Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Further Bulletins from the Fair

I had chicken for lunch today, because I could.

They’re wonderful little birds, really they are, but after a while you just have had enough of the beady-eyed little things and you find yourself saying to them, “You know what you are?  Vehicles for condiments, that’s what you are,” and pulling into the nearest drive-through line for a box of deep-fried chicken bits and as many of those little vats of sauce that they will give you for free.

And that's when you know you should probably take a short break.

The Fair is now in full swing around here, and my hasn’t it been a time.

We didn’t have anything Fair-related to do on Sunday.  Well, not officially.  There were still projects to finish and animals to prep and any number of things to think about, collect, organize, and/or stow away.  But the actual Fair-related things didn’t happen until Monday.

Actually, Monday’s story goes all the way back to Saturday.  It’s a long story.  Bear with me.

Over at Local Businessman High School they have a summer musical program that gathers together kids from all over the southern half of the state to put on Vast Theatrical Experiences for the masses.  Being kind of theatered-out after the Shakespeare and the pick-up rehearsals for our 4H Drama Club’s performance at the County Fair this week (see how it all spirals in on itself?) I declined to join Tabitha and Kim when they went on Friday.  Naturally, they came home raving about it and Kim more or less ordered me to go see it on Saturday night.  Tabitha joined me, and I will say that it was quite a production and we had a very good time.  There is a lot of talent around these parts.

But when we got home we walked into Crisis.

Milkshake, Lauren’s previous show bunny (now retired) had come down with some kind of vicious eye infection and looked like The Rabbit of the Living Dead.  He was not in a good way, and this being Saturday night there really wasn’t anyone to take him to go see.  So Kim and Lauren talked with the Rabbit Project person in our 4H club and began dosing him with the antibiotics we’d bought for another animal (which checked out as acceptable, according to reputable experts online), and we spent Sunday trying to take care of him.

Monday morning started at 7:30am with a call to the veterinarian, who saw us an hour later.  He said to keep doing what we were doing, gave us some better anti-inflammatories than the Children’s Ibuprofen we’d been using, and told us to bring him back in a week to see if surgery is required.  He’s already blind in that eye, and it might be the best course of action anyway.  We’ll see.  He’s looking slightly better today, actually, so perhaps he’s on the mend.  We're hoping, anyway.  Poor Milkshake.

So that was much of the morning.

That afternoon I took Tabitha back over to the Fair, since it was her turn for Drawing and Painting judging.  She had three pieces in the mix this year, two of which she had been diligently working on for weeks and one of which was a last-minute substitution for a larger project that wasn’t going to happen and which she didn’t want to rush.  You have to have an entry for each category you sign up for, though, so she had to put something in.

Her mixed media entry got a Top Blue.

As did her watercolor.

This means that both of them are eligible for either Merit or State Fair consideration, which would be quite a thing.  We’ll find out about them soon enough, I imagine, but two Top Blues is well done, I think.

The acrylic painting got a Red, which isn’t bad for the amount of time she had to pull it together.  We were all pretty happy with the results.  Nice going, Tabitha! 

The judging only took a bit over an hour, which turned out to be good since the rest of the afternoon was spent washing chickens.

Have you ever tried to give a chicken a bath?  It’s a surprisingly complicated process.

It takes four or five buckets of water, each of which has a different additive (poultry protector, glycerin, etc.).  They have to be kept at a relatively warm temperature so as not to panic the birds, because you’ve got a wet chicken in a bucket and adding “panicked” to that description just bodes well for nobody.  And then you have to wrap them in a towel so they dry off and stay warm, since they’re body temperatures are high and the air – even on a hot summer day – is cool

There is nothing on this earth quite as ridiculous as a wet chicken.

We shanghaied the birds to our own backyard for this, since the barn outside of town where we keep them has no running water.  Our backyard became a chicken-bathing assembly line.  And then we set up some enclosures for them in the garage, since returning them to the barn seemed counterproductive at that point. 

This of course made us Chicken Scofflaws, since technically we are not allowed to keep chickens in Our Little Town.  But there comes a time when one must stand up to The Man and demand justice!  Liberty!  And freedom!  Besides, by 8am this morning they were no longer in our garage and we figured we could get away with it.  And we did.

We are such renegades.

