Monday, December 29, 2008


I have, in the past on this blog, made one or two comments to the fact that I am becoming, at least psychologically, a "coot."

This past weekend I've been feeling it physically, as well.

Last Friday, I did something really cootish: I tripped over my dog.

It wasn't Dweezil's fault; I knew he was sitting at my feet when I got up out of my chair but somehow, I mispositioned (is that a word? Well, you know what I mean) my feet and toppled right over the pooch. He didn't even move, but I landed squarely on my knees. The right knee took the bulk of my weight and I've been limping quite cootishly ever since. It still hurts but it's getting better.

The thing is, I KNOW people half my age are looking at me and thinking, "man, look at that old limping guy."
This is instead of what they usually think, which is nothing, since once you turn about 40 years old you become completely invisible to anybody younger than that.

Think about it. (This may just be a guy thing; ladies, please weigh in if I'm wrong.) You're walking through the mall, ogling the eye candy (i.e. late teens and twentysomethings). You can stare right at them, and they won't even look you in the eye. Hell, they don't even acknowledge that you're there at all. This is because you are invisible to them.

I take note of nearly everyone I pass in a shopping mall. Their faces say a lot. (Admittedly, other body parts say a lot too, especially in Phoenix, in the summer, when ladies throw caution to the winds and wear well-worn white halter tops or tube tops because the law says you have to wear something.

At least in my cootness I can still appreciate the female form. Regardless of what it looks like. Fat, skinny, tall, short, they're women. And I still like to look at them.

I once heard my 83-year old grandfather, shortly before he died, say to my dad: "Jerry, if I ever stop looking at women, bury me." Ol' Gramps was good to his word; while dying of Valley Fever in a hospital ICU, hooked up on breathing machines and unable to talk, he apparently spent several of his last moments writing dirty notes to his nurses. In other words, he lived life to the end.

So did Cliff White, who died on Friday at, coincidentally, age 83.

Most of you didn't know him. Cliff was a drama professor at Northern Arizona University from 1968 until he retired in 1992. He was so good at what he did, the University named its creative arts theatre after him a year later, and never really let him retire. I would constantly hear stories through the 90s that Cliff was "just filling in" for a teacher who'd left the employ of the university, or "just teaching a class to keep his hand in it," but anyone who knew him knew better. Drama was literally Cliff's life. After retiring, he and his wife, Doris, became the main proponents of community theatre in Flagstaff, and he continued to direct plays on and off pretty much up to the end.

Dr. White was the epitome of perfection in dramatics. As somebody once said of him, you don't have a building named after you at NAU by doing things half-way. To that end, working with, or being taught by, Cliff White could be very , very frustrating, infuriating and irritating, but you know what? You usually came away with something from it that you find yourself using in your daily life without even thinking about it.

I was a drama minor, so I didn't participate in, or even try out for, every show at NAU while I was there (my major saw to that), but Cliff cast me in three of the four shows I was in while at NAU. (The other show was directed by Doris -- no directorial slouch, either.) The first time I tried out for him, I was a freshman, kinda full of myself and he saw that, but told me, "keep trying out. I'm gonna use you one of these days. I'm just not sure where yet." True to his word, the very next show I tried out for, he gave me a very nice part.

I always got along with him, perhaps because I wasn't a drama major. For all the stories I have been reading from other folks who knew Cliff, for every fun story, there's one where he quite simply pissed somebody off to the point of near fisticuffs.

I met Janice trying out for a Cliff White show. She ended up being head of props for the production ("Paint Your Wagon").
Her favorite Cliff White story is one of frustration.

(Here's me, dressed as a miner in "Paint Your Wagon.")

"It's a play about miners," Jan said the other day, "so if you're a miner, you're going to need a shovel. But Dr. White didn't want just any shovels for the miners. He wanted PERIOD, 1848 shovels. Oh, and they had to be BRAND NEW, 1848-period shovels, because in the play, the miners are coming out of a store where they just bought the shovels.

" We went to, or called, every place in Flagstaff that might have sold shovels. I brought in many different perfectly good shovels that Dr. White refused to use. 'Too new. Not period.' 'That's better, but it's used! It has to be new!' I got so desperate I went to another drama professor and asked what I should do. 'Stick to your guns,' she said. 'Sometimes Dr. White forgets that we're in Flagstaff, Arizona and not on Broadway.' We eventually reached a compromise, but it took a long time to get there."

