He died seventeen 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.
He died seventeen 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.
The Southeastern Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) always coincides with Easter weekend. It’s not that Quakers acknowledge or celebrate Easter (some do, some don’t), but it’s usually a time when families can gather at the retreat center in central Florida and have a good and meaningful time together.
My friend (and Friend) Steve took this picture in 2013 as Friends gathered.
Let this be the setting for the day.
Christmas was Allen’s favorite holiday. For the fifteen years we were together, he went all out: a tree (had to be artificial because he was allergic to some pines), wreaths, and lights — oh, the lights. He put them up in the windows, along the mantel, and of course on the tree itself. He loved the music, too, but not the traditional Mormon Tabernacle Choir stuff; he introduced me to the George Winston / Windham Hill playlist as well as The Roches, much of which is still ingrained in me. He went all in for Christmas dinner with the family, and when we lived near his parents we were there for days cooking, eating, and sharing, much of it from the German tradition that his family brought to Kansas in the 1800’s and then through the generations. This WASP/Quaker learned a lot about some sugar-bombed Christmas cookies, cakes, and even liquor (before we sobered up, of course). He brought that exuberance, that child-like happiness, to my family when we lived in Michigan and would spend the day with my family and sharing our traditions as well.
After we separated we still kept in touch, trading presents and phone calls on the holidays, hearing the nieces and nephews and their kids and grandkids in the background, and it brought a bright light to the quiet celebration that I now go through living alone.
That’s why this first Christmas after Allen’s death has been more reflective than joyful, more a recollection of happier times even when, at the time, we were just getting by, or so it seemed. But I know that he would be bummed if I spent the day in mourning; “C’mon,” he’d say, “it’ll be fun.” And it will be. I’ll spend the day with my friends here with people who are as close to me as family, as joyful as he was, and the rest of my winter break will be doing what he knew was my true calling; writing, listening, and sharing.
Back on Thanksgiving I wrote him a love note about our lives together, finally able to put in words what it meant and how it shaped me and made me who I am. So here it is.
Allen’s Big Adventure
A Love Note from Philip
Well, Allen, you finally did it. You’re off on the biggest adventure of all; so big that it’s taken me almost six months to put my thoughts together and write them down.
But life with you has always been an adventure, from the moment we met on that spring evening in April 1984 at the dance at Eldorado Springs outside Boulder and our first date the next night – you had me with the flowers you bought from the street vendor on the way to my house – and for the next fifteen years. Sometimes it was scary and harsh, but no matter what, we were together, and so many times, whether it was snorkeling on the reef with the barracuda, or skiing the double-black diamond runs at Snowmass, or sailing on the waves of Lake Michigan, or wandering the streets of Paris in December in jeans that didn’t fit because your luggage was lost on the missed flight, or climbing the steps of Notre Dame to pet the gargoyles, or standing in the Vatican to see the pope bless your mom’s rosary, or climbing to the top of St. Peter’s to see the roof of the Sistine Chapel, or the tower of Pisa, or driving through the night from Boulder to Northport to surprise my dad for his birthday, or riding in the bunk of a semi to get to Hays for the family reunion and being swept up in your family’s loving arms and you in mine, or renting the house on Bross Street in Longmont, or the house on Michigan Street in Petoskey, or owning our own home on Canary Lane in Albuquerque and planting a garden in each one of them, or showing up at the gym with Sam cupped in your hands and making him our companion for the rest of his life, or buying me that 1959 Buick for $150, or wandering through the Painted Desert and the canyons of New Mexico, or going to Montserrat and Jamaica and Tobago and wandering the beaches, or standing backstage waiting for our cue to be the boat in “Candide,” or the many, many other things we did, including the weekend in October of 1992 when we went to Traverse City and began our journey together to sobriety. For every one of those times, you always said, “C’mon, it’ll be fun!”
