Friday, July 15, 2022

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Four Years

It seems like both an eternity and an instant since Allen left us.

But he’s not really gone. One of the duties I have as a writer is to keep him around, so he shows up in my plays: “A Tree Grows in Longmont,” “Allen’s Big Adventure,” “Another Park, Another Sunday,” “Going for a Walk with Sam,” as Arnold in “Last Exit,” and J.R. in “Home-Style Cooking at the Gateway Cafe.” His personality is a big part of the character of Adam in the “All Together” plays, and Pete in “Cooler Near the Lake.” So, hon, wherever you are, you’re still getting into the act, and I will always call you Sweetheart.

“Never stop laughing!” – Allen J. Pfannenstiel, September 7, 1964 – June 8, 2018.

The tree growing in Longmont, planted in his memory.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Happy Friday

We’re expecting our first tropical weather of the season this weekend.  That means a lot of rain.

A friend saw my posting about the house where I grew up.  He’s an artist, so he sent along a watercolor he made years ago of the house in autumn with that he calls Maple Street Spinners, “…when the twirling seeds of the tree in your front yard began to fall each year.

Thank you, Michael Ives.

Thursday, June 2, 2022

There Are Places I Remember

This week marks fourteen years since I moved into the house I’m in here in Palmetto Bay.  It’s the longest I’ve lived at one address since I moved out of my parents’ house in Perrysburg.  And that reminded me that it was sixty-five years ago this week that we moved into the house where I grew up.

I was almost five years old when we arrived from St. Louis and settled into this house that was built in 1872 in what was called the Victorian Gothic Cottage style. It had high ceilings, fireplaces in practically every room on the first floor, including the kitchen, and a big back yard with a separate garage, which I assume had been the carriage house. There were six of us: Mom and Dad, and the four kids all under the age of ten, and it was perfect for a family our size. There were lots of kids in the neighborhood. In fact, on the first morning we were there, a little boy knocked on the front door and asked if I wanted to come out and play. We’re still friends to this day.

My parents did a lot of renovations, including landscaping and adding a pool, but the character of the house never changed, and when they sold it in 1982 and moved to Michigan, the new owners kept it pretty much as we had left it, and in the years since it has — at least on the outside — remained the same.

I’ve moved a lot since 1971 when I went off to college, but as I noted in August 2013 when my parents, after returning to a new place in Perrysburg, moved to a retirement community in Cincinnati, Perrysburg will always be my hometown, and that house the place I will remember as where I grew up.

I love where I live now, but being an elderly single guy, I don’t know the neighbors like I might if I had a family with kids.  And there’s not a sense of grounding that I had in that old house on Front Street.  Maybe it’s because the last fourteen years haven’t seen me grow from a kindergartner to a college freshman and all the changes that come with that, both physically and otherwise.  That’s what made that house a home, with all the things that come with it.

This bit of nostalgia was sparked by a chance reading of a post by a friend from Perrysburg reminiscing about Memorial Day and a comment by one of his friends, who turned out to be someone who lived next door but moving out almost as we were moving in in June 1957.  And the coincidence — or karma — of hearing from him on the anniversary of both living in my house here in Miami and moving to Perrysburg struck me as good timing on the part of the universe.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

June’s Musings

The official start of summer isn’t for a few weeks yet, which means the hours and minutes of daylight are still getting longer.  But a lot of us think of June 1 as the beginning of summer, marked by schools letting out, maybe some work hours adjusting, and thinking of vacation… or at least a trip to someplace nice to relax, like the beach or the mountains.  I know I used to welcome June as the parole from school, and even when I was working full-time there was a sense of relief that we had made it through the winter.

There are still a few roadblocks to happiness: rising inflation thanks to a global pandemic that disrupted the flow, and that matter of a war going on in Ukraine.  But if the figures are correct, people are still doing what it takes to get out, get away, if not for the sake of the summer ritual, than for their own way of finding a way to shake off the past and hope for a better time, at least for a little while.

It’s also the official start of the Atlantic hurricane tropical cyclone season, and we’ve already had an opening number cross Mexico and possibly bring weather to Florida.  But even then, we know what to do.  Or at least we think we do.  And for me, June marks a couple of memories of loss and of renewal.  So it all seems to balance out.

At least I hope so.

“The Dinghy Beach” by Marguerite Cassidy (1919-2005)

Friday, May 27, 2022

Happy Friday

At the end of a very trying and tragic week, take a moment to meditate on the small hopes and dreams that get you through the day…and night.  Share the blessings of being with family, a loved one, even a good book and memories of happier times.  Sometimes that’s all we have.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Happy Anniversary

Thirty-five years ago today — April 22, 1987 — on the third anniversary of our first date, Allen and I stood in front of the fireplace of our little house on Bross Street in Longmont and exchanged rings. We promised each other that we’d be together no matter what. It was as close to getting married as we could get in those days. We hugged and kissed and maybe even cried a few happy tears.

