Monthly Archives: October 2017

Bad Checks, Baseball, & Bicycling

Bad Checks, Baseball, & Bicycling


Yesterday I went to a softball tournament in Frankfort. It was an all-day affair featuring 8-year-old young ladies missing pop flies, running from base-to-base with joyous abandon regardless of their safe/out status, bearing bats bigger than themselves, and chirping sassy, abusive cheers at the opposing team (which I suspect had cleansed a bit by their parent/coaches).

Janie and I loved it.

Cynics may suggest our delight may have been heartily induced by the un-biased fact that one our favorite nieces was the best player on our, alas, winless team.

Meh…haters will hate.

It was a beautiful day; sunny, temperature perfect. I’m at a ball game, listening to the opposing fans parent-splaining shrilly about keeping your hands up, keeping your eye on the ball, and wait’ll we get home. There were hot dogs…not good hot dogs, mind you…but there are no bad hot dogs at a ball game. That’s what yellow mustard is for.


How good can life be?

Between games, I mused about the last time I was at these particular playing fields.

I would’ve been 23 or 24 at the time. I was managing two Shoppers Village Liquor stores and living in Frankfort. I liked living in Kentucky’s capitol city. I lived a couple of blocks away from the Capitol Building and the Governor’s Mansion. It was a lovely neighborhood. I was cycling a good bit then and thoroughly enjoyed the impeccable pavement in my neighborhood……it’s good to live near the state capitol.

But not all was hunky-dory.

One of the bete-noirs of retail is bad checks. This is a problem that is rapidly fading as we sail into a cashless world, but in the early 70’s this was a serious impediment to a successful retail endeavor. As such, it fell to the store manager to collect these abominations.

I hated this duty and felt unsuited for it.

But as an actor living by desire in Central Kentucky, a locale that paid zip/zero/goose-egg to its actors, the sponsorship of my employment was paramount. If collecting bad checks was the rent for living in the Eden of my choice…so be it.

This duty led to some interesting adventures and interesting neighborhoods.

One of them had its denouement at the very softball fields of my past weekend.

It was a $20+ promise on a now worthless check. But in the early 70’s, $20 was a week’s rent, or a month of gasoline for the car, or a couple of days’ meals. This was not something to be abandoned without a fight.

I fought.

I first called the offender; no cell phones, only land lines…no answer.

I then drove to offender’s home (not as many guns back then). I parked in front of the address and rang the doorbell. No answer……BUT there was a twitch of the window curtain. Young and invulnerable and Sherlockian that I was, I decided further investigation was called for.

I drove around the block to the alley (alley…not as many guns back then) and waited. Sure enough, the offender emerged from his house in a bathrobe, smoking a cigarette. He spotted me and darted back into the house. I darted around to his front door. He was waiting for me. I received a promise of payment within the week.

Another promise unfulfilled.

Research ensued.

I discovered my offender played in a softball league on Tuesdays (aren’t smaller towns great?).

The next Tuesday, I was on the aluminum bleachers at the fields (Yes! The same ones my butt occupied yesterday!). There was my offender, warming up with his team. I sauntered over (“sauntered”…le mot juste…).

“Crestfallen” has always been a favorite word of mine and I believe I witnessed its living definition at that moment.

“I’ll get that money to you this week, I promise.” Was volunteered.

“Fine”, I replied.

I continued; “I love ballgames, ya know. I especially like ‘em when I know some of the players. And tonight I see a bunch of my customers here.

“If we’re not settled up by next Tuesday, I’ll be back and it won’t be to see the game, as thrilling as the contest might be. It’ll be to let everyone know……”

By Wednesday afternoon, I had received full payment for the check, plus the interest contributed of a choice selection of loud, vulgar abuse……rest easy, there was no vocabulary I had not heard before.

That’s OK.

I wasn’t feeling that good about myself anyway.


We should pay our actors if we want’em to stick around.

“Good Drooler” — Resumé Fodder?

Birthday Party 01

The Birthday Party” (1971)


In my second year at the University of Kentucky I was cast in the student production of Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party”.

It was a great experience for me. I was working with friends I admired and this was my first and only (so far) exploration of a Pinter script.

There were precious moments in the process.

One actor who was required to play a vital scene while more than a little tipsy, had never to my knowledge drunk alcohol in his life. The director was coming from a philosophical place that required “bridging the gap” between reality and theatre to the point where the “bridge” was no longer required. He aspired to leave storytelling behind in favor of “story-living”.

I find this approach more often to be better therapy than good theatre…but that’s for another time.

