Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Moment of Silence

At 1:00 O'clock, Saturday, August 26, 2017, a service commenced at the chapel at Pomfret School, Pomfret, Connecticut, in memory of Bob Sloat. He was a retired teacher from Pomfret School, a talented, active member of the community who inspired and befriended all he met, and a genuinely loving person. I knew him from my activity at the Bradley Playhouse where Bob was a founding member, president emeritus, and often conducted the orchestra for musicals. He was also involved with the tech, such as lights, and mentored many people in technology, such as me.

Unsurprisingly, the chapel was packed. At the same time the cast and crew of the Little Mermaid assembled on stage for a moment of silence. If we could have, every one of us would have been there, too. Room capacity be damned. So we paid our respects the best way we knew. By getting dressed in our costumes, putting on makeup, doing warmups, pre show hugs and kisses, making sure our spotlights were in working order, mic checks, making popcorn, greeting patrons, ushering people to their seats, and generally preparing for a first class show to give to our audience, as Bob would have wanted.

And we paused from our theater hubbub. Cast. Crew. Orchestra. Lobby staff. Theater management. Whoever could. And were silent. For Bob.

In silence we meet a fearsome foe. And a fickle friend. Memory. So we remembered.

It is said that the worst thing about losing someone is not in the grief that he is gone. It's in all the days after when he stays gone.

We remember.

Now conduct the choirs of Heaven, Bob.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Bed - A Story of Redemption

