This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

This Challenge of 2019 will be the 10th! Since this is kind of a milestone year for A to Z my theme will be a retrospective of sorts, looking at my 10 years as a blogger as well as ruminations about my life as it is and as I hope it yet can be. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me for this part of my journey...

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Slipstream Songs (#BOTB)

          If we can achieve the momentum to attain our dreams by being pulled along in the slipstream of another's success, is that a bad thing?   None of us accomplishes anything without some help from others...

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge SURVIVOR badge

Another Wave of Motivation

         Another Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is now wrapped and reflected upon as all that remains is to be pulled into the slipstream of hundreds of motivated bloggers who plowed through the month with whatever they could muster.  I made it with them--as I should.  And as has been the case in every Challenge aftermath, I am riding a wave of motivation in reaching my own goals.

         As always the wave will dissipate in the coming days--I have felt it already in a slowing of the energy current around me, within me.  There is still the A to Z Road Trip (sign up opens May 20th) and the lure of the open road always catches my attention.  Of course, I have my real road trip to look forward to in summer.

         The open road is calling.  Riding in the slipstream provides an illusion of relaxation--no need to expend energy to keep moving forward.  The slipstream in the wake of a semi-truck can be dangerous.  The slipstream in which I wish to ride is a metaphorical one.  And I can't depend on riding the slipstream forever. 

          But I can have a "slipstream" Battle of the Bands post...

Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands is the blogging event started by Far Away Series and now hosted by StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens each month on the 15th and on some blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

Van Morrison  "Queen of the Slipstream"  (1987)

          I didn't start following Van Morrison's music until I heard his Poetic Champions Compose album in 1988.   His name first came to my attention back in 1965 when his group Them released the song "Gloria".   A few years later I was captivated by his solo release of "Brown-Eyed Girl" and though many of my friends who played in bands covered "Moon Dance" and "Tupelo Honey," I never got overly enthused about Morrison--until 1988.  One of my favorite songs from the PCC album is this one...

Richard Thompson  "I Ride in your Slipstream"  (1994)

        A contemporary of Van Morrison, Richard Thompson came onto the music scene in the respected folk-rock band Fairport Convention.  I'd long been interested in knowing more about Thompson's music since I had read so much about it over the years, yet I didn't hear any of his albums until I bought one of them in the 80's.  He's a great guitarist and he writes some excellent songs.  Here's his "slipstream" song...


Time to Vote!

     Two great artists with two great songs!  Decisions, decisions.  I like both of them, but I'm going to pick one as a favorite.  What about you?   Have some fun with us.  What's your favorite between these two choices?   You don't have to know about music to have an opinion since it all comes down to your own personal taste.

         Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose. Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around. And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:

 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands


'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

Angel's Bark  

Debbie Doglady's Den

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Cherdo on the Flipside

A I Love Music

Winner of this Battle Announced Wednesday May 22nd

        That post will be likely my next post unless I feel an overpowering urge to put something up before that time.  No need to announce the A to Z Road Trip on the 20th since I already did it in this post.  I'll just be riding in this slipstream for now.

            Did you ever feel caught up in the slipstream of another person or some movement or event?  How long does the motivation of your completing a major accomplishment take to wear off?   What one thing would you like to accomplish in your life that would give you an ultimate sense of reward?

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Résultats de Combat ( #BOTB Results )

I took two years of college French, which included reading books in that language and countless hours in the language lab reciting in French, and now I can say that my aunt's pen is on the table...

Aerial view of the Eiffel Tower and the rest of Paris
Paris France (Viking River Cruises)

Eric Satie: The Velvet Gentleman

      For the past several years it's been nice to see several A to Z participants blogging about France and French culture.  Getting educated is a nice thing about reading blogs.  The posts about France are interesting to me since I have never been there nor is it likely that I ever will be.  But I can dream can't I?

       These days, eating at a good French restaurant is a bit out of my league, but I still enjoy French Fries on a regular basis, order French onion soup if it's on the menu of a place where I'm eating, and occasionally purchase the French roast coffee if it's darkest boldest one on sale. 

       More than anything though I sometimes like to immerse myself in French classical music.  Eric Satie became a favorite composer of mine around 1970 or so after seeing a documentary about "The Velvet Gentleman" as Satie has been called.   In the documentary they played Satie's "Trois Gymnopédies"" which I recognized from the version that appeared on Blood,Sweat and Tears' second album.   