Then we went to Perkins for dinner.

We would be together in that way for another twelve years before separating amicably. We stayed close as friends, and he even moved back into our house as my roommate for a year until I moved to Miami. We often talked on the phone for hours on birthdays, anniversaries, or just when we wanted to, and as readers of my plays will attest, he shows up quite often as a character, and even as himself (“A Tree Grows in Longmont,” “Another Park, Another Sunday,” and “Going for a Walk with Sam”). When he slept away on June 8, 2018, the bond was not broken.

I kept our rings in a little wooden jewel box — his is the one on the left — and the piece of paper under it is where I wrote down his phone number on the night we met on April 22, 1984.

I will always call you sweetheart.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

February 1

February 1 is a bit of an anniversary for me.  On this date in 1989, I slipped on some ice in my driveway in Longmont, Colorado, and broke my ankle in three places.  Later that day I underwent surgery to screw it back together, and the screws are still there.  Coincidentally, somewhere in Oklahoma a litter of puppies was born, one of whom was Sam.  (We’re not exactly sure of the date, but it the vet who took care of him said it was as close as she could get.)  Both events on that day changed my life.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas, Dad

My father loved Christmas, and he loved the cold weather that came with it.  I suppose that comes from having grown up in Minnesota.  When he and Mom moved up to northern Michigan, he was pretty much guaranteed a white Christmas that he had as a kid.

This summer, his ashes were put into the columbarium at the little chapel on Northport Point where we spent our summers and where they lived year-round from 1982 to 1997.  So this is his first Christmas back there.  I asked a friend who is spending the holidays on the Point to stop by and say hi, and he took some pictures.

Merry Christmas, Dad.  It looks like you got some snow.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

I’ve been looking back through some of my Thanksgiving posts over the years for some inspiration and perhaps a perspective on the holiday. Taking a day off to express thanks and brace ourselves for the rest of the holidays is a good time to reflect and be grateful for some of the good things we have and the memories. The post below is from Thanksgiving 2007, when I was looking back at a special holiday weekend.

When I was a kid growing up outside of Toledo, we had some relatives in the area, and we also belonged to a local tennis and social club that served as a gathering place for a group of families like ours and we often went there for holiday dinners. It relieved my mom from cooking one of the two big meals at the holidays; if we had Thanksgiving at home, then we went to the club or another relative’s place for Christmas, or vice versa. We also would have the Thanksgiving meal later in the day — usually around the normal dinner time — because we had season tickets to the Detroit Lions football team, and we would go up to Detroit to sit in the freezing cold bleachers to watch the Lions play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, then come home to the dinner.

It’s been a while since my family has gotten together for Thanksgiving. We’ve all moved on to different places and have our own families. It’s been many years since my entire immediate family — Mom, Dad, and my three siblings and their families — has been together for the occasion.

However, there was one Thanksgiving that I’ll never forget: 1967. I was a freshman at St. George’s, the boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island (and also alma mater of Howard Dean and Tucker Carlson). It was my first extended time away from home and I was miserable. My older brother and sister were also away at school; one in New Jersey, the other in Virginia. My parents made arrangements for us all to get together in New York City that weekend, and they booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel. We saw two Broadway musicals — Mame with Angela Lansbury and Henry, Sweet Henry with Don Ameche — and a little musical in Greenwich Village called Now Is The Time For All Good Men…. We went shopping in Greenwich Village, took hansom cab rides in Central Park, had lunch at Toots Shor’s (and got Cab Calloway’s autograph), dinner at Trader Vic’s and Luchow’s, and saw all the sights that a kid from Ohio on his second trip to NYC (the first being the World’s Fair in 1964) could pack into one four-day weekend. Oh, and we had the big Thanksgiving dinner in the Oak Room at the Plaza with all the trimmings. That night we went down to the nightclub below the Plaza and listened to smoky jazz played by a trio and a lovely woman on piano…could it have been Blossom Dearie?

It was a magical weekend. To this day I still remember the sights and sounds and sensations, and the deep sadness that settled back over me as I boarded the chartered bus that took me back to the dank purgatory of that endless winter at school overlooking the grey Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve had a lot of wonderful and memorable Thanksgivings since then at home and with friends, everywhere from Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even one in Jamaica, but that weekend at the Plaza fifty-four years ago will always be special.


I’ll be on a holiday schedule until Monday. Posting will be light and variable, but tune in tonight for A Little Night Music Thanksgiving tradition.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Remembering Where It Began

Fifty years ago this week I got on an Eastern Airlines flight in Toledo and flew to Miami to begin my freshman year at the University of Miami. I was met by a group of very nice frat guys who took me to lunch at their house and then dropped me at my dorm, Mahoney Hall, (which at the time was not air conditioned). I think they had hopes of recruiting me to join their frat, but it was a lost cause: I wasn’t a frat type, and besides, I had hopes of joining a different sort of social group: drama majors.

