Category Archives: dogs

The questions you ask yourself…

I’m discovering as I face brain surgery and it’s unknown consequences that I find myself asking questions about what I have and have not accomplished over the last 66 or so years. It’s not a pleasant experience, btw, only one that makes me realize how many things I REALLY wanted to do which will probably never be realized. I guess, however, that this is common to just about everyone.

(Sorry… this is much longer than I expected and it will not hurt my feelings if you sign out right now,   – Bill)

Starting with the basics:

  • I have a wonderful wife who is taking care of me when she also maintains a full time teaching job that keeps us supported and in our mandatory health insurance mode.
  • I have three impressive and incredible grown children, Cassandra, Penny and Will (who we call Buddy… I don’t know where “Will” came from), and four wonderful grandsons, 3 in Maryland and one in Connecticut. (Allow me to say while I’m in this particular note about how lucky I am to have my son-in-law Matthew Corrigan in Connecticut who has made sure Cassandra could be down here with me during all of this.)
  • I set out many years ago for a life in the Arts, something I really discovered while a prep-school student at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA.  Between painting and sculpture creation under Lou LaVoie, drama and theatre discoveries under Tom Weisshaus, ending as President of the Drama Club where i acted, but didn’t do much in tech theatre, I was poised to take off when I headed for The School Of Speech/Theatre Department at Northwestern University in 1964.

And just what did I do that I remember proudly?:

  • After I discovered systems analysis through an amazing engineer, art collector and professor, Dr. Gustave J. Rath, I created my first small theatre company, Systems Theatre, which applied this amazing intellectual technology to performance creation. Our first major production was an adaptation of Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy” which eventually played Chicago’s Performing Warehouse between sets by the two great bluesmen B.B. King and Albert King (who I got to give a ride home to later… wow!) When I ended up in NYC in 1971 I restarted Systems Theatre with some of the same people who were with me at Northwestern
  • There were a couple of plays that we did at Theatre at St. Clement’s, one of the really great off-off Broadway locations in the city. Well reviewed, well attended and most important to me was my adaptation of Thomas Merton’s “Original Child Bomb” which had gothic-y chants composed by a wonderful musician, Ed Roberts, who I had met when teaching for a year at Tabor. Ed and I went on to do several shows together… at St. Clement’s and other places. My greatest pride came in a project we did a little later:
  • Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark”, an opera for children, was presented at the Whitney

    The Whitney

    Museum of American Art, thanks to a contact I made with one of the most  influential people in my life and someone who I am so proud to call a friend today, Berta Walker. Berta was working as the Administrative Assistant to Steve Weil at the Whitney and was looking for children’s programming. Ed and I suggested doing “Snark” which we had just started working on and now we had a reason for pushing through. We opened to great reception at the Whitney and, a little bit later on, Berta and I produced it for a few weekends at a little theater on the East Side of Manhattan. Following that, it was taken to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, a major museum which had been started by Berta’s grandfather, where it was also successful.

  • My friend and former Northwestern student John Driver, who played the original Bellman in “Snark” had been writing a musical based on Samurai warrior Mushami called “Ride The Wind” with pretty much of a rock ‘n roll score and martial arts based choreography. This was during the time that “Kung Fu” was a big television show, and we thought we were really on something here, so Berta and I decided to produce it (the company we created was called Snarkophilus Productions after our big success). We started out aiming for Off-Broadway, but then the Bijou Theater, a little house at the end of Shubert Alley, became available and we booked it. We were now a Broadway show… albeit a very small one. My set design professor, Sam Ball, agreed to do the sets, which were built by Northwestern students and which I brought to New York driving a truck across country. A number of the actors who auditioned were folks I had known from the New Theatre Workshop, a small non-profit group which acted as a try-out location for new plays that writers were working on. I was their stage electrician for a year before they tore the theater down to build the CitiPlace Center on 57th Street.
  • Unfortunately, “Ride The Winds” didn’t pass the New York Times test and I was no longer a Broadway producer.
  • I had to work, so I took a job as Administrator of the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens, where I structured classes, set up concerts, scheduled movies and ran the books. It was there I met Elly, my current wife, who I hired to teach Photography in the class size darkroom I had built in the Center’s basement (I took up photography, too… something I really loved.)  Eddy came down and we did a little revival of “Snark” in Jamaica for the kids in Queens. When I was hired later on by The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, by their Board President (you can probably see this coming… it was Berta Walker), Elly came with me and we settled in on  lower Cape Cod. I helped the Work Center fund raise, grow and prosper over three years, then spent another three years on it’s Board. Elly and I however, moved down to the mid-Cape where we started a business that would keep us in debt and development for the next decade: Our photo studio, Photography Associates of New England Inc., and U-Design, Inc.
  • The appearance of the Apple Macintosh computer, the laser printer, a piece of software called Aldus PageMaker and things like scanners, modems, etc., inspired us to set up a rental-area business where folks would come in, rent space in a booth, and lay out, with our help, their ads and brochures. After a couple of years, we moved it to Hartford, CT… back in my home state. At one point we had U-Designs in three cities in CT (that was a mistake!) and we started doing more jobs for clients ourselves rather than booth rentals. We worked with major and minor companies, lots of non-profits, plus we offered desktop publishing classes. At one time we had a dozen or so employees. During this time I did no theatre, maybe a little painting, but not much (Elly was our painter and her work was wonderful.) While in Marlborough, however, I was recruited to be a Justice of the Peace, where I married several couples (I specialized in non-believers who I thought should have a person of their own.) I did start designing computer fonts at this time… still do it, especially my “picture fonts” which have been used on this blog many times. U-Design Type Foundry has attracted hundreds of buyers, for which I have great appreciation.

