The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (5) ~ Early Evening Thoughts

–continuing from night before last and posts prior

So,leaving the awe-struck Julius Caesar cast behind as they work on the Parker Hall stage, let us pick-up a bit on the star-crossed cast of Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The problem with Shakespeare at any time and any of this plays is quite simple. In the comedies (and portions of the tragedies) he is quite a unacceptable..OK…earthy writer. One of the joys of teaching Shakespeare in High School is that the students absolutely “get it.” Many parents, School Boards and even some English teachers fall into the trap of placing an aura around The Bard.

Yes, he did manage to write much that was tremendously powerful and amazing lyrical poetry within the structure of his plays and theater, as well as his sharp, unerring and amazing understanding of power, people and life … however … and it’s a big however … the “groundlings” and even those in the boxes had so much competing for their attention outside of the theater that he had to make sure they were completely entertained in a manner they were accustomed … raunchy, ribald humor at that!!

Once a student discovers that aspect of the plays ~ the hunt is on! And I absolutely pity any teacher who has no idea just how raunchy and ribald Shakespeare can get trying to handle a class full of “hormones in tennis shoes” reading the comedies…or discovering the meaning of “the two backed beast” in Othello.

On of the advantages I had in my High School Shakespeare Tragedy classes was that I knew what was ahead. And I basically headed it off at the pass. My classes were so busy with themes, character work and dramatic archs – or lack thereof – that while I was unafraid to acknowledge their “amazing” dirty joke discoveries, I’d pull the discussion back to the matters at hand.

To me, his ability to write low and high-brow in the same play was nothing more than another example of his intellect and writer’s gift. OK, it also was a tribute to the ability of the acting company at the time to adapt some of what he wrote – but as far as I am concerned, most of the work was his. And also, his ability to write wonderful humor that people in his day would understand, but not let it get in the way of what else he had to say, is nothing short of awe inspiring to me. And remember, he did have to be careful of what he said, lest he get into political trouble ~ which did occur upon occasion.

So now, as I faced adapting one of his wildest romps to an age appropriate level, the teacher and I did decide to play on the “aura” that surrounds his plays. I made the more obvious deletions and took some of the “in” out of the wilder “innuendos.” And as far as the more subtle things? We took the course of ignorance just might be bliss, and quite forgivable.

I’d mentioned that one of the biggest problems was Bottom’s line about “a man would be an ass.” The was just one word that, for whatever reasons, had to either go or be changed. We tried all sorts of things. We tried leaving it out ~ big hole to anyone who knows the play. We tried using the word donkey ~ that just didn’t even elicit a giggle from anyone.

As I mentioned before, when I was left in the hospital with my arm hanging straight up, the answer came to me and quite frankly it had been staring me from the page the entire time. When I told the teacher my solution, we both laughed. When I shared the solution with the person playing Bottom, I was rewarded the one of the deepest guffaws I’ve been blessed with in all the plays I’ve directed.

The passage in question ~


[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! God’s my life, stolen
hence, and left me asleep! I have had a most rare
vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was–there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,–and
methought I had,–but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

The way we adapted it ~
BOTTOM[Awaking] When my cue comes, call me, and I will
answer: my next is, ‘Most fair Pyramus.’ Heigh-ho!
Peter Quince! Flute, the bellows-mender! Snout,
the tinker! Starveling! The have gone away and left me asleep!

I have had a most rare vision.

I have had a dream, past the ability of man to
say what dream it was: I thought I was– I thought I was,–and
I thought I had–but man is but a complete fool, if
he will say what I thought I had…If any man tries to tell this dream, he is but an (he reaches up and feels for his missing ears – then shrugs at the audience.)
The eye of man has not heard, the ear of man has not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream

I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom; and I will sing it in the
latter end of a play, before the duke:
peradventure, to make it the more gracious, I shall
sing it at her death.

There were other people who were involved in getting this play ready for performance.
The 4th grade class decided (on their own I might add) to take on the project of doing the scenery for Midsummer Night’s Dream. This consisted of burlap type fabric tubes that could be used for columns at the various interior places in the play … they would be able to be raised and lowered … and a delightful enormous burlap tree (cut-out ~ based on the school symbol “The Lyre Tree) that was painted and decorated, which would suffice for all the forest scenes. This could also be raised and lowered. The raising and lowering was not as smooth as a Broadway or East End production, but they were incredibly pleased anyway.

