Friday, December 20, 2013

Gliding along: Skating alone

Along about Monday or Tuesday, L.L. Bean is going to deliver a pair of hockey skates right to my front door. Are they a Christmas present for my new grandson? Nah... He's too young. They're for me. And don't go saying, "He's too old." I can still cut a neat line in the ice, given a sharp edge. They've opened a new skating rink in Springfield and I find myself without a pair of skates.

This story is complicated. Emotionally, that is... It's about aging and fleeting dreams. Sound familiar? But it's also about my relationship with my father and being the odd-man-out. And about that one materialistic item we have always wanted all our lives. For some, that might be a Mercedes or a Porsche. For others, it might be an extended cruise or maybe even something as simple as a dog. For me it's always been a decent pair of hockey skates.

I've been a life long skater, from when I was a kid living in an apartment in Woodhaven, Queens, next to a little used side street where we would play roller hockey on skates with four steel wheels. We played from after school until dinner time, stopping every-now-and-then to let a car pass through. We dreamed we were playing for the N.Y. Rangers and, daily, crushed the hated Bruins. All the other kids had Union skates, the popular brand. I had J.C. Higgins, the Sears brand my father bought for me. They differed in one easily noticeable aspect, the wheels were rounded at the edges. No matter, we all skated until we wore them out and they had to be replaced.

Those J.C. Higgins skates, and perhaps the J.C. Higgins hand-me-down bicycle I used all the way through high school, cast me as an outsider - something that would stay with me all my life. There... I've traced it all the way back to its origins.

One year, when the old man asked us kids what  we wanted for Christmas, I told him ice skates, hockey skates in particular. I doubt I was able to hide my disappointment when I opened the box I was sure would fulfill my dreams and found a pair of figure skates.

"The salesman told me it's easier to learn how to ice skate on figure skates," he said. "Besides, you can still play hockey in those."

Ever been struck on the side of the foot with a frozen puck traveling about 100 miles per hour? In a pair of figure skates?

Again, as we played pond hockey on the frozen-over Saw Mill River, I would play not offense, not defense, but outsider. Even the competition took pity on me when I would limp off the ice with a throbbing foot.

It took me years to realize this, but the old man must have gotten a deal on those skates. I don't want to say he was cheap. But, he was always on the lookout for a bargain.

Years later, when I was in college and he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted a pair of hockey skates. Colby was a big hockey school, and besides having one of the best teams in the country at the time, the rink was available for recreational skating in lieu of regular gym class. And so I got the skates. They may not have been top of the line, but I was satisfied with them. After all, I wasn't going to play varsity hockey. But there was inter-fraternity hockey. And I figured I was good enough for that.

Fraternity activities are not exactly for outsiders. If it seems surprising that I was in a fraternity at all, consider that, as far as fraternities at Colby went, mine was the ultimate outsider. But, we could play hockey with the big boys, because we had a goalie that could stop anything that came his way. He was also an outsider. That may have given him the "show me your best shot" attitude that a goaltender needs. The varsity coach kept trying to recruit him, but he preferred to play Bridge with the chair of the English department and a couple other members of the faculty.

My brothers on the team were mostly from New England, and had played organized hockey all the while I was playing roller hockey and pond hockey. They came equipped with big overstuffed hockey gloves and all the proper padding. I rolled up some newspapers and taped them around my shins, under my pants. They had regulation sticks and the same CCM Tackaberry skates the players on varsity wore. I had my old, under-sized stick from when I was a kid. Let's face it, I looked about as far-out as Billie Pilgrim in Slaughter House Five. They never put me on the ice. Not once. Not even in the closing minutes of a 10-0 game.

Would no one have pity on on the poor boy? Fuck, no...

I left school after sophomore year and enlisted in the Coast Guard - the best decision I ever made in a life full of spontaneous, bad choices... When I returned to Colby, four years later, I still had my old skates, and would skate before class in the deserted rink just for exercise. I had a stick and a puck and would shoot around just for the heck of it. A guy who had been in my Latin class in my freshman year had also dropped out and returned. He had played defense on the freshman team. We would skate together sometimes, but he was fond of sneaking up behind me as I was gliding along and stealing the puck. I preferred to skate alone.

Well, anyway... I've lost track of my old skates. I picture them rusting in the basement of my old house in New York. I skated a few times while I was in law school. We used to pay a buck to watch the Rangers practice at Skateland, just a couple miles from my house. We'd snag some tickets from scalpers outside Madison Square Garden, every-now-and then, and regularly attended Long Island Ducks games in the Comack Arena. Ah, the Eastern Hockey league... The world of "Slap Shot," the hockey nerd's cult movie... When the Islanders joined the NHL, I carried season tickets for a couple years, until the kids started coming along.

Later, when my daughter Rachel was a little girl, I taught her how to ice skate at Skateland, and I would take her to skate every Sunday morning while the rest of the world was taking their kids to church. I understand that Skateland has since been converted to a roller rink. I also switched over to in-line roller skates and kept right on skating with Amy's kids, even after we moved to Ohio. The bike path was perfect for us. But that was a good ten years ago. In the interim, I have been content to watch Division III college hockey over the Internet, dreaming of kicking up a spray of ice as I skate in on the goalie and slip one under his pads.

I've been thinking about that new pair of hockey skates, since I heard they were going to open a rink in Springfield. It came to a head yesterday when we were over at the mall. I found a way to sneak off from Amy and slipped into Dick's. I asked a salesgirl where they kept the ice skates.

"We don't have ice skates," she said.

"How about hockey equipment?" I asked.

She got on her two-way radio. "Do we carry hockey equipment?"

The answer was no.

