Friday, 15 August 2014

I Believe

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

As I was being wheeled into the operating theatre to be prepped and anaesthetized for major surgery, one of the two surgeons spoke to me briefly and remarked that I appeared to be “very stoic” about the whole situation.

I thought about his comment later. On one hand, I took it for a compliment; recognition that I was facing a difficult, life-threatening situation with fortitude and without fuss.

But on the other hand, how silly to preen over the remark; what choice did I have? I needed the operation; what good would whining do and why should his recognition that I wasn’t creating a lot of noise be seen as a virtue?

Old age is a lot like surgery: something to be gotten through; it beats the alternative.

I believe in one universal constant: change and in the world of creatures great and small, change is another word for life. We are born, we live and we die. That experience is shared by all and while it may be emotionally cathartic to “Cry out against the dying of the light,” all the sound and fury we can produce will do nothing to forestall the inevitable.

And I believe in making the best of every situation including the last quarter of life. Whatever the particulars of each individual’s situation, while life endures some details of our experience will prove to be of interest, a reason to get out of bed every morning, even in the face of pain and loss.

The social construct we have created and maintained in the West is a by-product of the Enlightenment paralleled by the Industrial Revolution. In a world where Man writ large has his hands on the levers of progress, nothing seems impossible.

We split the atom and created the Internet; surely, we can stay young and vital to the very end, if not finally find the secret to eternal life?

Carpe diem – seize the day – and enjoy it to the full.


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Thursday, 14 August 2014

The CIA (An Australian perspective)

By Ross Middleton

My stomach curdles at the thought
A legitimate body in the USA
Believes it justified
Believes it right
Though they admit it's regrettable
To torture those who oppose them
Torture them in terrible ways

Many people condone this behaviour
Believing it necessary
And for the good of the country
We know
We all know
Even them
It is not for the good of our souls

There is no need however
To bring religious considerations into the argument
Keeping it at the level of civil society
Our subjecting people to this treatment
Will only accelerate the disintegration of our values

However much entrepreneurs soldiers and their ilk
Perform immoral acts
The more likely there will be a reaction
The enemy will respond in like fashion
And the world goes into a downward spiral

When politicians and media people argue for such actions
They are degrading us

To live in fear is bad enough
To know that your own side is as bad as the other
Is a disaster


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Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Beware of Loose Gravel

By Maureen Browning

It was 2006 – Memorial Day weekend – and our planned three-day trip through stunningly majestic Oak Creek Canyon and surrounding area unfortunately came to an abrupt end as we were walking from a scenic overlook up to the parking lot.

My left foot slipped on the loose gravel along the edge of the narrow walkway. In a split second I had literally tipped over. My right hip struck squarely on the asphalt walkway with the thud of my full body weight, 125 pounds. No pain in the first second or two but suddenly the air still inside my lungs burst out into a piercing scream.

My immediate instinct was to roll over onto my left side, which I did. Another piercing scream. I knew then that bone had separated from bone. People gathered around as Gary knelt down trying to comfort me.

The asphalt was so hot that it was burning the outside of my left arm which I had bent and tucked under the side of my head. Suddenly I felt an overwhelmingly flush feeling move throughout my entire body – a heavy suffocating feeling – perhaps from an adrenaline rush and the hot asphalt under me.

Within minutes, a park ranger approached with a mobile phone and a blanket. He knelt down and gently wedged the small blanket between the asphalt and my arm. He had already radioed for an ambulance.

His main concern was keeping me absolutely still and as comfortable as possible until paramedics arrived. Endless minutes of waiting for help turned into more than an hour.

While still on the asphalt and having received valium and morphine through an IV line, I was transferred onto a stretcher, carried up an incline and then lifted into the ambulance. Minutes later I was on my way to the Flagstaff Medical Center – Gary followed close behind.

I awoke in the emergency room as staff members were using scissors to cut away my clothing. I lifted my head ever so slightly to look for Gary. He was right there near me. Then I heard someone announce that I was ready for x-rays.

With no memory of having x-rays, I was awake again – this time in an acute care room. Dr. Mickey entered and introduced himself as an orthopedic surgeon.

He apologized for his casual dress. He had been out golfing. It was probably his weekend off. I was about to find out that my situation was far more serious than I could ever have imagined.

He proceeded to explain that the x-rays showed that I had suffered a femoral neck fracture. The ball – also known as the femoral head – along with its neck, had totally separated from my thigh bone – also known as the femur.

