Monday, January 3, 2022

Back To Work

Well, that was fun while it lasted.  I didn’t do any long-distance traveling over the break, unless you count a trip down to Key Largo with a friend for lunch.  That itself was a break from staying home and hoping the omicron virus stayed elsewhere.

So we are going back to school here in Miami-Dade County.  I received a welcome-back e-mail last night:

We are looking forward to returning to school tomorrow, January 3, 2022. We know that for some of you Winter Recess was spent recuperating from colds, flu, and COVID 19. Hopefully, many of you were able to spend time with family and friends.

Tomorrow is a regular school day. We have notified parents and staff regarding the new “mask” requirements and the CDC policy for returning to work or school after exposure to illness of COVID 19. Please stay home if you are sick.

During the next few months, we all need to focus on student learning in the healthiest environment possible.

I think that’s the most we can hope for.

Meanwhile, I did receive some great news.  My play “Home-Style Cooking at the Gateway Cafe,” which was read at the 2021 Valdez Theatre Festival, will be included in the Smith & Kraus anthology The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2022, to be published in December.  At least my writing career is off to a hopeful start this year.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year

Waiting for the sunrise on another morning. The new calendar says it’s a new day, a new month, a new year, and human nature says we hope for the best not just with each year, but with each moment. Loss and pain and grief are reminders that we are able to feel something for others as well as ourselves, which means we are still capable of great good even amidst the pain and the sorrow.

Celebrate the new in whatever way makes it meaningful. A moment of silent reflection, of gratitude, of remembrance, perhaps of someone who isn’t on the journey or in the room with you. Hope, as I have said before, is my greatest weakness… and I count that as a blessing. And I remember that a new moment, a new day, and a new year brings both promise and responsibility. I hope to make the most of both.

Peace be with all of you, and us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Twenty-Nine Years

On this date in 1992, Allen and I both faced up to the fact that our only way to stay alive was through sobriety, so that’s what we did.

One day at at time.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Then That Happened

Yesterday I had what you would call a rich full day. Last week, after a heavy downpour, I found everything in the trunk of the Mustang was soaked. I thought that I hadn’t closed the trunk, but this afternoon I found the real reason: the rear window glass in the top had come loose along the bottom, hence the flood.

I learned a little over four years ago that you can’t just replace or repair the glass: you have to replace the entire convertible top, which can run close to $2,000. So I stopped off at All In Leather, the shop that replaced the first top when the same thing happened in 2016.  It turns out the current top is still under warranty, so all I have to pay for is the labor. Whew. But — and you knew there’s a but — the new top won’t be in until August 22. So I guess the Pontiac is going to get some miles on it. Just don’t tell the insurance company.

And… while I was driving to the repair shop, I got a text from Josh, my housemate. The toilet in his bathroom was backing up into bathtub. *Sigh* The landlord was contacted, and he thinks that since all the other facilities are running free and clear, there could be a clog in the vent stack. My plumber pal Alex is coming to take care of it this afternoon.

So, how was your day?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Time Zone Out

Being in Alaska means I’m four hours behind the Eastern Time Zone where I usually live and work, so when it’s 6:38 a.m. here, people in Miami or New York are idly wondering what’s for lunch.  It also means that my phone alarm will tell me at 1:00 a.m. in Alaska that the newspapers who have glomed onto my e-mail address are sending out e-mails with headlines of the morning edition.  Fortunately I have set the phone not to make noise until 5:00 a.m. no matter what time zone I’m in.

Being four hours behind gives me time to brace myself for the news… or to ignore it, which I’ve mostly done while here in Valdez.  I also have been really good about shutting out the media.  Since I arrived in The Last Frontier, I haven’t turned on the TV in my motel rooms.  And I do not miss it.  I’ve also been doing a lot of walking.  According to the pedometer in my phone, I’ve done about two miles a day since I got here.  Not bad for someone who likes to drive.  Then again, when you have the views you get around here, it’s nice to walk and take it all in.

Anyway, being four hours behind also lets me be at a distance from the rest of the country and even the world.  Sometimes we need that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

House Keeping

Thirteen years ago today I signed a lease on this house, and I’ve been here ever since.  This is the longest I’ve stayed in one place since I lived with my parents growing up in Perrysburg, Ohio.  Just the other day the landlord stopped by and offered another year, which I’m taking, and planning to save up enough to buy it outright.

By my rough count, I’ve lived at twenty different addresses since leaving home in 1971, ranging from an apartment in an urban center (Minneapolis) to a house in the woods (Frankfort, Michigan). But this house aside a canal in suburban Miami is ideal for me: big enough to share it with a housemate, but not too big that keeping it up is a burden. The neighborhood is quiet, it’s close to shopping, but far enough out of the city that I can hear owls in the woods… and the feral peacocks.  My orchids like it, I have a place for the cars, and when it’s nice in the winter, the patio is a welcome spot for reading.

It’s good to be home.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Good Morning

It feels different already.  When I wake up, I turn on the radio next to my bed and listen to the BBC World Service, which is the overnight broadcast from the local NPR station.  For the last four years I’ve been hearing from them with their patented British understatement what’s been happening overnight, often leading with something Trump did or said that made me want to roll over and put the pillow over my ears.  But this morning…

Things are happening.  Good things.  Xenophobic and regressive policies are being rolled back.  Covid-19 is being taken seriously.  A press secretary at the podium in the White House briefing room is actually answering questions instead of making shit up on the fly.  People are smiling; you can see it under their masks.

It’s not just about policy, either.  It’s just a feeling that the confrontations, the bullying, the lying for the sake of one-upping, the brutal glare of petulant score-keeping even on those rare occasions when things go well, is now in the past.  The adolescent tantrums are being replaced by the steady hand of maturity and grace.

My jaw isn’t clenched.  I am still aware of the dangers of the pandemic, of those forces inside and out who are against us, but at least I don’t feel that we are teetering on the edge of a cliff.

I know that the euphoria won’t last, but now we can at least get back to work.  We have too much to do.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Uncertainty Principle

Listening to the polling on NPR, the experts are telling me that Biden has a very good chance, but there’s still room for Trump to pull off a win.  It all depends on how the votes are counted, even if they are counted, and because of the overwhelming number of mail-in ballots, we won’t know who wins Tuesday night.

I know that’s probably the smart way to think, but at a foundational level, I don’t like not being certain about an outcome, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people don’t either.  And nothing has defined this year more than uncertainty.

Everything has been touched, magnified exponentially by Covid-19 and our inability to control it or even know to initially respond to it.  Add to that the politicization of it by Trump, who thrives on uncertainty because he’s uncertain himself and only succeeds by making others uncertain, and you have a toxic mix that stupefies and calls everything into question.  The mind-boggling quotient is that in what we used to nostalgically call “normal times,” choosing between an incompetent and thoroughly loathsome narcissist and a calm, competent, and compassionate challenger would lead to a very certain outcome: the buffoon would have been drawing single-digit poll numbers before Labor Day, and even allowing for the standard warnings about complacency and in-utero barnyard fowl tabulations, it would be a landslide of epic proportions.  But… too much is uncertain.  Will the votes be counted accurately without interference or injunction?  Will the Postal Service deliver?  Will the asteroid hit?

News outlets and print media count on uncertainty; it sells ad space and newspapers.  And by all standards of decency and journalism, they have a duty to report the news and the prospects of various scenarios, be it the election or Covid-19.  But the one thing they cannot control is our own feelings of queasy uncertainty, and that filters down into our everyday lives.  Will my office be open; will I even have a job?  Will my kids be able to go to school, and what dangers do they face when they’re there?

We all want this to be over, some to the point that they don’t care about the outcome.  Well, I do care about the outcome, and I’ve done what I can to ensure it comes out the way I hope it does: I voted, I took my two Covid-19 tests (both negative, thank you), and I went to work to make sure that my school is running for the kids no matter if they’re in class or on line.  I think that’s the only way we can deal with uncertainty: be certain of the small things that touch your life — your family, your work, your friends.  As the Serenity prayer says, we all need the strength, the courage, and the wisdom.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

How Are You?

