Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

On Balance

On balance, I have to say that 2015 has been a decidedly mixed bag. 2014 was a year of unfathomable losses, one right after the other, and yet I blogged through it. But in 2015, all that grief came home to roost, plus I got a extra bonus kick in the teeth. So I'm more than ready to blast right out of this year and into the next, whatever it may bring.

But 2015 wasn't ALL bad. There were three big highlights. First, Dave and I took my mother and her best friend of 72 years, Lyla, down the Baja to visit with the friendly whales of Laguna San Ignacio.

It was different than our first trip down with our friend Consuelo. First off, the group in-camp was much larger. When Dave, Consuelo & I went, there were only five in camp, Including us, total. But even though there were more people, there were more whales too. It was one of the largest census counts of California Gray whales in the laguna on record.

So there was plenty of heavy whale petting going on. Which of course brought out the hero photographer in Dave.

Here you can see a mama whale lifting her baby up to the boat so we can pet it. It's astounding that they do this. They were hunted to near extinction, and yet they seek out this interaction with us.

Their trust is humbling. As you're looking down at them, they're looking up at you, and their intelligence is palpable. Even the babies are old, old souls.

They even have a sense of humor, as evidenced by this spy hop photobomb of our boat.

We saw lots of different behavior, like spy hopping and mating - and yes, it's impressive - but beyond laying hands on a gray whale, there's nothing that beats a really good breach.

Or a Baja rainbow.

And on our last night there, the sky put on an extra good show for Mom's birthday.

All in all, that one trip alone helped tip the balance of the year toward the plus side, but there were two other little things that helped lower the downside.

Dave's son Ryan got married to a GREAT gal named Emily, and we couldn't possibly be happier about it.

And then...

..we got married. So from our little family to yours, I wish you a 2016 that balances out to be happy, healthy, prosperous and fun. ESPECIALLY fun.

Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Vida, Muerte, y El Dia de los Muertos

Not to be too glib, but everything on earth has a life -

late july 034

A death -

halloween 2014 003

And an afterlife -

halloween 2014 037

What KIND of afterlife depends on your own personal beliefs. Mine are eclectic, but I do believe that we all continue to exist in some form after we've left this earth, and at this time of year, those who have passed on are very, very close to those they've left behind.

halloween 2014 026

Samhain. All Hallow's Evening. Halloween. All Saints Day. Dia de los Muertos. All fall from the 31st of October to the 2nd of November, all have one foot in life and the other in death. And all are celebrations.

halloween 2014 007

Celebrate death? Why not? It's part of life, and to separate it, treat it as something 'other' is somehow disrespectful of those who have stepped through that door. Because no matter what, they're always with us. And during these magical three days, the world of the living and the world of the dead are closer than at any other time of the year. Which means you can easily visit. Which gives me great comfort.

2014 has been difficult for us, with so much loss and grief. But today, on El Dia, we will celebrate our dear departed who will never leave us, and we honor them on our altar with talismans and things they enjoyed in life. And we will SO enjoy visiting with them.

For Peter, my dear Southern Scot, the cork from a nice bottle of single malt. I'll be sipping a shot with him later.

halloween 2014 019

For Dave's brother Rod, some Whoppers, his favorite candy. Dave will join him in indulging their mutual sweet tooth.

halloween 2014 020

Nan and Chuck Hebner sit next to Dad. They were all the best of friends, and I'm sure are whooping it up somewhere tonight. I've given the Hebners some limes for their vodka & tonics.

Dad has his prized "N Club" lifetime membership card, which surely extends into the afterlife. And though he left the Catholics for the MUCH more fun Whiskey-palians, he has his parents' dashboard Mary. I'll raise a glass of red table wine to Dad. The man loves a good honest glass of 'dago red.'

halloween 2014 017

Today we also celebrate a birthday. One year ago on Halloween, our across-the-street neighbors Cricket and Jason had a bun in the pumpkin.

halloween 2013 015

Two days later, on El Dia, their son Ohio was born, and now he's King of the Forest.

halloween 2014 032

We'll enjoy being part of his life, watching him grow, bringing him veggies from the garden and dogs to play with, and when we're gone, we'll still come visit. No doubt in my mind. Any kid born on El Dia is an old, old soul and will welcome visitors from the afterlife.

So tonight, join us in thinking sweet thoughts of your dearest departed.

halloween 2014 005

Because I guarantee they're thinking about you too.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Drought Tolerant

fig tart & pets 029

Because LA is essentially a desert, almost everything in our garden is drought tolerant, and I'm stingy with the water too. Which was a good thing this year, since we're experiencing the worst drought since California has been recording such things. Thank you, carbon emissions.

