Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve 2010



video

The famous Christmas truck travels through the streets of North Hollywood/Toluca Lake for several hours annually on Christmas Eve. On board are dozens of carolers, and in the streets, neighboring onlookers sing-a-long with many leaving their homes for a while and walking through the adjacent neighborhoods behind the truck. Christmas spirit pervades the air in a real sense of community fun and reverance, like what I imagine the Mexican Posadas celebration to be. Whereas the Posadas are strictly religious in nature, the Christmas truck carries with it American commercialism, but underneath the veneer, a true sensitivity of people celebrating together, and that's a good spiritual beginning.
Inside the house where I was attending a party this Christmas Eve, there was the most beautifully decorated tree - so symmetrical! I felt like I was in a fantasy world with all the lifelike Nutcracker dolls and Kris Kringles on display. Santa's workshop! The thought of staying on was tempting!
What a lovely peaceful evening! Merry Christmas, everyone!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Diva Dona is a New Millenium Mae West

Every age has its pop icons. New on the scene but becoming a super hot diva quicker than one can spit straight is Diva Dona, a former internationally famous - - - -, who will have a new Hollywood celebrity column @ Grigwaretalkstheatre in January, 2011. This lady is the cat's meow. You might as well push up that retirement, Dame Edna!
She sings, she dances, she acts...let's see, she paints, she meddles -  I've heard those lyrics somewhere before -  she... dishes around more celebrity dirt than a goldplated dustbuster...Heeeere's Dona!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

One More Holiday Memory ... of Radio City Music Hall ... and Rockefeller Plaza

As I am preparing to see The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes on December 9 @ Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, I am reminded that when I was a small child, my parents and I visited my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Joe on Long Island a few years in a row in December and they took me to Radio City to see the famous show. I do remember the March of the Wooden Soldiers, the Living Nativity and those fabulous high-kicking dancers. I also remember the humongous organ that played before the movie that preceded the show. Music...Movie...Live Show...all rolled into one! Doesn't exist except in New York at Radio City Music Hall, still going strong after all these years. Boy oh boy was I a lucky kid!
We also visited Rockefeller Plaza several times where I saw the huge Christmas tree - could never fit indoors, not in a million years! - and the ice skaters, one of whom I was never meant to be!
When I lived in New York from 1976-78 preparing for the acting world professionally I revisited these wonderful places on several occasions the two Christmases that I was there. I still thought the tree was the biggest I had ever seen, and that the skaters were unbelievable, simply because they could stay on their feet, but I did catch someone fall -ah ha! - and I thought that only happened to me; you cannot believe how very much I laughed; I even vowed to come back with a movie camera the next day and film the skaters all day and night. Maybe, just maybe, there were a few ice-skating klutzes just like me? Or maybe I was more normal than I had originally thought!
A wee bit of relief! Ah, insecurity, and what it can and will do to pervert an otherwise healthy mind! I had to evaluate it as just another part of my preparation on my way to becoming the best actor I could be.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Early Christmastime Memories


Introduction

For me, Christmas always starts the week of Thanksgiving and ends January 6. I write my Christmas card list in mid-November and celebrate well past the New Year, keeping my decorations up sometimes through mid to late January. It is a joyous time in which people get together more often and give just a little more than they usually do. The following recollections of my early childhood into young adulthood are scattered from Novembers into Decembers through a pack of years, but they're the ones about me and my growing up that have stuck in my brain and seem to mean the most.
I loved my mother and I loved Christmas, in that order. My two favorite decorative items for Christmas, apart from the tree, have always been the Advent calendar, with a piece of chocolate tucked under each unopened day of December, and the glass snow globe. My favorite holiday foods are turkey, egg nog and homemade X.Mas cookies. The personal recollections, scattered below, I humbly offer for your enjoyment, dear reader.


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

ONE 
             Santa Claus?
I think I was 4 or 5 when I first realized that Christmas was a big deal. I mean, parents practically pushing you into bed early on Christmas Eve, and then the sudden array of presents under the tree the following morning had to signify something. Did Santa Claus bring them? I was a curious kid. I had to find out, so I pretended to be asleep in my bed, and when my dad closed my bedroom door - which faced the kitchen; to the right was the living room - I lived in a small 2-bedroom apartment - I crept out of bed, opened ever, ever so gently the door and peeked through the crack. I was amazed to see my parents rushing to and fro, opening one closet, closing another; my mom scurrying with wrapping paper and bows, and my dad opening heavy cardboard boxes - what about Santa?


