Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Anger Articulation 9/30/09

Originally posted August 1, 2005
12:00:42 AM EDT

Anger Articulation

The weaker the argument the stronger the words.

American proverb
I don't have the words, weak or strong, to describe the misery I went through today.

There are very few things that I will admit that I hate. One of them is noise. I love music. I HATE noise.

I live in a three story house with five apartments. I am the only tenant on the top floor. Last week there was a heavy rain storm and some of the apartments in the back had leaks. I had no leak. A workman came to inspect my leak. I told him I didn't have one but he came in and looked anyway. That's when he told me about the leaks in the other apartments. Then he said they would have to replace the roof.

This morning at 8 a.m. I was awakened by my walls shaking and loud thumping right above my head. They were replacing my roof, even though I had no leak. The roof over me is not shared by any of the other apartments. The roof worked. So they fixed it.

Thumping, banging, scraping, drilling and hammering right over my head and the shaking walls continued non-stop from 8 until 6 p.m. As a result I am in a toxic, battery acid mood.

I just want gentle sounds. I want peace and quiet in my home. Is that too much to ask for?


Monday, September 28, 2009

Celestial Craving 9/28/09

Sunday, August 3, 2008
12:03:12 AM EDT

Celestial Craving

We shall find peace.
We shall hear the angels.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.

Anton Chekhov

Actors have a bad reputation. The world thinks we are basically ignorant. There are some good reasons for that opinion. For one thing, look at the shenanigans of your average movie star as reported in the media. For another thing, some actors are ignorant about many things. It's not that they are stupid. They're just lazy about anything but their own self-involvement. They will mispronounce a word on stage rather than take the trouble to look it up. I have known actors who just seemed to be oblivious to the world around them.

It was Autumn some years ago. I was doing a show in Pennsylvania. During down times I did a whole series of drawings of autumn leaves. Most of them are gone now. When I finished one I taped it up to the wall outside of my room in the company house. The other actors in the house passed that wall every day. One day one of them asked me what I used to get the leaves to stay on the paper. Why would they automatically assume they were real leaves and not drawings when a close look would identify them? Oblivion. And why would they assume that since I was an actor I couldn't know how to draw?

You answer that. I can't.


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Basic Bibliography 9/27/09

12:51:30 AM EDT

Basic Bibliography

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.

Francis Bacon

Even before I ever came across this quote, I used to say that I don't read books, I eat them. I have many books that I've had a long time. I may never finish with some of them because I keep going back over them, rereading parts. Every time I do that I discover more brilliance in the writing and gain a greater grasp of the ideas.

I have sometimes found a book that I needed when I needed it just by walking into a bookstore and looking. I was once hired to do a public reading of John Milton's "A Paradise Lost." I didn't know the work but I went into the wonderful but gone Coliseum bookstore in NYC, went to the poetry section and there it was. A large paperback, the only one on the shelf. That sort of experience has happened to me often. But I have to tell you about my favorite book.

It was the summer of 1957. I had just graduated from high school and was about to enter college in the Boston area. I found myself one day in Harvard Square, Cambridge, Massachusetts. I went into a bookstore and I saw a book on the shelf that said it was the complete works of William Shakespeare. Normally Shakespeare's works come in a huge tome the size of a major dictionary. But this was small, slender and compact. I didn't believe it was the complete works until I opened it and read the table of contents. All the plays were there and all the poems including the sonnets. It was the only one like it on the shelf. The pages were full of words and very thin. There were no margins. There were only a few pages of notes and glossary in the back, plus an index of songs. I bought it, brought it home and wrote my name in it. I didn't realize at the time how prophetic that purchase was. It was another year before I knew I was an actor. But I started to read the plays and roles that I would be doing some day. The magic, the music, the inspiration, the greatness, the depth, the colors, the light, the lightness, the humor, the compassion, the understanding, the simple, the extraordinary, the pleasure, the wisdom, the universe all contained within this small book I held in my hand, cannot be put into words,

I cherish that book above all things. It has been with me for 52 years. It has gone with me wherever I've gone in my vagabond journeys. I will never part with it. I have never seen another copy like it. I have repaired it so many times it looks like a hunk of junk from the outside. No one else could possibly know the love that is showered on it. It's sitting on my table across the room from me right now. It still has the price written in it from the store, 6.50, (those were the days). It gets opened and read from almost every day.
That book and my bible are my desert island books. Even if I were to go blind (heaven forbid) I would never part with it. Beyond Shakespeare there is nothing on Earth but the songs of angels.

But this rough magic
I here abjure; and, when I have requir'd
Some heavenly music, - which even now I do, -
To work mine end upon their senses that
This airy charm is for, I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I'll drown my book.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Endearing Energy 9/26/09

12:08:01 AM EDT

Endearing Energy

Love is a better master than duty.


There's a line in an Arthur Miller play which says "What difference does it make what you do if you can't do the work you love. It's a luxury. Most people never get near it." I suppose that's true. I am grateful that I ws able to spend most of my life doing the work I love. I'm sad that I had to retire early from it due to physical problems for which I have no insurance. I know of actors 20 years older than I who are still working. But, at least, I had close to 50 years of being an entertainer and that is something I applaud. And did I love it?