But the one thing we DO water are our vegetables and fruit trees, though we're stingy there too. So this year, since there wasn't the winter rain to really soak the ground, our harvest wasn't quite what it has been in the past. With one notable exception.

late july 037

Ah yes. The magical fig tree. This thing will outlive us all, AND bear endless fruit. Which is more than I can say for Gladys, who turned out to be a total egg-laying dud.

late july 004

Coco, on the right, lays eggs like a champ. And though I threaten Gladys with the soup pot if she doesn't start putting out, she doesn't believe me.

But anyway, the rest of the garden was a little bit 'meh' this year. We had a decent haul of tomatoes.

blt 004

Emmy Lou would like a BLT, hold the LT. And we had a volunteer pumpkin vine that's still in a generous mood.

late july 034

But the grape harvest? Not so much.

grape harvest 2014 002

Though last year's was so good I still promise a "Win the Wine" bloggy contest soon. And our artichokes? So tough we let most of 'em go to flower.

late july 016

Yes, they ARE a member of the thistle family. Reunions are kinda prickly.

But ANYWAY, since the only thing we really had an abundance of were figs, once I'd canned enough jam for Xmas, dehydrated quarts and quarts, and was Fig Fairy to all the neighbors, I STILL had a mess of 'em and had to figure out SOMETHING else to do with them other than my tried-and-true appetizer with goat cheese.

So here, in just a few easy steps, with almost NO cooking at all, I bring you this summer's hit dessert: THE DARK CHOCOLATE FIG TART.

First, cut up a bunch of figs.

fig tart & pets 017

Though to be honest, you could use strawberries (with strawberry jam) or any pit fruit (with apricot jam) and the thing would still ROCK.

In a double boiler or microwave, melt some dark chocolate chips. For a 9" diameter crust, I used 1/2 a bag of Ghiradelli. Because I don't buy cheap chocolate.

fig tart & pets 018

Take your jar of jam and set it in the boiling water too - or microwave - to make it a little more viscous.

fig tart & pets 019

God, I love that word! Viscous.

Now, here's where my laziness knows no bounds. I used one of those rolled up, raw pie crusts & baked it flat with the edges crimped. You could also use phyllo, and bake that flat too. Or if you're an overachiever, make your own damn pastry.

fig tart & pets 020

Spread the chocolate all over, then arrange figs on top, dollop the whole thing with jam and refrigerate until you're ready to serve it.

fig tart & pets 021

See? INSANELY easy. Oh - and don't forget YOUR reward for slaving in the kitchen.

fig tart & pets 022

Licking the spatula. Mmmmmm.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Viva Guadalajara!

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 029

It's been a year of numerous losses of people near and dear to us for both me and Dave, but without a doubt the worst for me was the loss of my father. I can't bring myself to write about him yet. For Dave, it was the loss of his brother, Rod.

Both of us were so beat up that when he got a last minute business trip to Guadalajara and asked if I'd come along, I didn't hesitate. "Yes!" was out of my mouth so fast it made my head spin. So without further ado, I bring you a whirlwind four days in the beautiful capital of Jalisco.

I'm a 'when in Rome' kinda gal, so I try as much as possible to do at least some of the things locals do, which includes taking buses.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 003

Jesus ALWAYS has the driver's back, and if you look reeeeaallly close, you can see Dave in the little round mirror.

Street art is always good, but in Mexico, where the tradition of murals runs deep, I found this pretty whimsical.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 004

Who doesn't like a good cow on a wall?

When we first landed, we hit the bus to El Centro Historico right away, but the bus route near our hotel dropped us about 20 blocks shy of the plaza mejor in front in the Parque de Revolucion near this gothic edifice.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 007

It's the Templo Expiatorio, and at 9AM and 6PM, the doors of its German clock open up and the 12 apostles come out.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 005

We weren't there at 9AM or 6PM, though, so I can't swear on it. Had I been guaranteed a little apostle dance or something, I'd have OF COURSE hung around, but we had some Christmas shopping to do. So we sat across from the church in the Plaza del Agave...

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 008

...and, no, we didn't drink any aged and fermented agave. Instead, Dave did some orienteering & got us pointed & aimed. We walked the 20 blocks (they were short) to the Plaza Guadalupe, and saw these in SO many stores I just had to take a photo.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 010

God, I loved these things when I was a kid!