I was sure Dick's carried a full line of hockey stuff. Then I remembered that was the old Dick's, when it was across the street from the mall. I sunk into a deep state of depression, which was only worsened when I went on the Internet on my smartphone while still in the mall, and made a couple of calls, and determined that ice skates are hard to come by anywhere in southwestern Ohio - two stores in Cincinnati and a couple in Columbus, none of which carried the skates I wanted. I was going to have to order them online without trying them on.

When we got home, I got on a real computer and started bargain hunting, and trying to figure out what size to get - skate shoe sizes differ from regular shoes. L.L. Bean had the best deal, the best reputation for reliability, and someone who could chat with me online about sizing. I placed my order.

Free shipping and 2-3 day delivery... Merry Christmas! At the age of 69 years, I am finally about to get the hockey skates I always wanted. What's next, a pair of gloves, a proper stick..?

I have a friend who always wanted a Henry rifle. Finally, in his 70s, he bought one and mounted it on the wall in his home. He has never fired it.

Could it be time to hang up my skates, after all? No way!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The play's the thing

When I first started writing plays a few years ago, I was immediately impressed by how much easier it seemed than any of the other types of writing I had done. Partly, I thought, it was due to the fact that the director and actors would sort out all the minutia. I, therefore, would not have to write about it. I also began to think of play-writing as a collaborative process - so much would get changed during the early rehearsals, when I realized that certain lines were unspeakable, or important aspects were missing. Only recently, did I come to understand how the creative process of writing a play, for me at least, differs from writing fiction.

It came to me when Marcia Nowik, who was directing two plays for this year's 10-Minute Play festival, asked if I minded her making a suggestion about the staging of my play "Coots." Of course I didn't mind - Marcia has a lifetime of experience in the theater, whereas I had acted in one play and written a half-dozen one-acts. What I said to her was, I would be glad to have her suggestion, as long as it didn't involve moving my writer character from his isolated position on the stage.

"That is my vision for the play," I said.

Once I had said that, I started to wonder what I meant. Here's a shot at it:

When I started to think abut that play, I began by picturing a playwright in the corner of an empty stage, struggling with the inspiration for his next play. You could see the glow of his computer screen and hear him calling to his muse, "Harry... Harry... Harry..." Soon the lights would come up and his characters would arrive on stage and start playing around in his head. They would look at him and talk to him. He would talk back, but never, ever look at them, because they were only in his head. In the end, they would realize that they only existed in his mind. And he would begin to question his own existence. That was my vision for the play.

This play and most of my others, seemed to have arrived as a complete package. I often envisioned the ending, before I had fully mapped out the middle. I knew right from the start who I wanted on stage when the play ended.

In "Bench to Nowhere," for example, I envisioned a bench in front of a market (Tom's... er Bill's...) populated by a cast of characters who would come and go as they interacted with the main character, Dusty. That's how it would start. I also knew from the very beginning, that I wanted all of them on the bench at the end of the play, so that when the bus left without Dusty, they would all be there to share the pain. In a way, that dictated the entire course of the middle of the play. This kind of thinking has pretty much held true for all of my plays.

Writing fiction, for me, is often like going on a trip - you hear this from fiction writers a lot. I get in the car and start driving without knowing where I'm going to end up. Often, writers will tell you, they're driving at night and their headlights don't shine very far down the road. It's an adventurous and fun way to create, and sometimes the results are surprising, and hopefully bring a sense of full-circle kind of satisfaction.

But, driving in the dark is very different from the process of envisioning the stage at the beginning of the play and then again at the end. The closest I have ever heard of a fiction writer coming to this is John Irving, who says he starts every one of his novels by writing the last line first and then working toward it. He claims to have never changed one of those last lines. Maybe that's what I'm doing when I start a play and I just don't know it.

Now that I have more clearly defined the process of play-writing for myself, maybe I can put it down in a few lines.
  • Start by sitting in the audience. 
  • What do you see on stage as the play begins? 
  • What do you see at the end?
  • Now look to your right and then to your left - who do you see?
  • What will it take in the middle of this play to bring you and them a sense of fulfillment?
  • Now, recite the following: Harry... Harry... Harry... 
The Fourth Annual Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play festival will be held on October  24 & 25, 2014. The deadline for script submissions is September 1, 2014. Send scripts via email attachment to GunchPress@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brass quintet to play Saturday

The Yellow Springs Brass will be performing this Saturday at 11:00 a.m. in front of the Emporium.

The concert will be over in time to watch "THE GAME."

Chorus and Symphony to perform Handel

The Yellow Springs Community Chorus, with the assistance of the Miami Valley Symphony, performs Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, with soloists Minneta Daniel-Cox, soprano; Rachel Boezi, mezzo soprano, James Onstad, tenor and Errik Hood, baritone.  James Johnston conducts.

The oratorio relates the battles of the Jewish population of Judea against the larger Syrian Seleucid empire, resulting in political freedom and the cleansing and rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem, commemorated in the Feast of Hanukkah.

DATE: Sunday, December 8, 2013

TIME: 3:00 p.m.

LOCATION: First Presbyterian Church

Admission is FREE; donations benefit YS Community Music.

Monday, November 18, 2013

10-Minute Play Festival - This Weekend


Community Band Concert - Friday night

Concert by the Yellow Springs Community Band, James Johnston, conductor

DATE: Friday, November 22, 2013

TIME: 7:15 p.m. *

LOCATION: Mills Lawn Gymnasium

Admission is Free - Donations benefit YS Community Music

The YS Community Band will play music by King, Mussorgsky, Grainger, Henry Mancini, Richard Rodgers, and medleys of music from Cirque du Soleil and Kurt Weill.  Guest soloist Cindy Lincoln sings "Blue Moon".