Behind all the glamour of movies and the excitement of live theatre there are hours of drudgery and tedious work. Rehearsals can sometimes be a major drag on one's energy and positive spirit. They are usually frustrating and annoying. I know an actress who says that after every rehearsal she's "grumpy."

Then there is the process of memorizing lines. There are few things more frustrating. You work for hours and hours trying to get the right words learned in their proper order. When you finally go to bed you know the speech perfectly. When you wake up in the morning you can hardly remember any of it. You have to get the words in your head so well that you don't have to think about them and you can think about the thoughts behind them instead. If I hadn't done it so often for so many years I would have a hard time believing that it was possible. Tedious repetition is the only way I can do it.

Three times in my career I was applauded in rehearsal by the other actors on the stage. Once was in a play called The Apple Cart by Shaw. My character had a very long speech in the last act, several pages long. We had a week to prepare this play and by Thursday afternoon I still didn't know it. But I had set myself a goal of learning a certain number of pages every day no matter what. As it was in the latter part of the play those pages came up for learning on Thursday evening. Several pots of coffee and many hours later I went to sleep (for about 2 hours). When I awoke I went through it once more. We didn't rehearse that scene until Friday afternoon. But when the scene came I said the speech perfectly and everyone was stunned. Spontaneous applause broke out. And did I love it?

It was frequently about difficult scripts, bad directors, actors who didn't know what they were doing or uncomfortable theatres. Performing is almost always a collaborative event. But when the combination is right, the play is a good one, the director is inspired and the actors are all together, it's "magic time," And did I love it?

I can honestly tell you that there were tines when I came off the stage after a performance saying to myself "I love this. I love this more than life itself."

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Furry Faction 9/24/09

12:10:58 AM EDT

Furry Faction

A gentleman can live through anything.

William Faulkner

Up in northern New Hampshire there are a group of peaks in the White Mountain National Forest called the Presidential Range, the mountains are named after U.S. Presidents. The highest one is Mt. Washington at 6,288 feet, True, it's not as tall as some Western mountains but it's the tallest in the Northeast.

It's in a town called Bretton Woods, a sparsely inhabited place. But there is a big vacation hotel in town, The Mount Washington Hotel, which has restaurants, a night club, lots of activities and many, many rooms. In one of the rooms there is a big oblong table with easy chairs around it, each one with a name plate on the back. I sat in the chair labeled "Winston Churchill." It was the room where the famous Bretton Woods conference took place that created the International Monetary Fund.

The Mountain also has buildings on the summit. The Mount Washington Observatory monitors something about the weather, I'm not sure what. But they do record the wind velocity, in fact the highest wind ever recorded was up there in 1944 at 231 miles per hour. That was the same year Churchill and his 43 buddies were sitting around in the cozy comfort of their hotel.

There is also a radio and TV transmitting facility for a station in Poland Spring, Maine, home of the famous Poland Spring water. Poland Spring also has a big hotel where the rich used to come, relax, socialize and drink the water (and other things). That hotel is closed now and houses the studios of the radio and TV station. I was an announcer at that radio station for one disastrously unpleasant season. Poland Spring is nowhere near Mt. Washington but they beam the signal from the top of the building via a microwave to the summit of the mountain where the transmitter picks it up, translates it and send it out allover northern New England, parts of sountern New England, Canada, New York State "and all the ships at sea."

There are two broadcasts directly from the mountain. When I worked for the small, local, family owned station in the Mt. Washington Valley I would call up there every morning and talk to one of the weather researchers on the air. The way I did that was to dial 3 numbers which gave me the Bretton Woods operator, a real person. I told her who I was and that I wanted to talk to the mountain, She dialed the number and someone who was expecting the call and ready to talk would answer. It was usually a guy named Al. And there was a stationary camera there for the TV News broadcast out of Poland Spring. Another weatherman type would be sitting at the desk in a white shirt and bow tie when the camera went on. He would give his report about conditions on the mountain in a very serious manner and when he finished he would flash a big smile.

There was also a tourist are on the summit. Yes I said "tourist." There were three ways of getting up there. You could drive. There was a road. You could drive up, park your car and purchase a bumper sticker that said "This car climbed Mt. Washington." You could also take the train if you wished. A cog railway went up and down. I never did that. Then, of course, you could walk up. There were several trails that went up and down. That's how I got there one summer day. But I resisted buying a T shirt that read "This body climbed Mt. Washington."

There is also an annual bicycle race up to the top. They say the last 20 feet are the worst.

The people who work up there do it in shifts. I'm not sure how they get up and down in the winter but for anyone to spend a whole winter up there is enough to drive a crazy man sane.

A few hardy, he man, macho types will attempt to climb it in the winter and some make it, but the forest service is always ready to jump on their snowmobiles and go rescue people, which it does an a fairly regular basis.

There is one resident who never leaves the mountain top however. Like in any good conglomeration of people who live and work together, there is the cat. The cat knows enough to come in when the wind is blowing and generally doesn't go out at all in the dead of winter. But when the good weather comes he is the King of the Mountain.

DB - The Vagabond

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grounded Greatness 9/23/09

12:05:54 AM EDT

Grounded Greatness

The beginning of wisdom is to desire it.

