Friday, March 30, 2007

Take me out to the ball game.......

It's that time of year again; a time of renewal and rejuvenation. Baseball is back. It actually started with Spring Training in February. But now March is winding down and the real season is about to begin. And a little explanation is necessary.

I am a DETROIT TIGER fan by birth. My earliest memories are those of what was then Briggs Stadium (later Tiger Stadium) on the corner of Michigan and Trumbull near downtown Detroit. My cousin Mark Klinger and I would sit in the centerfield bleachers (over 400 feet from home plate) hooting, hollering and heckling the opposing players and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. It was a different age. As preteens, we had a ritual of taking a bus to downtown Detroit on a Saturday morning, stopping at Lefkofsky's Deli in the Broadway Market where I invariably got a friend salami on rye sandwich and a fruit drink and then walked out Michigan Avenue (occasionally stepping over drunks) to the stadium. After the game, we would catch the streetcar on Trumbull and ride it back to a block from my house. Imagine any of us today allowing 11-12 year olds to go to and from games the way Mark and I did in the early '50s!

For too many of the years, being a fan of the Tigers was an exercise in futility. Don't get me wrong, we don't suffer the way Cubs fans do. It's just that the not-so-great seasons far outnumber the great ones. Last year was wonderful. I know, the Tigers got blown out by the Cardinals in the World Series. . .but they were in the series. And when the eliminated the hated Yankees in ALDS (is that the right set of letters?), it was a successful season. It also was the team's first winning season since 2002.

My fondest Tiger memory is of the fresh-out-of- hgih school Al Kaline joining the team in 1953, beginning a long and thrilling career. The team even removed some seats in the rightfield corner making it possible for Kaline to record a few extra outs a season because he could catch up to balls hit in foul territory. Another great memory is of pitcher Frank Lary (my blurry memory places him the late 1950s/early 1960s) who, while an average pitcher against most teams, always pitched his best against the Yankees and had an incredible winning record when facing the Bronx bombers.

I am also a Los Angeles Dodgers fan. . .by marriage. In the summer of 1980, I met Donna and she came from LA to visit me in Springfield, IL where I was living at the time. My son Bill was (13 at the time) was with me for the summer and he decided Donna was all right because she knew more about baseball than he did. In fact, Bill was our Best Man when we married the following New Year's Day. (Visit his Billyblog, see the link in the sidebar) Living about 90 miles from St. Louis, one of my pre-nuptial agreements with Donna was that we would see at least one game of every series when the Dodgers were visiting. As it happened, the only game we got to see (before moving west) was the last game before the baseball players went out on strike in 1981. Donna was 8 months pregnant with Alicia and Bill and his friend Derek were warned not to make any comments about the number of stops we might have to make on the drive to the game.

Anyway, we got to see Fernando Valenzuele pitch an incredible game which, alas, he lost 1-0 when Pedro Guerrero, playing rightfield that night , charged a line drive that should have been a single, ran right past the ball as it landed in front of him and watched it roll all the way to the wall for an inside-the-park homeroom. To this day, neither Donna nor I have forgiven Guerrero.

These are my thoughts as I sit here on the eve of the season watching the Dodgers playing the Angels in the 2nd game of the pre-season freeway series. Also watching to see if we spot Seth, who is at the game sitting on the 4th row of Aisle 1.

GO TIGERS!! GO DODGERS!! May our marriage be challenged by both of you having wonderful seasons and facing each other in the Worls Series.

Monday, March 26, 2007

A good weekend. . .

It was a good weekend. Saw 2 musicals and were revisited by old friends, Nancy and Bob Bond.

First, Saturday night I saw many of my friends performing with The Prime Time Players in "70, Girls, 70" at the Norris Theatre. (See previous post here .) It was a wonderful opening night performance. The music was great, the voices strong, the comedic timing tight. Just a pleasant experience although I felt the script was not as good as I would have liked. But I always enjoy seeing friends perform and I am reluctant to name folks in case I forget someone. Oh well, I'll do it anyway. . . Kudos to Gloria Maxwell, John Briganti, Kathy and Ron Rudolph, Joan Perkins, Sandy Gunn and all the other talented Prime Timers.

Sunday, old friends Nancy and Bob Bond (preiviously introduced here) were back in L.A. on their way back to Hamilton, NY from their vacation in New Zealand and Australia. We spent the better part of the day with them as they shared experiences and went with us to see the Palos Verdes Peninsula High School production of Chicago. Another great performance. Collectively, the strongest set of voices I have ever seen in a high school production. And it didn't hurt that younger son, Seth, was technical director whose fine work was visually apparent in the set and lighting. After the show, we introduced Nancy and Bob to what they said was about the best Mexican food they have ever eaten. Of course, being from upstate New York, they don't get much opportunity to savor flavors from south-of-the-(California) border.

All-in-all a wonderful weekend. Now to get serious about finishing tax returns, getting set up for Passover, and the last 3 weeks of rehearsals leading up to the opening of King Kalimari on April 13.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

King Kalimari is coming to L.A.

In an earlier post, I mentioned King Kalimari, the new musical coming to the Avery Schreiber Theatre in North Hollyword for 8 weeks beginning April 13. Below is the publicity postcard, front and back. (Clicking on the card provides a clearer image on a new screen.)

The back includes the names of the very talented cast. I guess that qualifies as blatant self-promotion since The Ancient One is included.

More information, including how to get tickets can be found at

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Prime Time Players play again

One of the theatre companies I have performed with in the past is the Prime Time Players at the Norris Theatre in Palos Verdes. The company is open to people aged 50 and above and was designed as both a vehicle for senior actors to perform and to offer outreach performances to seniors who can’t get out to see live theatre.