 * The start time for the concert was changed to 7:15 to accommodate the 10-Minute Play Festival across the street at the Presbyterian Church. They will hold the curtain so concert goers can also catch the plays. The curtain will be held until around 8:15.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yellow Springs Chamber Orchestra Concert

Concert by the Yellow Springs Chamber Orchestra, James Johnston, Music Director

DATE: Saturday, November 16, 2013

TIME:  7:30 p.m.

LOCATION: First Presbyterian Church, 314 Xenia Avenue, YS

Donations at the door benefit YS Community Music

Program:

Mozart - Divertimento for winds in F Major, K. 253
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major - Francis Yun, harpsichord, Susanne Oldham, flute, Mary White, violin
Schubert - Symphony No. 5 in Bb Major

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pee Wee, famed Yellow Springs Chicken, 2004-2013

It's odd how animals know things before we do. Yesterday, our dog Suki showed uncommon compassion for her poultry playmate Pee Wee. This morning, Pee Wee was gone. And Suki watched quietly from the back door, as I carried her lifeless body from Chickenland to a safe place, until we could decide what to do with her remains.

Pee Wee has lived on this property on Allen Street almost as long as we have. We bought her little chick self at the Caesar's Creek Flea Market, along with five others that have long since passed on, about a year after we moved here. Ask how long a chicken lives and you will get a dozen different answers. No one seems to really know. But, I can tell you this, at 9 1/2 years, Pee Wee was right up there with the longest-livers I have ever heard of.

From that first flock of six, two chicks immediately stood out as the most precocious, Rocky and Pee Wee. Both would go on to cartoon fame on this blog, Rocky as the smart-talking wise-cracker and Pee Wee as the pensive one.  I have to admit that, in those early days, Rocky, a Barred Plymouth Rock, was my favorite. But Pee Wee, a Rhode Island Red, was always there, vying for attention and eventually getting it. While Rocky was always showing off for both family and flock, Pee Wee was working hard to become my best bud. She won my heart, one day, as I was sitting in a lawn chair in the backyard just chillin' with a beer and some chips, watching the chickens hunt for bugs. I noticed she was hanging around the chair, begging for attention. Finally, she jumped into my lap and settled in to share some chips.

Pee Wee was old reliable. I could take her out front while we worked in the garden and let her root for worms, without worrying about her getting lost on us. If  we brought some young ones along, she would keep them close like an old mother hen. She would talk to me every morning, when I would go out to feed and water the flock.

When Suki came along, three years ago, the flock got all nerved up. But, Pee Wee remained stoical. If Suki poked her nose through the Chickenland fence, Pee Wee would peck it. Eventually, we got up enough nerve to let Pee Wee out to play with Suki and the resulting game of hunt-and-peck was always fun to watch (see video).



For the past couple days, I noticed Pee Wee wasn't doing too well. She was all puffed up and moving slowly. Yesterday, I knew the end was near when Suki and I were playing Frisbee in the backyard and Suki suddenly stopped and looked over to where Pee Wee was laying all balled up like a pile of reddish-brown leaves. Instead of trying to roust her, as she normally would, Suki walked slowly over to the fence and stood quietly watching her. Finally she turned and looked at me, asking with her sad eyes, "What's wrong with Pee Wee, Daddy?"

I went into the chicken run and picked Pee Wee up. Under normal circumstances, that would be a signal for some serious barking. But instead, Suki stood sadly quiet, watching, as I carried Pee Wee around the back of the coop and put her into one of the laying boxes to keep her comfortable. The glazed look in her eyes was one I have seen before - when Rocky died, four or five years ago, she had the same look. I knew that when I would come back for Pee Wee in the morning, she would be gone. Suki knew it, too.

Rest in peace, Pee Wee. You were a good friend. You will be missed.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

10-Minutes Plays postponed due to illness

Festival postponed until November 22 & 23

Cast members of the Third Annual Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival have been coming down with flu-like symptoms over the past week, with one actual confirmed case of the flu. So, the organizers of the festival have decided to postpone until the weekend before Thanksgiving (Fri. & Sat. 11/22 & 23). Location and time (First Presbyterian Church at 8 p.m.) remain the same. The show will go on, just on a different weekend. Stay tuned for more announcements.

-vh

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The 10-Minute Play Festival: Pirandello, eat your heart out

Is there anyone who attended a college with a theater department who hasn't seen Luigi Pirandello's "Six Characters in Search of an Author?" In a classic case of "there's nothing new under the sun," the Coots Repertory Company will delve into the theater of the absurd, not in search of an author, per se, but joining their author in search of a play. In the process, they will question their own existence and the very existence of God. All you spiritual folk in Yellow Springs won't want to miss this existentialist classic. The playwright will be available for a discussion after the performances at the 10-Minute Play Festival. Shows will be at 8 p.m.  Friday & Saturday night, Oct. 25 & 26.

Click here for up-to-date information about the Third Annual Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

We're back with lots of local talent


Unbridled creativity; existentialist themes; goofy stuff... Folks are still talking about last year's show. You don't want to miss this one.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Other Shoe: The Coots ride again

And so here we are... sitting around a table at the Presby church, reading lines. Ron Siemer is pleased as punch (Wasn't another Ron fond of that expression..?) that the Coots are at it again. This is our fourth play - third as a part of the annual Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play festival. This time around, we are delving into existentialism, in our own bungling way, of course. This one's is going to be deep and funny, and more than a bit self-referential. Hey we're entitled - we're old...

The title of the play is "Coots." And in a theater-of-the-absurd kinda twist, the Coots will be playing themselves. The Coots are Walter Rhodes, Ron Siemer and Jerry Buck. Gary Reimers is joining us for a second time. He will be playing me (the writer). I've probably already given too much away. So I'll stop about "Coots" for awhile.