It was decided that it would be useful and wise to finish one evening’s rehearsal at the actor-in-question’s apartment, where, as a cast, we would get our actor blotto in a safe environment while the rest of us raided his fridge and rummaged through his LP collection (show music – OLD show music – good grief!). It was a reasonable strategy…except… The character in the show was a quiet, steady, murderous drunk…an ominous cloud on any horizon. Our actor was…not so much. As the cherry vodka took hold, he began to sing…loudly…every Fred Astaire ditty in the entire Fred Astaire ditty-book. Ominous cloud? More like the munchkins in THE WIZARD OF OZ celebrating the demise of the Wicked Witch. The disappointment in the room, both from the failure of the experiment and the dearth of danceable tunes in the records, was palpable. Our cast dissipated into the night when our befuddled cast-mate began wailing Harry Lauder songs in a blurry brogue.

I played the lucky (?) victim of the birthday party in the title of the show. He appears in the third act after having been ravaged overnight in a torture/interrogation session. He’s a wreck…a shell of a living thing. He sits, non-responding, slack-jawed, drooling, throughout the scene. Again, the director begged for realism.


A skill sadly neglected in most acting classes.

Not much call for drooling in musicals…or comedies…or…life, for that matter.

But if you need a drooler…I’m yer guy.

It was the closest I ever got to being in a reality show.

I didn’t care for it. I’m an actor/storyteller and a civil human being — one is pretend and one is real. I rarely confuse the two and when I do, it’s not good.

Do you suppose there are times and places when reality shows are appropriate and harmless entertainment, and times and places when they’re not?

These days I find myself watching the news and thinking about that far too much.

Vipers vs. Verdi

Vipers vs Verdi

After my weekend immersion in Verdi with LA TRAVIATA, it might be good to “cleanse my palate” with some pure cultural junk.

I’m thinkin’ the 1976 made-for-TV-when-made-for-TV-was-NOT-a-recommendation “piéce de reptilian”; RATTLERS might be just the ticket.

Whatta film!

We’re talkin’ ludicrously poor child acting getting killed by the critics and the chemically-altered snakes in the first scene. This flick’s got nowhere to go but up from here. I can’t wait.

But first, a last few thoughts about LA TRAVIATA…

It was a beautiful production – beautiful to look at and beautiful to hear. It featured evenings of high C’s, crashing curtains (intentional), flying cutlery (intentional), and sexy flamenco dancing (damned intentional).


I have a serious quibble with the second scene.

Yer tellin’ me, Mr. Verdi, that Violetta is gonna give up her bucolic “piéd a terrific” with her lover (with servants, no less) and return to the city to be exploited sexually and subsequently die because her lover’s daddy TELLS her to? This old hippie (look it up if you don’t know the term) is thinkin’ “that dog will NEVER hunt.”


…just maybe…

…if there were chemically-altered snakes in the country…

…but even then, I don’t know.

Open Letter to a “Facebook Friend”

A “Facebook friend” posted this today and it made me sad.

“Say what you will, maybe I’m a pessimist, but it kind of seems like people are inherently awful. Yes, there are good people, but aren’t they often motivated by outside forces (God, morality, opinions of others, etc.) to be good?” –a Facebook Friend

An open letter to a Facebook friend…

I know we’re merely “Facebook friends” and I’m of another generation (times two – ack!) and I’m probably breaching 85 rules of social media etiquette, but you invited folks to “say what you will”.

I could not disagree with your statement more.

I believe far more people are inherently good than not and that they will evince that goodness most often if less affected by “outside forces”. I believe the outside forces have grown in volume and subsequent influence over us in my lifetime and while I revel in having immediate access to the entire Oxford English Dictionary (something I used to have to drive to the public library and find a parking place to access), over 10K songs on my ITunes shuffle, 200+ channels of cable TV (on which, much of the time, the Spectrum monster commercials are the most appealing options), three major 24/7/365 news channels repeating the same panel discussions, opinions, and guesses every hour – very like a 1960’s AM radio station, and IMDB at my fingertips no matter where I am on Earth to settle those burning arguments (wagers) like; “Was Alex d’Arcy French or Egyptian?” (by the way, he was both), aside from access to the OED, I’m not sure these outside forces have made me a better person.

I think, in most situations, we know on a cellular level how to behave. We know how to treat other people. We understand the sheer “mathematics” of the Golden Rule. But these things we know get drowned out by outside forces…and others’ expectations.

How, today, can we reason with our inner decency when our hands are filled with pads, pods, and phones and our ears are filled with buds? Our inner voices are outvoted every waking instant. A friend of is fond of pointing out; “We are entertaining ourselves to death.” (Man, I wish I’d said that.)

Simply put; I believe we are good and the outside forces tend to deflect and misdirect and confuse that goodness.

That said, I don’t believe you’re a pessimist……but you’re damn sure acting like one.

Please stop.

Turn off the devices for a moment – not forever – don’t panic – for a moment.

Listen to what you know is right.

Save the world.

Geezer rant over.