Thursday, February 23, 2012


With Ken being in show biz, we do occasionally meet famous people.  It’s fortunate for me that this doesn’t happen more frequently, because I am not cool at it.

Mind you, I am much better now than I was years ago.  At a younger age, I could barely muster up my courage to let sound come out of my mouth. If it did, it was a strangled, pathetic, “eep.

Of course that is still a lot better than the more demonstrative version of nonverbal output which would sound something like, “BWWWAAAAHH!”

Nowadays I can manage much better, allowing actual words to form in a hearty, “Oh, ha, ha, yes, thanks, thanks, yes, oh, so good, so good, oh, heh, heh, yes, yes,  nice to meet me, too….er, nice to meet YOU too, ha, ha, ha!”

Ken likes to tell the story about Tennessee Williams (yes, the famous playwright) phoning our house, my picking up the phone and hearing him say, “This is Tennessee Williams. Is Ken there?”  I gurgled. No actual words came out. Unable to speak. Speechless. Mr. Williams was in Vancouver working on rewrites of a play being produced by the Vancouver Playhouse where Ken had daily contact with him. I met him only once – at a party held to welcome him. I gurgled. I so much wanted to tell the man that “Glass Menagerie” had meant everything to me as a kid in grade ten grasping for the first time that we are meant to identify with characters in a play or a novel. It meant that I aced English all through high school, went on to earn a BA in Literature and acquired a life-long love of theatre.  I said none of that. I seem to recall shaking his hand and saying, “eep.”

So this week, I was actually pretty proud of myself. I had a lovely, adult conversation with the mother of someone very famous. I was seated next to this charming woman at a dinner party honoring family and some of the participants in the production of “Tenderly: the Rosemary Clooney Story,” a world premiere that opened this week at the Victoria Theatre, where Ken is president and CEO.  My seatmate was Nina Clooney, wife of Nick Clooney, Rosemary’s brother. They live near Cincinnati. Mr. Clooney is a well-known, beloved broadcaster in our region. They are also George’s parents.

Now, I’m not really someone who goes goofy over celebrities. I don’t follow Hollywood gossip. I have no idea who is married to whom or who is breaking up with whomever else.  I really can’t even tell the difference between those talented, handsome boys, Brad, Matt and Leonardo. But, when it comes to George Clooney? Well, he does stand in a class of his own when it comes to handsome and talented, doesn’t he?

Ken doesn’t think that it’s likely that George will be coming to Dayton to see the play about his Aunt Rosemary.  Busy schedule, what with the Oscars this weekend and all.

But I‘ve been practicing what I will say to him if he does.


Friday, February 17, 2012


I know right now that I am going be a total wreck when “Downton Abbey” Season Two concludes on Sunday night.

This kind of thing has happened to me before. My devotion to British costume dramas began in 1971 when PBS first broadcast “Upstairs, Downstairs.” I was glued to the TV every Sunday that it played. I was bereft when it ended. Enduring all their tragedies and celebrating all their joys, I persevered with the Bellamy family (Upstairs) and their servants (Downstairs) as their fictional lives unfolded in 68 episodes from 1903 to 1930.  68 episodes! Epic!

Years later, I watched the entire series again, twice actually, in reruns. I was a mess for weeks each time. By the third viewing, even though I absolutely knew what was going to happen, I became completely unglued anyway. I knew those characters so well; the tragedies that befell some of them were unbearably sad. Why do we love to watch programs that make us weep this much?

Now the same thing is happening all over again with “Downton Abbey.” But what surprises me this time is how quickly I’ve gotten sucked in. So far, with only four episodes in Season One and seven in Season Two, we’ve gone from 1912, mourned the sinking of the Titanic, ripped right through WW I, survived the Spanish Flu pandemic after the war ((well, some characters survived, and I knew ahead of time which one would perish. Didn’t you? Of course you did!) and we are now firmly in 1919 where we await more upheaval. It took years for “Upstairs Downstairs” to cover the exact same story arc.

And yet, I’m hooked.

Is it because the production is just so darn good that they’ve been able to cram all that drama and emotion into 11 short weeks? I mean! At the end of each show, Ken and I have turned to each other, exhausted, and said, “Wow! Could they have packed any more into that episode!?!”

Is it because it is so gorgeous to look at that we are willing to overlook occasional corny dialogue (dropped into the otherwise luscious writing) inserted to drive the plot along? (For instance, at the end of an episode in Season One, Lord Grantham says to his wife, Cora, “Our lives will change in more ways than we can imagine.” A bit wince-evoking, but handy shorthand in comparison to the more languorous “Upstairs Downstairs” in which they would have more subtlety demonstrated that fact over 4 or 5 episodes.)

Or is it because we are all so conditioned to our modern world of instant communications that we now all have a sad case of Adult Attention Deficit Disorder? Do the producers believe they risk losing us if the action isn’t compressed into sound bites rather than delivering storyline to us in long, lingering language;  the bygone televisual equivalent of waiting for the post to arrive?

No matter. I know I will be sobbing on Sunday night and already aching for Season Three.  Kleenex, please!

Friday, February 10, 2012


OR: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Puppy Kindergarten

Those of us who have not raised children do get opportunities to use our latent parenting skills at the dog park.

On Monday mornings I take Riley to a big open field where he can run and play with canine pals he has known since he was a pup. On any particular Monday, this informal play group consists of ten dogs, give or take. They all get along quite well. We rarely see even a slight breach of dog manners among any of them. Once, Jeb, the Bloodhound, (dog names have been disguised to protect their privacy) piddled on my foot. I guess I was standing still too long.  But that’s hardly a serious transgression. I washed my sneakers, but to this day my left foot holds a particular fascination for dogs I encounter.

