Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gobble Gobble

Turkey Time

Just in case you’d like to know:
Our military now: there are about 1.3 million active-duty personnel, or less than one-half of 1 percent of the U.S. population. The army is the largest U.S. military service, followed by the Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
Source: Office of the Undersecretary of Defense. Jul 13, 2020.

    Experiencing the service we received in the United States Army at holiday time, was a logistical wonderment to behold. It was Thursday, November 26, 1953. We were part of the 180th Regiment of the Forty Fifth infantry division, deployed at a place in the Yongyu Valley near the 38th Parallel in North Korea. The temperature was about twenty-five to thirty-five below zero, give or take. The fighting had ceased on the 27th of July in 1953, Monday, at precisely 9:00 PM.
Top song was: "The Song from Moulin Rouge" by Percy Faith

    It was about a week or so before Thanksgiving day; from out of nowhere, in comes a team of engineers with three trucks loaded with building supplies to the point of explosion. Within one day, those guys erected a full and complete mess hall, capable of serving everyone in our company.

The prefabricated structure is known as a Quonset Hut,
a building made of corrugated metal and having a semicircular cross section.
ORIGIN: World War II, named after Quonset Point, Rhode Island, where such huts were first made.

    On the Monday preceding Thanksgiving, a large quantity of food along with a detail of cooks and bakers began arriving in the wee hours of the morning. The extra cook's helpers had been flown in from Japan. Turkey, ham, shrimp, two or three salads, and all kinds of potatoes, along with lemon meringue, apple, and pecan pies. I honestly can’t recall what they served for hors d’oeuvres, but, I can tell you none of us were disappointed. I can’t recall the boxes of chocolate we received, but I do remember all of us had far more than we were able to consume. The only item left out was any form of hard liquor. (We were still considered a high level combat zone.)
That next day, we came to find out this was a common practice, afforded all of us serving our country, anywhere and everywhere in the world. To this day, I think about it when the traditional holidays are upon us. If it’s at all possible, our American military is made for us to feel as much at home a combat zone would permit.
    Replacing the freezing cold with the warmth of family and friends at Thanksgiving time serves as a reminder to me of how lucky a man I am today, some sixty-seven years hence. The distress caused by COVID-19 is upon us. We’re all afloat on the same boat. While our military only represent an extremely small percentage of our population, they, as well, stand together as teammates while this lousy plague continues its effect on each and every one of us as a member of the American populous. Let’s all keep it in mind. Please join me and mine, on the celebration of this wonderful day, for giving thanks. And if I may, here’s another heartfelt remembrance which manages to touch my soul, thinking back to what was a very personal day in the life and times of yours truly:

Thursday, November 26, 1953
Sharing my short remembrance:
More gently than imagined
Dinner had slowed to a savoring state
Many smiles adorned, pleased faces

Our company Chaplin led a prayer
Giving thanks for this joyous meal
A final few words
The Chaplin stepped away

Hey Rod, where’s that record player of yours
One of the guys called out
We knew he had it close by
Not a shock to me, it was under his seat

Rod set the “phono” in place
I stood alongside, smiling
Awaiting my favorite song to begin
Hand cranking completed, the needle in place

Never foreign for Rod and me
When he played Roy Hamilton
All around, listened

1953 Thanksgiving was special
At the moment, Rod and da harv were standing
The music began, and I remember
My eyes were closed during this festival

The first bar of music, a gentle call to arms sounding
Without any musical signal
All buddies, around me began to stand
Rod and I were deeply enthralled

We began to sway to the sound
Our comrades joined in that Thanksgiving Day
It was November 26, 1953

We all listened, as Roy Hamilton musically reminded us:
“We would never walk alone”

One hundred men, not walking alone!
Swaying in place as one

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There's a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone
You'll never walk alone
Oscar Hammerstein II / Richard Rodgers

It was November 26, 1953
It was a very special day.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Mutual Trust

With a Friend, Or Without

You may speak as one to another
Or not to another at all
Or to a person like yourself
About today, about tomorrow
Or a long ago place on a forgotten shelf
Perhaps all with an inner perspective
One might be for sure
The other merely a maybe
Yours truly, an elective
For all of us, we ask
When will this horror come to its end
Sooner than later
For one or another
Today it remains difficult to comprehend
Borrow we must from an Aesop Fable
Make it our perspective
Let us all bend in the breeze, perhaps a weak limb
Once more will we endeavor to survive
For tomorrow will be a great day!