Solomon Ibn Gabirol

Today I read some upsetting journals. After checking in with my regular journal friends, I decided to go exploring and read some blogs and their comments that I haven't read before. I was appalled at what I found. So many people are sending out harsh and uninformed opinions about our government, our politicians, our society, the media, the celebrities and each other. Some of the journals were written by people who seemed to have left intelligent, sensitive comments in other people's journals, but when I went to their own I found venom. I was stunned to see to what extent a person can set aside any degree of integrity and self-respect in order to express ignorant words of murderous mentality and ethical squalor. As I went from one to the other I finally felt as if I was following a path of moral contagion and I turned back.

I'm not ignorant to the world of hatred and bigotry on all levels of society. I just didn't expect to find it where I did. A fellow announces himself a good guy with a pleasant face and then writes poison. I hope someone tells him to get his feet off the soap box and back on the ground where real life is.

Information is easy to come by. We can Google almost anything and get more information than we want. Putting the information together and making sense out of it is a learning experience. That's how we gain knowledge. Next comes understanding which is only gained by asking a lot of questions and answering them. Anyone can learn facts and figures. Understanding must be strived for.

Wisdom is another matter. We must really want it to get it. It is difficult, sometimes scary and it's very easy to leave it there and walk away. But once we gain any wisdom about anything we know how valuable it is. We can't help but search for it when we need to and want to. Wisdom is made of ideas, ideas which are chewed, swallowed and digested. And wisdom is made of hard fought and hard won life experience. It is NOT made of opinions.

One must tread carefully through the Internet Jungle.

DB - The Vagabond

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lasting Life 9/23/09

12:01:57 AM EDT

Lasting Life

Even the fear of death is nothing
compared with the fear of not having lived
authentically and fully.

Frances Lappe


How do we authenticate a life? What yardstick do we use to measure a life's worth? What map do we have to chart a life, even a short one, that is lived to the fullest? I'm such a humanitarian that I believe the only way we can take the dimensions of anyone's life is in how it affects, directly or indirectly, other people.

There have always been a few people in my life that I look up to and think about whenever I am involved in any project or activity. Even if they never know about it. I want to make sure they would be pleased if they did.

About ten years ago I worked on this play about two old vaudevillians who flee the city in retirement and live in a cabin in the woods. When neighbors come to call who recognize them, they ask the two old guys to do one of their routines. So they do. (I'm the one on the right.)

The other actor, E, and I got along great on the stage. We were a real two man team. But backstage he was a bit of a problem. He was one who liked to criticize, and make jokes at other people's expense. Sometimes I was the butt of his jokes, but I refused to let it bother me. Instead I treated him with equality and equanimity.

Because there was a song and dance number in the show, we had a choreographer. One day in rehearsal during a ten minute break, instead of going outside as I usually did, I took a seat in the house directly in front of him. He leaned over and said "I really am impressed by what you are doing and I admire the way you are with E. You treat him with respect. You're a good man D."

I turned, smiled and thanked him. Then i went out to the park in back, sat by myself on a bench and wept.

Why did I weep? Because something occurred to me right then that I had never realized before. No one had ever called me "a good man" in my entire life. They said I was a good actor, or a good announcer or I did a good job. But never that plain, genuine recognition. I had to wait until I was 60 before somebody actually told me I was a good man. I will never forget that choreographer and that moment. It brings on a tear just now, thinking about it.

If you know someone who is a good person, tell them so. And be honest about it.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, September 21, 2009

Jovial Jobber 9/21/09

Sunday, August 10, 2008
12:04:26 AM EDT

Jovial Jabber

The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public,

George Jessel


I stopped briefly in my career to give some seminars in public speaking. My clients were all people in the business world. I asked them to prepare a 3 minute speech for the first afternoon. Most of them thought they couldn't speak for 3 minutes. But they did.

The two biggest problems I faced with them were A. the feeling that they didn't have enough of interest to say and B stage fright.

I taught them how to prepare a script and to read it while still keeping eye contact with the listeners. I had them prepare a talk and deliver it from memory. I taught them how to speak extemporaneously, which means speaking from notes. And I taught them how to ad lib.

I taught them Aristotle's system of rhetoric: logos, pathos and ethos. That is basically the what, the how and the why. Logos is what you have to say. Pathos is your opinion or feeling about what you have to say. Ethos is that which gives you the right and authority to say it.

I showed them that stage fright resulted from paying more attention to the impression they were making on the listeners than on the words and ideas they were speaking.

By the third day of the seminar they were speaking like fast flowing rivers.

To get them used to ad libbing and speaking without fear I came up with a fiendish system. There were 30 people in the room. I divided them into an A team and a B team. I gave them all index cards and told them to write down a subject in just a word or two, or three (my vacation, books, the Statue of Liberty, etc, whatever they thought of). I set up two boxes, marked A and B, collected the cards and put them in their respective boxes. Then I had each one of the speakers in turn come up, remove a card from the other team's box, read it to themselves and start talking. Nobody thought they could do that either. But once they got started I couldn't shut them up.

I met a lot of interesting people and learned a lot of things about the business world I didn't know.

DB - The Vagabond

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kindly Knocks 9/20/09

12:03:01 AM EDT

Kindly Knocks

Person to person, moment to moment,
as we love, we change the world.