       From that point I started researching Satie and buying any music I could find by him.  Compared to other composers, Satie has a rather limited catalog of music--mostly solo piano music.  Still, as I became more familiar with his music, he became among my favorite "classical" composers though more legitimately he comes from the movements of Impressionism and Surrealism.  No surprise that I liked his music--it's often quirky and sometimes hauntingly beautiful.

        So that's one more point about my personal tastes and that's what Battle of the Bands is mostly about.   That's why my previous Battle was chosen.  Three versions of music by Eric Satie is like a buffet of desserts for me...

Battle of the Bands Results

        This Battle was another exciting horse race (if that's an okay analogy after the Kentucky Derby fiasco).  Apparently I offered a fair balance of something for everyone not unlike the mash-up Battle I offered in the middle of April.

        Any one of these Battle selections is a winner for me as it was a somewhat difficult choice for me to make.  But like those who voted, I settled for my absolute favorite--mine being the jazzy version by the Jacques Loussier Trio.  A few years ago this album stayed on replay in my office for many weeks.  It's great music to write by at night.

           As you will see in the results, this is almost an ideal Battle due to the closeness of the voting.  Doesn't get much better than this...

Final Vote Tally

Chicha Libre                                8

Quartet Cinderella                       6

Jacques Loussier Trio                 6

Next Battle on Wednesday May 15th

         I'm going to stay quiet here until that date, but I'll keep trying to visit around to keep in touch with what you all are up to.  And if you're being quiet like me, I hope we're all productive in other realms.  Stay happy!

         What is your favorite thing about France?   Have you ever visited France?   Are you familiar with the music of Eric Satie?

Monday, May 6, 2019

10th Annual A to Z Reflections ( #AtoZChallenge )

   As another Blogging from A to Z April Challenge has passed, it is time for another Reflections post.  After having done nine of these already I'm not sure that I have much to say that hasn't been said on this blog many times before.  I will say that it was a very good year from my perspective.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary badge

          In many ways I've become a lazy blogger.  More precisely I've lost a blogging fervor that drove me in my first years of blogging.  In a sense this is good in that I've created more balance in my life.  For a while, blogging became my obsession. Now I've found some other obsessions that put demands on my time. It's all a good thing so I'm fine with all of this.

           The bottom line though for the sake of this Reflections post is that I survived another Challenge and I think I did a credible job of doing so.  My thanks to everyone who commented and especially those who kept coming back again and again.

           And my utmost thanks to the incredible job done by our Team Captain J Lenni Dorner and all of the A to Z Team:
J Lenni Dorner (captain) @ Blog of Author J Lenni Dorner
Jayden R Vincente @ J R Vincente Erotica Writer
John Holton @ The Sound of One Hand Typing
Zalka Csenge Virág @ The Multicolored Diary
Jeremy Hawkins (graphics) @ Hollywood Nuts

Show the World You Survived!

Arlee Bird with the 2019 A to Z T-shirt--to get yours click link below

Grab your A to Z gear, and other cool goodies from our graphics guy, here: 

Watch the A to Z Blog for upcoming information about the next A to Z Road Trip!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Gnossienne No. 1 ( #BOTB ) ( #IWSG )

           Language has power. Words have meaning.  Then there are some words we just make up and they might mean anything.  Words like "Gnossienne"...

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

Join us on the first Wednesday of each month in Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group--a forum of writers who gather to talk about writing and the writer's life. For a complete list of participants visit Alex's Blog

The co-hosts for the May 1st posting of the IWSG are Lee Lowery, Juneta Key,Yvonne Ventresca, and T. Powell Coltrin! 

The Power of Language
          From the earliest times of my life that I began to grasp language, I understood that words have power.  My needs and wants were met through a persuasive use of words. Then, there were the stories I heard my mother and other adults tell.  They would draw me in to leave some kind of impression.  Once I learned to write there was no stopping me other than those expanses when I mostly stop myself from writing.  Persisting with writing has often been a struggle for me, but if I can get going with it then it feels better.

         Coming off another year of the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge I'm feeling a boost in my spirit in regard to writing as well as many other things.  This year I went into the month with not much advance preparation as far as posts written ahead of time, so I went through winging it.  There was a lot of stream of consciousness writing which is an exercise that I enjoy.