–more Sunday.

I will be attending Gamer Musicon 90 at the Symphony tomorrow which consists of two different concerts using music from on-line and Xbox/Playstation games and various vendor demonstrations of new games. There are also two panel discussions with people from Blizzard and such. It will be fun and quite long. The first concert starts at 3:00pm and the second at 7:30pm ~ this concert will end at 10:00pm. I will end most likely shortly after that!!

The Course Of – Whatever – Never Did Run Smooth (4) ~ Late Evening Thoughts

–continuing from night before last and posts prior

As I said, there seemed to be a battalion that came and got me out of the bushes and up the side of the path (a nice, basically straight down drop) and without too much yelling in pain on my part, took me and my broken arm to the hospital. There was the usual checking-in process, and then the Doctor arrived. At that point, he discovered that I had eaten dinner, so ~ knocking me out with anesthetic and setting the arm was not going to be possible until the morning. My arm was placed in a cloth type tube and I was attached to an IV stand … the arm is now straight up (well, as straight as a completely broken arm can be) and I’ve been left in the bed. He ordered some pills to take away the pain – and allow me to get some rest.

The pills didn’t work. Well, they did numb the pain, but wired me. There was no sleep that night. In a sense, this was a good thing because it gave me a lot of time to think … about the plays, about what caused the break and to finally come up with two wonderful solutions. The first solution was the problem between the teacher and I and the second – even more important – solution was how to handle Bottom’s infamous line about a “man may still be an ass.” The first solution came from my addled, wired brain ~ the second from my arm hanging straight up in the air.

After what seemed as if The Longest Day have become The Longest Night, the nurses came and got me and off I went to surgery. The arm was set, put in what seemed like an ENORMOUS cast – and I woke up absolutely starving!! I was finally released and sent off to head back to my apartment for the rest of the day. Well, I should have gone directly back to my apartment for the rest of the day ~ but I stopped at the Quad at school to see the two teachers and let the students know that I was doing fine. A bit woozy, but fine.

The 6th grade teacher and I sat down and done what I should have done in the first place – we talked. My solution was actually quite simple (aren’t most of them?) I would have her sit in at all the rehearsals and she would not put in/take out anything unless I was either there or we talked about it. Big smiles all around. Then I dropped my solution for Bottom’s line ~ and we both laughed out loud over it.

The next day (as I remember) there was a rehearsal for Julius Caesar, and the actors were quite anxious to show me what they had accomplished and ready to begin the battle scene. Our elementary rehearsal space was simply not going to be good enough, and Parker Hall was available ~ so ~ up we went to the High School and to rehearse on the “big” stage.

Usually, the only time the elementary students performed on the stage was for music or dance recitals and once a year for the elementary talent show. So, getting “on the stage” was a big deal, and regarded with appropriate awe.

–more tomorrow

Golden Eggs (2) ~ Early Morning Thoughts`

Last night I recounted a fable about the golden goose that laid golden eggs.

[While many people see the story as a warning against greed or even the more you produce, the more you do, the more effective you will be.] . . . I suggest that within this fable is a natural law, a principle – the basic definition of effectiveness True effectiveness is a function of two things: what is produced (the golden eggs) and the producing asset or capacity to produce (the goose).

If you adopt a pattern of life that focuses on golden eggs and neglects the goose, you will soon be without the asset that produces golden eggs. On the other hand, if you only take care of the goose with no aim toward the golden eggs, you soon won’t have the wherewithal to feed yourself or the goose.1

At this point, I basically had an epiphany about some of what I had been doing in the past and even recently. (Epiphany can be a “nice” word for getting smacked in the back of the head with a 2×4)

I learned there are three kinds of assets – physical, financial and human.
Three years ago, I purchased a good computer. Later I purchased a very good monitor…(not to play World of Warcraft, of course) And over time, I’ve given some thought to their maintenance and upkeep – but not as much as I should have. Now, the computer is in need of some attention, by someone that is a little more knowledgeable than I am about serious maintenance. I was actually looking at the short-term and had started to run this asset down. Of course, I can say the same about my body – and trust me there is a LOT of work to be done there. (major overhaul for 600, Alex)

The next asset is financial. And I’ve had to make some changes there as well. Not that I, at this point, have to worry – but if I were to continue living my life as if tomorrow didn’t matter, I would soon be having to worry about tomorrow. Of course, our ability to earn and manage money is a financial asset as well. But, there will come a time when perhaps I won’t be able to earn money and I don’t want to do things that will get in the way of the now.