A girl wakes up in bed with an older man, who is sitting up and cradling her head in his arm. She assumes he seduced her. She jumps up. “I need a rape kit! What happened to me? What did you do to me?”
He says nothing happened to her.
“Why am I here?”
“Because you’re not anywhere else.”
“I don’t remember anything.”
“You wouldn’t. I was in the bar at the casino downstairs last night. I saw someone slip something into your drink. Soon you got woozy and your escort ‘guided’ you toward the elevator. So I followed and got in with you. As soon as the door closed I told him that you were my daughter and that the police were on their way here. If he wanted a quick fuck and a dump in an alley, he’d better go someplace else. You weren’t worth it. I suggested he get off at the next floor. He did. Men who drug women are notorious cowards.
“I took you to my room. By then you were convulsing. You were crying. You were crying out in pain. I was afraid you might choke on your own vomit, so I put you in bed and lay down next to you. I waited until you were at peace.”
“I suppose you’re going to say that you did something wonderful? That you saved me?”
That you did something awesome. You kept me from being raped?”
As it were, she had been raped the night before. He saved her this night only. He suspected as much.
“Did you rape me today?”
“Do you feel raped?”
“Then, no.”
“I can scream rape!”
“I can scream ice cream!”
“So, what are you gonna do? I go to the bar. Men buy me drinks. Some give me drugs. I wake up in a ditch. So what? What the fuck is it to you?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“I’m on top of my life.”
“Of course you are.”
“I know what I’m doing.”
“Of course you do.”
“Why are you fucking doing that?”
“Agreeing with me!”
“I’ll stop if you want.”
“What happened?”
“You were drugged. I saved you.”
“If it wasn’t for you...”
“If it wasn’t for me you’d be in an alley somewhere. Or, if you were lucky, a clinic treating your overdose with a quick pound of plasma and you’d be on your way, primed for another night.”
“Fuck you. Who are you? Some kind of preacher? I suppose you’re going to tell me I’m a sinner or something.”
“No. I’m the guy who scraped you up from a drug fueled molestation and brought you here. You’re free to go back to the rape blackout any time you want to, of course. Don’t forget your kit.”
“Really. Who are you?”
“Nobody. Somebody. Just a man.”
“You’re not just a man. I know men. And they are nothing like you.”
“Then I should be pleased to be not one of them.”
“Who asked you to get involved?”
“Why did you?”
“I don’t know.”
“Then fuck off.”
She ran to the bathroom. Then she realized she was still fully clothed. So was her rescuer.
She came back.
“You didn’t do anything to me?”
“Yes, I did.”
“I convinced a pathetic cocktail lounge rapist to leave you alone. Then I guided you to my room and put you to bed. You were in danger of choking to death on your own vomit so I lay next to you and watched until you were at peace. Is that a crime?”
“I’m fully clothed.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Why didn’t you undress me?”
“Because you are not my daughter.”
“Where are my cigarettes?”
“You’re out.”
“Can you get me some?”
“I can. I won’t.”
“What did you do to me?”
“Rescued you. You mind?”
“Yes! I’m a big girl. I don’t need any do-gooder Midwest preacher running my life.”
“So when you wake up in the alley, barely any cloths, no purse, ID, cigarettes, what do you do then?”
“I’ve got a locker. I keep my important stuff there.”
“Clever. Efficient. Where do you keep the key?”
“At least it’s not lonely.”
“That was funny. God, I need a cigarette.”
“Wrong deity to ask.”
“Will you…! I suppose you locked the doors somehow. You’re a psycho killer with a limp dick who just gets off on grabbing girls and fucking with their heads like you can’t with their twats.”
“Door’s unlocked. And, no. You’re not in a cabin in Montana. You’re not in the basement of some picture perfect house in suburbia. Noone’s going to call and say, ‘Quick. Get out. He’s in the house with you!’ I won’t ask you to put on any lotion. You’re in Las Vegas. In the same hotel as the bar you went catting around in last night.”
“OK. So what? Now I suppose you’re going to tell me I’ll get pregnant or catch some disease or shit like that?”
“I assume you already know all that.”
“You know what I did last Saturday? I went around to all the bars starting around 2:00 in the afternoon to see how many times I could get fucked. What do you think of that?”
“How many?”
“I don’t remember.”
“OK. So instead of a fuck buddy you have a fuck battalion. Do you want me to judge you? Or be impressed?”
“You haven’t said it.”
“The name.”
“The name they always call people like me. Slut. Whore. Scuzzy pussy. Fucking cunt. Bar virus. Go on. Call me a skank.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“I don’t know. Guys love to do that shit. They’re more than happy to sniff around our snatches and scuzz them up for us, then we’re rotten meat. You’re all hypocrites.”
“I can’t argue with you there.”
“Will you stop agreeing with me!?”
“Guys have it great.”
“Do we?”
“Yes, you do. You can fuck all the women you want to and never be called a man-slut. Never humiliated on the school ground or talked about around the office It’s always the girls fault. And shame. It’s like, guys don’t count anyway. Who cares where you stick your dicks? Male? Female? Animal, mineral, vegetable? Nobody gives a shit. But women? Woah! Don’t damage the merchandise, missy. Some man might not want you if your flap is broken.
 “The Cove.”
“The Cove. When I was a little girl I lived on a street going down to a cove. There were boys and girls on the street. We used to come out after dinner and play. Down by the cove. Along the water. In the woods behind our houses. In the streets with chalk and games of hide and seek.
“Little boys. Little girls. We were all friends. The girls giggled and thought the boys were funny. We liked being around them. It was fun. I’d fall asleep remembering some silly antic of one of the boys or other. Walking out on a fallen tree branch over a muddy pond. Falling in. Getting us all dirty and scaring us. Acting all clean and pure and yelling, ‘Gross! Get away from us!’ Trying to scare us and put toads on us. Stupid tricks. We loved them.
“It all changes when their dicks ripen.”
“Cunts don’t ripen, too?”
“Cunts ripen. Yes.”
“When the cat’s away, the mice dance.”
“An old proverb. Do you really want to get back at men? Is that what an unknown number of fucks last Saturday are all about?”
“What do you mean? Yah, why not. They fucked me. But I can’t fuck them back. We can never fuck guys back the way they fuck us. Those are the man-rules in the Maniverse.”
“No. You can’t. You can only choose to put your crotches in their paths as a lure and watch them jump like frogs on a log.
“You mentioned the Midwest. But here we are. Las Vegas. Where are you from, originally?”
“Oh, God dammit. Do you want me to get all weepy about where I grew up and how much I hated my fucking mother and shit like that?”
“Shit like that. If you like.”
“Sure. I grew up in Scott City, Kansas. The belly button on the beer belly of America.
“I thought you grew up by a cove? Not too many coves in Kansas.”
“We moved a few times. Cove time was when I was little. Kansas time was later.”
“And was it better?”
“Fuck. Junior high varsity. Cheerleading. Jesus Christ, chess club champion. I played the flute. Oh, I was in the photography club, too. Back when it was all chemistry. Well, enlarging photos, at least. The pictures were digital. Developer. Stop bath. Fixer. All that old school stuff. Photoshop is overrated. If you don’t know how to do it manually, you’ll never be good at it digitally. Our advisor, Mr. Darkson…”
“Yes? Mr. Darkson?”
“Never mind. God dammit. God fucking dammit. Why are you fucking making me do this? What did I do? What did I do to you?”
“So, what else was memorable in Scott City, Kansas?”
“The pool. In the center of town. It was a place to go in the summer. Me and my friends would swim around. Get a soda. Or a tonic, I think they called it there. Flirt with the boys.”
“And play games. Geesh, you know? Spin the bottle? Feel up the girl? Accidentally brush against her pubes. Pull back and act all shocked while giggling? Teen age sex, alright?”
“Not like you never did that shit.”
“Never said I didn’t.”
“It was fun. It was… enticing. It was, uh…, I liked it, OK?”
“OK. Forbidden fruit. You still liked the antics of the boys. You still liked to act scared by a toad and squeamish by the mud. No harm in that. So what brought you from teenage sex play to seeing how many times you can get fucked on a Saturday?”
“God. I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Door’s over there.”
“And what do you expect from me?”
“Not to slam it on your way out.”
“And what do you want to take from me?”
“Honestly? Everybody wants something or is selling something or is stealing something. What the fuck are you?”
“A friend.”
“Ha. Well, friend. Just mind your own friendly fucking business, will you?
“I wouldn’t be much of a friend if I did that, now would I?”
“Fuck. I do it to forget.”
“Forget? Forget what? What do you do?”
“Drink. Get drugged. Pass out. Wake up in a ditch with a sore pussy. I guess the fucking is payment for the free oblivion.”
“And what do you want to forget?”
“My name. Julie.”
“I am pleased to meet you, Julie.”
“I thought it was important.”
“Thought what important?”
“To tell you my name. I don’t tell anybody my name when I’m…”
“I say I’m Sunshine or Baby or Esmerelda. You know, A stripper name. I hide behind it.”
“A name is who we are. Or who we aren’t. Julie. It’s a nice name. Thank you for trusting me with it. You should use it more often.”
“What time is it?”
“2:00 O’clock.”
“AM or PM?”
“I should be going.”
“Anywhere! Away from here. Away from you, Bud. To where I belong.”
“Where do you belong?”
“Not here.”
“’Not here’ is not a place.”
“So. When you leave here, since you are not a prisoner. You just crashed here unexpectedly and can now leave any time you want. What next? Where are you going?”
“God. Jesus. For someone who hardly ever speaks, you’re an asshole, you know that? Don’t answer! I don’t know. Get a shower? Buy some cigs? A nap? And then do it all again?”
“Stop that! ‘Why’ is my business. Not yours. Stop getting all Sigmund Freudish on me.”
“Is that what I’m doing?”
“Yes. It’s bad enough my moth-“
“Your mother?”
“I’m tired of being judged. I’m tired of being told that I am a bad girl. That it’s all my fault.
“When I was 9 I found my clitoris. It felt good. It was beautiful. I told my mother one night in the bath. ‘Look Mommy. Look what I have? Look how soft and sweet it is? And what I can do with it? Isn’t this great, Mommy?’ Nothing was ever the same between us after that. I was now a wanton woman. She told all her fundamentalist Midwestern Christian friends so they could pray the sex devil out of me. Her little Jezebel. My father blamed me for her death years later. Like I have magic powers over cancer!
“And you! You are everything I hate about men. And my father who made no effort to conceal that he wanted a son and my self-righteous mother and the whole fucking world that treats women like shit while fucking us blind and throwing us over the edge and then expecting us to wake up the next morning and make you coffee and birth your children and stay at home while you’re doing who knows what until you come home and want us to suck your cocks. There was nothing there for me.”
“You liked photography club and Mr. Darkson.”
“Yah. Liked. Something else a fucking man took away from me.”
“What happened?”
“He raped me. In the darkroom. How appropriate. I was wearing a cutesy teenage thing. A little sun dress. Easy off. Easy on. Well, easily dropped on the floor. I had to put it back on myself. And everybody knew. Everybody can tell a sex rumpled sun dress from a thousand paces. And he’d probably done it before but nobody in the school ever did anything about it. Like the Drivers’ Ed teacher who used to put his hand on the boys’ knees while they were out driving. Everyone knew what a perv he was. No-one lifted a fucking finger about it. His father was a selectman or some fucking thing. Fucking bastards. The whole damn, picture perfect, Bible Belt, Midwestern Smalltown.
“’You’re my favorite student,’ alright. ‘Real talent. Going places.’ Sure. The real talent was between my legs and that’s the only place he was going.”
“And what happened next?”
“Nothing. I couldn’t tell my mother, little clit girl? She already thought I was the village whore because my body worked. Do you think she’d blame a rapist for a little Lolita?
“Christ. She’d drag me before the female elders of the village shouting, ‘Cut it off!’ It’s not men that fuck women. Men are too stupid. Women fuck other women. Men think with their cocks. Their stomachs. Their mouths. Never their brains. Men think they’re in charge and calling the shots, but it’s women who make other women miserable, the herd of viscious cats! Women make a science out of it. We fucking fuck ourselves, dammit!”
“Mice dream dreams dreamt by no cat.”
“Another proverb?”
“Hmm. Here. Put this on.” He gives her a small locket on a chain.
“What’s that? A cheesy locket? A stupid necklace?”
“It’s a token. Like all tokens, it’s worth much less than what it is worth. What it represents.”
“And what does it represent?”

