Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beauty and the Beard.

One of the favorite charitable events that Corb and I attend each year (yes, we actually do attend SOME) is an annual benefit for Crossroads, a non-profit organization in Rhode Island dedicated to helping the homeless. Not the helpless...if so, all that money would be diverted to ME...
We love the event, because unlike some less creative folk, Crossroads always does an amazing job of putting together a really creative theme. One year they transformed a skating rink into the land of Oz. Another year they turned a baseball stadium into a swinging 40s nightclub. Another year they took an abandoned warehouse and turned it into Willie Wonka's chocolate factory. Each time, those who attend are invited to dress the part.

This year's event has a circus theme, and a few days ago, I called a meeting together with my friends David and Leslie to see who we were going to invite...and also (and perhaps more importantly) what we were going to wear.

"A circus theme, a circus theme..." said Leslie, and then snapped her fingers. "I've got it! Ted, you can go as the bearded lady."

Ummm...what? "Okay, I'll do it," I said, after the laughter had died.

But will I? Tonight Corb and I are planning to meet with my friend Daniel the costume designer, to see what kind of options he has, and I have to say, frankly, I'm a little nervous about this whole thing.

I mean, it's not like I've dressed in drag...well, ever. I did it once for a Halloween party many years ago, wearing a dress of Josie's...and frankly, I looked better than she did in it. And, there was one play I was in, an awful sex comedy called "Don't Dress for Dinner." One of the actresses had a leopard print negligee she had to wear for one of the scenes, and I played a trucker. I thought it would be funny to wear her leopard print, complete with combat boots, one dress rehearsal.

But that's it, and this is much higher exposure than that. If I dress as the Bearded Lady, everyone will see me and probably make some kind of comment. Do I really want to call that much attention to myself? I mean, it's not as if I'm shy and retiring...but this?

We'll see what happens in the next few days...and what kind of dress selection Uncle Daniel has. But in case you have any frilly suggestions, please feel free to weigh in.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Little bird

Although I had promised my friend Mama Sue that I wouldn't visit Ashes until at least four weeks away from home, I kind of had no choice on Thursday night. Her laptop had arrived the day before, and Theo and I had worked to make sure it was fully functioning, then added her favorite writing sites. I even took out a membership to Netflix and added that to the laptop, and Theo set as a backdrop her favorite emu photo.

Then, armed with lots of beef jerky, Corb and I made the hike from Eldredge to Salem. It takes about an hour and a half on a good day, and this was a Thursday night, so it was pretty smooth sailing through Boston.

We met her at her dorm room with her new best friend, Michaela, who is in the theater department. Corb and I signed in and then set to work setting up the laptop.

The first thing I noticed when I got to her room was how messy her side of it was. Her room mates had their beds all made and everything put away. Ashes bed was unmade, and the posters on her wall had all fallen down. Her hair products were all over the floor, as well as dirty laundry.

While Corb set about setting up the computer, I worked on her posters. Then, I cleaned up her hair products. Then I picked up her dirty clothes. Then, I made her bed.

We chatted amiably with Michaela. I tried to impress her with my theater ties, like the summer I spent living with Viola Davis. She seemed pleasant enough.

"Oh, dammit." Corb looked over at me. "I deleted her Word program by accident." We spent about an hour trying to restore it, but there was a problem with the laptop, and finally decided it was best for her to go to the IT department the next day.

I think that's what set up what happened next. She asked Michaela to wait in the room while she escorted us out. And then, by the laundry room on the first floor, she totally lost it.

She just started crying uncontrollably. "I hate this place I don't have any friends Everyone is looking at me strangely They think I'm a freak I just want to go home Why did I do this I can't do this I need to go home."

I hugged her as best as I could, but suddenly a boy entered the laundry room and she tried to act all cool. Corb and I left her and went to get her a care package of Mountain Dew and Doritos, enough to last a week. Oh, and some extra money, too. I threw everything I had from my wallet into her shopping bag.

She came out to get the Care package and started bawling again. We walked to the empty parking lot so no one could see us. She wouldn't let me hold her, for fear that the other kids would see her.

"It's just so hard," she said. "And I can't cry, because my other room mates are always in the room, so I don't want anyone to see me, and..."

"But you've got good friends, Ashes."

"I have two good friends. But no boy friends. No one wants to look at me."

Ah. No boy friends. I wondered if that was part of the problem. I wondered if this was just a release.

After a while, we led her back to her dorm. She played it cool. With a serious look that said "I'm not crying that's ridiculous, how could you ever think I was crying," she left us. Only the smeared mascara around her eyes could possibly give anything away.



It was only my twentieth panic attack on the long ride home. Corb turned to me patiently and said, "Ted, she's going to be all right."

"It's just a good thing you came," I said. "It's just a good thing I hadn't parked my car near the dorm! If she had gotten near that car, she never would have gotten out. If you weren't here, she would have left with me."
"That would be the worst thing you could do."
"But she just looked so sad!"

"She will be fine, Ted."

"But how about if she can't handle this? How about if this is too much for her? How about if--"

"Ted," said Corb firmly. "She will be fine. But all this...well...driving down with the laptop. Setting up her favorite sites. Cleaning up her dorm room."

I smiled. "Buying snacks?"

"Well, that's okay. But you even logged on to her email account and printed out all of her syllabi and emails from teachers, and handed them to her in a folder! You're not giving her any space to stand on her own two feet, Ted."

I stared glumly at the highway in front of me. "I know."

"You can't keep texting and calling her, Ted. She's not going to grow that way. It's going to keep reminding her how easy it is at home, and she's not going to want to stay."

He was right. I knew that. I let him drift off to sleep as I listened to Obama's acceptance speech. We arrived home at midnight, and he crawled right back in to bed and was asleep before I could have another panic attack.

So instead, I called Josie. She had fallen asleep at eight, but had woken up at ten, as if there was something going on. It was the exact time Ashes had broken down. She just KNEW.

"She just seems so happy when I talk to her, most of the time. I can't believe she broke down like that," she said, still groggy from sleep.

"I know, it really took me aback. And I wonder if she'll even go to the IT place to get Word added on...she's so scared. Maybe if Corb hadn't deleted the program..." I started to wind down. I was tired of talking about it. "This will work itself out."


The next day, I received a text from Ashes during my annual physical. "I went to the IT place. Word's all set."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "And how were your classes today?"

"Good. I actually raised my hand in English. And when I said stuff, the teacher didn't crap all over me, like he did in the first class."

That kid does have a way with words. "That's what teacher's do, kiddo."

"So what's my NetFlix password? Carrie and I want to watch a movie."


Didn't hear from her until this morning. Corb kept a strict eye on me the night before, making sure I didn't phone or text her. This morning, though, I did text Josie, and she told me she sounded happy. And that they had captured an injured bird and brought it into her dorm room.

THAT warranted a call. "An injured bird, Ashes?"

"It just flew into my hair last night, when we were walking around, and it was really sick. Michaela slept over and our friend Eric was there, too. We brought it back to the door and made it a nest out of pads and the hair from my hairbrush."

"Okay, that's completely disgusting."

She yawned. "Now it's fine and flying around and driving me crazy. It won't stop chirping and I just want to sleep."

"Well, talk to an RA and play dumb and--"

"Oh, Michaela's texting. Gotta go!"

I hung up the phone and grinned. My little bird. Maybe she's going to be fly after all.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Look, up in the sky!

"We're going to see wild turkeys any second now."

The feeling had come over me all of a sudden, entirely out of the blue. Corb and I were driving down a winding road that led to The Homestead, on the way to pick up Ashes. It wasn't exactly a country road, per se, but it was lush and green and there was a horse farm off to one side. It was a pretty road in a somewhat rural area, which is why I enjoy going down it to pick up the kids.

Five seconds later, something caught Corb's eye, to the right. He whistled. "Ted, how did you do that?"

I smiled. He kept staring. "Seriously, Ted, we just passed about a dozen wild turkeys! How in the hell did you know?"

I shrugged, pleased with my new-found powers. "I'm not sure, really. It's just kind of come upon me. I felt the same way about a week ago. All of a sudden, I just know that wild turkeys are going to appear."

Corb shook his head. "But how?"

"I think it has something to do with the time I hit that wild turkey going to set construction. Ever since then, I just get this feeling whenever wild turkeys are in the area. I know it sounds crazy, but I think I somehow formed a bond with the dead wild turkey when I hit it, and he warns me whenever his turkey friends are nearby."

So there you have it, folks. I'm the turkey whisperer. If you ever need me for children's birthday parties or bar mitzvahs, just let me know. You know how to reach me!

What I wonder is, how can I put this newly-acquired skill to good use? When Peter Parker was bitten by a radioactive spider, he decided to devote his life to being SpiderMan. When the Fantastic Four were doused in gamma radiation, they used their newfound powers to defeat evil. What can I do to help humanity as the Turkey Whisperer? Could I summon my wild turkey friends, the way that Aquaman can summon salmon? Can I actually communicate with them? Talk their language? Would my new-found powers be helpful during Thanksgiving?

Also, this is important. I've got to think of a costume. Quite honestly, brown is not really my color. I think I'd look like a big giant turd, frankly. I guess I'd have to throw in some orange and yellow, frankly, just to add a splash of color. Or maybe just put a giant T on my chest? But no...then people just might think I'm Ted-man. Should I add feathers? No, then I'd just look like the Indian who sang with the Village People. And also, wouldn't skin tight spandex make me look fat? I might seriously need to think about joining the gym. Then again, maybe that wouldn't be an issue, as the Turkey Whisperer...

Sigh. So many thinks to consider. This may take a few months to sort out. But don't be surprised if somehow, the middle of a bank robbery, hear somebody cry out, sometime soon:

"This looks like a job for...the Turkey Whisperer!"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

In Which Ted offers opinions about THINGS.