And the weird thing was - the next morning, the first comment that came out of my mom was: "Get up! Get up! Merry Christmas, honey! Look what Santa brought last night!" I acknowledged with a "Wow!" I knew the truth, but - who cares!? - that train set running at full speed around the tracks of Don Grigware Central Station under that tiny tree circa 1950 was enough to make me happy, no thrilled ...for another 12, well, at least 2 or 3 months!!!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


TWO 
The Christ Child and Choir
Was I religious? I was brought up a Catholic, which means, when my mother went to church, I was dragged there from as early an age as I can remember, for novenas, obligatory masses and confessions. I hated watching folks wait in line to tell their sins to a priest. I thought it was so silly, and when it finally was my turn to do it at age six or seven, when I finally got to the box and had to talk, I stuttered for about three minutes, unable to think of a single thing I had done wrong. I was hardly perfect, but a sinner? Silly! And how this man - that I couldn't even see -had the power to forgive me! Who was he anyway? Just a man, another human being like me, who probably swore and missed daily prayers and had impure thoughts...Ugh!!


I did love mass though when it was said in Latin. There was so much pageantry and ceremony about it. It was great to look at ... and the choir. I loved to listen and even more to sing and from an early age wanted to be a member of the choir. This didn't happen until I was a teen, was already singing in the choir and glee club at school. Midnight mass. I thought there was no better place to be during Christmas Eve ... than at midnight mass. Part of the choir loft was hidden from public view, so when you were not singing - you could go over to the pews in the shadows and talk to your friends during the boring sermons and even laugh at a funny hat a lady was wearing below or at the priest when he made a mistake or just fumbled through what he thought was an interesting anecdote about devotion to Christ. 
I did love to pray in front of the manger at the altar too. It was so much bigger than our Nativity at home. Life-sized statues of the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and Wise Men, angels of every shape and size - and of course, those beautifully docile sweet stable animals. I was in awe of this sculptured beauty!  This was an aspect of Christmas that has stayed in my mind throughout my adult years, even though I am no longer a practicing Catholic. I'm glad my mom dragged me to Church when I was a mere tot and that I learned discipline and a love of the aesthetic, for in that time the church was pure art and theatricality. For me, it was my Louvre, my Prado and...my stage where I never ceased performing!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
THREE
The Annual Gift Exchange
I lived in Massachusetts - Holyoke, to be exact - so when a parcel arrived from New York, it was a big deal, except when it came a month before Christmas from Aunt Margaret. We all knew it was our annual Sears catalogue gifts. My mom would get a dress or bathrobe that was always too small - "I was never petite. Who can she be thinking of?" My dad would get a plaid workman's shirt - "She knows I work behind a desk. When in hell will I ever get the chance to wear this? We don't go hunting in Holyoke!" 
And I would always get a shirt or sweater that was either too small or too big - "I've lost weight, but this is ridiculous, a teeny baby couldn't fit into this - plus it's such an ugly plaid!" Aunt Margaret worked in Sears on Long Island where she lived. Her heart was in the right place, but every January without fail, the parcel would have to be sent back for exchanges, or my mom would just give the stuff to the Goodwill, at the suggestion of my grandmother. Grandma's gifts weren't that hot either; they were consistently practical too, but at least they fit or she'd give you the money to buy your own - I liked that even better, 'cause I'd go out and get something ridiculously impractical like Fanny Farmer chocolates, or the latest toy or contraption that managed to get broken within a week and had to be thrown away.
I have always loved gifts with imagination, even though I don't think I ever got one, at least from my relatives. It's never too late! I'm still hoping!
1. Something totally impractical or obscene.
2. ...
_  _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _
FOUR
Mom the Neatnick
Every year without fail my mom would start her fall cleaning in early to mid October. She'd send out the Oriental rugs and change the paper that lined every shelf of her kitchen cupboards. Does anyone still do that? I bet most people leave that paper under their dishes until they die! Mom was a neat freak! Our apartment had to be spotless for the holidays. "In case company stops by" she'd say, but usually it was my grandma and grandpa for Christmas; we went to their house for Thanksgiving. My aunts and uncles had their Christmases with their own families. My mom had nine brothers and sisters; I couldn't even count my cousins, I had so many. We saw them rarely, but my mom called all of them regularly. I'd help my mom with the cleaning so she wouldn't have to climb high up on a ladder and change the paper on those shelves. "Ma, there's just a little dust here, nothing more!" "Oh no, it all must come off! Fresh paper, like fresh veggies, fresh fruits, fresh meat, you wouldn't put dirty food in your mouth. Fresh smelling clothes, you wouldn't put on dirty clothes!" Fresh, fresh, fresh! Moms! They always want what they want and get things done the way they want them. "If you don't want to help me, I'll do it myself!" "OK, Ma, hand me the paper and let's be done with this!" I needed the exercise anyway. It was the only stretching my poor little fat body got in those days.