As you get closer La Cruz de Plazas, you can see the twin spires of the Catedral Metropolitana rising up to lead the way.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 011

And not a moment too soon. There was a rain storm and people tucked themselves in the doorway of the cathedral to avoid a soaking.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 014

As my father, the former altar boy, would say, "Now, THAT'S a church!"

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 013

But at some point we had to leave the sanctuary and head out into the lluvia because we had some IMPORTANT shopping to do at the Mercado Libertad, better known as Mercado San Juan de Dios. And you must know that I AM my father's daughter, and haggled like a good Hungarian, in remedial Spanish, por supuesto.

I can't really show you much inside because you might be getting a Christmas present from there and I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, but I was happy to see that the cart horses had little raincoats.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 019

The next three days, Dave had to work, so I shopped and wandered and saw sights and art and lived by my 'when in Guadalajara' rule, which includes eating at lunch stands that most gringos won't touch. And no, I don't get turista, because I always drink Coke or cerveza or aqua mineral sin hielo, por favor.

Since Guadalajara is only a couple hundred miles from Puerto Vallarta, I did a sampling of ceviches for most of my lonches, and they were ALL great, but this one in San Juan de Dios I KNEW was gonna be amazing. How? The cops were eating there too.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 023

Note that the owner of the loncheria is looking up. EVERYONE in the Mercado was watching the Copa Mundial game between Alemana y Brazil. And if you think the Guadalajarans were rooting for Brazil, think again.

In 1864, a second tier German royal - (The younger brother of Franz Joseph I) - came and declared himself Emperor of Mexico. Maximiliano I. He didn't last long. In fact, he was executed by Juarez in 1867.

emperor Maximilano y empress Carlota

But he left behind a love of accordion and tuba and that polka-like music you hear in Mexico, Norteno.

Let's look at some art, shall we? In front of the Instituto Cultural Cabanas is La Sala de los Magos, an installation by the artist Alejandro Colunga. Here are a few images of that remarkable work.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 031

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 032

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 033

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 036

And yes, people most definitely hang out with these extraordinary creatures.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 030

The Instituto de Cultural Cabanas is housed in an old hospicio, or orphanage, and while it has installations by contemporary artists -

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 037

It's mostly known for the monumental work "Man of Fire" by Jose Clemente Orozco.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 039

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 040

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 041

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 043

The piece is so vast you could spend days and weeks and still not take it all in.

Oh look! Another church!

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 044

This is the Templo del Carmen, where I sat my butt on a bench in the plaza and took a breather.

Guadalajara is singularly blessed by not one, but two major works by Orozco. This one, depicting Hidalgo, a great leader in the War of Independence, freeing the slaves is in the Palacio de Gobierno. In fact, Hidalgo signed the emancipation decree in the Governor's Palace in 1810.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 048

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 050

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 061

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 063

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 064

Yeah, Orozco is not for the faint of heart. But imagine WORKING in this building. Yes, it's still a working office with another art gallery inside. And some of the historic salons are open for viewing too.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 053

A nice crystal chandelier takes away some of the sting of all that blood and fire.

As always in Mexico, I saw my share of stray dogs, but not a single stray cat, except this one, which I saw all over town.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 067

Gang Gato, perhaps? Anyway, by Thursday afternoon, Dave was done with work and could join me on a little side trip to the town of Tlaquepaque, which has basically been absorbed by the sprawl of Guadalajara. But it's known for the work of its potters and weavers and artisans, and it and the next town, Tonala, are famous for their festive Sunday markets.

Alas, this wasn't Sunday, but it WAS the last day we had to complete our Christmas shopping, so we went at it like...nah. Not really. We wandered around & went where our feet carried us. This house was decorated by its owner in what I recognize as something akin to Southern Folk Art from the Deep, DEEP South.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 075

Then we wandered into the Jardin Hildago and witnessed something extraordinary - El Danzo de los Voladores, or the Dance of the Flyers. You can look up a deeper history of it, but they believe it started among the Nahua, Huastec or Otoni people of the mountains of Veracruz, though now it's associated with the Totonacs of Papantla, Veracruz. The 4 dancers on the cuadro represent the 4 cardinal directions plus earth, fire, air and water, and the priest atop the pole on the caporal playing the flute and drum represents the 5th sun. The 4 dancers each make 13 revolutions, which, if you do the math, equals 52 - the number of years in the Aztec Round Calendar.

It was a privilege to see it.

