Turning Toward the Morning

One of my favorite voices belongs to a singer/songwriter/sailor/boat builder from Maine. His name is Gordon Bok. I’ve never sailed nor built a boat and I’ve never been to Maine. Thus, I don’t always understand what he’s singing about. He sings about north winds and waves and storms and nautical conversations with meteorological entities. He describes negotiations between fishermen and the elements. He keens of the fearful waiting of a fishing community awaiting either a reassurance of their loved ones’ return after a storm, or a mortal tally of the lost.

No, I don’t always understand his jargon or his tales, and I suspect that often what I do understand is incomplete and inaccurate.

But he sings so beautifully.

One of his songs, Turning Toward the Morning, resonates with me as this difficult year swirls around its sordid drain. In it, Mr. Bok describes;

“When October’s growin’ thin and November’s comin’ home, you’ll be thinking of the seasons and the sad things that you’ve seen. And you’ll hear that old wind walkin’, hear him singin’ high and thin. You could swear he’s out there singin’ of your sorrow.”

I heard that old wind.

I heard it a few years ago in a small vacation rental on the moors of Nantucket Island. It never ceased. It whispered and rumbled and insisted. It sighed and soughed and implied. It whistled and crooned and threatened. It was intimate and indifferent and in control. Janie and I fled back to Kentucky.

I hear that old wind now.

I hear it on the news. I sift the news of its reality show trappings as best I can. I know they’re driven to create desire in me for reverse mortgages, free transportation to my yearly checkups, clean gutters, drugs with manufactured names I can’t pronounce, miracle pillows, and miracle spring water. I don’t mind this hucksterism. Hell, I grew up thinking I could order eyeglasses from my comic books that would enable me to see through people’s clothes.

No, I need the news services for the facts I can glean, not for that old wind “singin’ of my sorrow.”

I hear that old wind in the concerns of my friends.

My friends are smart (most of the time), optimistic (most of the time), and want to do the next right thing (pretty much all of time). But, for the most part, they are not spring chickens. They fret to near bitterness that they will not get to see the results of the great repair job that began on January 20, 2021. That old wind murmurs that it will take time to inoculate everyone to thwart the pandemic, it will take time to re-staff and refocus our efforts to build the better country we were building before the vandals were allowed entrance, it will take time…

So what.

We still must begin.

We have begun before, and I for one enjoyed that beginning. I’ll enjoy this one as well.

Mr. Bok scratches his head over our fretting;

“It’s a pity we don’t know what the little flowers know. They can’t face the cold November. They can’t take the wind and snow. They put their glories all behind them, bow their heads and let it go. But you know they’ll be there shinin’ in the morning.”

Put your glories all behind you. Bow your head and let it go. There are new glories to create.

Ronald Reagan’s campaign told us “It’s morning in America.” (LOUD BUZZER) Wrong! Thank you for playing.

The morning is now.

It always is……now.

It will be glorious and exciting. Just what us geezer-refugees from the Age of Aquarius need…a mission bigger and longer-lasting than ourselves.

Mr. Bok;

“If I had a thing to give you, I would tell you one more time that the world is always turning toward the morning.”

It is the dawning.

Be there…

…shinin’.

The Three Kevins

curse05
Haggard Leaning, Moi Reclining

I have worked on stage with The Three Kevins.

Wanna touch me?

The Guignol Theater at the University of Kentucky has a history that extends to the middle of the last century. A history of that length has room for several “Golden Ages.” I like to think I was lucky to have been a student in one of those halcyon eras. In the early 70’s the theater department was flush with young actors who had participated in the two-year experiment of one-week summer stock theater experience in the Guignol called Centennial Theater. New York actors mingled with UK student actors rehearsing one play in the afternoons and performing another in the evenings. I arrived on the campus in 1969 to a collection of veteran players and immediately understood I had to catch up quick or sprout roots in the UK library. My academics atrophied but rehearsals were soaring.

I foolishly accepted the trade then and I wisely accept the trade now.

