A Cruise Like None I Had Ever Heard Of

I don’t know why I began to receive email ads for Uncommon Journeys, a company that organizes train holidays, but the ads were short and colorful so I just read them and deleted. Then in April 2019, a different ad appeared from Uncommon Journeys: Great American Waterways, Chicago to New York, via the Great Lakes and a series of canals. This one began on our 65th wedding anniversary, June 27, and since we had been thinking of a big party to celebrate, we decided this cruise would be a whole lot more fun and interesting, so we changed our plans and signed on.

As we began to prepare for our journey, we learned that the actual operator of the cruise was Blount Small Ship Adventures, who sent us a packet of information about the ship, the schedule of stops along the way, and the optional excursions they had scheduled. We learned that on our ship, the Grande Caribe, beds would be made daily, bed linens would be changed mid-trip, towels changed daily as needed, and hotel amenities would be provided. There would be only one seating for each meal, and there was no assigned seating. Beer and wine would be provided for lunch and dinner, but, alas, those who wanted stronger drink would have to provide their own. However, storage space in the lounge would be provided for those BYO Bottles. What more did we need to know?

Uncommon Journeys also sent us a packet, so we learned that, in addition to Blount’s program, we should arrive one day ahead of time for an Uncommon Journey included night at a hotel in Chicago (the Hilton) and to meet our Uncommon Journey’s tour manager, Chris Tidwell, who would accompany us the whole way. We flew to Chicago on June 27, our anniversary, and that was Day One, I guess.

The next day, Chris took us by motor coach to lunch at Chicago’s Giordano’s  famous deep dish pizza (I still like thin crust better); then to buy our hard liquor at a store that was like a Costco of liquor stores,  with every brand you could imagine laid out in self-serve aisles; next a brief tour of Chicago; and finally to the Grand Caribe, docked at Burnham Harbor. Another Chris, the ship’s activities director, showed us to our cabin, 40B, teeny-tiny, smaller than the one on our Turkish sailboat, but with the shower in a separate compartment from the sink and toilet. Some cabins had all in one, with a curtain to drape around the shower. First night on the ship, with roast beef dinner, very good.

Day three, on our own in Chicago, we took a boat ride on Lake Superior to Navy Pier, the big amusement area, for lunch, then an architectural tour of the city by boat, and return to Grand Caribe by pedi-cab. Dinner was halibut “crusted,” according to my journal, but I didn’t note with what. The anchor was pulled up, and we were off!

Sunday June 30, docked at Manitowoc, WI, right next to the Wisconsin’s Maritime Museum. We toured the USS Cobia, one of twenty-eight submarines built in Manitowoc during World War II. The sub had been remodeled so we could climb in and out on stairways, not ladders, but otherwise we scrambled through water-tight doors and under low ceilings. The crew slept on bunks over the torpedoes, three men to each bunk sleeping in rotations, but the officers had tiny cabins. I already had a book to read on the boat, but I bought a second book, The Death of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan, a book that turned out to be really frightening until the very end. Back on the boat, lunch was broccoli/cheddar soup, turkey cheese sandwiches, three-bean salad, potato chips and brownies. Breakfast had been a fruit buffet with cereals, milk and yogurt, and platters on the tables of waffles, bacon, and scones.

We soon learned the patterns for all our meals. Breakfast fruit buffet with platters on the table–some kind of egg dish–scrambled, omelet, poached, Benedict, French toast, waffles–with some kind of meat–bacon, ham, sausage– and something baked–muffins, scones,  sweet rolls. At breakfast, we signed up for our choices for dinner, so the chef would know how much to prepare, always a meat–beef, lamb, chicken–or a seafood or fish– all with appropriate sides and salads. Always a dessert, ice cream, different flavor every night, or a special prep–pie or cake. Lunch was always a soup–lobster bisque once–and a substantial sandwich, a hearty salad, potato chips and cookies. Beer and wine offered at lunch and dinner, coffee with every meal, soft drinks and cookies always available at two different spots on the boat. No wonder that Don and I each came home four pounds heavier.

On Monday, July one, we arrived at Mackinac Island (pronounced mackinaw). We left the boat for a tour by horse drawn wagon. There are only three automobiles on the island, an ambulance, a fire truck, and a police car, but there are lots and lots of vehicle pulled by horses. There is only one doctor but four veterinarians. We ended at the Grand Hotel, a wooden building in the style of old resorts, which boasts the longest porch-veranda in the country. The dining room was elegant, the Maitre-de told Don to remove his hat, but the buffet lunch did not have the great variety of Seattle’s Palisades brunch, and only six desserts. From the hotel we walked to the old fort, then back to the boat, arriving just before a big rain hit! Dinner was lamb ribs, a favorite of mine, and I didn’t have room for dessert. In the evening we had an entertainer, a singer in the style of Gordon Lightfoot.

Tuesday July 2 at sea on Lake Huron the whole foggy day. They tried to keep us from being bored. In the morning there was a workshop on cell phone photography, in the afternoon a lecture by the on-board historian (on the War of 1812 in Great Lakes territory, the USA verses British Canadians), and at night a movie. We discovered that in the middle of a lake there isn’t always cell phone service. Delicious flounder stuffed with crab for dinner

Of course I had books to fill up the hours. I finished a book I had started on the plane to Chicago, When General Grant Expelled the Jews, by Jonathan D. Sarna, about Grant’s notorious General Orders No. 11 expelling Jews “as a class” from his territory, orders which Lincoln revoked as soon as he learned of them. The book went on to cover anti-Semitism in the late nineteenth century, when Jews were not welcomed in many resorts and hotels. I thought about the Grand Hotel, where we had had the mediocre lunch. Don and I would not have been welcomed there at that time.

On July 3, at Wyandotte, MI, our nephew Dave Gendler drove down from his home in Ypsilanti to spend the day with us. Most of the guests opted for a tour of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, but we thought that would be too much to do so we decided to visit just Greenfield Village, Ford’s effort to preserve items of historical interest (to him!), especially those reflecting the American industrial revolution. So we skipped the authentic farm house and toured all of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park labs and buildings, and watched a drama of the Wright brothers returning to their home to regale their sister with the report of the first flight. There was lots more to see, but the village was closing. We missed the last train (pulled by an old steam engine) that circled the site so we walked back to the entry, back to our car, and drove back to the boat. We should have stopped somewhere to have dinner with Dave, but I was anxious about missing the boat so we said good-bye (guests not welcomed for meals on board) and saw him off. A local folk singer entertained us in the evening. He told us he always concludes his programs with “God Bless America,” and everyone stood up.