We have eight plays lined up for this year's festival. In addition to my play, we have two by former resident, Prof. Jerry Holt, "Ledge" and "Train Stop." I have seen videos of these two from when they were performed in Michigan City, IN and they live up to Jerry's high standards. "Ledge" is guaranteed to draw belly-laughs. Marcia Nowik will step out onto the ledge as the female lead in that one and direct "Train Stop."

Aaron Saari has given us "Do Adults Make Out in Yellow Springs?" a two-person play in which he will act and direct. His wife, Miriam (Eckenrode), will play the female role. Aaron was last seen in the Center Stage production of "The Crucible," and I gotta tell ya, he scared the bejeebers out of me in that one. Miriam is a regular on stage around town.

Jerry Boswell, long time director at the old Center Stage and participant in last-year's festival, has given us "We'll Be Right Back" a play that contrasts 1950's television with today's fare. Jerry is an old pro. The back-up play for this slot is by WYSO's Jerry Kenny. His play was accepted into last year's festival, but was never produced.

Kayla Graham, who acted in just about every play in last year's lineup, has submitted a script of her own, "Memory Play: Construction." She will also act and direct and is currently looking for someone to take on the male role. Kayla also knocked me out in "The Crucible."

"Whither Thou Ghost" is Lee Huntington's entry. Lee, a long-time writer, dipped her toes into theater last year when she acted in my "Bench to Nowhere." After that she was seen again in "The Crucible" and has finally given us a play - a funny one involving a GPS navigator. If you have one of these gadgets, you've got to catch this play. She will also direct.

Kay Reimers, who writes funny, short plays and serious, long, historical plays, is combining genres to give us "Post Office" a play about the mural in the Yellow Springs Post Office. Leave it to Kay to find inspiration in the history behind the WPA project that brought the artist that painted it to town.

Performances will be at 8:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 25 & 26 at the First Presbyterian Church of Yellow Springs. If the first two 10-Minute Play Festivals are any indication, this is going to be a great time.

-vh

Friday, September 20, 2013

Casting call and more...Weds. 9/25

There will be a casting call and organizational meeting for the 10-Minute Play Festival at the Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7 pm. 
We have eight plays scheduled to be produced and need local actors and directors for three of them. 
The festival is scheduled to take place on Friday & Saturday, October 25 & 26. There will be a dress rehearsal on Oct. 24. For more information, email gunchpress@yahoo.com.
The 10-minute Play Festival is a production of Centre Stage, community theater in Yellow Springs.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Other Shoe: Upon waking up this morning

A guy who's a lot smarter than I, a physicist researching wormholes and other cosmic anomalies, announced last week that time travel is in deed possible. But, only to the future. Funny, I would have thought it would be the other way around.

I got up this morning to the sound of my dog rolling around on the bedroom floor, loosening up her bowels. I had overslept by a few minutes, so I had to alter my routine and take her out before taking care of the chickens. I walked her, fed and watered the flock, did the same for the house birds and made coffee for Amy, before she left for work. Except for some variation in the order of my usual routine, this morning, so far, has been like any other morning. I feel about the same as I did yesterday.

I look at the day ahead and think about the stuff I have to do. I took it easy the last couple days, so things have piled up a bit. But tomorrow looks like a better day to get out the shovel and attack the heap.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the past. I figure I've made a mistake just about every place I could have made one in my life. And yet, here I am at a place, where, if I don't look back, I can say I'm pretty happy with the way things have turned out. I guess you could call me a faulty pragmatist or a deluded optimist. I haven't lived up to my so-called potential, but I never really wanted to. I've functioned like a river, flowing sluggishly through the course of least resistance without ever overflowing my banks.

They say you can't go back. I'm not sure I would, if I could.

I look at all those greedy sons-of-bitches who never feel like they have robbed us enough and know they could never understand that my backyard is my beach in the Caribbean and my back deck is my yacht. When it gets cold at night, I put another log on the fire. My satisfaction comes from knowing I don't have to strive to out-do the other guy. I live in the here-and-now, and the things the one-percenter's care about matter not to me.

Today, I have achieved the age of 69 - without them taking everything. Maybe I'll go fishing this afternoon...

 -vh

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Other Shoe: Back Story being replaced

We are all - and I don't care who you are - waiting for the other shoe to drop. For some of us, it could be a different shoe every day. For others, there might only be one shoe, the final one. In either case, we are waiting for it - every day.

It might be manifest in the hesitation to open the mailbox, or in putting off that visit to the doctor's office for your annual physical. It's like the origin of the euphemism, you can't sleep because you know it's coming. You can insure for the loss, but you can't ensure that it won't happen. I guess it's just the determinist in me that's talking this way. Amy would tell you, "It's in the book." That's some kind of Buddhist thing that she's always telling me.

So, it was inevitable that someday I was going to lose interest in maintaining this blog in its community notices format and just stick to the personal observations (mostly of dogs and chickens). I see others around town who are burning themselves out as Yellow Springs Village cheerleaders. They just don't know it yet. Or to put it another way, the other shoe hasn't yet dropped. Personally, I'm on the verge of becoming a recluse and the next steps with the blog are probably interim.

In any event, the title "Back Story" for my musings seemed to fit better when I was an ersatz news source. It no longer seems appropriate. So, as I continue my ramblings, waiting for you-know-what, I think I'll go with "The Other Shoe."

***

We got a new TV a few weeks ago. The old one lost it's picture and the estimate to repair it was almost exactly the same as the cost to replace it. I'm pretty low-tech when it comes to television. I like a big screen, but 1080p LEDs are lost on me. I just have to be able to crank up the volume to where I can hear Patrick Jane talk in whispered tones about his nemesis, Red John. So I'm still behind the curve, where I am always comfortable.