Monday night was time to get Maybelline over to the Rabbit Barn.  Since our usual rabbit travel carrier was serving as a recovery room for Milkshake, we ended up taking her over in an old bamboo shopping basket that Kim’s grandmother left us.  It says “Made in Occupied Japan” on the bottom.  It’s really cool, actually.

Getting the rabbits loaded in is always a time-consuming process.  You stand there in line, not moving and wondering why, until you finally get up to the front and then you understand.  Every rabbit – and people often bring six or seven of them – has to get examined, noted, and recorded.  The tattoo on their ear gets announced and written down.  And then the next one happens. 

But we got Maybelline situated and Lauren’s rabbit paraphernalia put away in the bin with our club name on it, and then we were good for all Fair-related activities for at least twelve hours.

Bear in mind that the Fair still hadn’t officially opened yet.

This morning dawned bright and early, and fortunately the chickens were completely unaware of it in the darkness of the garage.  Particularly the roosters, who have begun to get their rooster on and crow now and then.  We don’t need that.

We loaded them into cages and then took the two big dog kennel cages that my friend Jon lent us and caravanned over to the barn where the turkeys were still residing. 

It is surprisingly easy to convince turkeys to get into cages.  You just gently herd them along until they walk right in (Norman) or pick them up and deposit them inside (Maica).  It took two of us to get them into the cars – Norman goes a good 35lb, according to the estimate of the turkey expert at the Fair and Maica is not all that much smaller, and when you combine that kind of weight with the awkward bulk of the cages, well, two people is definitely the way to go.

Have you ever driven any length of highway with a turkey in the back?  It’s an experience, let me tell you. 

We eventually arrived at the Fairgrounds, where we unloaded the turkeys first – I wheeled Maica in her cage on a dolly, while Lauren just herded Norman along to the barn – and then got the chickens situated in their end of the barn.

Then it was home, shower, breakfast, and off to teach my class, which is in its last week.  And you know what that means, kiddies!  That’s right!  Final exam on Thursday.  Grading.  Oh well.

We went back to the Fair tonight, mostly to hang out and enjoy it.  We ran into some friends.  We made sure the birds and the rabbit were doing okay (it’s hot here in Baja Canada today).  We ate food that we probably shouldn’t have eaten at our age.  It was a good time.

And tomorrow, we do it again.  Though the transporting of animals is at least for now complete.

For that I am truly grateful.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Let the Fair Week Begin

And so begins Fair Week.

Lauren looks forward to this week more than any other week of the year.  More than the first week after school lets out, more than spring break, more than Christmas – it’s the high point of her year.  Tabitha enjoys it, I’m sure (who doesn’t?), but not as much as Lauren.

Me?  I just try to make it from one end to the other without dropping anything important, which is most of how I go through life in general, really.  There are projects to ride herd upon, animals to transport, plays to shepherd, and meals to plan – meals that are non-lethal only in the broadest possible sense, meals that revolve around deep-fried things on sticks and vats of fresh lemonade so large that they have their own weather systems (and discounted refills!).

This year I get to do it during the last week of my summer class, when the students are turning in two major assignments that need to be graded by the weekend.  Because reasons.  I’m just glad I got to teach that class again before Governor Teabagger (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries) implemented his plan to end education in this state entirely.  Timing is everything, folks!  Remember: Sir Francis Drake was knighted for annoying the Spanish, but Sir Walter Raleigh was executed for doing the same.

We started Fair Week in earnest yesterday, when the judging opened.  Judging runs for several days prior to the fair for all the non-animal projects (there are some animal projects that get judged before the fair too, such as cats, but they’re weeks or months before rather than days before).  The relevant categories for us were Photography and Visual Arts.

Lauren does Photography.  She’s remarkably good at it.  She’s never failed to get a Blue ribbon on at least one of her entries, and twice she’s made it all the way to Merit, which is one notch down from qualifying for the State Fair.  This year she had two entries – one in the four-photo category (buildings, landscape, people, animals) and one in the “my favorite photo” category.

Her favorite photo was of Norman, the tom turkey out at the barn.  Lauren loves close-up shots, and this one came out quite well, I think.