The other day I thought about chatting with this man
It had been many years, since last we communicated
Not by design
Without malice, we just hadn’t given it thought
For some reason, comfort still existed

When I spoke, he might listen
And if he spoke, I would listen as well
Remembering, recalling our lives
From way back when first we met

Wasn’t about ourselves today, as we are,
More likely when two young boys
Took their best shot at growing up
Many things from yesterday’s
Beach, sand, getting a tan

Burning red skin
At play, always laughing
Was our way to understand
Never spoke of the negative
Wasn’t part of our plan

There was no need for plans yesterday
Us, boys, certainly not yet men
Young and brand new
We couldn’t wear out, it was our credo, we thought
No noticeable perils at hand, calm seas, quiet skies

Without warning, days upon days flashed quickly by
No premonitions of the days to come
Suddenness was the word
I wore a uniform now, and carried a flag
Marched with many others like me
Drums beating as we stepped forward

Then traveling with winds blowing
Across a troubling sea
Being a man didn’t occur to me
A new storm had brewed for my friend and I
He had never come by

It was time to call him, that friend of mine
To compare notes of what was traveling by
For reasons unknown we had drifted apart
My trusted friend and I
From boys we became men
He remained in my heart

Waiting, I sat there alone
Where we had agreed to meet
It had all changed
So different now
Faces were old
Steps no longer bold
Not much smiling there to behold

What has grabbed us all
Each human is being touched
All are feverish over this specter

What to do, I’d ask my friend
If he ever showed
Think of the new, he might reply
This putrid hazard of life is soon to pass
Like life itself, I offered
I knew he would agree

As when we were young
For my trusted friend and I
The skies cleared
The storm lost power

Without notice, days flashed by again
With no perils at hand, calm seas, quiet skies
Venturing out, my friend and I, if he showed

Don’t forget your mask, my trusted friend might tell me
If he ever showed
Nor you, I'd reply

I looked around before taking leave
The skies shown blue, a glistening sun appeared
None wore masks now, there was no need

The time had come to think to myself: What if this virus ended tomorrow?
For all the people, with kids in this park
Each and every one smiling together
Oh no, what am I to do?
Nothing to worry about

Wait a minute, there’s not a minute to lose
Got to run over to Gelson’s
Before the turkeys run out!


Monday, November 16, 2020

An Honest Observer Observes

Scribed this Veterans Day, 2020
Wouldn’t you have to agree 2020 has been a rather strange year, at best?!
        Some facts can’t be denied. I do believe you’d have to agree with what I just conveyed. When I was a little kid, I heard for the very first time, original source unknown: “The only things in this life we know, for sure will occur, are death and taxes.”

        Seemingly, a very short time later in my life, I heard: “Sending a text message on your phone while you’re driving on a freeway, especially at excessive speeds, is a dopey thing to do!” Whether Democrat or Republican, you’d have to agree, a vote leaning towards idiocy would be declaring complete disregard for friends or neighbors...

        Admittedly, there have been many more personal things and experiences living the years of my existence on this world's stage. What I’m willing to share with you are a wide combination of events: good, bad, unusual, but never with complete indifference towards my neighbors and friends.
        Today’s commentary is being stimulated by my past. Like I said at the top, I am writing this on Veterans Day, 2020. Da Harv happens to be a member of this group, personified in many ways by what, we, military, have in common.
        During my time in service, women didn’t serve in any immediate combat zones. You might imagine what our way of life in a front-line arena without ladies around may have been like; language by us troopers was beyond belief— “pass the f---ing butter" —was entirely acceptable. The restroom facilities were always void of privacy. The contradiction to the way we communicated with one another was almost always as gentlemen. We, of the military, laughed together a lot and we cried a little as well. The laughing could, at times, be cruel but never in a lasting or continual manner. A tear or two was usually caused by a buddy’s sharing of a downer letter from home. Never once did I feel there wasn’t a guy there covering my back.
        Ten men living in a tent together for a prolonged period of time is a definite challenge, don’t you think? There had to be similarity. There was no voting. We didn’t have Republicans or Democrats. We all wore the same type of clothing; everybody even had the same color transportation. We all earned very close to the same amount of money. No air-conditioning, and the very worst experience I’ve ever had was the tomb-like frost of the northern Korean winters. We all fought against the rigors of frostbite. If we were allowed to vote for likes and dislikes having to do with the climate, we’d have an unanimous agreement. All hands up together, voting, hating every moment of it. What a concept, don’t you think? A vote without politics to consider. We all felt the same, regardless of anything you might come up with.
        Without an uninformed media to explain how we should be feeling. Without a young woman or man-child telling us how we should or shouldn’t be living our lives. Love is love and when it ain’t, it ain’t! And there was one more final possibility demanding an immediate unanimous vote—take it from me, in that tent of ours we didn’t consider race or relationships as a voting matter. When we were freezing our asses off, we huddled together out of necessity. Nature without mercy made us work together as an American military. It’s still the same old story.


It's still the same old story
A fight for love and glory
A case of do or die
The world will always welcome lovers
As time goes by

Thursday, November 12, 2020

This Veteran Remembers

Chuncheon, Korea:
Located approximately six miles from the DMZ,
45 miles northeast of Seoul.
Early July, 1953
Heat and humidity, unbearable
Time of day, in the wee hours of the morning
On a troop train without indoor plumbing (holes in the floor)
Note: There are no adequate words to properly describe the abominable stink
We’re jammed in, this young civilian army of mine
Average age amongst us: twenty-two, da harv not yet twenty
I was a volunteer soldier; I’d do it again if I could!

Who were these people
These shoeless urchins
Hands reaching out to us
Late and dark, all sore, full ties
We, the men, little older than the children
We soldiers carried arms to fight
They, the children, some armless
Within their plight
They begged for nothing more than food
Our train stopped often, along the way
Heading north in the relentless dark of the night
And at each station the kids came from the night
Screaming with lungs about to burst
All faces crying out
All yelling up to us
“You have candy, you have candy, G.I.?”
To the man we opened our pockets
Bars, all names and sizes, were flung from the windows
Some children, trance-like, unable to handle their plight
Too many, the reflection of a malady of war
All they could do was beg
Not a Mother or Father in sight.

        One night, along with three other guys, we were put in charge as our train plodded into yet another station. Each of us were to guard the four entrances to each car as the train came to a stop; no civilians were to enter or exit the car while we were in the station. The army referred to it as a “lockdown”. On this particular night, we pulled into the station and our guys came prepared for the kids. During the daylight hours, we had meetings all up and down the train and managed to collect quite an array of candy in anticipation to greeting the next entourage of children.
        When the train pulled to a stop that night, the children came running towards us, all hands sticking out, pushing, shoving, kicking, shouting, little kids stomping on other little kids trying to get something, anything, to put in their mouths. None of those Korean children were prepared to find out what American (kid) soldiers are about.
        We had to hurry, our officers in charge could only keep their backs turned for just so long. We had collected all the candy and whatever we could find on the train we might be able to fit into burlap sacks, now all filled to the brim. Somehow, one of our guys managed to light up the train station. Lighting up a train station at night in a combat area is a total no-no. Not to worry, in not more than eight minutes the deed was done and our train moved further up north to what had appropriately been named, “The Frozen Chosen”.
        The remainder of that night, as we lumbered along, the men in our car were reacting the way we did in a high school locker room after a winning game. Kids can and will be kids, while men can and will be men anywhere our country sends us.
        The next time you take notice, seeing a couple of veteran service men or women meeting up and comparing memories of past deeds done, you'll see what causes pride to swell. There are children all over the world who have experienced the culture of our veterans. Perhaps you can understand why veterans seem to bristle when they hear anyone talking about any American veteran mistreating people in a foreign land; don’t try telling it to any of the kids who were there on that fateful candy night in Korea.