Another “Golden Age of the Guignol” happened about ten years later. Dr. Jim Rodgers attracted a talented faculty and talented student actors followed.
Tim McClure, Martha Bernier, Sheila Omer, Lisa Jones, Sue Grizzell, Walter Tunis, Patti Heying, Bill Felty, Julie Klier, Billy Breed, Nancy Shane. What an assemblage of talent!

But I think of it as the time of The Three Kevins; the “Kevins” being Haggard, Hardesty, and Kennedy.

Kevin Kennedy was bright and quick. I worked with him in Terra Nova. The Antarctic was not nearly as cool as his wit. I think he makes violins in Colorado now.

Kevin Hardesty has a voice that makes you listen eagerly even if he’s merely reading the phone book. I worked with him Glengarry Glen Ross. Kevin is currently the rage as Daniel Boone in the Chautauqua Program of the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Kevin Haggard is a professional actor. He moves with reason and purpose. He speaks from the heart when his character must, from his head when his character must, reluctantly when his character must, and impetuously when his character must. I worked with Kevin in The Curse of the Starving Class. I’m a fan.

This reminiscence was triggered by viewing a Fox program I’d never heard of; The Resident. Kevin Haggard appears briefly as a hospital board member participating in decisions that would not qualify one as a “better angel.” Kevin had three or four lines and maybe a total of 40 seconds of screen time. A small part, but played with integrity and attention. Just what I’d expect from Kev.

Kevin moved to Nashville from Lexington and seems to be always working as an actor and seems to have become respected in his profession and seems to be happily married. Talented and nice guys don’t finish last.

I have worked on stage with The Three Kevins…and all these Guignol Golden Agers.
I was made better by all of them.
Lexington was made better by all of them.
That’s what the arts do.

Cherish them, please.

Rescue Me!

 

janie 40 sprite in the bag
Sprite, Our Lady of Daily Distress aka Gloria Talbott

Movie night!

I’m completing my own little Gloria Talbott film festival by following up We’re No Angels and The Leech Woman with I Married a Monster From Outer Space.

Hey, someone’s gotta do it.

What a career stretch this was for Ms. Talbott; from Humphrey Bogart to Tom Tryon. Ms. Talbott seemed best at playing characters that were moderately perky and cute, not particularly bright nor quick, and perpetually anxious and in distress – in short, always in need of rescue. Perhaps that’s why Sprite, my kitten, enjoys her performances. Sprite believes her own raison d’etre on this planet is to be always in need of rescue…from everything…hunger, swinging gates, other cats, outdoors, indoors, Tuesdays…she’s a feline Gloria Talbott. We may change her name to Gloria.

We’re No Angels is one of my favorite Christmas movies, probably because of its un-Christmas-like ingredients. You don’t expect a Christmas flick to feature;

  • Humphrey Bogart and Basil Rathbone.
  • A poisonous snake.
  • A convicted murderer, an embezzler, and a safecracker – all just escaped from prison and all apparently unrepentant.
  • Palm trees and 100-degree heat.

Despite the outré components, the Christmas payoff at the end is genuine and moving, and the redemptive dénouement, though fatal, is pleasing if not exactly plausible.

Oh, and Ms. Talbott is rescued in the end from her wicked uncle. Thus fulfilling her contract.

The Leech Woman is better than the title implies. How could it not be? And Ms. Talbott is again rescued, this time from a gruesome crone while the native drums pound. Nuff said ‘bout dat.

Our third film comes from a time when a significant part of our population was living in fear and sometimes considering poor decisions because of that fear. My current fear is we may be living in a similar emotional state now. My hope is that we will resist making catastrophically poor decisions as our parents resisted in the 1950’s. In the United States in the 50’s, people were fearful of surreptitious infiltration by enemies of our way of life. Spies were everywhere. Communists were everywhere. Free-thinkers and agitators disguised as Protestants were everywhere. A goodly number of movies in that decade picked up on those fears to scare the be-jeezus out of us.

My favorite of these films is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It posited the classic conundrum of conspiracy fear; your neighbor/colleague/spouse looks like your neighbor/colleague/spouse, but is it really them? I harbor an intense fear of pods to this day. If I’m elected I will build a wall to deter all pods…except laundry detergent pods…we might need food.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been remade twice…and I don’t mind. My usual dim view of remaking good films is pushed aside by my suspicion that this plot has something new and old to say to us about every ten years. It is a story of today, and this year’s today is not the 1950’s today. The story of paranoia and response needs to be updated regularly to the current mythology and technology. How we respond to suspicion and difference may ultimately determine if we are condemned or redeemed.