Cliff never stopped calling Janice "Props." Thing is, he probably left a mark on her, too. Since we're both now members of Romantasy Cabaret, a variety show with ever-changing skits, Jan has become one hell of a prop maker. There is a streetlight in our house at the moment for a skit we have yet to AUDITION. Jan built it. Agonized over the exact height for a week. That's Cliff White working in there.

Like I said, Cliff White was a perfectionist. Apparently right down to when it came to stuff like shoveling snow off his driveway. "Why let some kid do it?" I'm sure he was thinking. " I'll do it, and I'll know it's done to my satisfaction."

Shoveling the driveway was the last thing Cliff did. He had a heart attack, living life right to the end.


The most interesting part I ever got from Cliff White was a small part as a guard in NAU's production of "King Lear" in 1978. The technical name of this part is "Second Servant." In the scene, The Earl of Cornwall has just gouged out the eyes of the Earl of Gloucester. (Read the play.) After Cornwall and Lear's treacherous daughter Regan run out of the room, I and "Third Servant" (First servant was killed in the same scene about two minutes ago), take pity on the blinded man and try to figure out what to do with/for him:

Second Servant: I'll never care what wickedness I do,
If this man come to good.

Third Servant: If she live long,
And in the end meet the old course of death,
Women will all turn monsters.

Second Servant: Let's follow the old earl, and get the Bedlam
To lead him where he would: his roguish madness
Allows itself to any thing.

Third Servant: Go thou: I'll fetch some flax and whites of eggs
To apply to his bleeding face. Now, heaven help him!

"The Bedlam" is a character named Edgar, who's actually quite sane but forced to pretend he's a nutcase. (Read the play.)

Now, here's why I remember this little jaunt. Later on in the play, Gloucester is in fact led to the white cliffs of Dover and reunited with Edgar, who is actually his son and not crazy, as I mentioned. HOWEVER, in the NAU version of this play, when Gloucester is finally delivered to Edgar at Dover, Second and Third Servant (me and the other guy) are NOT the two guys delivering Gloucester to his son!

This was because Cliff wanted to be sure that everybody who got into the show got to say something. So two other guys who hadn't had a line yet got their lines to say.

The four of us used to joke about this. We created a whole subtext: Servant Three and I headed off to Dover with the blind guy, but it was cold and rainy, and with all the pubs in the area, we all went inside and had a couple of pints. Too drunk to continue, we bribed two other guys in the pub to take Gloucester there.

That makes sense, right?


Does anybody out there have a floor-standing easel I can borrow? I really need it...


Sunday, December 21, 2008


This link (which you have to copy and paste 'cause I don't know how to make a link out of it) will take you to an Old English translation of a very famous Christmas song, and the "back-to-English" translation of such. Very interesting...

And for some interesting early sci-fi, check out this little short from 99 years ago (with a soundtrack that obviously was recorded more recently than that)...




I know they're already in the playoffs, but I really don't want to see the Cards end the regular season 8-8.
They gotta win at least one of these last two games and they don't sound like they care.


Tuesday night I won two hours worth of recording time in a studio out in the East Valley. What song should I record? I'm willing to take suggestions...


Sunday, December 14, 2008


I don't know. And I don't care. All I DO know is that my garden finally started eliciting eggplants, and it's eatin' time.

As you can see below, I grew a type of eggplant called Rosa Bianca. Apparently this is the type used by most restaurants, and not the big purple ones you get in the store. They grow to about the size of your hand, as you can see here.

Another thing I like about them is they're purrrrty.

I've been waxing eloquent to my other gardening pals about these beauties and as it turns out, most of them don't like eggplant. To each their own, but I LOVE eggplant. You don't have to peel them, you don't have to seed them, you just have to cook them in something to give them some flavor. (They also oxidize in the air faster than apples, so their ultimate cooked appearance isn't exactly the kind of thing you look forward to, but hey, you're just gonna eat it anyway.)

I'm making chicken/eggplant parmesan tonight.


I've been playing a lot of open mics lately and I like it. It's how I practice. I have real trouble sitting at home playing for the dog. The fact that Brendan goes to school via computer and likes to log on at night gives me time to go out and play, so I'm taking advantage of it.

The Dubliner at 38th St. and Thunderbird has a great Sunday night open mic that I've been attending for the past few weeks. The talent is really good and the audience is pretty responsive.