I've written in the past about how my dog is an avid fan of television, especially dog food ads. She thinks the screen is really a window, and that every thing dangerous portrayed thereupon is about to leap into our living room. I was hoping there would be something about the new TV that would change all that. But, unfortunately, that was not in the book. Now, she seems to be barking at more than just animals, children and evil looking people. She's barking at almost everything. Fortunately, her bed time is nine o'clock. Just about the time the good stuff comes on.

I read something recently that made sense to me about how to stop your dog from barking. The thing is to show them that there is nothing to be afraid of. So, shortly after we got the new set, I picked her up as she was barking at a prolonged display of dogs running around in a yard and carried her over to the TV. I put her nose about six inches from the screen and, in a soothing tone, explained to her that these dogs were not real and could do us no harm. She seemed to buy it, as she stopped barking immediately, and remained calm even after I put her back on the floor.

The dog weighs 45 pounds. My back isn't what it used to be - in fact, it never was. I had no idea how many times I would have to do this. But, the dog had other ideas, anyway. The next time I tried to pick her up during a fit of barking, she dodged me like RGIII and continued hurling abuse at the images on the screen as she ran around the living room, successfully evading my open arms. Once she gets under the dining room table, all hope is lost.

Why do you keep such an animal? you ask... We were in New York for a few days last week. All I could think about was how much I missed my dog. I couldn't wait to get home. And I wasn't disappointed with the greeting I got when I opened the door. She came flying down the stairs to meet me and threw herself at me with all her strength, her sheer joy expressed through a bodily motion that is almost impossible to describe. Tail wagging dog? That's about as close as I can get.

Kalson was in charge of Suki while we were gone. He and his girlfriend walked her every night on something close to our usual route.

"What's with this dog?" he said when we returned. "Everybody knows her name."

"Well, of course," I said, "she's probably the most famous dog in Yellow Springs."

-vh

Monday, August 26, 2013

Back Story: Staying connected, medically speaking

This is going to sound tres cliche, but I'm going to tell it anyway. Oh that younger generation...

Our daughter went into labor late Saturday afternoon, catching us all by surprise, as we didn't expect that for another four weeks. So great-grandma, who was to fly in from Malaysia in time for the blessed event, will now arrive a few days late. And I, who was to have minor surgery this morning, ended up dog sitting while Amy ran off to the Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek with the paternal grandparents. So, while we were hoping to rid ourselves of a dog for my hospital trip this morning, we actually ended up caring for an extra dog. But, not having anything to do with technology, that's neither here nor there, and only serves to explain why I was not in the waiting room with everyone else to greet our latest family member.

When the grandparents arrived at the hospital, the expectant parents had already gone into the labor room. There can be no lack of information in the information age. Radio waves are whizzing all around us and we can expect them to fill that void. Amy whipped out her cell phone and sent a text message to Chris.

"What's happening?"

"We're near."

"How near?"

"Very near."

And so forth...

I'm surprised they didn't go to video.

At home, I went on Facebook to kill some time and there was a message from the new mom in the labor room, "I just spit out a baby boy!"

There were already 30 comments, one of which said, "I didn't know you were pregnant."

Of course, the texts were now flying into my own phone, fast and furious.

I posted something on my timeline and emailed my son and daughter and sisters. They immediately asked for photos...

The next morning, Sunday, when I went to the hospital to see the new baby for the first time, I brought my Android tablet. There is free wi-fi in every room at Soin. I took a couple pictures and posted one to Facebook and emailed a couple to family. There was a woman there with a big, fat Nikon. She would post her photos to a special webpage where the parents could pick out the ones they would like to purchase.

Soin was like a ghost town. There were only two patients on the maternity ward. I saw but one nurse, no doctors, no visitors. The parking lot was empty, the lobby was an echo chamber for the two teenage volunteers at the reception desk. I chalk that up to it's being brand new.

***

Fast forward to this morning, Monday. I get up at 5:30 to be at Greene Memorial by 6:00. I have Amy drop me and return home to take care of the dogs. Every admissions clerk and nurse is connected to the Kettering Health Network's servers. Everything I tell them is recorded somewhere in the cloud. They have access to all the information from the time I was treated for a urinary tract infection in 2011 and Bell's Palsy in 2012. They have the results of every blood pressure test, blood sugar test, CT-Scan, EKG, you name it, and now they are inputting all the new data.

They knock me out with something in an IV and when I come to, I feel just fine. The operation seems to have gone well. The surgeon leaves me with some instructions and I am doing an exit interview with a friendly nurse. I tell her about my visit to Soin. It turns out that the other woman on the maternity ward, Saturday, was her niece.

She asks me if I would like to be able to access my medical history online.

"Sure," I say. "Why not?"

I figure the NSA, IRS, United Health Care, Snowden, Manning, Putin, and Al Quaida probably are, so why not me, too.

I come home, register on the site and open my file. Then I open another tab and go to my Blogger account.

Welcome to the modern world, my new little grandson. I can't even begin to imagine what your life will be like when you are my age.

-vh


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Two weeks to script submission deadline

People keep telling me they're working on something for the Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival. I know it's only human nature to let these things go until the last minute, but here's one last reminder: Sunday, September 1, 2013 is the deadline. Click here for submission guidelines.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Talkin' Mothman

Whenever I find myself in a situation where I feel I have to carry the conversation with folks I have just met, I bring up the Mothman. A few months ago, we dropped in on an in-law who was recovering from radiation and chemo treatments. He had other relatives visiting as well, including his 90-something mother. They are from south of here and are accustomed to driving through Point Pleasant - even used the Silver Bridge back in the old days. So, as we began to run out of things to talk about, I brought up the whole deal about The Mothman Prophecies (both book & movie). They, of course, were aware that the bridge had gone down long ago, but knew nothing of the craziness that attended its collapse. So they were fascinated by my ramblings.

