And They Came To Believe And It Came To Pass ~ Late Evening Thoughts

[updated video link 9/26/2012]

Hopefully, by the time I’m done this post will make sense.  Starting with Friday, this was an amazing weekend for me.  I celebrated a dear friend’s birthday, went with two VERY dear friends to Rocky Horror Picture Show with a wonderful, silly and noisy audience, and Sunday went to a club where I actually felt free to dance and not worry about the “youngers” standing on the sides going “ewwwww”!  I also, at the club had my inner theater geek (30+ years in theater will do that do you) explode as I got to see ~ but sadly not touch ~ the computerized controls for the entire light system.  Yes, it was an amazing, exhausting but fun weekend.  A true mountain top experience.

As we all know, you really can’t live on the mountain top ~ you inevitably must go down into the valley.  And that’s where I came to today.  One thing I’ve learned is that there’s really no good grass or water on the mountain top, it’s down in the valley.  While the valley may not be totally comfortable and it’s certainly NOT the high of the top, it still is very, very important and extremely worthwhile ~ if you let it.

As I was dealing with the “down” of today, my mind went to some of my friends complaints that I have a tendency to believe in people far longer than I should.  I know that it is sometimes a problem.  I had one person I was trying to help who fell into the pattern of using me to “have a place to stay to sober-up, get a little food to eat, clothes washed and a little money” – rinse, repeat.  I have another that I have such a soft spot for…a couple of years ago, he was trying to spark a business and I made an investment.  Not in the business, but in him.  I believed in him then, and I believe in him now.  I’m seeing some pay-off from the investment, but I must be the only one so far.

But as I was wondering in my mind ~ there is a saying that “My mind is a dangerous place to wander in, unaccompanied ~ especially at night ~ I began to question my belief in people.  Then, my inner “me” took me back through much of my life … the problems in college, relationships that failed – badly, the three suicide attempts.  It was the third attempt  (which I posted about here before – feel free to read the history),  when at the CRU – the Crisis Residential Unit – that someone actually said they believed in me.  Now, don’t get me wrong, there were plenty that believed in me, but somehow I had to come to the bottom before I could really realize it.  And as I climbed out of THAT “slough of despond” I became acutely aware of how powerful our belief in someone can be.  Oh, I’ve done it before, but there always seemed to be an agenda.  Now, I’m working agenda free.

To me, that’s where the power really begins.  You see someone not just as they are, but as they could be for themselves…..not as the person YOU want them to be.  I can’t change anyone, I can only encourage and believe in them.  They may not take the paths I would have or would have chosen – but they are on their own journey not mine.

I’m going to post more on this at another time, but also during the “down” of today, I found this video.  Here’s the power of only ONE person believing in someone.  He had only one person, his grandmother…I still cry each time I watch this video.  I want my life to be as she is … in the background, but believing.  That’s one of the things I’d like to be remembered for when – in the not too distant future – I’m gone that someone will say: “He believed in me”.

First off, I’m sorry there will probably be an ad (it is from You Tube after all) and please watch it all the way through and see what terrible power being told “you’re not good enough” can have over someone.  I’m not saying we have to encourage someone when they obviously can’t do something.  There’s no way at my age and (ahem) physical condition I’ll be an Olympic athlete – but there’s other things I can do…. and so can you.

[It appears I own an apology to Freemantle AND X-factor UK …Here’s the video embedded]

See people where they are, and for who they are … and as I used to tell my speech students, don’t change the pattern, just eliminate the flaws.

A 60+ Stoner ~ Late Evening Thoughts

This chapter picks up from —here

Once taken into the surgical holy-of-holies, I was shown to a draped area with a bed and various machinery not for the faint of heart. I was handed two (not one) two surgical gowns to put on. As surgical gowns had been designed by Dr. Seymour Butts, this was a welcome change indeed. Now, the posterior areas would not be flapping in the breeze of hospital air conditioning…or so I thought. Alas, when the surgical nurse (have to use the right title here) came back. I was to put one on and the other would be put on after surgery. But, I need not have worried – once I got into the bed, I didn’t get to leave it.

And now the torture began. After the first surgical nurse left (having divested me of one of the gowns), a second one arrived – carrying a $4 cup of coffee. Sheer torture. Fortunately, he was but a moment and left with coffee intact very shortly. At that point, the anesthesiologist arrived without coffee and talked in detail about what they were going to do and how I would be “under” for the operation.