It is midafternoon. Julie stirs uneasily. She is having weird dreams about coves and darkrooms and mysterious men she can’t understand. And mice. She wakes in a hotel bed curled up in a fetal position. She jumps up, confused. This was unusual. Usually she wakes up when the traffic out on the street is too loud. She’s fully dressed, too. Not just a dress pulled on over a naked, used body.
She drags her fingers through her hair and blinks some of the sleep out of her eyes. She comes across the necklace and the locket around her neck and stares at it. Someone must have given it to her last night. Someone flirting with her and giving her a tin trinket which she would have giggled helplessly over and mock given him a stolen kiss like a bashful teenager on the wreck room floor of a friend with the boys and the bottle. Pretending it’s love. Knowing it’s a game. A game she can’t win.
She opens to locket and reads one word.


And then she starts to cry.
She picks up her cell phone and presses the contact she always had but never intended to use.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cute and Presentable

I overheard a friend of mine at the theatre say that she wanted to be "Cute and presentable." That made me think. We force certain standards on young women today. What we think they should do, how we think they should look, act, think, be. I'm used to working with boys and girls, old and young, in the theatre and treat them all the same. You work with me? I'll work with you. Now give me a hug. PLACES!

So I thought.

Be cute and presentable if that's what you want to be.
If you feel frumpy, be all sweat pants, tee-shirt, and hair by horrors.
If you're in a bad mood, be a bitch.
If you are in a good mood, have ice cream.
And if you are feeling giddy, put on a polka dot dress and dance in a fountain.

Be the best you you can be. Your friends will love you for it. And if not? Meh! Keep dancing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017


MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction. We were all terrified by it. When I started hearing policy makers (usually not military) talking about 'tactical' nuclear weapons and 'winnable' nuclear war, I couldn't believe it. 
Numerous times over the past 50 years there were false alerts on both sides, in Russia and the US. Each time the person at the console said, This can't be possible, and did not call for instructions to counter strike from their Kremlin or Oval Office. They hesitated because they did not believe the other side was that crazy. They hesitated because they believed in humanity, theirs and the other side's. Each time they were right. Each time...we survived. Because of some Russian or American colonel who knew that his ultimate commission was peace.

