Fit to be Tie-Dyed

 

 

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I was supposed to go to New York this past weekend for another Mavericks concert with my friend Maria, but there was a problem.  None of the proprietors of my usual New York City crash pads would be home.  Brother and Mrs. X had a family function and my Long Beach friends John and Margaret would also be out of town.

I had a Plan B.  I could take Amtrak to New York, then a subway to the Beacon Theatre, meet my friend Maria for dinner and drinks before the show, watch the show, then go bar hopping until 4 in the morning, have a sunrise breakfast, and catch the first train back to Lancaster in the morning.  That plan might have worked 30-40 years ago, but nowadays that plan would have been more like a kamikaze mission for my well-worn body.  So, I decided to stay home.

Then, while glancing at the ads in the Barnstormer program last Tuesday, I noticed that Lancaster had its own summer concert series at Long’s Park.  On Saturday they had a Beatles tribute band playing, and on Sunday they had an Eagles tribute band.  That sounded like fun.  I just had to find out the location of Long’s Park.  Google to the rescue.

Turns out that Long’s Park is only 2.3 miles from my apartment.  According to Google it was a 35-minute walk.  Obviously, Google is not 70-years old, with a heart condition, and an arthritic hip.  2.3 miles would take me more like 3 hours, and the return trip would probably be in an ambulance, but I was in luck.  One of the many Lancaster buses passes right by there on its way to one of the many local shopping malls.  So, I dug out my tie-dyed shirts from the closet and prepared to get groovy.

According to their song, it was 20 years ago, today, that Sargent Pepper taught the band to play, but, actually, it had been 50 years since the Beatles last live performance.  It was the famous free concert from the roof of the Apple building in England on January 30th, 1969.  So, I expected the crowd to be quite old, maybe even as old as me.  There were a few of us senior citizens there, however there were lots of young people, too, with their very young children.  Altogether, thousands of people had “Come Together” to listen to some good Beatles music.

Most people had folding lawn chairs, but a good many had those things that look like fat canes until they unfold like transformers and become comfortable chairs.  One couple had a contraption that actually unfolded into a couch.  Obviously, this wasn’t “their first rodeo.”  So, while the adults were setting up their spots on the lawn, the children were on the perimeter playing soccer or tossing baseballs, softballs, footballs, and frisbees.  The show started at 7:30, but most of the people were there hours ahead of time to insure getting a good spot.  Besides, the weather was perfect, and it was just a great day to hang out in the park.  I think every dog owner in Lancaster was there, too.  It looked like the Westminster Dog Show, with every breed of dog being represented.

I didn’t want to risk lying down on the grass and then not being able to get up without assistance, so I headed for a picnic table in the back.  I got out my phone and watched the Belmont Stakes and some of the Barnstormers game.  They were playing in New Britain, Connecticut, and I used my phone throughout the night to keep up with the score.

The Corty Byron Band came on promptly at 7:30 and they were very good.  They’ve been doing these Beatle tributes for years, so they knew the music well.  The theme was “Post White Album” and they played for hours.  They had a few dancers who came out to entertain the audience during a few of their songs.  One was named Sherry (or something like that) and she came on when it was still light out and did a dance with what appeared to be hula hoops.

Later, when it got dark, another dancer, whose name began with an M came out and put on a one-woman light show while she did her interpretive dances.  She was wearing some kind of butterfly cape with hundreds of LED lights that kept changing colors, and, over the course of a few songs, she danced through the entire audience looking like Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds (which wasn’t one of the songs, though).

On Sunday, a Nashville band named 7 Bridges performed the music of the Eagles.  The crowd was twice the size of the night before, and I was lucky to find a picnic table way, way in the back.  I had on my “Hell Freezes Over” t-shirt from their 1974 reunion tour, which I attended with my friends Barbara and Jim.  While the real Eagles may have sounded a little better, in my opinion 7 Bridges put on a better show.  I remember that back in 1974 Joe Walsh was the only member of the band who didn’t look like a cardboard cutout on stage.  7 Bridges joked with the crowd right from the very beginning.  After their very first song, as the crowd was applauding, they yelled out, “Thank you, and good night.”  Of course, they kept playing for another two hours.

One of the other many jokes they told was that they travel all over the country, but they had never played in Lancaster before.  They said they always wanted to come to Lancaster in the worst way, so they finally did.  They came via West Virginia.  I guess they tell that joke differently when they are playing in West Virginia.