A dear friend of mine posted a blog entry recently that was essentially a political vent. I won't get into the whys and wherefores, except to say that my response (I was on the opposite side of the fence) prompted her to say, in essence, (and insightfully, as usual) "The thing is, when I get all "atither" I say so. Usually in writing. Usually in public. It's my opinion and not the way I expect other people to behave. I'm good once I've vented, and I've vented. I feel better. Don't you?"

It got me to thinking. Because honestly, for a few years now, I haven't vented publicly in that manner. And when I have, it hasn't always made me feel better, which is why I stopped venting publicly to begin with. Or at least, toned things down.

I remember when I stopped V on my journal. I posted a story making fun of Sarah Palin's daughter being named an "Ambassador of Abstinance" and wrote a piece about her being inducted into the Justice League. One of my Journal "buddies" at the time went apeshit and started really laying into me. He even went so far as to say that I had no right to talk, because my daughter had a child as a teenager, so I was a hypocrite for making fun of Bristol Palin. In truth, none of my girls has ever been a teen mom...the guy totally misread my life story. But rather than apologize, he just went off on some crazy new right wing tangent, and rather than deal with it, I simply deleted him as a friend and banned him for life.

I remember when I stopped V on Facebook. It was the day that Teddy Kennedy died, and I simply posted that he did good things and hoped he would rest in peace. This prompted the ire of one of my more fanatical conservative friends, who used this simple post to ram down my throat five thousand reasons why he was evil and deserved to rot in hell.

Look, the guy just died. Lay off on the hyperbole for just one day, okay? At least on my time.

It just becomes too exhausting. Anything you post on a blog or in the social media realm is subject to discussion, of course, and that's fine, but so many people are incapable of simple respectful discourse. All they want to do is to lecture and goad and throw a bunch of bullshit "facts" your way, not realizing that there are just as many "facts" that move in the opposite direction...and usually, none of them are really facts at all.

It just gets too tiring, after a while. Especially if you're feeling down about things and dont really have the urge to fight too much. Or, if you're in the middle of work and have a hundred and one things and don't have the time to research and carefully craft a thoughtful response that hands them their ass in a sling. (PS: It never does.)

Well, funny thing that. This past month, I have been feeling a bit better about things (call it my coming out party) and I have been more in the mood to hold my own about things. So, that being said, here are the things that are on my mind about things right now. Have at it, all you want!

--I don't think Obama is half as good a President as Clinton, but he's certainly not half as bad a President as Bush Jr. He is not a radical, he does not have any hidden agenda designed to unravel the fabric of our precious American society. I've heard all this bullshit for years now: I have one friend who swore to me before he was elected that he was going to force America to erect a giant gold metal shield in the air designed to purify the air. For some reason, I haven't seen that happen yet. Maybe it's just the price of gold that's stopped him. The same will be said four years from now about all the other dark secret Obama plans I keep hearing about.
--The recent tragedy in Aurora has caused me to rethink my stance on the death penalty. Clearly this guy is at fault for what occurred, and I tend to believe that the death penalty is the appropriate punishment. I do think that the court system is fallible, and innocent people have been put to death due to errors in the system. However, when it's as clear cut as this one sems to be, I say, let the guy fry.
--I also don't think that what happened is a reason for there to be any additional prohibitions put in place regarding violent films. Art did influence life in this case, but that's just the nature of art. And life. I don't believe in prohibitions against violence or sex when it comes to any artistic medium. In a free society, we should be free to express ourselves as we wish.
--I do think that the gun laws in this country need to be looked at. No one should be able to buy all that crap on the internet the way he did. It's unnecessary, and I'm not sure how can justify the purchase of 6,000 rounds of ammunition. Also, if someone had had a gun in that theater I doubt that would have helped anything. It would have made things far worse, frankly. Yeah yeah yeah, people kill people, guns don't kill people. Not really: people with guns kill people. I mean, come on, be real, I'm so sick of that shit.
--I'm kind of torn about the Chil Fil A thing. Should people who have views that are the polar opposite of mine be able to express them, even if they own a company that's trying to suck money out of my wallet? Yes, absolutely, but I don't need to eat there. That said, the response by the Jim Henson Company and mayor Menino was absolutely marvelous. Because other companies and elected officials too absolutely have the right to voice their opinion.
--As much as I am lukewarm about Obama, I am totally ice cold about Romney. Maybe it's the fact that he used to be my governor, maybe it's the fact that I view him as a right wing version of Al Gore in the way he sounds so robotic. Either way, he doesn't have a lick of sincerity in him, from what I can see, and changes his mind depending on the day and what his pollsters tell him to say. I could not possibly see myself voting for that man in November.

That's it! That's all I have right now! More opinions to come. Now that I've started spewing, maybe I won't be able to stop.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Writing about writing

With the play over, and the next chapter of the life of Tedwords finally under way, one of things I've been determined to do is to focus more on my writing. This week, I made great progress in editing my Late Night manuscript, which my agent had asked me to update back in January. this week, I edited 200 pages, and the good news is, the technology didn't need to be updated half as much as I was fearing.

I have plans on where to go with Late Night, but possibly that's better left unsaid. Let's just say I have a rough outline of what I'd like to do with my life, and leave it at that.

In the meantime, one other writing goal was to spend more time writing letters. Yes, writing. My friend fixnwrtr has been maintaining a steady correspondence with me for over a year now, but during the course of directing the play, that correspondence became entirely one-sided.

In fact, I have to confess, by the time the play was over, I had a small stack of letters from her, unopened. They would stare at me at nights, making me feel guilty.

One of the first things I did after the play ended was to go through them, one after the other. And then, I made it a point to actually write to her in response. In the past month, I've managed to send out three letters. Actual letters, too, with actual pages attached.

I have to admit, when I first started, my letter writing skills were nothing to (pardon the pun) write home about. My handwriting had deteriorated terribly through the years, through disuse. I mean, who actually writes any more? Aside for the first drafts of my manuscripts (and let's face it, there haven't been any of those in a few years) and a few attempts at morning journaling, not this guy.

As a result, my first few letters were cramped, messy. I can only imagine poor J. trying to struggle through them. I have a weird enough handwriting style as it is, a helpless hodgepodge of lower case mixed with upper case. Throw in sloppiness as a result of disuse and it's a wonder poor J. didn't just rip them up and scatter them to the winds.

I've been seeing progress. The letter that I just finished was actually legible, I think. The letters were large, the o's and the g's perfectly formed (for the most part.) I even attempted my favorite signature at the end of my letter, along with a tiny Ted cartoon.

The truth is, letter writing feels good. Like journaling, but in a different way. It's different than electronic journaling (like Live Journal) because it's all by hand, and that feels more personal, for some reason. It's different than personal journals because it's not simply one sided, which has been one of the problems with personal journals I've had over the years. I don't WANT to just write stories to myself. I want other people to read them, comment upon them. I like the two-way discourse (even if I'm not always so great on keeping up my side of the conversation.)

And I like the process of letter writing. The smell of the ink. The feel of the pen in the hand, The struggle to fill the page, the process of addressing a letter. Yes, even the licking of stamp. Definitely the satisfying feeling of placing the letter in the mailbox. It's like sex, only it lingers longer.

What I do find, however, is that life only hands you so much time, and it's hard to keep up with everything. Between editing the book, letter writing, Facebook, Live Journal, Blogspot, not to mention email, there are just too many ways to communicate these days. Forget Twitter. Something has to give, and I find Twitter to be way too limiting. The only time I actually use it is to promote a story, if I feel I have a good one worth telling. That hasn't happened in a month or so, frankly.

Am I the only one who feels that there's too much of a good thing out there? How do other people do it? When I'm at work, I find it practically impossible to keep up with everything.

Maybe my retirement from theater will help things. At least, that's one of the goals. In the meantime, I'm just grateful that this week has given me some ability to feel a bit more least, on the writing side of things.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Scenes from a Train, Chapter 206

I love traveling by train. There's just something about it that feels so safe. That, and the rush of colors and scenery that constantly change and shift outside your window, allowing you a glimpse of true American beauty. And the not-so-beautiful, too. But I'd rather dwell on the positive.

These past few days, I took a trip to DC for work, and rather than go through the hassle of flying, I chose instead to take the train down. Yes, it was a six-hour trip, as opposed to the two hour flight from TF Green to Reagan Airport. But when you count the inconvenience of driving to the airport, parking, buying your ticket, going through check-in, waiting for the plane, storing your luggage, boarding...the dread that you get in the pit of your stomach right when the plane is about to take know, the one that comes from a more primitive time, that says, "Man isn't supposed to be up in the air in this giant aluminum birdie!" Well, when you add all those things up...not to mention the fact, traveling by train is cheaper, there's no question that choo choos win, no contest.

Oh, and the people. People are SO much more entertaining on a train! I think it's because you're with them for a longer period of time, and also because they're more relaxed as a general rule, because they know there's no possibility that they are going to be plunging to their death from 60,000 feet.

On the way down to DC, I spent most of the trip sitting across from two buyers for a major retail outlet. One was an older lady with fake autumn frenzy hair, the other was a middle-aged gay with a perfectly flat stomach. The autumn frenzy woman smelled of dentures. They were somewhat entertaining. I would give them a C, overall.

I really hit the jackpot on the way home, though. I was stuck in the middle of a Sheldon convention.

You know, Sheldon, the character from The Big Bang Theory? Pieces of Sheldon were all around me, and there I was, stuck in the center. Stuck with Sheldon, and the companions that keep him out of getting in to too much trouble.