More recent years… “Things fall apart, the center does not hold” – TS Eliot.

  • We had built a passive solar house in Marlborough, CT, where we moved so Buddy could go to school there and we could lead the suburban life (eventually, we moved the last vestige of U-Design to Marlborough where it finally ended up in our house until it died.) I started going out and getting jobs as an Information Technologist at some larger companies, finally ending up at Computer Sciences Corporation, where I spent five working years. For most of that I was commuting to the Maryland-DC area every week to do a major piece of work for the Internal Revenue Service with a bunch of my colleagues. I made more money here than I ever had before. When my whole department was laid off after three years I even got six months of part-time work for the IRS itself to finish some of the project stuff.
  • Elly and I sold the Marlborough house and bought a historic co-op space in Old Greenbelt, MD, where I was still doing CSC work. Eventually, when there was no more work and a guy in his late fifties had a hard time finding IT jobs when the market was stuffed with lower earning young guys. I had to take early retirement which, thanks to CSC’s salary, brought me a higher Social Security than I had expected. Elly took a teaching job in Graphic Design at Hagerstown Community College in Hagerstown, MD, and we eventually moved to

    Ride The Winds

    Hagerstown, then Shepherdstown (our favorite) and now Harper’s Ferry. While I was living in Greenbelt, I got involved with two community theatres, the Laurel Mill Playhouse and the Greenbelt Arts Center. Amazingly enough, with the entrance to all of this I made by meeting Linda Bartash, I directed several plays and musicals. The highlight of these was a revival of “Ride The Winds” which I got John Driver to rewrite the second act for. It was well-reviewed in the Washington Post and local papers and I breathed a sight of final relief. I also, amid all the shows I did, had a really good production of that unusual musical “Urinetown” at Greenbelt, also a success.

  • I got involved with a new Community Theater in Shepherdstown, The Full Circle Theater, where I

    The Hunting of the Snark, in Shepherdstown

    became the House Electrician and ran lights on a bunch of shows, And then, can you believe it, I go to to do a revival of “The Hunting of the Snark” and Eddy, who was then living in Pennsylvania, came down from time to time to help my friend and music director, Ruth Raubertas, get our favorite opera for kids off the ground. Everyone seemed to like it, but this was my last chance to direct anything and I sank into an ongoing depression hoping I would get to do it again some day. I don’t think, now, that it will happen. I have to say, though, that I made a great friend of John Case who played the Butcher in that last production. John had a weekday morning radio show on WSCH 89.7FM on Shepherd University’s radio station and originally he invited me on for an interview and eventually I was on every Friday, which John started promoting as “The Bill and John Show.” I guess I did OK, since a few months later the station manager, Todd Cottgreave, gave me a show of my own on Saturday mornings which I called “Talk To Me” and which I made into a call-in production. I think the radio shows really saved my intelligence and ability to carry on while under depression.

So those are things I’ve been thinking about. What I haven’t discussed here is this blog, which is the major occupation of an old, retired guy’s day. I hope I can keep it going for years (as you can see, I love to talk)… if it has to cease, however, someone will put up a final post.

Time to feed the dogs.

Halloween tonight…

Elly works late today, so the dogs and I will be ready to greet any costumed kids who come to the door with a bowl of miniature candy bars. I know this is going to drive my dogs crazy, but I’ll put up with it.

It looks like the rain has finally stopped outside. Hopefully it will stay this way. It would be very unfortunate for kids to have to go house to house in the rain. Out here in rural Harper’s Ferry the houses are spread pretty widely apart and it would be a very wet walk.