But I still recommend keeping a watchful eye on any pods you encounter.

I Married a Monster From Outer Space is another of these paranoid delicacies. Gloria Talbott’s fiancé’s body and identity is taken over by a Cthulhu look-alike space alien the night before their wedding.

Whatta buzzkill.

The marriage proceeds anyway and a year later Ms. Talbott notices her husband has changed. It took a year – like I said before, she’s good at playing not particularly bright nor quick. From this point the film proceeds along the lines of Body Snatchers with Ms. Talbott assuming the storytelling duties Kevin McCarthy performed in Snatchers. This film is pretty interesting but is burdened by Tom Tryon’s performance (or non-performance) as the husband. There’s no discernible difference between the original husband and the alien co-opted husband: both are uniformly wooden and both are uniformly Tom Tryon. You can almost understand why it took his wife a year to sense a change…almost.

The bottom line is the repulsive aliens are repulsed, the planet is saved, and Gloria Talbott is once again rescued, but with some ‘splainin’ to do to her real husband.

Whew!

Now, I’d best go see how Sprite the cat is currently imperiled.

My raison d’etre…

My Guerilla Theatre Career

“I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan.

“Come ON Roger! Dammit!

MOVE!

We’ve got to GO!”

These delicately emphasized instructions landed like thunder on 1970 Southern-Baptist-raised freshman ears that were still trying to accommodate Rhett Butler’s curtain line.

The assault continued; “Get in the car! Sit on Dixie’s lap! She’ll explain. Have you got your sign?”

The sheer number of questions generated thus far was daunting, but offered a promising seating arrangement for the adventure (though he would have preferred to be providing the lap), Rodge opted for eschewing quizzing the leader (upper-classman of the Theatre Department, Barker) of this expedition and pursuing Dixie’s expertise in the seeking of understanding the intentions of the enterprise and perhaps the eventual attentions of Dixie herself.

In the car for the next three blocks…

Dixie draped a shirt card with strings attached around my neck. It read; “Broad Form Deed.”

She elaborated; “That’s who you’re playing. We’re protesting against the Peabody Coal Company recruiting today on campus. Barker’s playing the Appalachian farm owner – you’ll see his sign –. When he asks you; ‘What do I get if I sign?’ you smile real big, maybe wiggle some jazz hands behind ears and say; ‘One hundred dollars!’”

“Wait. I’m playing an inanimate object?”

“Yes.”

“What’s a broad form deed, anyway?”

“A slimy legal thing.”

“What’s my motivation?”

“Don’t get arrested. If you see anyone in a uniform, lose the sign and disappear into the crowd…if there is one. Oh, and if Barker likes you and remembers, he may be the student director of next fall’s show. Could help in auditions. We’re here.”

“Here” was in front of Kennedy’s Book Store at the corner of Limestone and Avenue of Champions. We tumbled out and stumbled about in front of 10-12 mildly befuddled students. I shouted; “One hundred dollars!” We reloaded the car and proceeded to a restaurant named Alfalfa’s, three other campus sites, and a witness-less finale at the courthouse in downtown Lexington (several miles from campus and half a state from the Peabody Coal Company).

From there we dissipated.

I had long lost my sign.

I hoofed it back to my campus apartment.

I had a performance experience that never appeared on my resumé.

I never saw Dixie again.

My arrest record remained pristine.

A couple years later, John Prine’s Muhlenburg County. Resonated immediately with me.

All-in-all……I suppose I was made better by the afternoon. But…………Dixie was pretty cute.

Funeralville III

The Queen of England died recently.

Perhaps you heard.

She was an admirable lady of 96, an inspirational, if mostly symbolic ruler of an empire who could open a flower show or diagnose a faulty carburetor and fix that blighter.