A year and a half ago, I took a job as a by-the-week apartment manager 1) because it was supposedly right up my alley and 2) it was going to pay me a salary that was much higher than the level of the job seemed to be. It was what seemed to be a good opportunity. Lots of promises were made and I signed on at the interview. The fact also that I had been without work for sometime might have played a part in it as well.

Now that I look back – especially with the golden goose in mind – I realize that this fable DOES contain principles. The properties were owned by a slumlord less than honorable group of people. There were serious maintenance issues, etc. I thought at the time, if I can only get the rents collected, keep the tenants happy keep moving people into empty apartments and get whatever maintenance needs accomplished I can within the system that I would be fine.

Right at the start what was being produced (the rents) was getting much more attention than the capacity to produce (the apartments). And as I look back over some of my posts about the place, I knew what was going to happen much earlier then I admitted it to myself. And now, I’m doing in six days what “normal” apartment managers do in four weeks. And each week I got the privilege of starting all over again.

So now, I’m fighting my ability to collect rents/fill apartments/evict those who don’t pay/keep the central family office happy (what is being produced) by my constant frustration over what isn’t happening and my feelings of sheer terror at losing the job and not having an income (producing capacity) as well as being determined to please the “boss.”.

Up until the last several weeks (the change due to a lost lawsuit about overtime) managers were basically on-call 24/7 and worked seven days a week. Something was going to give, and I can tell you – as far as the family was concerned – it wasn’t going to be what was being produced.

As I began to spiral downward from all that was going on – to say nothing of what I was fighting mentally that I didn’t even realize – I have to say that my rent collections were the best in the entire system of apartments (in three states). I had a positive balance on the spreadsheets – the bible of the owning family – and everyone had basically paid all that was owed and some were even ahead.

–more on this tomorrow
1. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey pg. 56

Golden Eggs ~ Late Evening Thoughts

With tropical storm Eduard bearing down, people are beginning preparations for what may/might happen … where I live in Houston, we will probably have plenty of rain and some wind. As with tropical storms/hurricanes they have a tendency to keep their intentions fairly close to the chest and don’t play their cards until the last possible moment.

Lat week I finally got a copy of a book that has been available for a number of years. I have e-mailed the author for permission to do some quotes from the book, but tonight I wanted to start with a story the author tells. It was a story I’d heard a number (?!) of times before – but where I am on this journey now – this time it really spoke to me on a number of different levels. (with apologies to Aesop and others)

There once was a man who by being blessed with good fortune was given a goose in exchange for some work that he did. While he was not happy with only getting a goose, he thought it would at least make a good dinner as it seemed very fat and actually quite content.

He took it home and placed the goose in a box by the fireplace so that it could stay warm and stay within sight.

In the morning when he looked in the box the goose had been in – he was astonished to see a golden egg. One golden egg. Knowing this was quite valuable, he took it into market and sold it for quite a good sum of money. He was pleased.

Each morning he checked the goose’s box and each morning there was yet another golden egg – each as valuable as the first one.

This went on for sometime and eventually the man became somewhat impatient. Rather than having just one egg a day, he began to wonder why they goose didn’t lay two or three. . . or even more.

He began to realize that the goose must have either gold inside or a lot of golden eggs. So, early one morning – right after the goose had laid yet another golden treasure, the man killed it.

He quickly cut it open expecting to find a treasure that would make him rich and powerful for his entire life. He was to find nothing other than what any goose or living creature would have inside.

And now, he was left with a hacked up goose not fit for cooking and no goose to lay golden eggs.