This year’s production, 70, Girls,70 opens Friday, March 23and runs through April 1. This show is different from those done in the past in that it is “age appropriate” for Prime Time performers. I know and have performed with many in the cast. They are great!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As an aside, Prime Time Players was started in the late 1980s when the Norris Theatre was a new facility on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. I was fortunate to be working with the fundraising committee at that time and had the pleasure to draft the letter that led to the first grant received to fund the then new program. That initial money from Target Stores led to a now 20+ year old institution here on “the hill.” I have performed with them twice in the past, in Once Upon a Mattress and Good News.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Original "Cantankerous Old Curmudgeon"

A few days ago I added a subtitle to this blog that takes a bit of explanation as did the “Ancient One. . .” title when I started this venture.

When I was 25 years old, I received a letter from my father concerning some turmoil in which he was involved that also affected my life. It was the only letter I ever received from my father. It was heartfelt and very moving. When he reached the end, he signed it, “The Cantankerous Old Curmudgeon.” He was 66 years old at the time and not in very good health. As it happened, he died about a year-and-a-half later.

William Cohen (1897-1964)

About 5 years ago when I was still working fulltime, I got into a series of testy conversations with someone who controlled the reimbursement of funds for a grant I had received. I felt that decisions were being made that not only disallowed some of our expenditures, but that did so through a misinterpretation of the initial funding agency’s regulations. Somewhere in the midst of the many discussions, I felt that I had taken on my father’s curmudgeonly approach to what was happening around my professional life and I continued that type of behavior with what I felt were a number of inequities in “the system.” I guess I felt that I had earned the right to use my father’s description of his own personality. And I continue to have those cantankerous moments.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Everything's up-to-date in Culver City. . .Urinal-wise that is

There I was the other night walking into a Men's Restroom in the Culver City Veterans Memorial Building. Having been there many times over the years, I immediately noticed that new plumbing had been installed, most notably nonflush urinals. As I sttod before one of these new sleek models (Sorry, no photos), I noticed a small sign affixed to the wall. It informed me that this new model of urinal would save 40,000 gallons of water per year!!! I re-read the sign because that seemed like an incredible claim. And yes, it did say 40,000 gallons!

When I finished and looked about, I counted 10 urinals in that restroom. An annual savings of 400,000 gallons of water. Amazing! And that is just one restroom in one building. Imagine the impact! Yes, indeed, everything's up to date in Culver City. I always have liked that community.

Friday, March 9, 2007

A Tail of Many Colors

One of the great joys of living in Palos Verdes is the presence of peafowl. On the way home this morning I was surprised, as I rounded a curve, by a peacock with his tail fanned out in its full glory. The picture below does not do him credit; it took me too long to retrieve the camera and take it.

Oddly enough, these beautiful creatures are the source of great controversy in the community. People either love these birds or hate them. We are in the first group as we enjoy thier beauty and sometimes funny behavior. But there are those who feel that the size of their droppings, the penetrating sound of their call and their propensity to feed on plants and berries is reason enough to get rid of them. In our neighborhood, the flock was thinned out several years ago amid great debate. It has now grown back to a level where I expect the debate to flare once again. And that's not a pleasant thought. Live on you brilliant birds and continue to bring joy to those of us who rejoice in your beauty.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Heart 2 Heart

When I was in the hospital 2 1/2 years ago following open heart surgery, I was visited on 2 occasions by volunteers who were in the Heart to Heart Program; a group of "been there, done that" heart patients who, following recovery, visited new patients who had just experienced their cardiac events. My visitors, like me, had gone through coronary bypass surgery. I was feeling lousy, as one might expect, in the days following an emergency triple bypass. But they were there to listen to me and answer any questions I might have. Just by being there, they quietly let me know that there is a lot of life after open heart surgery.

Seven months after my surgery, I completed the volunteer training at Torrance Memorial Medical Center and was accepted as a new Heart-2-Heart volunteer, receiving the badge pictured above to wear on my uniform. I thought of that today as I worked my first shift of the month and visited with 4 patients. I hope they found my visit helpful, just as I found the visits of Nancy and Joe to me in September 2004. I know I am healthier today than I was 20 years ago. And I know I feel just a little bit better each time someone I visits thanks me for taking the time. Medical science has given many of us with cardiac problems a new lease on life. Taking part in Heart-2-Heart is a way to give a little bit back.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Old Friends and Good Memories

We had lunch today with Nancy and Bob Bond (from Hamilton, NY) who were passing through LA on their way to New Zealand and Australia. Nancy and I go back nearly 40 years when her late husband, Bob Fairbanks, and I were colleagues at SUNY Albany. I thought of when that carefree soul was taken from us too soon in January, 1970 (if my memory serves me right). We laughed about moving a large aluminum rowboat into their house and placing it under the Christmas tree for their 3 sons. The following spring, I was the lucky one who got to take the boys to see their first major league game and watching their wide-eyed wonder when they first saw Yankee Stadium. And then Nancy married Bob Bond and blended their families with 6 kids and they have made a beautiful life together for the past 35 years.

Bob, Nancy and me outside of Gaetano's Restaurant in Torrance

Oh those memories. When my son Bill was small (he’s 39 now) we spent a lot of time with Nancy and Bob and it was very special even if some of the details have become fuzzy around the edges over the years. It was good to see them again and share the “good old days.” This was a day that added to that feeling of wonderment about how our lives evolve and the mazelike journey we take from youth through the many decades of our existence. Thank you Nancy and Bob.