Thursday July 4 we were in Cleveland surrounded by red, white, and blue decor all day. Lunch was a bar-be-que on the upper deck–hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, brownies, and lemonade, followed by a long (4 hour) bus tour of Cleveland–lots of churches, ethnic neighborhoods, historic buildings, universities. We got off the bus three times, the airport for a potty break (with an interesting display of women aviators), then an old building which is now a hotel, and finally the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a big disappointment (pricey entrance fee not included and we weren’t there long enough to go inside). Back to our boat, another traditional holiday meal–bar-be-qued ribs, corn on the cob, baked potato, baked beans, cole slaw–very messy but delicious. I didn’t have room for the pecan pie. The boat had pulled away from the shore and we were out in the middle of Lake Erie, with fireworks coming at us from all direction until true dark, when the real fireworks began.

Buffalo was our next port, Friday, July 5, but we didn’t stay in the city long. We spent almost the entire day away from the boat on a special bus trip for just the Uncommon Journeys people, into Canada to Niagara Falls, where we got off and on and walked and walked. We saw the falls, of course, from several angles, and then to see the whirl pool, and then down the escarpment to the quaint little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Lunch was on our own, so we wen back to the Prince of Wales, elegant hotel where we had eaten with Judy on her big bicycle trip. Then we repeated our drive to Buffalo. My journal says, “Exhausting day, very hot and muggy.” Dinner was shrimp scampi and pistachio ice cream, and a movie that night, bio of Jackie Robinson.

Do I need to keep reporting the meals we had each night? I think it’s enough to let you know that the food was excellent and plentiful, and followed patterns that I already told you about.

Saturday when we woke up we were already in a lock, and we continued all day, July 6,  very slowly through the Welland Canal, which I had never heard of before this trip. It was one lock after another, lunch and dinner and finally entering Lake Ontario, below Niagara Falls. From Blount notes: “The Welland Canal connects Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, and is a key section of the St. Lawrence Seaway…” Group activity this evening was a game, passengers and crew together, but we didn’t feel like participating, so I can only report that others said it was a lot of fun.

A bus tour of Rochester ending at the Eastman Museum, with Eastman’s house included, took up the whole morning of Sunday, July 7. All kinds of photography, and an elegant period home. Very windy in the afternoon, rough seas as we crossed Lake Ontario, the boat was rolling from side to side until we finally entered Oswego’s calm water. A crew came on board to lower the pilot house, because we will go under some very low bridges in the next few days. The upper deck was now off limits and the pilot house filled the deck in front on the lounge, but we could still go out to the front of the boat–the “prow.” (The back of the boat, the “stern,” is where there were some stationary bicycles, and where the smokers could light up.) We had a wonderful show of fireworks that night off the stern; the local 4th of July show had been postponed. A much better show than Cleveland’s.

Even though we are avid walkers, we skipped the walking tour of Oswego to spend the morning at the Colonial Laundromat, clean clothes for the week ahead! From this port on, we were in canals and rivers and small lakes, low bridges and narrow locks, and greenery on both sides and close up, until we got to the Hudson River. We spent the night of July 8 at Sylvan Beach, a tiny town at the far end of Lake Oneida, part of the canal system. The historian tried to lecture today but he was repeatedly interrupted by the loud noise of the thrusters, positioning the boat in a lock. In the evening, a short film about the Erie Canal and then “The King’s Speech.” We had already seen this film, but enjoyed it again.

Most of the guests left the boat early in the morning of July 9 to get a bus to Coopersville for the Baseball Hall of Fame. We dropped them off at one lock near Sylvan Beach and picked them up at Amsterdam. We were on the Erie Canal most of the day. The Blount notes say, “Opened in October, 1825, the Erie Canal was built at a time when transporting bulk goods was limited to pack animals getting goods from New York City and Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes.” Our lecture that night was on the two iron-clad warships of the Civil War, the Minator and the Merrimac.

Our turn to be dropped off at one lock and picked up at another came the next day, Wednesday, July 10. From Amsterdam we drove a long way to Saratoga National Historic Park. A step-on guide took us around the park, re-telling the history of two armies who fought there, first the British, then the US, in 1777. When we got back to the boat, after another long ride, it was docked in Troy, N.Y., on the Hudson River, and the crew was putting the pilot house back up on the upper deck. In the evening we were entertained by a trio of elderly jazz musicians–one of them said he had driven down from Maine, just to play this gig.

From my journal: Under some of the bridges and through some of the locks the clearances were tiny. Some of the locks took us around dams (like a fish ladder), and often we had trains running along next to us. When we left Lake Ontario we went up over the rise of the Adirondack Mountains, but after a high point of only 400 feet above sea level we started going down. The historian commented that he knew us West Coasters don’t think much of New York’s mountains, but he pointed out that their mountains were much older than ours, and when they had first risen up above the earth’s crust they had been much bigger than they are now.

On Thursday, July 11, we were bused more than an hour to Hyde Park, N.Y., to visit Springwood, the home that had belonged first to the father of  Franklin D. Roosevelt, and then to Sara, his mother. After listening to the guide’s stories I came away thinking that she was a very controlling mother-in-law. This was also the site of the Roosevelt presidential library and visitors center. We spent most of our time in his home, which was very interesting, but I wish we had had more time in the museum. Back in Kingston, the Grande Caribe was docked right next to the Hudson River Maritime Museum, which had a big wooden tug boat parked on the lawn outside. This would have been a good visit for those who didn’t want to go to Hyde Park.

Another long bus ride on Friday, June 12, from the port of Newburgh, leaving the boat at 8:30 a.m., but the boat had left Kingston at 5. We were headed for West Point, the United States Military Academy, high up on Storm King Mountain, a campus of 25,000 acres, with miles of facilities of all kinds. As our guide explained, West Point is not only an undergraduate college but also a very rigorous and disciplined personal training program.  She taught us to answer the West Point way, saying “Yes, ma’am” and “Yes, sir.”  The daily schedules are very strict. Cadets must be involved in a team sport at all times, but there are 50 different sports to choose from, including sky diving. (Membership in a music band does not count as a sport–I asked.) As our bus drove away from the point, we saw the notorious statue of  the West Point mascot, an army mule. It faces away from the gate, and its tail is raised.

We continued down the Hudson River, past Yonkers, Tappan Zee Bridges, and finally the sky scrapers of Manhattan. The captain took us past our port, Pier 81, to cruise past the Statue of Liberty, and then back. With lots of boats big and small in the harbor, the water was very active, making it hard to stand up, but we stayed on the upper deck as long as we could. After dinner we took a long walk outside through the night life on the piers–a very happening ares.