For years I’ve heard the “moral” of the story as “greed can overreach itself” or “haste makes waste” or “what some people have is never enough.” But there is a very different approach to the story that really had me evaluating my life and somethings that I’ve done. Not that they were “bad”, so to speak – but perhaps there might have been a better way…

–more tomorrow

By the way – I thought you might enjoy the Indian version of the story – this was translated and published in 1895.

The Golden Mallard
from The Jataka

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a Brahmin, and growing up was married to a bride of his own rank, who bore him three daughters named Nanda, Nanda-vati, and Sundari-nanda. The Bodhisatta dying, they were taken in by neighbors and friends, whilst he was born again into the world as a golden mallard endowed with consciousness of its former existences.

Growing up, the bird viewed its own magnificent size and golden plumage, and remembered that previously it had been a human being. Discovering that his wife and daughters were living on the charity of others, the mallard bethought him of his plumage like hammered and beaten gold and how by giving them a golden feather at a time he could enable his wife and daughters to live in comfort. So away he flew to where they dwelt and alighted on the top of the central beam of the roof. Seeing the Bodhisatta, the wife and girls asked where he had come from; and he told them that he was their father who had died and been born a golden mallard, and that he had come to visit them and put an end to their miserable necessity of working for hire.

“You shall have my feathers,” said he, “one by one, and they will sell for enough to keep you all in ease and comfort.”

So saying, he gave them one of his feathers and departed. And from time to time he returned to give them another feather, and with the proceeds of their sale these Brahmin women grew prosperous and quite well to do.

But one day the mother said to her daughters, “There’s no trusting animals, my children. Who’s to say your father might not go away one of these days and never come back again? Let us use our time and pluck him clean next time he comes, so as to make sure of all his feathers.”

Thinking this would pain him, the daughters refused.

The mother in her greed called the golden mallard to her one day when he came, and then took him with both hands and plucked him.

Now the Bodhisatta’s feathers had this property that if they were plucked out against his wish, they ceased to be golden and became like a crane’s feathers. And now the poor bird, though he stretched his wings, could not fly, and the woman flung him into a barrel and gave him food there. As time went on his feathers grew again (though they were plain white ones now), and he flew away to his own abode and never came back again.

Squeeze A Grape (The Finale) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

The Finale (Chapter one) (Chapter two)

Our train car still overflowing, was beginning to settle down. We were still crowded beyond belief, still trying to find ways to get comfortable and the village was still encamped around the bathroom. Evidently, my maneuver with the drag queens had given me a small bit of notoriety, and there were no longer complaints or grumblings when any of us had to use the bathroom. And the car was still connected very close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

At this point, some of the negatives of the situation were becoming very overwhelming – especially to the students. They had put up with the train station upheaval, the conditions – and all the people. However, even their willingness to be adventurous was being tried to the limit.

The train pulled into a station for a quick stop. That was when we discovered that the Cirque De Woodystock was about the enter the free market zone. From that point on – until we reached our destination – the wheels of commerce had joined our group. I think I would have welcomed the dancers back. During this time we were treated to vendors getting on at a stop and getting off at the next. We were all wondering why the passengers weren’t doing that as well.

We had booze sellers – of both the hot and cold variety, no ID check required. My immediate answer was no – which had to be repeated several times to the older students. The villagers in front of the bathroom were very glad to see that vendor. We had people selling various food items – some identifiable and some (most) not. Roasted nuts proved to be very popular among everyone in the car. At some point two fruit vendors got on the train and walked the aisles with bananas and such. We had vendors with dishes, cooking pots of all sizes. We had someone selling a rubber band ukulele and something I had not seen before nor since – a tin can guitar. There were at least two booksellers, I think. (Remember, at this point we all have been without any or much sleep, food had been sporadic and no one had been near a shower for awhile. We were “the sweaty unwashed masses.” ) One of the booksellers realized the breadth of his audience ages. He tried to sell children’s books to the students and to the adults – in full view of the students, he offered a selection of adult books. The covers of some would have been cause for immediate arrest in the US.

While the phenomenon went unnoticed at first – a couple of the more alert students picked up on it, and acted accordingly. At some of the stops, passengers were getting off along with the various side-show people that had made our long night more interesting. As this occurred, more spaces became available around us. Students and adults would gradually move into the available spaces and could actually begin to move limbs that had been immobile for the entire evening. A few changes in luggage placement and several more could actually stretch out and attempt some sleep.

