy in the musical Annie and Sarah became one of the orphan girls in the Chorus. Pa John drove them to rehearsals every night. During the show many strange things happened to Cutter. He’d get very excited every night to go to rehearsals and actually run and jump into Pa John’s car. At the theatre, he’d wag his tail and say hello to all his new actor friends. Even his old dog coat improved. His hair glistened a beautiful golden tan like a puppy. And like a puppy, he’d bring his leash to Pa John every day so they would take an exercise walk. Even Pa John’s knees didn’t hurt anymore.  Cutter always made his cues during the show. He always shook hands with Annie on centre stage. And he always barked once and thumped his tail when the audiences gave the cast a standing ovation.

After every show, Cutter would come home, slowly step out of the car and walk stiffly to the foot of Pa John’s chair and curl up for the night.

When the curtain came down on the closing night of Annie, Pa John and Sarah’s father were a little worried that Cutter would go back to being his old dog self. But that never happened. Sarah decided to audition for every show put on by the local theatre company. And through the years, as it turned out, there were many plays and musicals that had parts for old Cutter.

In Brigadoon, Cutter walked sadly behind Harry Beaton’s funeral procession with his head and tail down. When they laid Harry Beaton’s body on the stage, Cutter laid down and crossed his paws on Harry’s chest as the bagpipes started to play. There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience.

Cutter was Petruchio’s dog in Taming of the Shrew. When Petruchio brought Kate home after their marriage to the disarray of his palacio, and started throwing plates of food on the floor, the servants would run from Petruchio in terror. Cutter would scuttle back and forth on stage barking at the servants.

In Peter Pan, Cutter played the part of Nana. He wore a nurses floppy hat, and would sheppard  baby John around on the floor. He whined pitifully when Father dragged him offstage to be chained up.

In the musical Camelot, King Pellinore’s rather seedy mongrel named Horrid was perfect for Cutter. The costumer put leaves, twigs and bits of netting and flotsam all over his coat. He looked as ragged as King Pellinore’s rusted armour. And the best part of that show, as far as Cutter was concerned, is that Pa John played Pellinore and Sarah played the beautiful Queen Guinevere!

So, Pa John had been wrong so many years earlier when he said that Cutter was too old…and he wasn’t a show dog. Old Cutter turned out to be the best show dog around.

And he always barked once and wagged his tail whenever the audience gave him a standing ovation.


In Memorium

I've had some requests to put this on the blog, and rightly so. For those of you who didn't attend the memorial for Marjorie at the Comedy Club in Los Angeles, but attended one of the other three's a photo album presented there.  There is much more if you're interested, just drop me a line...with love...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Romance and Burns Night

Robert Burns is the poet laureate of Scotland, and the entire world celebrates his poetry this month. Burn's Night is a great excuse for most of us to wear a kilt, have a dram of whisky, hear the bagpipes, and generally enjoy an evening of friends and song. But there is more going on here. Romance is celebrated on Burn's Night. I think the romantic soul should be celebrated every night. It's much bigger than that flush of sexual attraction and the joy at just being in the presence of someone who makes you feel alive and safe and in love...even though those feelings are among the very best in the human experience. That kind of romance is ageless, and can be felt and shared by teenagers and octogenarians alike. But in the imperfect world, romance is a choice of focus for men and women. This is where I could go completely off topic and discuss the difference between boys and men, and girls and women...but suffice it to say that men and women see a bigger picture of sacrifice and loss, and still choose romance. Matthew Arnold wrote about that choice in his poem Dover Beach, as a soldier is remembering his country and family before engaging in battle...
                              Ah, love, let us be true
                              To one another! for the world, which seems
                              To lie before us like a land of dreams,
                              So various, so beautiful, so new
                              Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
                              Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
                              And we are here as on a darkling plain
                              Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
                              Where ignorant armies clash by night.
The world of Robert Burns was no different than now in regards to the condition of mankind, but he reminds us of the beauty of nature, the common experiences of being a man, and certainly the importance of romance as a very real choice and focus. We all know 'that' married couple that have been through hardship and loss and still choose love...still choose beauty. They are the adult romantics, and have that richness of character in their relationships that we all should aspire to. So raise your dram of scotch to your lover and choose romance on Burn's Night and every night thereafter.