She became Queen the year I finally achieved successfully sleeping quietly through the night, to my parents’ relief. Thus, she’s the only Queen of England I’ve known, though, frankly speaking, I’ve had no urgent need for a “Mum” at all. I had my Mom.

My Mom died last week.

I doubt you heard…and that’s as she probably wished it.

At the end of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”, Willie Loman’s wife posits at Willie’s graveside; “Attention must be paid.” The first time I saw the play, I remember smirking silently at that line; “My Mom would beg to differ.”

In John Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW, Flora points out; “Some people don’t want to put themselves forward.” That……that…………

I don’t know why.

She was an admirable lady of 94, a suddenly widowed (at 44) mother of three schoolgirls and a hippie actor/son. She fixed those blighters too.

I remember…

…We would sit in the kitchen around that yellow-topped table and listen to the UK basketball games on the radio (televised games had yet to be invented). Mom would have her pad and pencil. She would keep meticulous score. She would know precisely how many points Cotton Nash and Dan Issel, and Mike Pratt and Scotty Baesler had scored. It was important. School spirit was a fine thing, but hard facts ruled the day.

…The day she mildly explained to my Little League coach who had failed to put me in that day’s game, that he was sequestering a future Hall-of-Fame first-baseman on his bench to his team’s detriment. I started the next game, though I still await that Hall-of-Fame invite. That day I learned the power of advocacy and persuasion. Don’t confront…form a discussion group.

…Before I started first grade, we would hike every Tuesday five blocks to the bookmobile, check-out our maximum ten books and hike back. We would haunt bookstores and thrift shops with book piles. Before I could read, I would “read” these picture books and make up stories to fit the pictures. I had been promised by my Mom that when I started school they would teach me to read. I returned home angry from my first day of school because I still couldn’t read.

No.

My Mom didn’t have a parade of black Range Rovers through the streets of Edinburgh, or guns, or cannons, or horses, or military uniforms of centuries of history, or choirs…and that’s as she probably wished it.

I fear her memorial will be in the rider’s seat of my car when I’m driving alone. There’s always a book there, in case I get stuck at a slow drive-through, or a train crossing, or simply a longish red traffic light.

I think she would have wished that too.

What! A!! Show!!!

Tomorrow is the 34th anniversary of Janie and Roger gettin’ hitched for the first time.

Of course we’ve been married over a dozen times…to each other! Every time we are honored to attend our friends’ weddings, it becomes our wedding. During each ceremony, hands are held (shyly…can you believe it?), and vows are rediscovered with sideways glances (slyly…you can’t make this up).

34 instant years…

How shall we mark the occasion?

Well, many might think it’s a paltry plan. We have shared head colds (negative test) the last week and both of us are just a mite puny. We’ll probably stay in, order in, and reflect a bit on how fortunate we’ve been to find each other and how perspicacious we’ve been in knowing quickly that we had found each other.

After 30 years, retirement and the pandemic have driven us indoors, reduced our social interactions, and focused our attentions inward and toward each other. The connection was strong and is now even stronger. LeGuin and Kazantzakis would not be surprised.

But I always am.

Always.

Darlin’, after 34 years it feels like this is where we came in.

Can we stay and watch this show again?

I wanna be sure I don’t miss a thing.

Jim Rodgers’ Natal Day

Oh!

The places we’ve gone…

…the people we’ve been!

We’ve been to Pennsylvania (THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON, ERRATA), and Texas (THE BEST LITTLE WHOREHOUSE IN TEXAS). We’ve been to Sweden (A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC), Spain (MAN OF LA MANCHA), and England (THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, SWEENEY TODD, and CAMELOT).

We’ve plumbed the depths of Oscar Wilde and Western Kentucky (FLOYD COLLINS).

All because you saw us there.

I’ve been a lawyer, a doctor, a murderer, a playwright, a sheriff, a barber…

…the King of England…

……a starkeeper……

Hell.

I was even a goose!

All because you said I could.

Once, we even got to sing together. That might have been the best.

Jim, you are a fine, fine traveling companion.

Thank you.

Frankenstein 1970

There are few verities in this world, but I know of some; death, taxes, and there’ll always be a Frankenstein film I haven’t seen.

This is one.

Tonight I remedied that omission.