The Sheldon in front of me was a 15-year-old boy with beautiful snow blond hair. It resembled Corb's, all long and flowing and beautiful. However, he also had a severe hearing problem and seemed to be on the autistic side. His father was very protective of him. It was clear from just looking at him that he was a patient, kind, and very tired man. I think he may have once had beautiful snow blond hair, too, but it had faded with time.

The blond boy kept asking his father why they don’t have an air conditioning unit in the kitchen, but only in the living room and bedroom. He must have asked it a hundred times. Every time, the father would calmly lean in so that he could hear exactly what his son had to say, and then shush his son for talking to loudly.

But by far the most entertaining Sheldon was the man in back of me. He was clearly a genius, but it was also obvious he had some rather severe social handicaps when it came to talking with people who aren’t as intelligent as he is. The passenger next to him seemed to be someone he either worked for or with, and you could tell from his patient tone that he was used to putting up with him...and reining him in.

He first caught my attention as I kept bobbing up and down to get things from my backpack. Or put things in. It had been a long two days and I am always forgetting to charge things, and so as a result, I had a cell phone, a Blackberry, an iPad, and a laptop that all needed juice. And of course, I couldn't be bothered to be organized about where the cords all were. So every five seconds, I'd have to stand up and search for yet another cord.

Finally, after the fourth time, I heard him clearly say, "You ever notice how some people pack way too much stuff?"

"Sure," said the man with him.

"You know, they're just going for an overnight trip, and yet they seem to pack as if they're going away for a month-long cruise to Rio. I mean, isn't that crazy?"

"Oh my God, he's talking about me!" I thought.

"Crazy," said the patient man.

Sheldon laughed. "And you think to yourself, what the fuck are they packing all that for, they're not going to--"

"Shhhhhhh! Don't use that kind of language. Quiet down!"
A pause. Then: "How much is the personal property in your home guaranteed insured for?
"Well...I...I’d have to look it up."

"How much is each of your employees insured for, from a liability perspective? Do you know that?"

"About...well, about $600,000."

"I don't think that's very much, do you? I mean, when you get right down to it, that figure might be a little low. $600,000. Have you ever thought about raising it?" But the patient man didn't respond, clearly not wanting to give away and business secrets.

Undaunted, Sheldon decided to switch topics. "You know, when I’m traveling, I like to engage in conversation with the taxi drivers by talking lightly about the general occupational hazards of the job. I find if you engage them in conversation about anything beyond that, they tend to grow aggravated and upset."

"Is that right?"

A pause. Sheldon was looking to choose his words carefully. "I’ve also noticed that—"

Clearly, he was about to hit a hot button. The patient man groaned. "Let’s not start this again, please…"

But Sheldon was not going to be stopped. "I've also noticed that YOU don't engage them in that sort of conversation. Why is that? I have to tell you, when I consider the subject, it’s something that really could use some improvement on your end."

At that point, our hostess came down the aisle, pushing a metal cart. "Refreshments anyone? Pretzels? Light snacks?"

She reached Sheldon. The man next to him politely ordered mineral water.

"And you, sir? What would you like?"

"I would like to give you a suggestion!" said Sheldon. "I think you should offer Fresca as an option. I've noticed that you don't."

"No, we don't, sir."

"Most people don’t know of it as a diet drink, but it's quite good, and it actually comes in three different flavors, these days. Black Cherry. Cherry Citrus. Citrus Lime.
Someone should be told to add at least one to the menu."

"Wow. Three flavors?" The hostess laughed politely. She was clearly a people person.

"I knew it back in the days when they only had Citrus Lime."

"Well, you should tell someone to add it to the Amtrack menu."

"I surely will, sir."

"I would do it myself, but I have 8,000 things a day to do. 8,000 things. I have no time for letter writing. Otherwise I surely would do it myself. By the way, do you know what the best day is for traveling on an airplane?

"Tuesday," groaned the patient man, trying to get his friend to shut up.

The hostess took the hint, and started to wheel her cart off.

It was at this point that a man in business suit decided to sit next to me, so I lost interest in Sheldon for a bit. Which was just as well, because he excused himself and headed off for the dining cart.

The man next to me was young in appearance. Kind of foreign looking, but a sweet face. He was talking on the phone as he sat down, and his voice seemed pleasant. "Oh, this might not be bad at all," I thought.

Then he started picking his nose. Oh,egad!

He stopped after a while. I politely looked away as he dug around for mineral deposits. I adjusted my seat so that I leaned toward the window.

Then I started to smell a strong smell of vinegar. What the--? Was it the man behind me? No, he had just ordered mineral water. Sheldon wasn't back from the dining car yet.

Oh, wait. It couldn't be.

Cautiously, trying not to be noticed, I looked down at the guy next to me. Sure enough. He had taken his shoes off.

Oh, egad. Three more hours of stinky feet? How was I going to be able to stand this? What an odiferous affront to the senses this was. Could it get any worse?

That's when Sheldon returned from his travels.

"Hey there," he chirped to his friend. "I figured you'd like a nice chorus of 'Do you know the way to chardonay?' By the way, I was just wondering, have you ever considered examing life from a phenomalogical standpoint?"

That was it! With a cry, I jumped out of my seat and fled the curse of stinky feet and eggheads. I could take it no more. I ran down the aisles, babbling about mineral deposits and the three flavors of Fresca and the occupational hazards of taxi drivers. I reached a locked train door, vowing never again to travel by train, yanked at the door, and--


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Open wide.

So, for some reason, I've been thinking about writing erotic fiction. Just to clear the palette, after the perfectly innocent little play I directed.  
I know, I know, I REALLY need to work on rewriting one of my YA novels, at my agent's request. And I know, too, that one could not possibly write YA if one has published a dirty book or two. At least, under the same name. Even so. The hunger exits, like a demon in my soul.

I once tried to write a sex book, and had a blast doing it. It was called "Ready, Willing, and Horny as Hell." I blew through two chapters before I decided to call it quits. I based the protagonist on my friend Mary-Beth, who at that time was attending a Catholic university. I re-christened her Maria Batista, an innocent freshman schoolgirl attending stately Santa Emmanuel college. In the first chapter, she was an innocent virgin whose sexuality curiosity is awakened by the amorous advances a kindly old football coach.

Keep in mind, this was many years before Jerry Sandusky.

In the second chapter, having discovered her passionate love of the loin, she decides to return the favor by having a foursome with three college boys she encounters in one of the school bathrooms.

That was about as far as I went. I handed the chapters to my friend Mary-Beth, we had some fun reading through it, and then I put it away with all my other writings, where it has never been seen again.

It was fun, but perhaps there's another approach. That book was pure porn, after all. Perhaps I could rework things, and take out some of the porn, to make it somewhat respectable. Something a housewife could be seen reading after the kids go off to school. Perhaps I could model my erotic fiction after the currently popular series "Fifty Shades of Gray."

I'm thinking of calling MY version of Fifty Shades of Gray "The Summer of 69." Get it? It's a double entendre. Snort, guffaw. It's both a Brian Adams song (without the comma) and also, the entire point of the book.

Well! The entire point, with a twist. You see, in my book...the Summer of 69, available soon at a book store near you, my heroine...

(or, hero, I'm not sure which.)

Oh, hell, I'll make it a heroine. There's more money in straight sex. Right?

Anyway, in MY book...The Summer of 69, available soon at a book store near you...well, if book stores still exist in a year or heroine decides not only to embark upon a summer of mutual oral satisfaction...BUT decides she wants to take 69 lovers, too, before the summer is over. Get it? So, the title has THREE's kind of like a dirty version of 300. Except 231 less!

I would write 69 short little chapters, too. 69 happy endings. Or maybe not...I'm thinking I might actually give it a little plot, and make my girl race against the end of summer to meet her goal. Maybe she's only at 13 when the end of August arrives, and she has to end the whole thing in an orgy with a football team. Just like Maria Batista.

And if you like that...that is, if my naughty Summer of 69 book gains some word of mouth....well, who knows what would come next?

I could set off a national craze. Whole flocks of people would set upon creating their own summer of 69, inspired by my work. Frauleins, postal clerks, rabbinical students, lobster men. In the gay world, of course, the whole book could be re-enacted in just one afternoon.

Oh!  And that's only the beginning, of course. Then there are the SEQUELS!

That's right, sequels.

Just wait until you read my version of the 700 Club.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Being Gladys Kravitz.

"Do you hear that?"

It's around two in the moring. I've been asleep for about half an hour. Groggy, I open my eyes, and look over to Corb, sitting in shadows in the chair across from me. "Wha...?"

"The neighbors on the first floor. They've been keeping me up all night."

I rub at my eyes. "What are they doing?"

"They've been fighting for the past hour. Sounds like she cheated on him, and the guy who she on him with keeps texting and calling her, and he texted the boyfriend to say she had herpes. And the guy asked her if she had herpes and she denied it, but he just discovered a herpes sore on his lip and he's freaking out. He's talking to his mother on the phone right now."

I move over to the window. The boyfriend is standing by his car, shirtless. The lights from the front of the apartment glisten on his smooth body. "I'm leaving, ma. I'm leaving! She gave me herpes, ma." A pause, as he paced around the car. "Yeah, I'm sure! I..." He bangs on the car, a little embarrassed. "I went down on her, ma."

I turn to Corb, trying not to laugh. "He just told his ma he went down on her?"

"He's very close to his mother," grins Corb.

Another bang on the car. "Yeah, I'm leaving, ma. Getting outta here! I'm just hanging around until I sober up."

He moves away from his car. Looks up at the apartment building, at our floor. I duck my head so he can't see me. We hear the door to the building open, then close. I sit on the bed for about twenty minutes, waiting for the next eruption.


Nine o'clock in the morning. Corb's in the bathroom, brushing his teeth. He gives one last good spit and then moves into the room. "He's still here."

