All the World Is a Stage, and I’ve got Front-Row Seats

The Producers - 01

I signed up for a class on Scene Setting at the Fulton Theatre. I thought it was going to be about writing scenes. Turns out, it’s an acting class. There are a dozen of us in the class. The rest all want to be actors, and this class is designed for them. I’m enjoying the heck out of it, though.

Sometimes it feels more like a yoga class. We stretch while breathing deeply and make buzzing noises with our lips that we’re supposed to be able to feel in our chest, lower back, and abdomen. We get on the floor and roll around. Well, I don’t get on the floor. I played the Bad Hip card immediately and got a free pass. I’m allowed to sit or walk around while the rest of them are crawling around on the floor acting like whatever animal the instructor just called out. Enraged dragon. Sad frog. Lazy Cow. Jubilant Jackass. I can mosey around weakly snarling, rib-bitting, mooing, and heehawing, while the rest of the class is down on all fours, really throwing themselves into the roles. It was a pisser. If classes had been this much fun back in high school, I might have spent a lot less time in detention.

A lot of the class is about us bonding as an ensemble. We stood in a circle and threw a bean bag around. Whoever caught the beanbag had to say their name and toss the bag to someone else. Eventually, most of us knew the first name of everyone in the class, and this was only the first class! Good ice breaker. I’d like to be able to do that at a party. You forget somebody’s name, you can just toss them the bean bag, and they’ll yell it out.

For homework, we had to prepare a short monologue about ourselves, and in the second class, we had to perform it. Everybody opened up about themselves, and some told tales that they might not have even told their best friends. Some even cried, but it was an acting class. Were they caught up in the moment, or were they just really doing a good job of acting? Since this is not an advanced acting class, I’m inclined to believe that people were just being real.

After class, Meg, Leni, and I went for coffee in the café across the street from the theatre. It brought me back to when I was working at NYU School of Medicine and taking free classes at NYU. After each class, a few of us would usually head to a local bar. There was one favorite hangout that had cheap beer and served a great cheeseburger on a Kaiser roll with a big side of popcorn. Actually, the popcorn was free. Everybody who was drinking got a never-ending bowl of it, with much of it ultimately winding up on the floor. The floor was a little bit slippery, but that was a great place to do your homework, especially if you liked popcorn.

Last week, I went to the Fulton Theatre for their production of The Producers. I imagined that most of the performers had gone to classes just like this when they were first learning their craft. I wondered how many in my class would ever wind up on the stage. I know that if a script ever calls for any enraged dragons, sad frogs, or lazy cows, we have some people who are just perfect for the part. Who knows? Even I might wind up on the stage someday, if they ever have a role for a crazy old jackass who can only walk on two legs.  Hee Haw.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

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Bring it, Meat

Corned Beef Pastrami on Rye Sauerbraten & Spaetzle We Have the Meats

I frequently travel back to New York to visit with friends and family. I usually plan my trips so that I visit as many people as possible. I didn’t have to make people plans this time, though, because half the people I know in New York would be at the Driscoll’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Party. So, I made menu plans instead. I’ve been eating a lot of fish and chicken here in Lancaster. It was in the mood for some of my favorite marinated meats, Corned Beef, Pastrami, and Sauerbraten.

I only ever cooked a corned beef just once in my entire life. It took three long hours to cook. It tasted great, but, after that, I chose to only eat corned beef that somebody else spent three hours cooking. My favorite corned beef sandwich was the special corned beef sandwich they served at a bar in Secaucus, NJ called Charlie’s Corner. The special, which ran all day and all night during St. Patrick’s week, was a corned beef Sandwich and a pickle for a nickel. Of course, you had to eat at the bar, the take-out price was much higher. Charlie once told me that he would go through two tons of corned beef that week.

Corned beef and a pickle, for a nickel. You couldn’t beat that. Almost. The spread that Marianne and Tres put out for their Patty’s Party, was even better. So, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I started my meat parade with corned beef at their party. Delicious, and the best part is that I didn’t have to spend 3 hours in the kitchen.