Everything looked and smelled immaculate in our home for Christmas. We had a small table tree-an artificial one, but green. I hated my aunt Mary's white one! Yuck, talk about artificial! At least ours was green and pine. I used to smell the needles and pretend they had an outdoor fragrance. Out of the closet it would come two weeks before Christmas and the decorating would begin. 


A pretty wreath for the front door,  plug-in electric candles for every front window that really lit them up and made them look festive from the street! My mom also insisted on hanging a tiny wreath in each window that would catch the golden light from each candle. Unique sight you don't get to see much anymore!
We used the same lights and ornaments every year for the tree - my mom had been collecting them for years - every year a new ornament was added. And underneath the tree on the cotton - that was supposed to be snow - she put the nativity, the manger and all those Hummel figurines, that my cousin had brought home for her from her sojourn in Germany. I accidentally dropped a shepherd one year, it broke in half and my mother broke into pieces right along with it. "I'll glue him back together!" "It's not the same" she said tearfully. "You're so damn clumsy!" under her breath. My mom was a piece of work. Any anger we had toward each other lasted but a short time, though. She remained positive and happy about everyone and everything. "It's OK, dear ...  with one less shepherd."
Those Hummel figurines represented perfection to her. She was an ardent Catholic woman, said a rosary every night and well... I can't complain about her. She was a great, beautiful woman, my best friend; all her flaws, imperfections amounted to little when I compare her to modern women and all their silly selfish issues... my dad used to work day and night, so as a kid, I saw a lot of my mom, as I was her only child, and yes, she did spoil me rotten. But I didn't turn out so bad! 


Every year now when I admire my small artificial tree with its built in lights, I think of my childhood and the pretty small tree that we spent so much time decorating ...  and my meticulous mom...it brings back a lot of happiness and makes me smile...





_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ _
FIVE
To Grandma's House for Pumpkin and Mince Pies




"Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother's house we go!" 


Hardly; it was in my dad's Dodge and it was from Beech and Sargent Streets to Nonotuck St., about a ten minute boring drive across town. Holyoke was a small city, at least when I grew up there. Grandma and Grandpa owned a two story home. My grand-aunt Sofia, my grandpa's sister, lived on the first floor - a sweet quiet lady who lived by herself and never partook of Thanksgiving dinner with us. For a woman that lived in the same house, she kept rather aloof, very private. no wonder I've become so isolated as I've gotten older. I'm taking after Sofia. She eventually moved to San Diego and died there and never kept in touch with her brother Frank or Alice, my grandparents. I live in LA now, and through no fault of my own - or is it? - do not connect with my cousins who remain back in Holyoke. My parents have passed and all of my aunts and uncles. So sad, I force myself not to think about it too often. It depresses me.


Anyway, back to grandma's and the Thanksgiving Day feast. The moment you entered the front door you could smell the pies baking - apple, blueberry, pumpkin and mince. Mince? Yes, mince meat. It was my dad's favorite. To me it tasted very weird, and the pumpkin was never sweet enough to suit me, so I stuck to apple and blueberry, sugary sweet with a delicious scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. I was a pie a la mode kid. A fatty, no small wonder! Grandma cooked a turkey with all the trimmings - mashed potatoes, stuffing, giblet gravy, squash and peas, cranberries - we actually ate them whole in those days. It was all too good, and after at least two or three helpings, I had to follow my grandfather, who napped after eating. Tryptophane, a little amino acid involved in digestion, that makes you sleepy! Never heard of that in those days - a nap seemed natural like a snowfall in December. Grandpa laid flat on the living room hard floor, which was fine with me, 'cause I took my grandparents' soft cushioned bed strewn with all the coats. I'd roll over and land plop dab right in the middle of my dad's heavy winter topcoat that smelled like moth balls or on my mom's long coat with the brown fur collar that smelled sweetly of Emeraude by Cote. I'd nap for an hour or so and then up and back to the table for dessert or to the kitchen to pick at the leftovers. I'd pretend to help with the dishes just to be near the leftover food.Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Those were the days! Plenty of good homemade food - made with the best ingredients - that you are hard pressed to find anywhere today!