"No way! He didn't move out?"

"Not yet." Corb sits on the chair across from me, an impish smile on his face. "Think if I left a bottle of Herpex outside their door they'd get upset?"

Neighbors. Better entertainment than television, I tell you.

We haven't had a lot of neighbors stories lately, so it's nice to have some entertainment. The place we live now is fairly subdued and quiet. The first building we lived in was far more entertaining. We had a neighbor who smashed the windshield to her boyfriend's Mustang with a can of beans, for example. The best story was Thor, a rather addled obese man who decided to take off his clothes one day and wade in the pond located in the center of the complex, raising his fists to the heavens and shouting, all the while. That was quite a show for everyone. (PS: Corb took pictures.)

As I've been typing this, we've been watching an old eighties movie, something starring Kevin Dillon. Ashes and her eighties movies...she was forcing us. Just as I got to that part in the story, we suddenly hear a loud noise from the sky.

"What's that?" asks Ashes.

"Sounds like a plane." Corb strains his ears. "Or a helicopter." He pauses, runs over to the picture window, excited. "Can you see it? Something is happening over in the other building. Can't you see everyone running to it? Oh wow, they're air lifting someone out of one of the buildings. Something pretty bad must have just happened. LET'S GO SEE IT!"

Thrilled beyond belief, Corb and Ashes run to put on their shoes and exit the apartment, as if it were on fire.

I hang back. I know I'll get the full report in a few minutes. Besides, I want to wrap up my story.

Sometimes I don't need  to be Gladys Kravitz, you see. Sometimes it's more fun being Gladys Kravitz by proxy.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


This morning, I woke up at the (well, relatively) early hour of nine o'clock, in clear defiance of the four cosmos I had consumed the night before. The drinks had been downed at a crushingly boring Miriam Hospital fundraiser. I wish I could say a more entertaining evening would have led to less drinkage, but my dear, you know I'd be a liar.

The drinks had been good (especially the Raspberry stoli in the last one), but the event? Well, they had elected to hold a celebrity chefs cook-off, starring...get this! Folks I never heard of! I don't much care about that (who am I, anyways, and you get who you can get), but here's some advice for folks planning fundraisers in the future:
  • DON'T plan a celebrity cook-off, because they are boring as hell to watch.
  • DON'T hold the event itself AFTER everyone has eaten their meal, because honestly, who in the world wants to watch four very pampered chefs sit there and eat food and then talk about the food they've consumed when your belly is full?
  • Finally, if you're planning to plan such nonsense, DON'T hold two rounds of it. One round was bad least I could gobble up my dessert. Tacking a second round for the "celebrity" chefs to cook a main course? People couldn't race to their cars quickly enough.
Anyway, after all...that, I woke up at nine this morning, without (amazingly) that much of a hangover. Now note, this was two hours after the Corbster, who was participating in a 20 mile Walk for Hunger this morning. And by the way, boy are his feet in pain right now! He's sitting here staring at his feet and popping blisters left and right. He had one on his baby toe that was the size of a baby's head. I KID YOU NOT!

ANYWAY, after that...I woke up that early to clean the apartment, and then head off to set construction for the Eldredge Players production of The Drowsy Chaperone, which I just happen to be directing. You know, the way that I do every year. Right?

Now, the house where we do our set construction is located rather close to Wheaton College, where the production is to be performed. Both are located in the sleepy little town of Norton, a place that doesn't have much going for it other than Wheaton College. Other than that, there's a police station, a CVS, a hardware store, a few restaurants, a drug rehab facility, and well, there you go. I mean, what more does a town need, really?

Well, wild turkeys, too, I guess. Because there I am in the Stang, driving down a rustic and charming... practically road, when all of a sudden, what should scuttle across the road quickly but a brown and white absurdity with a blue head and a nutsack for a chin.

He somehow managed to avoid the bikers coming down on the opposite side of the road. Scuttle scuttle, right in the path of the 'Stang. I cried out and put my foot on the break, and tried to swerve to avoid it, but BANG! Collide it did, right with my front grille.

I watched it fall back, into the opposite lane, clearly injured. Then, it started walking forward. Did it make it? I wondered. But how could it possibly have made it, there's no way...

Then, it shuddered and fell to the ground. Just like those stories you hear of how chickens move around for a few seconds after they've had their heads chopped off.

I panicked, I must admit it. I've never hit a wild animal before. I had no idea what to do next. Should I stay to wait for the ambulance? Notify its next of kin? In a kind of a fog, I took solace in noticing that the bikers were pulling over. Oh, good! The turkey hospice was now in the hands of Hell's angels. They'd know what to do.

Desolate, inconsoleable, desole beyond desole, I continued onward, made my way to the house where set construction was taking place. I stumbled out of my car, a frown etched on my face.

"I just hit a wild turkey with my car," I said.

The set crew, who are...well, set people and not necessarily actors, looked at the absurd wreck that I was, slightly amused. "Did you kill it?" one of the guys, who is a self-professed shit kicker, asked.

I nodded my head.

"And you didn't put it in your back seat so we could eat it for lunch?" he asked. Everyone laughed.

Hey, this isn't funny. I now have the weight of a dead turkey on my soul. I have killed, dammit! And so has my car, too. And now that we've tasted blood, will we want more? Will my Stang turn into Christine, and hunt down other fowl, then small animals, the creatures with limited intelligence, like Newt Gingrich? And me...what about me? Will I start to become more bloodthirsty? Join the NRA, eventually? Worse...gulp...become a Republican?

Or maybe not. I will say, though, I have noticed an increase in the number of wild turkeys trotting around here. I never used to see them anywhere until about five years ago, but now they're around all the time, usually on rural roads, usually in packs.

Man's encroachment on Mother Nature? Maybe. I guess it was inevitable that I would hit one someday. And maybe that should provide me with some small comfort, but it really doesn't.

Wild Turkey Killer, that's what I am. Today I bear the name of Ted the Wild Turkey Killer. It's murder most fowl, I tell you.

Somehow, I must learn to atone for my sins. But how?

Hmmm. Maybe not have seconds on Thanksgiving?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Facing the Ocean.

Ashes was accepted to her third college last night. Three of the four colleges we visited have all accepted her. The fourth put her on wait list.

"Now listen,"I said as I was making dinner in our tiny kitchen, and turned around and grabbed her by the shoulders to emphasize my point. "And this is really important. Promise me you'll stick with this. Don't drop out. That first year in college is really stressful and hard, and especially in the first six months you're going to feel the urge to give it up. You're going to miss home, miss your family. It's not going to feel right. Fight the feeling. It gets better, I promise."

She smiled her sad insecure smile, grown a tad more secure by all the good news. "It gets better, huh?"

I smiled, and averted my eyes. "It's kind of like being gay." I moved back to my cooking, amused by my audacity.

She smiled and moved back to the living room.

A few minutes later, she returned, clutching her signed copy of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. One of her favorite books, something she's been trying to get me to pay attention to for months now.

"I want to read this to you," she said, and opened up the first page. "I think he kind of writes the way you do." She cleared her throat. "'Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time thinking about death.'"

I cooked, I listened. I finished cooking, I listened. I sat down in the living room, she sat across from me. I listened as she read the whole first chapter, strong and clear. I sat there, watching her, listening, proud of what I was seeing, what I was hearing.

There's only so much more time left for listening. I want it all.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I reject fear and all that it means.
I embrace laughter and lightness and living in the warmth of the sun.
With all the years I have left, I commit to brushing away the shadows
For as long as the good Lord allows me.

My wants are simple
A cozy room to write in
A shining view from my window
A place to swim during summer
Laughter and games
A good story to tell
A companion to tell my life story with

Lord, grant me the strength to see this destiny through
Give me the clarity of vision to make it happen
Give me a chance or two to take advantage of
And above all, keep the fears at bay, keep the fears away
Make regret a thing of the past.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Six): Method Acting

Backstage at the Institute. Yes, that's THE costume.

About five years ago, I started a series of stories devoted to a month I spent in Scotland participating in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, back when I was young and had a full head of hair. I passed the time with a group of actors from Trinity, including future Tony/Oscar-award winning actress Viola Davis.

The composition book I used as my journal, which is the source for these stories, has been sitting on my desk for the past two years, waiting for me to open it up and tell the next chapter.

"Please come see our show.”

The man standing in front of me stared down dubiously at the flyer I had handed him. He swept a meaty paw through what was left of his thinning hair and frowned. “I’m not sure I really want to see your show, son.”

“Oh, please see it!” I said, trying hard not to let my desperation show, and fully aware of the fact that the small theater inside was completely empty. “It’s a great show. You’ll love it. Really, you will. I promise.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s called Crises in the Garden and Xantippe’s Lament. It has actors from Rhode Island!”

The man stared at me as if I had two heads. Then, he started walking away.

“Please!” But the man kept on walking. Desperately, I turned around to assault the first person in my path, an older woman with gray hair and sensible shoes. “Please come see our show,” I whined, hoping the pathetic desperate state I was in would somehow charm this poor woman into submission.

She glanced at the flyer. “What’s it about?”

I kept in mind my last conversation, and tried hard to avoid the words “Xantippe” and “Rhode Island” at all costs. “Oh, these are two great one act plays. You’ll just love them! Some of the best one act plays ever written. And really, when you get right down to it, who doesn’t love one act plays? They’ve got incredible, award-winning actors in them, too. One play’s about Adam and Eve. They wear flesh colored clothes and everything!”

“Oh.” The old lady seemed to take pity on me, for a minute. Then, her face hardened.