Other open mics I've been known to inhabit recently are:

Tuseday nights at the Codfather, 16th st. and Bell;
The Cornerstone at Dysart and T-bird on Wednesdays;
Thursdays at the Final Round and It's a Grind in Tempe (not so much since the gas hikes, but maybe more often now that gas is getting cheaper)
And others as I find them.

My next actual gig is this coming Saturday the 20th at Club Mardi Gras, 80th St. and McDowell, as part of a comedy show. More later on this.


Thursday, December 11, 2008


"Prop 8 - The Musical" starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, and many more... by Jack Black

And so true! Thank you, JESUS! Can I get an AMEN!!!


Tomorrow night, nine O'clock, Seven Minutes under the Mistletoe at Space 55, 636 E. Pierce! I'm on first! Don't be late!
Show up! Support art and all that drivel!


Tuesday, December 09, 2008


...except for the ones that kill you, of course.

I just realized this morning that I went all day yesterday, December 8, without once thinking about John Lennon (who was shot and killed 28 years ago -- yikes! -- on a Monday yet).

I think that's the first time I've ever done that.


Back in September I posted a list on this blog of my top 10 downloaded songs on iTunes. At the time, they looked like this:

First House
Christmas In Arizona
That Fiddle and Banjo Crap
Baby Boomer
A Piercing Song
Little Star Treks
Catch Phrases
Clerical Error
Sun City Sinners

Now, 90 days or so later, with Christmas coming on, the list looks like this (I'm sure you can see #1 coming):

Christmas in Arizona
A Piercing Song
Baby Boomer
That Fiddle and Banjo Crap
Everybody Wanna (Sound Like Nirvana)
Little Star Treks
Catch Phrases
First House
Clerical Error

Interesting "A Piercing Song" being up there. I musta poked something in the general public's mind...



Show up at Studio 55, 636 E. Pierce at 9 p.m. for "Seven Minutes Under the Mistletoe!" Ten people get seven minutes to take Christmas to task. I will be there. I"m opening the show.

Then, I'm your faithful volunteer at Fiddler's Dream on Saturday Night! It's going to be a holiday song night, with The Strand opening things and Nancy Freeman closing with her ever-unique holiday program. (I'm going to be part of that, so come on by!)


Friday, December 05, 2008


On December 5, 1990, I was sitting at work waiting for the phone call, and I got it.

"My water broke, this is it! Meet me at the hospital!"

Kid number 2 was on the way. We knew it was a boy, the result of an ultrasound some months earlier. (All ultrasound babies look like Broderick Crawford.)

Like our first, he was HUGE. HUGER, even. So like our first he was a C-section.

He was also not well. At 11 pounds 4, his lungs weren't big enough to support his weight.

He spent a few weeks in the ICU and we waited, visited and laughed at his already odd stubborness.

If they put a cap on him in the incubator, he took it off. If they stuck a tube in his nose, he pulled it out.

They finally had to restrain his hands because he was defeating the purpose.

He got to come home a day or two before Chanukah that year. Still working on using his lungs, Brendan would frequently let out an audible gasp in the hospital that sounded like "Hiiiiii!" So we'd say "hi" back.

We got him home (after stopping by my dad's office to show him that Brendan had been sprung from stir) and a few minutes later Jan's mom Marilyn showed up to see him. He was sitting in a baby rocker in the middle of the living room. Marilyn leaned in, and said "Hi, Brendan!" And Brendan said, "HiiiiII!"

She damn near fainted. (We hadn't told her about the "hi" thing yet.)

Well, Brendan's been surprising us ever since. I'm not going to say that the last 18 years have been easy, for him or us, but we've raised one hell of an 18-year-old. He's never stopped being rebellious. We had to take him out of daycare when he was three after we were told he kept asking the teacher to "tell those babies to shut up." (He will NOT be having kids.) He has ADD that he will probably have to deal with for the rest of his life. On the plus side, he's never been in trouble. He has a sense of humor uniquely different but just as sharp as his brother, his mother and myself. He drives better than I do. He attends high school by computer now, and is hell bent to get his diploma and kiss the educational system goodbye. He's getting better grades than I ever did. We love him to death.

Happy birthday, dude.