Those who know the story of a year ago, know that my last major surgery was not exactly a walk in the park going into it. I had shared that with my Dr., but had no idea he had shared it beyond that.

I was very glad to talk to the anesthesiologist and find out that I was NOT going to be given the paralyzing shot so common in operations, but would be a combination of gas and drugs. There was a lot more torture as various surgeons, interns and I swear there was a cleaning person all arrived in front of me – with cups of coffee. One person actually used the table by the end of MY bed to add his sugar … I was in agony.

I should have paid more attention to the next explanation but I didn’t. They were going to give me a nerve block in my upper legs which would relieve most of the pain over the next couple of days. This is important for later.

After that discussion the Dr. came to see me and made the usual poking of the leg, discussion with the nurse that was with him – and merely gave me “THE LOOK” for daring to joke about marking the leg to be operated on with an X. (Some surgeons are known for NOT having a sense of humor – mine included!)

At that point, the anesthesiologist was back with several additions to the IV that had been started in my arm. I felt wonderful!!!! Nothing hurt, I had a good grasp on reality and everything seems fuzzy and sharp at the same time. The bed I was on was the one I would be taken to surgery in – and off down the hall we went. By this point, the meds were beginning to take hold, and I was enthralled by the passing lights, and the people passing by. My mouth seemed a little fuzzy but I think I could still be understood, but frankly I have no idea what I said. Finally, it was through the doors and into the operating. I was feeling so good – getting onto the operating table was no problem. That’s because they didn’t move me until I was out. The anesthesiologist was talking about the mask in my ear, and it was placed over my nose/mouth and I did as I was told – to breathe deeply.

That was the last I remembered until I woke up in my hospital room. To say it took a few minutes to get focused would be a distinct understatement. Managed to see my daughter sitting in the room, and supposedly asked her if I’d had a good time at the party. I then remember various people suddenly (she says not suddenly, but over a period of time) converging around the bed to “fill me in” on all I needed to know. First off was an explanation of the machine in bed with me making my leg move up to my chest and then back down. A major annoyance during my stay, even if I was grateful that I would keep me from locking up the new knee. Then there was the physical therapist to point out what they would do later (Spanish Inquisition torture for 400 Alex.).

He finally left and the nurse came over to explain the pain pump next to my bed. In my foggy state I did manage to listen as she explained that every time the light came on I could press the button for pain medication. Please make not that she actually said could press it. As she was leaving, the light was on – (cue the Psycho violins here) – so I pressed it. And that’s what I did all afternoon to early evening.

I need to do a short explanation here (do I do anything short?). I am not a stoner but not by nature. With my compulsive/impulsive nature people are sometimes surprised. I simply can’t. Pot makes me incredibly physically miserable and very sick – which made me a real pain-in-the-butt in the Theater department in college. And none of the rest either because they don’t work in my system as -according to everyone else – they should.

So now, I have drugs blocking the pain in my knee, whatever was in the IV dripping away and I’m pressing the pain pump every time the light comes on…which seemed to be about every five minutes. At this point – even my daughter agrees- I had gone from operation drug lingering head long to a 60+ year older stoner (in case you hadn’t gotten that!!) I had several cell phone calls I don’t remember having, ate two meals which I don’t remember and several servings of ice cream – which was available anytime on the floor.

I was blissfully unaware – even though my daughter was telling me at the time I was beyond loopy and heading toward loony!! That blissfully unaware came to an end when I looked at the wallpaper above the sink in my room. I’ve included a picture of something similar – but mine was more gold, more washed and with some dark in it. (creepy music for 200 Alex) I was looking at the TV on the wall when I realized that the wall paper pattern was moving . . . around the wall. I did what any logical person would do in that situation and closed my eyes several times to see if it would go away.
It didn’t.

I realized right away that I was for the very first time in my life completely and absolutely stoned. I will say that it was frankly NOT a good sensation. (OK, DEA did that cover my probation?) I also knew exactly where the problem was and what needed to be done about it. At that point the nurse came in and we both basically started the same conversation . . . which in a nut shell was “the machine has to go.” She was trying to be diplomatic about it – I was being blunt. She wanted to re-set the timer (!!??) I wanted the thing gone. And shortly gone it was. Eventually the “trip” came to an end, the wallpaper stopped moving and the fuzz began to clear.

It especially cleared enough for me to concentrate on my nemesis since the beginning of time – the walker. Curse it as much as I did – it wouldn’t take the hint and leave. It just laid there against the wall and mocked me!!!