Eventually, the vendors seemed to be gone. The sun was coming up over the horizon, and with it the new day – surely our stop couldn’t be too far from now. More and more of the puppy-pile bodies were disentangled and finding spots to claim as their own. The last vendor, I remember was selling a new invention: the safety pin (!?), and had gone to…wherever these vendors were going. Not, I’m sure where several of the people in the group had wished they would. At last, I thought I might have a chance to get some sleep – in relative peace and quiet.

Any chance of that was abruptly ended by a very loud, repetitive “alms for the poor” type chant/song from the other end of the car. And I do mean very loud and very repetitive. When there was a pause for breath, the chat was punctuated by the “tugga-tugga, tugga-tugga” of a damaru. (A small hour-glass shaped drum, with a hard object attached to leather or such, allows the drum to sound by moving one hand back and forth.) Some damru’s are very lovely and sell for quite a bit of money. In this case, the drum was home-made and had a very distinctive sound…”tugga-tugga-tugga-tugaa” followed or preceded with the very loud, very repetitive “alms for the poor.” I was convinced that I was going to be trapped forever on this train, in some kind of Twilight Zone existence, doomed to repeat all the nights activities – over and over.

As the alms seeker made his way toward us, I realized that he was “blind” or so I thought. When he arrived so I had a closer look … he gave the appearance of having had some terrible problem with his eyes. They weren’t clouded by cataracts or such. They were covered with a very white, somewhat wrinkled film. It had small folds in it, and covered the entire eye – something he made sure that everyone still left on the train had a very good look at.
Then, I remembered a piece of trivia I probably would have been better off forgetting. When I was in college studying drama in all its forms. We had gotten an article about Lawrence Oliver and one of his earlier performances of Oedipus Rex, the great Greek tragedy. He was looking for a way to make coming onstage after blinding himself more real and horrifying to the audience. Evidently, he did some experimenting and took the inside membrane of a chicken egg and put it on his eyes. It was translucent and allowed light and some shadow in – and gave exactly the same appearance as I was now looking at. My suspicions were confirmed when we reached the next stop and as he was getting off, he reached up and pulled the membranes off his eyes and walked away having had a “miracle,” and made money in the process.

The next stop would be ours, and we began the process of gathering up what was left of our energy, relocating luggage and preparing to get off the train. The schools auditor/financial officer was to meet us.
He and his wife had left after we did and were flying to meet us before they left on their vacation. By now, we understood what being in a car close to a coal fired engine meant. We were literally covered with soot. It was in the hair, clothes, on the skin. I felt as if Sherman’s Army had “marched to the sea” barefoot in my mouth.

We got off the train and gathered on the platform looking, I’m sure, as a very dispirited band of ragamuffins setting out to the new world without a penny to their name. We were met by absolute visions in white. Absolutely blinding white. The financial officer and his wife – who had spent two very relaxing days waiting for our arrival – were walking toward us with big (rested) smiles on their faces. Their clothes were crisply white, their smiles glistened with white – I think even their hair had turned bright white. I will not repeat what one of the students said under their breath behind me, but suffice to say I didn’t correct her either.

“And so, did you have a great trip?” were the first words out of his mouth.

For the first and only time in my life I contemplated murder most foul.

“Squeeze a lemon and you don’t get apple juice” was a popular saying a few years ago. The meaning was quite simple – whatever I am inside, is going to come out during stress and strain. Whatever masks or identities I wear — when the going gets personally tough, whatever is within – whatever I hold as “me” is probably going to “shine” when the push becomes the shove. Miss Marley (an elderly lady who lived at the school – and was the oldest resident of the school) always told me – “When you squeeze a grape, you don’t get wine. It’s got to be mashed around a bit first.”