Another pickled meat I love is Sauerbraten. That’s even more labor intensive. It takes two days to make, so I never made it. Fortunately, I had the best sauerbraten in the world at least once a year when my mother was alive. Since then I’ve had to settle for the pot roast in sauerbraten sauce that most German restaurants serve. My friend John in Long Beach tells me that the new German restaurant in his neighborhood makes a mean sauerbraten. So, that was on the menu for Sunday.

Das Biergarten is a place that looks like a small beer hall in Bavaria. The waitresses are costumed to look like those darlings who carry so many pints to the thirsty tourists at Oktoberfest. I remember the place from many years ago when John and I used to go there to wet our whistle. Back then, it was called The Digs, and it was decorated more to look like a bar. The old and the new quickly became one in my mind, and I started calling the place, Das Digs.

The first appetizer on the menu is Das Pretzel. That made me laugh, so I ordered one. Then we got down to the serious business, the Sauerbraten. It was delicious. Not as good as my mother’s, of course, but delicious. Two meats down, one to go.

New York Pastrami is the very best. The owner of the Alley Kat Restaurant in Lancaster used to drive to the Carnegie Deli in New York every week to pick up 60 pounds of it. This winter, he got tired of making the drive, so pastrami was dropped from the menu. I was Jonesing for some juicy pastrami, so I made sure that my train reservation on Monday was for a late train. This gave me all afternoon to go to the Blarney Stone, just a few steps from the train station. The pastrami sandwich was thick, lean, and delicious. The beers went down pretty smooth, too. I rolled out of there just in time to catch the train home.

The next day when I got on the scale, I was 6 pounds heavier than I was when I left the house on Saturday morning. Now I remember why I’ve been eating fish and chicken.

I hope everyone had a Happy Healthy St. Patrick’s Day.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Bad to the Bone

It’s on. Brother X and I, will compete in The Rage in the Cage, in the batting cage at Clipper Magazine Stadium at 3:30 P.M. on May 16th. The actual game doesn’t start until 7 p.m. though, so there may not be a lot of witnesses to the event.

I love competition, and competitions with Brother X are my favorite. They’ve been going on for 64 years. I’ve always had a two year advantage on him, of course that was back when I was a kid and being older was an advantage. Now, at 66, being 2-years older is more of a disadvantage.

As a kid, I had the size advantage, so he had to use cunning. This led to his becoming devious and mischievous, and earned him the nickname of “Devil Incarnate,” at least according to page 92 in brother Kevin’s book, A Song for Lost Angels. After reading that I stopped calling him Brother X and jokingly started calling him Beelzebro X. I think he like it, because he knows it fits.

Here’s an example of the devious, mischievous nature of Beelzebro X. About 15-20 years ago, we were standing behind my parent’s house in Yaphank, looking at the lake far below. X bent down, picked up two rocks, offered one to me, and said, “I’ll bet I can throw further than you.” Without giving me time to think about it, he reared back and threw the rock about 10-15 feet past the shoreline. We both heard the splash, and he turned to look at me. Now it was my turn.

He was prepared. I wasn’t. He’d been playing baseball with his son the previous two weeks. The only thing I had been throwing back were beers and shots. Sibling rivalry, however, demanded that I try my best. I reared back and threw the rock with all my might.

I don’t know where my rock landed. I was in too much pain to notice or even care. I know it didn’t make the water because there was no splash. Or if there was a splash, I couldn’t hear it over X’s laughter. He knew that throwing a ball with all your might, when you haven’t thrown a ball in years, was going to be very painful. That’s the whole reason he set me up for the competition. As usual, he won because he was prepared.

So, now I plan to turn the tables on him.

The Barnstormers had a promotion back in December. Buy 5 tickets to games and you could take batting practice with the team. I bought 10 tickets and got two coupons for batting practice with the team on May 16th. I called my brother and invited him to join me in the batting cage. He said, “Yes,” and I started preparing. I turned my laundry room into a batting cage, and I prepare daily for the upcoming battle. Hee hee hee, payback.