The fracture had cut off the blood supply to the head and neck, thus that section of bone had bled out and was now dead. It would be removed and replaced with a bipolar prosthetic femoral head that swivels during movement where it is attached to the stem.

Bone would be removed from my femur into a shape to accommodate the stem which would then be cemented into place. I would be as good as new. Surgery was scheduled for early morning.

Morphine got me through the night. Gary tried to sleep next to my bed in a firm leather recliner with wooden arms. I slept. He didn't.

One of the nurses with me on the way to the operating room wanted me know that she had worked with Dr. Mickey for many years. He was renown and revered and according to her, he was the best orthopedic hip surgeon in the state. She assured me that I would be in good hands. I believed her.

I was told weeks after the surgery that up until the surgery, the jagged dead bone had been resting less than an inch from my femoral artery. With a wrong move, I could have bled to death in minutes.

Little did I know that at that time, 90 percent of hip fractures happened to people over age 60. I was 64. About 20 percent of people who suffer a hip fracture, die within a year. It is estimated that only one in four persons have a total recovery from a hip fracture.

Today, eight years later, I consider myself one of those very lucky persons. I will forever beware of loose gravel.


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Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Word Of Mouth

By Arlene Corwin

When Streisand first appeared in town,
Word went around, the local buzz
A telegraph: a chain reaction.
Word of mouth crossed New York City,
Gaining speed; the perfect path.
Singing her extraordinary
Repertoire,
A new voice incompar-able,
Impossible to liken
with the biggest star.
The street was lined,
All boroughs meeting in the Village.
North to South, the mouth
The best, most honest
Instrument
To share whatever art and drive
You have to give.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 11 August 2014

A Hungarian RapZody

By Brenda Adams-Henry who blogs at Jive Chalkin'

I have to put this story down before I forget it.

But how can I forget it?

The story goes like this:

P is my husband. He loves to travel. In fact, P has a basketball-size globe alongside his desk.

I bought him that globe.

P has an excellent sense of direction. In other words, he could find a gerbil hair in the Lincoln Tunnel.

He was born that way.

Sweetheart P is a walking GPS with a soft spot for cats.

I am P's lifelong partner, traveling sidekick, research and entertainment counselor.

We travel to learn about people, places and to experience the kind of situations not usually found in glossy travel magazines.

For example, we once took a trip to Hungary.

This was back in the days of the Iron Curtain and the Soviet control of Hungary.

That meant we had to pass through several check points in our rental car and report to a government-run tourist office in order to be assigned to our accommodations.

It seemed all secret agent back then.

Not one official cracked us a smile.

"There's a man who leads a life of danger." (Johnny Rivers)

We were directed to a massive apartment building in Pest, where we met our landlady, a serious looking woman who owned a gorgeous, long-haired, ginger cat.

The cat trailed us as our hostess showed us our room. It was spotless with oak parquetry floors and two single beds.

We had asked for one double bed but our landlady mimed that we were not to move a single piece of furniture, as the floors would be scratched.

We nodded.

Once we were settled in, our hostess led us to a side door which opened to a walkway that ran around the entire perimeter of the building overlooking a courtyard.

She explained in mime that her cat walked that walk every day, visiting people and getting little tidbits of food.

The cat never got lost.

The next day we strolled city streets observing people, restaurants and pastry shops displaying all sorts of delicate concoctions topped by inches of whipped cream.

As we turned a corner, we heard music coming from a restaurant.

It looked like a dinner club with entertainment. The perfect place to have a romantic evening and, bonus, it was walking distance from our accommodation.

"We should come here tomorrow night."

"Good idea."

The next evening, we put on some fancy clothes and walked back to the restaurant.

The minute we walked in, a waitress welcomed us, showed us to a table and handed us a menu.

It was all in Hungarian.

Looking around, we noticed pictures of cows, chickens, pigs and ducks on the walls.

"That's it, we'll just point at what we want."

"Okay."

P and I pointed to a cow.

Two cows coming up.

The waitress nodded and took off for the kitchen.

The restaurant began filling up. A senior man and his wife were ushered to a table straight across from us.

The man looked eerily like Kojak - that bald, sixties television cop.

Dressed in a suit, he was smiling and holding hands with his equally fine looking wife.

Kojak looked across the room at us and nodded his head appreciatively, as if he wanted to include us in his lovely evening.

It was if he was saying, "This is what date night looks like in Hungary."

We smiled and nodded back.

A narrow door opened. Three musicians strolled out, took a bow and began playing stringed instruments.

Our food arrived. It turned out to be some kind of delicious beef stew.