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
SIX
Flying Saucer From Hell  or
What It's Like to Have a Pain in the Ass
When I was 10 or 11, I remember wanting a toy - well, contraption - for riding in the snow. Apart from my sled, that is! It was circular, you would sit on it at the top of a hill covered with packed snow, spin yourself around - or ask someone else to do that and PUSH - and you would wend your way down the hill and land exhilarated at the bottom. Sound like fun? Well, it looked like fun! What I did not take into account was that it was a good idea to be coordinated, which I definitely was not - and still am not, for that matter! Meaning? I'm a klutz and not the least bit athletic in any way, shape or form. My parents refused to buy it for me "Are you crazy?" said my mom. "You'll be black and blue from head to toe!"  Boy was she right! This was one of those gifts I bought myself with grandma's or an uncle's money. It was small, lightweight  and easy to carry.
OK, so I get on this 'saucer' thingy at the top of the small hill directly across the street from the apartment where I lived on Beech St, and before I could even attempt to spin around, I would tip over - literally - land on my head and roll down the hill with the saucer over my head, or during one of those terribly unlucky times, land on my head without the thingy, and of course, I was not wearing a helmet. Heavy clothing, a woolen cap and gloves, but not a helmet. The saucer? It would go flying out of control in the complete opposite direction. Sh--!  As much as I tried to convince myself that I was having fun, I was so friggin' sore, that I could hardly stand up, let alone make it back up the hill to begin again! One day, I did this very thing twenty times, before I had the sense to stop. Yep, my mom was right: I was b & b from head to toe. Eventually, the saucer stood in my room against the wall like battle armor as a painful reminder of my folly - and let me tell you, it also made a disgustingly ugly decoration!!!


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
SEVEN
The Ice Capades: Sick or No Sick!
Every year my dad used to take me to the Springfield Mass. Coliseum between Thanksgiving and Christmas  to see the Ice Capades. It was a night off from work for him, a rarity, and he looked forward to our going together. This is probably where my love of performing originated, as well as my desire to skate. I loved to watch the skaters and marvel at how easily they glided along, doing summersaults, twists and the like. It was impossible for me to stand up on skates let alone do acrobatics. My dad loved the show more than I did, and wanted to see me take a stab at ice skating, and so this explains his present of ice skates a few years later. I remember one year, I was starting a head cold the day of the Ice Capades; my mom thought I should stay home, but I really wanted to go and my dad had bought those tickets - they were not that easy to get. "He'll be OK" said daddy. I was so excited when the show started but little by little I started to feel sicker and sicker. I was feverish, but did my best to keep my head up without saying a word to my dad. How could anyone not be moved by the Ice Capades! I loved the clowns and the skating snow men! It should have made me feel better. That night I hit the pillow and slept off that fever and in my dreams the show kept going...and lo and behold, I was skating right up there with the best of them! I can dream, can't I?
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
EIGHT
Ice Skating? Stay Up? 
You've Got To Be Kidding!


My friend Bob Ezold, whose mom Helen was organist and choir director at Sacred Heart Church - our parrish - had an ice skating rink in his back yard and loved to show off his fancy footwork. I would guess that this was probably when I approached my teen years at John J. Lynch Junior High School. I had coaxed my dad into getting me ice skates as a present - another faux pas - and at Bob's encouragement "A two year old can skate! Don't worry, we'll support you!" I was an ardent Ice Capades fan, so I forged ahead. Anyway, I was petrified! I put on heavy socks and then tied up the skates and could barely walk on them. "What will happen when I hit the ice?" I queried. 


I did just that; my entire body went down and hit the ice; I'm surprised I didn't make a hole in it. Yuk! More bruises! I tried and tried but could never master ice skating. I just had no control whatsoever over my balance. I think it was in 5th or 6th grade I had a horrible ear infection which kept me out of school and home for a month; after that my balance was never quite the same! A few years later, however, I had to prove to myself that I could stay up, so I forced myself into going out alone to a public rink and did manage to stay on two feet for a while, as long as I took small strides and didn't push too much! I kept looking around to make sure nobody was staring at me. Two little kids chuckled, but that was nothing new. A big fat man was always the butt of jokesters! Good God how I wish I had been more athletic! Bob Ezold and his little sister Evie certainly got a kick out of my falling on their ice pond; they told everyone and even took pictures of me fumbling! Ah well, what seemed horrible then is laughable now...
Scott Hamilton I wasn't, but how I yearned for that form and grace... and incredible style! In another lifetime, I tell myself!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
NINE
Andy Williams or Perry Como?
The Nice Choice