Saturday, July 13, New York City, and the last day and night of our cruise. Uncommon Journeys gave us vouchers for a Hop On, Hop Off bus, but we didn’t hop off at all–there was too much to see and we couldn’t decide what to do so we stayed on for the uptown loop and then the downtown loop. We left the bus near Hudson Yard, a new development, a very posh vertical mall, had lunch there, then went for a walk on the High Line, a raised railroad line being converted to public spaces, like Le Viaduct in Paris, but so far not as nice. Back to the boat for the captain’s farewell cocktail party, followed by dinner–I know I said I wasn’t going to do this but lobster and prime rib? That night as we were packing, there was a massive power failure, all the lights in the city went out. Fortunately our boat had its own generator so we didn’t lose lights or a.c., but some of the guests who had the foresight to order theater tickets for Saturday night (why didn’t I think of that?) missed their shows and stumbled home in the dark.

Sunday, July 14 a cab to the Grand Central railroad station which was not very grand–after a long uncomfortable wait we took a very slow train to Kingston, Rhode Island, and then a Lyft to Newport. Never been to R.I. before, but after four days there, looking at grand houses, it’s now off my list of un-visited states. Only five left to see. Oklahoma, here I come.

I have waited a long time to post this account. It’s now early November. I had hoped to add photographs, but I don’t know how to do that and my helpers have failed me. So here’s my story. If the photos ever get attached, I’ll let you know.

 

 

 

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2019, Part Two

Many, many years ago, when we first started to attend OSF productions, the motto was, “Stay three days, see three plays,” and all the plays were done in the outdoor theatre in the summer.  This year, and for several seasons gone by, there have been eleven different plays presented from March through October, with three plays in the outdoor theatre  opening in early summer, and two or sometimes three plays added late June or early July, all running through October. A few years ago we realized that we were missing some great late plays by attending the festival in early June so we began to return in September, to catch the new productions that had opened  in July. That scenario explains why there are now Part Two reviews. All of these plays run through October, so you still have time to catch them all, except for Hedwig.

The first day of our second stay was spent “celebrating” Daedalus Day, an annual event raising funds for HIV-Aids. All the OSF company gets involved. In the morning, there was a bake sale in the lobby of the Angus Bowmer Theatre and a craft and treasures sale in the Thomas Theatre (where I bought a wonderful quilt made of scraps of cloth from costumes of the 2018 season). In the afternoon in the Bowmer there was a benefit performance of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” Hedwig is a trans-female whose trans surgery was not complete, but left him/her with an inch, and a lot of questions: who is Hedwig, what is Hedwig–the director’s note says, “More than a Woman, more than a Man. Part punk-rock goddess, part Platonic scholar, A woman scorned.  A lost, little boy. A shaman. A slut.” Well, you get it. An appropriate production for a day raising funds for HIV- Aids.

The evening’s performance in the Elizabethan theatre again involved the whole OSF company, or at least it seemed that way, with a variety of acts, solos, groups, dancing and singing on stage and then wending their way out to the courtyard all in a parade–wearing their underwear! The underwear parade is an annual feature of Daedalus Day; I felt sorry for the performers in their skimpy skivvies and bare skin on this cold night, but they raised a lot of money for a good cause.

Now on to the plays!

The first new play we saw was “HOW TO CATCH CREATION” by Christina Anderson. This play had a most remarkable set. In the Thomas Theatre, with the audience organized in a round, there was an arrangement of four square “rooms,” each with a different drama going on with an African American lesbian at the center. (Speaking of centers, in the center of the rooms there was one more square that rose and fell with more drama.) The theme that coordinated all the drama? Creation? Motherhood!

There was a lot of confusion over timing of events on stage–the Playbill said, “Time: 2014, and 1966, 1967. There’s a brief moment in 1988.” At a talk-back after the play, there was a question about these Times. Christiana Clark, playing the college administrator in one of the dramas, told us that the cast had also questioned the playwright about that confusion, but she had answered only, “Whatever.” I’d like to see this play again with the years on a cheat-sheet in front of me.

At breakfast the morning after we had seen this play, we discussed it with four women seated at the next table. Their comment: “We are black women and we don’t know any black lesbians.”

That was a clue to the whole Part Two of the 2019 season. Every play had one or more LBGTQ character.

MOTHER ROAD by Octavio Solis was the next play. We actually saw this twice. At the end of the first performance, I commented to Don, “This is an epic.” The play takes up John Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath, generations later. Will Joad, the last remaining Joad in Oklahoma, is dying. He comes to California looking for a Joad descendant to occupy the Joad land, and finds a young Mexican man. That isn’t a spoiler–it’s the first five minutes of the play. The rest of the evening follows the two as they drive back to Oklahoma, getting to know each other and picking up new members of their “family.” Some of the people they encounter form a kind of Greek chorus, commenting on the action. Not a whole lot of suspense–you know from the beginning that eventually they will bond, but the journey is the destination.

I loved the way this play was staged– there is a pickup truck that is almost a character, and a steering wheel that passes from hand to hand, or I should say driver to driver. There was lots of Spanish spoken, which is why we wanted to see it a second time.

Next play: INDECENT, by Paula Vogel, is a history play, the history of  “God of Vengeance,” a play in Yiddish by the great Jewish author, Sholem Asch. The play opens with Asch reading his play in a salon in Warsaw in 1906, follows it as it is a hit in all the capitols of Europe, and finally comes to New York, where, translated from Yiddish into English, it is vilified, branded as “indecent,” and, led by charges from Rabbi Silverman (no relation), eventually closed down. The cast is scattered, many going back to Europe. Asch remained in the U.S., writing novels, until 1953, when he too returned.

What was so shocking about the play? A Jewish man operates a brothel on the lower level of his home, but on the upper level he has commissioned a sacred Torah scroll to try to attract a learned suitor for his daughter. The daughter falls in love with one of the prostitutes from downstairs, and their lesbian affair drives the father mad.

In Illuminations, OSF’s guide to the plays each season, I read that in 1946 Asch officially banned further productions of The God of Vengeance in any language, but that must no longer be true. ACT Theatre in Seattle produced the play in April of 2000. One of the actors in that production was Naama Potok, daughter of the novelist Chaim Potok (The Chosen), who came to see the play one evening and stayed for Q and A afterwards (I was there).

In the Playbill entry for Indecent, the dramaturg for the play credits the current resurgence of interest in the Yiddish language to the rise of Klezmer music. I disagree. I believe that interest in Yiddish owes its existence to The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. See for yourself: yiddishbookcenter.org

Back to the plays.

We had just seen Shakespeare’s AS YOU LIKE IT two weeks before, at the Seattle Rep’s People’s Production, bringing in a cast of a least one hundred persons, almost all volunteers, and I don’t know how many times we had seen it before. So why see it again? I can’t answer that. I only know that I almost always find something to like in each production. From Illuminations this description: “… a brilliant and evocative investigation into the performance of gender, the truth of love and the search for authenticity that lies at the center of us all.” Got that?