For this she got a Top Blue ribbon, which is one step above Blue but not quite Merit.  Honestly, Lauren and I both thought it was better than some of the ones that got Merit though not quite as good as the ones that got State.  So goes it when judging is involved – it’s subjective.  You give it your best and move on.

Her four-photo entry had the following shots:

My personal favorite was the buildings shot, just because the lines work out so well.  It’s essentially unedited – that’s the view you get from Dolores Park in San Francisco, looking back out across the city – but masterfully framed.  This project got a Blue overall.

From Photography we trekked over to the Visual Arts judging, which went vastly more smoothly and quickly than ever before.  Visual Arts can sometimes take up to three hours or more, but this year we were in and out – including Photography, another occasionally slow project – in about 45 minutes total.  So win for the 4H volunteers, I say.

Tabitha’s entry was a stuffed dragon.  She spent most of the last fortnight working on this, doing everything from designing the pattern and picking out the fabric to sewing and stuffing.  The horns are baked Sculpy, with holes carefully left in before they were baked so they could be sewn on like buttons.  Each of the paws has fishing weights at the bottom to keep it from tipping over.  And the eyes and swirls were all painted on.

She got a Blue for it, which was disappointing in the sense that she felt the judge didn’t take enough time to look at it fully.  But a Blue is quite a thing, and she should be proud of it.  I was impressed, let me tell you.

Lauren’s Visual Arts entry was a cloud sculpture.  It’s basically three paper lanterns covered with pillow fluff and stuffed with LED Christmas lights, the lot of them strung from a bar.  It’s a clever concept and she did a good job of it, but it wasn’t really her main priority and she got a Red for her efforts.  It’s still pretty cool, though.

This morning Lauren, Kim, and I were back on the Fairgrounds bright and early to help set up the Rabbit barn.  4H swims in a sea of volunteers, and the place was crowded.  We got all of the cages set up, and then our club set up its decorations (as did several others).  We kind of know how it goes now, so it went pretty smoothly.  Rabbit load-in comes on Monday night.

Fortunately the Poultry barn was already done by this morning, so we all got an extra hour to sleep.

We’re going to need it.  It’s Fair Week, after all.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Twilight of the Turkeys

It’s getting kind of melancholy out at the barn.

The County Fair starts officially next week, though the judging process starts tomorrow.  We’ll be there with Lauren’s photography and visual art project and Tabitha’s sewing project, and we’ll get the exhibitor wristbands that allow the girls to come and go as they please without paying admission every time.  Then comes barn set up on Saturday (poultry and rabbits), more judging on Monday (Tabitha’s artwork), and on Tuesday we load in Lauren’s animals – the chickens, rabbit, and turkeys.

The chickens and the rabbit will come home when it is all over.  Depending on how efficient the whole process is, the turkeys may not.  Norman – the tom – will be sold at the Fur and Feather Auction, and Jamaica – the hen, generally referred to as Maica – will likely not long outlive him.  That’s how it is with livestock.  We never planned to winter them over.

Lauren’s okay with this in broad outline.  We’ve discussed it with her, and she understands how it works.  She’d rather not eat these particular turkeys come the holidays, and that seems fair.  Someone else will get to do that.

The thing is, though, that while Norman is a big, lumbering boulder of a bird with about that much personality to him, Maica has got some zip to her.  She tracks you and stares you down.  She nibbles at whatever she can grab.  She’s kind of fun.

And their time is so short.

It’s a good lesson, really.  Treasure the time you have with the creatures you care for, as it is always shorter than you’d like even if it is planned.  And that goes doubly for the people in your world.

It’s kind of bittersweet.

We’ve taken to letting them roam a bit more these days, out on the grass.  They don’t go far – they’re flock animals, so they stick close together, and mostly they want to be wherever we are.  Several times they’ve startled the chickens by wandering into their pens while we were feeding them.  They mostly seemed curious.  They’re big, amiable birds that way, and it seems right to let them have a bit more freedom here in the twilight of their summer.

I’ll miss them, oddly enough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


I live in a nation where Donald Trump is a serious contender for the presidential nomination of a major political party.  I cannot tell you how disheartening that is. 

Donald Trump should not be allowed near the Oval Office, not even as a tourist.  In a just world, if he should so much as step foot on the grounds of the White House the Secret Service would have orders to shoot him so full of tranquilizer darts that he would wake up weeks later convinced he was a mermaid. 