“I don’t know, I have a sick friend to tend to…”

I looked down nervously at my watch. Five minutes until opening. Time to unleash the floodgates. “Oh, please! You don’t know the miserable night I’ve had. My boss—the director of this play—found out at 8:30 that the theater didn’t have the tickets here, so he asked me to pick them up at the Assembly Room, but when I went to the Assembly Room and I learned that they closed the Room at six, so I had to beg and plead to get them to open up, you know? And I got them to, but when they did, I learned that the tickets weren’t there, so I raced down to the Main Office…and got lost, may I add, really lost!...only to find out at 9:35 that Aleister—oh, he’s our contact here, really funny guy. Played Song for Guy on the piano the first night we were here, can you believe it? Because that’s one of my favorite songs and I was just listening to it on the plane ride to Scotland. Anyway, somehow I managed to find Aleister and I raced back here to the French Institut, only now it’s ten minutes before the play’s going to open and they tell me no one’s in the theater even though we tried to pass out a lot of flyers this morning, only my boss doesn’t think I really tried hard enough, and if I don’t get someone in that theater soon…well…anyway, would you please like to see our show?”

I think by this point the lady was a little bit afraid of me. Her face turned a paler shade of white, which was pretty hard to do in Scotland. “How…how much are the tickets?”

“It’s a bargain,” I said. “And I’ll let you in at half price.”


Earlier that evening, I had been doing a line through with Doug and Missa, the stars of In the Garden.

“I hate these clothes,” complained Missa in the middle of one of her lines. Our well-endowed Eve made a face and picked at the hem of her flesh-colored leotard.
“Me too,” said Doug, our Adam, brushing back his long flowing red hair dramatically.

“They’re so freaking cutesy. I hate cutsey.”

“I wish there was something we could do to kill the cute,” said Missa, tossing her script to one side.

Doug thought for a moment. “Hey, maybe there is.” A dramatic pause. Doug was quite fond of dramatic pauses. Also, hair flips. “Your character spends a lot of time wandering around the garden discovering things, right? Naming them?”

“Sure does,” giggled Missa. “Half the play.”

“Maybe that’s the problem with our costumes, then.”

“What do you mean?”

Doug started to bounce up and down, which was about as out of control as he ever allowed himself to get. “They’re too clean! She’s wandering through the garden, Missa! Climbing mountains, scrambling through mud. Lifting up rocks and naming insects. Would you be all clean and cute if you were doing stuff like that?” He shook his auburn locks again. “I think not.” A finger point. “You’d be dirty, right? So would I, too. So how can we make our costumes look dirty?”

“Ummmm…look around for a mud puddle?”

Doug grimaced. Clearly not the correct answer. “Well, we could do that…but that would take too much work, I think. Ted, you think you could scare up a garden hose?”

I decided to ignore this ridiculous request.

A moment. Then, an idea! This was ACTING! Doug snapped his fingers. “Hey! If we can’t get ourselves to a mud puddle, why not make a mud puddle can come to us!”

Missa looked at him, strangely. “Even I don’t know you what you mean by that one, Doug…”

“Missa, you know that god-awful coffee that Margot made this morning? Tasted like crap, didn’t it? Do you think the grounds are still in the coffee maker?” Doug’s eyes grew wide, his smile broad. The sociopath lurking underneath the surface was finding its way out…in a controlled way, of course. “I think we can put those grounds to good use. Don’t you?”


One minute before opening. I stood by Doc, nervously playing with his program in the back of the theater. “Well, the tickets are all her and we’ve got…um, one person in the audience.”

Doc stared at me, clearly unhappy.

I tried to think of something positive to say. “But she’s really excited to see the play, Doc! She says she hasn’t, um, seen any Adam and Eve plays at all this year.”

Somehow, that didn't do much to lift his spirits. “Well, it’s about to get underway,” he said, resigned. “We’ll just think of this as a dress rehearsal for tomorrow night.”

“The lights are lowering in the theater,” I said. “The stage lights are going up. And look, here’s Doug going on to the stage, making his—”

I watched as his face went from resignation to frustration, as his jaw tensed and he made the realization that—

“What’s that all over his costume?” Doc asked, carefully.

Oh! Oh, dear. Looks as if Doug and Missa neglected to him that—“Um, well, funny story, that. Um, coffee grounds.”

Doc squinted his eyes tightly. “Coffee grounds?”

I stepped back, afraid that this former man of the cloth might finally come unhinged.

“Yeah, well…see, they decided the clothes were too cute for their characters. Needed to be a little dirtier. So they decided to smear…um, coffee grounds all over…”

“Too…cute?” Doc squeezed my hand, tightly. I gasped, stopped talking. After a second or two, his grip relaxed.

Almost in slow motion, Doc walked away from me, to take a seat in the empty theater.I don’t remember much of the play after that.


Three o’clock in the morning. In the flat. Laughing hysterically—Doug, Missa, our stage manager Rio, and Viola.

“It’s perfect!” Missa shrieks, sitting cross-legged on the ratty green couch that took up half the living room. I’m on the piano stool across from her, ignoring the annoying temptation to test out the upright.

Doug’s laughing, loudly, sitting next to her. “He’d believe it, too, you know.”

Viola nods. “Sure he would. With that much crazy, it’d be hard not to believe it.”

A wild gleam in Doug’s eye. “It’s decided. We blame it all on Tallulah! Tell Bill she was the one behind it all, that she was still angry about the parade. Felt we made Queenie look bad. And nooooooobody makes Queenie look bad.”

Missa’s laughing so hard she’s having trouble speaking. “So…so…she wanted revenge. She waits until we’re…we’re about to go onstage…”

“And then…and then she throws coffee grounds at us! Wet, sticky coffee grounds.” Doug looks off into the distance, imagining the scene. “I’d have to play it really serious. Look him straight in the eye. ‘She’s not well, Bill. She’s coming unglued! I’m scared.’”

Missa wipes at her eyes. “Queenie made me cry…”

“You know, maybe we should have had the courtesy to tell him,” says Doug, abruptly. Missa grabs him arm. “We have to say SOMETHING to him, Doug. He’s not speaking to us right now!”

“He wouldn’t even congratulate us after our stellar performance in front of…what was the audience count, Ted?”

“One old lady.” I reply, insanely proud of my dubious achievement.

“One little old lady,” repeated Doug. “But that little old lady got the best we had to offer! Although maybe I shouldn’t improvised and said you had a nice butt, Missa. I mean, you do, but I’m not sure Doc liked that one, either…”

“I just feel bad,” said Rio, sitting cross-legged on the armchair. Like every good stage manager, she was fond of putting the weight of the world…well, at least the world that had been created…on her shoulders. “I should have warned him about it. I gave you the green light, after all.”

Doug sweeps that away with a sweep of his arm. “Don’t worry, Rio! It’s all Queenie’s fault. That’s what you get for letting unstable character actresses take a flight to—”

Suddenly, there’s a loud noise outside the door to our flat. We all stop talking, immediately.

The doorknob twists around. From outside, we hear the rattling of keys. Missa looks around at all of us, wide eyed. “Who the hell would be trying to get in at three in the—”

“Shhhhh!” whispers Doug.A key into the doorknob. It doesn’t fit. The rattling of keys again. Then, a weird scraping sound. I hold my breath. Then the sound of footsteps, moving down the hall.

The room is deadly silent. We all sit there, staring at each other.

“What in the hell was that?” Rio asks, slightly freaked.

Missa stares at her, deadly serious. “It’s Tallulah, Rio. Sharpening her knives.
Queenie’s going to GET US BACK!”

The flat erupts into a wave of laughter. Missa holds her side, unable to breathe.

I turn to Viola, who’s sitting with her back against the couch and staring down into her coffee cup. “You okay? You’ve been quiet all night.”

“I miss A.,” she says softly, talking about her boyfriend back home. “It’s only been five days away, but it feels like forever.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Five): Corn Starch and Mother's Milk

Me at 23, at a very special men's club in Scotland. Or so I was led to believe...

About three years ago, I started a series of stories devoted to a month I spent in Scotland participating in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, back when I was young and had a full head of hair. I passed the time with a group of actors from Trinity, including future Tony-award winning actress Viola Davis.

The composition book I used as my journal, which is the source for these stories, has been sitting on my desk for the past three years, waiting for me to open it up and tell the next chapter.

Monday, August 14, 1989

"We can't get lost, Doug," I said, as we wandered through the windy and narrow streets of Edinburgh. "I want to see the dancers roll around naked in corn starch!"

One thing you had to give the Fringe Festival, there was no end of interesting theater to be found, in small theaters and auditoriums scattered on each and every block. The night before we had seen "Hanging the President," a powerful Anti-Apartheid piece about two convicts sentenced to die in a South African jail, which featured (and I'm quoting from my journal for this one) "graphic nudity and lots of homosexuality." Egad!

One guy actually shit in a bowl onstage! I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Actually shitting onstage. What guts that must have taken.

As for the nudity, Viola complained that the naked men all had tiny dicks, and the only man she was actually interested in never took anything off. Good to see I wasn't the only size queen in the audience.

Tonight's theater adventure didn't sound as cutting edge, but it did sound entertaining.

It's not every night you get to see people rolling around naked in corn starch, after all.

The play was called Other Worlds, by a group called Abiogenesis.

By the time we made it through the Edinburgh maze, the show had already started, although we had only missed about five minutes.

Our group was sitting in the front row of the small theater. I moved past Vi to sit next to Missa. She had a really strange look on her face, as if she were about to give birth or something. "Is everything okay?" I asked.

She looked over at me, with large brown eyes that glistened, as if she were on the verge of tears. "Why?" she asked, and she had trouble getting even that out.

"You look like you're about to cry."

"I am."


She pointed to the stage, her chest heaving back and forth, involuntarily. "Watch," she managed to say.

Was the show that intense? I didn't think anything could have surpassed "Hanging the President." Crapping in a steel bowl, after all! How can you top that? I turned my head to the stage. I watched.