What do I look for? For one thing, the way Rosalind portrays Ganymede, the male disguise she has chosen to test Orlando. For another, the way Orlando’s love poems to Rosalind are hung on the trees (in Seattle, they fell from the ceiling). The melancholy Jaques is different in every production, as is the fool, Touchstone. The OSF version also brought out some questions about gender representation. In addition to Rosalind disguised as Ganymede, the traditionally male roles of Duke Senior (Rosalind’s parent), Jaques, Amiens, and Corin, the old shepherd, are all females, while Audrey, Touchstone’s beloved, has become the male Aubrey.

The director of this play for OSF, Rosa Joshi, is part of the upstart crow collective, a theatre company in Seattle that produces Shakespeare’s plays with all female casts. I have seen their Titus Andronicus and Bring Down the House, a mash-up of the three Henry plays condensed into two parts. OSF will produce Bring Down the House next season, a welcome reversal of good plays going from Ashland to Seattle.

Last play: LA COMEDIA OF ERRORS. I have to confess that this production was a little bit disappointing. It was billed as a “bilingual adaptation.” Doesn’t bilingual mean to you that it will be presented in two languages? That the two languages will be given equal time, and that the words in one language will be repeated in the other? Not in this play. This was Shakespeare in Spanish with a little English included. We have seen The Comedy of Errors often enough so that we knew what was going on, but it was very discouraging that we could not understand the Spanish words, especially those shouted out by the woman in the audience.

Last February we saw a truly bilingual production of Romeo and Juliet at ACT Theatre in Seattle. Romeo “spoke” in sign language, and other cast members uttered Shakespeare’s words. We didn’t miss a word.

If you have read this far, thank you. I welcome your comments and questions.

 

 

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2019 Season, Part One

(We flew down to Medford on June 3, shuttled into Ashland, checked into our usual motel [Bard’s Inn], and saw seven plays in four days, but ever since we had first made our reservations last November, I had begun planning that as soon as I returned home I would post reviews of the plays that I saw, as usual. As usual! And it was only when I opened WordPress for the first time today, four days after we returned, that I realized I had forgotten/neglected/overlooked posting reviews of the 2018 season! What happened? I don’t know. I let a whole year go by. Well, this year I took notes after each play. This year I didn’t forget. So here goes, my report on the six plays we saw (we saw one twice) in June 2019, and hopefully when I see the next five in September I will complete the year’s review.)

First day: CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND by Lauren Yee. A real winner! Sure to be the hottest ticket of the season this year. Political, historical, family drama/rock concert. Edge of the seat engaging. The audience was extremely enthusiastic, jumped up at the end, danced to the rock music  and applauded long and loud. (How soon the audience jumps up is one way I have of judging a play.) The play begins with a performance by The Cyclos, a rock band. The plot, briefly, not to spoil it for you: a young American woman of Cambodian parentage has gone to Cambodia to work on the first prosecution of an official of the Khmer Rouge, the vicious Communist group that terrorized the country from 1975 to 1979, murdering possibly 3 million people. The official was the director of the notorious S21 prison, from which only 7 people survived. Now the young woman has discovered the  existence of an 8th survivor–and her father returns to Cambodia for the first time since leaving to try to dissuade his daughter from pursuing this investigation. The young woman knows nothing of her father’s history in Cambodia, but as the play unfolds she discovers his background and his association with The Cyclos. The Playbill included the lyrics of the Cyclos songs, in Cambodian and English.

First night: MACBETH, by William Shakespeare.  Like no Macbeth that I had ever seen before, and I’ve seen lots of them. In the Playbill the director notes that every time we make a play we need to see it with “fresh eyes,” and there is much in this production that is “fresh.” The Playbill says that the Macbeths are a couple who love each other “immensely,” and many of their scenes together are set in their bed. The play opens with a long dumb show, the funeral of their child. A small white coffin is on stage and many mourners enter from the back of the theatre. Lady Macbeth weeps hysterically while Macbeth tries to comfort her. All this before the Three Weird Sisters finally speak, “When will we three meet again,” but they don’t leave, they remain on stage, a continued presence for most of  Act I. Their “Double, double” chant occurs in the second act, when they surround Macbeth in his bath. Hecate, queen of the witches, shows up in Act II–I don’t recall ever seeing her before. When the assassins murder Lady Macduff on stage they slash her abdomen and pull out a bloody baby, foreshadowing “not of woman born,” i.e., a C-section. (This happened so quickly that Don didn’t see it.) Lady Macbeth hangs herself on stage, legs through loops of scarf  like Cirque du Soleil. The audience must have approved of the  innovations of this production, for they jumped to their feet enthusiastically at the end.

Second day:  BETWEEN TWO KNEES, by 1491, a group of American Indians (the program calls them “five fearless storytellers”) who do comedy about their lives. (1491 is the year before 1492, the year Columbus “discovered” America. The two Knees are the massacre at Wounded Knee of 1890 and the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973.) The play follows Isaiah and Irma from when they are young Indians taken to a government sanctioned Catholic school to have their Indian names erased and their Indian culture beaten out of them, until they are grandparents. Two sets of actors play Young Irma/Isaiah and Older Irma/Isaiah. The play is a “comical journey through American history from a Native perspective” (from Illuminations, A guide to the 2019 plays). It follow the lives of Irma and Isaiah from the massacre, their mistreatment by the priests, finding each other, harassment by the FBI, losing a son in World War II and then finding a grandson who is sent to Vietnam–and it’s very funny! More from Illuminations: “Our (1491) mission has always been to make Indians laugh. If other people find us funny, then cool, but Indians are who we do this for.” I’m going to find more from 1491 on You Tube. And yes, the audience jumped up and cheered after the performance.

Second night:  ALICE IN WONDERLAND, adapted from Lewis Carroll by Eva Le Gallienne and Florida Friebus, on the outdoor stage.  A disappointment. Unless you know the stories well, lots of the action didn’t register. (And yes, it included Through the Looking Glass as well as Alice in Wonderland.) Alice on stage for the whole two acts found all the requisite tiny doorways and “Drink Me” bottles of Wonderland, but further into Looking Glass the references were harder to decifer. Alice following the White Rabbit down the rabbit hole was made visual by Alice going through a series of hoops. Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee were labeled with their names, but who was the guy in gold armor with the Red Queen in the second act? In the cast list I found White Knight, but who was he in the book? There were lots and lots of people on stage in gorgeous costumes. It must have been expensive to produce, but in the crowd on the way out, I heard forms of “disappointment” several times. Me too! Prolonged applause at the end of the play, but no one–no one–stood up.

