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.