The lady on the stage stood alone. She was a small, bird-like creature, dressed in a purple leotard. She spoke in a weird monotone, every syllable over-articulated, as if she was a stroke victim. In the background, unearthly space music played.

"Time," she said, pointing to a large watch on her hand. "Moves on..." She moved one step toward the front of the stage. "As the pop-u-lation..." She moved her hand to her belly, mimicking pregnancy. "Pro-gresses..." Then, one huge step toward the audience.

"Through e-vo-loo-tion."
Oh. My. God.

Suddenly I understood why Missa was looking the way she was.

What's the worst piece of theater you've ever seen? Take that and multiply it times two.

This was definitely the worst, for me. I mean, it was laugh-out-loud bad, and the worst thing was, we couldn't even laugh, because we were sitting in the front row, with all eyes on us. So we had to keep it all in. By the end of the first act, my eyes were watering, too. I was laughing so hard inside that it had to come out, somehow.

"And also, they're incredibly rude," complained the director of another Edinburgh production, "Is Their Life After High School," during intermission. "My kids had to stand in front of them in the parade yesterday. We spent hours decorating our float! You know what they did? They walked down the street and made weird barking noises at the crowd. Weird barking noises! Can you imagine a worse group to put in a parade?"

I thought about our parade entry, which had been even more half-baked. At least they had a method to their madness. Our banner had been made up of curtains we had taken from the flat we were staying in, wrapped around a broom handle, with the name of our group spelled out in glow-in-the-dark duct tape. Our straggly bunch had included a man in a toga and a lady in a giant ape costume.

"No, I can't possibly think of a worse group," I lied.

"Act Two's about to start," said Missa. "This is the one with the corn starch!"

"I can't wait!" I said, and turned to Vi. "Try to stay awake this time, would you?" Viola had fallen asleep during Act One.

"I can't promise ANYTHING," said Viola.


"What a rip-off," I complained at the Scots Club, later that night. "Just a couple of saggy boobs covered in corn starch. Everyone ended up looking like shake and bake."

"The scene after that was the worst," said Missa.

"What was it?" asked Margot, our Shakespearean-trained thespian, who had had, by all accounts, spent a "lovely" evening at the theater.

"It was set in the future," said Missa. "The dancers were supposed to be androids. They used clothes dryer tubes for robot arms."

"Honestly, they looked like the Robot in Lost in Space," said Doug, nursing a Brandy Alexander. "I expected them at any moment to start calling out, 'Danger! Danger, Will Robinson!'"

"How was the audience for your show, tonight?" I politely asked Talullah, our resident prima donna without an ounce of prima in her. She had been performing that night at our theater at the French Institute, as Queenie. Think "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane" on anti-depressants.

She pursed her lips. "Small. Appreciative."

Margot raised her hand up, behind Tallulah's back. Held up three fingers.

"Oh, look who's here!" said Missa, pointing to the table next to us. It was Aleister, who was the adorable young assistant of Harold, the festival organizer. 22, blond hair, blue eyes, the gift of gab like you've never seen.

"Rhodeislanders!" Aleister announced, staggering toward us. "Howya all doing tonight?"

"How are you, Al?" asked Margot.

"Do better with another drink in my hand," he said, and lurched toward Tallulah, who sniffed and turned away from him.

"I'll be happy to get you a drink, Aleister," said Margot, standing up to move to the bar and accommodate him.
"Mmm, I bet you would. Wanna go somehere else?" Aleister asked. "I kin show you around the town."

"Whereabouts?" asked Missa. "What would be fun?"

"Dunno," said Alesiter. "How about Chapp's?"

"Where's Chapp's?" Missa asked.

"Jist round the corner," he said, and winked at me. "A very special kind of men's club."
Missa looked at him shrewdly. "How special?"

Aleister grinned. "It's a nice gay bar. Wouldn't that be fun?"

"Oh no," said Tallulah, turning around to glare at Aleister. "Certainly not that!"

"Why not?" asked Aleister, clearly enjoying offending her. "What else do you want? Well, we could get ourselves into a bit of a gang bang, then, eh?" He asked innocently, before moving his head down to nibble at Talullah's neck.

"Young man!" said Tallulah, pushing Aleister away from her neck. "I'm old enough be your mother!"

"How bout it, mum?" Aleister said seductively, moving to take another nibble at her.

 Tallulah screamed in horror and started whacking at him with her purse.

"Calm down, boy," said Margot, smoothly placing a beer down in front of him. That got his attention. "Come over here and put your talents to some real use."

Missa and I looked at each other and raised our eyebrows. This might actually turn out to be a better show than Abiogenesis. 

And it was. We all went back to the flat. From what the ladies said later, Aleister was really, really good at back massages.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Four): Parade of Fools

Check out the wayyyy coooool jean jacket! I tell you, was I the height of fashion back in the eighties, or what? NOTE: "Or what" is a perfectly acceptable answer.

Sunday, August 12, 1989
Today was a total disaster, from start to finish.

It started out with one of my first actual assignments in Scotland as “assistant producer.” Bill was stuck with opening all the trunks that had finally arrived from the States, containing the costumes and props for the show. It was a time-consuming task, so he instructed me to get thee to the Performer’s Center at eight in the morning, and attend a conference held by the Parade Committee, to “educate” all of the groups that were appearing in the Festival regarding what the parade would consist of.

“Educate”...what a joke. What that basically meant is that I spent half an hour standing around with a bunch of similarly-clueless gophers.

To my right, I stood next to a girl from a punk rock group that’s performing in a play about Ophelia. I think it was called "Something about Ophelia." To my left, there are two girls from an American high school troupe performing a play called “Is There Life After High School?”

After the first fifteen minutes, an 18-year-old guy came over, whispered to the two girls next to me, and then left. So did they.

The punk rocker turned to me. “Are you waiting for the parade committee?” she asked, chewing gum, her dark eyes surrounded by eye liner. I resisted the impulse to give a snappy answer to a stupid question.

“Sure am,” I said.

“It’s almost been an hour,” she said.

“I know,” I replied. “Maybe we should look around for Happy Harold?”

And so, the two of us start to comb through the crowd. We finally spotted Harold standing by the front of the building, his nose stuck in a clipboard. We walked right up and asked him about the Parade Committee.

He looked up from his clipboard and pushed his glasses up to his face. “Oh, didn’t you talk to my Parade assistant?” he asked.

We shook our heads. He scratched his thinning hair and looked around. “Oh, there he is!” he said, and pointed to the 18-year-old boy who had been so eager to assist the two girls from “Is There Life After High School?” Apparently, there certainly was...

Hal signaled for the kid to come over, and he ambled toward us, reluctantly. “Be a good chap and tell these people what they’re expected to do for the parade, would you?” asked Harold, and then ambled off.

The kid sighed, having been forced to actually DO HIS JOB. “Here’s the deal,” he said. “Get your group to meet at 10 o’clock. They'll need to decorate their float for a 2:00 take off.”

“Wait a minute,” said my punk rock friend. “A float?”

“Yeah. Or whatever you can put together, yeah,” said the kid, as though we should have known about putting together a float, and were idiots for not knowing.

“But what kind of float?” I asked, trying not to panic.

“Up to you, mate,” he said. “But Harold wants you to dress up as fifties greasers. Says the theme is, ‘Happy Days.’”

Ophelia looked as though her gum had turned to barbed wire. “Ummmm…I don’t think my actors are going to understand Happy Days...”

“Even by Samuel Beckett?” I asked. Ophelia looked at me as though I had two heads.

“Well, can we at least promote our show with flyers?” I asked. “No one’s going to know who we are if we’re dressed as greasers.”

“No flyers,” says the kid, firmly. “We don’t want people passing out paper everywhere.”

Glumly, I trudged back to the flat, to bring the news of the parade to my friends. I knew that it’s not going to be met with much enthusiasm.


“Happy Days?” asked Doug, as I gathered everyone together in the living room—everyone, that is, except for Doc and Jeri, who were nowhere to be found. Doug raised left eyebrow, amused by the thought. “Are you sure you heard correctly?”

“Yes,” I said. “Positive. Fifties greasers. That's what I was told.”

There was a collective groan out of everyone. Everyone, that is, except...Miss Tallulah.

“Yes, greasers!” she said. “This will be fun! Doug, you can be the Fonz.”

Doug fixed her with a look. “And Tallulah dear, you can be Pinky Tuscadero. No, I don’t think I’ll be playing the Fonz. Alas, I left my leather jacket back in Providence.”

“Well, hmmm...” said Tallulah, playing with the top of her upper lip. “Hmmm...well, maybe we could just show up in costumes from our show! That might be a good idea, don’t you think?”

Doug snorted. “Tallulah, I play Adam from the Bible and Socrates. Either way I’ll be a bit overexposed, don’t you think?”

Melissa shrugged. “Well, that might sell some tickets...”

Doug stared down, less than innocently, at her pendulous breasts. “Only if you dress as Eve, and show off your apples.” She let out a snort, and the two of them burst into laughter.

“Well, you don’t have to wear your skintight outfit,” says Tallulah, still scheming. “But you could wear your toga!”

Reo cleared her throat. “Tallulah, don’t you think we should wait until Doc gets here, to make these decisions?”

“Why wait?” Tallulah said, imperiously. “This whole event has been entirely too disorganized, if you ask me. We need to strike while the iron’s hot! We need to show the world the BEST that Rhode Island has to offer! So, Doug, you’ll wear your toga...and...and...maybe a silly hat...I’m certain we have some silly hats in the costume trunk...”

“No, I won’t be wearing any silly hat,” Doug said, firmly, flipping back his long red hair. “But I’ll be happy to march in the parade, to support the show. See you at two!” And with that, he got up and left the room. Melissa followed closely behind him, before she was told to wear the funny hat.