Third day: HAIRSPRAY, The Broadway Musical. Smash! Bang! Another loud rock musical–lots of singing and dancing. I couldn’t understand the words of the songs but the meanings were loud and clear. A fat kid who is rejected for being fat is sent to detention where she meets other rejects–black kids or those who are disabled physically or developmentally. Of course she organizes them and they win the dance contest. Along the way she (figuratively) flips off an overly protective mom, a bigoted ambitious mom, a clueless school principal, and she promotes her own mom and a black mom. Lots of moms, good and bad, in this play; one of them, the gifted singer Greta Oglesby, a favorite of mine from years past, so good to see her back at OSF. The inclusive cast included one performer in a wheel chair and a young woman possibly Down syndrome.  Did I forget to say it was funny? The audience loved it, cheers and yells, on their feet immediately. I didn’t expect to love it, but I did!

Third night, ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL by William Shakespeare, on the outdoor stage. I have in previous years sat through plays all bundled up warmly against the cold or perfectly quiet inside a rattling plastic bag, but I can’t remember a night when I was this uncomfortably cold and totally unprepared for it. I was wearing the warmest clothes I had with me, and I had a rented blanket, but still I felt frozen. I didn’t stand up during the intermission because I didn’t want to unwrap. So maybe that’s why I left the theatre feeling that if happily ever after is what ending well requires, then no, all had not ended well tonight. The ending of the play was an enigma–did Helen wed Bertram or not? In the past when I saw All’s Well, there was no suggestion that it didn’t end well. Helen has cured the king of an incurable illness, and as a reward he promises her that she can marry any man of her choosing. She chooses Bertram but he will have none of her; he runs off. She follows him, finds him, and traps him in a situation where she had met all of his outrageous demands. In other productions, at this point they live happily ever after, but not in Ashland in 2019. At the end of this play, Helen has unburdened herself to Bertram, each accepts the other for the unique person that he/she is, and they walk off the stage, not hand in hand, but in opposite directions. Applause, of course, and people jumped up, but probably so they could go somewhere to get warm!

Fourth day, seventh play, we saw THE CAMBODIAN ROCK BAND a second time. The music was still great! This time I caught a few details that I missed the first time, e.g., I learned why the father was deaf in one ear. I understand that a Seattle theatre is bringing the play to Seattle, and if that happens I’ll see it at least one more time.

After the play, we were picked up by the shuttle, taken to the airport and flew home, but we’ll be back, next September, for the Daedalus Project to raise funds for HIV-Aids and to catch the other five plays.

 

 

 

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THE FESTIVAL OF NEW PLAYS

On August 25 and 26, Don and I were privileged to see and hear three plays that had never been seen before, plays that were “under construction,” new plays read by professional actors and prepared with the guidance of professional directors and dramaturgs. We were in the audience for ACTONE, a festival of new plays produced by ACT Theatre and One Coast Collaboration, presenting four new plays for their first audience (we arrived too late to see the first play, so we saw only three.)

 

The idea of the festival was so new to me that I asked Samie Detzer, Artistic and Executive Manager at ACT and part of the producing team, for some background information. She said that the festival is “all about creating an environment rich with creative opportunities. The ACTONE Festival created an opportunity for actors, directors, and playwrights to spend time working together over the course of four days, 29 hours, while being embraced by the whole ACT community, and creating an atmosphere for collaboration from top to bottom!”

 

This was ACT’s first venture with the festival that our partner, One Coast Collaboration (OCC), had started nine years ago. Michael Place began OCC as an opportunity to bring nationally recognized playwrights to Seattle to work in an environment that was welcoming and warm. The first 8 years were hosted in the backyard of Michael’s family home in Wedgewood. ACT Theatre’s partnership with OCC expanded on that initial idea and created a festival where new plays could find their legs, and hopefully lead to a mainstage production. The multi-space use of the ACT building was integral to the community-oriented spirit of the festival. Workshop days were open to staff, and people from the community were invited to come to readings. Each rehearsal day had a built-in happy hour so that all artists had a chance to connect and unwind together after a full day of work.

 

The festival ended with the four readings over two days. For performers, the readings were one last opportunity to connect after the 29 hours of workshop time; playwrights heard their plays read out loud in a supportive and fun environment; and the audience –well, we had our opportunity too, to be the first audience for a performance that, who knows, might someday grace the mainstages of the most important theatres in the country!

 

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival, August 2017, Part Two

Viewing the Eclipse in Ashland, OR, with Don and Judy.

As we promised last entry, we returned to Ashland to see the rest of the plays of the 2017 cycle, and this time our daughter Judy and her boyfriend Erik came up from California to join us. Before the plays began, we had a special, very busy day. In the morning of August 21, we viewed the total eclipse that was visible all across the country, but not in southern Oregon where we were. We saw only a partial eclipse, but still it was very dramatic and awe inspiring. We sat on a bench near Lithia Park, put on our dark glasses, and prepared to be stunned. The moon crossed the sun starting from the top and slowly moved down until only a little sliver of sun–like a new moon–was visible.

Eclipse seen through Don’s pinhole camera

People came out of buildings around the street. A family with two young girls joined us, but they didn’t have the right glasses. We shared our glasses with them, and also the pinhole camera that Don had made from a cereal box. Judy helped them focus the camera so everyone had many turns, and Erik took a picture through the pinhole camera. We let the girls keep the camera. More than the scientific miracle of seeing an eclipse, what remains from the morning is the feeling of community among all the people watching the eclipse, sharing their glasses and connectedness.

The rest of the day was a celebration of Daedalus Day, an annual event of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival to raise funds to fight HIV Aids. This was the 30th year of the celebration, which has raised over a million dollars, distributed over local, state, and national entities fighting Aids. In the afternoon there was a play reading and in the evening a review where the highlight is the Parade of Underwear, where cast members, backstage workers, volunteers, ushers, all parade across the stage and out to the lobbies, where audience members can tuck dollar bills into their underwear or into buckets they carry. Both events were packed!

The play this year was CABARET, an appropriated choice for current times. I had seen Cabaret many times before, so I thought I was prepared for the shocking moment at the end of the first act when the Nazi begins to sing “The future belongs to me,” and slowly, slowly the others join in until the stage is full of Nazi sympathizers. As the volume grew, I thought I heard the man sitting next to Don join in to the singing. I was stunned, repulsed, and frightened. I leaned forward to see what he looked like, and I saw that the singer was not in our row, but standing up in the row behind us. Then other voices joined in from all over the auditorium. I was so shocked and angered that I began to boo! “Boo, boo, boo!” I yelled. I’ve never done anything like that before. It is so unlike me. Then I looked closely at the singers scattered through the audience, and I realized that they were company members. Looking back, this was the most emotionally charged event of the week, but I will continue to describe the rest of it.