       Was what I wrote good?  I liked it because I wrote it.  

       I'll write more about my A to Z April in the Reflections post that I'll do next Monday.

        Now how about some relaxing music.  Hope you'll stay and listen...

Battle of the Bands

Battle of the Bands is the blogging event started by Far Away Series and now hosted by StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands.   This event happens each month on the 15th and on some blogs there is also a Battle on the 1st of the month.  My blog is one of those with a second Battle on the 1st of the month.   The premise is simple:  Listen to the songs presented below and then in the comments vote for your favorite and tell us why you liked it.  Then visit the links listed near the bottom of this post for more Battle action.

Gnossienne No. 1 by Eric Satie

          Since April was pretty frantic, I'm going to keep it slow and simple.  I'll just say that Satie is a favorite Impressionistic composer of mine and I love this song series.  Here is the first melody of the series as interpreted by artists from Brooklyn, Serbia, and France.  Still keeping in the international theme that I've been following in the past several posts.

Chicha Libre   "Gnossienne No. 1"  (2008)

Quartet Cinderella   "Gnossienne No 1"  (2014)

Jacques Loussier Trio   (Gnossienne No. 1)  (1998)

Time to Vote!

     Hope you can discern the differences between these--they sound very different to me  I like all of them, but I'm going to pick one as a favorite.  What about you?   Have some fun with us.  What's your favorite between these two choices?   You don't have to know about music to have an opinion since it all comes down to your own personal taste.

         Please vote on your favorite by letting us know your choice in the comment section and tell us why you prefer the version you chose. Then after you've finished here, please visit the other blogs listed below who may or may not be participating this time around. And if you've put up your own BOTB contest let us know that as well so we can vote on yours.

Here are some other places where you might find BOTB posts:

 StMcC Presents Battle of the Bands


'Curious as a Cathy'

Sound of One Hand Typing

Angel's Bark  

Debbie Doglady's Den

Jingle, Jangle, Jungle 

Cherdo on the Flipside

A I Love Music

Winner of this Battle Announced on Wednesday May 8

        I'll have an A to Z Reflections post next Monday--that's where a lot of the A to Z participants share their experiences for the 2019 event and I guess I'll do that as well.  Then on Wednesday I'll be back with the ceremonial unveiling of the winner of this current Battle. See you then--or then--or both. 

          Do you have a difficult time motivating yourself to write, then when you start, the words pour out?   Do you feel a swelling of motivation after completing something that took a lot of effort?  Or would you prefer to take a vacation after completing some project? 

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Zodiac Message ( #AtoZChallenge )

         I'm often a bit surprised about how much a daily horoscope message seems to apply directly to me.  Then I read the messages under the other signs and realize they all could apply to me...

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter Z

       I usually don't much stock into horoscopes, but I always read mine when I see one and it doesn't matter what date it came from.  In the matter of horoscopes one entry could work as well as another for any day.  And that's what I did during April.

       A few years ago I cancelled my L.A. Times subscription because the paper didn't seem to have a function as a news source that I needed to pay for.  Over the years I had accumulated a stack of unread entertainment sections that included comic pages that had crossword and sudoku puzzles. That's why I saved the papers--for the puzzle section since now and then I enjoy working on those puzzles.  Between the puzzles there is the Daily Horoscope which I would always read, mostly out of a habit developed since a long time ago.  The messages don't mean anything to me as in affecting my daily activities, but I read them nevertheless.

        At the beginning of April the idea hit me for that often difficult letter 'Z':  I decided that I would clip out my horoscope messages to be compiled at the end of the month in the style of a kidnapper's ransom message.  As I started saving the messages I realized that an interesting message that seemed very applicable to my A to Z theme for the month was beginning to form.   In addition to the eleven horoscope entries I collected during the month,  I used a fortune cookie message from an early April Panda Express meal for the title and voila!--a message from the Zodiac!  Tell me what you think:

Message from the Zodiac:

Nurture Your Passions

To anyone trying to break into a new business, the business world can be hard and uninviting.  Your cheerful demeanor helps to melt the first line of defense.
Don't waste your time with those who inspire doubt in you.  Put the people who always take your call or call you back immediately on the top of your list.
Meet with someone you trust to help keep you on track with a project.  Lay it out one the table, and determine together whether you're trying to take on too much or too little. 