So I’m wishing all of you a happy Halloween out there. Let it turn a Wednesday evening into fun.

 

Some stats we haven’t seen yet (hee hee)

These are from the Esquire/Yahoo poll:

Of course I wonder if the “tax advice” question means that folks who answered the survey are looking to duck responsibility as much as Romney.

I’ll heartily agree with the last question.

Today is our 34th Anniversary…

Elly dances with Buddy at his wedding reception.

Hard to believe it, but Elly and I have been married for 34 years as of today. It’s almost unbelievable that this wonderful woman has out up with me so long. I’m not the best husband in the world and have been obsessed with my various projects, often ignoring hers and making her life less than happy. Now, with my seizures and health care problems, she is making my actual living circumstances both possible and relatively enjoyable.

But we did have highlights in our combined lives. The major thing, of course, was the creation of our fantastic son Buddy (who now calls himself Will, but we will never think of him without the name “Buddy”) who got married a few weeks ago in Milwaukee. I hope he and Rachel get at least the 34 years we have had.

Together we have now raised four different dogs – it’s amazing how much we care about our pet relationships; Now, with Nestlé and Byron sleeping on our couches, our living room is warm and wonderful.

I guess we will go eat somewhere nice today to mark the occasion.

Nestle, Byron (my dogs) and I agree with Bill Maher:

(Thanks to All Hat, No Cattle for putting this one up.)

Quote of the Day – Romney knows how people feel about him…

 

This from a Politico interview with Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen:

“I know there are some people who do a very good job acting and pretend they’re something they’re not. … You get what you see. I am who I am. I don’t think everybody likes me.”

Mitt Romney

Well, at least he knows.

Thanks to Dogs Against Romney

 

Today we leave (via Amtrack) for Wisconsin… Changing trains in Chicago.

 

OK. We’re in the middle of packing and getting ready to take off for Milwaukee. I’m getting clothes together and my pills and other medications, my computer and everything else I need to get to Buddy’s wedding. The dogs have been put in a nearby kennel for their “dog vacation,” and I miss them already.

The pain from my broken bones has gotten so much better that I think I will get through this trip okay. We have arranged for wheelchair transport at the railroad stations, one where we change trains in Chicago and the when we get into Milwaukee, so I should be able to get around with luggage.

Let me warn my regular readers at Under The LobsterScope that I may be missing some posts as we travel. The railroad stations already list that they don’t have Wi-Fi and I’m not sure what the situation will be at the hotel.  I will try to get at least one post a day out, preferably with pictures. This should have many interesting scenes worth showing on the blog.

We will be on the road from this evening until Tuesday morning after which will be back in West Virginia and ready to start my regular schedule. I hope everyone has a nice weekend.

 

Today is lunacy day…

 

Bud and Rachel

Tomorrow Elly and I board a train for Wisconsin to get to Buddy and Rachel’s wedding, and today is filling up with more and more things we gave to do in order to leave. Meanwhile, I’m adjusting to my current level of pain from the accident and hoping the next seven days will be possible to get through.

We have to go shopping, get our mail held (a trip to the post office), put the dogs in a kennel, start packing – which means getting my meds together, going over wedding clothes, setting up necessary things with friends and neighbors for things that have to be done while we are gone, etc. etc. stc,

I’m already tired just thinking about it.

 

Best part of the Olympics Opening Ceremony: James Bond Escorts The Queen…

It was a pre-recorded skit — directed, of course, by Danny Boyle (the celebrated filmmaker helming the entire ceremony) — Daniel  Craig in character as James Bond arrives Buckingham Palace, where he is taken to the Queen… the actual Queen Elizabeth… and her corgis.  Private rooms within the residence were shown, a testament to the nation’s commitment to making the evening a special one (Boyle pulled off aan awful lot of amazing things in the overall event.)

Take a look at the video and see how Bond gets the Queen to the Olympic stadium:

Great, no?

The sadness of a runaway dog… And his recovery.

Three evenings ago our smaller dog, Byron, pushed his way out of the front door as he regularly tries (and sometimes succeeds) to do. Usually he returns in about an hour wanting water and to get on a couch and go to sleep. This time he didn’t return.

Elly and I drove up and down the nearby streets for two days hoping we would see him or, a miserable thought, find him dead along the side of the street having been hit by a car,

We called the dog warden to see if anyone had turned him in, but there has been no lost dog answering to his description (nor has there been any dog reported hit by car in our area). The Warden keeps us on the list watching out for the next month, but Elly and I think we have seen the last of Byron. If someone has taken him in I hope he has a good new home.

We miss him.

UPDATE!