—more tomorrow

A 60+ S_ ONE R ~ Early Evening Thoughts

Picking up from —here

Everyone knows what a hospital waiting room looks like, sounds like and very often smells like. They are often places of frenetic activity, unintelligible or delivered in code intercom calls . . . and frankly smell like hospital.

I was not prepared for this entrance/waiting room. There was the tranquil sounds of fountains and a full sized grand piano was being played by ghostly hands. OK, that was a slight exaggeration – it was a player grand piano. Turning to the right, there was a marble topped circular desk with someone in coat and tie standing behind it. I was tempted to go outside and see if I had been delivered to a funeral home by mistake. Everything seemed so peaceful and didn’t smell. It turns out that the gentleman behind the desk if the first person everyone talks to before entering the rest of the hospital.

He takes your information (actually listening I might add!) and then calls whoever you are supposed to see and they will come an get you. If necessary, he will take you to where you need to go. No wandering aimlessly around the hallways trying to remember if you were told turn left, then right – go up five steps and “shake it all about.”

There were several reasons they went with the set-up the way they have it. First of all it help control traffic and also it help convince people that they are known and expected. Of course, visitors check-in and go up to the rooms.

Anyway, hospital registration came out to get me as I waited in nice comfy chairs – by a window wall and listened to the water wall and piano. I was taken to a glass enclosed area to begin the sign all the papers required and make sure all the payments had been recorded. Within a very short delightful time, I had my wrist band and the nurse came and got me for the necessary testing that had to be done.

Before going into the testing area, she took me on a tour of the floor where I would be staying – showed me a room (I was beginning to wonder if I would be expected to buy a time-share plan before I would get out). And we grabbed a fresh cup of coffee from the floor waiting area. Already I was falling in love – they had good coffee!! Once ensconced in the testing area, two nurses went to work on me. The only complaint I had was that one cup of coffee was not going to be able to replace the gallon (so it seemed to me) of blood they drew. OK, the 2nd complaint had to do with those little gluey pads they use for EKG’s. But that has more to do with glue and chest hair. . . and there’s not much anyone can do about that. And then, we were done. Because I had come in before the day of surgery, I was given a reprieve on arrival time on Friday. I didn’t need to be there until 5:30am!! Not much of an improvement, but at that time of day (Is it really a time of day?) I’ll take what I can get!!

So now I was free until Friday morning – about 33 hours away. Just enough time to go home, and brace myself for nothing to eat or drink after 10pm on Thursday. Of course, that gave me sometime to surf the net and discover all sorts of things I didn’t want to know about the operation. . . and anesthetic. I know I should have stopped reading, but it was as if I was watching a car wreck. I just kept looking.

“Achmed was supposed to pick me up Friday in time to make the 5:30am deadline. At about 5:00am I get a phone call they he can’t pick me up, but one of his friends is going to be there and the “friend” knew where the hospital was. “Friend” did NOT know where the hospital was – and “Achmed” was giving him directions the entire way – very loudly – over the cell phone. And we did make the appointed time. Again, check in at desk, registration comes and gets me and I get a wrist band – which includes a picture, by the way. No mistaking who I am that’s for sure!! Registration takes me to the surgery floor, and there is the ONLY place I’ve had to wait for any length of time…along with the others scheduled for early morning surgery.

We did get to laughing as the waiting became a test of endurance. Right across from where we were waiting was an area for families to wait while surgery was being done. The area was filled with coffee, colas and rolls and such. It was very hard to behave – let me tell you. Especially seeing the coffee …. especially the coffee.

Eventually, we were released from the torment and taken back to begin the final part of this story … and of course the last letter in the hangman puzzle in the heading.

–more tomorrow.

A 60+ S_ O _E R ~ Late Evening Thoughts

Continuing from —last night— ~

By now the horrors (as I called them) had begun to run out of steam. I had assured all of them that I wasn’t going to end up a bed-ridden cripple, that I was not going to have to sell my first born to pay the bills (although when he was growing up ~ ah, let’s not go there!) and that whatever path the recovery took I would be just fine …

I then had D & D to deal with. They had decided that there was no way I was going to be able to go through the operation and recover by myself ~ and that they were going to be there every step of the way. Which normally, I wouldn’t have minded ~ but the thought of them fluttering around the hospital bed and then fluttering in and out of my apartment while I was recovering was just a bit more than I wanted to even think about let alone deal with. (hysteria by proxy for 600, Alex)

Don’t get me wrong, they have been and are good friends ~ in very defined doses. Fortunately my daughter was taking over that portion of the watch, and she definitely didn’t need any help. So, not only would she be around after the operation, but would carefully monitor my being at home.