Both Andy Williams and Perry Como had the greatest TV specials at Christmastime. We would plan our calendars around those dates and times.
Andy Williams (top photo), as of 2010, does his show live at his theatre in Branson, Missouri and at 83 is still going strong. I'm happy to have seen the live show on tour a couple of times in the 80s. Andy was such a family man. His brothers, his wife were always there like the Crosby clan.
Unfortunately, crooner Perry Como is no longer with us, but what class! Both men had the most colorful shows and guest stars on TV in the 60s and would sing, sing, sing Christmas carols alone, in duets and in chorus. This was television in its finest hour! A very special time that no longer exists. Yes, we have musical programs like Dancing With the Stars and American Idol, but they both move at breakneck speed. Como and Williams were relaxed and in their element - what true artists!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
TEN
Mahalia or Barbra for Christmas?
That Was the Question! 
My favorite Christmas albums of the 60s were those of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson ... and Barbra Streisand. To hear Jackson sing "O Holy Night" sent chills down my spine - now I weep - and to hear Streisand sing anything, except trilling her r in "Ave Maria", is a thrill. It's Maria, not Marria - a small detail, but my Catholic training taught me my Latin sounds! No one else cared whether the diva mispronounced a consonant; they probably didn't even notice; she called the shots and still does. Unfortunately, Miss Jackson has left us and I never saw her perform live; Miss Barbra, I saw in Funny Girl on Broadway in '65, at the Hollywood Bowl - but she didn't sing there -  and she's still recording! What a blessing!


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ELEVEN
The Lucky Grigwares Win a Turkey!
We never usually won any prizes, but one year at an annual company holiday  party, my dad won first prize. A fresh turkey with all the trimmings. I helped him carry it home to and from the car, and that basket weighed a ton. There was everything from soup to nuts - literally. We weren't poor, and I felt somewhat guilty that we had won this and not some poor starving homeless people - yes, they existed in the 60s as well! My dad said "We won it and it's ours! We don't have to spend money on food for Thanksgiving this year. Save more money for ChrIstmas presents!" At first, I thought my dad's reaction was selfish, but the more I thought about it, it was ours and he was right to want to keep it. I think in today's world I would want to cook the turkey and bring it to a shelter so that less fortunate folks would have something to relish and really give thanks for on Thanksgiving Day.
I must admit, though, everything tasted extra special on Thanksgiving Day that year. It was like getting a reward for a family life well lived!
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
TWELVE
Santa Becomes a Reality - Twice!
As a kid, I always thought it must be a lot of fun to wear Santa's wardrobe, like a king. Well, in my late twenties, as an actor pursuing a career in Hollywood, I took a department store Santa Claus job for about a month from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.
I couldn't believe how little it payed - minimum wage - and how hot the costume was, especially the beard, wig and hat. I'm a sweater - I sweat - and couldn't wait for a break to get it off my face, if only for 15 minutes. Yes, it's a hot job! But I cannot stress enough how truly wonderful the experience is in having a small child come up and sit on your lap, pull your beard and whisper "I love you Santa Claus!" When a small child with Down Syndrome said that to me one day, I was reduced to tears and knew instantly why I had taken this job. I maybe wasn't a king, but it made me feel so special, loved and needed. There are a million things that happen when they take a picture of you holding a baby - the child cries from anticipation, among other things, the parents whine and complain - the whole scene can become annoying and even ugly - I won't go into that here, there's already a play written about it: The Santaland Diaries, about an elf and his trying times! The elf costume is perhaps a little less confining - no padding and more comfie on the face, but a similar experience to be sure! The little lesson in pure love from a child was enough o make we want to do the job again and I did. One funny note, as a kid - and now - I wouldn't need padding, but when I played Santa I was too thin to fill the bill, so I needed lots of padding. Ha, ha, ha!        I mean Ho, Ho, Ho!


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
Epilogue
Struggling to Keep the Faith
As Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near and the end of yet another year, I can't believe how quickly the years have passed. I'm as old now as my parents were - they were younger in fact - in my previous stories. I've met a lot of people and wouldn't trade a second of any of it, but yes, life is hard. It's not easy for anyone in this day and age to be happy. I still believe in hope though. There's always tomorrow  - and they'll always be a Santa Claus and a Christmas to look forward to. Yes, my parents have both passed. I miss them, but their spirits are alive and well - in me!!! And I'm convinced, it's not money that counts, but ...
creativity, imagination, and love.


The beginning of the rest of my life.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Short Story

Pumpkins Unite!

Once upon a time on October 23, 2009 in Lala Land ...
As usual, to the side of the floral displays at Littlebottom Florists there was a pumpkin patch like every October, replete with pumpkins large and small. Ichobod Littlebottom converted his garden annually into the patch, not because he had a taste for pumpkins, but there was a humongous profit coming his way by Halloween.