Wonder of Wonders… Byron is Back!

We got a call this morning from the dog warden’s office saying Byron was found last night by a family several miles away. We, of course, immediately ran over to get him… a tired and roughed up dog that had spent two days on the run… his face looked like he had been fighting and he smelled of cow poop.

The folks who found him had three dogs and Byron was apparently not being all that friendly with the male of the three. But these good folks fed him and gave him a place to sleep and called the dog warden with his description.

We got him home and hosed him down to get the dirt and stench off and wiped off his face and brought him into the house. He immediately curled up near Elly’s feet. It looks like he’s glad to be home.

Some humor this morning as I watch my older dog, Nestle…

Thanks to Lisa Casey at All Hat, No Cattle:

Now I know why my big puppy is laid out flat all day… hee hee hee.

A smile is nice before bedtime…

I shared this photo with my dogs who had no idea why it was funny:

 

But it gives me a small laugh to go to bed with.

The loudest thunder I’ve ever heard…

We’re in some kind of direct thunderstorm path out here in rural Harpers Ferry. The thunder from last night’s storm, which woke me up, was incredibly loud… as it had been the night before.

Both our dogs were upset and  I had to come out into the living room and pet them and calm them down. Byron, the smaller of the two, crawled behind my recliner and put his head under the seat… I presume so he couldn’t see the lightning flash in the windows. Nestle, my big old boy, moved back and forth from couch to couch unable to rest comfortably.

We have even more of these storms projected by the Weather Channel for this afternoon… 60% chance, which is usually pretty good.

I hope my dogs are up for it.

Moving into the Real Election…

Both parties seem to think the full-fledged Presidential campaigns are now in force… Romney looks like the Republican favorite (although so many Republicans have appeared really edgy about his capability) and he is moving on Obama. Obama now seems to be taking on Romney.

…and all the special interest groups are letting folks know how they think:

like women…

 

…or dog lovers (Romney will never get past carrying his dog atop his car on a long trip)…

 

… and Republicans who are more and more dissatisfied with their party and its choice…

It’s going to be a long, uneasy road.

What fun!

A Death in the Family

I started to work on the blog a couple of hours earlier than the first post went up… that’s because my daughter Cassandra called me from Connecticut to tell me that Penny, my daughter in nearby Williamsport, Maryland, was hysterical.

Her family’s dog, Moose, had been found dead in his little fenced yard this morning.

This had not been expected… Moose was a seemingly healthy, 6-year-old golden retriever that the whole family was fond of. I had just been playing with him on Easter Sunday, playing catch with a tennis ball. He was full of energy and loved playing.

Penny told me her two older sons (John – who had found Moose this morning – and Jason) went off to school crying this morning. Jacob, the youngest, made sure to tell me that “Moosie is dead” as soon as I got to Penny’s house.

Elly drove over from her shopping trip this morning and we all expressed our feelings for Moose, who would be sent to the Vet this afternoon for cremation.

It’s amazing how close you get to a dog. When I came home I spent some time petting Byron and Nestle – someday this will happen to them, too.

The Philosophy of Friendship…

Sometimes testing is very simple and the results are more than obvious.

I say this after just getting back from my weekly bout with ongoing depression with my therapist and being met at the door by Byron and Nestle, the two demanding dogs who are both thrilled to see me (and who want their lunch.)

I can’t imagine anything more pleasant than being greeted by two furry things who seem to have no other function in life than paying attention to me paying attention to them.

Moving to the new house has been somewhat of a confusing experience for the two of them, but they now seem to have centered on favorite spaces and times when things happen (lunch, walk, etc.) that pertain to them.

Living in the rural district…

Bird's nest over our front porch.

Sunny day, warm weather and I spent the last half hour sitting out on my porch with my next door neighbor, Francis, talking about lawn mowing, hay growing, birds nesting, different kinds of tree blossoms…etc,etc. This is nice.

If you are going to be retired, I can’t think of a better place. It’s a great place to write and develop theatre projects (John Case and I are working on an updated

Flowering Pear Tree

version of Odets’ “Waiting for Lefty” which will include contemporary references and some music… we’ll be performing it at The Folly sometime this summer.) It’s also wonderful for gardening and other outdoor activities.

There’s a whole different kind of concerns out here than there is in the closer suburbs… the weather relates more to how the land operates than to what you’ll wear and how you will move around. Rain out here is is a prized phenomenon (and we expect some this afternoon and tomorrow.)

And now that winter has been eliminated by an early spring, it looks like things will get even better.

First night in the new house…

No TVComcast hasn’t shown up yet.

Dogs are going crazy…they have a long way to go getting used to a new existence.