And yet there he is.

It could be his opposition, I suppose.  After all, there’s – what? – six or eight hundred other declared candidates for the GOP nomination, and a quick look at them is all you need to disprove Darwinian Natural Selection, the Enlightenment’s optimism regarding human nature, and the entire idea that the cream rises to the top.  As my grandmother used to say when confronted by similar sentiments, “shit floats too.”  She was a lot of fun, my grandmother.

But really, who else does the Republican Party have?

According to one website that I checked, a site whose sole purpose is to keep track of the bouncing wigs in the GOP clown car, there are a total of 32 declared candidates for the nomination of that party.  Half of them are what are defined as minor candidates – people nobody outside of their own families has ever heard of and who will likely never even appear on the ballot in any state.  Some of them are clearly unstable, and the rest are merely deluded.  You get a lot of that in American politics, where the entry barriers to running for office are fairly low, and that’s just how it goes.  You can’t blame the Republicans for that.

The other sixteen are “major” candidates – people who seriously think they have a shot at the nomination, and who even more seriously think they can actually become president.  It is a stellar list of people who should not, under any circumstances, be allowed to wield political power, and the fact that these people seriously think such things and feel right at home in that party, given the ludicrous and gratuitously cruel things that they routinely say in public, is in fact a damning indictment of the modern GOP.

After all, when you look at the list you find that Trump is competing against:

Ted Cruz, a walking advertisement for the importance of taking one’s medications.

Ben Carson, for people who think Ted Cruz is too sane.

Chris Christie, wannabe traffic cop.

Mike Huckabee, who seems to be campaigning to be the Chairman of the Southern Baptist Convention rather than President of the United States.

Bobby Jindal, Huey Long reincarnated and gone Galt.

Carly Fiorina, who singlehandedly ran a Fortune 500 company nearly into the ground.

Rand Paul, a Gilded Age relic just like his old man, because wasn’t 1877 fun?

Scott Walker, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries and a man whose rhetorical skills and grasp of complex issues have been compared unfavorably to those of the former half-term governor of Alaska.

Rick Santorum, a man voted in a bipartisan poll of Congressional staffers as the dumbest man in the legislature back when he was a Senator.

Rick Perry, secessionist from Texas, currently under indictment in his home state (but with snazzy new specs!).

Jeb! Bush, the man who brought you the Terry Schiavo fiasco and who is fully capable of giving four completely different answers to the same simple question within 72 hours, apparently in an effort to make his brother seem like the smart one.

Marco Rubio, because what the US needs is even more reason to hate Florida.

George Pataki, whom nobody outside of his home state has ever heard of and nobody ever will.

And, finally, Lindsey Graham, who may actually have a brain in there but who hides it under a thick layer of invective because he has figured out that having a brain is a distinct liability in the GOP primaries.

That’s not a candidate roster.  That’s an awkward holiday dinner table full of weird uncles (and one aunt, so far).  So Trump has that going for him, I suppose.

Except for the fact that Trump himself is an ignorant blowhard, a national embarrassment, and a bullshit salesman who has yet to express a single coherent policy or idea.  Hell, even Scott Walker has policies, catastrophic as they are.  Not The Donald.  He doesn’t have ideas.  He has junior-high-level nastiness and an ego that expands to fill whatever space is available.

And he’s winning.

The last poll I looked at had him with 24% of the vote for the Republican nomination for president, which is quite an achievement even at this early stage in a field of sixteen.  For the math impaired, this means that right now nearly one out of every four Republican base voters has looked at this guy and said, “yes, this is the guy I want with his finger on the nuclear button.”  If that doesn’t scare you, then you aren’t thinking clearly.

Honestly, though, I think Trump has the GOP over a barrel.

He’s stupid enough to say the things that they all think but won’t say publicly, and clever enough to know that it won’t hurt him with the batshit insanity that is the modern Republican base.  The thinking Republicans – the ones who actually know how things work, a small and declining group in that party but not one without clout – can’t repudiate him because if they do they lose their most committed party members.  They’ve spent years building up a base of rabid carny barkers susceptible to extreme right-wing rhetoric and now they’ve got a guy saying all those dog-whistle things in the clear and if they shut him down they lose the base that determines who wins the primaries.  There will be howling and gnashing of teeth if that happens.  But if they let him go on saying those things they alienate pretty much everyone who isn’t a hardcore right-wing social conservative Teabagger, which is well over three quarters of the population and not a recipe for success in the general election.

