Tragedy, Comedy, Farce–Christmas!

Everyone has a first love.  Mine was Kelly Boucher, the most perfect 15-year-old goddess who ever walked the planet.  The first extended writing I ever did was about Act One of my love for Kelly.  It was 60 or so typewritten pages, written in the summer of 1974, when I too was 15, and it detailed how Kelly and I had come together on a magical church-youth-group roller-skating evening in April, how I’d managed to charm her with my inability to skate and my self-effacing manner, and how, at the end of the evening, she’d agreed to be my girlfriend.  On the car ride home, holding hands in the back seat, when the parent-driver pulled into McDonald’s, I oh-so-gallantly bought a large order of French Fries to share with this most beautiful of creatures.  There was no kiss goodbye, of course, but I was head over heels. I spent the next day in a fugue state, reportedly saying little but “Oh, wow!” as I went for a long walk through the woods with my best friend, Jonas.  Because Kelly lived in the next town over, a four-mile walk, I wouldn’t be able to see her until the next weekend at the earliest, but I could live on dreams and phone calls.  I was in love.

I mentioned this was Act One.  While I’d thought I was the lead role in a romantic comedy, it turned tragic for me within a couple weeks.  Kelly went to her sister’s wedding in Newport, Rhode Island, and there met 17-year-old Butch Something-or-Other with a driver’s license, a convertible sports car to use that license with, and a mustache.  At 15, I had none of these, and no prospects of them.  Did I mention his family owned a florist shop? Kelly broke up with me, and who could blame her, really, to become the girlfriend of the sophisticated if distant, Butch.  Curtain down on my desolation.

Act Two came six months later.  It was brief, almost a snippet, but led me back to a comic turn. As I’ve mentioned, Kelly and I lived in different towns, traveling in different circles, and I believe she spent most of the summer in Newport, smelling flowers and driving with the top down.  Although it took entire days to get over Kelly, I’d pulled myself together by summer, and that fall played varsity soccer, scoring goals in the first two games of the season, a season in which we were runner-ups for the state championship.  I’d had a number of intervening girlfriends (that number is two), and by Christmas, 1974, was single again, and much more a man of the world.  Being that bon vivant, I decided it would be a good and proper thing to attend a Christmas Eve service at the roller-skate-sponsoring church in Kelly’s town.  I hitchhiked the four miles—this was a time, boys and girls, when that was a normal form of teenage-boy transportation—and walked into the service.  It was cold and overcast, threatening snow, though none had fallen yet. Because the church was crowded, I didn’t notice everyone there, but after we’d sung, and listened, and sung some more, I saw her. Kelly.

She told me she’d broken up with Butch in the early fall.  He’d grown tired of the two-hour drive to pick her up in New Hampshire for weekends, and become more persistent and insistent than Kelly liked in wanting her to relinquish certain intimacies.  I asked her how she’d gotten to the church, and she said her parents had dropped her off, assuming she’d find a ride home.  Since I still had neither license nor car, I asked her to let me walk her the mile or so to her house.  She agreed.

If this were a TV movie, I’d vomit at this next fact, but snowflakes were slowly drifting down as we left.  On Christmas Eve.  How cliché. Still, it happened. We walked through Christmas snow, not even holding hands but, still, walking together.  All the previous spring’s joy poured back on me for that 20 minutes or so. When we got to her house, we didn’t hug.  We didn’t kiss.  We shook hands, for Christ’s sake, and she went inside while I stuck out my thumb at the next driver.

That may be my happiest Christmas memory, that walk with Kelly Boucher, six months after she’d dumped me, ending in the chastest fashion imaginable.

(Addendum:  I spoke of Act One as a tragedy.  Act Two was a romantic comedy of the highest sort.  Act Three?  It approached farce, certainly nothing befitting a conclusion for the first two acts. Six months later, Kelly and I became boyfriend and girlfriend again and remained so for five or eight months, depending on how one measures time during our innumerable breakups.  There was much good in the romance, and I do miss her, but none of it matched those first two acts.)