Adults loved to come by and gaze, take their time and ponder just how big a pumpkin they would carve that year to place on their front stoops or in an upstairs window.










 "Cut in, cut up - it's destruction and disfigurement - that's what's really on their pitiful minds! They don't give a hoot about the sweet, gentle pumpkin but only about the scary look of Hallows Eve. They turn
us into frightening creatures, against our very will."











Sorrowfully, some little children didn't even bother to look; they would immediately and unashamedly pick out one of the tiniest gourds and then one of the biggest and engage them in frenzied battle on the spot. Bashing, kicking or tossing against the back fence or side wall was a reckless sport for these abusive tykes whenever Ichobod turned his back.

"Wait just a gall darn minute! Precious plants should be treated with care and respect."

If only gourds could speak. If only they could defend themselves or assist the aid of someone who would step in, protect, and appreciate the sheer eccentric beauty of the pumpkin patch. Row upon row of mellow squash, an array of  splendiferous orange delicacy diminished, hacked, reduced to pulp and ruined forever.

"The time has come for action. Yes, it is time. We have had enough! Look at that goof coming closer. Oh no, he's about to pick me up and ... Help me! Elphaba, are you out there hovering nearby? ...  Jumpin' be- elzabub! ...Ouch! Put me down!"

All of a sudden as if out of nowhere a strong hurricane wind blew across the pumpkin patch - only through the pumpkin patch, as onlookers at Ichobod's shop looked on with horror. The little tyke fell backwards to the ground, picked himself up and ran towards his parents, "Mommy, mommy, help! That pumpkin just attacked me!"

Without explanation, all the gourds in the patch began to move forward as if they could walk ... as if they were marching in a parade. "One, two, three ... forward, march! One, two, three..." The lead pumpkin was making the call and every gourd was following the command, all in line, one behind the other, right off the lot, onto the street and down the block to the corner, then left and out of sight. It was an incredible happening.

"Ichobod, what the hell is going on?" asked one man. "I can't believe my eyes", cried a little old lady. All Ichobod Littlebottom could do was stand in amazement at what he was witnessing. Out he went, bought a new batch of pumpkins that night, set them in the patch, but...the next morning, they were GONE, every last gourd had disappeared. Stuck in the ground was a sign with big lettering for all to see:

Pumpkins Unite! We will no longer serve a mankind that cuts us up for food or decoration. We have our own special beauty and want to be revered for that and that alone. Until that is understood, we will no longer stay around long enough to let humans manipulate and abuse us.

Of course, news spread fast throughout Lala Land, and it soon appeared that pumpkins everywhere in town had taken heed. In 2010 patches are extinct. There is not a single pumpkin in sight. Where have they gone? Who is ultimately responsible? Did Elphaba or some wicked witch cause the hurricane and the sudden exit of the pumpkins from Ichobod Littlebottom's patch? No one can figure it out. But the word is that similar occurrences happened all over the world. And from what we hear there was not a single pumpkin pie to be had in this country last Thanksgiving.

Windows and stoops in Lala Land are barren this year. Without pumpkins to serve as decorations, and due to the severe lack of imagination of the townsfolk, everything looks pretty dull and dismal.

And the pumpkins? Where are they?

Well, rumor has it ...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Book Review

the dog who healed a family / and other true animal stories that warm the heart & touch the soul / by Jo Coudert    Harlequin   2010     182 pp.

This is a collection of eighteen delightful short stories about animals and how they love and change human lives for the better. It has always been a medical fact that if a senior citizen with high blood pressure adopts a dog as a pet, his blood pressure will be reduced significantly, as the constant attention given to the dog creates a calm and soothing aura that is pure, healthy and happy.
Jo Coudert has a very laid back and genuine style of writing. Her characters are real, as is the dialogue they speak. Their dilemmas are as accessible as our own. We’ve either been there ourselves or know family or friends who’ve had similar experiences.

In the story about the family who adopts three new children, who just cannot find happiness as readily as the family members would wish, it is a dog Shaneen, also adopted by the family and reluctant to get too close, that somehow not only connects to the new siblings but is responsible for them becoming closer and happier with their newfound family. A simple game of tug of war with a blanket brings a new smile where there was none and much inner peace.

My favorite is the story about the pig. Pigger, formerly known as Lord Bacon, it is pointed out, is cleaner and friendlier than most dogs. He imitates and learns faster, also performing more tricks than most canines. What his short visit brings to the mother, who has lost the ability to enjoy life, is truly amazing. She now has a “red rash of affection” from the pig’s large snout rubbing against her inner thigh. And when she shares his love with seniors and others, Pigger works miracles.

The pets in these stories include not only dogs and a pig, but also a duck, a deer, an owl, a swan, and a goose, among others.

These animals love unconditionally and most interestingly, their love brings “a relief from the complications of human love.” When one loves a pet, it is not necessary to worry about if or how or how much that love will be returned. Pets, unlike people, do not explain or complain about what they are supposed to do, they just do it, and that includes spreading an incredible bundle of love toward those who love them in return.

Highly recommended
for adults already pet lovers and also for those that need convincing 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lady Fingers

This site is meant to introduce another side of Don Grigware, playwright and short story writer.

The following is a ten-minute play written in August, 2010.

Lady Fingers
by Don Grigware
(The time is evening, around 7 pm, Saturday, November 16, 1963. We are in the kitchen of Carlo’s Italian Café, a basement restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. Carlo, a plain 55 year-old man, is furiously chopping vegetables for his prize-winning salad. Carlo is Italian born, with a heavy accent, and is a consummate chef. When he speaks, it is with the utmost authority. Magenta, his wife of five years, 40ish but still quite beautiful, is American born, of Italian parents, and a bundle of insecurity. She is dressed to the nines, with heavy makeup, and hardly belongs in a kitchen. As Carlo is chopping, Magenta screams bloody murder from the dining room and enters the kitchen abruptly, verbally attacking him the minute we see her. There is a fairly large counter area and a door behind which leads to a back alley. On the wall hangs a large menu of the day’s menu – today, Saturday specials are Carlo’s spicy chicken breast, and for dessert, spumoni with lady fingers.) (Song “Come On a My House” by Rosemary Clooney is heard in the background.)
Magenta
(from outside the kitchen) You crazy son-of-a-bitch! Rat turd! Fuckin asshole! (Magenta enters)
Carlo
What? What are you talking about, my little cannoli?
                                                                  Magenta
You know what I’m talking about, you two-timing son of a puta! You know I have a weak heart and you’ve been screwin’ around behind my back!! (starts looking in a locker, and opens up all the cabinets) Where is she, you fuckin’ dickster?
Carlo
Calm down, spaghetti face! She’s a not here! (catches himself) I mean there’s no one but you, my angel!
Magenta
Liar! Go to confession and tell it to Father Carboni! Open your heart and tell the truth for once in your miserable fuckin’ life!
Carlo
(looks heavenwards) Mama, I’m a sorry! You were right. The face of an angel, but the mouth of a truckdriver! Sit down, Magenta, sweetheart.
Magenta
Tell me the fuckin’ truth! You’re not JFK. He can walk with Jacqueline Bouvier on his arm – she’s got miles of class - and screw Marilyn Monroe on the side and no one says anything, because his family’s rich and powerful. Handsome, powerful men can get away with deceit. Powerful you ain’t!
Carlo
(goes to her and puts his arms around her) Sit down. No, I’m not a powerfula man, I’m a poor chef, but you’re a fine one to talk. You were a cheap barroom stripper when I met you. I pulled you out of that dive and now you have a life. Maybe it’s not a palace, maybe you and I aren’t wearing crowns, but we do OK. Now sit down and I will tell you the truth. Sit down and I will! I promise.
(They sit. She resists at first.)
There’s a no problem! Ok, so, I did see Cassie Meloni lasta week.
Magenta
You went out with that whore?
Carlo
She ordered three pizzas.
Magenta
So you had to deliver them?!
Carlo
Si, di delivery kid was outa sick. Who else can I rely on here? Be razonable!
Magenta
What night was that? Wednesday. I knew I smelled L’air du temps on you that night. That cheap flousy. She always had lousy taste in cologne.
Carlo
Nothing happened. I delivered da pizzas, she paid me and...
Magenta
Did she give you a tip? Did you do it in the living room or couldn’t you hold it in and so you took her right there on the hall floor?
Carlo
No, no, no! Noting a happened. She tried to kissa me and I said no!
Magenta
(starting to be a bit more patient) You turned down a kiss!? Bullshit!
Carlo
Froma that ho, si, I did!! Bambina, she doesn’t a kissa like you!
(they start to laugh. It builds to an hysterical outburst, which leads to some passionate kissing.)
Magenta
(hardly able to contain their passion) Can we close up, for a while? Business is slow.
Carlo
We have a party of 50 coming in in two hours. It’s dinnertime. There are lasagnas to make and meatballs and…No! I can’t, but we’ll make it an early night.
Magenta