Ugh.

Many think Boris Karloff played Frankenstein in the best known film of Mary Shelley’s amazing story. Not true. Mr. Karloff played the monster created by Baron Frankenstein. It was not until this 1958 film that he actually played someone in the Frankenstein family, a descendant of the baron, facing a future of dwindling funds, who rents out the stark Frankenstein manse to a documentary film crew that resembles the film crew in ED WOOD.

I usually enjoy Mr. Karloff’s performances, but in this case Messiers Clive and Cushing did it better.

Having consistently watched more than the recommended daily dose of mad scientist flicks, I’ve acquired a dubious expertise in movie laboratory sets. This film’s iteration features bank after bank of consoles of dials and switches and gauges…very like a low-budget version of Dr. No’s lab. It lacks one of those lightning producing orbs that are dear to my heart, but it does have some dripping tubing in various places that suggest that somewhere there’s some fine bourbon bein’ born. There’s also a contraption that looks like a cross between an MRI and a crematorium…and an EZ-Bake oven… smokin’ up the joint. All-in-all, I’d give the lab an 85. It was easy to dance to.

Oh. On the audio side of production, the lab has the capability of disposing of human bodies. When it’s employed, it does so with the distinct sound effect of a toilet being flushed. I can only imagine how that was received in 1950’s movie houses. I can only imagine the glee of the movie critics of the day.

On the positive side…

There’s a moment early in the film that shows us three members of the film crew framed in front of a large, gothic fireplace. It recalled to me the opening scene in THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN with the Shelleys and mad, bad Lord Byron. It may have been accidental, but I prefer to think the director and writers were paying homage.

Eventually we arrive in a ludicrous confrontation between a mummyishly-bandaged monster and a beret-wearing cameraman in a cave with a perfectly flat Hollywood cave floor (are there any other kind?)

I simply wouldn’t have any other way.

My Favorite Bookstore 3: Rokuro-Kubi 1

I had only been working a week at the Bait Shop.

The Bait Shop was a book store with only a miniscule inventory of books about fishing.

It did boast several sizable aquaria with mesmerizing arrays of tropical fish; mostly cichlids and one tank of bosemani rainbows. I had already discerned that the cichlids were an opinionated bunch that moved their furniture constantly and spit gravel when disgusted…or about to give birth. The rainbows were sleepy and “just happy to breed here.”

Thus, the Books and Interesting Tidbits Shop was a touch tropical, certainly topical, but not your typical book store.

I had yet to master the chimerical shelving system for the books. My high school part-time job at the public library had taught me the essences of the Dewey Decimal System (DDS). The logic parceling out shelf space at the Bait Shop however, was totally uninfluenced by the DDS. For example: Francois Truffault’s HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAULT was deliberately placed next to James E. Vance’s GEOGRAPHY AND URBAN EVOLUTION IN THE SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA. When I groused to Sam Cooger, the banjo-playing partner/owner of the shop, he sneered; “Melvil Dewey was an anal nerd. Numbers on books – whatta load of crap. He probably never even saw the Frisco Bay and I know he never saw VERTIGO. We should be guided by such ignorance?” He leaned back in his corner and crooned “It’s so neat ta beat yer feet by the San Francisco Bay.”

Gifted by such guidance, I fumbled about on the road to dim-as-could-be until, one day, I had an epiphany. Of course Hugh Lofting’s DR. DOOLITTLE IN THE MOON belonged next to Guy Boothby’s DR. NIKOLA not only for the dubious medical pedigrees of the titular characters, but also for their similar portrayals of cats as alien and not completely sympathetic critters. I confidently slid a handsome first edition (in dust jacket no less) of Carl Van Vechten’s THE TIGER IN THE HOUSE to the right of those books to mollify any negative feline vibes. Benji Andante, the other store partner/owner peered at my decision and pondered… “A bit obvious, but shows progress. Balance has its place, but not everywhere. Sometimes a clear vector is useful, but let’s leave it that way for few days and see.”

I wasn’t sure I understood what Ben had said…actually…I was sure I didn’t understand. Still, I marked it down as a win. The day before, he had paraphrased Albee (or Stoppard – I can’t keep ‘em straight when he starts rattling) to encourage me; “A step is positive, any step, even a negative step, because it is a step.”