Over the next four days we saw four afternoon plays. HENRY IV Parts One and Two were excellently done, though it was a disappointment that G. Valmont Thomas, a Seattle and  OSF actor, and a University of Nebraska faculty member, was ill and not able to play Falstaff. His understudy, Tyrone Wilson, did a fine job, all without book, though his understudy still needed a script. Daniel Jose Molina was an excellent Prince Hall. I liked seeing the two plays one day apart, with the same actors returning to play their parts.

I said in my review last May when we saw UNISON, that I found the play confusing and hoped to see it again later in the summer. Last May I wrote, “In the play, a poet dies, his Apprentice opens the forbidden chest and releases seven Terrors, characters representing events and people from the poet’s past. The poet is recalled to this world to resolve the unfinished issues. (This explanation I copied from the program.) The Terrors are Seamstress, Butcher, Boxer, Black Smith, Hunter, Momma, and Soldier.”  Well, we did see it again, our third afternoon at the festival. Last spring, I had my program open in my lap and I tried to make sense of the Terrors and what fears they each brought. This time I watched and listened and the whole composition jelled and made sense for me! This time, I just watched the play unfold as a man looking back at his life. Much more meaningful–regrets, unanswered questions, unspoken gratitude. I’m glad we went back.

The last afternoon at the festival we saw a play I had been looking forward to for a whole year. In August  2016 we shared a shuttle to the Medford airport with Randy Reinholz, who introduced himself as a playwright who was in town to discuss his play with Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of OSF. The play, he told us, was set in an Indian school in Genoa (Jen-OH-wah) Nebraska, a town neither Don nor I had ever heard of, and we were both born and grew up in Nebraska. Nor had we ever heard of Indian schools there, although we knew about them in the Northwest. These were schools where children from many different tribes were sent to lose their Indian languages and culture. ON THE RAILS, his play, is based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.  Lots of music and dancing, and not at all like the Nebraska we remember. We both recommend that you see it, and hope that a local company brings it to Seattle.

There is not as much to say about the evening plays in the outdoor Elizabethan theatre, because smoke blowing down the valley from forest fires in other parts of Oregon so polluted the air that two of the three plays were cancelled. We missed BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. I felt especially sorry for the little girls dressed in their Disney princess dresses who missed out on the first play. I’ll never know how K.T. Vogt would have played Falstaff or how the deaf actor, Howie Seago, would have played the Host of the Garter. But on the third night, the wind picked up, the air cleared and we thoroughly enjoyed seeing Mary Zimmerman’s THE ODYSSEY, which we had seen once before at the Seattle Rep.

We have been attending the Oregon Shakespeare Festival since the mid-’60s. We have sat through blistering afternoons in a hotel pool and cold, rainy evenings wrapped in plastic garbage bags trying not to rattle the plastic, but we never ever before missed a play.

We turned in our un-used tickets to apply to next year’s membership

 

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Oregon Shakespeare Festival, May 2017, Part One

Because we felt we were missing some great theatre, we now visit the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in two segments so that we don’t miss any plays; last week we returned from our first 2017 segment of five plays. Reviews follow:

Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR: We know this play so well. It was required reading in ninth grade in all Omaha high schools in 1946, when Don and I were students, and we have seen it many times since, set in various eras with different sets and costumes. I still know many of the speeches we had to memorize:  “There is a tide in the affairs of men…” and “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings.” My favorite Caesar production is not this one, although Danforth Comins was an excellent Brutus and Armando Duran an excellent Caesar. Still, I prefer a more striking production some years ago in the Thomas Theater at OSF, a much smaller stage set in the round, with Vilma Silva as Julius Caesar warming up the audience before the play began by leading us in cheers, “Cae-sar, Cae-sar, Cae-sar.” We became the fervent Romans welcoming Caesar home–we were part of immersive theatre then and we didn’t even know it.

That said, I liked this production. Program notes speak of the “cycle of violence,” a lesson for our times. The set, un-adorned walls in abstract shapes, did not become meaningful until portions of the walls began to collapse, as the Republic itself collapses. The program notes state that the director, Shana Cooper, found inspiration  “in contemporary dance theatre.” The two warring factions are not differentiated by costumes, so in the rhythmic stomping and jumping of the fight scenes, the two sides didn’t  clash but blurred into one violent mass.

Second play we saw, HANNAH AND THE DREAD GAZEBO, I liked not at all. It is supposed to be a comedy. It’s set in Korea, as Hannah, American-born to Korean parents who have returned to Korea, goes there herself, responding to a mysterious package she has received from her grandmother, who has committed suicide by jumping from the roof of her retirement home on the border of the DMZ–the demilitarized zone. Because of the location, the family is unable to retrieve the body, so that is one of the problems of the play. Another is Hannah’s mother, a very depressed woman who is obsessed with acquiring a gazebo for the roof of their high-rise building. She too attempts to jump from the roof but trips and becomes unconscious; the figures wandering through her dreams–Kim Jong-il’s ghost, grandmother’s ghost, among others–are played by a character named Shapeshifter, and it’s not always clear who she is. Add to this the Korean creation myth, a tiger and a bear sharing a cave.  It’s supposed to be funny, when Hannah can’t understand or speak Korean, or when her mother keeps a trellis in her living room.  And about that title–it has to do with a role playing game, “The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo.” It has nothing to do with this play.

Walking back to the Bard’s Inn, the conversations all around us were about trying to understand the play. At the red light, someone accosted Don: “Do you know what the play was about?” He answered, “Korea.”

I liked MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES best of all the plays we saw. We had recently seen a production of Medea at the Seattle Shakespeare Theatre, starring the luminous Alexandra Tavares, so we knew the story well. Mojada, we learned, means “wetback.” Medea and Jason (he was called Ha-sohn) had been smuggled across the border to settle in Los Angeles, in Boyle Heights, which I knew as a Jewish ghetto but now is apparently Mexican. Jason is ambitious; Medea, who finds L.A. frightening, does not leave her home but cares for her son and sews beautifully from her yard. Armida, who emigrated years earlier, is a successful businesswoman who employs Jason. As Jason adjusts to their new world, Medea clings to the old. I found the play riveting; knowing the story and what the ending might be, I found myself thinking, no, no, don’t please, don’t. Telling you anymore would spoil it for you.

In a way, Mojada and Gazebo are both about the same thing: people, in these cases young women, cut off from the country and the culture of their ancestors, struggling to find their place in a strange new world. OFF THE RAILS, opening on July 27, sounds like the same theme, this time Native Americans in a school in Nebraska designed to obliterate their Indian culture. Sad to say for folks coming to OSF after July 6, Medea will have closed, but Hannah runs until October 28.