Over the next few days I got my very first photo ID (see below) and met a lot of people, including many at the Ring Theatre who are still friends to this day. One of them was Kenneth N. Kurtz, professor of scene design, director, historian, raconteur, and all-around dear friend. He made the horrible mistake of casting me in the Ring’s first production that fall, “The Beaux’ Stratagem,” an 18th century English comedy. It was a mistake because it gave me the impression that I was an actor, an illusion that took another three years to dissipate before it became clear that as an actor, I was a really good playwright. I was in a few other plays (usually playing a character whose first name was “The”) but spent a lot of time building scenery and running shows.

I graduated in 1974, a year ahead of schedule (much to my regret because I missed some great shows and learning), and went on to grad school twice, getting advanced degrees in theatre and writing, using the basic skills I picked up at the Ring: watch, listen, and learn (along with some skilled carpentry). In 2001 — almost exactly thirty years to the day — I returned to Miami, renewed my friendship with Ken (it had never actually faded away), and here I am, still writing and remembering that what began on that humid day in September 1971 is still a very important part of my life.

September 1971

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Back Home Again

Yes, I am back in Miami after the weekend at Cheley Colorado Camps, but in a sense, I felt like I was back home again when I was there.  I saw friends I’ve known since I was a camper in 1964, co-workers that I’ve been close to since the 1970’s and beyond, and had time to sit and talk with them as if we had never been apart for all those years.

This time I took a lot of pictures.  Many of them were reminders of places at camp that reminded me of the times at camp (a plate of beans and burgers, the Sunday night cookout staple) or reminders of good times (a prop from a legendary skit), and pictures of friends together, spanning the decades.  I won’t bother you with photos of things that don’t mean much to folks who didn’t go to camp with me.  But there is one picture that captures a memory and a vista that I hope I never lose: the magnificent view of the Mummy Range in Rocky Mountain National Park as seen from camp.  It was the first view I remember when I arrived at camp in 1964 and it was the view I had every morning, rain or shine, as I went down the hill to breakfast.  It’s the wallpaper on my home and work computer, updating the same view that I took in 2000.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Sunday Reading

I’m out in Colorado at my Cheley Camp reunion, so no heavy material today, but I can’t leave you without Doonesbury.  Karmically, it’s about remembrances of times past.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Happy Friday

This weekend I’m heading to Estes Park, Colorado to update this picture, taken in July 2000.

I’m going to the 100th year celebration at Cheley Colorado Camps. It was delayed a year due to the pandemic, but it’s been worth the wait.

The camp was founded in 1921 by Frank Cheley. My mother was a camper there in the 1940’s, riding on the train from St. Louis. In 1964, my older brother and I got on the Denver Zephyr at the LaSalle Street station in Chicago. The next morning the train pulled in to Union Station in Denver, and then by bus we went up into the mountains to Estes Park. My brother went off to his camp unit, Trail’s End, while I stayed at the main camp in a unit called Ski Hi (pronounced “Sky High”). I was homesick for about an hour, and then my cabin counselor, Tom Sass, taught me how to pitch horseshoes. All of a sudden I forgot all about going home, and had the best summer of my life: riding horses, hiking through Rocky Mountain National Park, climbing Longs Peak, and making friends that I still have to this day, including Tom.

In 1976 I returned to Cheley as a counselor, first in the youngest boys’ unit, and then back to Ski Hi, where I was the hiking counselor and then assistant director until 1986. And this weekend, I’ll be back among the peaks and pines.

I’m not sure about the internet connection out there — it was spotty the last time I was there in 2015 — but I promise I’ll take lots of pictures and share them with you.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

“Not Just Sitting, But Marching”

This afternoon in a quiet gathering at the little chapel on Northport Point, Michigan, dad’s ashes will be placed in the stone wall near the woods that he loved to walk through in summer, fall, winter, and spring. My sister Lucy and some friends and family will be there to share some memories written by her, my brothers Jud and Chris, and myself, and place some mementos in the niche with him.

They’ll sing the old hymn that concluded every service at the chapel: “I Feel the Winds of God To-Day” that includes the line, “It is the winds of God that dry my vain regretful tears, Until with braver thoughts shall rise the purer, brighter years.” Dad loved sailing, so even though he was not religious, the idea that out on the water, be it Lake Minnetonka, where he sailed with his twin, or Grand Traverse Bay, he was remembering those purer, brighter years.