Then, I made a mistake. I let it slip that I was practicing. So, now he knows that this is a serious competition and he’s practicing too. I’m quickly losing my tactical advantage.

So, I secretly stepped up my training, and I thought I might be regaining my advantage, until I had a conversation with him. He had been practicing, too. “Plus,” he said, “I’m even boning my bat.”

“You’re making love to your bat?” I questioned him worriedly.

“No, you moron. I’m boning my bat. You rub a big dry soup bone along the barrel of the bat and it compresses the wood, making the bat harder, less likely to break, and able to drive the ball further.”

I never knew about that, so I looked it up on YouTube. Some bat manufacturers even sell pre-boned bats. Unlike corked bats, they’re 100% legal.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjZWGkmTiu8

Babe Ruth boning his bat Joe DiMaggio boning his bat

So, I better go find myself a nice big soup bone, and try to catch up, because I have a feeling that my devious little brother may have outsmarted me again.

At least one thing makes sense, though, now. Now, after all these years, I finally understand why I always saw the nuns I had in grammar school rubbing their pointers and yardsticks with a soup bone.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

That Old Gang of Mine

[Friends] Tom & Lydia - Super CoupleTommy and Lydia from back in the day.

You know how it is when you go to a reunion. At first you don’t recognize the people and you’ve got little in common to talk about with them. Then, the years quickly melt away, you start to recognize them, and you’ve suddenly got a million things you want to talk about.

This past weekend as I travelled around New York, I saw Tommy Powers, who I hadn’t seen since his 40th birthday. Tommy and I went to grammar school together, different classes, but the same grade, so we’ve know each other for around 60 years. I also saw his wife Lydia who I haven’t seen since Tommy’s 40th birthday. He was the best man at my wedding, and I was the best man at his. They’re now celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. They looked good. Too good. He’s got all his hair, and Lydia looked the same as when I saw her 25 years ago.

Another blast from the past was seeing my ex-wife Ginny, who I last saw in Florida in 1991. She, too, looked the same as she did back then. I can only assume that she has a picture in the attic that is aging incredibly fast. It just couldn’t be possible that I was the only one who aged over the years. Next I saw her brother, also named Tommy, and his wife, also named Ginny. With them were, her sister Jeanie and her husband Larry. I hadn’t seen any of them since the 80’s. Right away, we picked up right where we left off 30 years ago, repeating George Carlin routines. “Hey how ya doin’? Nice place, but if it was me living here, I would run some beams and struts out this way and then run conduit…”

Unfortunately, they weren’t content to have aged much better than me. They also had proof that they always looked better than me. They had videos from back in the day and I saw myself with an Afro Haircut that made me look like Linc on the Mod Squad. I remember getting that haircut when I was working for the Telephone Company as an escort in Harlem. I figured that someday it might save me from a severe ass whupping. I guess it worked, because I never got beaten up when I worked in Harlem, and I was just a skinny thing back then. My extra pounds melted away as quickly as the years did, while the video played. Unfortunately, those pounds came right back as soon as the DVD stopped.

Tommy and Ginny’s daughter, Lisa, was there too. She was about 4 years-old the last time I saw her. Now she’s an accomplished equestrian with her own Horse farm on Long Island. We went to see her stable of Hunters and Jumpers and they were all magnificent animals. Her trophies and ribbons fill a room.

The big shock of the weekend came later, though. My ex-wife made dinner for the whole gang, and it was delicious. How did that happen? Back when we were married she could barely boil water. She explained to me that she watches a lot of cooking shows, now. Well, I’ve watched thousands of horse races and I didn’t turn into Willie Shoemaker or Buddy Gilmour. I was starting to think that she must have more than an aging picture in the attic. She probably made a deal with the Devil. I thought her divorce attorney looked like he had horns.

That reminds me of the old joke where the Devil shows up at a church service and everybody runs except one old man. The Devil turns to him and asks him why he’s not scared. The man answers, “Why should I be afraid of you? I’ve been married to your sister for 35 years.”

It was a great weekend, capping off a great week in New York, and it sure was nice to see the old gang.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl