Friday, November 27, 2015
The cover of this Australian book published in 2003
underscores what was then the beginning of the internet age. I have no idea where the publisher located
this image of mine which was an article about live entertainment bars for the
Georgia Straight. The article was written by John Lekich with whom I have collaborated in some interesting projects like this one.
One of the
women in the photograph was an Iranian who danced divinely and was in my tango
class at the Polish Community Centre on King Edward and Fraser. The other woman
was an Argentine whose name I have forgotten as that of the young man sipping on
the years I have had quite a few book covers. This one is the most visually
interesting but so is this one.
A Child’s Christmas In Vancouver & No Sugar Plums
Thursday, November 26, 2015
A father, even a middling on like I was, knows that Christmas
can never be Christmas without the input and participation of children.
This meant that for many years Christmas with my two
daughters and two granddaughters was that inevitable personal torture of
sitting through another Nutcracker.
The last one I ever attended ended with a big
bang as my two granddaughters and I shared crepes with the Sugar Plum Fairy
But there is another Christmas tradition that has been afoot
now in Vancouver. The Arts Club Theatre Company mounts one or two Christmas
plays every year around now.
My granddaughter Lauren, 13 (in that in-between stage
that one moment makes her a child and at another an adult woman) and I caught
both A Christmas Story (on November 11th) and It’s A Wonderful Life
last night. The former is playing at the Stanley the latter at the Granville
Island Stage. I am familiar with both plays particularly It’s a Wonderful Life.
Alone both plays would have dragged on. But watching my Lauren’s face brought
back for me a vision that I was there for the first time.
Seeing (experiencing) something for the first time is
perhaps one of the wonders of youth. Not too long ago while driving in
Vancouver I was listening to a Beethoven piano bagatelle. It was so spectacular
that I stopped and called my Vancouver Symphony pianist friend Linda Lee
Thomas. Her husband Jon Washburn answered. I told him of my excitement. His
comment I have never forgotten, “Ah to listen to something for the first time!”
He said it in a way that made it clear that my gain was his loss.
Both plays, A Christmas Story (with direction and
choreography by Valerie Eastman) and It’s a Wonderful Life directed by Santa’s
first cousin Dean Paul Gibson have the expected but necessary in my books schmaltz
and both use that waning expression of our times “merry Christmas”. Both
feature children in the cast and a rosy Christmas of Christmases past before
the advent of Black Fridays.
For those who might have gotten this far in this blog I
will reveal below (well below) my connection (as a child) with a Daisy BB gun which
is the underlying theme of A Christmas Story.
It is It’s a Wonderful Life (with just the right amount of
un-tampering of a good thing by Dean Paul Gibson) that made last night a
special night for my Lauren and her grandfather.
It’s a Wonderful Life, the Vancouver version, rotates
around three actors. One is angel Clarence played by Bernard Cuffling, the very
warm Mary Bailey played by Jennifer Lines (is there any young boy that did not
at least one time fall for a woman like her?) and the always dazzling guilty
pleasure (I plead no excuse for that) of watching Lindsey Angell (as Violet)
walk around in those dresses (costume design by Rebeckka Sarensen-Kjelstrup).
Angell’s Violet I am sure could make the wheelchair ridden nasty man Henry
Potter (played by Alex Willows) jump up from it.
I propose right now that Mr. Millerd consider mounting A
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
with Angell as Maggie. I can’t wait for that Teddy. Big Daddy Pollitt, naturally would be played by David Marr, Uncle Billy in It's Wonderful Life.
But it is Bernard Cuffling
who makes It’s a Wonderful
Life the kind of play I can see over and over every year. To watch what
Cuffling does with the two grabbed bullets from the air is always a dazzling
surprise even though I know what’s coming. Cuffling is now 70 and I know that
Joseph and his Boss will make sure (with some help from Millerd) to surprise us all with his
delightful performance for many Christmases more.
After the show Mr. Gibson satisfied my whim to photograph
Clarence the Angel (with his wings) with my granddaughter. As I told Lauren, “One
day when you have children and you tell them that you once posed with a real
angel they will not believe you.” Her quick reply, was, “I will have the
photograph to show them.”
In 1954 when I was 12 my family and I moved to Mexico
City. For that first Christmas I demanded a Daisy BB rifle. I have to point out
here that I was a tad more sophisticated than Ralphie (played by Valin Shinyei
in the Arts Club Theatre production). I did not want that Red Ryder Carbine
Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. No I wanted the pump gun. It was under
the tree that Christmas. For days I
walked to nearby factories and shot at and broke as many windows as I could
The Indignity Of Old Age - The Indignity Of Death
Sunday, November 22, 2015
|Rebecca, Lauren & Plata
My religious mentor, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. told us
(I was 16) that all humans have an inherent dignity attached and inseparable to them that has
nothing to do with their morals or other questionable failings. He added
since every one of us was chosen by
the higher being to come into the world, that action brought with it that Inherent Dignity (Brother Edwin was so forceful with those two words that I feel I must
capitalize them.). We thought that by asking him if Hitler had an inherent
dignity that we would put him in a position at best uncomfortable. But he
insisted that even Hitler had those two words attached to his humanity.
I have never forgotten.
A few weeks ago I had to go to the hospital to have my
bladder “tested”. The procedure was not painful and made easier because my
doctor had two assistants, one a woman, the other a man and both had just the right
kind of attitude. Particularly the woman as she would be witnessing (not a
problem for her but certainly for me) an aspect of my body that is usually most
private. The male nurse was Filipino so I told him that my nick name in Tagalog
is Suput (sometimes written Supot). The nick name was given to me by Nonong
Quézon, the son of the first Filipino president after the country was given its
independence by the United States after WWII. The term, suput, means
uncircumcised. I told the male nurse that he would soon confirm the accuracy of
the epithet, not a good one in the southern island of Mindanao which is Muslim.
I left the session a tad minimized in my concept of being
a human being. I thought that the procedure was simply an indignity (and of
many more to come) of old age. On my way out I ran into a sprightly old man who
told me he was 92 when I said, “Ah, the indignity of old age!”
On November 19th early in the morning my 18 year-old female cat died in her
sleep. She had the usual kidney disease and always wanted to eat but she was
still getting thinner. She obsessively drank water all the time. But she became
constipated so we took her to the vet who prescribed and performed an enema. I
never thought such a procedure was used with animals. Although my Plata was a
cat I still thought this was an indignity. We brought her home and by early
morning she died with her eyes open. I had placed her by the kitchen heat register. Rosemary went down in the middle of the night called me to say, "I think Plata is dead."
I have read too many crime novels as I told Rosemary, “I
am going to put her into a shoe box before rigor mortis sets in.”
Only a week before Plata’s death, I had told my 13
year-old granddaughter that Plata would go to the new house one way or another.
Lauren instantly understood. A mere three hours after Plata died I took her to
the new house and buried her under our old garden ferns that I had put into the
ground a few days before. Somehow in all my sorrow knowing that Plata will be
with us on 7th Avenue is comforting.
Looking at Plata’s lifeless body, still warm, and not
being able to discern any life in those previously lively eyes, threw me into a
sadness that was most acute. At the same time I thought that death, at least as
perceived on a cat inside a shoe box, was a most undignified occurrence. I
would call it the indignity of death.
Brother Edwin, I am sure would have had some sort of
comforting but philosophical words for this. But he cannot be reached as he
too, in my eyes has suffered the ultimate human indignity, death.