We chewed in silence and listened to what sounded like light folk music.

The narrow door opened again.

Out stepped a robust, raven-haired woman dressed in a floor length V-neck, gold threaded dress with a wide blue sash.

Her feet were adorned with sparkling, purple, high-heeled shoes.

Call her Dorka.

Dorka was made up like a Hollywood diva with black eyeliner and Manhattan stop-light red lips.

Dorka daintily placed herself in front of the musicians like she owned that spot. She waved her hands and began to sing like Pavarotti's twin sister.

I glanced over at Kojak. He was nodding and tapping his fingers beside his plate and his wife was swaying to the music.

All was tickety boo in that little restaurant in Hungary.

A single woman walked in and was ushered to a table in front of us.

Call her Zha Zha or ZZ.

When the waitress offered to take ZZ's order, ZZ waved her off with a rude gesture that said "leave me alone."

"I came here only for the music."

But the music didn't suit ZZ so she jumped up and put herself in front of Dorka.

ZZ began singing off key.

It sounded like someone stepped on a bag of cats.

ZZ began jerking her hands this way and that, ordering the musicians to play louder, faster.

The lead musician pointed his bow to the ceiling, as if to say, "We don't want to disturb the occupants upstairs."

But ZZ didn't give a hoot about upstairs people. She wanted her songs, her way.

ZZ ran back to her purse, pulled out a piece of paper, wrote something down, pushed past Dorka and shoved it at the lead musician.

He shook his head no. ZZ tried to grab the man but he danced away.

ZZ began thumping around, facing off with Dorka.

Dorka had enough. She walked off the stage and out the narrow door.

We shot another glance at Kojak.

We didn't need a weatherman to figure out his mood.

Kojak was furious and he obviously didn't give the square root of bear poop who knew it.

Bam!

The restaurant door opened.

A man walked in.

Call him Akos.

Akos was a stocky dude with dark hair combed wet to one side as if he were heading out for a blind date.

ZZ continued her spectacle in front of the stage.

Akos sized up the situation at a glance.

He walked straight up to ZZ and tried to talk her into going back to her table.

But ZZ pushed him away.

Akos went to the back of the restaurant, returned with ZZ's coat and attempted to put it over her shoulders.

That wasn't going to happen without a fight.

Everyone and everything went silent except for the sound of ZZ doing that foot dragging thing - you know, the one your cat does when you try to gently remove him or her from the page you were just reading.

Akos managed to drag ZZ out the door of the restaurant.

P and I looked at Kojak.

He looked back, his expression, "See what we have to put up with in Hungary?"

The musicians began to play, sans Dorka.

Either she was sulking in a side room or she called a taxi and went home.

Forks and knives hit plates, people chewed and listened.

Once again Kojak beamed at his wife.

Boom!

The restaurant door flew open.

We dropped our utensils.

Akos staggered through the door, right hand clutching his right eye like he just got sucker punched by Melissa McCarthy in the movie Heat.

He let out a raptor screech I'm sure woke my mother from a deep sleep in Montreal and proceeded to rant and stumble around the restaurant hand over eye, pleading for sympathy, as if to say:

"I just got rid of that crazy woman and look what she did to me."

Nobody busted a move or even handed Akos a clean serviette.

The narrow stage door opened and holy heck, out stepped Dorka.

Ignoring the scene around her, she began to sing what sounded like a Hungarian love song.

Akos was still looking for something.

Anything.

He wanted attention.

Didn't anyone care that he was in pain?

That he just got clobbered by a woman?

Didn't we realize that if he hadn't dragged ZZ out she might have burned the place down?

Come on, people of Hungary.

Nothing.

Zero sympathy.

A faint siren meowed in the distance.

Akos froze mid-whine and shot out of the restaurant like a gazelle with gas.

P and I looked at each other.

We looked at Kojak.

Kojak nodded slowly, a knowing nod, like the kind of nod John Wayne displayed after settling a barroom brawl.

Kojak's nod said, "See what happens when Hungarians stick their noses into someone's business."

"See?"

The siren got louder.

That was our cue to leave.

We paid our bill and hot footed it out the door.

Not a word was said for at least two blocks.

And then we began acting out the scene, backward and forward, playing all the characters, clutching our stomachs, screaming with laughter.

We had to sit down on the curb.

In Hungary.

Back at our rental, our landlady attempted to ask us in mime if we enjoyed our evening.

We smiled and petted her cat.

How could we describe our evening?

What name would we give this adventure?

I know.