I look around my house and still see you here. The chairs and table we bought at Sears for the house in Albuquerque. The O’Keeffe prints from Santa Fe. The Gandalf candle in the bookcase. The fish mobile made of palm fronds from Jamaica that hangs over the sink in the kitchen. The shirts in the closet that still fit both of us. The Pontiac in the garage that once had both our names on the title. Our rings in the little carved box that also holds the slip of paper with your phone number on it. The dedication in my dissertation to the man who showed that wisdom is not measured by degrees. The character who shows up in my writing again and again. The hundreds of pictures, mementos, and kitchen utensils; traces, as the old song goes, of love.
We were never married in the cold and unfeeling eyes of the state or in the thrall of a church, but even if it was unwritten or unvowed, we were married in every other way, and despite the mere fact that we separated for reasons I never truly grasped, we never let go of each other. You were always going to be a part of me, and when we talked on the phone, each call ended with “I love you,” and “love you too.” And while we went our separate ways and found new lives in different places and with new friends, our time together was and will always be the best time of my life.
I don’t believe in the superstitions of Heaven and Hell or Life Eternal; those are things the mind has concocted because it is incapable of comprehending its own mortality. But I do believe in the spirituality of everlasting because as long as I and your family and your friends and the people who knew you remember you, you’re not really gone. You’re just in the next room, even if it’s just that little pewter urn next to your high school picture. Your number is still on my phone. Your letters are still in my drawer. I can still hear your laugh.
So when you set off on your last adventure that quiet night in the house you grew up in Longmont last June, I knew in my heart that I was losing a part of me in one way, but keeping it with me forever. Grief does not care about time or distance, and while I may not technically be widowed, I am very sure that what I feel, what I miss, what stops me in mid-sentence, is every bit as real as it gets. And, to quote you, it sucks. But it also shows me how much I truly loved you.
I know that you went in peace and on your own terms, and I know that you were ready to go. Because, as Tinker Bell says in “Peter Pan,” to die is an awfully big adventure.
And Merry Christmas, sweetheart.
Doonesbury — Almost made it.
Sometime scrolling through a news feed can be frustrating. Trying to find something interesting to read that doesn’t have me reaching for a second dose of BP meds is difficult enough with idiots and racists running the government, but the sheer stupidity and hypocrisy of a lot of what passes for news as we ramp up to the midterm elections makes it even harder to find something to laugh at, which is why I chose that little piece of Chico and Harpo Marx tickling the ivories for ALNM last night.
This morning it wasn’t a whole lot better: Trump would rather do Nuremberg 2.0 in Pennsylvania than stay in D.C. to monitor hurricane relief, even though we know that’s just for optics because there’s not a lot he could do even if he was competent; that’s what FEMA is for. Hillary Clinton said it’s time for the Democrats to take the gloves off and the right-wing Orcosphere goes nuts, but that’s their setting anyway anytime she says please pass the butter. A stringer reporter disappears in Turkey at the hands of the Saudis and suddenly the White House doesn’t even know how to get in touch with the perps. The Supreme Court is already showing their complete disdain for Native American voters in North Dakota; they can’t be real voters if they don’t have a street address like real Americans do in all the cul-de-sacs in Maryland where teens really know how to par-tay (right, Brett?).
So now what? The mid-terms are in a few weeks, and so now we have to switch to the cable pundits wondering just how the Democrats will blow their lead just like they did in 2016. It’s enough to make me turn off the TV and start Googling cheap retirement in the Caribbean. But you have to balance it out. There’s good stuff to be had, even if it’s small or seems trivial. The Miami Metro Rail ran on time yesterday. (Karma alert: the trains were messed up this morning.) My friends up in the panhandle checked in safe after the hurricane passed. My friend Christopher got a great write-up in the New York Times about his play opening next month on Broadway. Someone shot a Youtube of the Miami International Auto Show and included nice things to say about Memory Lane and my car.
So while the news may be depressing, aggravating, annoying, and laugh-so-that-we-may-not-weep, sometimes we just have to remember that there are small blessings, too, and it does put it all in perspective. For a little while, at least.
He died sixteen 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.