By this time ~ a week before the operation ~ the hospital, doctor/surgeon’s office, anesthesiologist and medical equipment rental decided they would need to be paid. I was informed these people would be calling me and to be prepared for sticker shock.

And I was . . . there was a middle-man in what I was beginning to call “Behind The Operating Room Door” and if you’re too young (or too innocent) to get that reference ~ send me an E-mail and I’ll send you a link. The reason he was in the middle was his delightful personality, his willingness to help, his lawyer skills and a company American Express that could take the charges and I would then pay back from the inheritance.

None of us knew what anyone was going to charge ~ but as a cash up-front patient, I was sure there would be some kind of discount…which I was prepared to ask for.

Believe it or not, the first call was the hospital and I almost wished I had delayed all this several weeks. After my experience of calling all the “medical center” hospitals ~ I was prepared for 1)rudeness and 2) an astronomical price tag. I received neither. The business office was incredibly helpful and let’s just say that I was going to be able to get BOTH knees done for the price of ONE at the other hospitals. (blue light special for 300, Alex)

So, when all the calls were done and everyone had the money they needed ~ I began to stump (I certainly wasn’t able to dance!) around the apartment singing “Signed – Sealed – Delivered!” When you have to sit down every few moments to let the knees recover, it somewhat takes the fun out of the celebration!!

The Doctor had given me his instructions on a much copied copy of a copy. But the hospital was quite insistent that I either come down on Wednesday and pre-register and get the necessary paperwork and test done, or I would have to do the morning before surgery. Dear me, what a difficult choice!! (Remember, I’m the one that wasn’t sure 5am was an actual time of day!) So, Wednesday afternoon it was off to find the hospital and get the tests done.

Since I’m still not driving (that IS going to change no matter what my son-in-law says!!) I either take the bus or a taxi. In this case, taxi seemed preferable. . . that way two of us could get lost. At this time I had a driver that I used all the time. He was quite good, knew the city and we had a number of pleasant conversations. He was Muslim and spent most of the trips discussing religion with me … I had always maintained that iron sharpens iron … and as the conversations were never arguments I had begun to look forward to them. Of course, I referred to him to my daughter and my friends as “Achmed, the dead terrorist.***” Knowing that if I every accidentally called him that or explained it . . . I would be in deep trouble. (non-famous deaths for 600, Alex)

Off we went – I had the address and the approximate location of the hospital, he was convinced, as always, that I had no idea where it was and he did. The discussion was lively and interesting ~ but alas, he is too serious to have much of a sense of humor. But that certainly never stopped his trying to convert me and/or all in my family.

We did find the hospital (I was right ~ he wasn’t but never admitted it) and I walked into one of the biggest surprises I’ve had in a long, long time.

—more tomorrow and another clue in the hangman puzzle of the title

*** for those of you you didn’t understand the Achmed reference ~ here is ventriloquist Jeff Dunham and Achmed. My grand kids think he is hysterical, however we did have to explain to the youngest that going through one of the box stores saying loudly: “silence ~ I kill you!” was not really a good idea!!!

Memorial Day – Something To Think About

I was thinking about my Father today, and his World War II service – and my mind went to the history of what has come to be called Memorial Day.

From –>Memorial Day History:<–

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.
There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Let me repeat the last lines of the paragraph ~

It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

I found this article from the Commander of the American Legion quite fitting. I have posted a portion of his article … you can read the entire article and comments –>here<–.

Message to America: Respect Memorial Day
By National Commander Paul A. Morin

Here is a surprise, I am not going to defend the Iraq war. I won’t even explain the importance of the war on terrorism. VA budget? Not today. That’s because this column is about Memorial Day, a hallowed day that should be about honoring the more than one million men and women who died in the service of this nation in wars and conflicts dating back to 1775. It should be above politics. Period.

As national commander of The American Legion, I implore all candidates to refrain from politicking on Memorial Day.

The families of those killed in war should not be led to believe that their loved ones died for a less-than-worthy cause. They died because they took an oath to defend this nation and its Constitution. The sacrifice is the same whether it’s for a “popular war” or an unpopular one. Memorial Day should be an occasion to bring Americans together to honor these heroes.

It brings to mind the words of Army Sergeant First Class Jack Robison, who recently wrote from Iraq, “Sometimes I think God must be creating an elite unit in heaven, because He only seems to select the very best soldiers to bring home early.”

If you want to honor these heroes, visit a veterans cemetery on Memorial Day. Attend a parade without the divisive political signs. Make cards for the comrades of the fallen that are recuperating in military and VA hospitals. Lay a wreath at the stone of a departed hero.

We Americans need to remember why Memorial Day is special. It’s not about picnics or trips to the beach. It’s not about making pro- or anti-war statements. It’s not about supporting political candidates. It’s about honor, duty and the ultimate sacrifice. It’s about people who have decided that the United States is worth dying for.

The Happy Prince (Conclusion)

This is the last part of the story ~

The Happy Prince

All the next day he sat on the Prince’s shoulder and told him stories of what he had seen in strange lands. He told him of the red ibises, who stand in long rows on the banks of the Nile and catch gold fish in their beaks; of the Sphinx, who is as old as the world itself, and lives in the desert, and knows everything; of the great green snake that sleeps in a palm-tree and has twenty priests to feed it with honey-cakes; and of the pygmies, who sail over a big lake on large flat leaves and are always at war with the butterflies.

“Dear little Swallow,” said the Prince, “you tell me of marvelous things, but more marvelous than anything is the suffering of men and of women. There is no mystery so great as misery. Fly over my city, little Swallow, and tell me what you see there.”

So the swallow flew over the great city and saw the rich making merry in their beautiful houses, while the beggars were sitting at the gates. He flew into dark lanes and saw the white faces of starving children looking out listlessly at the black streets. Under the archway of a bridge, two little boys were lying in one another’s arms to try and keep themselves warm. “How hungry we are!” they said. “You must not lie here,” shouted the watchman, and they wandered out into the rain.

Then he flew back and told the Prince what he had seen.

“I am covered with fine gold,” said the Prince, “you must take it off, leaf by leaf, and give it to my poor; the living always think that gold can make them happy.”

Leaf after leaf of the fine gold the Swallow picked off, till the Happy Prince looked quite dull and grey. Leaf after leaf of the fine gold he brought to the poor, and the children’s faces grew rosier, and they laughed and played games in the street. “We have bread now!” they cried.

Then the snow came, and after the snow came the frost. The streets looked as if they were made of silver, they were so bright and glistening; long icicles like crystal daggers hung down from the eaves of the houses, everybody went about in furs; and the little boys wore scarlet caps and skated on the ice.

The poor little swallow grew colder and colder, but he would not leave the Prince, he loved him too well. He picked up crumbs outside the baker’s door when the baker was not looking, and tried to keep himself warm by flapping his wings.

But at last he knew that he was going to die. He had just strength to fly up to the Prince’s shoulder once more. “Good-bye, dear Prince!” he murmured, “will you let me kiss your hand?”

“I am glad that you are going to Egypt at last, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “you have stayed too long here; but you must kiss me on the lips, for I love you.”

“It is not to Egypt that I am going,” said the swallow. “I am going to the house of death. Death is the brother of sleep, is he not?”

And he kissed the Happy Prince on the lips and fell down dead at his feet.

At that moment a curious crack sounded inside the statue, as if something had broken. The fact is that the leaden heart had snapped right in two. It certainly was a dreadfully hard frost.

Early the next morning the mayor was walking in the square below in company with the town councilors. As they passed the column, he looked up at the statue: “Dear me! how shabby the Happy Prince looks!” he said.

“How shabby indeed!” cried the town councilors, who always agreed with the mayor, and they went up to look at it.

“The ruby has fallen out of his sword, his eyes are gone, and he is golden no longer,” said the mayor; “in fact, he is little better than a beggar!”

“Little better than a beggar,” said the town councilors.

“And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!” continued the mayor. “We must really issue a proclamation that birds are not allowed to die here.” And the town clerk made a note of the suggestion.

So they pulled down the statue of the Happy Prince. They melted the statue in a furnace, and the mayor held a meeting of the corporation to decide what was to be done with the metal. “We must have another statue, of course,” he said, “and it shall be a statue of myself.”

“Of myself,” said each of the town councilors, and they quarreled. When I last heard of them, they were quarreling still.

“What a strange thing!” said the overseer of the workmen at the foundry. “This broken lead heart will not melt in the furnace. We must throw it away.” So they threw it on a dust-heap where the dead swallow was also lying.