But the day finally came to an end and with it our much needed trip to somewhere else. Salud.

guadalajara y tlaquepaque 077

Hasta la pues, Guadalajara, y muchas, MUCHAS gracias.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Four Stars and 25 Years Ago...

25 years ago, MILL FIRE premiered at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, directed by David Petrarca. That production moved to New York and ran at the Women's Project that same year. Then the play had its U.K. premiere at the Bush Theatre, London at Riverside Hammersmith, directed by Brian Stirner.

After that, I didn't go to see any more professional productions of the play. Only college productions. Not because I didn't think the professional productions would be bad, but because I'd seen two superlative professional productions, I wasn't going to rewrite the play, and with college productions, I at least get to teach some workshops with the students, interact, and let them know that not all playwrights are dead.

But then, 25 years later, Sandy Shinner made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Sandy had directed gorgeous productions of some of my other plays in Chicago, she was taking over as artistic director of Shattered Globe Theater, and she promised that my old friend and favorite designer, Jeff Bauer, would design the set. How could I not want to see that?

chicago & 075

Throughout the casting and rehearsal period, Sandy, Jeff and I were in frequent contact. I even 'sat in' on some auditions via Skype (Oh, Brave New World!) and came to Chicago for previews so I could give last minute production notes. Sandy kept on worrying. She's so used to having the playwright in the room with her during rehearsals.

But the whole time I knew I had no reason to worry or doubt. And I was right. The cast was perfect, the lighting, sound and costume design were spot-on, Jeff's set and inventive use of a black box theater was inspired and Sandy did what Sandy always does - through meticulous work and flawless direction, she lets the play shine.

Don't take my word for it. Here are a few reviews.

From The Chicago Reader -

Time Out Chicago -

Stage and Cinema -

and Chicago Theater Review -

Nothing but four stars for the production.

And here's a new one on me. Back in the old days, our marketing plans for getting butts in the theater seats pretty much came down to printing posters, going out in the dead of night with a bucket of wall paste and plastering our posters over everyone else's posters.

Now? 'Movie' trailers and audience reaction videos, streaming on social media.

But some things stay the same. The morning after I arrived, Jeff still had some set painting to do, so guess who was his assistant for the day?

mill fire set painter

And you know what? I loved every minute of it.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

A Tourist at Home

The Place of Wild Onions, City of Big Shoulders, Hog Butcher to the World, the Windy City, My Kind of Town.

Whatever you call it, for me, Chicago is HOME.

chicago & 013

I was there for a wonderful whirlwind anniversary, and in the next entry I'll talk about THAT, but since I had Dave in tow and he'd never really spent time in my hometown, I decided to play tourist just a bit, but of course a tourist with CLASS.

For instance, THIS Chicago girl has always wanted to stay HERE:

chicago & 096

How many times did I head south on Lake Shore Drive past the Gold Coast on a wintry day and see the red (now purple) sign above The Drake and think to myself, "Someday, I'm gonna STAY THERE."

So for my birthday, Dave burned a gazillion Hilton Honors points and got us a suite with a view of MY LAKE.

chicago & 006

Well, it's everybody's lake, but I spent so many years working on boats I feel a bit proprietary. And speaking of boats...

chicago & 011

Why yes, that's Dave sitting in the bow of Chicago's First Lady.

There are many river boat tours, but THE one to take is the one given by the Chicago Architecture Foundation, with volunteer docents who REALLY know their shit about the three distinct schools/eras of Chicago architecture, one of the greatest architecture cities in the world. That fire was good for something, and the something was that the city got to be planned from the ground up, leaving the lakefront open for ALL to enjoy.

So let us begin.

chicago & 016

The lovely white terra cotta of the Wrigley Building (1924, designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst & White) facing the dark gothic spire of the Tribune Tower.

chicago & 025

The 61 story twin towered Marina City, (1960, designed by Bertrand Goldberg), and fondly referred to by Chicagoans as "the corn cobs".

chicago & 030

Not particularly architectural - unless you count the classic Chicago trunnion bascule bridge - but I used to do this every spring. As soon as the ice in the harbors had broken up, I'd bring the sailing school's boats from the boatyard to their moorings. Chilly good fun.

chicago & 040

More bridges, with the Sears Tower (1974, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) looming ahead. Try as I might, I cannot bring myself to call it the Willis Tower, though Dave of course does.

chicago & 042

333 West Wacker Drive, (1983, Kohn Pedersen Fox). I love how the curved green exterior reflects the river and the buildings across from it. Prime example of contextualism.

chicago & 066

And finally, as we made our turn back toward dock at the lake lock, the Coast Guard and Chicago Fire Department stations. These photos just scratch the surface of the tour, but I cannot recommend it more highly, even if you're a resident.