The 2020 William Inge Theatre Festival was supposed to start today.  At this hour — 6:00 a.m. — I was supposed to be boarding a flight to Dallas and then on to Tulsa for my 29th trip to Independence, Kansas, where the festival would honor the memory of the playwright who gave us “Picnic,” “Come Back, Little Sheba,” and “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs,” among other works including the screenplay for “Splendor in the Grass,” for which Inge won an Oscar.  The festival was planning to honor playwright Lynn Nottage with the Distinguished Achievement in American Theatre award in the name of William Inge, and I was going to present a paper for the scholars conference on the role of mothers in Inge’s plays.  We would also do what we do best at theatre festivals: make friends, read new plays, and eat a lot of good comfort food.

That’s not happening.  I’m sitting in my study at home in the eighth week of stay-home isolation, and the Inge Festival has been postponed for a year.  So has the Valdez Last Frontier Theatre Conference, the Midwest Dramatists Conference, all the remaining car shows, and my summer camp reunion in Colorado.  The warnings from the smart people who are speaking out beyond the roses-and-rainbows forecast of the idiots in the White House are dire if we don’t pay attention to the real science, and we are all hoping against hope that by January we’ll all line up for vaccinations against the virus.  Maybe a year from today I’ll be finally using that ticket to Tulsa, along with the upgrade that came with it.

These are the things that occupy me right now, along with the health and safety of my friends and family.  I can hear about the global impact of the virus and the devastation it has caused on so many levels: physical, emotional, economic, and all the collateral damage that comes with it.  It can be overwhelming, and the urge to turn it off and tune it out is strong.  That would explain why the subscriptions to Netflix and other streaming services (and of course, porn, or so I hear) are through the roof and why everyone is now learning how to use Zoom for everything from doctor’s visits to play rehearsals and performance.  We are learning to cope — I found the New York Times crossword puzzle archives to be a godsend — and we are learning to turn our energy to other outlets.  For instance, I have written ten new plays and completed a novel since January, which means that I’ve done more playwriting in the last five months than I did in the first forty-three years since I had my first play produced.  And some of them are pretty good, if I do say so myself.

So, how are you doing?  How are you coping?  How’s your family?  Your friends?  Your pets?  What have you learned about yourself and your loved ones?

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Friday

And happy VD (Valentines Day) if you celebrate.  Otherwise enjoy the day watching other people get absolutely goopy over candy kisses and Vermont Teddy Bears.

Friday, October 4, 2019

One Day

Facebook is reminding me of memories from the past few years when around this time I noted that Allen and I went through what became known as The Lost Weekend.

We were living in Petoskey, Michigan, and on Friday, October 2, 1992, Allen attempted suicide by driving his car at a high speed, planning to crash it into the woods. Fortunately the engine blew out, and when I got home he was curled up in a ball on the couch. We tried to get him to the rehab center in Traverse City, but they didn’t do intakes on the weekend, so for the next two days we lived in that murky haze of trying to come to terms with our mutual problem: his excessive drinking and my enabling of it and my own borderline excessive consumption.

I don’t remember much about that weekend except that he spent Saturday in bed and I sat on the couch and on the phone, and on Sunday we switched places. I convinced his employer to give him a 30-day leave, and on Monday I bundled him into the Pontiac for the 50-mile drive to Munson Alcohol and Drug Treatment Center. I went home, cleaned out two full garbage bags of empty vodka bottles that he’d stashed throughout the house, threw out any form of liquor in the house, and that night went to my first meeting. I got the little “One Day at a Time” book and inscribed my name and the date: “5 October 1992.” I haven’t had a drink since that weekend.

Allen came home three weeks later. Life was different after that weekend. It still is even though we separated six and a half years later and we moved on apart. But this time of year I remember that weekend as if it was yesterday, knowing that it could be tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Good Morning

Technically I’m on vacation through the end of the month, but for all intents and purposes, I’m retired from Miami-Dade County Public Schools as of yesterday afternoon.