Squeeze A Grape (Chapter Two) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

–Chapter Two (Chapter one here)

We are squeezed into a train car along with a lot of other people, and the train is heading down the track. Normally, there would be the soft lulling sound of the train, the track and the gentle rolling of the car. This time, I’m looking over at bodies of students, and adults looking like some kind of huge puppy-pile – involving arms, legs, heads and luggage. The group camped in front of and around the bathroom were highly protective of their space, and resented having to move for anyone. But, at least, with some grumbling they were willing to eventually move. And the train continued to head down the track. I mentioned earlier that we were one of the cars close to the engine. A coal fired engine.

As the late afternoon turned into evening, people had made peace with the situation – somewhat, and were beginning to settle into a resigned manner of getting as comfortable as possible for what was obviously going to be a very long night. I looked around and realized that if someone were to take a picture, we would look as if we were advertising a multi-cultural performance of “The Lower Depths” (a play by Maxim Gorky). I didn’t dare chuckle about it too loudly, as trying to explain where my mind was wandering unaided would be too difficult.

A few hours passed…

I started to come to the realization I was about to “lose it.” As in – completely lose it. I felt I had reached the end of my patience, understanding – you name it. Something had to happen, or something was about to happen. I think almost everyone has reached that point at some time. In this case, the idea of losing it was actually quite a delightful idea. I had this crazy picture of a madman (me) tearing through the train compartment luggage and all flying in my wake. At that moment, there was a commotion from all those camped in front of the bathroom door. They were actually laughing and whooping and such…and pointing to the door of the bathroom. I found this interesting, as I hadn’t seen (or heard the loud complaints about) anyone going in – let alone coming out.

Imagine my total shock and surprise, when two VERY lovely Indian ladies came (evidently) from the bathroom. And I do mean lovely. They were in beautiful sari’s, jewelry with their hair impeccably done and make-up absolutely perfect. Bollywood (Bombay) film actresses was my first thought, which was immediately followed by the question of what would film actresses be doing on THIS train and that was followed by the thought that I must have lost my mind, or gone into total hallucination. These lovely ladies gently moved their way through all the encampment and ended up in front of the first compartment and myself. At that point, they leaned over and put on their dancing bells. These bells are wrapped around the legs of dancers and the legend has it that a superior dancer is able to ring each bell individually.

By now I was sure I was suffering from a gigantic hallucination – however, the students continually asking me what they were doing and/or going to do, convinced me that this was NO hallucination.

The attaching of the bells finished – the two began to sing a Hindi film song, and to dance (well, dance with as much room as was available). The “encampers” had reach a state of almost football game excitement. As in, they were shouting and being very loud – with much shoulder and back slapping. The students and adults (to say nothing of the rest of the train car) were now completely awake, and all thoughts of how uncomfortable they might have been – had been forgotten as they watched this performance.

I thought that this interesting tamasha (a Hindi word that really has no easy English translation) might simply be moving down the car – a sort of impromptu entertainment. But, it soon became apparent that they had no intention of moving…until they were paid for their performance. As I was looking at the ladies, I made other discoveries. One of them had 5 o’clock shadow beginning to peek through the make-up and the other had a bosom that seemed to be moving in different directions – and slipping slightly -occasionally. Of course, the adams apples should have been my first clue. And the students – who are never as naive as people think they are – had begun to figure this out as well. Now, I was in a quandary. There is no set price for these performances, and it’s true – they will not stop and will not move on unless they get what they think is a good price. As I had mentioned earlier, the trip was tightly budgeted – and there was no money for extraneous performances such as this, which I wasn’t sure I would be able to explain with any degree of rationality to the administration.

So, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I got up, and precariously stood on the bench I was sitting on, and began to imitate them. By this time, our entire end of the car was in complete uproar. To say nothing of the students and adults. However, I was now committed – and there was no turning back. I tried to match them gesture for gesture, hip bump for hip bump. I guess that one of them decided to humiliate me by reaching over and grabbing my rear end. We used to refer to that as a bah-poo (accent on second syllable) . As I was told, that’s the affectionate pat one gives a baby’s bottom, and in the wonders of Hindi – it can also be a term of endearment (and you thought English could be difficult). So, there I was trying to keep from being a total fool (probably too late for that) and was having my rear bahpooed by a drag queen in a crowded train in the middle of somewhere.

Again, I did the first thing that popped into my mind.