This weekend, at a baby shower for my stepdaughter, I ran into the old lady, again. She couldn't wait to tell me that, upon my recommendation, she had read the book and enjoyed it.

"I didn't know there were such strange goings-on, so close to home," she said with a glint in her eye. "That's the kind of book that when you're done with it, you put it down and pick it up a few months later and read it all over again."


Well, I don't know about that... But, I do know, that once I get started on the Mothman, I rarely stop until I have covered all the theories about what happened in Point Pleasant, West Virginia back in the mid-60s, including my own. I guess my enthusiasm overflowed its banks on that occasion, more than I had intended. All I had wanted to do was divert attention from talk about cancer to something I could get into with all the hyperbole I am accustomed to injecting into my favorite subject.

Hey, why let facts get in the way of a good story... I suspect that John Keel, paranormal researcher and author of The Mothman Prophecies, also subscribed to that philosophy.

Your faithful blogger (L) with Carol Allin, Walter Rhodes and Barbara Forster at the Mothman monument, Point Pleasant, WV.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Taking the Beavers to Task





Local product Scott Keyes, who is making a name for himself as a political blogger, socked it to Beavercreek this week for their veiled attempts to block public transit from Dayton to Fairfield Commons and a couple other locations in the Creek.

Think Progress: Ohio Bus Discrimination

Related

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Community Band Concert, Tonight


"A Lincoln Portrait," featuring Rev. Darryl Weston will be the highlight of the Yellow Springs Community Band Concert to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. The concert will be performed outdoors at the Mills Lawn School at 7 p.m. Bring a lawn chair. In case of rain, the event will be moved into the gym at the school.

James Johnston will conduct. This will be the band's last concert until the fall season.

Afternoon of the Hawk

A large Cooper's hawk
lifts off from a branch
in my neighbor's tree,
beating across
the small patch of sky
between one Home, Inc. house
and another.

Our chickens are oblivious,
safe under their netting.

I mention it to the dog.
She stares down from the deck
to the backyard below,
looking for a groundhog.
“Nothing there,” she says
with her eyes.

We stand guard for awhile,
knowing our demons
are sure to return.

-vh

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Submission deadline approaching...

Reminder from the Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival:

There is exactly one month left until the deadline for script submissions to the YS 10-Minute Play Festival. Click here for guidelines and other information.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Back Story: See below

I long suspected that the folks who were sending me announcements to be posted on this blog were not actually reading it. Now I have proof positive, as event announcements continue to roll in, in spite of my post a few days ago (see below), announcing that I would no longer be posting them. There were to be occasional exceptions, however, for events where I have personal involvement. So here's a list of upcoming stuff or organizations I am involved with:
  • Community Band - We have a concert this Saturday night at 7 p.m. on the Mills Lawn (to move indoors to the gym if it rains). Here's the blurb from James Johnston: The program is in honor of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 "March on Washington", and also the 150th anniversary of the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.  Music includes marches, ceremonial pieces, a medley from Bernstein's "West Side Story" and selections by Aaron Copland, including the popular "Lincoln Portrait", narrated by Rev. Derrick Weston, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in YS, and Director of the Coretta Scott King Center at Antioch College.
  • Center Stage - "The Three Penny Opera" will be performed in the Antioch Amphitheater during the last week of September and the first week of October. My involvement with CS is as 10-Minute Play Coordinator (see below).
  • Third Annual Yellow Springs 10-Minute Play Festival - Performances will be over two nights in the end of October. Right now, we are accepting script submissions. The deadline is Labor Day. Got anything for me? The plays are starting to roll in. Scripts and inquiries to gunchpress@yahoo.com.
  • Yellow Springs Community Foundation - Nonprofits with Miller Fellows, you are reminded that we are having a debriefing session at 4 p.m. on Monday, 8/5, at Antioch. Those looking for Miller Fellows for next year should take a look at the RFP on our website, www.yscg.org.

I know your organizations and events are as important to you as these are to me. But, if I make an exception for one, I will have to start making exceptions for others. And soon I will find myself back in the announcement business. Your best bet is Facebook (see below).

-vh

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back Story: Of dogs and groundhogs

Allen Street Al is back living under the deck after a two year hiatus. He couldn't have picked a worse time to reopen the tunnel that runs next to our foundation, as our granddog arrived last night for a week-long visit while his mommy and daddy take a vacation in D.C.

Our resident groundhog disappeared a couple years ago, around the time Suki was reaching her maturity. So it was only natural to assume that common sense prevailed and he decided to move elsewhere - like on the other side of our fence. But in the last couple weeks, we started having sightings, again. First he was snapping off snow pea pods in Amy's garden and dining alongside the crew out in Chickenland. Now, he has taken to sunning himself in the middle of the backyard, grazing casually on the un-mowed grass, despite the fact that, a couple times a day, Suki has bolted from the house and given chase all the way into the thicket along our back fence.

Last evening, shortly after his arrival, Rhesus entered into the fray, altering the dog/groundhog dynamic drastically. Suki can run fast, but Rhesus, with his longer legs, can run even faster. A few years ago, before we got Suki, Rhesus was visiting and actually caught a groundhog. I had to go out there and break it up before one of them got seriously hurt. Groundhogs can be fierce fighters when cornered - and they have teeth that can eat through concrete. I actually pulled the dog off the groundhog, which looked at me gratefully before hightailing it to the escape hatch it had dug under the back fence. Since then, we have heard stories of the R-dog's feats - catching and killing squirrels, snatching birds out of mid air...

