Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Endora Was Like Frances

My favorite relative is my paternal grandmother, Frances, who was born in 1903 and passed in 1989.

Her mother - my great-grandmother - lived in Missouri, but wanted her child born in Oklahoma, so at the eleventh hour located a man who rowed her across a river to Oklahoma, where Frances was born four years before the Oklahoma and Indian Territories united to become the 46th State in the Union.

In her sixties when my sister and I were born, Frances thought she was too young to be called “Grandmother” and insisted we call her by her first name.

She was a self-made woman, who was proud she'd worked continuously through the Great Depression, eventually owned and maintained rental properties across Oklahoma City, and was a world-traveler for more than sixty years.

Beginning when my sister and I were small children, Frances would appear at our house very much like Endora would swoop into the Stephens' household in Bewtiched: “I just came back from China! I want to take my grandchildren to India!”

My mother was always horrified. “You are not taking them to India!”

Frances usually got what she wanted, and my sister and I fondly remember our summer vacations with her.

In May, 1927, the bubonic plague struck an African port shortly before Frances' transatlantic steamer was to dock, so the ship was diverted elsewhere. The crew was French. A party broke out on the steamer like none other Frances experienced on the night it was learned Lindbergh had flown his airplane from New York to Paris, France, to become the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1989, I inherited a map of the world into which Frances had stuck colored pins, different colors representing the number of times she had visited a particular country. (Pins protruded from all but two countries.) Her favorites were India and China.

I like to think I inherited my gift of gab from her: she and I enjoy talking to anyone about almost anything. In the 1970's, after numerous trips to India, Frances became close with an Indian family and was thrilled to attend a young couple's wedding ceremony, which lasted almost three weeks.

I have lots of photographs of Frances in China. She told me she was in the last guided tour through the country before the Cultural Revolution, and she made sure she was in the first guided tour through the country when it again opened its doors to the West.

Over the years, Frances repeatedly told me: “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

I certainly haven't accomplished everything I've set out to do - yet - but I do believe her encouragement has given me the confidence to attempt whatever I want.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Kingdom of Rain" by The The

One of my favorite songs from the 1980's is The The's "Kingdom of Rain," featuring Sinead O'Connor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Spring Awakening at the Altarena Playhouse

Sunday, July 8, 2012, Phil and I crossed the San Francisco Bay to have lunch with our friend Judith Lynch in Alameda, California.

We then went to the Altarena Playhouse to watch its production of Spring Awakening, book and lyrics by Steven Sater and music by Duncan Sheik.

You might know Spring Awakening won eight Tony Awards in 2007, including Best Musical, and that it is based on a 1891 play by Frenk Wedekind.

Judith warned us, but Phil and I were surprised by the graphic language and very adult content of this musical, which includes masturbation, homosexuality, teen pregnancy and teen suicide in a sleepy German town at the end of the 19th century.

At the Altarena Playhouse, the audience sits around the stage arena-style, which afforded us an up-close view of the cast singing, dancing and whisking around props.

Under Frederick L. Chacon's direction, this stand-out cast of young actors shone. Leads Brendon North and Riley Krull were remarkable, bringing alive moment by moment the confusion, ecstasy, terror and rage of their characters.

Jordan Dong stood out as Martha, her voice clear, her emotions palatable. I sat close enough to the stage to see her peer into the eyes of each audience member around her, as she was singing.

Nikita Burshteyn was great as Georg/Dieter with a stupendous crush on his piano teacher. I think I left the Altarena Playhouse with a crush on Burshteyn.

Remember the names of this cast: Brendon North, Riley Krull, Jordan Dong, Nikita Burshteyn, Sarah Birdsall, Nathan Brown, Mackenzie Cala, Caleb Haven Draper, Charles Evans, Katie Robbins, Shauna Shoptaw, Steven Sloan, Kristina Stasi and Max Thorne. With their talent, hard work and a few nods from the Thesbian gods, this will be far from the last time you hear someone singing their praise.

Run - Don't walk! - to the Altarena Playhouse to see Spring Awakening. Run!

Monday, July 2, 2012

42nd Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade

I marched in the 42nd Annual San Francisco Gay Pride Parade on Sunday, June 24, 2012.

I shot this video with my contingent, which included the families, friends and team members of the San Francisco Bay Times, Betty's List, DJ Rockaway, Harvey's List, Napa Cellars and Olivia Travel.

We marched past 400,000 spectators down Market Street.

An estimated 1,000,000 people came to San Francisco to participate in events celebrating Gay Pride Weekend.