Samahria Kaufman


Let me never be ridiculous or pathetic. Let me never become a complete failure. Let the meager offerings of my slim talents dwell fruitfully in the hearts and minds of all who saw me, heard me or read me. Let me graciously accept a career cut short by sickness. Let me bear my illnesses with patience and hope. Let me have the persistence to get out of debt and the wisdom to never become a debtor again. Let me not succumb to the utterness of my sorrow. Let my love bring joy to those I love. Let my friendship be a banner to those who still think about me and let it bring peace to those who don't. Let me never cease to rejoice over the success and happiness of others and weep for the failures, even of those who hate me. Let my kind thoughts bless the enemies I refuse to hate. Let my regrets turn to ashes and let the wounds heal and the scars fade from those I have harmed. Let me be reunited with the strangers who should be close to me. Let me not give up on people, even those who have given up on me. Let me not be grieved at my dwindling audience or my dimming eyesight. Let me find my way from nowhere to somewhere and from nothing to something. Let me know more clearly the true nature of things. Let me never lose a sense of humor about the trials of my life. Let me not be a victim of anger or depression. Let me not be discouraged by all the many things that go wrong in my life. Let me breathe sweetness and speak goodness. Let me learn to treat each new day with expectations of good and each new night with determination to do better. Let my goals be pure and let me walk proudly through the jungle of distractions. Let not pain and sadness overcome me. Let my thoughts be cleaned of cruelty and violence and let nothing kill the poetry in my heart. Let me be forgiven for my foolishness and my ignorance. Let me claim my self-respect even where I'm not respected. Let me live and take care of myself. Let me dwell benignly in my loneliness. And let there be peace in my life.


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Original Orientation 9/19/09

Friday, August 15, 2008
12:04:10 AM EDT

Original Orientation

There are voyages of self-discovery to find out what you can do and what you've forgotten to do.

Pat Oliphant


When I was 6 years old I told stories. We lived next to a park. There were wild areas in the park where trees, shrubs and bushes grew. One day a friend and I were playing there. He held up a strange piece of wood and asked me what i thought it was. I made up a story about it. He showed me other things and I made up stories about each of them. He must have done some word of mouth because the next weekend there were a lot of kids there all wanting to hear stories. I don't remember any of them but they were about Martians, people who lived underground, magic wands, etc.

A few years later we moved to a place that had a hammock in the back yard. Sometimes, after school, a couple of sisters would come over, sit in the hammock with me and ask for stories. They told me what they wanted to hear about and I would make up a story on the spot.

As a teenager I had a job as a life guard at an indoor pool watching some elementary school kids splash around. We came and left by the school bus. One day as we were getting on the bus to go back, the bus driver, a very nice guy, said to me that he had a splitting headache and that he hoped it would be a quiet ride. Since I was the last one on the bus I had to sit way at the back. The ride was anything but quiet. There was the usual screaming and yelling from a bunch of energized youngsters. So I began to tell a ghost story. Within a few minutes every kid on the bus was quiet and listening. I knew how the story would end, but I had to make sure it lasted until the bus was back at school. When we got there the kids all got off politely. The driver said "Thanks buddy. I owe you."

I worked with an actress named Diane. I lost track of her, but a few years later I read in the paper that she had been appointed the city story teller. I happened to see her on the subway one day and asked her about it. She said that she had gone to England to study and her acting teacher had told her that more than an actor she was a story teller. So she came back, got hired by the city and spent her career telling stories to people in the parks and community centers.

All actors are story tellers, I guess. At least we take other people's stories and make events out of them.

So now, retired, in my late 60's, what do I do? The same thing I did when I was 6. I tell stories.

Sometimes, in some ways, life does make some sort of sense.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Precious Pursuits 9/18/09

12:04:43 AM EDT

Precious Pursuits

Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Thomas Paine

Ode To The Monkey Wrencher

When I was in the 5th grade my homeroom teacher was Mr. O' Conner, the school's science teacher (remember that). One day he asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. I was very interested in Astronomy at the time and said I wanted to be the first man on the moon. He said that I was being stupid because man could never go to the moon.

You want to do what? You want to build a pyramid in the desert? Forget it. It can't be done
What are those things? Beans? What are they for? Food? You don't expect me to eat that stuff do you? Don't grow those. Use the land for grazing cattle. Feed your beans to the pigs. If people are dying of starvation, let them. It's their own damn fault.

There is no other way to the spices, Mr. Columbus. That's a proven fact. Others have tried it and never came back. You and your ships will be lost at sea just like the rest.

You can't sail around the earth, Mr. Magellan, because the earth is flat. The Bible even says so. It refers to the four corners of the earth. Now it wouldn't have corners on it if it was round, would it? Stay home.

Don't translate the Bible into English, Your Majesty. If you do that people are going to start reading it for themselves and they'll stop going to church to hear the priest explainit to them.

What are you talking about Mr. Adams? We are Englishmen. If we try to separate ourselves from the benevolent British throne we won't survive.

Emancipate the slaves? You've got to be kidding, Mr. Lincoln. Everyone know that the Negros aren't intelligent enough to take care of themselves. They'll be all over the country taking up jobs. And if they try to educate themselves, God forbid, they'll be taking up space in the schools that the white boys should have. They're better off where they are.

Give women the vote?!! That one really makes me laugh, Miss Anthony. If women had the vote they'd be electing themselves to Congress. The first thing you know they'd be knitting and making doilies and gossiping with each other instead of tending to the business of the county. No, no. Let them stay in the kitchen where they belong.