Next it was off to Millennium Park, where the psychedelic Sistine Chapel underside of the famous Bean gave Dave vertigo.

chicago & 081

And we marveled at Chicago's Frank Gehry, with the Standard Oil Building (Edward Durrell Stone, Perkins and Hull, 1974) rising behind the stage.

chicago & 086

Then it was off to visit the lions. Along with The Metropolitan in NYC and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Art Institute of Chicago is one of the great comprehensive museums of America.

chicago & 092

But for me, being at the 'tute was a homecoming. As a young woman, I worked at the Goodman Theater in the box office and when the weather turned nice, would take my lunch outside, dine at the feet of the lions and think grand thoughts, like having a PLAY produced at the Goodman. Which brings me around to why I was in Chicago in the first place.

The 25th anniversary production of MILL FIRE, which debuted at the Goodman in 1989, was being produced by Shattered Globe Theater at Theater Wit on Belmont, directed by my old friend Sandy Shinner and designed by another old friend Jeff Bauer. And THAT I could not miss.

chicago & 075

So next entry, I'll write ALL about that. But in the meantime, spring was just beginning to arrive after a long, brutal winter.

chicago & 093

And when I lived in Chicago, seeing daffodils and crocus push up from the ground while trees began to bud, that was always a joy well earned.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

The Finished Product

As promised, here's the link to my Covered California commercial I blogged about in the last entry. And no, I STILL haven't seen it on the air, though many others have.

AND as an extra bonus, the 'montage' ad, where I not only appear, but my backyard makes an appearance in the segment with the tall, dark & handsome man with the bicycle.

My mutts are FAMOUS!

sweet mutts 018

But you already knew that.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Coming Soon to a Bus Station Near You!

In my neck of the woods, when you get one of these taped to your door, all you can think is, "Great. There's gonna be no damn place to park."

covered cal 001

But in addition to "There's gonna be no damn place to park," I was also thinking, "AND I've got to apologize to all the neighbors." Because this time, the shoot was at Casa de Sal.

covered cal 007

And not only was the shoot AT Casa de Sal, but I was the subject of all this attention. How did this happen, you may ask? Well, like all good things, it started with ALICIA.

covered cal 009

My dear, sweet friend Alicia Hankes (who I owe big) is a stylist extraordinaire, and she's done multiple shoots as the wardrobe stylist with this director, Joe Murray

covered cal 017

And Joe is now destined to become my new 'grab a beer in the 'hood' buddy. But I digress. Joe was directing a series of verite commercials - ya know, real folks in their own words - talking about their experiences signing up for Covered California and since I'd had such a good experience getting MUCH better and vastly more affordable health insurance than I'd had on the open market, Alicia suggested me to him.

Here's another photo of Alicia & Dave. Just because.

covered cal 010

So they sent someone over to interview me with a little tiny camera, then they had me come to an actual casting studio (with couches) for a callback and then Joe and his producer Dolly came over to the house for a location scout, and then....THE CREW DESCENDED.

covered cal 014

Craft service on the front lawn. If only I could wake up every morning to coffee and lovely toasty things served to me on my front porch.

covered cal 004

Video and audio village in the dining room.

covered cal 006

Gear out the wazoo. They even shot someone else in my backyard and made it look kinda not like my backyard. I didn't feel right about taking a photo of the guy's face, but when you see the commercials, he's tall, dark and handsome, wearing a green shirt and holding a bicycle. And he's in my backyard.

covered cal 015

Then it was my turn. Because it was for real, Alicia pulled clothes out of my closet and Liz Rizo did makeup that made me look like me. Only better.

covered cal 012

So Joe shot me telling my story, and he and the editor asked me questions and I went on and on and on as I am wont to do and now it's up to them to cut my incessant blathering down to a coherent minute. I'd hate to be them.

covered cal 018

No, Joe shot the commercial with the big camera to his right. Here he's just shooting stills for documentation. But I did do a still shoot too, and my photo will likely be coming soon to a bus station or billboard near you...if you live in California, that is. In fact the commercial will only show in California, but maybe if you're good, I'll send you links later.

Or maybe not. They did, after all ALSO film me swimming. Yeah. Me. In my bathing suit. On TV. Yikes.