They’re stuck.  If I worked for the Democratic Party, I don’t think I could devise a better weapon against the GOP than Donald Trump.

Oh, I have no doubt that The Donald will implode at some point.  He will finally say something too outrageous, too close to the bone, and his popularity will wane.  He’s already tried by criticizing John McCain’s status as a war hero.  But then the Republicans were perfectly fine slandering other genuine war heroes like John Kerry, Max Cleland, and Tammy Duckworth, so this won’t actually hurt Trump in the least.  The GOP has no use for veterans beyond creating them by the bushel basket in wars designed to enrich their friends who make weaponry, and their policy decisions and Congressional votes over the last decade or so make that crystal clear.  Trump will survive this.

But eventually he will trip himself up.

And then what?  Will he go quietly into the night?  I think not.  Perhaps he sets himself up as an independent candidate – he’s got the money and the ego.  Perhaps he becomes a go-to commentator – he makes interesting copy, whatever you think of him.  The last thing he’s going to do is shut up and play nice with his classmates.  He’ll stay active.

At that point, the only question will be how much damage he does to the Republicans before it’s all over.

They created him.  They earned him.  They have him now.  And we’re left holding the bag.

I’m not sure I want to live in a country where millions of people think he’s a viable candidate for anything.  It speaks poorly of the future survival of the republic.

But here we are.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Much Ado About Something

Well, the show is over.  Neither storms nor heat nor the gloom of realizing that the humidity had reached levels that actually had weight could stay these troupers from their appointed roles.  We got fairly good audiences by Home Campus standards, even during the monsoon performance.  And now it is done.

Theater is an ephemeral art.  You rehearse for weeks or months (or, in the case of a last-minute substitution such as myself, for a frenetic eight days or so), and then it’s showtime [insert Jazz Hands here].  You give your performances to the open air and then they are gone, living only in the memories of the people who were there, for as long as they care to remember.

As a historian I like to write things down so I can remember them for that much longer.  How much less ephemeral that makes them, here in the jiggling electrons of the internet, is an open question I suppose, but there you have it. 

So: a few things I wish to remember about Much Ado About Nothing.

1. Never underestimate the ability of a cast and crew to change nearly everything on a moment's notice.

Our first performance took placed in a driving rainstorm, which is usually somewhat problematic for an outdoor show.  I was there around 4pm helping the director put some finishing touches on the set and we debated moving the performance indoors for a while before he made the call to do so.

That was a really good decision on his part, though it meant making a lot of adjustments on the fly. 

We had never even rehearsed in the space where the show happened that night, and the set was far too big to move indoors even if we had had the time.  Three black curtains became the house and central doorway.  Two ladders hidden behind the stage right black curtain became our balcony.  Since we used not only the stage but also a good portion of the open courtyard in the original staging, we had to figure out all of our entrances, exits, and resting places (my character, for example, spends about half a scene sitting on a bench next to the audience and an analogous spot had to be found).  The lighting could be skipped, since we didn't need it for that space, but the sound all had to be configured and set up anew.

All of that happened in less than an hour, with a 7pm curtain.

By the time we got everything settled the rain was alternating between driving downpours and false pauses and we weren’t sure if anyone would even come, but they did and they got a great show.

2.  Theater runs on fast food and bottled water.

I was most involved in theater when I was in high school and college, which meant that my schedule was fairly flexible and I could often find time for real meals before shows.  Except for show week, of course, since show weeks expand to fill the time available and then some.

This show was all show week for me, latecomer that I was to the party.  And I now work for a living and have kids, which means that I am required to be in certain places at certain times, which in turn means that there are limited opportunities for real meals.

Enter, stage right, unreal meals.  You can’t go too far wrong with General Tso Chicken, extra spicy, I think.

On the other hand, our director provided us with cases of cold bottled water during show nights, and when weather forecasters start throwing around terms like “heat index” like regrets after a night in Vegas, that sort of thing comes in handy.