Whenever I go to a concert with Maria, no matter where we are sitting, she always winds up standing right in front of the stage.  “Rushing the stage,” I think she calls it.  So, in her honor, after the band played what they pretended to be their last song, I rushed the stage for the encore.  Fortunately, they played a few songs, because it took me a long while to get there.  7 Bridges closed out their show playing Take It Easy with everyone in the crowd joining in.  I thought about my friend Marianne, who always uses her Dad’s standard response when people tell her to take it easy, “If I took it any easier, I’d have to give it back.”

So, instead of going to New York this past weekend, I took it easy right here in Lancaster, and it sure was groovy.  Now I’m looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Woodstock at Long’s Park on August 17th.  Peace, Love, and Music.  Or like I always say:

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

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The Royal Treatment

 

Harriet Lane, Queen Victoria, me, and an unwrinkled President Buchanan

June 1st is the birthday of Marilyn Monroe, Morgan Freeman, Heidi Klum, and Amy Schumer.  This June 1st was also the 151st Anniversary of the death of President James Buchanan.  His historic home, Wheatland, is just a few miles from my apartment, so I made my second trip there to pay honor to the man on this solemn occasion.  I’m glad I did.  Normally a guide takes you on a tour of the mansion, but, on this day, because of its significance, we had two guides, and there were also two special guests.  Two very beautiful local actresses in full costume played the roles of Queen Victoria and Buchanan’s beloved niece, Harriet Lane.  The ten of us on the three o’clock tour entered the room where the two actresses were sitting opposite each other, and they played out a scene for us.  They reenacted the moment in Buckingham Palace when Queen Victoria asked the enormously popular Harriet to remain in England after her Uncle finished his duties as Ambassador to England and returned to the States. 

Halfway through their scene, the Queen noticed the t-shirt I was wearing and directed a question to me.  “Is that a picture of Harriet’s uncle on your shirt?”

“Yes, your Majesty,” I responded a little nervously, as if I was actually speaking to royalty.  The “Queen” told me that she approved, and I beamed with pride that she had interrupted the scene to speak with little old me.  Well, she didn’t exactly interrupt the scene, she incorporated me into the scene.  Both she and the actress playing Harriet remained in character while they told me how much they liked the shirt.  The “Queen” then involved me further into the scene by asking for my opinion about whether or not Harriet should remain in England or return to the States with her uncle.  At that point, I really wanted to break out my phone and get a selfie with the two lovely actresses, but I don’t think they had smart phones in the Victorian era, and I didn’t want to break the magical spell of the reenactment.  Where are the paparazzi when you need them?

After the tour, I wandered around Wheatland for a while, walking in the footsteps of America’s most underrated President.  Some historians even claim that he was the worst President the U.S. ever had.  That’s a sad situation, which I hope to rectify with a play I am writing about him and his Wheatland family.

President Buchanan was unmarried, so when he was in the White House, his niece Harriet Lane handled the social calendar, and she was the first woman that the newspapers referred to as “The First Lady.”  She parlayed her popularity in Europe by being even more popular here as The First Lady.  She played piano and especially enjoyed the songs of fellow Pennsylvanian, Stephen Foster.  She also loved to dance, and she planned an elaborate ball at the White House when her friend the Prince of Wales made the first visit of a member of the British Royal Family to their former colonies.  Many Americans, especially in the Northeast, were suffering the effects of the Panic of 1857 at the time, and President Buchanan did not think it was proper for there to be dancing in the White House while Americans were out of work and going hungry. So, he made her change her plans from a grand ball to a State Dinner.  She was disappointed, but she understood.  So, there was no dancing in the White House while he was President, but there was dancing in the street when he returned home to his home, Wheatland, in 1861.

I took a bus home and it went past Buchanan Park, which is just south of Franklin and Marshall College, where James Buchanan was the first President of their Board of Trustees.  The place was packed with people.  There were so many vendors tents that it looked like a camp grounds.  I don’t know what occasion they were celebrating, because I didn’t get off the bus to find out.  I was just happy to see so many hundreds of people having a good time in Buchanan Park. I only hoped that they were all somewhat aware of the historical significance of the day.   James Buchanan loved the places and the people of Lancaster, and the people of Lancaster loved him right back.  More than 20,000 people came to his funeral 151 years ago, even though he had requested a small simple service.  A century and a half later, he is still beloved by the people of Lancaster, and they are still dancing in the street for him.

 Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Never a Cross Word

 

PITA Brand

 

Brother X and my friend John stopped by this week.  When I go to New York, I always visit them, so it was nice to have them pay me a visit.

We went to ballgames and bars, and had a great time.  Nothing unusual happened, but I just had to share this crossword puzzle question and answer with those who read this blog.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

The Games People Play

 

This past weekend my friends Barbara and Jim paid me a visit.  They like bowling, Scrabble, Bocci Ball, and shooting pool.  There wasn’t enough time for everything, but I tried to plan as much as possible.  Normally, I just go to baseball games with my visitors, but the Barnstormer season doesn’t begin until April 26th.  I can get seats so close to home plate that the umpire can hear every word we say.  That’s my favorite go-to spot, but since it wasn’t available, I had to make other plans.  Fortunately, my second favorite local sport, Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby, was available on Saturday night.  Jim was a big roller derby fan, back in the day, when big #40, Charlie O’Connell, helped make the San Francisco Bay Bombers the greatest team on skates.

So, we went to see the Dutchland Rollers split a doubleheader on Saturday night.  But let me backtrack a little.  Jim is currently in the home repairs business.  (I wrote about their visit last year when Jim fixed my kitchen plumbing.)  Both Barbara and Jim have at one time been in the cleaning business, though, doing both residential and commercial properties.  So, I had to clean up my apartment before they arrived.  I spent two days trying to make it look like a human being occupied the apartment.

My friend Debbie stopped by on Friday afternoon and thought she was in the wrong apartment.  She had never seen my place so clean.  We had a few drinks and waited for Barbara and Jim to arrive.  As usual, they arrived like they were visiting Ethiopia or some other poor starving country.  They had a trunk-load of groceries (in addition to the incredible number of suitcases they brought with them.)  I asked them if they were planning on staying the originally agreed upon two days, or were they planning to stay two weeks.  When I go to New York, I bring one knapsack.  When they travel, it’s like Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey are coming to town.  Hannibal crossed the Alps with less luggage.

So, what did we do first?  We ate.  And ate, and ate, and ate.  Then we were ready for some serious Scrabble.  Debbie left.  The only thing she does seriously is drink.  Jim won the first game.  Barbara came in second, and I came in last.  After Barbara won the next two games it was time to head to bed, couch, and recliner.  Naturally, after drinking all night, I had to get up in the middle of the night to pee.  There was Barbara cleaning the kitchen.  “This needs bleach,” she said.  “Where do you keep your bleach?”

“Probably in the laundry room,” I mumbled as I headed to the bathroom.

The next day, as usual, Jim prepared breakfast for a small army.  We almost finished eating all of it, too, because it was so good, but it was just too much food to eat.  Jim cleaned up afterwards while I went in the backyard for a healthy dose of (non-prescription) medical marijuana.  Afterwards, we went back to playing Scrabble and Barbara resumed her winning ways.  We had to go to dinner early, because the Roller Derby starts at 6 p.m., and I took them to a new place that opened up on my block, Decades.  It’s a bowling alley, arcade for games, a bar, and a restaurant.  I thought they might enjoy the sound of tinkling bowling pins while they dined.  We all did, and the restaurant section was actually quiet enough for us to carry on a conversation during dinner.

Then, off to the Roller Derby.  I had a good time watching my favorite skaters, and they gradually got to understand what was going on, but I’m sure they wished the games were a little shorter.  We didn’t go to the after party with the team.  We went back to my place for our own after party, and I finally won a game of Scrabble

The next morning Barbara said that I should go in the backyard and just chill out for a while, while she vacuumed and cleaned the house.  I protested that I had spent two days cleaning the apartment and that it did not need any more cleaning.  I lost that argument, but I had no objection to chilling out in the backyard, so I didn’t mind losing.  I entertained myself while listening to the vacuum cleaner go for an hour as Barbara was searching out every speck of dust in every nook and cranny of my apartment.

Then we played Scrabble and Barbara won again.  What ever happened to “Root, root, root for the home team?”

As they were leaving, I warned them that when they visit me the next time, I will not spend two days cleaning up my apartment.  They will walk into a mess, which I will unashamedly allow them to clean.  I will spend the two days before they arrive studying the Scrabble dictionary for all the good Q and Z words, and all those two-letter words that are Hebrew coins or other oddities that no English-speaking person should know.

 Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

 

Tippy Toe

Marianne, who has watched every Seinfeld show, reminded me of an episode where George Costanza used his invented code word “Tippy Toe” to signal Jerry that somebody was entering the room. It was right at the beginning of Marianne’s annual St. Patrick’s and Birthday party. I was talking about my latest big interest, James Buchanan. She told me that she would use the word “Tippy Toe,” if she thought I was talking too much about James Buchanan.

Then she said, “Tippy Toe” and went back to her other guests.

Eventually, other people at the party picked up on the signal, and I got a total of 24 “Tippy Toes” over the course of the evening. In my defense, I was wearing a James Buchanan T-Shirt (an item which can only be found here in Lancaster, his hometown). It was a conversation starter.  Many of Marianne’s guests are theatre people, so I was talking about the play I’m writing to boost the poor image we have of our 15th President. “It takes place during the Civil War,” I said.

“Oh, so it’s a musical,” Liz quipped.

“No,” I said, laughing, but then after a moment in thought, I said, it might contain some songs by Stephen Foster. Why not? He’s from Pennsylvania, too – and the same era as Buchanan, and his songs are in the public domain.”

“Tippy Toe.”

“Old Folks at Home?

“Tippy Toe.”

“Battle Hymn of the Republic?”

“Tippy Toe.”

I got the most “Tippy Toes” from Patrick, who gave me four of them. The last one was just for looking like I was gonna start talking about Buchanan.

It was a learning experience for me, as I searched for the episodes in Buchanan’s life that most interested a theatre-going audience. I found out what worked.

Very little.

Cool, I thought. Edison spent years testing over 10,000 elements, eliminating them until he was able to find Unobtanium, or whatever was the one substance he would use for a filament for his new light bulb. In just one night, I found out 100 things that the audience doesn’t want. A very famous sculptor, maybe it was Michelangelo, once said, I take a block of marble and chisel off the parts that are not whatever it is I want that statue to be. Me, too. I just have to chisel away the parts of my Buchanan’s story that the audience doesn’t like, which is pretty much everything between, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen” and “Good night. Drive safely.”

They liked the funny stuff, but there wasn’t a lot of funny stuff.

That settles it. Buchanan, a Rock Between Two Hard Places will now be a musical comedy.

I’m just gonna need more funny stuff.  Way more funny stuff.

Did you hear the one about Buchanan, a priest, and a rabbi walking into a bar…?

I know. Tippy Toe.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Sprechen Sie Deutsch

Germany-Nightlife-Cover

I eked by in High School.  My SAT scores were good enough, though, to get me into Queens College.  There, my poor study habits doomed me to failure.

It was 1966, and I was in my second month of college when my German professor, Miss Ives, asked me to her office.  She levelled with me.  “You’ve been in school for two months,” she said, “and you’re two months behind.  Are you sure you want to be here?”  I had to admit that I wasn’t ready for college.  I dropped out and decided to enlist in the service.

The Vietnam War was raging, and I was naive.  I thought that only the Army and the Marines were involved in the fighting, so I joined the Navy.  I soon learned that Vietnam was an equal-opportunity war.  Anybody could wind up there.

After boot camp I went to Communication Technician School in Pensacola, Florida.  I figured this was safe.  Again, I was wrong.  Communication Technicians, it turned out, were spies – Not James Bond type spies, but electronic eavesdroppers.  It was classified at the time, but since the end of the Cold War it’s been declassified, so I can write about it.  The targets of our snooping were usually hostile countries, and this involved getting close to whichever country you were monitoring.  This was not good news.

Then, I learned that the U.S.S. Liberty, which had been attacked by the Israeli Air Force in June of 1967 was a Communications Technician ship.  Next, the U.S.S. Pueblo, another Communications Technician ship was captured by the North Koreans on January 23, 1968.  Communication Technicians were not safe.

Just before I graduated from Communications Technician school, they asked for volunteers to go to Alaska for a one-year tour of duty.  Volunteers would be given their choice of duty station afterwards.  I had three years to go on my enlistment.  Germany was one of the duty stations available for selection, and it was a two-year tour of duty.  By volunteering for Alaska and then going to Germany, I wouldn’t have to worry about going to Vietnam.  So, I volunteered.

The Alaskan duty station wasn’t on the mainland.  It was in Adak, Alaska, way out in the Aleutian Island chain, close to Russia.  (Even closer to Russia than Sarah Palin’s house.)  There was plenty of snooping to do while I was working, but there wasn’t much to do in the off hours.  To make matters worse, the drinking age in Alaska was 21, so I couldn’t even drink.  I started to take studying seriously.  I got a stack of Armed Forces German language records.  I listened and learned passable German.