UNISON, the next play, is an intriguing blend of music, dance, rap, history, mystery. I can’t tell you what it is “about,” but I can explain the structure. The playwright August Wilson, before he died, instructed his assistant to destroy the contents of a chest after his death. Instead the assistant opened the chest, found a treasury of poems composed over the poet’s lifetime, and could not destroy them. The Universes, a group of three talented author/musicians at OSF, learned of the poems and, partly through the offices of well-known Seattle actor G. Val Thomas, gained access to August Wilson’s widow and the poems. The Universes have created a wonderful performance piece based on Wilson’s poetry but not a biography of Wilson. Thirty per cent of the play, I read somewhere, is new material created by the playwrights. In the play, a poet dies, his Apprentice opens the chest  and releases seven Terrors, characters representing events and people from the poet’s past. The poet is recalled to this world to resolve the unfinished issues. (Much of this explanation I copied from the program.) The Terrors are Seamstress, Butcher, Boxer, Black Smith, Hunter, Momma, and Soldier.

After the play, full of questions, I went to the gift shop to buy a copy of the script. It isn’t available–yet. A woman working in the shop told me she had seen the play three times, and each time she discovered something she had not been aware of before. So I am hoping I can see this remarkable work again, maybe when we return to OSF in August.

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE,  developed from the movie of the same name, was the fifth play that we saw–stay three nights, see five plays. (In the old days, early 1950s, there was a slogan in Ashland, “Stay two days, see three plays.”) We really enjoyed this play, it was well done, and there were no surprises.

Better than I can, here’s what the director, Christopher Liam Moore, says about this play: “I love this play because its heart is enormous and generous. It encompasses both divinely clever Shakespeare-insider wordplay and cheap puns. It has swashbuckling swordfights and a passionately delicate romance. It examines the gender politics of a decidedly sexist world whose monarch is one of the most powerful women in history. It honors and holds these contradictions in one container. It is wonderfully Shakespearean in its celebration of the turbulent complexity of human beings.” My favorite line, from both the movie and the play, is when Elizabeth comments that she knows how difficult it is for a woman making her way in a man’s world.

Moore goes on to describe how he loves the way it shows the writer struggling to write. As a very modestly able writer, let me add, we all do, all of us writers. I’m no Shakespeare, but still I struggle to get just the right word on the page, so that I can call myself a writer. (See my previous post on this blog, “Writer’s Block.”)

CONCLUSION: To the people who have commented on my blog that I need to post pictures. Sorry about that, but there’s no photography allowed during plays, you know that. Watch for further posts on down sizing. I can photograph that!

 

 

 

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Writer’s Block

Shame on me! I haven’t posted to my blog since October 2016, despite my resolution to post something every month. In my list of drafts there are two unfinished posts, Last Seder in This House, and Live Theatre is Better Than Reading Books. In addition I want to share our wonderful experience in northern Spain last winter, when we visited the Cave at Altamira and several other pre-historic sites. But first I’m going to write about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Watch for the others!

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Grandparents Weekend

On Fridays, our five-year-old Byron attends Wilderness Adventure School somewhere beyond Duvall. Last week, Don and I were invited to their Grandparents’ Day. In order to get to school at ten on Friday morning, we left our home in Seattle at four Thursday afternoon to drive to Byron’s home in Redmond. First we had to pack for the next day: sandwiches, snacks, water bottles, long underwear, rain pants, two hats–one for sun and one for rain– extra warm layers, and of course our pajamas and toothbrushes. We had dinner with the family and spent a warm night on the guest futon.

With Byron on our way out of the woods. Nina came to greet us.

With Byron on our way out of the woods. Nina came to greet us.

Next morning we were up and warmly dressed, our backpacks full, ready to be driven to the Wilderness School. We drove and drove and drove, up, up and up. Finally we arrived at a parking lot with three Sanicans. Marisa and Nina accompanied us on a gravel walk through thick woods to a big tepee; then they left Byron, Don and me and went off to their own adventure.

There was a fire burning in the center of the tepee, most of the smoke rising to the hole at the top but some dispersing over the grandparents. A bench ran all the way around with the children’s names pinned to the back. Byron found his name immediately, left his backpack there, and sat down on a log near the fire. For the rest of the morning he more or less ignored Don and me, which was as it should be. We listened to the songs and stories, followed along outside when it was outside time, and watched games of “Tag” and “Run Rabbit Run.” There was a time to drink water–Byron said, “To stay hydrated”–and a time for snacks. When the children moved around outside, they formed a “snake,” one teacher at the head of the line of children and one at the tail, with the grandparents straggling along behind. We had gone deep into the woods when it was lunch time. We had our packs with us, so we sat on a log that turned out to be a very wet log to eat our sandwiches. There were big trees in the woods and big stumps that showed that the land had been logged off long ago. The undergrowth was very thick. A five-year-old walking through could disappear very quickly. I was concerned that a child could be lost but the staff watched very carefully and didn’t let that happen. (There was one staff person for every four kids.)

Back in the tepee–by this time four hours of sitting outside on logs had gone by and I was wearing all my warm layers–we had a leaving ceremony and signed Byron out.  Marisa and Nina met us on the path up from the parking lot.

With a day in between, we had our next grandparents (lower case g) day on Sunday. In the morning I made the dough for Cherry Winks (a cookie made with dates, pecans, and Maraschino cherries) and put it in the fridge to chill. After Sunday school, Marisa, Byron and Nina, Uncle Jeff and Aunt Judith, came to our house for lunch. We had bagel pizza: bagels sliced in half, tomato sauce from a tube squeezed over the cut side, turkey pepperoni and Mozzarella cheese layered on top, and all toasted in the toaster oven. While Nina went to the playground with her mom, Byron and I made cookies. We used a big rolling pin to crush two cups of corn flakes into smaller pieces. Then we scooped balls of chilled dough and rolled them in the corn flake crumbs. Some of the corn flakes fell on the floor. We put the balls on a buttered baking sheet, I put a quarter of a Maraschino cherry on each ball, and Byron used a plastic cup to push down each ball and make it flat. We did a whole sheet of cookies that way and put them in the oven.

When Nina came back from the playground, Byron went downstairs to play with Grampa’s machines, and Nina had her turn to make cookies. She filled two baking sheets with balls of dough rolled in corn flake crumbs. I did the cherries. We baked three sheets of cookies all together. I should have counted to see how many cookies we had, but I was so busy removing the hot cookies from the baking sheets to a platter, I forgot to count. While I was washing the baking sheets, Aunt Judith swept up all the corn flakes that had fallen on the floor.

Our cookies look almost exactly like the cookies pictured in the book, except that some of the cherry pieces didn’t stay in the exact middle of the cookies. We packed a small tin of cookies to give to Daddy when he came home from Orcas Island, and we went out to Blue C Sushi.fullsizerender

Appendix: How to play Run Rabbit Run. One player is the coyote; he or she stands in the middle of the circle. All the other players are rabbits, standing in three safe zones around the circle. When the coyote yells, “Run Rabbits Run,” all the rabbits have to leave their safe zones and find a different safe zone. Any rabbit who gets touched by the coyote gets to become a coyote and stand in the middle with him/her. Gradually all the rabbits will be touched, and someone else gets to be the coyote, so you start over again. When Byron played he was the first rabbit to become a coyote, and after that he ran around, yelling and touching everyone, mostly the other coyotes. It was great fun.

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Narrative About Jeff’s Bicycling Accident

I have Jeff’s permission to share his article on my blog.

Yesterday (Friday, October 7th), at around 2:40 PM, I had a head-on collision with a car.  I was traveling southwest on Madison street, and the other driver was making a turn from northeast on Madison to north on 14th Ave E.  I didn’t see a way to steer around him, so I hit the brakes, went flying over the handlebars and landed on the street.

I don’t know the make or model of the car, but cars usually weigh about 4000 pounds while I weigh about 200 pounds.

That hurt, really hurt.

As it happened, a young woman whose name begins with “L” came by, told me she was a pediatrician, and offered to help.  I told her I hadn’t seen a pediatrician in 40 years.  She quickly checked me out, and then I don’t know what happened to her.  I’d like to thank her.

Then the Seattle Fire Department showed up, and they cut up my beautiful green, international orange, and silver sweatshirt.  It was a gift from my parents, and they bought it for me so drivers would see me and not hit me.  I loved that sweatshirt.  Of course, cutting up the sweatshirt was the right thing to do, because the firefighters have to check for injuries.  They cut up my 2001 T-shirt as well.

The police showed up.  They must have talked to me, because officer Dickson, 7288, inserted a business card with the case number, 16-363920, in my wallet.  I don’t know if the other driver was cited or not.

The fire fighters put me in a collar to immobilize my head and neck.  Then they put me on a backboard.  That hurt.  An ambulance showed up, and they put me on a gurney.  At that point, all I could think of was “gee, maybe Dr. Deborah Klein was right and I should lose 20 lbs”.

They took me to Harborview, which my father tells me is the best place to go for trauma.  After the fire department poked and prodded at me, a triage nurse poked and prodded at me.  Then a physician whose name I forget poked and prodded at me.  Then a resident named Dr. McCormick poked and prodded at me, but she was much more thorough – she looked in my ears, looked in my eyes (she said there is a lot of gunk in them), up my nose.  She poked and prodded my spleen, liver, stomach, little colon, big colon and semicolon.  She rolled me on my side (that hurt) and poked at each vertebrae, from the foramem magnum down to the sacrum.  She poked at my feet, tested my toes and fingers for sensation, checked out my left knee, carefully looked at the abrasion on my right leg.  I’m going to write her a commendation.

I got my brain CT scanned, my chest CT scanned, my left knee (where the patella meets the femur) X-rayed , my right tibia and fibia X-rayed.

Finally, they gave me 350 mg of Acetaminophen (at my request – I got tired of “toughing it out” and I was no longer afraid that they were going to poke and prod at me some more) and sent me home.

Lessons learned:
1) Carry health insurance.  The other driver could have fled, or he could be uninsured or under insured.
2) Wear a bike helmet at all times when riding.
3) Pay taxes.  The police were there in moments.  The fire department was there in moments.  I don’t know exactly what the police did, but I know what the fire fighters did.  They were superb.  Harborview is also partially supported by King County, the State of Washington, the city of Seattle, and the University of Washington.  Were it not for taxes, it wouldn’t be there when I needed it.
4) Tell your significant other that you love her or him every morning when you walk or ride out the door.  You might not survive the day, and it could be all over – just like that!  I estimate I was moving about 20 miles an hour or 20 feet per second.  I estimate I was about 40 feet away from the other driver when I realized I was in really deep trouble.  So, maybe 2 seconds, maybe less, to Do Something about it.
5) I’m damn lucky, damn lucky, on so many levels.  a) I could have been killed. b) I could have been paralyzed for life c) I could have had major injuries: fractures, concussion, blindness. d) I have a spouse who loves me, who sat beside me for 7 hours, listened to all of the doctor jokes I have told her for 34 years! and still laughed at all the right places. e) I have a father, who is a doctor, who is still alive, and who taught me all of those doctor jokes (well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad). f) I have a mother, who also is still alive, who got me that beautiful green and orange and silver sweatshirt (hopefully, she will get me another one). g) I have children and grandchildren who care about me.
6) Yes, I am unemployed, and unemployment sucks.  Yes, I am in pain, and my range of motion is diminished – for now, anyway.  But I am going to get over this.  In a few days or maybe a few weeks, I’m going to get a new beautiful green and orange and silver sweatshirt, new bright orange gloves, a new helmet, and then I am going to get on that bicycle and ride to where I am going.

Jeff asked me (on October 27) to add the following notes to his account:

It turns out that there is a no left turn sign at that intersection – the driver who caused Jeff’s accident was cited for making an illegal left turn, and Jeff learned a new word: “scofflaw”–a person who flouts the law.

When Jeff passed the police report on to his insurance company, they indicated that the case is pretty open-and-shut and that the driver’s insurance company is going to have much trouble getting out of paying his claim.

Meanwhile Jeff has regained full motion in his left arm and left knee, but he still cannot rest on his left side, nor lie on his stomach.

He concluded, “Still damn lucky at multiple levels.”

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Six Weeks Plus Post-Injury

So when I last posted six weeks ago, I left you in suspense. I had finally found an orthopedic doctor who looked at hamstring injuries. (Can you believe that I had to call three orthopedic groups before I found one that took care of torn hamstrings?) He confirmed that I had a torn hamstring, and he advised me to use my crutch on the opposite side of the injured leg–swing the crutch forward at the same time as my leg moved forward. I already knew that! No physical therapy, he said. Gave up the elastic stocking. Spend as much time as possible with my leg raised. Come back in two weeks.

Two weeks later I was back. This time, my leg was still swollen and it still hurt to sit. He sent me off to a vascular surgeon to confirm that I wasn’t developing clots in my leg–I wasn’t–and he said I didn’t need to come back. So for the next two weeks I did my own thing. I walked with and then without the crutch, and watched the purple stains on the back of my leg move down below my knee and finally to my foot. I walked two miles one day, and four miles a week later. Sitting on a hard surface still hurts, but not as much as it did at first. I guess I’m healed. Tomorrow I will re-join my hiking group.

No picture this time, but one nice story. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival scans the web looking for OSF in the news. (Most professional entertainment, etc. organizations do the same.) I received a lovely email from Eddie Wallace, Associate Director of Communications, praising my resilience in coming to Ashland in the face of my injury, and thanking me for the good things I had said about the helpful staff at OSF. What a great gesture amidst the pain!

And that’s the end of my hamstring story.

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