Now…where should I put George F. Worts’ THE HOUSE OF CREEPING HORROR?

Garrotes are involved. Perhaps in the Spanish language section of the shop, next to the screenplay of Santo Contra el Espectro de el Estrangulador?

Or next to A BLUEGRASS CONSPIRACY – murderous doings by elements striving to return a small town that once was a crossroads for illicit substances to those profitable, if less righteous days.

Or next to Manly Wade Wellman’s THIRD STRING CENTER book-for-boys, to demonstrate a useful, if often pummeled career path après high school football hero-dom.

Sam disrupted my cogitation; “Ya know, Cayton, yer not much help, but ya sure are slow.”

Ben; “He’s trying, Sam. Not particularly well, but… Put it next to the Wellman, maybe it’ll improve the prose.”

He continued; “I got a call from Mo Stern. He’s coming in this afternoon.”

Sam erupted; “Christ! I’m not up to that today.”

Ben gazed at me.

“Cayton, you’re a theatre major, yes?”

“I am. I’m rehearsing Synge’s Playboy of the Western World now.”

“Ah yes; ‘I’m thinkin’ it’s a queer daughter you are to be askin’ yer father to be crossin’ the Stooks of the Dead Women with a drop taken.’ – do you get to say that?”

“No. That’s someone else’s line.”

“Pity.”

Sam and Ben had a strange conceit about communicating privately with each other. They would slide up next to each other, shoulder to shoulder, but facing opposite directions. They would then murmur to each other in a tone that anyone nearby could clearly hear…but to them it served as a private conversation.

Sam; “Seriously, I don’t think I can do this today. Give the kid a try. God knows he ain’t worth his salt yet on anything else.”

Ben to me, after a moment of mindful breathing; “Here’s what we need for you to do this afternoon…

We have a customer. His name is Mo Stern.

Mister Stern loves books. Always has. A while back, he began to lose much of his sight. Forget what that meant to his life otherwise. He loves books. He has adapted admirably in his everyday living. We are part of his adapting…maybe the most important part. He loves books and now it is near impossible for him to read them.

We maintain a list of the books he wishes to “read.” When we get two exact copies, same editions, of books on his list, he buys them both, and…he comes into the shop, and…we read them out loud to him from one copy, while he follows along in another. Pages are turned simultaneously, chapters are finished simultaneously, until the book is complete. He then takes both copies in case he might want to “reread” the book someday.

He loves books. He has passion for reading.

I believe passion is an important ingredient for the theatre. I know you read well and, I assume, speak clearly. Else, no audience will seek you out for long.

Will you do this?”

(…to be continued…perhaps…)

Oligarchs vs the Dollar Dog

I stumbled across a genuinely interesting baseball game while channel-surfing.

It was a college game pitting top-ranked Texas against a UCLA team who lost ten players to the professional draft last year. This game was part of a weekend event; the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic played in the Houston Astros’ major league ballpark.

Normally, in early March, if I stumbled across a game on the tube, it would be a major league spring training game, featuring players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing numbers on their branded, recognizable major league uniforms in the 80-99 range…numbers you’ll never see in the regular season. The same could be said of the players themselves.

But tonight, I’m watching players of whom I’ve never heard, wearing uniforms of unusual colors and logos — colors and logos you’ll never see in the major leagues. The same could be said of most of the players themselves.

Normally, the teams I’m watching this time of year would be playing in the dry sunshine and sere landscapes of Arizona, or amongst the palms of muggy Florida, on green fields, the geometry of which have been pretty much set for over a hundred years.

Tonight, they’re playing in a major league ballpark, the geometry of which was set over a hundred years ago.

Tonight, I watched a tiny batter with a tiny strike zone receive an unsurprising base on balls, steal second base, steal third base on the next pitch, and score on the subsequent sacrifice fly. To see two stolen bases in today’s major league season, I might have to watch two dozen games. Instead I would most likely be watching six strikeouts and a home run every three innings.

Be still my beating heart.