I don't care how much pointless investigating you've done, Mr. Freud, you're only trying to find excuses for people's behavior and letting them get away with it. Face it. There is no subconscious mind. What you see is what you get.

Now what are you boys up to? You're trying to build a machine that flies? That's a crazy idea. If God had meant us to fly He would have given us wings. Go fly a kite and then go back to making bicycles.

It's a cute idea Mr. Ford but it will never replace the horse and carriage. Besides, Doctors have proven that the human body can't travel any faster than 8 miles an hour without destroying its inner organs.

You want to build a rocket ship to fly to the moon? What for? So we can walk on it? Don't be daft. Man can never go to the moon. Mr. O'Connor told me so. You've been seeing too many science fiction movies.

Now what are you doing? Oh, trying to chart a human genetic code are you? What a waste of time and money. There is no such thing. We are what we eat.

You, over there, what's that? A what? A wheel? What does it do? It goes around? Great. So what? What use is it? To move things? Come on. Leave that hunk of junk alone and go hitch up that wildebeest if you want to move something.

Thank you Mr. O'Conner.

DB - The Vagabond

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Quit Question 9/17/09

12:06:36 AM EDT

Quit Question

An apology might help,
but you can change you life without one.

Robin Quivers

None of us should ever be tailgated by regrets and bad memories. It is not in my nature not to forgive people who have done me wrong. It just isn't. I can be competitive, but I don't go looking for revenge. Vengeance is one of those mortal sins that many people feel they have a moral right to. It's what starts wars and keeps them going. Though forgiving my enemies is often difficult, it is easy compared to the effort of forgiving myself.

How can I wipe out the effect on me of the memories of all the stupid, cruel and thoughtless things I've done. Don't look back, the wizards say. But how can I help it when something will trigger a memory that suddenly attacks me like a mosquito. I can slap a mosquito., but not a regret.

In every regret there's a lesson. But there is also a fear. If I am placed in a similar circumstance will I do the same thing again? Was it just an accident that made that thing happen, or is it a trait.

It's very troublesome that I can't go back and apologize to the people I hurt. And that makes it very difficult to shake off the regret. I can only hope that those people understand in some way that I was on a detour from a particular journey of my own, and not out to get them, as I understand that those who hurt me were, no doubt, responding to something in themselves that had little to do with me. A bully may get the better of me, but I know he will immediately go looking for someone else to get the better of.

I think the only solution is to chew upon and digest the lessons that come from my bad and regretful behavior and to shine a light on myself to observe the motivations that made me act that way, and replace them with better ones. That means understanding myself.

I think I've already done that to some extent. And you knew what? It's not so bad.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Slanted Sight 9/16/09

12:02:12 AM EDT

Slanted Sight

Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep insight
can be winnowed from deep nonsense.

Carl Sagan

Some time ago I began to learn how to develop a healthy skepticism about almost everything. I'm not an absolute skeptic, no one can be. If I was I would question my own existence and therefore lose my ability to be skeptical. That's the snake swallowing it's own tail. But I began to notice how gullible people seem to be about important things.

An actor appears on a television commercial wearing a lab coat and talking about some new medicine and some people will believe he's really a doctor and will rush off to buy it. Someone else puts on a round collar, stands up and delivers a sermon and therefore he must be divinely inspired. You can find this kind of nonsense everywhere: teachers, mechanics, politicians, car salesmen, real estate and insurance agents, friends and members of your own family.

The problem is that there is usually some truth in there somewhere if you can only tell the difference. "Winnow all my folly and you'll find a grain or two of truth among the chaff." W. S. Gilbert. The winnower usually knows what he's looking for, but what happens when the nonsense is very deep and the difference between it and wisdom is vague? What happens when we are confronted with borderline cases?

That's when good reasonable skepticism is needed. One must read not only between the lines but behind the lines as well. An actor has to know the motivation behind his character's speech and behavior in order to portray him effectively. So it is with observing others' speech and behavior. People frequently don't mean what they say nor say what they mean, even if they think they do.

And then there's making assumptions. If A, B and C come together as a group, and A and B are both true, does that mean that C is automatically true? And is the set (A+B+C) true if it's two thirds true? What makes it even more complicated is that there is a difference between something being "false" and it being "not true." But, as my friend Paula once said: "Only a mother can figure that one out."

DB - The Vagabond

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tactical Test 9/15/09

Thursday, August 21, 2008
12:03:20 AM EDT

Tactical Test

Who can protest and does not,
is an accomplice to the act.

The Talmud

I am fortunate to live in a country where protests are legal. If my government does something wrong, or doesn't do something right (what! oh, no! never!) thousands of people will come out to protest, and it usually gets some results. But a protest can also be small and individual.

I was called upon to take over a role with 2 days notice. I had to take a long bus ride to get to the job. By the time I reached my destination I knew half the role.

I was put up at a company house with a family; parents and two sons. He was a teacher on vacation, she was an actress in the show, the older son was college age, the younger one was in his mid teens. Upon my arrival the younger boy set to work helping me to learn the rest of the script. And he was tireless. He made sure I knew the whole part word perfect. He was so generous with his time that I wanted to do something nice to repay him, but he said he didn't want anything. However, I got my chance.