Today would have been his 95th birthday, so after the ceremony they will gather to raise a glass of really good Scotch and share memories and animal jokes. And we will recall that on the morning Dad died, May 25, 2020, Mom wrote to us, “I want you to know, if you don’t already, that your father adored all of you, alone or together. He was so proud of you, how you’ve conducted yourselves as grown-ups, and how you’ve kept close to him even as the miles kept us apart. You were his greatest accomplishment, truth be told. All individuals in your chosen paths, but contributors to your communities in your own ways. Please keep his memory enshrined by going forward as he would have you do… giving back and making sure that wherever you are you’re not just sitting, but marching.”

We are, Dad.

Philip Williams – 1926-2020

Friday, August 20, 2021

Happy Friday

What I once thought was lost has been returned: a precious piece of my childhood and that of my father’s is once again reunited.

When my father and his twin were growing up in the 1930’s in Minneapolis, the twelve “Swallows and Amazons” books were some of his favorite books. I inherited them from him when my grandparents’ house was sold, and I read each one of them cover to cover, but they remained on my bookshelf when I went off to college and got on with my life. When my parents moved to Northport, Michigan, in 1982, the books went with them, and that was the last time I saw them all together. In the meantime, I’d found them in paperback at Fanfare Books in Stratford, Ontario, so I had my own copies, but the originals were still precious to me.

In 1997, my parents sold their house in Northport and moved back to Perrysburg. They were sure that they brought the books back with them, but it turned out that they remained in the old house. We tried to get in touch with the new owner, but either she didn’t hear from us or didn’t care, and I resigned myself to the harsh fact that the books were gone forever.

But like every Swallows and Amazons story, there is a happy ending. A year ago, that house in Northport was sold to friends of our family, and lo and behold, the books were still there, although scattered around to various places in the house. The new owners located eight of them last summer, two more last fall, and then the last two last month. Tonight I found them carefully and lovingly wrapped on my doorstep, and now at last, they are home.

Last summer I re-read the ones I had, and now I will re-read these last two, thinking of my father and his twin as they once read them, and thanking my friend Grace for her diligence and understanding how much of a gift they are to have them back home again.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Twenty Years

On August 2, 2001, at 8:30 p.m. — exactly 48 hours after leaving Albuquerque in the Pontiac with Sam, my computer, a duffel bag of clothes, and my philodendron — I pulled into the driveway of Bob and Ken’s house in suburban Miami.  I was there to start a new job teaching theatre at a private school, and it was also a return to where I’d gone to college, graduating in 1974.  On a previous trip in June, I had found an apartment, and two weeks later the moving van with my furniture finally arrived, just as school was starting.

As I may have said in previous posts, it did not go as expected at the school.  When I was hired I was told I would be teaching dramatic literature and history, which was a good fit with my PhD in playwriting and dramatic criticism, leaving the teaching of acting and directing the plays up to someone else.  But when I arrived at the school in August, I was told that plans had changed; they had found someone to teach dramatic lit — she had a masters in English — and I would be teaching acting and directing the plays.  I had never taught acting, and my directing skills were acquired by observation only.  I gulped, settled in to the apartment with Sam, and gave it my best shot.

It didn’t go well, and suffice it to say that when my contract came up for renewal, both the school and I were happy to part ways.  I spent part of the summer of 2002 looking for work and dealing with the loss of Sam, who died July 20th.  But a week later, thanks to Bob, I found an opening at the grants office of Miami-Dade County Public Schools.  I started there in October and… well, you know the rest.

I’ve lived in three different places in Miami: the apartment, the house in Coral Gables, and now the house in Palmetto Bay, where I’ve been since 2008.  I have made many friends, written a lot of plays, found new places to go, and even though Miami is a far different place than it was when I first arrived for my first tour in 1971, it’s still an interesting and new place to be.

Of course I didn’t know what would happen twenty years ago tonight when I arrived in an August thunderstorm.  Sam is gone, the Gateway 2000 computer has gone wherever antique computers go, but the philodendron still thrives and the Pontiac is in the garage.  And I am still finding new friends and still writing.

What’s next?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


He died nineteen years ago today. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and miss him. There’s still that worn spot on the old bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.

Sam BW 11-26-03

February 1, 1989 – July 20, 2002

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Three Years

It’s been three years since Allen left us on June 8, 2018.

But he’s not really gone. One of the duties I have as a writer is to keep him around, so he shows up in my plays: “A Tree Grows in Longmont,” “Allen’s Big Adventure,” “Another Park, Another Sunday,” “Going for a Walk with Sam,” as Arnold in “Last Exit,” and J.R. in “Home-Style Cooking at the Gateway Cafe.” His personality is a big part of the character of Adam in the “All Together” plays, and Pete in “Cooler Near the Lake.” So, hon, wherever you are, you’re still getting into the act, and I will always call you Sweetheart.