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Friday, March 17, 2017

an open letter to irish/newfoundland traditional songwriters


This morning as my clock radio clicked on, I was delighted to hear that Mr. Fergus O'Byrne was about to give a live performance over the airwaves in honour of St. Patrick's Day. Imagine my dismay, however, when his first song was one that has been the bane of my existence lo these many years. It got my Irish up, let me tell you. First of all, gentlemen, let me assure you that I am not an alcoholic beverage. Even if I were, it isn't me who has been pouring it down your gob all this time. If you can't pass a whiskey sour without a pang, that's on you. Secondly, I never made you any promises. I did not deceive you, jilt you, or make any marital decisions solely based upon the amount of gold in your pockets. And finally, Jack, I have heard the wife's haunting monologue, a companion piece to Mr. Jim Payne's Wave Over Wave, and if you think I'd marry a sailor for less than 20,000 GBP per annum, free healthcare, and the provision of affordable childcare assistance, you're an idiot.



P.S. I'm wearing the green today but my sneakers are orange in protest

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

beware the ides of march

Last month, my mother and I were looking at some old photos and we came across a couple of black and white shots that I didn't remember seeing before, or if I had seen them before I hadn't realized what I was looking at. Two English degrees have made me something of an expert on the significance of togas and raised daggers so I am now able to make a definite identification of the subject matter. 

Apparently, my father had been in a student production of Julius Caesar at Prince of Wales Collegiate and I had never known about it.

I can't get over these photographs. I love them so much I just have to share them with the world.
Ray Simmons (3rd from right) in a PWC production of Julius Caesar. Daily News photo, c. 1946
The first Shakespeare I ever read was Julius Caesar and I believe my love for this long-dead English guy began in Act 1, scene 1, when this Roman guy said, "You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!"

"That Shakespeare really knew how to throw shade," I thought to myself, or words to that effect. I was 13 or 14 at the time so I'm sure I knew all the current slang.

The photos had the copyright owner on the back - The Daily News - but since I have also learned a thing or two about copyright, I knew they had to be public domain since the production could be no later than 1946 which is when my dad graduated (I think, still waiting for confirmation of that but my math skills tell me that it's earlier than 1948 so I'm safe).

But there was no indication of what role my father was playing. Was he a block or a stone? A lowly messenger doomed to read his missives and exit, stage left?  I formed a great hope that he was Mark Antony because Antony has a really cool speech; my dad was really cool too but I could find no proof in the picture.

The crime scene photographs showed he was at the Senate during the assassination but offered no other clues about his part in the plot.

My first thought was to ask my Aunt Ruth since he was her big brother and she might remember. So I sent a message to my Cousin Debbie to ask her to ask her mother if this rang any bells.

Cousin Debbie, who is a professional actress, replied that she had no need to ask her mother because my father's theatrical exploits were legendary in her household already. My aunt so loved the production that she still owned the very sandals that my father wore.

And if that wasn't astounding enough, my aunt, a retired elementary school teacher in Milwaukee, had put on a Grade 6 production of the play every year in my dad's honour.
Ray Simmons crouching on the far left, waiting for his chance to strike. Daily News photo, c. 1946.
And he wasn't a block or a stone or an Antony, he played the lead role of Brutus!

He played the guy who struck the final blow upon his best friend. His victim's dying words are still quoted to this day even though they're in a dead language and many people don't know who they are quoting.

My dad was "Et tu, Bruté?".

Sadly I didn't think to check for the reviews in the local media until this morning. If I find such a thing I will share it here.

If the Doctor ever shows up and offers me a ride in his Tardis to anywhere in time or space, I now know where I would want to go.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

ain't nobody got no time for that

Once upon a time there were three pieces of furniture in the no plot family dining room who were very, very sad. They longed to be the kind of dining room that received visitors on occasion but they had fallen in with a bad crowd (the no plot family) and hadn't had any callers in quite some time.

Because the no plots were constantly being inundated with the detritus of life, e.g. bills, flyers, miscellaneous tools, report cards, mystery crap that no one could identify, school photos, a multitude of artworks created by a child prodigy whose genius defied her age, and many other implements of tree destruction, the no plot dining room often fell into long periods of disuse other than as a repository for the items listed above.

I forgot to take a before picture but I found a picture on the interweb which will give you an idea:

Last Stop: The Scrapyard

How this guy got into my house I'll never know.

One day, the no plots decided to host a family dinner but had just returned from a trip and had little time or energy for the agonizingly slow process of clearing off the dining room table and finding homes for all the displaced refugees residing there. (The sideboard was sometimes cleared for company but the side table was always shit out of luck.)

Then I had an idea. A wonderful, awful idea.

What if I just crammed all this crap into a cardboard box, hid the box, and figured out where the crap should go later?!?!

So that's what I did, with some exceptions (why would anyone leave Liquid Wrench on an eating surface?).

The boxes (plural) were spirited away and the dining room became a (mostly) guilt free zone; the dining table went back to serving dinner and the top of the sideboard went back to displaying whimsical tchotchkes as God intended. The side table was still shit out of luck but was eventually shown some love at a later date.

Now view the amazing transformation:

Here are the boxes which I can assure you are now almost absolutely sorted:

Not pictured is the dining room table which had a bit of a relapse.

Pictures Not Yet Available
By Mkey (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Okay, the dining room has reluctantly agreed to have its shame paraded on the web for your amusement:

This final picture added to emphasize that beauty can often be found amongst the clutter of life:

And the dining room furniture and the no plots lived happily ever after.

(Also not pictured is the computer room which is the new mail room and is a work in progress).