I’m home again, safe and sound from my week-long journey to and through America’s heartland, and in doing so I utilized all three modes of transport. I am used to the trials and tribulations of travel nowadays, but I learned a couple of things as well. For instance, having TSA Pre-Check doesn’t really make a difference in small airports or at the crack of dawn; they shuttle everyone through the same line and you go through the same ritual as everyone else. Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines doesn’t give you more legroom; all it does is give you a few minutes ahead of everyone else to find that out. Car rental agents and shuttle drivers are friendly and helpful even late at night (or early in the morning, depending on your point of view), and it seems that no matter where you go in America, there’s always a good local place for a great cup of coffee; check out the Coffee Zone in Columbia, Missouri.
I also learned that it is possible to over-pack and even if you plan very carefully, you come back with an increased volume of clothing than what you had when you left. I didn’t need seven shirts, four pairs of pants, and my blazer, and even if I had, I could have saved some space for the two books that I picked up at the conference.
I also ran the gamut of emotions reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. I had dinner with a former camper of mine and his wife. I first met him when he was twelve, and now he’s hit the mid-century mark and has a great career and family. He told me that I had been and still was a very important part of his formative years, which is both gratifying to hear and reminds me of the tremendous impact a friendship can have. (And he is still as buff as he was when we worked out at the CU Rec Center thirty years ago.) I reconnected with people who were an important part of my theatre scholarship life, including one of the men who was the focus of my doctoral dissertation. He greeted me with a hug and reaffirmed many of the things I’d learned about theatre in general… and about being a good human being. I made new friends and felt like I’d known them for years after just sharing lunch, and also discovered that when you think you know everything about something, you’re just beginning to hear the whole story.
I also cherished the time — all too brief — with my parents.
The next-to-last leg of the journey was on Miami MetroRail from the airport to Dadeland South. That’s the mode of transport I use to commute to work, a ritual I will recommence in a little while. It was, I suppose, a way to ease my way back into my normal routine, at least for the next ten days until I once again venture out into the heartland to learn more about people, life, theatre, and how to pack a carry-on.
I made it to Columbia, Missouri, safe and sound and was greeted by Al, a charming and enthusiastic grad student of theatre, who brought me to the hotel, showed me around campus, took me to a great place for lunch, and generally made me feel very welcome. I even met his adorable boxer pup Argos.
I was reunited with my dear friend Jackson Bryer, whom I’ve known from the Inge Festival since I started going. He’s one of those people who you know instantly will be a constant friend, and that’s how he’s been since 1991. He also does not age. To quote a line from “Fifth of July” by Lanford Wilson, the man whose life and work we’re honoring this week, “Somewhere there’s a picture of him going to hell.”
The conference starts today with more reunions and a performance tonight of “The Rimers of Eldritch.” I don’t know how to explain the play, having only read it several times in order to grasp it. Maybe after tonight I’ll be able to say something about it.
Anyway, here I am. It was drizzling all day, but the forecast calls for better weather the rest of the week.
I think it’s a little odd to say “Happy Passover.” I’m not sure that’s what you say when you’re commemorating being thrown out of one country to spend forty years wandering in the desert, but since the Jews who gained their freedom from the Egyptians and got out of bondage didn’t know what lay ahead of them, it is a good enough reason to celebrate.
At any rate, I have fond memories of participating in many a Seder back in my college days. Passover didn’t always fall during Spring Break so I was alone during Holy Week, and I was counted on by my friend Rich’s mom to come spend the evening with them. I learned the songs, the Four Questions, and even won a round or two of Hide the Matzo. (Maybe they said to themselves, “Oy; let the Quaker win for once.”)
Although I belong to a faith that doesn’t celebrate holidays — for Quakers, every day is a holiday — I enjoyed being part of the the family, learning the traditions and especially discovering the food. One of my Jewish friends who got this close to becoming a rabbi has a saying about being Jewish and having a big meal; it’s part of their heritage and their constant struggle against their enemies: “They tried to kill us. We won. Let’s eat.”
Save me a helping of haroset, please.
