Letters to Holly

Friday, October 31

Not Much

It's been a quiet week in my hometown of Lake Brainsbegone.

Your Sis toils to clean up grades before the next report cards. Parents won't answer the phones for her mandatory calls, probably becuase they are avoiding political robocalls. The school continues to react to the fiasco with the school board and teacher turnover; the local paper is still running letters of shock from area readers. I have endured a sore throat since Sunday, and it's prevented me from running. It probably came from a sunset race in October, followed by chatting next to a smoky fire near germ-riddled kids at our party. Luckily, I will self-medicate with leftover Halloween candy. I'm wearing my Lost Boys t-shirt to work today.

If I'm John McCain, I don't mention Obama from here on. The myth of the undecided voter is just that. If people can't form an opinion on a candidate after 20 months of ads and speeches, they shouldn't be courted. They should be ignored. They are morons, and it's an insult to one's dignity to woo them.

Picture of the Day
Your Sister's pumpkin in the middle couldn't maintain the delicate stencil work. I obviously prefer my pumpkins neurotic.

Wednesday, October 29

Rehearsals 1 and 2

Rehearsal One: The Readthrough
We meet on Monday for the first readthrough. While we were initially told to expect Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday rehearsals, that changed to Monday-Tuesday-Thursday. Either way, that's a nice three-day week. It's a small play. This should be feasible.

We don't have a full cast yet, but those present sit around two tables to read the script. We're told that Dan (Brick from Cat and the PI from January 16) will play Scrooge's nephew and the translator for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. That ghost never speaks in the book, and the play calls for him to give testimony. Hence the translator. The script specifies an actress here, but the director is doing what she can with whom she can find. However, our bailiff is written as a youngster, and that current actor walks with a cane.

Among those who are present, I am the youngest. By at least 30 years. Dan will skew that curve, but still, we didn't cast either of the young girls who auditioned? They have voices and faces and everything; we can't be picky. Scrooge is already setting the stage for stepping out of the play but will continue if the director can't find someone better.

The reading goes fine. My ghost voice (the typical spectral yodeling) goes over well. I play it for comedy when the ghost obviously doesn't want to co-operate. Also, he faints at one point, and I do my best Looney Tunes "yipe." We're told to start working on English accents. Also, the men must grow out the beards for muttonchops. Hm.

Rehearsal Two: Short Stuff
I arrive straight from the hometown from the funeral.

The play starts with the judge and bailiff who play the contemporary Scrooge and Cratchit. Then we meet the attorneys: Scrooge the prosecutor and Rothschild the defense attorney for the ghosts. Rothschild gives his opening argument and calls up Cratchit as the first witness. That's me. This is where the play begins to quote the story. I mention Marley and the office and my office presence on Christmas Eve. This is as far as we get tonight as our Scrooge is out. We jump ahead for the second-act Cratchit material. I also read for the absent Fred, and I try to make them distinct.

As befits an English court, the witnesses will stand the entire time. I'm OK with this. I again read too fast, and I want to blame the English accent. The director says that she "thinks" I'm trying to do one and encourages everyone else to start practicing their own. I make a note to dust off my CD of author Neil Gaiman reading his kids' stories.

There's a great deal of conversation about blocking details. It's awfully early for this, but it takes up a lot of time. We don't even have the measurements of the stage yet. The director says we might perform on the floor in front of the stage which has yet to be renovated. I like the idea. And that's it. It's very short, but I'm already memorizing the script page layout to help me learn my lines.

Saying Goodbye

I took the day off Tuesday to drive down the mountain for Jared's funeral. I woke up to a note saying Your Sis could come along if the school granted her request to leave. It was blowing snow as we left town, and I was again dressed in my same black suit. It's now a formal uniform of sadness.

I got a call from another member of the "geek squad" Monday night asking if I was coming down and if I had a cloisonne pin to wear. About 20 years ago, comic companies began sprouting out into new marketing areas, and one of them were shiny, sturdy pins. I wore a number of them in high school, as did a great number of fellow fanboys. Of course I had a pin. I never threw them away.

We arrived much earlier than I expected, and we killed time strolling through a Barnes & Noble. It was a haunt for talking art and comics. We arrived at the funeral home around 2:20. We signed in and looked at some of Jared's artwork -- a painting, a drawing of his wife and baby, a Star Trek color drawing. People were assembled near the casket, and we made our way down. I hadn't seen any of them since Atlanta in early September.

I feel horrible for his wife, Chris. From what another friend said, Jared was virtually cancer-free. He had beaten it. The surgery next week was a formality, just to ensure the chemo had gotten it all. Jared awoke Saturday morning, had trouble breathing, and collapsed. It's possible the absence of chemo-related blood thinners had moved a clot. It was assumed the danger was all gone.