 

Another Georgian Idea: Democracy!

George of the ginseng and the “more solutions than problems” wrote me about a column I wrote about my “writing process.”  Honestly, the column was more about how I’ve always got 15 or 20 different columns started, finished but unpublished, or somewhere in between.  As illustration, I listed 15 or 20 titles of documents on my Mac desktop—“Ghosts of Animals,” “The Pastoral Heart of the Hermit,” “Edifice Complexes,” that kind of thing.  George suggested I take five of them and ask column readers to suggest which one single column I should complete for next Saturday.

This idea seems harebrained to me, but I do love George, and he needs a new J-O-B (see https://tinywhitebox.com/2017/12/14/always-more-solutions-than-problems-george-needs-a-job/), so here goes.  Below are five column possibilities (none Christmas-related) for Saturday, December 23.  Please vote through comments on tinywhitebox.com, Facebook, or email (keithhoward@gmail.com) by next Friday, and I’ll follow your commands, completing the chosen column for Saturday.  Oh, yes, and some lucky random voter will win a cup of coffee with me and the chance to choose the Saturday, December 30, topic.  (NOTE:  Single women voters between 45 and 65 will be randomly selected at an extraordinary rate.)

In Praise of Beverly Cleary

I was a wicked boy drawn to normality, at least in the books I read.  While I was injecting chaos into my second, third and fourth grade classrooms with frustratingly disruptive and subversive behaviors, I was also going to the town library at least once a week to fill up my book bag with literature.  In the last sentence, I used the word “subversive,” which sounds as though I were a member of a Communist cell or part of the Elementary Wing of the Students for a Democratic Society.  I wasn’t, although had either the American Communist Party or the SDS recruited me I would have been open to an offer.  Instead, I was trying to subvert the order of the classroom, planting ladyfinger firecrackers at the nexus of authority and boredom.  I just liked to watch the fur fly, honestly.  But not in my reading.

I tried to start a cult once

I tried to start a cult once, and despite miracles, a slogan and an interested group of followers, it never took off.  Some of you have read about the K-SOFA cult, where a group of my students murdered three people thinking they were doing me a favor.  Sorry, that was the premise for a novel.  Some of you may have read about the K-SOFA cult, where a group of my students murdered the writing of a bunch of writers in order to vote me to the top of a popularity list.  That was NOT my cult, that cult formed itself organically.  My cult, the Peace, Love and Death Cult was formed in the spring of 1975, when I was a junior in high school. Come April, normal boys thoughts turn to love; mine gravitated toward organizing a group of followers to do my bidding.  (On second thought, it could be I was thinking of nubile female followers whose bidding would be very different from that of my male postulants.  I’m thinking of you, (insert name of girl I had a crush on as a junior in high school—actual name has been deleted on legal advice.  I mean, when I was 16, I could have a crush on a 15-year-old girl, but, at 58, to talk about the desirability of that girl is really creepy.  Even if she’s 57.)

The Tiny White Box is a Tool, Not a Goal

The Tiny White Box is a tool not a goal, a path not a destination.  A year ago, the notion of living in a 72-square-foot custom-made box hadn’t really even entered my thoughts.

A year ago, I was more concerned about pushing through salary increases for my staff than about designing the Tiny White Box.  We’d just tripled our income from the year before, and I wanted to make sure the staff’s work was recognized every other Wednesday in their paychecks, rather than with an offhanded but sincere “thank you” from the board of directors.  They all got significant raises, for which I am glad, and of which I am proud.