I met Jonathan Mitzenmacher when he played Frederick in the Miami Acting Company’s 2015 production of “The Pirates of Penzance.” It also happened that at the time New Theatre was casting roles for the first reading of “All Together Now,” and he created the role of Fox. He lived up to way beyond our expectations, and when we did it for the South Florida Theatre League’s Summer Theatre Fest two weeks ago, he did the role again. Next week he heads off to his freshman year at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where he’s planning to major in mechanical engineering.
This summer he participated in the Songbook Academy program in Carmel, Indiana, where this was recorded. See for yourself what his friends and admirers already know: the kid has talent.
He died fifteen 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.
It’s been a long time since I made an addition to the blogroll, but I’m all too happy to share this new one: …Down to the River.
It is written by a friend I’ve known for over thirty years through my work at camp in Colorado and a shared love of teaching, good blues, and baseball. I hope you’ll get acquainted with his world, enjoy it, and share it.
Forty-five years ago this week, this long-haired skinny kid from Perrysburg, Ohio, landed at the University of Miami and walked into the Ring Theatre determined to become an Actor. He was sure he would be the next star of stage and screen and people would be lining up around the block to watch him perform everything from Shakespeare to Neil Simon. So he signed up for acting classes with the legendary Buckets Lowery, took dramatic lit from Dr. Delmar Solem and Dr. Charles Philhour, directing from Dr. Hank Diers, costuming from Dr. Roberta Baker, and learned all about scenery design, stagecraft, and history from the original Great One — and the last man standing — the Old Professor. He met his fellow classmates who were also setting out on this great adventure who became more than just classmates; they became lifelong friends. For three incredible years he was in shows (usually small parts whose first name was “The”) or back stage running the shows, or building sets, and afterwards hanging out for many a night in student housing as a charter member of the MNT Society.
No, he didn’t become a great actor because when he wasn’t on stage or in class or building scenery (and becoming a skilled carpenter), he was writing plays or stories … and it didn’t help that he had a face for radio. But if it wasn’t for the foundation of his friends, mentors, teachers, and partners that he built at the Ring, he wouldn’t have had the skills or courage to go on for a masters and doctorate in playwriting, which he’s still to this day trying to master.
So today, this not-so-long-haired, not-so-skinny guy who started classes at the Ring on his 19th birthday looks back from the verge of his 64th and says a humble and grateful thank you for these forty-five years of friendship. I couldn’t have done it without you. And maybe I’ll put you in one of my plays. Maybe you already are.
I met Edmund Lupinski in September 1971 when we were both cast in the University of Miami Ring Theatre’s production of George Farquahar’s The Beaux’ Stratagem, directed by the Old Professor. (He had a lead as one of the beaux, I did two character parts.) We did a number of shows together, everything from musicals such as Guys and Dolls to the 18th century comedy The School for Scandal, and I’ve always considered him to be a good friend. He’s also a terrific actor, as you’ll see in this demo reel that he’s put together, including his most recent role on screen in Hello, My Name is Doris with Sally Field. I thought I’d share this quick look at some of his work. Enjoy.
He died fourteen 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 bedspread where he slept, and I still make room for him on the bed.
We’re not quite 70 yet…
I’m taking off today to spend it with my oldest friend. We met in June 1957. My family had just moved into our new home in Perrysburg and he and his sister knocked on our front door and asked if there were any kids his age the he could play with.
We grew up together, going to school together, going through good times and tragedies, and nine years later, after he had moved to Florida, I was invited to come down to visit over spring break. It was my first time in Florida, and as his mom said, once you get sand in your shoes, you have to come back.
How right she was. In 1971 I moved to Miami to go to college. But my friend had gone off to join the Navy, and we lost touch. It would be another fifteen years or so before we met up again, and then only briefly. It would be 2003 before we connected and arranged to meet as I changed planes in Chicago on my way to Toledo.
As it always is with old friends, it was like no time had passed at all as we shared a sandwich in the food court at Midway. When I left, we promised to keep in touch, and we have, thanks to social media and the bond that was formed more than fifty years ago.
We got together two years ago (see below) at his place up the coast and we’ll do it again tomorrow down here. And I hope when he knocks on the door in the morning, he’ll ask if there are any kids his age to play with.