Letters to Holly

Friday, June 13

Maybe My Thumb Is Green

I've managed to grow grass. I noticed brand-new blades this morning as I watered the lawn, and I haven't been this proud about looking at the ground since we yanked up last year's potatoes. The ground is still patchy, and I may have to put down a second seeding, but a precedent has emerged. We have grass-age.

I bought some fertilizer spray for the veggies. It attaches to the hose, and it can feed a garden for 15 minutes. My plot is smaller than the square-foot suggestion, and I switched from that watering to the normal sprinkler. We haven't had the rain we were predicted (shock), making manual watering necessary again. The peppers and tomatoes look OK, the cucumbers are dead, the garlic is still buried, and the marigolds have lost their first blooms.

We hosted a teacher buddy for a dinner of homemade spaghetti. It went over well. We're all excited to see The Happening despite common comments that it's a hilariously bad film. But we have to hit research papers and play scripts before Tuesday. I might skim the scripts form here on; the last one I read was pretty bland.

I talked to my Greenville friend, and he's available to meet up with us the weekend of Aug. 15.

Picture of the Day
This is from the Seattle alt-weekly, The Stranger.

Thursday, June 12

Theatre Doings

Last night's script meeting went well. We had a new member join, and our introduction was punctuated by his effort to remember where he had seen me before. Something similar happened when we watched the play last weekend; the box-office people called me by my last character's name. I do the same thing with other actors. We often call each other by character names as those are the ones we use the most often.

I had finished five of the eight scripts within the week, and I gave short reviews of them out loud. We have right at one month to make our suggestions for the season, and we've begun to cull the scripts that just won't fly. Both Neil Simons are out, unfortunately, as is Inherit the Wind (too huge), Dracula (too grim), The Hollow (the weaker of the 2 Agatha Christies), The Light in the Mill (too damn stupid), and a few others. We debated the merits of other scripts and disagreed professionally. The discussions are going really well. We champion some plays and defer to the consensus on others.

I was given five mores scripts to read, including Arsenic and Old Lace which I had somehow never read before. It's a stalwart of community theatre, as much as Oklahoma! and Greater Tuna.

Two bits of news caused ripples.

1) The renovations to the new theatre space might postpone the season until January. If we tried a full complement of productions, that might force a show each month. That's a large burden on our loyal audience and an even larger obligation on our repertory. It's possible the renovations can be done in phases, and maybe we can start the season in November.

2) The director of the courtroom drama -- the lady who was one-half of a horrible clash of egos -- not only emailed the theatre to ask for another directing gig, but she did it by contacting the guy she butted heads with. Of the committee members, I was the one directly involved with that mess, and I couldn't believe what I heard.

I also got confirmation of an ugly rumor where she dismissed a young male actor because he was black. She didn't believe he could credibly be someone in the 1930s drama. I saw this guy perform just last week and, hearing this, I got pissed. I remember how much trouble we had finding and keeping male actors, and we turned away a competent actor with a clear stage voice in the first day. We could have avoided that trouble for at least one role, and maybe the role we filled just two weeks before we opened . I said so and made sure to praise the guy who did ultimately rescue us. I don't know if that director knows that the high chief of the theatre is black, and word is that he decreed she wouldn't return.

I hope to polish off the five scripts while helping Your Sister finish reading research papers this week. She told me to stay away from Saturday's graduation ceremony, and I might watch Incredible Hulk.

Picture of the Day
Burning out his fuse up here alone.

Wednesday, June 11

Short Stuff

The only real news is that it finally rained. And rained and rained. I was able to sleep in this morning. I think we need to slap down some fertilizer on the new plantings this weekend.

We had a swank dinner out for the jailhouse-iversary, and we got a bit tanked on champagne.

Picture of the Day
"The Maze" by James Jean, who now does covers for comic books.

Tuesday, June 10

My Last Haul Perhaps

Because we're predicted to get big-mama storms starting, perhaps, today, I planted the rest of the seeds. These are actual seeds, mind you, not transplants from the high school. We picked out corn, pumpkins, a squash medley, and sunflowers. I demanded sunflowers. Pop had them, and I always liked them.

Things I learned when researching the plants:
1) Squash basically grows itself. You slam it in the ground and leave it alone.
2) Pumpkins take up a lot of root space and require hills to grow in. I had leftover mounds from the potatoes (And we're growing orphan potatoes from what didn't die in the fall. We've sprouted tater plants.)
3) Corn is going to be the hardest plant to grow to ripeness. Bugs, sickness, and birds will attack it always.
4) Cucumbers die pretty easily, as our vines are yellow and pale.