Drinking from a Dead Man’s Cup

For a non-religious agnostic, I write about spiritual matters a lot.  As I’ve said before, I pray about 47 times a day, and always the same prayer, “Thank you, God.”  This prayer is uttered, internally or externally, with no concern about whether there is any receiver for the message.  Expressing gratitude seems to make my life more content, more serene and happier, so I do it with the same attitude I eat bananas—they do me no harm and seem to prevent leg cramps.  Could it be prayer as a form of spiritual sustenance is a not fully explored avenue?  Perhaps some religious nutritionist would like to explore this and include me in the acknowledgements portion of her journal article.

Marie Myers and Hogan’s Heroes

When I was six in 1965, World War II had only been over for 20 years. Think about that. Twenty years ago today we (and by we, I mean old farts like me) were focused on blue dresses and dried semen; when this story took place, almost every dad I knew had been part of the military in a huge war.  Every evening at dusk, all the dads, unconsciously, I think, would be outside, walking the perimeter of their property, making sure the enemy wasn’t near.  Many of the TV shows I watched were either set in or informed by The War.  From McHale’s Navy to Combat! to Hogan’s Heroes to Leave it to Beaver (Ward was a Seabee and referred to it occasionally) to, even, The Dick Van Dyke Show (as I recall, Rob and Laura Petrie met on a USO tour in the Pacific.)  World War Two was so much a part of the cultural DNA, I didn’t recognize it was even there, if that makes any sense.  Even my mom had Home-Front war stories, although she was just a kid of 12 when The War started.

Vote early!  Vote often!  And help find George a job!

 

 

Death to Meta! My Navel on the other hand . . .

“Meta” has become a word without my knowledge or permission.  Interviews with interviewers about interviewing are meta.  Songs about making songs are meta.  Murders of murderers may not be meta yet, but, mark my words, they will be. “Meta,” to me and to all right-thinking Americans, means goddamned navel-gazing, getting so caught up in what you’re doing that you think it’s of interest to other people.  It’s not.  Nobody cares about your navel.

Thank you for letting me get that off my chest.  Now, let me tell you about my darling little belly button, errrr … writing process.  Regular readers—or even occasional readers—or by this point, ANY readers—know my brain doesn’t travel well-worn paths.  I may have a lot of thoughts, but developing a thought takes energy—of which I’ve got plenty—and focus—which is, if not mythical, also not a practice of mine.  Because of this, when I have a brainstorm, I need to start a new document with that title.  At any time, I may have 30 or 40 documents on my Mac desktop.  For example, here are some I’ve got there now:

 

Marie Myers and Hogan’s Heroes

Sean McDonald Visit in January

Update on Shampoo

Living off the Fat of the Lam

Real Men

Secret Clubs

In Praise of Beverly Cleary

So Because Thou Art Neither Hot Nor Cold

Drinking from a Dead Man’s Cup

The Problem with Programs

Too Goddamned Old to have a Puppy

Tonio K. List

Magic is a Time and Not a Place

Ghosts of Animals

The Pastoral Heart of the Hermit

The Tiny White Box is a Tool, not a Goal

Obituaries

Twelve Years on with the Mac

Feedback from Three Women

Edifice Complex

Keith Escape Vehicle

Lethargy, Larceny and Lust

Mrs. Fullam and the Snake

Getting Rid of a BVM

I Tried to Start a Cult Once

 

 

Each of these files has at least a few sentences.  Some are nearly complete, and you may see them later this week.  Most are somewhere in between.  While most get written eventually, some which were timely when jotted down, now would be ridiculous. Until a couple weeks ago, I still had a column on warm weather deep into the fall. Since it’s now single degrees above or below outside outside and snowing, that column has gone into the trash.

When I wake up in the morning, before I get out of bed and begin the day, I try to decide what column to write that day.  About a third of the time, I’ve got something hidden in a corner of my mind, and that becomes the morning’s work—real writing takes place in the afternoon. Sometimes. Two-thirds of the time, though, the kernel of an idea simply becomes another document on the desk.

Once I’ve completed the day’s column, I scan through the docs, and one or another catches my eye, as though it’s waiting for me to complete it.  This very column you’re reading now, for instance, has been sitting on that desktop, waiting to be completed.  Here, then, I’ve described the process by which this column came into being. Very meta, a word I’d use if I were a horse’s ass.