Thursday, December 04, 2008


Frank Zappa
December 21, 1940 - December 4, 1993

As usual, the zappa.com website is burning a memorial candle and playing what is probably Zappa's most memorable guitar solo, the amazingly awesome "Watermelon in Easter Hay" from "Joe's Garage." If you're reading this TODAY, go there and check it out.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008


If you're one of the people who reads this blog who has never met my wife Janice, or if you are someone who has only met her once, your first impression of her may well be:
"S'matter with her? Doesn't she talk?"

For lots of reasons that would take too long to go into here (and which are really none of your business), Jan takes a while to warm up to people.


But there are times, when the time is right, when things just need to be commented on, that Janice, in a fit of inspiration, will crack a joke or make a comment to complete strangers that basically makes everybody's day.

Case in point:

On most Friday nights, if you don't drink, you have two things you can do in Phoenix: Go to a book store, or go to an adult bookstore.

Usually, we opt for a bookstore. Borders is open until 11 and they don't bother you if you read an entire book without buying it.

However, every so often we will decide we need a laugh, so we will go to one of the local adult boutiques, as they call them, either a nearby Fascinations or their main competitor, the Castle Boutique. A couple of Fridays ago we opted on the Castle location about walking distance from our house. (We drove, though.) We both get a kick out of adult stores, because face it, it's fun to look at all the crazy ways one can devise to get one's, and one's significant others, rocks off. These stores are very brightly lit and clean and couples go there like you would if you were going to Walgreens or something. Nobody's embarrassed and the help is usually MORE THAN HAPPY to explain some of the odder merchandise available there if you so want to know.

Some of these contraptions are extremely ingenious and definitely worth laughing about.

Anyway, back to the story. So we're in the Castle where, like many other stores, the onslaught of November means a non-stop Muzak invasion of Christmas songs. At the Castle Boutique that night, the mix was your typical collection of oversung religious and secular winter faves. Which eventually struck Janice as funny.

Religious songs in an adult bookstore?

The Castle has a "demonstrator vibrator" wall, where you can try out (on your hand, silly) literally about 100 different vibrators, dildoes, anal stimulators, g-spot massagers, etc. etc. etc. So there we are, at the wall, looking at some of the more ridiculous ones, when Jan notices a woman holding a particularly "useful" device in her hand. The music playing at this point is a rather solemn version of "Oh, Holy Night."

So Jan turns to the woman and says, "Isn't this what Christmas is really all about? Listening to music celebrating "The Birth of Our LORD," as they say, while we examine a Rotating Purple Latex Clit Stimulator with G-Spot Massager?"

The lady laughed and then agreed yeah, that is sort of weird. Then we started postulating that SOME holiday music would be fine for an adult store. The SECULAR stuff, the FUNNY stuff, great. but WWJI (What Would Jesus Insert) is probably not where you want to go if you're into the more religious aspects of the season.

(By the way, the lady bought the vibrator.)


Janice has a very unique way of expressing herself sometimes. A while back we ate dinner at an Italian restaurant where we were asked if we'd like to have an after-dinner drink. The waiter suggested the limoncello. I have since learned that this concoction is actually nothing more than 100% alcohol with lemons in it.

We were brought two shot glasses of this drink and were told on no uncertain terms by the waiter that we were to SIP IT. DO NOT CHUG UNDER PENALTY OF RALPH. So we sipped. It was REALLY GOOD.

Now, you have to understand that since we drink maybe 10 alcoholic beverages per decade COMBINED, we're both a bit easy to intoxicate. Jan is REALLY easy to intoxicate. She REALLY liked the limoncello. She described it as such: "Goes down like velvet, then hits you like a brick." I had eaten enough food and took enough time sipping my drink that I only had to sit in the parking lot for about 10 minutes to make sure my faculties were there before heading home. (It had a delayed effect on me; I fell asleep almost instantly when I got home.) Jan needed help getting to the car. All the way home, she kept pantomiming like she'd just been hit in the head by a brick. It was pretty funny.)

So now, whenever we see limoncello in a store, she'll say, "Look! A bottle of Velvet Brick!"

I'd buy her a bottle but like most booze in our house, it would sit there for ten years before we even opened it. (I'm not kidding. I have a bottle of Southern Comfort in the house somewhere and I don't even know where it is. I bought it like five years ago to use an ounce of it for a recipe. )


Just got asked by the producers of the previously successful "Seven Minutes in Hell" if I would like to participate in "Seven Minutes of Christmas" at Space 55 on December 12 and I said yes. More on that in a week or so. Mark your calendars.


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