Tucked up in my living room I sit in a big chair I had no need for, but purchased anyway, and it has become my writing place.  My living room is odd, spanning the entire front of my house and it doesn’t make sense in any objective way.  I am told the family that built the house, back when my little street was the end of town, had a grand piano and where I sit now the piano sat when the house was new, sometime in the mid-1920s. 

A grand piano, baby or otherwise, is the only way to make sense of the room. 

But now this chair fills an odd corner. 

Early morning writing is the only way to make use of this corner and this chair. There is a bench here, too, but it only has company when I entertain, and that hasn’t happened in a very long time.  In fact, it was the favorite spot of my pal, Otis, who came to my get-togethers, dragged, I think, by his wife.  He anchored this end of my living room with another put-upon husband, Vance, and over our antics and silliness I think they bonded. 

Otis told me once he finally had a good time at one of my parties and then I quit having them. So, now when I sit here, trying to think of something to write, I channel Otis and Vance, and think about how much I miss them.  Those parties, though, they about killed me getting everything ready, but now I wish I had thrown a few more, because you never know when your pals may leave you for good. 

I wouldn’t think of them nearly so often if I were sitting in the writing place I prepared upstairs.  If the living room is odd, running the length of the house, the large bedroom upstairs is equally odd, running the width.  It makes for a nice, sunny room, but somehow too big for a bedroom, although it has some nice features like a window seat and a nook. I am turning it into a sitting room and office, but really, it just sits there wondering when I will get in gear and do something, anything with the space.  

I have an antique table I bought solely because of the brass feet shaped like dolphins.  When I sit  at the table with the dolphins I look out over the backyard.  This is pleasant but the view rarely changes and it isn’t as inspiring as I thought it would be.  So, to chat with you each week, I sit in a chair I didn’t need but have come to love, look at all my familiars from a different angle, laptop, sitting squarely when it was designed to be.

Virginia Woolf talks of a street haunting, walking out around nightfall, some insignificant errand excuse enough to explore her surroundings.  How different it seems. The street cloaked in fog. Furtive figures hunkered down in coats, hurrying…home? Or some secret meeting of the business or personal kind  But she begins the essay in her sitting room.  Noticing the clock.  The hole in the hearth rug, burnt by a rolling log, an ember, a careless guest. 

Sitting where I never sit is a bit like a street haunting. It turns my attention in a different way, through other windows, the half-shadow I never notice hanging about my front door. The leaded glass as resolute as the fir door it sits in, the way it throws rainbows on the wall as the sun sets, all fairy lights and dancing color. It lasts but a minute.

The refracted light I see every afternoon. From this chair in the morning I see the prisms.

Interesting how we can haunt our own houses, our own familiars.  Important, too, perhaps. My unnecessary chair has become my favorite perch.  Not for very long and not every day, but it lets me look out different windows, lets me see the backs of things, reminds me of old friends and the ghost of  parties.  The reflected and dancing light of place, from this angle and that.

Farewell, Ma’am

The Queen is dead.  Long live the King.  

Words from movies, books, evocative of palace intrigue, skullduggery, warring nations on horseback, battles fought with lances and arrows.  A time of scourges and plagues. Poison in rings, monarchs laid low by the most common of illnesses.  Dramatic times.  Romantic times. 

Our time, as it turns out.  

A peaceful death in the fullness of old age, sad but dignified. 

The morning her doctors “expressed concern” for her heath,  I woke to dings on my phone, friends announcing the news.  We are all Anglophiles to some degree. It has become one of our things, sending each other post cards from the Royal family when we find them.  Writing messages and signing them “Charles and Camilla,”  or the more more familiar, “Chuck and Cammie.”  The Queen writes sometimes.  She especially missed me at Balmoral a few summers ago.  

The Cambridges missed me at sweet Charlotte’s christening.  This one sent from London,  dated, “10  May 2016.”

I have given my friend Jason a tea cozy in the shape and likeness of the first Queen Elizabeth.  Another friend gave him a life-sized head of a smiling Queen Elizabeth II to place in the  passenger window of his car. It looks for all the world like he is driving her out to Costco to pick up chew toys for the Corgis.  I think she is even waving. 

It was no surprise, then, to learn our most devoted lover of the English, Jason, made reservations in London the moment he heard she was unwell.  A few days later, he is on a flight, determined to pay homage, to soak it all in, the ending of a true historic era.  To bear witness.

And he took us with him. 

He dropped pins to show us where he was so we might snake along the Thames with him as he moved in the queue, an eight hour slow walk to Westminster Hall.  He send a selfie with his new friends, his mates, who were standing in line with him.  A close-up image of his wide yellow wrist band, the thing that allowed him to step out of line for a moment to get something to eat or drink. 

He arrived in London, dropped his bags  and headed for the line on the first day of the Queen’s Lying In State. He waited in line making friends while we sat in front of laptops and TVs, trying to catch a glimpse of him.  After six hours or more he had arrived at the top of the steps leading down to catafalque, and he texted us, but none of us saw him just then. 

We see him later in the evening, a grainy copy of a TV shot, as he bows his head, walks  away, looks back, moves on. Later he spent a quiet day walking around London with his good friend, looking at flowers and mementoes.  He found a good spot at Horse Guards Road to watch the funeral procession and sent a video of the Queen as she passed him. 