Normally, Riley is very excited to get there. He has been one of the main “playas” in the group. But for the last couple of weeks, he has been quite indifferent to interacting with the others, almost mopey, preferring to snack on deer poop. This leaves his frustrated dog mom, saying things like, “C’mon, Riley, you’re here to play!” (But does he listen to his mother?)

Meanwhile, the Golden Retrievers, McGregor and Nutmeg, wrestle.  Jeb and a cock-a-poo, named Regis, chase each other in crazy circles. Connie, a Lab, and her Chihuahua-sized, mixed-breed sidekick, Gidget, run off to explore in the woods nearby. Lucy just runs from one end of the field to the other because she is a Springer Spaniel and can’t think of what else to do because she can’t find any birds to flush. Sergei, a St. Bernard we call “The Cop,” polices the action in case anyone gets hurt and needs rescuing. And then there is Patrick, a Golden with a furious obsession for ball-chasing.

I’m beginning to think that Riley’s indifference to playing is because he’s losing his competitive edge to Patrick. Any ball ever thrown in any direction, Patrick will race at breakneck speed to retrieve. Even if he has gone long for a ball lobbed off one of those Chucker things that let you fling a ball much further than you could ever throw it, Patrick will loop around and intercept a ball that I throw for Riley in the opposite direction. And if another dog is in the right place at the right time to actually get a ball, Patrick descends upon the hapless canine, growling and snarling until the dog gives it up. Patrick is fast on his feet and can cram three tennis balls in his mouth at the same time, so he can easily out-retrieve anyone on the field. Call him a Wide Retriever. Seriously, he could play for the Giants.  

Meanwhile, when Riley starts off to run for a ball, only to see it snatched away from him by this ball-hogging over-achiever, he will stop, look back at me and sigh, like, “Aw, gee, Patrick got it again.”  So, while we wait for Patrick’s mom to pry balls out of his mouth so we can resume play, my fur son, feeling sorry for himself, ambles away to find more deer poop. I feel bad for the little guy. It’s like he’s losing his self-esteem.

What’s a mom to do?  Do I continue to take him to the field because he should learn to deal with the other kids and the fresh air will do him good? Or bench him so he doesn’t suffer further humiliation (and gastric upset from the deer poop)?

I did a little research. Cesar Milan, the famed Dog Whisperer, talks about group dynamics and the shifting subtleties of dog hierarchies. Maybe Riley just accepts that Patrick is an alpha ball retriever. “Mom, that’s the way it is.”

My friend, Susie, sent me an article by Dr. Karen Becker, a veterinarian/behaviorist who says that it is strictly a human idea that a dog ought to be sociable in all situations. Dogs have a whole definition of playground etiquette that is purely canine in nature. We can’t expect them to play with every Tom, Dick and Hairy that happens along. She says they need: 1. good, reliable buddies. Riley’s got his BFF, Dover who is his best playmate, 2. structured play such as at day care. Riley goes to Club K-9 twice a week, so we’ve got that covered as well, and 3. lots of vigorous walks. Got it.

I think it really comes down to some basic wisdom of the “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” kind. Be nice to each other. Share your toys.

So, I’m thinking I might forget about the Monday morning play group. It hasn’t been much fun for either Riley or me lately, both of us just standing around in a field watching other dogs play.

I guess my parenting style in conflict resolution is to retreat, tail between my legs.  Just call me Old Yeller.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Carpe that diem!

I don’t like the term, “Bucket List.”  It was a catchy name for the movie – you know, the one in which two older guys, facing their mortality, develop a list of things they want to accomplish before kicking the bucket.  And it set off a trend among aging Boomers to take the trips they always intended to take or embark on the careers they always dreamed about having. That part is o.k.  But what I resent is the associated implication that EVERYONE’S list is supposed to include swimming with dolphins, sky-diving, sailing around the world solo and ascending Kilimanjaro. All noble ambitions, but frankly, I just don’t need the extra pressure.

Having never been all that daring a soul, the way I look at it, I’m living on the edge if I try a new flavor of yogurt. If I were to make a list of things I want to accomplish before my last gasp, I know darn well that a small voice in my head will say, “Ooooo, I don’t know! That sounds pretty dangerous! Are you sure you want to walk the dog in a different direction today?”  Some of us are just not built for thrill-seeking.

Example. My friend Marian, who is an accomplished horseback rider, invited me to join her on a ride. My first reaction was, “OH, I would LOVE to!” I’ve always loved horses and always wanted to ride as a kid.  I checked with my chiropractor. His reaction: “Are you kidding? With your back?” So goes my life.

But, a couple of weeks ago, as I turned the corner into the final year of my 50s, I started to mull over what it really means to carpe diem. I began to wonder if I should push my boundaries a bit. So, I thought, O.K., what crazy capers could I get up to? What wild ideas would release my suppressed, inner adventuress? I’ve started a list of one day escapades.  Here it is:

1.       Go out for dinner without making a reservation.

2.       Go to the theatre and not sit in an aisle seat.

3.       Finally try Pad Thai.

4.       Buy an appliance and not send in the warranty card.

5.       Go to bed without flossing my teeth.

6.       Shop at a different Walgreens.

7.       Get a “One Hour” pedicure instead of the “Express.”

8.       Fly somewhere without taking Xanax.

9.       Run the dishwasher without the rinse agent.

10.   Wear shoes without my orthotic inserts.

Wow! I’m feeling mad cap already! Whatever will be next? Skipping Metamucil for a day?