Call it A Hungarian RapZody.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Friday, 08 August 2014

Going Out a Winner

By Clifford Rothband

My dad, the son of immigrants, grew up in the 1920s and 30s next to a milk cow and horse barn off Riverdale Avenue in Brooklyn, New York, where the swayback horses pulled fruit wagons, milk delivery, peddlers, junk wagons or, sometimes, a fancy buggy.

Being dark skinned with straight, long, black hair, dad was often called a Malaquin Canarsie American Indian. He died without ever knowing his heritage.

We had a junk yard/body shop. Dad was lucky enough to sell that business and we moved to Florida in the late 1960s. He had to re-invent a hard life rather than die of boredom, and to get your name into a record book was the dream of a street kid graduated from a reform school, Hawthorne Hebrew Asylum.

Not everyone has an opportunity to restart a life or to race a horse or be a winner. Recently, the wife and I visited Lexington, Kentucky Horse track and we took a guided tour.

The guide answered questions,"How do you get into horse racing? How do you learn to train a race horse?"

After the questions were asked, I opened my mouth that you buy a horse, licenses, pay a trainer, vet bills, horseshoes, blacksmith, horse dentist, feed, barn fees, tack and a driver or jockey fees. Give your every energy to the sport.

It's after all the mistakes before you catch on or end the game. Only we did it on a tight budget.

We usually raced at the winter meet at Pompano Park Harness Track which was started by a matriarch of the Dodge Brothers Motor Car Company. We only bought hurt or run-down horses on the cheap [junk horses]and tried toqualify them for the races.

Val Cross was a 10-year-old harness trotter, a damaged horse put out to breed at age six, but she was barren. A true loser, this long-legged, big, beautiful chestnut mare.

She was a seasoned race horse that loved the attention: alfalfa pads, a busy barn,sugar cubes, apples, sweet feed, carrots, exercise and being well fed along with a race every week, -then a five-day-a-week training schedule with a wash, a brushing and massage.

When she raced, she pulled a sulky, a light, two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle for one person used in harness racing with bicycle tires. A heavier jog cart is used for training.

Standard bred racing allows a free-legged gait, one mile with diagonal legs trotting. Pacers use same-sidelegs in unison with a set of hobbles usually attached to same-side legs.

Flats racing involves thoroughbred horses in a all-out gallup on a mile dirt track, sometimes grass and varying mile-plus distances. Horse racing is a business and horses should not be considered pets we were told.

Standard breds were usually raced weekly unless you have an especially fast horse. Sprains, cuts and sore hoofs and torn muscles are the norm. Breeding is considered a contributing factor in a horses ability.

A perfect horse is said to be a healthy three- move horse: a good start, get out of the pack and a extra burst of energy and speed for a win. Whips are used properly as a riding aid, not to inflict pain or abuse but a startling noise crack.

Threats, noises, screams and shouts are used as motivation tools. The noise from the grandstand and hoof beats only increase the high sensory awareness. We asked our horses for their all.

My dad knew all this and we usually bet on the long shots. No matter what some may say, you can not fix a horse race.

Val Cross was our one-in-a-million horse. We wanted to keep her out of "claimer races" where you could lose your horse to anyone putting the ante up to buy the horse after its race. Val Cross was eligible for certain “conditioned” races where earnings, speed or other variables are preset.

All horses share a common annual birthday and a standard bred can race until age 15. Val was a consistent, in-the-money horse meaning she always finished between first and fifth place divvying up the winning purse.

Her last start was at Seminole Downs in Casselberry, Florida. My brother Ron was the driver. This was Val's last legal race night and she went off at incredible 92-1 odds.

I knew she was an intelligent, seasoned race horse and I believe in my own heart that she understood this was her last race. Entered as a fill-in in a horse field of younger trotters, she was considered a joke. I believe that she heard the conversations about her retirement and I know she understood.

Val Cross came out of the moving gate into the middle of the pack. She ran her own race, made her move before the finish line to set her own fastest, personal lifetime record.

She won her last start! If we all could go out winners.

That was our 10-year-parting from the grueling schedule and my Dad Sam got his now honorable name into the sport of kings record book. Not a bad ending for a aged juvenile delinquent.