Instead, please admire my belly button.  It’s an innie!

Always More Solutions than Problems:  George Needs a Job

My friend, George, who earlier readers of this column will remember as the ginseng evangelist, is a wise man in many ways.  He’s also a freaking lunatic, as evidenced by his decision, when I offered him an all-expense-paid trip to anywhere in the country, to haul us off to Wasau, Wisconsin, in July, to study domestic ginseng cultivation.  That’s right, with New Orleans, San Francisco, the Rocky Mountains and the glorious Southwest on the table, George chose rural Wisconsin so he could learn how to grow ginseng.  That’s the lunatic part.

The evidence for wisdom is contained in a pearl he has shared with me in a variety of different circumstances:  there are always more solutions than problems.  I repeat:  there are always more solutions than problems.  This gnomic morsel, I think, suggests that every problem has a variety of solutions so the universe of solutions is larger than the galaxy of problems.  Something like that.  This has given me hope in many difficult situations: if I take my time, examine the problem from different angles and breathe, a solution will appear.  Since it’s always worked—I am a man with no problems right now other than single-digit temperatures outside the Tiny White Box and a particularly gassy Sam (is a dog) inside—I have to give George credit.

I first met George four years ago, when he was completing a stay as a resident of the state facility for the convicted and I was director of Liberty House. Since that time, George was first a good resident, then a good volunteer, then a good paid employee of Liberty House in charge of donations and volunteers.  If you’ve dropped anything off at Liberty House in the last three years, George is the energetic 70-year-old man who looks like a professor of history, a Vermont shopkeeper or an ardent vegetarian, all depending on your background.

I left Liberty House in August. Things change. Priorities change. Despite George having become a fixture, organizing the food and clothing so generously donated by the community, his position has been eliminated effective December 31.  I assume there are reasons for this decision, but it hasn’t been any of my business for the last four months. George and his future, though, are my business.  Hence, this.

I’d like to help George find a job before Christmas. He’s hard-working as hell, smart as hell, talented as hell, honest as hell and, despite his lunacy, a great employee. He started off as a volunteer at Liberty House, soon spending so much time that I couldn’t help but create a paid position for him.  In the time I’ve known George, he has been scrupulously, religiously, annoyingly honest about anything not belonging to him.  One time in particular, while he was going through donations, George found a brown leather belt with a zipper on the back.  When he opened it, $600 was inside the money belt.  With no cameras to record his behavior and no way to identify the donor, most men would have applied the moral calculus of “finders keepers, losers weepers” and pocketed the money.  Not George.  He brought me every penny of it.  This kind of thing happened over and over, George finding large and small amounts of money inside pockets while processing donated clothing, and bringing the cash to be listed as donations to Liberty House.

George, age 70 but with the energy of a man 20 years younger, seeks employment.  His organizational skills are outstanding as is his character.  While he can be a pain in the ass, he works as hard as three other employees.  I would trust him in any situation, and he has shared Thanksgiving with my daughters and me on more than one occasion, not as an act of charity on our part, but because George is a good guy and a family friend.

If you need an employee who will give you every bit of energy and knowhow that he’s got, and will work until the job is done, please email me (keithhoward@gmail.com ) your contact information and I’ll pass it on to George.  If you end up hiring him, you may get a dollop of wisdom like, “There are always more solutions than problems.”  If you or your family is planning a trip, though, don’t let George know.  He’s a freaking lunatic in that area.

 

My Muse Lies Buried on Woodman Avenue: Little Fanny

Little Fanny was three months old when she died in 1861.  When I was six in 1965, I discovered her grave in a falling-down cemetery in Durham, NH.  She continues to haunt and amuse me to this day.  Let me explain.