There's a cause speaking to your heart.  You're still not sure what you can do that make the biggest difference.
You'll come up with ways to help the people who have been affected by unfortunate circumstances, even thought you had nothing to do with the creation of those circumstances.
You usually spend your time helping, learning about the world and having fun. So Today's focus on making a name for yourself may feel strange.
You'll speak to a group of people, and each individual will believe that you are connecting specifically with him or her.
You'll improve the quality of your life by dealing with a problem that's been plaguing you.  Keep trying new things.

You may be concerned about being criticized, but it doesn't keep you from putting your best work out there. Your courage keeps you moving forward
You feel more in control of your emotions than you did earlier in the week.  There will be a sense that a pressure is off for now.
Your spirit of exploration will be awakened and encouraged by the fire-sign influences you know--that's Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius.

          I'm not sure about the last entry.  I can think of a couple people in my life who were born under those signs, but maybe I need to start finding out some birthdays. Aside from that, this message does seem kind of relevant to what I've been thinking of late and what I've been alluding to with my April A to Z theme.  I know I've been doing a lot of hinting and random rambling, but I was saying something this April even if only to myself. 

          If any of you readers has any epiphany about what I have been talking about this April or anything else for that matter, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  I'm probably not going to rethink my position about the accuracy or usefulness of horoscopes, but this exercise in putting a series of messages together has produced an uncanny compilation that works very well for my circumstances.

         And if I do meet some "tall dark stranger" after being forewarned by a daily horoscope listing, I'm going to have to remember to ask that person what their zodiac sign is.

          Do you tend to read a horoscope on a regular basis?  Would you say that there is any validity to horoscopes other than generic encouragement/advice?    Have you come to any conclusion about my April series based on the above zodiac message which I have deemed relatively accurate?   How closely do you think I should heed my "Zodiac Message"?

My thanks to those who read this post and a really massive thank-you to those who followed this series in it's entirety or read many of the posts.   It's been another great A to Z!   I'll have more to say in my upcoming Reflections Post on May 6th or so. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Youth Is Wasted on the Young ( #AtoZChallenge )

     If it is true that youth is wasted on the young, then does it follow that experience is wasted on the old?...

Arlee Bird in Ecuador (2013)

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter Y

            My life has been filled with experiences both good and bad.  How much wiser these experiences have made me is debatable, but my inclination is that, though I do believe they have instilled some bit of wisdom within me, they have most certainly provided me with a great deal of education as well as interesting memories.

            When I was young I used to hear kids saying they wished they could be older.  Often at times I felt the same way.  Most of the time I was fine being my age.  Even now my mind doesn't seem that different:  There are still some of those same dreams I've had most of my life.  My mind seems neither young nor old now except for outlook. I am a realist who is subject to great flights of fantasy.

           That's where the body comes in. I can't say I was ever an overly physical person.  Never played sports or engaged in excessive activities.  Maybe something in me was telling me not to which later in life I could understand when the doctors told me I had a congenital heart defect which could be damaging if that organ were overtaxed.  I've consciously taken things easier since learning that bit of important knowledge--you know, just in case.

            Now as I approach my seventh decade I think of all of the things I still want to do in my life.  If only I could be 20 again--and, you know what they say:  Know everything I know now.  Would I do things differently than I would have back then?  No matter.  I might have more physical stamina.  I might look prettier.  People wouldn't perceive me as someone who was getting older.

           So am I too old for crazy dreams that some think should be the domain of only the young?  

           Just this morning my friend Sanford called.  He's 15 years younger than I, with a wife and seven kids ranging from toddlers to high school.  Without me even saying anything about my dreams, he told me what he'd been dreaming lately and it was uncanny how closely his dream resembled mine.  This gave me a certain amount of reassurance that maybe my dreams are not really so crazy.  

          Now that April is coming to an end, I will once again cut back my blogging.  I will break out my notebooks and start strategizing.   There will be places to go and people to see.  Phone calls.  Emails.  So much to do!

         Yowl!  There goes that durn foot again.  Let me set down and take a rest.  Maybe a nap would be nice.

          Did you take many naps when you were in your teen or young adult years?   Would you be able to keep up with your younger self at your current age?   What do you think is the best age of life?

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Xylophones Are Funny ( #AtoZChallenge )

Think about the last time you saw a cartoon with a funny dancing skeleton.  Can you remember what music was being played?  I can almost guarantee you that whatever the music, the main instrument playing it was a xylophone...