Jared was buried with one of his child's nightgowns and several Superman-related objects. He looked great. The cancer hadn't hit him nearly as hard as it had Dad. We spoke to his mom and our mutual friends. We hugged Chris, and I feared she was going to dissolve. She was ruined. Just ruined. Jared's friends served as active or honorary pallbearers. I was an honorary. We all wore pins for Jared.

A number of speakers eulogized him. His cousins referred to his work as an art teacher and his faith and intelligence and love for comic stories. One of the "squad" closed the service with references to Star Trek and quotes from Spock's funeral. The squad members who served as pallbearers recognized the material and shared smiles. Then a recording of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace began, and we walked outside and watched the casket go into the hearse.

We drove to the graveside, and a Superman sticker was put on his coffin. A few words were shared, and his Mom gathered his friends together to say thank you and goodbye to Jared. There was a dinner at their church, but we had to drive back home for rehearsal, and I'll post about that later.

Clearly, I have to prepare for this. I have to make funeral plans and get a physical. Mom commanded me to get a colonoscopy. I have to ask the lawyer where my copy of the will is; we talked to him about drafting it some months back. I have to make things easy for Your Sister if she finds herself in Chris's place. I don't know what I'll do if I find myself there.

Picture of the Day
I wore my Xavier Academy pin. I've had it for 17 years.

Monday, October 27

Another Funeral

I had mentioned my friend Jared before; he was one half of the couple that anchored my hometown comic gang. He was diagnosed with a bad intestinal cancer and initially told to put his affairs in order. A second opinion suggested targeted treatment could help. He took chemo and scheduled a surgery next month to remove the cancer. I last saw him at DragonCon, the first time I had seen him since he got sick. He hadn't lost a significant mount of weight, and he was in his element. He looked good.

I got the call Saturday morning that he died of an embolism. This was five months to the day that Dad died. When Mrs. Crowe called to tell me Dad was ailing, I had just come in from a race. It was virtually at the exact same time of day. Of course, Saturday I had the 5k. I don't appreciate the similarities. Jared leaves behind a wife and daughter. He was seven months older than me. He and his wife helped me recover from my surprise separation and divorce. They were as good of friends as I could ask for.

I knew Jared from high school. We met in an art class. We didn't keep in tough until after college. He began working at my hometown comic store, and we struck up again immediately. He went on to teach art in elementary and middle schools. He had a gabillion toys and comics, and he could talk intelligently about what writers and creators were doing on our favorite titles. We dressed up each Halloween and visited the same comic shop for cake and drinks and conversation.

Quiet geeks like us typically stay alone. He found a fantastic wife in Chris; they met in college. She found herself orbited by a gang of nerds and took it all in stride. She joined in, complete with costumes at Halloween. She was very good to him, and he was happy.

I told John, the caller and another part of the gang, to keep me in the loop. I stayed in town during the weekend and hadn't heard anything else. An online check of their local newspaper revealed the funeral plans. I drive down Tuesday and drive back after the service for the first official rehearsal. I will be able to stay a little after the service to talk to his other friends, but I need to get back home. I have to keep moving.

We knew he was sick, but we saw him maintain. He died just like My Dad and just like his own father. I don't think we realized how relieved we all were to see him scrape past the initial diagnosis. It's a shock that shouldn't be a shock. I'm rattled quite a bit, and I'm very tempted to burn my suit after Tuesday. The idea of wearing it again -- for another funeral, for Jared's funeral -- just crushes me.

+ + +

I'll be quick with the rest.

We helped form a spontaneous teacher party Firday night and hosted a pumpkin-carving party the next night. We had kids and adults play Guitar Hero and drink beer and make jack o'lanterns. It went on to the wee hours. Because Saturday was such a heavy day, I drank a lot, and it almost helped.

That party started before I got back from the race. It was good weather for it and a good turnout. About 200+ people, with maybe a fourth in costume. I started the race in the middle of the pack and finished strong after the big hills disheartened a number of others. I ran much faster than I had in training, thanks to my keeping pace with people I thought would fade. They didn't, and I grew to hate the Tigger running in front of me for making me run so hard. She eventually gave up when we hit the big hill. But that was two miles later than I assumed. I finished in 28 minutes, almost 13 minutes after the overall winner. I was exhausted and content with the time.

Sarah Palin spoke in Asheville last night, and we watched the live broadcast. She was 2 hours late and held off the start of her speech to let a country singer bust out her four-year-old song about redneck women. The crowd was happy with the speech; it gave a number of vague shots at Obama and also vaguly praised Mccain, and she wore jeans to make us forget about the thousands spent at New York clothing stores. She was there, and there's not much there there.

Picture of the Day
Jared as Captain Marvel. That costume was a labor of love, and I remain jealous of it.