You learn something new every day. I always thought of my dog as a herder and a watchdog. That goes with being an Australian Cattle Dog. Even before Rhesus arrived to join the chase, I noticed that Suki always gave Al fair warning before going after him. She would fly out of the house, barking, and let him stay about a body length ahead, until he was safely on the other side of the fence. Groundhogs are slow. Suki is pretty fast. I got the sense that she was just running him off her turf. Last night, when Rhesus spied him in the garden, he took off after him without making a sound and almost caught him. The same thing happened with a cat, early this morning.

The difference is that Rhesus, with his hodgepodge ancestry, is a hunter and Suki is a watchdog. They have different motivations. In general, Rhesus tends to bark a lot less than Suki does. When they are out in the backyard together, Rhesus is constantly moving about with his nose to the ground. Suki will do that for a few minutes when she first goes out, but soon places herself strategically on the top step of the stairs leading up to the deck, from which she can survey the entire neighborhood and keep an eye on the neighbors. When she is in the house, she can often be found staring out one of the windows - looking for trouble. I was comforted by this when we had that string of break-ins in town awhile back.

All this has given me a new appreciation for all those little yappers that bark at us from their houses as we go by on our evening walks. Good for you, you little junkyard dog wannabes. You serve your masters well.

-vh

Friday, July 19, 2013

Notice re Blog announcements and ads

Dear Readers:

You may have noticed that, for sometime now, the Blog has not carried paid advertisements from commercial businesses in its sidebar. Now, the editor is taking it one step further... Henceforth, the Blog will no longer be posting announcements - at least on a regular basis. Facebook has made this service unnecessary. If you want to know what's going on in town, subscribe to some of the many "Yellow Springs" Facebook pages.

I may continue to post Walter's cartoons. As he is not a Facebook person, I think he might have trouble finding another venue. I will probably continue my "Back Story" and "Backyard Flock" pieces and maybe publish a story or poem or opinion piece every now-and-then. Announcements will probably be limited to events with which I am involved or just general self-promotion.

Part of this decision is dictated by my job and my dog, both of which are demanding more of my time. And that's okay - I am dedicated to both.

If you are one of my blog's followers (an option on Blogspot), I assume you will get a notification when I post something. However, for those who are not, I will take advantage of Facebook to alert my usual readers that I have posted something.

Thanks for your support. It's been a fun run.

Time to walk the dog...

-vh

Bench to Nowhere: Zombies..? Oh, not again...

A Cool Town Toon

Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Job opening for financial person - Repost



The Yellow Springs Community Foundation is seeking to fill the part-time position of Financial Administrator. The job description and a list of qualifications may be found on the foundation’s website at www.yscf.org. Resumes and cover letters should be sent by email to yscf@yscf.org no later than July 19, 2013. Candidates for the interview process will be contacted after July 24, 2013. Starting salary will be commensurate with background and experience.

Bench to Nowhere: Raid!

A Cool Town Toon

Click on image to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

News from the Chamber

EnviroFlight in the News
  
Thanks to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations local agribusiness EnviroFlight has received a great deal of national attention. 
  
The report, entitled "Edible Insects, Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security" sports a picture of EnviroFlight owner Glen Courtright on the front cover with a feature about the business in the section about using insect as animal Feed.  To read the report, click here.
  
First came the article "The Power of Flies to Save the Barbeque Season" from BusinessWeek.com.  That was followed by an article from ScientificAmerican.com "Your Meat Should be Raised on Insects." Later this month, CNN will be in town filming a news segment. 
  
To learn more about EnviroFlight, click here to watch a great video developed by the Greene County Department of Development to highlight successful Greene County businesses created by students and staff from the Greene County Career Center. 
  
Glen Courtright of Enviroflight

One of our good guys is down

Jimmy Chesire, beloved by all from tee-ballers to to Writers' Workshop denizens, was walking his dog, as I often do mine, up at Ellis Pond, when somehow he fell and hit his head on a rock. Just like that, he went from a guy, enjoying canine companionship and the scenery north of town, to a seriously injured patient in intensive care in Kettering. As improbable and as scary as that is, perhaps we can identify with it. I know I can.

Jimmy has suffered a serious brain injury that required five hours of surgery and a medically induced coma that will last for several days. The prognosis, which was not so good when he was first examined a couple days ago, has improved. Perhaps someday, he will be out at Gaunt Park again kibitzing with the little ball players and writing about it for the newspaper. We can all pray for that.

Meanwhile, there is something else we can do. When something like this happens, family is stretched to the limits. Of course, his wife Robin and daughter Adrienne have more on there minds than preparing their next meal. So an account has been set up at Current Cuisine that can be donated to. This allows them to stop in and order whatever they please, drawing on the account to pay for it. You can simply drop in and tell them that you are donating to the Jimmy Cheshire fund.

Meanwhile, let's keep Jimmy and his family in our thoughts and prayers. If you know Jimmy, you have had the pleasure of meeting a really great human being, always ready to help, and a true inspiration to treat one's fellow human beings with love and dignity.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Concert info - Saturday Night - a two fer...


In rescheduling the Community Band Concert due to the fireworks cancellation, it was decided to combine it with the Summer Music Camp Concert at Mills Lawn School, Saturday, July 6.

6:30 p.m. - Summer Music Camp concert begins - please come and support the kids if you can!

8:00 p.m. - Yellow Springs Community Band concert - a potpourri of patriotic music suitable for something like a 4th of July Fireworks display.

WYSO deal closed

Have you noticed the new announcement on WYSO, "a community service of Antioch College for the Miami Valley and beyond?"

The finalized agreement to transfer ownership of WYSO from Antioch University to Antioch College was completed on July 3, according to an email announcement from the radio station. Here's the rest of it:

All staff members working at WYSO become employees of Antioch College effective the date of the execution of the acquisition documents and the agreement, and transfer will not impact programming or operations of the station.

While concrete plans are still in formation, the College and WYSO hope to create an enhanced learning environment for Antioch College students through one of the country's top professional, NPR-affiliated radio stations.