Fanny was born to Charles and Victoria Woodman, who are also buried in that same graveyard.  Judging by the size of the size of the funereal phallus over Charles’ grave, the family was wealthy—and Charles was compensating for some part of his life with that granite obelisk pointing rigid toward the sky.  Their family burying ground was surrounded by cast-iron rails barely held in place by eight granite hitching posts, and sat past the end of Woodman Avenue.

I discovered Fanny—or her grave at least—when I was exploring the territory near our new house on a new road—Beards Landing.  To my seven-year-old mind, Fanny’s death 104 years before, placed her during the precolonial phase of Durham.  After all, before television was “a long time ago,” so before electricity was one nugget of time, encompassing an ice age, the age of Indians, pre-revolutionary and revolutionary ages and the Civil War.  After that, to a second grader, time became knowable, measurable.  It became time instead of simply part of the olden days.

Over time, Little Fanny has appeared in my fiction in a bunch of ways, both implicit and explicit.  If I’d never spent time turning Fanny’s death over and over in my head, I don’t think I’d be the man I am today.  That an infant who died more than 150 years ago continues to have as much substance for me as many folks I’ve known in real life says something, although I’m not sure what.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

“Because James Beard was murdered,” said Jacob, in a soft, conspiratorial voice.  “It was back in 1675 and he was a wealthy landowner.  Down at the end of our street, where the Keesey’s house is, he had a fine wooden house.  That’s exactly where his house stood.  He lived there with his wife, Mary, a couple of servants, and the pride and joy of his life, his little nine-year-old girl, Fanny.”

Scott giggled at the word.  Jacob ignored him, hypnotizing himself with the tale of long-ago evil.  He felt closer to manhood than to snickering over fannies.

“One day in early November, he was coming home from hunting,” Jacob continued.  “The sun was just starting to set and he wanted to be inside before dark on account of there had been rumors of Indian activity.  James had killed a wolf on general principles but hadn’t seen a single deer.  He walked down the strip of land that today bears his name and saw his house in flames.  In those days, of course, there was no fire department.  People just worried about getting as much of their stuff out of the building as they could before it collapsed.  So James went running down the street, although it wasn’t a street then, of course.  Maybe it wasn’t even a path.   Still, he ran as fast as he could.

“When he got to his burning house,” Jacob continued, “though, he found an even worse surprise.  Right down at the water’s edge was a war party of Indians, three of them still carrying the torches they had used to ignite James’ house.  The Indians laughed when they saw James approach.  He raised his musket to fire at them, but he saw they had Little Fanny.  He didn’t want to risk shooting her.

“He searched the Indian band, looking for his wife, but she was nowhere to be seen.  Then he looked up at the house.  There was his lovely wife, face up in the dirt and naked from the waist down.  Her wrists were tied together with a brown leather strap and it looked like gallons of blood was pouring out of her skull.

“Although people don’t talk about it much,” said Jacob, “in those days the Indians took a lot of white slaves, mainly young girls.  Fearing Fanny was destined for slavery and surmising what the Indians had done to his wife, James wanted to do something.  He wanted to hurt every single one of the 20 Indians now standing and laughing at him.  He saw a group of them standing away from Fanny and decided to take aim.

“Before he could even raise his muzzle loader,” said Jacob, “an arrow got him through the heart.  The Indian chief came over and cut off his head with a single tomahawk blow, just like Gary did with the catfish.  In fact, ancestors of those crows we saw probably dined on James and Mary Beard’s remains that very afternoon.  To add insult to injury, and probably as a warning to the other settlers, the Indians took James Beard’s head and literally posted it, sticking it on a post that was part of a primitive clothesline.”

“Wait a second,” said Scott.  “I’m a little bit confused.  If the mother and father were both killed, how do you know this story?”

“Fanny was taken north toward Montreal,” said Jacob.  “She was freed when she was 14.  She came back to tell her story and the story of her family.  It’s one of a bunch of escaped slave narratives.”