I whirled around, stuck out my hand and demanded 5 rupees. I repeated it several times (each time pointing to my rear). “Five rupees.” They finally figured out that I was either 1) completely crazy or 2) completely crazy and serious. They gently took their leave of the first compartments and moved on down the train car. And I was five rupees richer.

–the finale tomorrow

Squeeze A Grape (chapter One) ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Chapter One ~

Earlier this week, and again today – I was asked about various happenings to me during my time in India. I was there from 1971 until 1978, teaching at Woodstock School, an international school. At the time I arrived, the school was over 100 years old, and when I left I’m sure the school felt it was over 300!! The school is located in Mussoorie , U.P. high in the Himalayan mountains. The school was a boarding school/day school for grades 1-12…with about 450 students in any given year. The school had expanded it’s “junior or senior year abroad, ” and dual diploma program, so as a perk, the school decided (well, leadership actually decided) in 1974 that taking those students on a circle tour of India for about 6-8 weeks would be a very educational and interesting way to fill the time between semesters and keep those students out of everyone’s hair.

The trip was carefully planned, budgets calculated and everything was going according to plan. The trip was going to consist of 28 students (all high-school) and 5 staff. There were a couple of school families added to the mix, so we made a rather large contingent. By now, reservations at the hotels were made, train tickets were purchased and the reservations reasonably assured to be reserved.

During the 70’s and I’m sure today as well, India was highly dependent on trains. It was said during that year at least 10% of the population traveled on trains every day. Also, without the network of trains manufacturing, transportation of food and such, would be completely impossible. Three weeks before the Cirque de Woodystock was set to leave, the entire train operation came to a complete halt, due to one of the largest strikes in India’s history. As in – nothing going anywhere. A few commuter trains within certain areas supposedly were still running, but nothing else.

And now everything seemed to be unraveling. However, there were assurances from all over that the strike would be settled very quickly, so we went on as if nothing had changed. I’m not going into the historical or political ramifications of all that occurred – that’s not the story I’ve been asked about. Finally, five days before we were to leave, the strike was settled and we were going on a wonderful tour. We packed, laughed – checked tickets and headed out – yes, it felt like a cattle drive at times.

There were many adventures along the way, but one of several highlights has to be leaving Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). The trip into the train station was a small tip of the iceberg as to how this trip was going to go. We arrived in Calcutta to make the connection onward. With the tie-up of trains due to the strike, literally thousands of people were trapped within train stations. Now, add those people to the people who actually lived in the train stations (no different then people who occupy spaces here in the states or Europe)…and it made for every crowded conditions. There we stood, like a crowd scene from some Broadway show. After a rather tense 6 hours – part of the sporting events we watched from a distance included an attempt to burn the station down – we were lead to a portion of the platform to await the arrival of the train from the round-house. Which arrived from the round-house completely full. As in packed.

More adventures (for another time) and all of us were on the train. Perhaps saying we were in the car would be a better description. The conditions of that train car made Dr. Zhivago’s train trip seem like traveling on the Orient Express. The car we were traveling on had open compartments on one side, with facing single seat benches on the other – and an aisle dividing the two. There was a bathroom on the end of the car where we were located. The car was designed for a maximum of 72 people. I counted over 150 when I decided that I wouldn’t count any more, and I couldn’t see beyond about 1/3 into the car. Normally, this would be a fairly comfortable way to travel – but given the fact that as many people as possible were in that car – comfort was not going to be an option. The students and staff were in the three compartments designed to hold four to six plus luggage – now were wall to wall people and luggage. An entire fishing village were camped in front of and around the bathroom. I and three staff were occupying the benches (along with the overflow of the fishing village). Oh yes, important to a later part of the story, there were no closable windows – and this car was one of the first behind the coal fired engine.

“Squeeze a lemon and you don’t get apple juice” was a popular saying a few years ago. The meaning was quite simple – whatever I am inside, is going to come out during stress and strain. Whatever masks or identities I wear — when the going gets personally tough, whatever is within – whatever I hold as “me” is probably going to “shine” when the push becomes the shove. Miss Marley (an elderly lady who lived at the school – and was the oldest resident of the school) always told me – “When you squeeze a grape, you don’t get wine. It’s got to be mashed around a bit first.”

–Chapter Two tomorrow