“Bring me the two most precious things in the city,” said God to one of His Angels; and the Angel brought Him the leaden heart and the dead bird.

“You have rightly chosen,” said God, “for in my garden of Paradise this little bird shall sing for evermore, and in my city of gold the Happy Prince shall praise me.”
–Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)

The Happy Prince (chapter 2) ~ Nightime Thoughts

Here is the second of three parts of the story I started reprinting ~

The Happy Prince ~

When day broke, he flew down to the river and had a bath. “To-night I go to Egypt,” said the swallow, and he was in high spirits at the prospect. He visited all the public monuments and sat a long time on top of the church steeple.

When the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince. “Have you any commissions for Egypt?” he cried; “I am just starting.”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “will you not stay with me one night longer?”

“I am waited for in Egypt,” answered the swallow. “To-morrow my friends will fly up to the Second Cataract. The river-horse couches there among the bulrushes, and on a great granite throne sits the god Memnon. All night long he watches the stars, and when the morning star shines, he utters one cry of joy, and then he is silent. At noon the yellow lions come down to the water’s edge to drink. They have eyes like green beryls, and their roar is louder than the roar of the cataract.”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “far away across the city I see a young man in a garret. He is leaning over a desk covered with papers, and in a tumbler by his side there is a bunch of withered violets. He is trying to finish a play for the director of the theater, but he is too cold to write any more. There is no fire in the grate, and hunger has made him faint.”

“I will wait with you one night longer,” said the swallow, who really had a good heart. “Shall I take him another ruby?”

“Alas! I have no ruby now,” said the Prince; “my eyes are all that I have left. They are made of rare sapphires, which were brought out of India a thousand years ago. Pluck out one of them and take it to him. He will sell it to the jeweler, and buy food and firewood, and finish his play.”

“Dear Prince,” said the swallow, “I cannot do that”; and he began to weep.

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “do as I command you.”

So the swallow plucked out the Prince’s eye and flew away to the student’s garret. It was easy enough to get in, as there was a hole in the roof. Through this he darted, and came into the room. The young man had his head buried in his hands, so he did not hear the flutter of the bird’s wings, and when he looked up, he found the beautiful sapphire lying on the withered violets.

“I am beginning to be appreciated,” he cried; “this is from some great admirer. Now I can finish my play,” and he looked quite happy.

The next day the swallow flew down to the harbor. He sat on the mast of a large vessel and watched the sailors hauling big chests out of the hold with ropes. “I am going to Egypt!” cried the swallow, but nobody minded, and when the moon rose, he flew back to the Happy Prince.

“I am come to bid you good-bye,” he cried.

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “will you not stay with me one night longer?”

“It is winter,” answered the swallow, “and the chill snow will soon be here. In Egypt the sun is warm on the green palm-trees, and the crocodiles lie in the mud and look lazily about them. I will never forget you, and next spring I will bring you back two beautiful jewels in place of those you have given away. The ruby shall be redder than a red rose, and the sapphire shall be as blue as the great sea.”

“In the square below,” said the Happy Prince, “there stands a little match-girl. She has let her matches fall in the gutter, and they are all spoiled. Her father will beat her if she does not bring home some money, and she is crying. She has no shoes or stockings, and her little head is bare. Pluck out my other eye, and give it to her, and her father will not beat her.”

“I will stay with you one night longer,” said the swallow, “but I cannot pluck out your eye. You would be quite blind then.”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “do as I command you.”

So he plucked out the Prince’s other eye and darted down with it. He swooped past the match-girl and slipped the jewel into the palm of her hand. “What a lovely bit of glass,” cried the little girl; and she ran home, laughing.

Then the swallow came back to the Prince. “You are blind now,” he said, “so I will stay with you always.”

“No, little Swallow,” said the poor Prince, “you must go away to Egypt.”

“I will stay with you always,” said the swallow, and he slept at the Prince’s feet.
-Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)

The Happy Prince – (Chapter One) ` Early Morning Thoughts

When I was growing up, the cabinet record player was an important part of the house, and got quite a bit of use. It was where I was introduced to some great singers (Marlene Dietrich was NOT allowed until much later) and orchestras. It is not of those that I have the strongest memories however, it was the stories. I have some memories that, even after all these years, are as strong as when I first heard them. I was trying to find some information about St. Patrick today when I ran across this story. As I started reading it – I admit – my eyes welled up and I was instantly transported back to the first time I heard this tale. For those who want to know, it was recorded by Bing Crosby and Orson Welles – released on Decca records and you can look up the date yourself! (Of course, I was only one year old when it was released!)