It was a normal day at the office.  I got in at my usual time, caught up on a few e-mails, did some budget transfers and uploads of new entries, and sat with one of my co-workers who will be picking up my programs.  At noon we had a little pizza party in the conference room as one last excuse to party due to my departure.

But in a fitting bit of what goes around comes around, I spent part of yesterday afternoon searching our old FileMaker Pro database for information on a program that we had not had since 2003.  As it happens, my computer was the only one in the office with the old system still installed.  So I spent the last hour writing up the procedure for accessing a database system that had not been used since 2010.

I drove home — I’d driven the Pontiac because I had boxes to take away and I thought it would be a fitting closing of the circle to drive the same car I’d driven to my first day on the job — and put the boxes in my home office.  Just another day.  But this morning it feels a little different.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Going On

This has been a hell of a weekend in every conceivable way.

To quote Lanford Wilson, “[He] didn’t believe in death and I don’t either…. There’s no such thing. It goes on and then it stops. You can’t worry about the stopping, you have to worry about the going on.”

Monday, May 7, 2018

The Week Ahead

This is going to be one of those truncated weeks again for me as I get ready to head off to Independence, Kansas for my 26th trip to the William Inge Festival.  This year I’m standing in for a friend as host of the scholars conference, so I’ll get to see most of the events, including the New Play Lab, without having to prepare much or be nervous about a production of a play of mine.

In all the years I’ve been going, I’ve always found it both calming and enlightening to go to this small town in the prairie (about ten miles north of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “little house on the prairie”).  It reminds me of the place I grew up, and even if we are poles apart politically, the people are friendly and welcoming, and far more willing to welcome the eccentricities of big-city folk than if the tables were turned.  They do more than tolerate the visitors; they’re actually happy to have us, at least for a little while, and even if they may feel that our values don’t match theirs, I’ve never felt as if it was a zero sum game.  There is something to be said for mutual respect.

I know that it’s trendy on TV to pit one group against the other; that sells papers and boosts ratings.  And I know that it’s easy to say “both sides do it” and “don’t bother to argue with them.”  Rather, I’d like to think that the impression I leave on the people I meet there is that while I may be a lily-livered liberal snowflake faerie and they’re right-wing nutsery, we can still occupy the same space at the same time for four days and still come home with the feeling of having learned more than just something about theatre history.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Day Off

I need to take care of some stuff that’s come up so I’m taking today off.  I’ll check in later this morning.

Friday, December 22, 2017

On This Date

December 22, 1988 — I graduated from the University of Colorado with my PhD.  I am sure there were a lot of impressed — if not surprised — people, including my teachers in high school, including one during my tenure at St. George’s who informed me that I could only aspire to being an auto mechanic.  I suppose to him that represented the dregs of society, but I know a number of them and they are some of the smartest people I know.  So, thanks, Mr. Sykes (with your M.A.) wherever you are.

I initially set out to become a professor of playwriting and dramatic lit, but life has a strange way of refocusing the best intentions.  While I didn’t end up as a member of a theatre department on the hunt for tenure, I did find a very good career in education administration helping a large school district get and administer grant funding.  So in one way or another, my work has touched the lives and improved the education of every student in the fourth-largest school district in the country.  And when I’m not doing that, I get to write and share my work on stage.  So I think it’s worked out pretty well.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Jury Duty

I get to spend today as the guest of Miami-Dade County waiting to be called up for jury duty.  I’m going to take my laptop and Kindle so I am not stuck in the room with nothing to do but watch Sandra Bullock movies.

I do not mind doing it… except for the Sandra Bullock part.  (It’s not her; I’m sure she’s a fine actor and given the choice, I’d rather watch her than Adam Sandler.  But how many times can you sit through “The Blind Side”?)  I think being called up is a part of the deal of being a citizen, and I’m happy to do it.  They let us bring books, food, and computers into the waiting room, they give us free parking, and for people who have to take off from work, they require my employer to pay me while I’m sitting reading, writing, or watching.

This is my third time being called up.  I have yet to make it to actually sit on a jury.