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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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.”

Posted in Bicycle Safety, Bicycling, Family, Health, On Aging, On Writing, Seattle Fire Department, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Health, Hiking, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The End of My Hiking Season?

I live in a house with lots of stairs, and I try very carefully to avoid falling on them. I hold on to a handrail every time I go up or down, but last Friday I fell on an outdoor stairway that I had never worried about. There are five stairs going up from our front walk to the driveway; at the top of these stairs is a faucet. I was carrying two watering cans up these stairs to fill them at that faucet. I leaned forward from the stairs to put the cans in place when I lost my balance and fell. I landed on my right side, scraped my left arm against the wall, and felt an excruciating pain in my back and both legs. Pain seemed to last forever. I crawled to  the front door, got to my study and phoned Don who was downstairs in his office.

We had big plans for the weekend. On Saturday morning we were flying to Ashland , OR, for three nights, four days, to catch up on the two late season plays of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and attend the Daedalus Festival, an annual event put on by OSF to raise awareness and money for HIV-AIDS. I was in pain, Friday night and Saturday morning, in my back and every time I put weight on my  left leg, but I was determined not to miss Daedalus or Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens which I had never seen. So we set out Saturday morning. I tried using crutches or a walker (which we have around the house from previous injuries) and found that using one crutch on my left side somewhat relieved the pain. In the airports in Seattle and Medford I had a wheelchair. On Saturday evening and Sunday I got around to restaurants and theatres walking very slowly with one crutch. Once I was seated I was okay, but walking was an agony.

My scooter on the deck of the OSF Members Lounge

Me in my scooter on the deck of the OSF Members Lounge

On Sunday evening, Don noticed that I hurt only when I walked, but not when I was seated or walking sideways, like a crab. He found an agency in Medford that rented little scooters, and on Monday morning I was ecstatically mobile! Ashland is very hilly, but the city is very sensitive to walkers and wheelers. There are curb cuts at every intersection, and traffic stops to let pedestrians cross. I was not very good at backing up, but rolling forward was a dream. The house staffs in the theatres were terrific, showing me where to park the scooter and pointing out hidden restrooms that are available to the handicapped. When I left the scooter, I used my crutch and walked sideways to get to my seat.

So what was wrong with me? At first, judging by the location of the pain and where I was exquisitely tender, Don thought I had injured my hamstring muscle. After a lot of poking and prodding, pulling on my leg and consulting with Dr. Judy in San Francisco, the consensus was that I had spinal stenosis. (I knew I had stenosis from MRIs taken when a disk blew out on the right side in 2008, but I had never had any pain on the left.) I tried to talk to my doctors in Seattle but it was very difficult to communicate, with plays to see, with staff leaving messages at home instead of cell phone, with offices that close down at five. Finally home late Tuesday night, I called my internist first thing Wednesday morning and was able to see him that afternoon. By that time, all the pain was in my left leg, and we were stunned to see that the back of my left thigh, down to the back of the knee, was an ugly purple color. A CT scan confirmed that it was not stenosis but I had torn my hamstring muscle. Then began a search for an orthopedist. Many of them do not treat torn hamstrings.

A few phone calls later, I have an appointment for next week. More to follow.

Posted in Health, Hiking, Public Transportation, Shakespeare, theatre, Travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

The Dainty Ladies Book Group

The Dainty Ladies Book Group is a very small, exclusive club with only three members. It was started by my granddaughter Nina who suggested that we would all read the same book and then discuss it. The first invited member was Aunt Judy, and then I asked to join too and was accepted. We take turns choosing the book.

The cover of the book

The cover of the book

So we started with HOLES, a book Nina chose, and when we had all finished it, Nina and I on the phone at my house called Aunt Judy and we talked about the book. Nina had written questions to discuss. We really wanted to do FaceTime but I couldn’t get it to work, so we had to discuss by phone. HOLES was written by Louis Sacher and won the Newbery Award in 1999. It was made into a movie by Walt Disney.

The next book we will all read is my suggestion, HITTY: HER FIRST HUNDRED YEARS, by Rachel Field. It won the Newbery Award in 1930. We all have the book and when we all finish reading it (Judy and I have already read it several times) we will discuss it again.

Then it will be Judy’s turn to pick a book. Nina chose the name for our club.

Posted in Book Groups, Family, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment