Monday, May 24, 2010


Towards the end of the week I am going into the hospital for “a procedure” (a minor one to the medical community, a major one to me) so I attribute this posting to some free floating anxiety and an attempt to get some thoughts down on several topics, all suitable for their own entries. I think of them as a bunch of tweets, albeit more than 140 characters.

The first thing on my mind, other than “the procedure” is how quickly we’ve become inured to the major catastrophic saga of the last month: the oil “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico. I present as anecdotal evidence Sunday’s New York Times. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” fails to mention anything on the topic until more than halfway into the first section, although the front page did carry an article on premium prices for a Jon Bon Jovi “concert” in Hershey, Pa.

Why, I wonder, are we not pressing with all the public opinion power at our disposal for some resolution to this disaster? To watch BP, Transocean, and Halliburton in the brief Congressional Hearings was sickening, each pointing to the other to blame in a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil routine, finally all pointing to the Minerals Management Service which “oversees” drilling activity. BP says it will pay "all legitimate claims," the operative word being their interpretation of “legitimate,” but that is far from the main issues: why were there no contingency plans in place and how, with all this country’s resources, is there no way to stop this fire hose of black destruction on the pristine waters of the Gulf? Every single one of us should be holding these companies and the federal government responsible and let our justifiable anger be heard.

Maybe I take this personally as we live in Florida and appreciate the natural beauty of its waterways and beaches. But I felt the same way after the Exxon Valdez and it is absolutely stunning that we have failed to learn the sad lessons of drilling in fragile environments.

Then, I shift to another aspect of living in Florida, particularly south Florida that is blessed with some of the finest theatre talent. I’ve written before on the incredible productions at Dramaworks, the West Palm Beach theatre dedicated “to theatre to think about.” Yesterday we saw a concert version of Sondheim’s classic Into the Woods performed by the Caldwell Theatre Company. There we discovered that some of the actors we’ve seen repeatedly at Dramaworks and Florida Stage not only can also sing, but do so at professional levels befitting Broadway. In particular I mention Jim Ballard (who we saw only a few nights before in a Noel Coward reading at Dramaworks), Elizabeth Dimon, Wayne LeGette, and Margery Lowe, and I apologize if I am overlooking others. Also, as a pianist myself, I found Michael O’Dell’s keyboard accompaniment remarkable – almost three hours of Sondheim’s intricate melodies played flawlessly and lovingly. All in all it was a great performance of one of Sondheim’s best works, the lyrics of Children Will Listen reverberating in memory:

Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
So learn what to be
Careful before you say 'Listen to me'
Children will listen

We saw Stephen Sondheim last year in West Palm Beach on the eve of his 80th birthday (I regret that Google has removed music uploads from the link). He is a national treasure, our last remaining tie to the greats of Broadway.

Finally, and I’m not sure about the appropriate transition to this topic, but I continue to be mesmerized by Raymond Carver’s writings, including his essay “On Writing.”

From that essay, here is classic Carver as it is exactly what he does: ”It’s possible, in a poem or a short story, to write about commonplace things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense, even startling power. It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine.”

Thinking about a friend who admitted he wrote something just to make a deadline and make a buck, knowing he could have written something better if he took the time, Carver writes, “If writing can’t be made as good as it is within us to make it, then why do it? In the end, the satisfaction of having done our best, and the proof of that labor, is the one thing we can take into the grave. I wanted to say to my friend, for heaven’s sake go do something else. There have to be easier and maybe more honest ways to try and earn a living. Or else just do it to the best of your abilities, your talents, and then don’t justify or make excuses. Don’t complain, don’t explain.”

It seems this advice is applicable to everything as we journey into the woods.