Image result for xylophone
A professional model xylophone

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter X

           As I had mentioned in my post for the letter 'F', my father could be quite funny.  I never got tired of watching his comedy juggling act even though I'd heard the jokes and seen the funny tricks more times than I can remember.  My dad had a boldness that I have often envied.  And he could make people laugh.

          When I went on went on with my own solo career in show business, with my father's blessings I incorporated some of his gags into my own comedy juggling act.  As part of my shtick I was introduced as a serious violinist.  Well, as most anyone who has heard me play, I am not strong enough of a violinist to pull off being serious for long.  And though not a strong juggler either, at least I somewhat successfully made a living playing that role.

           There have been a number of comic violinists through the years--Jack Benny and Henny Youngman immediately come to my mind.   Not that playing a violin is inherently funny, but it acts as a humorous prop as people anticipate that they will hear some serious playing that never quite seems to come about.  A person who is not overly funny--like me for instance--will often resort to some prop as a distraction.  The audience sees a guy in a tux come out to begin a serious concert piece that devolves into nonsense--that might be funny.

          While violins are not usually thought of in terms of comedy, the sound of the xylophone is genuinely funny.  Just think about cartoon music.  Do you eventually hear a xylophone somewhere in the music?   Of course you do!  Just like slide whistles, tubas, and trombones.  Instrument sounds can be very funny.  Xylophones are indeed funny!  Hitting tuned wooden bars with a couple of mallets is a funny concept and can be quite funny to watch when performed by the right player.

          Frank Zappa--one of my favorite modern composers--used xylophones often in his music.  There is an absurdity to much of Zappa's music that lends itself well to the comic tinkling of the xylophone.  I'd like to be able to play a xylophone, but a good one can be very expensive and take up a lot of room.  Though necessity might be the mother of invention, it is a fact that I do not need a xylophone.  My wife would be very annoyed if I were to bring a xylophone into our home.  And that wouldn't be funny. 

           But the sound of a xylophone playing can bring a smile to my face as well as an occasional guffaw.  In a way xylophones are kind of ridiculous, but at the same time I find the instrument to be rife with musical possibilities. 

           Not that I'll ever play one or even be around one for much length of time--I can't say for sure right now.  However, one thing of which I have no doubt:  Xylophones are funny!

           Can you name any serious music written for xylophone?   Where can you recall hearing a xylophone used for comic effect?  Who are some of your favorite musician comics?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Waiting and Wondering ( #AtoZChallenge )

I wonder what would happen if we didn't have to wait for anything anymore?   My guess is that we would no longer value that which we formerly waited on and with the loss of wondering, imagination would be diminished.    I can only wonder...

A figurine from my sister Joy's collection.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter W

           When you think about it, most of life is spent waiting.   We wait for night so we can go to bed or we might lie awake in the dark early morning waiting for the alarm to stir us out of bed.  We wait for meals when hunger distracts us or wait for someone to get out of the bathroom so we can be next.  If you think back on your life you can likely come up with countless instances from early childhood on when the wait became obsessive at times. 

           Some of you might remember the mounting anticipation as Christmas came closer.  As the signs declaring the approach of that holiday appeared, we kids waited with anticipation as we watched bauble laden lit trees go up in our living rooms and gaily wrapped mystery parcels stacked beneath those trees.  We wondered what we were going to get this Christmas and the waiting became almost too much to bear.

          Life is all about waiting.  Waiting to finish school, start a career, get married, have a family, buy a house, retire, and eventually die.  It's one wait after another on this journey of life.  Once we reach one milestone of life, we begin turning our thoughts to the next one.  Much like the kids in the back seat wondering, "Are we there yet?" we are on a long journey with many stops.  Getting to one destination is not the real end to the journey.  Rather than wondering if we have arrived to where we thought we were going, we might more fittingly ask, "Where do we go next?"

         This is me, right now at this time of my life.  It's been a long exciting journey with so many stops and sidetracks along the way.  And as far as I'm concerned there are so many more places to go, people to meet, and experiences to be had.  I'm waiting, but still wondering as I move toward my next destination.  I am also working on it.  Dreams start passively, but disappear like early morning fog if they are not acted upon.