Some were technical, computer glitches, strange weather conditions. Flocks of birds, even. One was because a training tape had been loaded into a computer by mistake! Each time, because both sides were equally in dread of nuclear war, they refused to believe what the technology was screaming.

What happens now that everyone has been force fed the neo-Red Scare bullshit for the past several years? That's great for theater and shifting people's attention away from our own corruption, but it is playing with nuclear fire. Propaganda is programming people to hate, but propaganda bites the hand that feeds it. 
What happens when the next obscure programming error mindlessly coughs up an alert? Will the technician at the flashing console use his humanity and say, No. I will not do this? Or has the propaganda poisoned his mind? Will he jam on the button because we all know how crazy the other side is?

Will he?

Chronicles of a Baby Boomer - Confessions of a Geopolitical Heretic

I came of age during a very stressful time. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the Viet Nam war. Domestic tensions and protests. Riots. Assassinations. Walter Cronkite reading casualty numbers on the nightly news. Polarization right down to the family level. Politicians who wanted to open doors and sooth relations were condemned as spies or backdoor Communists. Stooges of the Kremlin. McCarthy was recent history.

I watched détentes. Nuclear test bans. Strategic arms limitations. ABM missile bans. Greater cooperation between the nuclear powers. Our leaders talking and shaking hands. Cultural exchanges. We looked at that as a good thing. A hopeful sign of peace, however fragile. An open door policy to China. More decompression of tension. Trust but verify. I got used to the fact that we could work together with our enemies as long as we both were open and trusting. But still cautious. Two steps forward. One back. But always forward. Always looking for a way for us all to live in peace. That's what we wanted. That's what they wanted, too. We were not so different.

And then the Reagan years. The Soviet leaders always believed that they had equal partners here in the west. People they could work with and trust to abide by treaties, properly overseen by mutually trusted Inspectors, UN resolutions, proper auditing. Trust, but verify. Of course there was politics, cloaks and daggers, spy vs. spy. But both sides did it and it was anticipated and countered. The CIA had a toy. A submarine that they used to spy on the Soviets. They probably had something similar. It was later revealed that the CIA and the KGB had so thoroughly infiltrated each other that they were basically one entity. And this actually sometimes was a good thing. There were instances where the CIA-KGB had information that they withheld from their respective Oval Office/Kremlin because they knew it would be misinterpreted. Odd bedfellows.

But Reagan! They thought they had an adversary that was literally insane. He seemed to escalate the Cold War to microwave levels and wantonly trash 30 years of hard fought compromises. All could be lost. Literally.

But it had been a ruse. A stupid ruse, I think. One of the bone headed ideas going back to Zbigniew Brzezinski, Carter's security advisor, was to fund Afghanistani terrorists to fight, and hopefully defeat, the Soviet Union. It didn't work but he managed to create al-Qaeda. The enemy of my enemy. Good work, Zbig.

Reagan hoped to bankrupt the Soviet Union and force them to the negotiating table. He never followed current events when he was hanging out with Bonzo, I guess. Want to talk? Just use that red phone thingy in the oval office.

Still. He succeeded. Reagan and Gorbachev. Negotiating an end to the Cold War. Enemies, recent enemies, no, current enemies, discussing an end to hostilities. We thought it was epic. Historic. Like World War 2 was finally ending!

There would be a peace dividend. No more billion dollar boondoggles. No more expensive weapons that we hoped would never be used. No more bases around the world filled with men trained to kill. We can go back to space exploration, medical research, and enriching the global community. The one I once glimpsed in the 1965 World's Fair.

But I didn't know about Zbig. The guy who thought supporting thugs who threw acid in girls’ faces and repressed education and freedom in Afghanistan was a good idea? That guy. He had other ideas for the world.