3. Theater people are good people.

I didn’t have anything to contribute to the first act, and to be honest I really couldn’t tell you what happened in it.  It’s Shakespeare – I’m sure there were verbal duels, attempts at deception and trickery, and more than a few examples of how not to live a happy life, but that’s pretty standard really.  Other than opening night, when we all got crowded into the same room for the entire show, I missed the particulars.

This is because the play was (mostly) outside, and during the run of the show the entire Dogberry group spent the first act indoors in what is usually the dining commons for Home Campus (which is where we preformed on monsoon night, actually).  We were joined by most of the cast, at one time or another, and we had a grand time talking about the show, about books, about various and sundry aspects of our individual lives.  Honestly, I think it was my favorite part of the show.

People are interesting – they have lives that were in full swing long before you meet them and will continue long after the show is over (one hopes, anyway).  It’s fascinating to hear what they have done and what they think, and to find out a bit about who they are.

I discovered two people whose taste in reading overlaps a great deal with my own.  Another who got a PhD in Australia, a country I’ve always wanted to visit.  Two ran local organizations that at one time or another I had been involved with but am no longer – maybe I should go back.  There were conversations about chickens, fishing, concerts, movies, and tree trimming contests that were interesting because they meant something to the people involved.  People had traveled.  People had lived abroad.  People had held jobs you wouldn’t think they’d held.  People had been involved in theater for years and seen things that are still funny even now.

It’s a good time being backstage.

And when it continues at the local Mexican restaurant for an evening?  Well, so much the better.

5. If you can’t do it right, make it convincing.

I don’t think any of the four performances matched any of the others.  It’s a long play, and with the instability among the cast there were actors learning large parts fairly late in the process.  I’m always amazed at people who can do that.  It was all I could do to get my thirteen lines straight.

So things varied.  I know my scenes did, at least.  I assume I was not alone in this.

Some nights the lines got paraphrased.  Other nights one or more got skipped.  But as long as everyone kept on going and made it look like that was what was supposed to happen, it all went well.

6. The show isn’t over until strike is over.

We spent today taking everything down.  Whoever it was who invented the cordless drill capable of holding a Philips-head screwdriver bit deserves a medal and a lifetime supply of pizza with all the toppings they desire.  It was a fairly large and solidly-built set – one that had survived several severe storms, mostly intact – and it came down and was put away in less than three hours.

It probably wasn’t good for my back, which has been giving me grief all summer long, but it was nice to see everyone one more time.

7. It’s kind of bittersweet when the show ends, but it’s nice to get your life back.

The thing about theater is that is intense.  You’re there for hours and hours, and during show week it’s every day.  You get to know people.  And then it’s over, and you may or may not see them again.  I suppose I’ll see some of them, perhaps even most.  It’s a small town, and a smaller community.  And there is Facebook, of course.  But still.

On the other hand, everything that I put on hold for the last week or so is still there, calling to me for attention.  There are chickens and turkeys to look after.  There are classes to prepare and papers to grade.  There is a small group of people who apparently live in my house and claim to be my family whom I should probably get to know again.  It will be nice to stay home and have a real meal or two, though 4H is rearing its head and may make that more of an aspiration than a reality.  We’ll see.

I wasn’t really sure I wanted to do this.  I don’t know if I will do it again.  But I’m glad I did it this time, and that’s enough.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Becoming Shakespearean

The last time I was on stage as an actor was back in high school.  I’ve done a couple of small performances since then, and you can make a decent argument that teaching is a form of acting.  But in terms of actually striding about on a stage with a set and lighting, trying to hit marks, speak lines, and stay in character, high school it is.

That was a long time ago.

I took a Shakespeare class my senior year, since it was one of the electives and it seemed more interesting than the others.  When the teacher got sick and assigned us small group projects in his absence, the class decided to change our many small group projects into a single big group project and put on scenes from Macbeth.  The sub didn’t care, since we were quietly working on Shakespeare-related things as far as he could tell, and the teacher was smart enough to roll with it once he got back. 

The performance worked out pretty well for me, I have to say.  My teacher thought enough of my acting to try to recruit me for the next school play, which held no interest for this particular backstage crew member but was nice to hear.  And one lovely young lady in the audience decided that night that maybe I was more interesting than she had previously thought, which held considerable interest for me once I found out.