Why am I watching an interesting (and non-exhibition – it really counts) college game being played passionately before a crowd of about 20,000 instead of a meaningless spring training major league game?

Well, it’s because the billionaire owners and the millionaire players of major league baseball have decided to not play their game…their GAME…a pastime…once upon a time, the national pastime.

It’s probably good that I’m not the czar of baseball.

If I were, I would cap it all.

It’s the national pastime. It’s a game.

There would still be $1,000 tickets, but there would be many more $10 tickets.

There could be champagne and caviar (non-Russian, thank you very much), but the hot dogs and beer would be a dollar.

The oligarchs of baseball, the owners and the players, could still compete for bigger shares of broadcast money, but they couldn’t double-dip on the fans in the stands.

If this radical stance drove current baseball players from the game…well, I just watched that same tiny baserunner score on a beautifully executed squeeze bunt. I’d pay ten bucks to see him do it in person.

If this radical stance drove current baseball owners from the game…well, as I was growing up, watching Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek call the Saturday Game of the Week, and listening to Waite Hoyt and Claude Sullivan call the Reds games on radio, my dreams of the perfect career were to be an astronaut until I was thirty, and then become the owner of a baseball team. I suspect I’m not alone in those aspirations.

It’s merely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s sublimely baseball, whether it’s played in Dodger Stadium, or Castlewood Park.

It’s not baseball if it’s not played.

You Say Hund & I Say Hound

Movie night!

I guess it’s hubris…or karma…or just a mess of “what goes around…”

I’ve written before about my delight in the imaginary languages one finds in the movies. Tarzan’s “Kreegah!” and Michael Rennie’s “Klaatu narada dikto,” don’t terrify me, they thrill me.

Well…

…this has been my week to be challenged by unknown-to-me real languages in movies without the aid of either subtitles or English dubbing.

I used to be inordinately proud to be able to rattle off the first lines of José Marti’s Guantanamera, but to truly be “un hombre sincero,” I should confess that’s about the sum of my mastery of Spanish.

Yet I found myself caught in in the sluggish whirlwind of Jesus Franco’s lesser known masterpiece; Dracula, Prisoner of Frankenstein. Sluggish, because any film featuring Howard Vernon as your action-driving monster has a lot of inertia to overcome as soon as the opening credits have run. Whirlwind, because you can always add an ineffectual fistfight with a non-titular werewolf at the end of the flick to liven things up a bit, and director Franco, consummate artist of the box office, knows this and complies.

Still, it might have been helpful to understand what few words were left in the script between the grunts, growls, and howls of the monstrous troika propelling this miscarriage.

And then there’s German?

Sigh.

I can mumble a few syllables of Stille Nacht at a noisy Christmas party and I can spin a few wine terms like “trockenbeerenauslese,” but other than that, I’m schnitzel.

But I have been eagerly anticipating viewing the 1937 German film; Der Hund von Baskerville since it arrived in my latest box of goodies from Sinister Cinema. Imagine my initial dismay when it sported no dubbing, no subtitles.

But ya know…it didn’t matter.

I am an amateur Sherlockian. I have read and watched Sherlock Holmes stories for almost 60 years. I have seen so many film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles, so many times… The best film version was written by a friend of mine. Hell, Janie and I even vacationed in a small cabin on the only moors in the US.

I know this tale.

The actors could bark their lines as quickly as they pleased and I corrected them even more quickly. I knew intimately what Sherlock’s rooms, and Baskerville Hall should be like. I knew the paths and the mists and the perilous bogs. This was terra familiar.

I delighted seeing Mrs. Hudson fussing over Watson’s experiments with tobacco ash. I despaired watching a ridiculous “hound” that might have been the inspiration for The Killer Shrews. I needed no explanation for Sir Henry’s imperious pique over his missing shoe.

I don’t know the German for “cognoscenti,” but I know it was me.

And I loved it.

Ach!

My Horrors Have Always Been Cowboys?

An in-depth viewing of BILLY THE KID VS. DRACULA is on the slate for tonight.

I like horror movies.

I like cowboy movies.

I don’t like this.

That’s probably about as much in-depth analysis as the flick deserves but here are a few stray thoughts.