                                            A Red, Red Rose
                             O my Luve is like a red, red rose
                                          That's newly sprung in June;
                             O my Luve is like the melody
                                          That's sweetly played in tune.

                             So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
                                          So deep in luve am I;
                             And I will have thee still, my dear,
                                          Till a' the seas gang dry.

                             Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
                                          And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
                             I will luve thee still, my dear,
                                          While the sands o' life shall run.

                            And fare thee weel, my only luve!
                                         And fare thee weel awhile!
                            And I will come again, my luve,
                                        Though it were ten thousand mile.             Robert Burns

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wonder Woman

I was thinking today of the powerful women it has been my good fortune to know in my life. There are so very many. I have been blessed with many wonderful male friends, but I seem to have always enjoyed the friendships and company of women. Certainly their influences in my life are immeasurable and ongoing. My mother Jane Lambie was a 'power woman'. She was highly educated, taught music as well as physical education and English. She supported a military husband, raised three children to love arts, books, and all of her kids have pursued varied interests with success. Her optimism and joy are with me. My Grandmother Jesse was another music teacher, and highly educated at a time when most women were not. Even her mother, my great grandmother, had a college education.

Debbie Lagomarsino is a power woman as a teacher and community volunteer, world traveller, musical director, president of the world organization Up With People. Debbie has been a musical director for countless organizations that, on the short list, include San Luis Obispo Little Theatre, Cuesta College, Pioneer Players, Paso Robles High School. Debbie taught in the local elementary schools as well as overseas in Jakarta and Saudi Arabia.  She has provided music and volunteer fundraising support to every women's and community organization on the central coast of California. Debbie continues to shape other's lives in positive ways she doesn't even realize. Yup, some power women are pretty humble.
Debbie and John

Anet Carlin is a power woman, heck she's a power woman if she's in a room filled with power women. Anet is a drama teacher, producer, director, and has founded theatre companies anywhere she stops long enough to pour a cup of tea or think of a new project. I suspect if stopping world hunger was something I wanted to devote my life to, I'd begin by enlisting Anet as my partner. She could produce any project successfully. 

And then there's Sarah Greenman. If there was a therapy group for overachievers anonymous she'd be giving testimony at every meeting. Sarah's an actress, director, award winning playwright, doula (look it up), certified masseuse, designer, blogger, mother, and is certainly helping some couple in their birth process as you read this. She's one of those women that is too busy, and wildly successful at every new project. If you have something that needs getting done and done correctly, give it to a power woman like Sarah.
Sarah and son Walker
Cynthia Anthony has been an inspiration to me for nearly twenty years, and I have known her in several capacities. A professional actress after college, Cynthia became a founder of the CAT theatre company in Paso Robles. She's an incendiary actress equally at home in a farcical comedy or in a heavy dramatic lead. Cynthia was the Managing Director of no less than three other local theatre companies, putting each on their feet professionally and creatively. Another of her favourite charges was marketing director of a California opera company.  She is still raising three children who are in creative artistic professions.

Cynthia often works in her husband's medical practice as needed,and volunteers with women's organizations in her community. Late in life she decided that her degree in Theatre was insufficient, and she has attended college and completed an on line universitiy program that has lead to a teaching credential. For many years she has been a volunteer, then teaching assistant, then substitute teacher, and  Drama Teacher and director at Paso Robles High School. And we are just scratching the surface of her life experiences.

If hard work, self discipline, and sheer force of character builds Power Women, they don't come any stronger than the Scottish lass, Jacoline McDairmid. She was a flight attendant for many years. Jacoline now works at several jobs simultaneously to support her two teenage children, connect to her community, and provide service to countless women in the north-east of Scotland. You will find Jacoline at the GlenDronach Distillery running the visitors center, conducting tours and serving as a special events coordinator. In the evenings, she teaches Jazzercise classes and aerobics. Jacoline coaches a cross country running team for youngsters, teaching them to set personal goals an helping them prepare for competitions. She cares for her mother, a recent stroke victim, who is courageously going through a recovery process.  And in Jacoline's spare time, which is usually long before the sun comes up, she trains on the roads and byways for miles and miles, and is currently the third ranking senior women's triathlete and runner in Scotland. 

And that's a short list! Vena Norton, Jean Lange, Barbara Bowman, Connie Atkinson, Nikki Bond, Deb Bremner, Benita Gold, Lori Harmon, Ellen Finch, Helen Harrison, Kaylinda Mabry, Polly Carrick, Rita Edens...I can't begin to approach a comprehensive listing. These women influence their communities. Their energy seems endless to the casual observers, but every success, usually, is an act of love. These are Power Women who influence you, inspire you, and make your life better than it could have possibly been without them. All 'power women' seem to have a host of folks who can make similar claims about how their own lives are influenced by them. Well done ladies...well done.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You Can't Do That

There is an unending list of seemingly good reasons for you to not do something. In most cases, you will listen to just enough of those reasons, and then agree to not do it. Often, if you still want to do it, you will either allot yourself so many tries to complete the goal, or allow yourself so much time to do it. Sadly, these options usually don't lead to success.

Here are two examples that I know intimately, being a Drama teacher. "I want to be an actor, but my Dad is against it, only two percent of all SAG and AFTRA actors survive solely on their acting income, look at all the out of work actors, you've got to know someone who knows someone to get into the business.....that's enough, I'm going to college and become a CPA." OR "I am going to Los Angeles to become a star. If I don't make it in six months, I'm going to follow my uncle into the gravestone chiseling business." This same process can be used to deter you from any goal you ever set for yourself. So, who ever does achieve difficult goals?

The easy answer is folks who aren't afraid to fail, and the history books are filled with these courageous people. Read about them. But the modern translation of their character make-up seems to boil down to a. Passion, and b.The Last Man Standing. Whatever you do with passion allows you to enjoy the process on the way to the goal, and keeps you from finding an 'out' that finally makes sense to you. And being the last man (or woman) standing will, almost always, insure your best chances for success in any area of your passion. That's it. Passion and Last Man Standing will allow you to tackle the seemingly insurmountable. And remember, because you are Passionate about what you do, you enjoy the process getting there. Take a look at these guys...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Carpe the Shit Out of That Diem

Life can be an exciting adventure. Every day brings this possibility. My new blog will celebrate my adventure, and I suspect will lead me to some of yours as well. I am dedicating this adventure to Margie Bowman Lambie. I had the good fortune to spend the last eleven years with her. She began the eleven years with a great sense of expectation, courage, and humor. Margie and I began our relationship with the honeymoon...a 20 day blind date touring Scotland together. Margie ended her last adventure making jokes with her doctors and nurses while facing her inevitable final hours. The girl was funny. In between, Margie acted on many stages, had a major heart attack, came to know every local EMT server in two countries, taught drama students with me for ten years, directed countless plays and musicals, traveled lots, took herself off a priority list for a heart lung transplant, guided over thirty young adults into professional acting careers or theatre majors in universities all over the United States, attended classes at Princeton and Rutgers Universities, and moved to Scotland. When she died in March 2010, there were four memorials for her to accomodate the hundreds of friends in Gardenstown, Scotland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Paso Robles, California; and the Comedy Club, Los Angeles. Mahatma Gandi, Ted Kennedy, and Princess Diana only had one each...not bad, Margie. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with a great sense of expectation, courage, and humor. And, oh, by the way, Margie...I love you.