If my father only knew that I remembered and wrote about this race he would be proud of me.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 07 August 2014

The Suet Circus

By Vicki E. Jones

We have a suet circus
I see it every day
Just outside the breakfast room window
And I see it go this way:

A large male red-bellied woodpecker
On the wire cage with the suet cake
Hammers away at the tasty thing
As though it were fine steak

Little bits of peanuts
Or pecans grace the beef fat
And the birds can’t get enough of it
If you can imagine that

He flies away and is replaced
By a short-billed female Downy
Then a male Hairy woodpecker
Eats upside down and looks quite clown-y

A sparrow swoops on in
And a female Hairy chases him away
Then she and her mate are on opposite sides
And they look pretty funny that way

A Blue Jay sits on a wire nearby
And squawks for them to leave
And I am feeling highly entertained
By this circus below our eaves

And so the circus goes on and on
Very colorful and bright
As the birds compete for suet
And try to avoid a fight

My husband finally complains
About what the suet cakes cost
Just to keep the circus going
‘Till I point out that just

A few tickets to Ringling Brothers
Would cost a whole lot more
And we don’t pay gas or parking
Or even have to step out the door

We have a suet circus
Yes, one has come our way
And I couldn’t be a bit more pleased
To watch it every day!


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Wednesday, 06 August 2014

The Crypt

By Janet Thompson

Words died in my mouth when on entering, we were taken aback finding shelves and counters filled with electric dildos in various flesh tones and vivid colors. Gay magazines, sexually shocking and indecent pictures challenged us.

Metal-studded leather devices resembling medieval torture gear hung from the ceiling. Artfully and temptingly displayed were handcuffs, lubricants, exotic vibrators, penis extenders and edible candy briefs! All of it impelled, “Try ME.”

I had broken up with my longtime gentleman friend in 1983, was a mess and at loose ends big time. After my dad died in the fall of 1984, I was still a wreck and a little desperate to the point of even attending a singles dance.

After my marriage fiasco back in 1965, singles groups like Parents Without Partners, in vogue then, had never appealed to me. I wasn't a typical divorced homemaker type and I didn't fit in at them. My life story was that of a businesswoman.

Pierre was one of my dance partners. The French name belonged to a delightful Hungarian man who had been in this country only a few years. He was somewhat stocky, clean shaven and handsome with olive colored skin and strong features set off by wonderful bushy eyebrows.

A competent dancer, he had a beautiful accent (I've always loved ethnic accents). Mostly he was kind and sympathetic and lent strength as I dealt with Daddy’s passing.

We saw each other off and on for a couple months, he treating me to his favorite Hungarian restaurant on South Broadway or me fixing meals at my house. We saw a few movies and took walks around the neighborhood.

I was still recovering from some major surgery with an accompanying wound infection. One day as we were heading home from downtown, it started drizzling and I became weary and shaky since we had taken a longer walk than usual.

A few blocks from my house, and hoping I could sit for a minute, we sought shelter in a small shop on Broadway interestingly named The Crypt. What a shocker!

Besides all the paraphernalia described earlier, a corner area featured another section showing off bejeweled bustiers, G-strings, huge elaborate hats, tiaras, long gloves, feather boas and swanky high heels in long and wide sizes, all alluringly arranged.

I had never been in such a store and except for the drag queen accouterments, I had never seen such wild stuff. Everything was displayed most attractively and appealingly however, and it begged, “Buy ME.”

I was mortified and even Pierre was shocked. I shouldn’t have been surprised however, since this store was so handy to my neighborhood which had become home to so many gays back then.

When the cute boy-toy salesclerk (fetching in his hot-pants, high-heeled boots and dainty, pink, sleeveless shirt) saw our astonishment and bug-eyed gasps, flustered, he said, “No, I'm sorry; I don't have any place where you can sit down.” And he ushered us out!

I didn't see too much of Pierre after that encounter in The Crypt.

Curious, in 2011, I went on the Net and the store was still in business at the same location with a picture showing the intriguing exterior decor that had invited us in. The Crypt is still billed as Denver’s Best Gay Sex Store.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Tuesday, 05 August 2014

First Impressions

By Elizabeth Galles

I entered first grade in the Fall of 1960 - the first impression of school, authority and the outside world. Each day had a new adventure awaiting but nothing could have prepared me for a very different kind of first grade training.

Russia had the bomb. In schools across America, children were being trained to hide under their desks when the shrill warning alarm sounded. Even as a child, I was struck by the strange combination of reading about Dick and Jane and hiding under my desk.

I can still smell the newly manufactured wood that made the underside of my desk. I remember wondering if we should save part of our lunch each day and store it under our desks too if we were to be in this hiding place for any length of time.

Never was told to do that - just to squeeze ourselves into a very small space and wait. Wait for what? We were never quite sure.