Did these hearing stories such as these over and over have anything to do with my love of reading and theater? I have no doubt. What are some of your earliest memories like this?

I also decided not to put pictures with the story and invite you to let your mind give the images that accompany the tale.

The Happy Prince ~

HIGH above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

He was very much admired indeed. “He is as beautiful as a weathercock,” remarked one of the town councilors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; “only not quite so useful,” he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

“Why can’t you be like the Happy Prince?” asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. “The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything.”

“I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy,” muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

“He looks just like an angel,” said the charity children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

“How do you know?” said the Mathematical Master, “you have never seen one.”

“Ah! but we have, in our dreams,” answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.

One night there flew over the city a little swallow. His friends had gone away to Egypt six weeks before, but he had stayed behind. After they had gone he felt lonely.

All day long he flew, and at night-time he arrived at the city. “Where shall I put up?” he said; “I hope the town has made preparations.”

Then he saw the statue on the tall column. “I will put up there,” he cried; “it is a fine position with plenty of fresh air.” So he alighted just between the feet of the Happy Prince.

“I have a golden bedroom,” he said softly to himself as he looked round, and he prepared to go to sleep; but just as he was putting his head under his wing, a large drop of water fell on him. “What a curious thing!” he cried. “There is not a single cloud in the sky, the stars are quite clear and bright, and yet it is raining.”

Then another drop fell.

“What is the use of a statue if it cannot keep the rain off?” he said; “I must look for a good chimney-pot,” and he determined to fly away.

But before he had opened his wings, a third drop fell, and he looked up and saw — ah! what did he see?

The eyes of the Happy Prince were filled with tears, and tears were running down his golden cheeks. His face was so beautiful in the moonlight that the little swallow was filled with pity.

“Who are you?” he said.

“I am the Happy Prince.”

“Why are you weeping then?” asked the swallow; “you have quite drenched me.”

“When I was alive and had a human heart,” answered the statue, “I did not know what tears were, for I lived in a palace , where sorrow was not allowed to enter. Round the garden ran a very lofty wall, but I never cared to ask what lay beyond it, everything about me was so beautiful. My courtiers called me the Happy Prince, and happy indeed I was, if pleasure be happiness. So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead, yet I cannot choose but weep.”

“What, is he not solid gold?” said the swallow to himself. He was too polite to make any personal remarks out loud.

“Far away,” continued the statue in a low musical voice, “far away in a little street, there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen’s maids-of-honor to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room, her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move.”

“I am waited for in Egypt,” said the Swallow. “My friends are flying up and down the Nile and talking to the large lotus-flowers. Soon they will go to sleep in the tomb of the great King.

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “will you not stay with me for one night and be my messenger? The boy is so thirsty, and the mother so sad.”

“I don’t think I like boys,” answered the swallow. “Last summer, when I was staying on the river, there were boys who were always throwing stones at me.”

But the Happy Prince looked so sad that the little swallow was sorry. “It is very cold here,” he said; “but I will stay with you for one night and be your messenger.”

“Thank you, little Swallow,” said the Prince.

So the swallow picked out the great ruby from the Prince’s sword and flew away with it in his beak over the roofs of the town.

He passed by the cathedral tower, where the white marble angels were sculptured. He passed by the palace and heard the sound of dancing. A beautiful girl came out on the balcony with her lover. “How wonderful the stars are,” he said to her, “and how wonderful is the power of love!” “I hope my dress will be ready in time for the next Court-ball,” she answered; “but the seamstresses are so lazy.”

He passed over the river and saw the lanterns hanging to the masts of the ships. At last he came to the poor house and looked in. The boy was tossing feverishly on his bed, and the mother had fallen asleep, she was so tired. In he hopped, and laid the great ruby on the table beside the woman’s thimble. Then he flew gently round the bed, fanning the boy’s forehead with his wings. “How cool I feel,” said the boy, “I must be getting better”; and he sank into a delicious slumber.

Then the swallow flew back to the Happy Prince and told him what he had done. “It is curious,” he remarked, “but I feel quite warm now, although it is so cold.”