The first Gulf War. 1992? 93? How soon we forget. I supported that war. I believed that Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator whom we must overthrow for some reason. I never quite understood why. I bought the rhetoric. I watched the parodies and laughed at the posters of someone shoving his head back down into a toilet. Though that bothered me. And people making jokes about Sodomy Hussein. I definitely paused at that. And jokes about Islam. Those She-ites! Time to flush ‘em! I was appalled at that one. 

What, exactly are we fighting for? How exactly do crude jokes and insults advance dialog? Is this really how we know our enemy? And ourselves? I knew nothing of our enemy and I didn’t like what I was learning about ourselves.

The war ended quickly enough. With Baghdad Bob posing for Worst Job magazine. It all seemed so surreal. But it ended. Evil was destroyed. The people were liberated. The country was devastated. Good work.

Well, things were good under Clinton. The economy was great. Oil prices down.  The stock market in overdrive. Russia now a country free from the over burden of the Soviet Union, building a free market economy and a democracy. There was something going on in Kosovo and Serbia. More bombing and overthrowing governments that had done nothing to us. Probably Zbig’s doing. But they weren't on the radar. Just a blip. A big, fiery red blip that had nothing to do with us. OK.

When the Sept 11 terrorist bombing occurred, I was outraged, as was everyone else. The whole world was. Dozens of nations had citizens in the towers, it was the World Trade Center, after all. This was an attack against the World! Vladimir Putin, the new president of the newly created Russian Federation, was the first world leader to call President Bush. He offered condolences and an offer to join forces in the fight against terrorism. Russia had fought terrorists, some supported by us, sadly. But, no. There was no cooperation, no sharing of intelligence, no joint actions. That would have been monumental. Think of it? The USA and Russia, once enemies under the fallen Soviet Union, now allies in the fight against world terror? That would have made a bold statement on the world political scene. Two former enemies now joined against a common enemy! But I had forgotten about Zbig.

Didn't know, actually. I knew nothing of the background machinations, the 'Enemy of my enemy' friendships, the scheming of a modern Dr. Strangelove. The political landmines that, once planted, can blow up in your face. What the CIA calls, 'Blowback.' If we mess with other peoples' countries, they will return the favor. I just knew 9/11. My nephew went to school right around ground zero. And the plane crash in Pennsylvania. And the Pentagon? This was an act of war! Someone had attacked us. Who?

I wanted action, like everybody else. I wanted to see something done. Afghanistan! They supported the terrorists. We must invade Afghanistan. So we did. I think we got a UN resolution. I know we did later when we reinvaded Iraq. But that was different. That war was because Iraq had WMDs! Anthrax! A nuclear program! Yellow Cake! Aluminum tubes! So in we went. And we heard the usual propaganda and the usual jokes and brave mockery. CNN broadcasting images of bombings. I remembered back to images from Viet Nam. We weren't allowed to see pictures of civilians burnt by cluster bombs and white phosphorus, like we saw them burnt by Napalm in the 60's. I just knew they were there. They always are.

But I wasn’t quite as automatically patriotic as I had been. What exactly is going on here? What’s the background? Everything has history. Even history has history. Every act, every action, every intrigue has a predecessor. Something further back that makes this current thing, while not necessarily right, at least understandable. And with the understanding of one’s adversary and history, you are able to use the most powerful weapon we have. Diplomacy. Know thy enemy. Know thyself.

Why not? It worked before. It worked between Kennedy and Khrushchev. It worked in reducing nuclear weapons by 90% during the Cold War. And it worked ending the Cold War under Reagan and Gorbachev. It should have worked between Bush and Putin, if we had accepted his offer. 

Olive branches have more power than plutonium.

But instead the war drums beat louder. The rhetoric. The condemnation of dissenters more shrill. Old Cold War rhetoric began to resurface. People don’t remember history, but they do remember animosity. Advocates for détente and diplomacy were called traitors. Un-American. Kremlin stooge. Putin’s Puppet. Just like all the past times people sought peace. But that's history. People prefer animosity. This threat could only be met by force. A pound of plutonium can destroy a grove of olive trees.

And now we are back to 1962. Where is there a Kennedy today?