“So, who told you about it?” asked Scott.  “How did you find out?”

“I read the town history, dipshit!” said Jacob.  “It’s all there.”

See, Little Fanny, birthed and deathed during the Civil War, became the victim of an Indian massacre and kidnapping almost 200 years before she didn’t even crawl the earth.  It may be that Joyce Maynard, the novelist, essayist and Durham native, who lived, I believe, right up Woodman Avenue from the graveyard, visited Little Fanny for inspiration.  Because I’ve always had a crush on Joyce, without having met her except when, I think, I was her paperboy, I’d be willing to share Little Fanny with her.

Or Little Fanny’s inspiration may be mine, all mine.

Science, Creepy Crawlies and My Basement Cell

My parents were good parents, a sentence I need before I tell you about my time in a basement crawl space.  Oh, they didn’t lock me in there—I loved that crawl space, an eight-by-eight cement area under the family room, lit by a single bulb that had an electrical outlet attached at its base.  The reason I want you to know my parents were good parents is that I risked the family’s safety, the house’s existence and, most important to me, my life almost every single time I was down there.  Let me explain—and remember my mother and father are both dead so the Department of Children, Youth and Families can’t touch them.

As a seven-year-old kid, I was strange.  (As a 59-year-old man, I am strange, but, I think, in different ways.)  When we moved into our brand-new house on Beards Landing, I had a big room with big closets and we had a good-sized front yard with acres of woods behind us.  Since we arrived in July, I think, those woods were mine to explore for the first four or five months—there was an abandoned, uncapped well to bring an old ladder to and explore, a dangerously high rock face to climb and a dam to walk across.  It was a great place to be a little kid, except there were no other kids on my street that first summer and autumn, and my kid sister was too young to take on real adventures.  Still, I could be Daniel Boone, a Civil War soldier, an Indian and a dinosaur hunter in an afternoon.  By mid-November, though, with the days getting colder and shorter, I needed to find adventure inside the house.

The crawl space was in the corner of the basement, beside the washer and dryer and next to the huge oil tank.  Since I was on pace to become a midget, I needed to bring a chair over to the hole in the wall that was its door—maybe four feet off the ground.  From the first mid-November day I climbed in, I knew where I’d be wintering.  Here, unimaginably, was a Keith-sized room, with a four-foot-high “ceiling” composed of the two-by-fours that were the family room’s floor support.  The single light and outlet made this into heaven.  I immediately brought a couple blankets and a small chair down, along with some of my favorite books and made myself a home within a home.

My father, unlike most other dads in Durham, a little college town, made his living with his hands, creating dentures for dentists in the seacoast area.  Mornings, he wore a sport coat, shirt and tie to drive to work, but there he put on a scientist’s lab robe to prevent being covered by grinding dust and other byproducts.  I didn’t really know how he did what he did, but whenever I went to the dental lab with him, he’d let me take extra fake teeth and sheets of dental wax, the same pink color and thickness of the bubble gum inside trading-card packs, but about the size of a piece of paper folded into fourths.  I squirreled these away in a cardboard box in the corner of my new home, pulling the box out occasionally to melt the wax with the light bulb’s heat then making dental sculptures of nightmarish shape.  Soon the lightbulb would become so covered with wax residue that the only thing that could be done was to use a paper towel to clean it, hoping I wouldn’t break it.  If second-grade Show-and-Tell had been the debut of my artworks, I likely would have spent less time in the principal’s office and more time with the school psychologist.

If my mother had any concerns about her oldest child and only son spending hours at a time inside a womb in the basement, I don’t remember her mentioning them.  At Christmas, I got a chemistry set, along with a Creepy-Crawly machine and lots of Plasti-Goop.  Unless you are, maybe, 55 to 63, you may have no idea about Plasti-Goop, so it was some proprietary plastic in small bottles that was sold with metal molds and a Creepy-Crawly “machine”—a tiny hot plate that heated the substance until it became rubbery spiders or rings or rats—the kind of thing sold in machines outside a supermarket.  Of course, the Creepy-Crawly Machine came with all kinds of warnings about adult supervision and fire safety, but those warnings were on the box that went out with the December 26 trash.  The chemistry set, the Goop, the molds and the Machine all disappeared into my laboratory.   Then began the experiments.