It took about two hours to finish the garden, and it really is finished now. There's no more room to plant more (unless I replace the cucumbers), and now I'm trying out watering patterns with the just-too-small rainbow sprinkler. But the rain this week will let me sleep later before work.

It's our jailhouse-iversary today, and we're going out for din-din. This means that today, three years ago, you and I became in-laws.

Picture of the Day
A Martian sunset seen from the Spirit rover.

Monday, June 9

I Have a Garden of Hate

Most of Saturday was spent proofing research papers, and Your Sis has asked me to help with another batch later in the week. This gives me no joy. But I want to be a nice guy.

We spent Saturday night watching the current show with my theatre bunch. I noticed in the playbill that two people were listed as voice coaches, and I knew that one of them was a tiny Jewish woman from New York. Sure enough, the play started, and the actors were using a heavy accent. When we did the murder play this spring, I worried about using the original British accents. We had so much dialogue to cover, and I thought accents might prove distracting to us, and bad ones would certainly distract the audience. We dropped them. Unanimously, I think.

I wish they had done so in this new play. They spent to much time learning the enunciation, they didn't have the melody. You can use regional rhythms without mimicking the exact dialect patterns. take the movie version of The Odd Couple. You can clearly tell these men are talking in New York patter even though they don't use the stereotypical accents. This new play, set in New Jersey, saw almost everyone adopt the broad, nasal inflections and word warping. And their efforts killed the comedy. They had no punch or flow, and I blame the director. He also had a supporting character express shyness and social anxiety by twitching and hard blinking. He looked like a bird. What made the show fun was the in-the-round format, a style I always liked.

The show's content gave me hope that the sex-farce script I read last week, Don't Dress for Dinner, could be produced next season.

My plan for Sunday was to wake up early, water the garden, and assemble the fence. We went to the local mom-and-pop hardware store and bought fencing, stakes, and a replacement staple gun. I knew exactly which one I wanted: an Arrow T-50.

I had one in college to stretch my canvases, and it always worked like a charm. It was a workhorse. It busted during a move, but I had plenty of staples. I found one at the store and bought extra staples. We knew the area of the garden we wanted to contain was roughly 50 x 16 feet. I set everything in the garage to put together the next morning.

Again, I wake up early Sunday and I water the garden. I turn off the water, load the staple gun, and give it a test squeeze. Nothing. Tried another row of staples. Nothing. I had a busted staple gun, fresh out of the box. It was 9:30, and the temperature was already brushing against 80 degrees. The local store was, of course, closed. I drove out to the big-box Lowe's with my new box of staples and picked out the same model gun. I asked the stockman if we could try it before I left. He loaded it, squeezed it, and out popped a staple just as designed. I thanked him, I bought it, I went home.

The first thing I did was dig a small trench around the perimeter. For a good rabbit fence, you have to bury the bottom edge. I used a spade and a shovel to mark out my trench, and then I drove in my stakes, roughly every ten feet. I flattened out the edge near the compost pile, creating a facet. Now, it was 11 a.m., and it was roasting. I put off the fence until the weather was cooler.

About five hours later, I graded the garden soil and started with the fencing. That's when I discovered the heavy staples in the bundles to keep the wire together. It took a while to remove each one, and I yanked them out with needle-nose pliers like a dentist. Then I got to stapling the fence to the stakes. I got to the tenth stake when the staple gun broke. I fidgeted with the first one, still on my work bench, and it stayed broke.

Back to Lowe's. I showed the gun to a new stockman, and he said immediately "the head is jammed. Let me fix it." I watched as he hit it with a hammer for five minutes before telling the customer-service cashier to let me get a new one. She was new. She didn't know how to work that button on the register. She instead gave me a refund and told me to go around to another register and buy the new gun off the shelf. I did that, after testing the new one, and returned home. I went straight to the garden and hurried through the rest of the stakes before this new gun decided to go on strike. It took much, much longer than it should have. My fingers are swollen and sore, my back hurts, and I lost some weight sweating for hours.

Of course, I expect to return home tonight to find the fence wrapped around and trailing a stupid-happy golden retriever belonging to some neighbor. Or a coven of rabbits wearing bibs and sitting around the new plants with silverwear in each front paw.

I hope to plant the pumpkins, corn, and squash before the heavy rains predicted for this week. That means I go back to the garden tonight. Now that I have fencing to keep rabbits out, I suppose we're obliged to grow stuff that might attract the rabbits.