(looks at his ring finger) That’s what you always say. Where is your wedding ring?
Carlo
Oh, I must have left it upstairs.
Magenta
No, you didn’t. (long pause) You know, I haven’t seen it on the dresser for a week, if memory serves me right.
Carlo
It’s in the car or the truck. I haven’t lost it.
Magenta
You gave it to her, didn’t you?
Carlo
We are not going to get back to that, are we? I will not clarify that with an answer.
Magenta
You deceitful bastard!
Carlo
WHAT??
Magenta
(looks at sign) And what’s this about lady fingers? What authentic Italian ristorante serves ladyfingers for dessert?
Carlo
You know those little old non Italian ladies from the hood love something dainty to have with their tea or after dinner licor. I thought I’d please the Americans for a change.
(phone rings and Carlo picks it up)
Carlo
Buon journo. Carlo’s Italian Café. Guiseppe Giancarlo, how are you my friend? (seems especially nervous) No, I’ve got it for you. Tonight? I thought our appointment was for tomorrow? Wait a minute…Magenta: Finish cutting the veggies for the salads. I need to talk to him in private. I’ll be right back! (exits to the other room)
Magenta
(cutting) I don’t believe a word that that asshole says. Now he’s probably in trouble with the mafia too! They’ve threatened to close us down before…they could do it again. (sings) (It Must Be Him) Oh, let it please be him, oh dear God, it must be him, …
(Backdoor opens and in creeps a young handsome man about 28, sneaks up behind Magenta and grabs her around the waist and starts kissing her neck. She screams with delight, turns and kisses him.)
Oh, Frank! Oh, Frank…I told you, you must never come here; it’s too dangerous. If he finds you, he’ll kill you.
Frank
Do you think he bothers me? Do you think I’m afraid of him?
Magenta
You don’t understand, my darling. He’s Italian. He has mafia connections. If he finds you or even finds out about you, he’ll kill you and me both. You should be afraid.
Frank
Well, I’m not. I’m half his age, and twice the man he ever was. (grabs her and locks her in a passionate embrace) Do you disagree?
Magenta
You are delicious, that’s for sure! Look, he’s on the other side of that door, on the phone and will be back in the shake of a lamb’s tail. Get your ass out of here. I’ll meet you later!
Frank
At my place at 11?
Magenta
Yes, I promise, but go, go, go!
Frank
Look, I can give you so much more than he can. I can buy and sell this creep.
Magenta
Will you…
(she is interrupted by Carlo’s swift reentry)
Carlo
Ah, ha! I caught you.
Frank
It’s time we put an end to this charade. I have something to say to you.
Carlo
Say it, sonny boy!
Frank
I love your wife and intend to make her happy.
(slowly Carlo makes his way to the counter )
Carlo
I don’t think you can give her the security she needs. Do you know what a big spender she is? She requires a lot of TLC.
Frank
And she deserves it.
Magenta
Thank you, Frank. But…
Carlo
(picking up knife as if he will attack Frank)
You are nothing but a child. (lifts knife and moves toward Frank)
Frank
Holy crap! HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(Frank runs to back door, opens it and runs out yelling.)
Magenta
Frank!
Carlo
So much for your LOVER. He’s nothing but a boy toy, a coward. Thought you could fool me! You little two-timing slut! And you had the unmitigated gaul to accuse me of cheating on you!
Magenta
He’s nothing. He means nothing to me.
Carlo
A child! How dare you? And right here in our kitchen.
Magenta
In our kitchen? This is not our home.
Carlo
It’s home to me!
Magenta
So how’s Cassie? Is she joining you later for cocktails?
Carlo
And what about Frank? Was the plan to join him for cocktails?
Magenta
Maybe.
Carlo
And maybe NOT. (he picks up knife from counter and holds it high as if to attack and walks toward her.)
Magenta
What are you doing? (she starts running)
Carlo
Finishing business with you. I should have done it years ago.
Magenta
Don’t be a fool. You need me. Giancarlo wants to take over, doesn’t he? He wants to buy you out. I can help.
Carlo
What? By bedding him my sweet?
Magenta
What?
Carlo
Don’t think I know that you slept with him before?
(they continue running. All of a sudden, Magenta puts up her hand and stops.)
Magenta
Carlo, my heart. Please. I can’t take any more. Please!
(she collapses)
Carlo
My little dessert. My little plum pudding. My little cannoli.
(he checks her pulse and when he realizes she’s dead, he drags her body over toward the counter and props her up, face down, with her right arm outstretched)
(looks up at menu sign)
We’ll see who has the tastiest ladyfingers in town!
(he lifts the knife high and starts to bring it down to cut off her hand, as lights fade.)
THE END
(Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is heard in the background.)