For all the pageantry, and no one does it better than the British, we were also watching a much beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother mourned by her family. Publicly, on display, and the state and personal impact of her passing kept me riveted to the coverage. Sorrow etched deep on the faces of those who loved her most.  Charles, Anne, Sophie Wessex, often the pure images of grief.  

And why are we moved so, by it?  My friend, Marianne, was moved by the organ music, setting her off to weeping.  She, too, is an organist, and the majestic pipe organs served to open her heart and make it tender. The pipers and the laments fading away did it for me. The tear-rimmed eyes of her children and grandchildren, too. 

A woman in line, overcome with tears, told an interviewer she didn’t know why she was so upset, really, but that this loss reminded her of her own losses.  Maybe that is where the wellspring of emotion comes from. Maybe this is the thing that connects us, finally in death, a queen or a commoner or a Yank, the way we can have it, that fellow feeling, the focus on something bigger than ourselves, but in refection, about ourselves, too.

Of course, the Royal Family, like all families, has troubles.  Deep ones with tensions and upset, and that, too, is on display and out there for public consumption.  But this is not about that. Nor is it about the viability and correctness of the Monarchy.  Kirstie Young, in her moving remarks at the close of coverage on BBC said of the Queen, “She made history.  She was history.”  

Queen Elizabeth’s story is compelling, even though, or perhaps because, it has an anachronistic aspect to it.  But as she aged, she moved with the times, too, and we saw her more frequently.  Saw her playful in her role. Ask Paddington bear, or James Bond. We saw her in those big bright hats, her perfect skin, that smile. 

Farewell, then, to a steady presence I did not know, but one for whom I felt real affection. I will miss her.

Oh, We Got Talent, Right Here in River City


Once again I am impressed with isaand amazed at the talent that lurks about in Owensboro.  These seemingly regular people going about their ordinary lives, and then, one night, they light up the stage.  Maybe it is the stage in the Old Trinity Church.  Maybe it is the stage of the Empress Theatre.  Maybe the stage at OHS, home of the Rose Curtain Players. 

But last week, it was the Trinity Center, on a Saturday night, for a production of Lisa Kron’s play, “well.”  There was a great write up about it I am told.  I hesitate to say I missed that article in the Messenger-Inquirer when it ran, but my friends didn’t, and they asked if wanted to go with them, season ticket holders as they are. 

With the promise of a downtown dinner beforehand, I was in.  They tried to explain to me the premise, the staging, but really, they weren’t very good at it.  Something about only two characters — which is wrong.  They were right in saying the play centers on a grown daughter and her ailing mother. The mother, by the way, has been unwell for years. 

The set design is minimal, but before the play started I leaned against the apron and took photos of the recliner and the paraphernalia on the small table to its right.  I have been in homes where illness has come, and I was drawn to the tabletop, counted the objects, marveled at the perfection of them. Tissues, a notepad and pen, the remote, a bottle of pills, a large drinking glass and straw.  There was ice in the glass.  Ice.  Hard candies scattered about. A large bottle of generic antacids, hand sanitizer, a coffee cup full of pens.  

The requisite zig-zag afghan across the back of the recliner. A tote bag hanging off a corner of the table. That’s just about it for props.  The stage is divided in two, sort of,  The recliner, with the mother firmly planted in it, anchors one part of the stage and provides the audience with a visual and emotional warmth, while the minimalist other half becomes whatever the playwright needs it to b, allergy clinic, meeting room, I can’t remember what all. 

What I will not forget for a good while, though, are the performances of the central characters.  Lisa, portrayed by Nicol Maurer to energetic, comedic and heartbreaking effect.  The mother, Ann, played by Debbie Reynolds, in a subtle, nuanced performance that offers a space of calm in this mother-daughter reckoning. 

It is a classic genre, the mother-daughter thing, but the playwright, Lisa Kron, lets us know right off the bat it isn’t about her or her mother.  Oh, no.  Never that.  And of course, it is.  What marks this play as different from some others is the unconventional way the story is told. It is a comedy, but also a play within a play, with a memoir feel to it, but lots of breaking the fourth wall, so I don’t know.  All I know is, it works and I am so glad TWO has offered it for us.

The action is quick-paced and funny, laugh out loud funny, and the “swingers” not quite Greek chorus, not quite fully fleshed out characters, are all superb and perfectly cast.  I have met every one of them in real life.  You know what I mean. 

Here is the part where I say, I have seen plays in Chicago, London, New York.  One summer I walked in the evening half-light to Dublin’s Abbey Theatre where Fiona Shaw was starring in “Medea.” 

The plays in those places were wonderful.  Stunning, some of them, like “Medea.”

But so was the performance last Saturday. So well done.  So easy to suspend disbelief as if, we, too, were struggling to make sense of our earliest influences—our mothers—and our necessary separations from them. We want to let go, but then we don’t, exactly, either. 

Wes Bartlett and Mary-Katherine Maddox direct, and they must be pretty adept at it because we don’t see their guiding hand in any obvious way and that’s hard to pull off. 

Theatre Workshop of Owensboro will have more performances this coming weekend.  I was so impressed by the experience I want as many of you who can, to have it, too.  Contact TWO for ticket price and times.  You’ll almost think you are at the Abbey.