1. The film is directed by William Beaudine, whose nickname was “One-Shot Bill”. I’m thinkin’ that moniker is not complimentary to anyone involved with directing a film unless he happens to have a hot date waiting in the wings. This flick goes far in validating my thinking.

2. Virginia Christine appears in the film. Most of you know Ms. Christine, if you know her at all, as Mrs. Olsen in the Folger’s Coffee commercials of the 1790’s (feelin’ a little old this evening). But Ms. Christine had an acting career beyond coffee hucksterism, though frankly, this performance is probably not the best testimony to that fact. It’s certainly not “the richest kind.”

3. The costume budget musta been real tight. The two title characters never – I mean never – change clothes. One costume each for the whole movie. (One-Shot Bill = One-Shirt Bill?) I know that sounds picky, but it jars my suspension of disbelief. I can’t believe I just said that about a movie featuring a vampire fighting an American gunslinger.

4. Putting Billy the Kid in a sea-foam green chamois over-shirt might…just might…lessen his credibility as a tough guy.

5. Casting a thirty-plus year old actor as Billy the “Kid” more than likely damaged the film’s box-office appeal to teens. Perhaps if he had played a guitar and crooned a little cowboy/vampire/surfer ditty it coulda been redeemed.

I doubt it.

The Winter of Our Discontent

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of…

…Puerto Rico?

Who knoo?

Good grief!

Snow last week, snow predicted this weekend…

Covid, Omicron, Boebert, Greene, Gaetz, Paul, striated stink bugs and a host of other such plagues in the air…

Tornados, floods, robo-calls…

Frettin’ ‘bout my non-existent student loan, the expired warranty on my 13-year-old car, whether I’m getting’ all the benefits I deserve, whether a jerk from half a planet away from our house will be allowed to play tennis and infect another continent another half a planet away…

It’s too much for a geezer to keep track of, especially with it all happening in a season bereft of…

Baseball.

And now it seems there may be a disruption and delay to the beginning of spring training if not the regular season itself.

What’s an old frettin’ fool to do?

Lo!

Behold!

Tonight on channel 261 (who knew there even was a channel 261?), the fifth game of the semi-finals of the Roberto Clemente Puerto Rico Winter Baseball (Beisbol) League is being televised live…on at least three cameras.

Yes!

On a TV station that may only exist in Diagon Alley, baseball is being played on green grass on a warm night in a place Trump can’t get to (it’s an island, you know). The Mayaguez Indios are leading in this best-of-seven series 3-1 over the Carolina Gigantes. Mayaguez is also leading in this game 4-1, and if they hold on, they start playing in the finals this weekend, unthreatened by snow.

Fierce

The game is being played in Mayaguez’ home stadium. I believe it seats about 12,000. Tonight it looks to me like a crowd of about 1,000 devotees (and me) are watching this titanic struggle.

And the announcers.

The announcers are enthusiastic and under the sway of the Puerto Rican Travel Department. There are frequent digressions extolling palm trees and ocean breezes. S’okay by me – I like those things. Besides, their digressions are not as frequent and distracting as the current trend of US baseball announcers trapped in their home studios with no ocean breezes. No, tonight’s patter is mostly about the baseball game they’re watching…I think.

The accents are foreign to my untuned ear (go figger). But I pick up an occasional word or phrase and their enthusiasm for their game and their obvious embarrassment for bad plays resonates with me. I sense my Spanish becoming better with every entrada (see what I did there?).

What else is foreign?

Uh-uh
  • There are no player names on the jerseys.
  • Every fourth or fifth batter gets a caption below his at-bat that shows his name and few hitting stats.
  • The hitters don’t look like transformers. The only hitting equipment I’ve seen is a tattered protector on the pitcher-facing elbows of a few hitters.
  • No pitching speed figures appear on the screen.
  • No moseying. The pitchers stay on the rubber, ready to throw. The batters stay in the box, ready to hit.
  • I just saw a foul ball land in a sparsely populated section of the stands. The nearest attendee let it lie. It was apparently too many rows away from the comfort of his beer.

I’m kinda wishin’ I was there.

Ocean breezes…

Baseball…

It’s an island, you know…