In Germany, there is no drinking age, and drinking is one of the most popular things to do.  A lot of my fellow servicemen were hesitant to go to town, though, because they didn’t speak the language.  I became the translator for the group, and we always went to town as a group.

One night we were all sitting at a big table in a German discotheque, when one of my buddies fell in instant love with a girl sitting at a table full of German girls.  He asked me how to say, “Would you like to dance?” in German.  I knew it was “Tanzen wir?,” but I was feeling playful.  I taught him to say, “Wilst du mich heiraten?”  He practiced and then went over to the girl.  He got a stunned look from the girl and laughs from our table.  I had told everyone that I had just taught him how to say, “Will you marry me?”

He didn’t know what to do when the girl just sat there, so he pantomimed asking her to dance and she accepted.  They danced all night.

I felt very slighted six months later when I wasn’t one of the guys they invited to their wedding.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl

Sometimes You Eat the B’ar

 

In one of my favorite movies, The Big Lebowski, the mustachioed Sam Elliot tells the Dude, “A wiser man than me once said that sometimes you eat the b’ar, and sometimes the b’ar eats you.”   Saturday night was opening night for Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby in Lancaster.  In their first game, The Dutchland Rollers ate the b’ar, handily defeating the South Delaware team.  In the second game of the doubleheader, the b’ar ate them.

Normally, I get there just before the match starts and walk right in to the arena, but on Saturday I wound up at the end of an extremely long line of people waiting to get in.  Many were local fans of the Dutchland Rollers coming out to support the team in their season opener.  Some were fans of the South Delaware team, but a whole hoard of people were there supporting the team that would play in the second game.

In the second game the Rollers faced the Jersey Shore Beatdown, and it was a hell of a game.  The Dutchland Rollers faced a well-drilled team that had brought a lot of talent, their own cheerleaders, and a huge fanbase.  They must have come by the busload.  They also had three spectacular jammers, Horror Quinn, Silicone Valkyrie, and Misbehaving Maven.

I’m a diehard Dutchland Rollers fan, and one thing I’ve learned from the ladies is that they enjoy the game and that playing hard and improving themselves with each game is what this is all about.  They’re amateurs, in that they don’t get paid to play, but they’re professional in their attitude, and they put forth 100% effort all the time.  Playing up to your potential is more important than winning.  The league is set up so that the winningest teams wind up advancing to tougher and tougher divisions.  Because of their winning record last year, The Rollers are now playing against some of the finest Women’s teams in Flat Track Roller Derby, and the games are competitive and intense.

They also have some fun with makeup.  Dash Ketchum, one of our finest jammers, wears dark makeup around the eyes that make her look, well, deadly.  When she pulls up her bandana like an old-time train robber, you know she means business.  Mega Pixel, with her torn fishnet stockings and bright red bloomers under her short uniform skirt, looks kind of cute, sexy, and harmless, until she furiously busts through a wall of opponents to rack up points for her team.  They were in the first game, which the Rollers won.

In the second game, Kis’t Kis’t Bang Bang was the Rollers’ top jammer.  She skated very well, but her opposition was just overpowering.  They were the previously mentioned, Horror Quinn, Silicone Valkyrie, and Misbehaving Maven.  My favorite was Horror Quinn.  She wore a costume that was part Harlequin and part The Joker.  Even her bright white mouth guard added to the look.  When she flashed that great big smile, just before she crashed through a wall of determine, but doomed, Dutchland blockers, she looked like a female Jack Nicholson, though I guess she was actually going for the look of Harley Quinn in the Batman stories.  The rollerskates have a round rubber piece in the front that can be used as a brake to stop a skater, though I’ve never actually seen a skater use it for that purpose.  Horror Quinn was able to stand on that piece like a ballerina, and use the added traction of the rubber to plow through the defense like a fullback.

Later, at the after party, I sat at a table with Kis’t Kis’t Bang Bang and Horror Quinn, the top jammers of the two opposing teams in the second game.  There was no lingering blood feud between them, though.  It was just girls having fun, which is what this league is all about.  And having fun is what I’m all about, so I loved every minute of it, and I also loved the cheeseburger and fries they served at 501 West.  The next game is April 13th.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,

Earl