I noticed that the older boy did not like his younger brother and would put him down at any available moment.

About a week later, on a dark night (which means a night in which there is no performance) we all enjoyed an al fresco supper in the back yard. We set up a table and the five of us sat around and ate.

After supper the conversation turned to current events and politics. People expressed various opinions and questions. When the younger boy spoke up his brother said "Oh you. What do you know about anything?"

"Well, I've read some articles, and..."

"Oh, swell. You read an article and now I suppose you think you're an authority on everything?"

"No, but...."

This harangue kept up.

What puzzled me was why one parent or the other didn't step in to put a stop to it. I wasn't in that family and didn't know the story so it wasn't any of my business. But it was happening in public, and since I was "the public" I finally got tired of listening to it, and if the namby parents weren't going to protest, I was.

I don't remember the exact words, but it went something like this:

"You two guys are brothers, right?"

"Yes. Unfortunately." the older one said.

"Well, when I first got here, your brother was a great help to me. He knuckled right down and helped me learn the role and stayed with me until I knew the whole play. And for that I admire and respect him very much. And I don't want to sit at this table and listen to you insult him. FIND A DIFFERENT TOPIC!"

There was a silence while everyone looked at him. Shortly after he got up and left the table. His parents and I talked about something else.

I don't understand why nobody told this creep to shut up long before I had to.

I thought that maybe his younger brother would grow up, get some power and knock his sibling on to some other backyard someday. But probably not, He was too nice a guy.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Monday, September 14, 2009

Underground Understanding

Friday, August 22, 2008
12:03:27 AM EDT

Underground Understanding

A wise man can see more from the bottom of a well
than a fool can from a mountain top.

You may have heard the story of the mule in the pit. A farmer hears one of his mules howling and discovers that the mule has fallen into a deep pit. It's too high for the mule to climb out and he's too heavy to lift out. So the farmer decides that since he was going to fill up the pit anyway he might as well do it and bury the stupid mule. So he takes his shovel and starts flinging dirt down on top of the mule who shakes it off and stands on it, howling away. After a while the crying stops because the "stupid mule" has figured out that every shovel full of dirt that's thrown down on him which he shakes off and stands on is getting him closer and closer to the top of the pit. Eventually he's high enough to just walk out.

I met a guy in New Hampshire who said he wanted to go for a hike up one of the small mountains and asked me if I would like to go along. Being a hiker myself I agreed. During the hike I did what I usually do, I stopped along the way to investigate and admire things. I was curious about the strange plants, the different ways some trees were growing, the unusual rock formations, what the birds and chipmunks were up to. At one point we came upon a small waterfall. I wanted to look at it, put my hands in and splash some water on my face. But my companion was impatient and anxious to get to the summit.

When we got there I thought we would sit for a while and enjoy the wonderful view of the valley and surrounding mountains. But he wanted to turn around and go back down. It was then I realized that his one and only reason for climbing the mountain was for exercise. He had no interest in learning anything about the mountain or what could be seen from the summit.

db -The Vagabond

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Vast Viewing 9/12/09

Saturday, August 23, 2008
12:04:42 AM EDT

Vast Viewing

A man is infinitely more complicated than his thought.

Paul Valery

Two of the biggest errors we can make are mistaking an effect for a cause and judging the reality of something only on the basis of what we can see of it.

I think there are at least three levels of conscious thought: observing, calculating beyond what one can observe and interpreting a moral, metaphysical or spiritual meaning behind that calculation.

In college I took a class in Geology. That class took field trips and one day we went to a beach area where the teacher showed us an outcropping of metamorphosed (baked) sedimentary rock. Later we took the bus to a completely different location, and in the backyard of a house there was another outcropping of the very same rock.

What we learned is that if it was a tunnel instead of rock we could follow it all the way down into the deep parts of the ground until it eventually came up out onto the beach. That rock had once lay flat on the surface, but due to geologic activity had been bent into waves, and then covered over. As erosion took place the upper arc of that wave had disappeared. But since it was harder than the earth around it an outcropping of the rock was left. Again if we could have followed it up into what is now empty space another chunk of it could be found in some unknown location in the western part of the state.

One must know not only what the rock is made of but also calculate the angle of descent and ascent in order to describe the geological history of that area.

There are many ways we use to uncover and observe unconscious, or subconscious thought, For many years no one knew about any type of mentality other than the surface, exoteric one. When the subconscious mind was discovered it seemed like such a mysterious thing. Since then much attention and observation has been made of it, digging down underneath to observe how it affects life. Calculating what and where it is by observation of what the conscious mind is doing.

But I am interested in looking the other way. What about the upper arc of this wave of mentality, a super conscious mind, not observable because it has no abiding place in our earthbound consciousness, but can be known by its effects? What if we carry superconsciousness with us as we do subconsiousiousness? And what if that superconsciousness is the cause of things that appear so mysterious and super natural, like love, kindness, intuition, enlightenment, prophecy, and many other grand capabilities we haven't discovered yet. And why shouldn't Psychology turn its microscope in the other direction, and seriously begin to view and understand this strange, vast untapped ore of mentality?

There are those who investigate things like parapsychology, ESP, spiritualism, and other unusual occurrences, but mostly from the theory of there being abnormal causes. But what if those causes are in turn really effects of a different cause unknown and hence mistaken and misunderstood? What if there is nothing abnormal at all? What if superconsciousness is something that we carry with us all the time, ready to enhance our lives with capabilities and experiences above what we can consciously know?

What do you think?

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Xenophilic Xylograph 9/10/09

Monday, August 25, 2008
12:02:05 AM EDT

Xenophilic Xylograph

When you locate good in yourself,
approve of it with determination.

Xun Zi

This event happened many years age when I was doing a season of summer theatre. The theatre was located near a beach and there was a pier with two buildings on it. One building had a wooden staircase that led from the pier up to a porch, and inside was the rehearsal area. The rehearsal went from 10 until noon. I wasn't involved in it that morning so I was sitting on the pier with my script.

Our Technical Director, Bill, came out of the shop with 4 large planks of fresh lumber, went back inside and came back out with a hand saw, a claw hammer, a saw horse, a bucket of nails and a ruler. I asked him what he was doing and he said he was going to replace the stairs. I figured that it would be a day's work.

I didn't know the dimensions of those planks of wood, but they were thick and long. Because a power tool would have disturbed the rehearsal he took a hand saw and, after ha had measured everything, he cut 10 identical grooves in both of the larger boards. They were so perfectly cut that when he reached the corner of each one the triangular piece just fell out onto the pier. He also cut the corners off of each board. I kept wondering when his arm was going to fall off.

Then he set them aside and measured the thinner planks and cut 10 identical pieces from them. The he stretched out the two larger planks parallel and braced them against the building. He took the smaller pieces he had just cut and with the hammer and some nails from the bucket, he attached each plank neatly into the grooves of the large boards. He then lifted the whole thing up and braced it against the porch.

He climbed the old staircase with the hammer and the bucket. He pried the old staircase loose and let it fall on the pier below. He then pulled over the new one and with large nails attached it to the porch.

He picked up the hammer and bucket and ran down the stairs. He put the tools away and took the old staircase into the shop to dismantle it.

I was amazed I said that I couldn't believe what he had just done. He said that there was nothing to it, and then said "I'm a good carpenter." I agreed.

In a moment or so the rehearsal stopped and the actors came tromping down a brand new staircase on the way to their break. Nobody knew how it got there, but I did. There was nothing to it.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yammering Yoke 9/08/09

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
12:15:29 AM EDT

Yammering Yoke

To succeed without being vain is easy to say but hard to practice.



One of the silliest remarks I've ever heard, and I have heard it often, is "I'm a perfectionist." It is usually mouthed by someone with a tinge of false humility covering up a sense of superiority, as if no one else around had the interest, desire or ability to try to achieve some degree of excellence tending toward the perfect. And worse,, sometimes the person who makes the remark will prove their perfectionism by pointing out others' lack of it. That's the poor relative of covering one's own mistakes by putting the focus on someone else's.

I worked with an actress one time who had this attitude about herself. She had some degree of celebrity. She wasn't the leading actor but she had a large supporting role. As with some whose reputation is slightly above those around her, she thought everyone would be coming to see her, not the play, nor anyone else in it.

It frequently happens that when a performer with a "name" comes to work in a company of "unknowns" they expect that they will be deferred to and that people will stand in awe of their knowledge and artistry. At some point along the way they have to face the facts. Everyone sweats under hot lights and the make up.

What was particularly bothersome about this person was that she stuck her nose and her fingers into other people's work. She tried to arrange the scenes and performances to suit herself. When she was challenged about it she would say in a haughty voice, "Well, I'm a perfectionist, you see." You can imagine the resentment that caused.

And just what was her definition of that vague, gossamer, impossible to attain thing known as perfection? That still remains a mystery.

DB - The Vagabond

Monday, September 7, 2009

Zeal Zone 9/08/09

Wednesday, August 27, 2008
12:05:20 AM EDT

Zeal Zone

Friends are the greatest labor and the greatest reward.

Jason Zebehazy

After all these years I still wear my heart on my sleeve, and I guess I always will. And, in spite of hard knocks and some street wisdom, I've always been too innocent. But I have grown to feel disgusted at the professed friendships that turned out to be clay footed and hollow. It seems that while I was a working actor I was of some value to certain people. But now that I'm retired I'm considered worthless. And so, in my senior years, I've developed a benign suspicion and skepticism when friendship, love and affection are offered to me.

I know a guy who used to email me on almost a daily basis and he ended every letter by saying "I love you, good buddy." Then, one day he disappeared. I wrote to him several times trying to find out what was wrong. I never got an answer. And so it was with a few other of my "close friends."

I'm not bitter about it. My philosophy is never give up on people. If one of them should reappear in my life, even without an apology (which wouldn't be necessary) or an explanation, I could gladly revive the friendship because of the affection I have for them. It is not in my nature not to forgive people who have done me wrong.

Forgiving friends is not so hard. Forgiving enemies is harder but not impossible. There is a couple in this land that maligned me to myself and their family and probably to others, with some nasty name calling and lies. No reason given. All communications between us has broken off. I doubt if we could ever be friends again. But their morbid behavior has not harmed the love I had and still have for that family.

There are four actors who have simply disappeared without a trace of an explanation leaving behind a trail of memorials of how much they said they cared for me.

On the other hand, there are people who I know are true friends. Whether they show up once a week on my computer screen or in my mail box or once a year, I have no doubts about them. Most of them have been around for a long time.

Those are the friendships I work at. To have the freedom and right to labor for such friendships when called upon is one of the great rewards in this life.

DB = The Vagabond

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ancient Affection

Thursday, August 28, 2008
12:09:12 AM EDT

Ancient Affection

When an old man dies, a library burns down.

African proverb


One of the most remarkable people I ever knew was my grandmother, Charlotte Cole. I was only 14 when she died, but I remember as a child, literally sitting at her knee and listening to her talk.

She talked about growing up in the Shenandoah Valley in the late 19th Century where she was taught to sing, dance. act and play the piano.

When she married she and my grandfather moved to Pawnee City, Nebraska to pioneer the land. She spoke of her life as a farmer/rancher's wife, of the other pioneers around, of the men and women of the local Indian tribe, of riding on the back of an ox to go to market because there was no seat in the ox cart. She spoke of the tornados that would rip through a person's home taking the pictures off the wall but leave the wall standing, of the sod house they lived in, where she bore two sons and a daughter. She talked of her sons, one, a successful businessman who, when he was a teenager bought a piglet for 50 cents and a year later sold it for 50 dollars, and the other an important baseball coach and trainer.

When my grandfather died, she took my mother and hit the road with a traveling theatre company. She taught my talented mother the rudiments of entertainment and they worked as a song and dance sister act. She talked of the dangers and hardships of traveling out west in the early 20th Century and of the strong theatre people who helped and protected each other. She recalled performing in places where the men in the audience would come in armed. She talked about the time the two of them barely escaped being kidnapped by men who would seize girls and force them into prostitution. They were called "white slavers" in those days. She told of performers being stranded in far-off places, because the unscrupulous producers would take the money and leave.

When she got to New York City she went to work as an actress in silent movies when they were being made in Astoria and Long Island City. She lived, with her trunk, in a NYC hotel room until she died. That trunk contained all the bits and pieces of an adventurous career. She let me poke around in it and look at the things in there, and she would talk about them.

She knew many people. She knew opera singers, comedians, politicians and prize fighters. She had an engaging, infecting sense of humor. She even found something amusing about her own passing. She was a fiery Christian.

It wasn't until I became an adult that I realized how valuable all that information was. I wish I had taken notes or had had a tape recorder. The library that was my grandmother exists now only in the shreds of my meager memory. I am the only one left of my family who knew her and I was the only one who listened to her.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Careful Chiseling 9/05/09

Saturday, August 30, 2008
12:04:02 AM EDT
Careful Chiseling

Man cannot remake himself without suffering,
for he is both the marble and the sculptor.

Alexis Carrel

"And a little child shall lead them."

It is said of Michelangelo that he claimed to see the statue within the block of marble and just chiseled away everything else until he revealed the pure work of art inside. I think it may be the other way around for the real human being.

It is heartbreaking to see a child's hopes broken and it's expectations closed up. Why? Because the child is still at the point of innocence about the world. People will say "Well, that's all part of growing up. That's life. C'est la vie."

But who really knows what la vie is? There are more books than you and all your friends and neighbors can read in a lifetime trying to explain it. Biologists with their diastole and systole can only go so far and simple phrases like Life is God don't hold one's interest for very long.

Life seems to be a conglomeration of things that keep getting added on from the moment we are conscious of our first hope being dashed, until we are surrounded and made up of all the ills, fears, angers, hatreds, failures and regrets as well as the thrills, successes and realizations of our days. But what did we lose along the way in this process of "growing up"? How many of us remember the joy of our first cupcake or our first balloon?

If there is a paradise to be found it may be that it can only be gained by remaking ourselves in the image of the pure, innocent being we were made to be, with hammer and chisel in hand to chip away, in sorrow and hard effort, all the accumulated dross that makes us think we are wise and adult, until we finally reach the pure, innocent self inside.

DB - Vagabond Journeys

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Determining Delight

Sunday, August 31, 2008
12:05:03 AM EDT

Determining Delight

A happy person is not a person
in a certain set of circumstances,
but rather a person
with a certain set of attitudes.

Hugh Downs
September is upon us, and that means all the quotes are from that rank amateur philosopher and silly dabbler in esoteric doings known as DB - The Vagabond.

September is the month I clean out my shelves and empty out my boxes to see what I've gathered over the past year or so in thoughts, ideas and impressions. I carefully go through the dusty bits and pieces to come up with 30 wisps of wisdom, sprinkles of spirituality, simple sayings and dollops of delight for your reading pleasure. So pay careful attention. On October 1st the WILL BE a test.
All of the quotes are original, but they come from the eccentric brain of a reader of strange books, of a man who spent his working life glamorizing ideas and changing them into entertaining events while at the same time stumbling through a troubled life, amassing a catalogue of lesson learning errors, and occasionally coming upon a rare place in the mental forest where no one who left any trace had ever seemed to be before me.
As I wrote to someone today, I consider myself blessed to have a sense of humor which allows me to enjoy the absurdities and ironies of life and which erases the need for any sort of cynicism.
It is my wish that you all enjoy a month of Vagabondisms Come October the great philosophers will return.

DB - The Vagabond