Unopened boxes, big black plastic bags stuffed with clothes, misplaced furniture everywhere. Organization starts tomorrow (we’re lucky we have a bed ready to sleep in.)

Hope everyone out there has a great night.

Just brought my first load over to the new house…

…not a lot. Just my tools and tool tables, some folding chairs, Elly’s bicycle and some glass lamp covers to install upstairs (Elly’s project). I’ve also got a bent mailbox outside that I have to fix… then I’m going home to pack more stuff and take care of the dogs.

The pups don’t realize it, but we are installing one of those electronic devices to keep them in the yard using a transmitter and zapping collars. It turned out to be easier and cheaper than putting in a new fence. We have 30 days to try it out, train the dogs to it and make sure it works.  Does anyone out there have experience with this that you would share?

Figured I’d take my photograph sitting in the new house while I post this. The house is pretty empty, but there is a nice light coming in from the windows and I don’t look that bad.

OK…time to go. Can’t waste more time.

Political Humor – The Mutt Romney Blues

This is dedicated to my pals Nestle and Byron (thanks for the great walk, guys.)

Have a nice Thursday evening.

I’ve been trying to convince my dogs that they should help around the house…

… so I showed them this video:

Nestle went back to sleep and Byron picked up a chew toy and ran upstairs.

So much for dog responsibility.

Getting closer to moving…

The House inspection was finished yesterday and there is a small list of things we have to fix up… not too bade at all. Now we just have to get the final bank and legal papers done and we can close and start the (miserable) process of moving. We think it will take us about a month to change houses, fix up the town house and put it on the market. Hopefully we’ll have it sold by the end of April or mid-May.

There are so many things to plan in moving here… getting fencing up for the dogs, figuring out what Elly needs to raise chickens (this is her first major farming item), having Dave come over to put in a door for the room we are converting into a first-floor bedroom, etc. etc.

So, plenty to look forward to… alot for an old guy like me.

I’ve only seen 5 of the Oscar nominees so far…

… but I knew two of them were clearly going to end up on the list when I saw them. Unfortunately they are competing against each other. I enjoyed them both with equal enthusiasm.

Hugo was a salute to the early film industry in France (the fantastic films of Georges Melies) with chase and mystery in the Paris railroad station. I brought two of my grandsons to see it and I don’t know who liked it more, them or me. Martin Scorsese made a real winner here… and it was in 3D!

The Artist, which Elly and I saw last week, was a tribute to silent movies… black and white, some sound added for effect… and funny. One of the few movies I’ve seen lately that I would have watched again on the same day.

Both of these are worth winning the Oscar. I hope one of them comes through.

In house buying, the hardest part is the waiting…

Elly and I have been hunting for a retirement property for almost a year. At least once before we thought we had it, then something fell through with the deal and we were out looking again.

Last week we put in 3 offers on the same property (we went down, they said no, we went up. they went down-but not enough, we went up to our limit, they accepted our letter of capacity (that shows we have credit and can afford the purchase.)

Now we are just waiting to hear that they have reviewed the letter and we have the property. This is a foreclosure and we are dealing with the company that owned the mortgage, but, unfortunately, they are in Texas… 2 hours behind us. We have been hoping to hear from them all day, but so far our real estate agent hasn’t called with the good news.

This is our chance to own a little “farmette” (as Elly calls it) where we (read “she”) can garden, raise chickens and a couple of goats and have plenty of room for our dogs. The House is not the passive one we wanted to build, but, if we get it, we are going to seal it up some more and look into solar power. Also, with the 4.5 acres, we may have room to subdivide, build our passive house on 2 acres of the lot and sell off the existing house and 2.5 acres that are left. There are all kinds of possibilities.

We just have to get it. Here at 65 I feel like a young man getting started again. Let’s see how long I hold out.

Now we just need the phone call.

Watching an old friend get older…

Nestle

Our 15-year-old labby, Nestle, is starting to show signs of “dog senility“… in reality, he is having major personality changes and acting like a very old and tired dog.

Where he used to, only recently, run downstairs in the morning to eat his breakfast, he now comes down slowly and ambles over to his bowl. He is very slow on his walks and certainly can’t keep up with Byron, our younger dog, where he used to have no problem.

And he now sleeps most of the day… and doesn’t come up to bed in our room at night without a lot of encouragement where he used to lead the way.

He now has signs of hip displasia and the stairs are getting harder for him (a tough thing in a 3 floor townhouse.)

There are days when he throws up what he eats, so we have limited him to no plate licking, which was his joy, and only 2 small biscuits as snacks.

It’s hard to watch these changes and we are worried that we won’t have our best friend dog much longer.