What was this bomb? Would it make a loud noise? Would we hear it coming? Did our teacher really think that the half inch of plywood covering our heads would protect us from the ceiling crashing down? And the radiation, the fall-out; of course, no one ever talked about that.

So to occupy our time and mostly to calm our thoughts, we as children, found other things to do under our desks. The boy across the aisle pretended to be driving a truck. The girl behind me read pretend stories to pretend friends. Another girl would remind everyone to be very quiet as if the bomb droppers would miss this target if they could not hear us.

I thought that the whole idea of hiding under our desks from the Russians seemed absurd and a strange way of utilizing a school desk. I was glad when that lesson was over and we could move on to more fun activities.

1960 bomb threats - first impressions in lessons of fear. Learning that the big country on the pull down wall map was a piece of our planet we could not trust. Never mind ever wanting to visit the seals that inhabited the northern hemisphere because we may have to pass by a country that was now labeled, in our impressionable minds, as the “enemy.”

My lesson came on the wings of a different dove - for me, the lesson was a clear one: before I labeled a person and especially an entire country an enemy, I needed more information.

As years went by, this first impression evolved into a personal code of ethics. Serving me well by reminding me that of all passions, fear weakens judgment most.


[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Monday, 04 August 2014

The Amazing X Factor

By Joyce Benedict

Where DO the years go? I recently heard a TV anchor mention an incident that occurred eight years ago.

“What!” I sat straight up in my chair. If you had you asked me when it did happen I would have said to you, “I believe it was about four or five years ago.” Never has the expression “how time flies” meant more than now.

Recently, I was watching on TV a brief clip of the New York Metropolitan Opera House’s recent, innovative performance of Rigoletto, a stunning performance with its background set in the 1960s - not 18th century.

Viewing this triggered instantly an event long buried but one I began to recall most vividly.

I sang in our high school chorus. Our director had announced that at the Metropolitan Opera House, seats had been reserved for our entire group to see Puccini’s great opera, La Boheme. Even in high school I was familiar with some of the beautiful arias. I was thrilled.

We had to get written permission to go by bus to that event. We would miss school for almost an entire day. Though I loved my high school years, a break from school was just great fun.

A large, old, yellow school bus was filled that morning and off we went. I recall it was a three-hour, tedious, bumpy ride to Manhattan. To wile away the trip, a hat was passed with white slips of folded paper. We were told that of the 50 students on the bus, one would draw an X. This X holder would be escorted to the wings of the stage and have the experience of watching the last act of La Boheme being performed.

I won the draw! Was I ever excited. Before the last act our teacher pointed me out to an usher with a low-lit flashlight. I was beckoned to follow him.

We entered the back stage of the great, famous opera house. I was totally surprised at the enormous size behind the scenes. Props, lighting paraphernalia everywhere. I felt like I was in a huge auditorium or football field. It was immense. It was the old opera house, not the new, modern building we are now familiar with.

I was led to a spot in the wings. I was standing right by the lead singers. They towered above me, the men with great barrel chests. One singer smiled at me.

Even the woman who portrayed Mimi, the lead female singer, towered above me. There I was standing next to the great singers of my time whose names escape me. I felt like a little puppy dog at the feet of these greats.

As the curtain rose or parted, I could plainly view the magnificent tiers of the building filled to amazing heights with splendidly dressed people. I could see the privileged ones who filled the boxes that line the sides of the great hall.

I was in awe, mesmerized by being in that particular spot at that time in my life. The final act of the great opera began. Dazzled, hardly breathing the singing began. They were like giants from another time. The costumes, make-up, the intensity and great choreographed movements were simply stunning.

At the very end of this great opera, Mimi lies dying of tuberculosis on a couch which was all but ten feet from me where I stood in the wings. To sing while lying down as she was, to see her lover’s facial expressions as he was bemoaning her impending death, was beyond description.

I observed closely her losing hold of her muff that kept her hands warm. I watched with bated breath as Mimi’s life ebbed away. As the muff eventually falls to the floor and her arms drop along with it was realism at its finest.

A moment of silence. Then, that great lament of her lover spews forth who cries out those lines so famous, “MimI, Mimi, Mimi” sent ripples through my whole body. The sheer power, the emotion so real as I watched from where I was.

The long, tedious, bumpy ride home was never felt. I was bathed in the magic of what I had experienced. Who else could claim such an experience as being so close a participant to that memorable, tragic, poignant, scene from one of the world’s most beloved operas of all time?


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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Comments (4) | Permalink | Email this post