The Runaways

No, that isn’t me. And no, that isn’t my pet elephant.

On the other hand, it could have been me and it could have been my elephant, or so I imagined as a toddler when a serious infatuation with Dumbo led me to run off to join the circus. I’d forgotten that sudden childhood impulse until I came across the story of Lilly and Isa, a pair of  elephants who traveled years ago with the Carson & Barnes Circus.

I first heard of Lilly and Isa when I visited the circus’s winter quarters in Hugo, Oklahoma.  As young elephants, they became famous for running away from the circus, not toward it.  Still, there were similarities in our experience. Neither of us had a clear destination in mind when we decided to make a break for it, and neither of us had a real plan. We simply saw our chance and took it, hot-footing it down the road for all we were worth, determined to outrun our pursuers and evade capture. Lilly and Isa were more successful when it came to long-term evasion, but by the time it was over I suspect all three of us had decided that one escapade was enough. (more…)

Published in: on May 19, 2013 at 12:35 pm  Comments (95)  
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Persistence, Personified

After months of struggle, The Little Essay That Could finally started its engines, cut loose the string of cars that had been carrying the freight of an idea that didn’t belong and began chugging its way up the hill toward publication. It had been left on a siding, bereft and forlorn, condemned to idleness by my own obstinancy, my stubborn insistence that two thematic strands should remain entwined in a single essay.   Only after I pulled them apart, discarding one, was the storyline able to get going and pick up a little steam.

Ironically, just as I began working again on my simplified piece, sighing and moaning to myself that things ought to be progressing more quickly, I came across news of Harper Lee and her former literary agent, Samuel Pinkus. Lee recently filed suit in Manhattan federal court seeking to recover royalties from from the sale of her novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  According to Associated Press reports, Lee was contending that Pinkus had tricked her into signing over the copyright to her novel while she was recovering from a stroke.  (more…)

Published in: on May 10, 2013 at 7:41 pm  Comments (102)  
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Even Cats Crave Christmas!

Laugh at the antlers if you will, but laugh at your peril. That business-like look in the eyes of my beautiful calico is very real. Dixie Rose (short for Dixie-Rose-Center-of-the-Universe-and-Queen-of-all-She-Surveys) loves Christmas, and she intends to be ready when it arrives. Do not stand in her way.

Dixie arrived at my door as an unloved, four-month-old stray who became my first real pet. As a child I did receive a small painted turtle, but the poor thing met a most unfortunate end. My birthday puppy lasted only hours. A tiny but exceedingly enthusiastic black Cocker Spaniel, the pup terrified me and was sent packing by disconsolate adults.

Later, I raised a fox squirrel and laughed my way through four years with a prairie dog, but my relationship with Dixie Rose is of a different order entirely. I believe her to be the most beautiful and most clever creature on four paws. I don’t think she’s the most spoiled creature in the world, but we’re working on it – diligently. (more…)

Published in: on December 14, 2012 at 8:05 am  Comments (84)  
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The Fruitcake’s Revenge

Got Fruitcake?

Johnny Carson said it, and I believed it.  Every year, shortly after Thanksgiving, he began the Christmas season by reminding us, “There’s only one fruitcake in the world. It’s been passed around from person to person since time immemorial, and it doesn’t matter how hard you try. You’ll never escape The Fruitcake.” 

I knew his little joke wasn’t factual. Every year multitudes of fruitcakes marched like overzealous Nutcrackers into the heart of the holiday season, overflowing store shelves and filling up catalogs.  How essentially good ingredients – fruit and cake – could be combined into a “treat” that was both gummy and dry was beyond me. But the fruitcake people had managed to do it. Even though I preferred not to waste my holiday calories on something that appeared to have been circulating since the days of the Roman Empire, people kept pressing fruitcake on me.  I wished there were only one. It would have been easier to escape the ghastly conconction. (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 11:05 am  Comments (115)  
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Incompetence, Enthusiasm and Joy

It seemed to be Plácido Domingo’s idée fixe, his improbable and just slightly amusing conviction that Oscar-winning filmmaker Woody Allen should be paired with the Los Angeles Opera. Following his appointment as General Director of LA Opera, Domingo tried tempting Allen with one suggestion after another. Over the course of four years, each new idea was found wanting and discarded, until at last an agreement was reached. The 2008 season would begin with a new production of three Puccini one-acts known collectively as Il Trittico, with Woody Allen producing Gianni Schicchi, the third and final opera of the set.

The first two operas, Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica, were produced by another filmmaker, William Friedkin, and later reviewed as “a pair of smart, beautifully crafted, beautifully designed and beautifully performed productions that gave grit, grandeur and even a hint of class to old-fashioned melodrama.”

Meanwhile, Allen and his longtime collaborator, Santo Loquasto, used sets and costumes to produce what The New York Times described as “the look and style of some old black-and-white film. Not one of those black-and-white Woody Allen films, [but something like] “Big Deal on Madonna Street”. Throughout the process Allen, who described himself to The NY Times as “not the greatest choice in the world” to direct opera, became even more self-deprecating than usual. Asked how things were going with the new production, he played down his suitability for the job. “I have no idea what I’m doing,” he told The Los Angeles Times, “but incompetence has never prevented me from plunging in with enthusiasm.” (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm  Comments (80)  
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