When I use the term “experiments,” it suggests the application of the scientific method, which involves generating a hypothesis, creating a way to test that hypothesis and then reporting the results.  Of course, I was doing nothing of the kind.  I was mixing poisonous chemicals with abandon, overloading an electrical circuit with the Creepy-Crawly machine, melting wax on a light bulb and generally walking a dangerous ledge.  If I’d needed to generate a hypothesis, it might have been something like: “Given a curious and secretive seven-year-old boy, a variety of ways to die and a small private space, the gods that oversee fools, drunks and little kids will prevent death before spring comes and it’s time to continue exploring outdoor life-threatening activities.”

The results were positive—I lived.  If you’re a seven-year-old kid, though, please don’t replicate this experiment.  After all, you might not have parents as good as mine.

The Closest I’ll Come to a Blog Post–Newsy, Upbeat and Short

I write this in Manchester, where I’ve been visiting since Wednesday—to attend the Army-Navy Game fundraiser at Murphy’s Taproom Saturday, then to collect on my daughter Libby’s birthday present to me:  two tickets to see Cirque du Soleil on Ice on Sunday.  What follows is not a review of either event, but some random thoughts.

This is J.P. Marzullo and Jeff Chidester’s third Army-Navy game viewing party, a chance for representatives of the two branches to talk crap to each other, eat and bid on some pretty amazing items.  I can tell I’ve buried the lead, though.  Army won!  I managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done while supporting Liberty House, and watching Army win.  At the beginning of the party, the Honorable Al Baldasaro, a retired Marine, declared himself rooting for Navy, since the Marines are, technically, part of the Navy, although most right-thinking people see the Navy as the woman’s auxiliary of the Marines.  Although I didn’t have a chance to check with Al at the end of the game, I’m fairly certain he’d changed his allegiance midway through, when he saw the light—that Marines have much more allegiance to infantrymen than they do to sailor boys.  Also, Army won.  I passed up a chance at the greatest prank weapon ever—a surprise concert by a New Hampshire men’s chorus at a place and time of my choosing—and let Al’s wife, Judy have it.  Just imagine the fun I could have had, though, assigning the chorus to appear at a friend’s wedding to sing “The Man Who Got Away,” “Second-Hand Rose,” “Me and Mrs. Jones” and other songs of faithless love.  Or:  the men’s chorus singing “Sixteen Tons” and “Working on the Chain Gang” at a friend who’s cleaning his yard.  Or:  “You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful and You’re Mine” at Roy Moore’s swearing-in ceremony.  You get the idea.  If there is one. I also had a chance to catch up with a lot of people at the fundraiser, hearing their complaints and joys and general gossip. While Liberty House is permanently in my rear-view mirror, it’s nice to still be part of the community.

Libby and I had a magical, wonderful time at Cirque du Soleil, although I’ll never be able to write those words without double-checking I’ve got the spelling right.  Like “parallel,” “harass,” and “perseverance,” no matter what letters I put down, they seem wrong.  The show had a story, I suppose, and Libby tried to explain it to me, but what really mattered to me was seeing the skating, acrobatics and gymnastics of the performers; I actually cried out “No” at one particularly difficult and dangerous stunt, embarrassing (another word I look up) Libby no end.  With two large pretzels, a diet Coke and an enthusiastic crowd around me, I was transported back to being a child at the circus.  Luckily, Libby was there to hold my hand during the scary parts and give me a patient smile when I applauded too long.  Without reservation, I can recommend Cirque du Soleil, and would suggest you buy me a ticket and take me the next time any of their performances are in town.