So I’ve always had a soft spot for Shakespeare.

I am also friends with the theater professor down at Home Campus.  This is perhaps why, when he rather suddenly had to fill a small role on this summer’s outdoor performance of Much Ado About Nothing, my name floated up to the surface of his mind.  It’s hard to find actors in the summer, apparently.  The cast had lost something like seven actors over the previous five weeks, and if I took the part they could move another actor up to a bigger part.

It turns out that the category of "things you do for friends" apparently includes being an actor for the first time in three decades.  While I’ve done a lot of theater in that time – possibly close to a hundred shows, depending on how you count – my home is backstage, not onstage.  I’m far more comfortable there.  But here I am.

Fortunately mine is a very small part.  I play Verges, who as near as I can figure out is essentially the Elizabethan version of Barney Fife.  He’s kind of dim, mostly a decent guy as far as I can tell, and would like very much to be taken seriously as a law enforcement officer, which is something that should never be allowed to happen under any circumstances if people wish the law to be enforced in any reasonable manner.  I’m comic relief, and pretty much expendable as far as the plot is concerned.

I joined the rehearsals last week, and have spent every day but one since then learning the part, either in full rehearsals on campus or in meetings of “the Dogberry group” (so named for the Andy Griffith to my Barney Fife) that take place in a park here in town.  Somehow I have managed to learn my baker’s dozen lines and stand in the right places most of the time.

Actually, the hardest part so far has been not laughing out loud during the interrogation scene when my partner demands of a captured criminal, “WHAT … is your name!”  All I can think of at that point is “Arthur, King of the Britons!” and that is just another sign that I am old, old, old.

We open today.  Maybe.  If the thunderstorms hold off.  The set is huge and cannot be easily moved inside, so we’re just hoping that it stays dry from 7pm to 9pm.  It will be a good show.

If you’re anywhere near Our Little Town, you should come by!

I have enjoyed the production far more than I thought I would, mostly because the people involved have been a lot of fun and it has been fascinating getting to know them even the little bit that I have.  It’s the people who make anything enjoyable, really.  I don’t foresee any future career as an actor – honestly, if the math holds true my next foray into Shakespeare would be long after my allotted three score and ten – but it’s been a good time here and now. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Triumphant Return of Normal Rabbit Conditions

We’re back up to our full complement of rabbits now.

Milo, Milkshake, and Maybelline live in their hutches out in the back yard.  They are not luxury accommodations, but then they are inhabited by rabbits and – last I checked – rabbits are not all that interested in Danish Modern furniture or high-end electronics.  They’d probably chew on that sort of thing, and the furniture would end up looking like “College Student Eclectic” and the high end electronics would simply electrocute them.

So rustic it is.  They seem happy.

Except when they get a chance to escape, as happened over the weekend.  Milkshake and Milo share a common set of doors that need to be latched, and if they aren’t latched then the rabbits can push the doors open and jump down to the ground.

They’ve done this before, and mostly we find them hanging around the hutch with a slightly dazed expression on their faces, which is kind of hard to tell apart from the normal expression that rabbits wear unless you know them pretty well. 

This time, however, was different.  Milkshake and Milo are both guy rabbits, and when it’s just guys they can be stupid together without causing too much harm to anything.  But Maybelline is a girl rabbit.  When two guys are set loose in front of an available female the stupid can get ramped up to toxic levels remarkably quickly, and it’s the same with rabbits.

This is why we woke up Friday morning to a lawn full of rabbit fur and a dazed and vaguely triumphant-looking Milkshake standing woozily by the empty hutch.  Milo was nowhere to be seen. 

We looked for him, of course.  We looked at dusk and at dawn, when rabbits are most active.  We looked in the black raspberry bramble and the brush pile.  We left tubs of water out for him.  We thought about calling his name, but quickly realized that he is a rabbit and only marginally more intelligent than the chickens.  It’s not like he ever came when called before.

And then, just as hope was running out on Sunday, one of the neighbors behind us knocked on our door with Milo in her arms.

There was much rejoicing.

So now he’s back, safely locked away in his hutch.  We’re not sure what Milkshake thinks of all this, other than a sad sort of resignation about having to do it all over again next time they get out, but Milkshake will just have to deal with it.

It’s good to have you back, Milo.