Tallulah looked as though she had been slapped across the face. “Those two are pimples,” she hissed, after they had left the room. Somehow, she had suddenly forgotten the fact that Melissa held her hand all the away across the Atlantic. “Pimples! What do you think, Margot?” she asked, turning to her fellow thespian from Trinity.

Margot had so far kept a distance from the conversation, but was now forced to jump in head first. “Well, of course. I’d be happy to appear in costume...although as a character from the play, not as a...” And she shuddered. “Greaser. Maybe something from our play, ‘Ape God’?”

“And we need a banner!” shouted Tallulah, totally out of nowhere, shooting an arm up into the air like a rocket. Suddenly, she turned upon Viola and myself, almost childlike. “You two...we need your help...we need to promote our little troupe! I want both of you to work like the dickens and put together a banner for us! Something wonderful and eye-catching!”

Viola and I looked at each other. “With what?”

Tallulah waved us away. “I’m sure you’ll think of something." Her mind had moved on to another subject. "And I...I shall dress in the regal persona of Queenie! The audience will love it. Only...” she looked aggravated. “I left my costume in the shipment box. Reo, will you be a dear and escort me back to the Center, to fetch my outfit, and perhaps a funny hat for Douglas?”

And with that, Tallulah dragged Reo, our stage manager and the only one of us with any real technical expertise, off, to “fetch” a costume. That left Viola, Margot, and I all alone, saddled with the task of making...

“A banner,” I said.

“What in the hell can we make a banner with?” asked Viola, glumly.

“Well, there is a broom in the kitchen,” suggested Margot. “We could use that.”

“That, and what else?” I asked.

“Reo’s the stage manager,” said Vi. “You think she has anything in her suitcase?”


Reo stood before Viola and myself, at the start of the parade route, staring at our banner as though she were a priest and it was a pagan idol. “You used up all my duct tape,” she said, gritting her teeth.

“Not all,” I said, trying desperately to avoid having my head ripped off. “Only that cool green tape. You still have a lot of other duct tape left.”

“The ‘cool green tape,’ huh?” she said, her eyes becoming tiny slits. “You mean, my glow tape. Do you know how much that shit cost me?”

We heard a voice behind us. I flinched, recognizing the voice instantly.

“Oh, what a LOVELY day for a parade!”

Viola and I turned around to face Tallulah, as Reo moved past us, muttering furiously under her breath.

As promised, Tallulah was dressed as Queenie. Apparently, Queenie was a bizarre woman from the Old South wearing a moth-eaten blue petticoat. All she needed was a price tag hanging from her matching blue hat and she could have been the Confederacy’s answer to Minnie Pearl. “What do you think?” she asked, bowing low.

“Quite nice!” I lied. “And what do you, er, think of our banner?” The minute I said it, I felt Viola hit me in the side, as if to say, ‘don’t call attention to it.’

Tallulah looked at our banner, and instantly, her smile started to drop a few notches. “Oh. I see you used a broom handle.”

“Well, we used what we had,” I said.

“Very true,” she said. “But couldn’t you have removed the BROOM from the handle, at the very least?”

“Well, we couldn’t get it to come off,” said Viola, “And we didn't want to break the broom in half. We didn’t want to get the owner of the flat mad at us.”

“But didn’t you staple his bedsheets to the broom?” asked Tallulah. “He might not take kindly to THAT.”

“We wanted something pretty,” I said. “Something that looked good with the glow tape.”

WHAM! I looked over, and saw Reo, over by the sidewalk, slamming her foot against the curb and cursing to herself.

As I moved my eyes away from Reo, I saw Doc approaching us, dressed as Thomas Jefferson, accompanied by Margot. Or at least, I assumed it was Margot.

She was dressed as a giant black ape.

Suddenly, the absurdity of the entire situation started to hit me. It was all I could do to maintain control. Here we were, one highly dysfunctional acting troupe, ready to go out and, in Tallulah's words, show to the world the best that Rhode Island had to offer.

Apparently, the best that Rhode Island had to offer consisted of Thomas Jefferson, Socrates, a crazy Southern belle, and a giant hairy ape, all marching behind a banner constructed of a broom (dust balls and all), bedsheets, and glowing duct tape.

No wonder we were the smallest state in the union.

To make matters worse, Melissa, Viola and I manage to get lost from the others, and ended up watching the parade from the sidelines.

Well, at least we stood next to Emo Phillips. That was pretty cool.


“No flyers,” said Doc, later in the evening, after the parade was but a distant memory and our last rehearsal had ended. We were back at our favorite dingy Italian restaurant, just the two of us and Reo. “Everyone else had flyers, except us.”

“Well, we were told not to bring flyers,” I said.

“Wouldn’t matter,” he said, gulping down a glass of ale. “We don’t have flyers, anyway, do we?”

“No duct tape, now, either...” grumbled Reo.

“I swear, this was deliberate,” said Doc. “They’re trying to sabotage us!”

”Oh, Doc, I don’t think they’re trying to,” I protested. “I mean, why would you think that?”

“Listen, the show’s opening night tomorrow,” said Reo, putting a hand on Doc’s shoulders. Even stripped of her beloved duct tape, she took control of the situation, as a good stage manager should. “We’re going to do just fine. Don’t let this get you down. No one’s trying to sabotage anything. But I suggest we get to sleep and get ready for tomorrow.”

“Doc, if you’d like,” I said. “I can take care of flyers, for you.”

“Good man,” said Doc. “You’re elected.”

“Do we know how big an audience we have?” I asked.

“Oh,” said Doc, cheering up at the thought of opening night. “I’m certain it will be small...but appreciative.”

Monday, August 14, 1989

Three people showed up for opening night. The audience count included Jeri.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Three): Bobby and Booze

Friday, August 11, 1989 I slept until noon today, and I’m a little sad that I missed out on the action. We were invited to a tour of Edinburgh, but only Doug and Margot actually went. They lorded it over the rest of us by going on and on for HOURS about the story of "Greyfriars Bobby" using a dreadful Scottish accent.

For the rest of the day, one of them would find a way to the words "Greyfriars Bobby" into the conversation, just to get the other laughing. The emphasis was always on the last word, too, with the "y" cut off so that the word came out more like "boe-beh."

"Greyfriars Boe-beh," Doug would say, and Margot would hold her hands over her mouth, giggling like a schoolgirl.

"Greyfriars Boe-beh," Margot would say, with her husky voice, and Doug would let out a bark.

The rest of us all laughed. The first time.

I am firmly convinced that had poor little Bobby been in our flat this afternoon, this loyal, faithful pooch would have turned rabid. Surely he would have turned on all of us, having been driven insane by hearing his name taken in vain so often.

The place is beautiful, although the weather is off–alternately sunny and rainy. The building that we are living in is ancient. The steps outside our building are time-wornand currently being repaired. Our flat is beyond description, although the term bomb shelter comes close, I think.

Today is Viola’s birthday, so we made a big production out of that. Actually, during the day, Viola didn’t make a big production out of much of anything–she just stayed in the flat, with Melissa and me. We ransacked the living room and discovered a money chest under the piano.

Gleefully, the three of us filled our pockets with coins. No need to convert our dollars, now! Vi and Missa took the most, though. I felt a little guilty about the whole thing, honestly. I guess in a way, I felt like I was stealing from my twin.

We spent a lot of time taking a sex quiz. I received an 8, although I wasn’t completely honest about certain questions, like the homosexuality one. Vi received a 6 and Missa received a 4. Doug actually scored the highest, with a 16, although I noticed that he was a bit hesistant on the homosexuality question, too. He might be, though. There’s just something about him that tells me he plays for the other side.

We celebrated Vi’s birthday with Indian food–her choice. The food was hot and the conversation was interesting, and the combination made my head spin.

Saturday, August 12, 1989

Had our first rehearsal for Shadows of Time at the Institut Francais. The performance space is much smaller than our theater at Rhode Island College, but has a great deal more charm.

After rehearsal, Doc, Tallulah, and I went to an Italian restaurant for some late supper. The drunks were out in force and the service was terrible, but it was the only place on the street that stayed open until two in the morning.

But then again, I love watching drunks, as long as it’s from a distance. There was one girl, named Suzy, who was sitting at the table next to us, and was totally wasted.

"I didn’t order lasgana!" she kept yelling at the waiter, and then, would fall off her chair. Then, she would stagger back up, and repeat herself, swaying and bobbing back and forth, her hair dangling into her plate.

"I didn’t order lasgana!" she'd bellow. Finally, she lurched out of her chair and stumbled to the door.

Another drunk man kept coming into the restaurant, demanding service. The owner of the restaurant refused to let him in. In desperation, the kitchen staff put together a plate of leftovers and handed it over to him, if he promised to eat it elsewhere.

It didn’t work, though: he ate it outside, and then came back into the restaurant, and sat down next to me!

Doc kept us entertained with stories about his days as a minister in the sixties, teaching for a black college in the South at the heights of the Civil Rights movement. He’s really a fascinating guy.

Talullah is just as fascinating, but I'm not sure it's in a good way. Frankly, I think she's totally out to lunch. She’s nothing like I imagined--with her acting credentials, I expected she’d be dramatic, but I wasn’t expected the neurotic spawn of Norma Desmond, trapped in the body of a plump frog.

Melissa told me that the first night that they arrived in Scotland, when Aleister had shown everyone to a McDonalds for dinner, Talullah had refused to go. "I REFUSE to travel across the sea, just to grab a lousy hamburger at a McDonalds," she sniffed. "All I want is a cup of soup and a salad at a nice little bistro!"