General manager of WYSO, Neenah Ellis, said that she is looking forward to collaborating with the College and students on projects she can already imagine, and many more that will evolve as the partnership deepens.

"The possibilities for collaboration with the College are tremendous," she said. "Everything from students doing co-ops at WYSO to working with the faculty and staff members. The learning opportunities we're anticipating will be endless."

Fireworks canceled - will reschedule later this summer

This from a Facebook post from Karen Wintrow at the Chamber:
4th of July Fireworks have been CANCELLED this weekend. The reschedule date is yet to be determined but will be later in the summer.
This also means there will be no band concert tonight. The concert may be rescheduled independently of the fireworks - possibly Saturday night indoors at Mills Lawn... Check back for updates. 

The parade is still on for Saturday at 3 p.m.


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

4th of July Yellow Springs style


Community Band to play on the Fourth



 Think Americana...

The music starts at 8:00 and will last until just before dark. And that's when the fireworks begin.

IFO the hill at Gaunt Park

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Back Story: Good Man Gone

I learned at Community Band rehearsal last night that Dennis Farmer has resigned as the YS Schools Band Director. Not only was Dennis one of the best band directors and music teachers in the history of our schools, he was also a thoughtful and caring teacher. This is a terrific loss to our school system. I wish it weren't so...

I heard some of how this came about, but it would be wrong for me to report it here, as it would probably be inaccurate and incomplete. Suffice it to say Dennis was not happy with increasing demands the school administration was putting on him. In the opinion of others, supposedly in the know, he took as much as he could, until he couldn't take no more.

I have known Dennis in two contexts, as director of the Yellow Springs Community Band and as my son's school music teacher a few years back. When Dennis took over the band director job in town several years ago, he agreed to continue the community band tradition and enhanced it with careful rehearsal and direction, and by instituting the annual band alumni/YSHS-McKinney/Community Band concert. The band got better under his direction and eventually former Antioch College Music Department head James Johnston joined him to share the duties. It has been a great collaboration. The band has never sounded better.

But here's the important part: Dennis, as a teacher in general was more caring about his students' welfare than you would expect from a music teacher. My son was diagnosed with a learning disability as he was entering McKinney and was afforded an IEP. As his parent, I attended periodic evaluation sessions with the Special Ed Director, the school psychiatrist and some of his teachers. Teacher attendance at the meetings was spotty, and I always understood that, for the most part, it wasn't that they were blowing us off, it was because their duties required them to be elsewhere. Some of them, however, were blowing us off.

After Dennis took over, he started attending these sessions. My reaction, the first time, was what is the band director doing here? Who would expect..? Over the years, he kept showing up. But it didn't take long for me to learn why. From time-to-time, Dennis would collar me at Community Band practice and inform me about my son's behavior in band. It wasn't that he was ratting him out - it was that he was genuinely concerned. He still asks about him, even though he graduated four years ago and hadn't been his student for an additional two years before that, because he had left YSHS to attend the Greene County Career Center.

This is the man we are losing - a model teacher by all accounts and in my personal experience. Why is this so? Is it because in this town that prides itself as being artsy and has more music groups than you would normally find in a town ten times its size doesn't truly value music education? I'd hate to think it... But, in other school systems, when money gets tight, it's music and art that go first. Was there some ultimatum put to Dennis? As I said, I don't know for sure. But when good teachers start quitting, we should start asking why.

YSKP to visit feisty bayou people

YS Kids Playhouse presents two weeks of  "Fais Do-Do!"

In 2013 the YS Kids Playhouse, a youth theater in Yellow Springs, will revisit one of its most popular and inspirational musicals. Gaston Boudreaux – the Cajun Robin Hood resets the classic story of have and have-nots in the bayous of Louisiana.

The evening is a family event with an all-youth cast who portray feisty bayou people, colorful politicians and a chorus of dancing oysters and crawfish. Beneath the lively story, however, the production poses important environmental as it develops a future generation of environmental stewards.

The Tecumseh Land Trust and the Miami Conservancy are partners in the current production whose theme “Taking care of the place you live is food for the soul”.

This original work features classic Cajun and zydeco music as it entertains, provokes and inspires in a magical tale of human ingenuity in concert with awe of the natural world.

The production features live music and takes place under the stars in the Antioch Amphitheater.

Please support the YS Kids Playhouse by attending these events:
·      July 10, 7pm (Antioch Amphitheater) – “All-Access Backstage Pass” Dress Rehearsal Fundraiser – Your $25 donation gives you a behind-the-scenes preview of YSKP’s summer show with wine & cheese. Enjoy John Fleming’s creative process first hand!
·      July 11-14 & 18-21, 7:30pm (Antioch Amphitheater) – Gaston Boudreaux – The Cajun Robin Hood – Our concessions this year include Corner Cone ice cream, crawfish & crab cookies, po-boys and more...Come early to enjoy the festive atmosphere!
     July 16, 7pm (Emporium) – Wine Tasting & Music with Tucki Bailey & the YSKP Players
 ·     
JulJuly  17, 7pm (Antioch U. Midwest) – Trouble the Water – Special screening of Carl Deal & Tia Lesson’s documentary with NOLA guests Linda Schexnaydre & Jeanne Dumestre.

More information about this and other YS Kids Playhouse productions can be found by visiting www.yskp.org.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Job opening for financial person



The Yellow Springs Community Foundation is seeking to fill the part-time position of Financial Administrator. The job description and a list of qualifications may be found on the foundation’s website at www.yscf.org. Resumes and cover letters should be sent by email to yscf@yscf.org no later than July 19, 2013. Candidates for the interview process will be contacted after July 24, 2013. Starting salary will be commensurate with background and experience.