         Pondering, planning, and pursuing are the actions of the dreamer who wants to make a reality out of a perceived will-o'-the-wisp.  No dream can become a reality without some wondering and waiting.  That is the essence of dreams.  We wonder about an idea.  We map out a journey to achieve that idea. We then work on that idea to make it as real as it can be.  Then, once everything is set into motion, the waiting begins.

        Imagine that your life is a brick house.  The bricks are what we think of when we consider the structure of that house.  The part that we usually don't think much about is the mortar holding all those bricks together.  The bricks are the parts of our lives that are most meaningful--this is what we see when we look at our lives.  But the mortar is the time spent waiting and linking everything in our lives together to make it one coherent structure.  The house that we live in; the house that we are.

          And now I'm going to add a new wing to my metaphorical life house.  Keeping in the spirit of the metaphor I am assembling my building tools and preparing my blueprints. I haven't finished building my life house yet.  I've got work to do...

        Have you ever built a house?    What do you think would happen if you started building a house with no idea how you wanted it to look or anything else about the structure?    Have you ever had a dream fulfilled without any waiting or wondering on your part? 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Variety Shows ( #AtoZChallenge )

If all the world's a stage then a variety show is like a microcosmic representation of the universe in all of its infinite variety...

Image result for ed sullivan show
A holy grail of television variety shows

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

       One of the biggest attractions of the vaudeville stage show was the variety of entertainers presented.  In the span of a couple hours on the same stage one could enjoy singers, dancers, and comedians along with jugglers, magicians, acrobats, or whatever talent had been employed for that show.  It was an extravaganza intended for the delight of audiences who didn't get to see such things on a daily basis.

        While radio might have helped vaudeville in several ways, the advent of television was the death knell for vaudeville.  If movies had already taken a toll on the vaudeville show, television essentially sealed the deal.  The live stage variety show became a rare event in theaters while these shows became the mainstay of television.  Families in the fifties and sixties regularly gathered around their television sets to watch variety shows throughout the week.  For over two decades The Ed Sullivan Show was the most popular of them all.

          For performing acts like my family--The Juggling Jacksons-- an appearance on The Ed Sullivan show was synonymous with "hitting the big time."    A big break came in the spring of 1970 when the show's talent coordinator contacted our agent to have us come to Philadelphia to audition for the show.  It was uncommon for my father to accept an audition offer, but it was worth making the exception for a chance at Ed Sullivan.  

           Since we were living in Tennessee at the time, my father decided to take some time off from work and make the trip a vacation.  We visited NYC and DC among other places.  The audition went very well and it looked like we would be set for the upcoming season.  Then the show was cancelled from the CBS line-up.  After over 20 years and our chance to make it on national TV the Ed Sullivan dream vanished.  

          There are still variety revues being presented throughout the United States and other parts of the world--there likely always will be as long as there are entertainers with skills to present to audiences. There is not the organization in routing or organized tours like there were in the heyday of vaudeville, but there is certainly the potential to do so.  After all, with the resources available today a very organized tour could be put together--and some have been.

          Today's audiences are more sophisticated than a hundred or even fifty years ago. It's like they've seen everything and have access to anything they'd want to see by looking no further than their computer screens and television sets.  Still, people enjoy being entertained.  Variety shows have evolved in some cases in order to accommodate modern minds.  Then there are the retro shows that seek to recapture the flavor of the old shows.  Something for everyone is like a mantra for modern times.
          Perhaps there is something worth considering in this thought.  I am considering something.

          When is the last time you saw a live variety show, whether professional or amateur?  Are there any television variety shows that you still watch and enjoy?    Which bands have you seen that have incorporated elements of novelty entertainment?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Universities ( #AtoZChallenge )

I've spent several years going to college, but the best times I've had at any university were when I was attending some show or performing in one...

Performing arts center George Mason University

Robert Howell Brooks Center for the Performing Arts  Clemson University

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter U

        My previous post looked at the old vaudeville theaters that are still scattered throughout the country.  They are wonderful venues much of the time but there are even more performance locales at colleges and universities throughout the United States.  In the past I have played some of these--most I cannot recall--but a few stand out.

         It's hard to forget the big auditorium at the University of Lafayette in Louisiana that sits next to a large swamp with alligators and other native flora and fauna.  We played that one nearly every year for ten years.  Then there was the odd lecture room/theater at the School of Mines and Engineering at Montana Tech in Butte.  The place was so absurdly small that we had to play three shows for near non-existent audiences despite the fact that enough tickets had been sold to fill up the place at least ten times.  Thankfully turn-out was low at that one so we didn't have to face an overflow attendance.