To make her point, Talullah broke with the group, and grabbed Melissa by the hand, dragging her along for her quest to find her cozy bistro. Somehow, Melissa had formed a connection with her on the plane. Or perhaps it was just a cruel twst of fate: the two had ended up sitting next to each other on the flight to Scotland, and Talullah, frightened to death of air travel, insisted that Melissa hold her hand during the entire trip.

Unfortunately for Talullah and Melissa, all of the restaurants they visited were closing up for the night.

This didn’t set well with Talullah.

As they entered their third restaurant, the waiter stopped them at the door, and politely indicated that the restaurant was closing.

Talullah, infuriated, pushed him out of the way and scuttled over to the nearest empty chair.

"I DEMAND to be served!" she cried out, hitting the table with her fist.

Melissa, embarrassed, tried to sneak out of the front door, but Talullah stopped her. "No, Melissa," she said, using her theatrical voice. "You sit down right here, next to me."

By this time, the manager of the restaurant had been alerted by the waiter. "Ma’am, I’m very sorry about this, but we’re closed. You’re going to have to leave."

"My dear sir," said Talullah, turning to him, arms outstretched, in her best Evita pose. "We’ve just been traveling across the ocean for the past 36 hours. Can’t we JUST get a cup of soup and a soda?"

The manager frowned. "No, ma’am. You can’t."

Talullah let out a dramatic sigh, and lifted herself up from the table. Slowly, she dragged herself out of the restaurant, turning every now and then, in the hope that the manager would change his mind.

They ended up in McDonalds, after all.

Anyway, I guess that what goes around, comes around. The drunk that was sitting next to me served as a reminder that it was time to go. But on the way out, someone threw a slice of pizza at Talullah. It stuck, square on her backside.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Pieces of Tartan (Part Two): Faces and Landings

Sometimes faces are nice to place next to the names, so here’s a photo of the group of people that I traveled with:

In the front row, on the left, is Doug. Doug was, for all intents and purposes, the leading actor in the troupe. With his long hair and blue eyes, coupled with his commanding, theatrical voice, he could certainly play the part. Oh yes, one other thing: he was completely and utterly full of himself.

Sitting next to Doug is Viola. Viola was probably the most talented of our lot, and ended up, about a decade later, winning a Tony award, as well as a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award. At the time, however, she was just a very promising college student.

In the second row, to the left, is Melissa. I don’t think Melissa became an award-winning actress, but she certainly became my best friend during this trip.

Standing in the center is Reo, who was our stage manager. She was a master of the duct tape, and probably kept the fragile balance of our increasingly divisive group all taped together, too.

Next to Reo is Margot, a Shakespearian-trained actress who served as an older aunt—not the crazy one with odd tics that every family has, but the one that everyone likes and ends up confiding in. She appeared in the Witches of Eastwick, and other films, but her best work has been on the stage.

The role of the crazy aunt was played by...oh, what shall I call her? Let's call her Tallulah Tulip. She's not pictured in this photo, but you’ll hear lots about her in this story. Think of her as an aging thespian fast approaching the road to Sunset Boulevard.

Finally, the last two people mentioned in the story are Bill (who I called "Doc," back then) and Jeri. Both have appeared in my journal on a few occasions, with his wife, Jeri. Bill served as director and producer of the production. Jeri often served (and continues to serve) as our much-needed voice of reason.

There they are! Commit them to memory, place the photo next to rest of the story, because now it’s time to step back about twenty years, to August 1989, as I open up the musty confines of a journal that’s lived inside a box for two decades, that tells the story of my hijinks and adventures at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Tuesday, August 8, 1989

I’m in London, now—and, I still have my job (at least, for now). I can’t believe that one, especially since I told Andrew one hour before closing on Friday. For some reason, he was okay about it. Slightly pissed, but what could he do? Well, he could actually do a lot, but chose not to. I'm not sure why he didn't, either.

The day after I dropped the E-bomb on Andrew, Josie and I had a wedding to go to, and spent the night in a hotel with Annie, outside of Providence. Monday night, the two of us went to Boston, and had a fun, sad, sexy, wonderful, really romantic evening, just being together, caressing, making love in the shower and in bed...I was very sad to have to say good-bye to her at seven the next morning. I was almost crying.

And now, here I am, in London, exhausted from a day spent up in the air. I arrived here at 10:00. The walk with the luggage left me sweating bullets! WHAT A GAS! Now, if only I knew what the hell I was spending...this currency has gotten me all sorts of confused.

Wednesday, August 9, 1989
Had a great day of sun and sin in the city of London.

Sounds provacative, eh? I can just imagine my children reading that someday, after I'm dead and buried, and wondering what the hell I had going on in my hotel room. Pimps, hoes...clowns?

Truth is, however, that it's a complete, silly exaggeration. Despite the skimpy entry, I clearly remember that day, which was basically spent walking around the center of London. My hotel was in the theater district, directly across from the Piccadilly Theater. At the time, the Piccadilly was home to a musical version of the Fritz Lang’s classic early movie Metropolis , and the neon sign for the show was directly across my hotel room. That sign blinked, on and off, all night long.

It was a muggy summer day, and rather than checking out what the London theater scene had to offer, I spent the day walking through some of the seedier sections of the city. No museums or art galleries for this boy. There was an adult movie theater that was showing five different features, with lurid titles such as "Sword of the Stud" and "Every Inch a Man."

I remember passing by that theater at least twenty times, fascinated, trying to summon up the courage to walk inside. Instead, I settled for buying some lousy dirty magazine in a porno shop and high-tailing it to my hotel room, lest anyone try to approach me. The magazine, as I recall, ended up being extremely disappointing.

So much for my day of "sun and sin."

One thing I also remember is being a bit confused by some of the cultural changes. For example, at the time, I was wearing hard contacts that had to be sterilized each night by heat. Unfortunately, I wasn’t aware of the fact that the wattage in England is different from that in America, which blew out my heating system and left me with fried lenses in the morning. Vain creature that I was, I stubbornly insisted on wearing them for the remainder of the trip, although I did not sterilize them once after that. Fortunately, I'm happy to repoprt that I still have eyeballs.

Another problem I had was with the bathrooms. The hotel I was staying at did not have bathrooms in the rooms. Instead, you were instructed to call the front desk, should you wish to have someone draw your bath for you. I misread this to mean that I had to contact the front desk every time you wished to use the bathroom, and couldn’t understand why the attendants kept asking me whether I wanted access to the tubs.

Okay, okay...I know...I was an extremely stupid wanker back then...and not really very sinful, either...

Thursday, August 10, 1989

Today started off terribly. I woke up at 6:30 in the morning and dragged all my stuff to Gatwick airport, to meet up with the group at 8:30.

However, one small problem: Doc never told me exactly where I was supposed to meet them. So, after arriving at the airport and searching around for ninety minutes, I finally gave up, and called Harold Eastman, our contact with Edinburgh, to see what I could do. He told me they had waited for me for around for forty minutes and then left, by bus.

So, what was I to do? Harold said that I could either take a bus from there or go back to London for a train. Of course, I discovered that the buses were all booked, so I was forced to trudge back to London and charge yet another bill to my father’s battered credit card.

Fortunately, things started to pick up from there. The train ride from London to Edinburgh turned out to be a wonderful experience. I sat across from a very handsome Italian soccer player who spent the trip with his eyes closed and a walkman over his ears. It was all I could do not to try and play footsy with him, but I managed to maintain control. The scenery—I mean, the scenery outside the train, was also gorgeous, except for when we passed through Glasgow.

As it turned out, I arrived three hours earlier than the others, and spent the free time having lunch at a wonderful Italian restaurant, and ordering a pint of ale to go with it.

After lunch, I traveled to the Performer’s center to catch up with the others, and met up with Harold’s assistant, Aleister. He’s wonderful. About twenty-two, with dirty blond hair and soft brown eyes. He tells great stories, non-stop, and has a great sense of cheer that’s infectious.

The others all arrived at the Performer’s center at 9:00, and were clearly tired and grumpy. They were, frankly, unbearable at that point, but thankfully, Aleister was able to move them into a restaurant and, once their bellies were filled, move us into our flat.

I love writing that we're staying in a flat. It sounds so much classier than "an apartment." Except for Doc and Jeri, and Miss Talullah, the rest of us are all staying in a three bedroom flat in the center of Edinburgh.

Doug immediately claimed the living room, and I staked out a small bedroom. Margot and Reo shared the master bedroom, while Viola and Melissa shared the final room.

After placing our luggage in our quarters, we all gathered back in the living room. Aleister was still there, and out of nowhere, walked over to the piano in the room and began playing "Song for a Guy," which took me aback, because I had been listening to that exact same song on the train ride to Edinburgh. It seemed odd to me that he should choose this song, which came from an Elton John album called "A Single Man" over a decade before.

At the time I was a huge Elton fanatic, and this song was one that I had played, over and over, for days, especially during the flight, because it was so relaxing.

That was the first of several weird connections that happened today. They almost felt like signs. In addition to "Song for Guy," when I started to snoop around the apartment (which of course I was bound to do), the first book that I opened up turned out to be a university book on Expressionistic art—an exact copy of which I had been thumbing through at a friend’s house the day before I flew to Scotland.

Strangest of all, the Water Closet in the flat has photos taped to the door of the two owners. One of them is my spitting image. Seriously. The guy could be my twin! It was weird, staring at the photo. I had half a mind to steal it and bring it back home with me.

Three minor connections, I suppose, but a nice way to start out my stay in Scotland—a nice sort of welcome, I think.

We spent the night talking excitedly, and making plans for the next day. At midnight, Viola announced that it was officially her birthday, and everyone cheered. Aleister walked over to her and gave her a big kiss on the lips. I think he’s a bit fond of her! I went to bed feeling much happier than I had that morning.