…in the wee hours of the morning
On a troop train without indoor plumbing (holes in the floor)
My personal tribute to all my comrades, past and present
And those of my family and friends, especially who gave far more than I will ever be able to repay
God bless them, and the United States of America.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Let the games continue!

Meeting Stanislavski
        Dorsey High School, here in Los Angeles: At the time my prime interest was playing baseball and one day, signing a contract to play for a professional team. Studying and becoming a renowned scholar never entered my mind, at least not initially. My drive consisted of play, play, and more play.
        In the beginning, thoughts about anything other than baseball were nonexistent. I don’t recall ever using the word 'discovery' during those formative early high school years. I doubt if I ever opened a book during my first year of high school.
        So much of what they were teaching here, in the state of California, I had already learned during my grammar school days in New York City. Growing up in my family was a guarantee, we were all going to be good in math, or as my Dad referred to it: arithmetic.
        Like many immigrant parents, both my Mother and Father had very little formal education, but it didn’t keep them from excelling at almost everything they attempted to accomplish. They craved learning, it was their driving force, along with making a living and providing for the upbringing of three children: two sisters and da harv.
        One sister is six years older, and the other is nine years younger than me. Not exactly a well-planned household. The big separation of years between us created an enormous family upheaval on many occasions, mainly between my older sister and me. I never thought about my gift with words. Vocabulary and writing skills just happened to be there. Years later, one of the actresses explained to me: in a past life I probably knew how to speak Latin. My Mother claimed my vocabulary skills were derived, because she began reading to me from the time she first became pregnant with me.
        Year two, a freshman, brought with it: discovery. I actually began planning what I intended to study. By the end of my freshman year, I began to understand what our California teachers really had going for them, especially the women. Many of the female teachers had come to Los Angeles as aspiring actresses. The one I was lucky enough to have, this teacher, came equipped with degrees having to do with theater. Many of the production skills she picked up were derived from some of the most renowned fine art related universities in the country.

The song called out to me:
“Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera”
Jay Livingston/Ray Evans

Note: My favorite version is sung by one of my most favorite ladies, Doris Day.

        Day number one, on my first day ever in a legitimately-taught drama (acting) class. Our teacher had been an aspiring actress who ventured out, from the small town environment she had grown up in, to the movie mecca of the world. At the time, Los Angeles had many young, beautiful, and extremely-gifted teenage girls, discovering, along with their Moms, how overpoweringly competitive becoming a working actor would be.
        Her Mother had enrolled her talented daughter at Los Angeles High, at age fourteen. She graduated at age seventeen, and went on to earn her graduate and post-graduate master's degree, supporting herself by waiting on tables at a very well-known Beverly Hills restaurant. Her skills as an exponent of the great Stanislavski, were far more than scholarly—this lady wasn’t pedestrian in any sense of the word. Concurrently, I was entering a period of my young life when my capacity and aptitude as a receptor began to show itself.

Location: alone on our high school stage, our very first beginning drill

Two students picked randomly:
The teacher had assigned us, each in our own way, to free form the recollection of an actual personal (true) experience encountered from any time period we chose from our past.

The first two students:
He and she had, in common, an incident they each chose to remember and bring forward during a drill in our first week's drama class. Their story could have been funny, but it wasn’t. It could have been deeply dramatic, but none of us got their gist.

Note: Without exception, none of the students had heard the name “Stanislavski”.

        Not many high school teachers had past exposure to the teaching of the most prominent exponent of the great Stanislavski's method, or system. Not until I began cutting classes and making it over to one of the many little neighborhood theaters, did I have any knowledge of who Stanislavski was. I was about to find out.

        Many of us, including yours truly, was required to try the same drill the first two students experienced that very first day. Our teacher moved around the room randomly choosing who would have their turn on stage. For no discernible reason, I was last to get up to perform. There I was, center stage. I took a comfortable breath and began to talk to them as if they were a crowd sitting in the stands, watching me pitch.
        “This feels like I’m on a pitching mound looking in at my catcher, just the way my Dad showed me how to do it.” The students began to laugh. (I shook off their laughter without anger.) “No. He really did teach me. He taught me a lot of things. I can remember a long time ago. It was one of those Saturday summer days, my Dad and I were at Ebbetts Field together, taking in a Dodger game together. They played their games in Brooklyn in those days. I’m smiling now, because that day with my Father is one I will remember for the rest of my life.” (The students became quiet, they seemed to lean in a little closer. “Tell us the rest of what happened next”, the teacher called out to me.) 
        I began again: “The Dodgers were up at bat. The game was on the line. My Dad told me to stay awake. We were sitting pretty close to where many of the foul balls were often hit. Up to the plate came my favorite Dodger of all time, Pee Wee Reese. Stay awake, my Dad said again. Then Pee Wee hits one up in the air and it came quickly our way. We all instantly stood up. My Dad raised up to his full height of five foot five inches, stuck his left arm up in the air, and low and behold made a bare-handed catch of that foul ball off the bat of my favorite dodger, Pee Wee Reese. God, I loved that guy, but I loved my Father more.” (The students applauded.)
        During the course of the semester our wonderful teacher often repeated the same drill as we all became aware she had, herself, learned as a working actress and student of the great Stanislavski.

        The word STUDY may not occur to those in the earliest stages of discovery itself. Study is imperative as a driving force for anyone and everyone who is held captive by even a modicum of flowing creative juices so presented by nature's indelible will. An absolute necessity in the cultivation of lasting and prominent skills.
        STUDY and DISCOVERY are essentially the same PROVIDER, bringing forth both conscience and subconscious enlightenment, without which these two ingredients, creativity becomes nothing more than a burdensome and unrewarding task. That was then, and this is now. I never go a single day without both of those marvelous ingredients entering, and reentering, my treasury.
        When I returned home from Korea, neither study nor any human pertinence allowing for who I really was at that moment in time, was anything I intended to share from my private thoughts. In other words, looking back, I was quite introspective. 
Two short years later, what I considered a fixation became a fact of life.


        May I please take a moment to acknowledge a few persons before me, who taught me the how and why systems work, for all or any who fall to the long and often fickle deceptions of creativity.
Note: My acknowledgements are now complete. I chose to make them introspectively; often it's what I do as I prepare to write my next piece, or am in the process of delivering a verbal discourse in a most intimate flow of words. Often during trying times, the likes of what we are now experiencing during this plague, I can easily conjure, at my will, the very image of my Dad reaching up, catching that ball, then instantly handing it off to his adoring young son as the crowd cheered him on to new heights!

“Dear God, let the games continue!”

Friday, October 30, 2020

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
-Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice-

        Often I agree, often I may not. Often the world does exceed the term 'naughty', expressed by the great bard. Often there are times in our lives when only a single question mark can do the job. I feel this is one of those inexplicable periods.
        Yesterday's likeness of our candle's little beam of light shown brightly for the two of us. It wasn’t a miracle canceling out a naughty happening; far less you’re sure to agree than any merchant might provide.
The 2020 World Series came alive. Our Los Angeles Dodgers provided a gleaming forbearance as a temporary salve, the ailment we—friends and foe, together, total populous—suffer from a willing commitment to destroy all that is good in life.
        During three-plus hours of delight, all candles burned brightly. Our Merchants of Los Angeles provided new energy allowing cheers to ring out. And within this brief respite, all who love the “Blue” were thankful for today, and high-fived when the final out took place. We wondered if tomorrow would bring more of the same: a time upon us all to practice high-fives, and bright and shiny candles caused by the reflection created by a full house, all cheering together, as our Dodgers take it all, as if the merchants were paid for money loaned, when masks were gone, and smiles were happily displayed.


This news update (on Thursday, 10/22/2020), just in:
        In another part of this country of ours, namely the innards’ of a place known as Florida, a team named the Tampa Bay Rays, managed to even the series with the Los Angeles Dodgers at one game apiece. So while some folks have an overabundance of population morphing good fortune, we, the Dodgers fans of the world, will remain with chins up high; tomorrow is a new day for us. Today is Thursday, and no games are scheduled. We’re going to kick back and watch Biden and Trump elucidate our voting world.

Dodgers & Rays tomorrow, Friday! Go Blue!!
We all have a great Sunday to relish.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

2020: Yesterday's Sports Fan

Where did it go
Along with me
Am I virtual
No, that can’t be
Used to love to dance
I’d hold her
She’d love me
How to kiss goodnight
We’re both wearing a mask
Doesn’t matter at all
Beneath my mask
I don’t have teeth

The nature of despair for positive thinkers
Such as ourselves
Being compounded
Each day
Unwillingness to fight back
Seemingly has become a daily habit
Rituals against
Those human traits
Those by nature crying
Out for our surrender

        Too many years ago for me to recall, in the first and most decisive ascriptive to pass before my eyes, this lasting statement remains with me to this day: “Suffering is understood best by those who have suffered.” Then, of course, when repeated you chance a reply, usually from the back of the room, “Oh yea, how the hell do you know?” Obviously, I can’t say I know most things for sure—teaching and directing people as my chosen profession is subjective enough—me becoming a chaplain is not my intent.

        I’ve grabbed onto humor as my support during my life’s pursuits of education, and empathy towards those who would disallow simpatico for others to creep into their own personal lifestyle. I fervently avoid the humorless; days without humor shortens human life. I spend as much productive time laughing as possible without forcing those around me to become nutcases. Crying caused by pain will ultimately be forgotten—if a person is lucky enough, it may become a hearty laugh to remember.

        This past week I directed men and women who we are attempting to cast on a variety of acting assignments. My job assignment was to provide the necessary ingredients in order for them to present themselves in a way a sponsor would consider as the right choice to sell their product. Whether the actor delivering the lines is called on to be humorous, dramatic, or in a portrayal of a wild and crazy kind of a guy or gal, there must somehow, someway, come forth a modicum of discerned acceptability for what our actor is portending to truthfully be.

        Good or bad, my directing skills have been in the process of being honed during the course of my last fifty years of directorial practice (experience).
NOTE: (gratification) My mentors have been and remain the same—substantively the very best in all the world. (This last line delivered by me is delivered with one distinctive, and driving force: MY TRUTH!)

When you come to us to read for a possible work assignment, be thankful for what we are allowed to seek out in this great environment of ours. Love and laughter, and splendiferous thought of what tomorrow will allow.

"There's good news tonight!"
        During World War II, American forces sank a Japanese destroyer. Gabriel Heatter opened his nightly commentary accordingly, "Good evening, everyone—there is good news tonight." The phrase sparked a small flurry of letters and calls, almost all in his favor. Heatter was already well known for trying to find uplifting but absolutely true stories to feed his commentaries. (He was especially known for a fondness for stories about heroic dogs.) In April 1939, he gave the first national broadcast exposure to the burgeoning self-help group: Alcoholics Anonymous.
        Reflecting that reputation, the critic and sometime rival Alexander Woollcott composed the doggerel couplet: "Disaster has no cheerier greeter / than gleeful, gloating Gabriel Heatter."
And now, by the grace of God, it has become our good fortune to once again rise to the utmost heights of our calling. Let’s all find a way to laugh in preparation for tomorrow's real-life auditions.
        And now I raise my glass in a toast to all of you humorists out there. It’s just about single malt scotch time; well almost. Please remember: "There's good news tonight!" And there will be even better news tomorrow!