        The lecture halls were the worst for a touring show such as the one I managed.  They often had odd shaped stages with no real backstage area which presented a real challenge to us.  On the other hand, one of the best concerts I've seen was Murray McLauchlan in a lecture hall at some university in Toronto.  Despite feeling like we were attending a college class, the concert was excellent and due to the small house it felt very intimate.

         Most universities have many facilities suitable for live presentations so there is a wide range of choices depending on staging needs and how many are expected for the performance.  A touring group, artist, or lecturer can make a career at just playing colleges.  This is something for authors to keep in mind if they are interested in going on a lecture circuit.  The opportunities are limited only by ones imagination.

           A university tour might be something for me or even you to consider.  Seems like something with a lot of possibilities.

           Have you ever seen a performance at a college venue?   Do you have a venue of this nature in your town?   Have you ever considered establishing yourself as an "expert" in some field so that you could go to colleges and other places to give lectures (and maybe sell your books)?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Theaters ( #AtoZChallenge )

Those vaudeville days of riding the rail from town to town playing the  marvelous old theaters must have been a grand time!  Also rather grueling I'd guess, but grand nevertheless...

Image result for lincoln theater marion va history
Lincoln Theater Marion Virginia

Image result for tiffin oh theater
The Ritz  Tiffin Ohio

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter T

          During the seventies and eighties when I was on the road with stage show companies, we played hundreds of school auditoriums, legion halls, and other facilities that had been booked for us.  Some of these were very nice with good stages and decent lighting while others were a challenge to set up in and make the show look as high-quality as we could.  There are some stories to be told about some of these odder venues, but I'll save those for another time.

          Some of my favorite places that we played were the old theaters from the vaudeville era.  Those were the days when theaters were constructed with themes in mind.  They were luxurious and ornate with fancy chandeliers, wall murals, and velvet seats.  Going to a theater for a show or a film was not just an outing, but an event.  Fortunately for us today, a good many of these old theaters have been maintained and in many cases meticulously restored to their earlier glory.

          Though it was usually pretty awesome to behold the auditoriums and to appreciate the large stages that facilitated our work presenting our show, it was perhaps even more fascinating to experience the aura of the history in the backstage area and dressing rooms.  After setting the show up, if I had enough time, I would often explore those backstage areas and places like the basements if they had them.  One could imagine the players of past time preparing for their own shows and presenting them to the packed houses who would attend. 

          Thinking back on some of those theaters we played, there are many I recall while others I would have to think deeply to revive those memories.  We played small theaters as well as big theaters. There was the Tivoli Theater in the small town of Spencer Indiana and the Ritz in Tiffin Ohio.  Playing in my parents' home state of West Virginia, our shows performed at the Metropolitan in Morgantown and the Robinson Grand in Clarksburg.  Then there were the elegant houses such as the Missouri Theater in St Joseph and the Saenger in Hattiesburg Mississippi.

          Playing theaters such as these added a certain element of greater legitimacy to what we were doing as a touring theater company.  Somehow it was like being a part of history to be in such historical places.  And the good news is that most--maybe all--of those old theaters we played 30 to 40 years ago are still in operation.  Additionally, many shuttered former vaudeville houses are being restored to their former glory and reopened for touring companies and local productions.

         Someday I'd like to go back to some of these theaters to experience them again.  To wander the backstage areas, explore the dressing rooms, and feel those exquisitely adorned auditoriums all around me.  A tour sounds like fun.  To stand on the stage under the lights one more time would be exciting as it evoked old memories.

          Those wonderful old theaters--they are out there all across America.   Just where I would like to be.  One that I've got my dreams fixated on is the Lincoln Theater in Marion Virginia.  I've never played that theater or even been inside for that matter.  Marion is like my dream town--has been for many years.  Knowing that there is an elegant old restored theater there makes it all the more appealing.   Yes, there are enough old restored theaters across America to make for a fine tour. 

             That sounds like a pretty cool dream to me.

Are there any old vaudeville era theaters where you live--restored or not?   Have you ever performed or watched a performance in one of these types of theaters?   Does anyone have any information about Marion Virginia or the surrounding area that they'd like to share?