“That is because you have done a good action,” said the Prince. And the little swallow began to think, and then he fell asleep. Thinking always made him sleepy.
–Oscar Wilde
(slightly and (hopefully) gently edited)

The Queen(s)

I’m an avid follower of The New York Post’s Page Six. This morning, while enjoying a cup of coffee, I read this item:

Think Of Spam

IF you ever get an audience with Queen Elizabeth II and are unsure of how to act, don’t worry – her courtiers will send you a memo. All the VIPs who walked the red carpet at the new James Bond movie “Casino Royale” premiere, including Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench and Chris Cornell, received “extensive training” and a pamphlet describing “Royal Protocol.” It said the Queen was to be referred to as “Her Majesty” or “Ma’am” – which was to rhyme with “spam” or “lamb.” Some cast members actually had the pamphlet folded in their pockets on the night of the screening.

It reminded me of a story about Virgil Fox, the great classical organist/showman. Virgil was never known for his subtlety (anyone wearing a pink lined full cape could hardly be described as subtle!) He was also famous, from what I understand, for referring to everyone as “honey” with astounding results sometimes. Obviously, he had never received he pamphlet about addressing the Queen (from a queen)because as the story goes, he also greeted Her Majesty as “honey.” I have no reports as to her reaction.

My personal introduction to Virgil was as amusing as all Virgil stories seem to be. I was going to school in Missoula, MT and the owners of the Wilma Theater (more on that for later posts!) were refurbishing their theater organ. The person in charge of this was a brilliant theater organist by the name of Andy Crow. Since Virgil toured with the “heavy organ” for the Rogers Organ Company, Andy went along to set the beast up and make sure all was working. Andy had left me his number should there be any problems with the organ – and there was.

The organ developed a severe case of “cypher” … stuck pipe that tweets away continually. I called the number and someone other than Andy answered the phone. I said I needed to speak to Andy about an organ problem (not the best choice of words). There was a deep chuckle, then the voice announced himself as Virgil Fox and stated he knew something about organs (another chuckle) and what was the problem. Stuttering and stammering (being in the presence of someone like that even on the phone could do that to me!) I outlined the problem. Virgil told me to get a pen and paper. This caused much scrambling on my part. He then began to outline the steps that I should take. I was copying the great man’s steps down exactly. The one point that threw me was to get a large hammer. Step by step he continued to outline the points. The last of which was to “find the offending pipe and beat the “hell out of it with the hammer.” His last statement to me was: “Honey, I’ll have Andy call you back.” and he hung up.

Virgil was obsessed with making great organ music popular with everyone (which did NOT make him popular with other organists and the Guild of American Organists) . He wasn’t content just to tour, sit at the console, play a few pieces and then leave. He believed that his audiences should be involved, thrilled and participate in the experience. What really convinced him this could happen was his performance at the Fillmore East – known only for it’s rock concerts> This being the 70’s, it also was known for a rather heavy cloud of smoke not from cigarettes(!) and other-um-mind enhancers. (how’s that for beating around the bush?)

The unverified story at the time was that Virgil’s secretary was not at the office when a call came. Virgil answered it and it was the Fillmore East wanting him to perform. Virgil had no idea who they were, but since they wanted a concert, he checked his schedule and the date was free. He said that his secretary/booking agent would call them back to finalize. The secretary was stunned and explained to Virgil exactly where he would be playing and for whom. Virgil loved it!! He then realized he needed to “add” to the concert and went to a large lighting design firm and said he wanted a “Bach light show.” They designed one, and for the next 9 years Virgil toured with the “heavy organ” and the “heavy lights.”

Virgil’s performance at the Fillmore is the (trite phrase) stuff-of-legends. He wore a velvet “Lord Fauntleroy” outfit. And talked before, during and after each piece. Of course, his record company recorded the event, and the recording was quite a sensation. At one point during one of the pieces a very stoned voice cries out: “Goooooo Virgil!” Without missing a beat, Virgil says into the microphone: “Johann Sebastian Bach and I are very glad you’re here.”

There is also the story of the dirty joke that was on the record, but I will have to listen to the recording again and make sure.

I’m including two clips of Virgil performing … the first is just a concert clip beautifully photographed. The second is from a Boston Pops performance, and gives a wonderful idea of just how involved his audiences could get.

Let me add – Virgil was always in control. Although he was considered flashy and flamboyant … he did more to remove the fear of classic music and the classical music experience than anyone and that includes Walt Disney’s “Fantasia.” He introduced many to classical music for the first time, and I can vouch that his concerts got many people to search further into classical music and performances.