But then again, my mutts did get their own little cameo, making out with Mom on the back steps. So for their sake, I'll share.

covered cal 020

As if Garcia and Emmy Lou aren't famous enough already.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

Time Flies

post show discussion

Hard to tell from this distance, but this is a post-show discussion with the cast, crew and director of MILL FIRE at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. And yeah, I'm there too, with the director of the production, Gaye Jeffers, sitting to my left.

Time does fly.

Twenty five years ago, Gaye was the assistant director of the world premiere production at the Goodman Theater in Chicago.

mill fire Goodman theater

Now, she's a tenured professor in the theater department at UTC, and not only did she decide to revisit MILL FIRE all these years later, the university was generous enough to bring me out to campus and put me up at a REALLY nice B&B across the street from the theater building.

It's called the Mayor's Mansion Inn and has one of those grand Southern porches you dream about.

In fact, that whole area of town - Historic Fort Wood - is full of grand old mansions like the Mayor's Inn, many of which are in various states of renovation. The Faculty and Alumni Club even has CANNONS on the front lawn.

Personally I think EVERY University Faculty and Alumni Club should sport cannons on the front lawn. Northwestern University? Please take note.

But I digress. I was there to meet local writers and members of the Southern Lit Alliance, teach a writing workshop, do the aforementioned post-show discussion, and talk with the theater students about many things theatrical.

And, OF COURSE, to see the show. Which was terrific.

chattanooga mill fire 5

Here's Erin Skelley Holderman as Marlene, with the Widows in the background.

chattanooga mill fire 3

Mario Hoyle as Champ and Madeleine Young as Sunny.

chattanooga mill fire 4

Calvin Forrest as Jemison, Austin Blackburn as Bo and Madeleine Young as Sunny.

chattanooga mill fire 2

The Widows, left to right - Erin England, Maya Abram and Heather Chang.

chattanooga mill fire 1

Madeleine Young as Sunny, Erin Skelley Holderman as Marlene, Austin Blackburn as Bo and Matthew Erwin as the Minister/OSHA Investigator.

My deepest thanks to ALL the faculty, staff, and students at UTC who made my time there so memorable. But I'm especially grateful to Gaye. Time sure flies, don't it, girl?

And because of all the college and small theater productions of the play over the years, MILL FIRE is again on a roll. The acting edition will finally be published this fall by Broadway Play Publishing, and the 25th Anniversary production in Chicago will be in April at Shattered Globe Theater, directed by their new Producing Artistic Director, Sandy Shinner.
Me & Garcia, Morro Bay

The Rumpus Letters for Kids

The Rumpus Letters for Kids is a subscription for - yup - kids, classrooms and libraries edited by kidlit maven Cecil Castellucci.

Kids, classrooms and librarians who subscribe at the low-low rate of $4.50 a month (cheap!) get letters from authors like YOURS TRULY via ACTUAL SNAIL MAIL. And they can write us back too. Letters take on many forms, and here's mine, which was sent to all the lucky subscribers on July 15th.

If you're interested, sign your kid or classroom or library up. With the holidays approaching faster than you think, The Rumpus Letters for Kids makes a GREAT GIFT. And I did mention $4.50 a month, yes? (cheap!)

MY GRANDADDY'S TACKLE BOX - A story for YOU, from Sally Nemeth

bama spring 070

The last time I visited home, I found my Grandaddy's tackle box. It's full of old fishing lures and tide charts and even a very old bar of soap to wash your hands after you've been touching WORMS. And it made me remember the first and last time I ever went fishing with Grandaddy.

I was seven, and we were living in Delaware, about a half hour away from the Brandywine River. Grammy and Grandaddy were staying with us for a couple months. Grandaddy had been in a car accident, had broken both his legs and was in two HUGE casts. He needed a lot of help.

So he recovered in a big hospital bed in the den where he could watch TV or read. But Grandaddy had grown up on a farm and was used to doing things like riding horses and fishing, and being stuck indoors with two HUGE casts on his legs really drove him crazy.

When the two HUGE casts came off and he could walk again, even on crutches, he didn't waste any time. While Mom packed him a lunch, he packed up his tackle box, dug up some worms, and hopped into our station wagon with his rod and reel and a bucket in the back. I begged to go. I loved being down by the river and besides, I'd never gone fishing before. My dad, who'd grown up in the city, didn't fish.

After all that time being cooped up with family, I think Grandaddy probably really wanted to be alone, but he told my mom to make another sandwich, he grabbed another rod and reel and off we went on our big fishing trip.

It was a beautiful early summer day. The sun was shining, the weeping willows on the river banks were dripping with leaves and the lilacs were in bloom. Grandaddy stuck a wiggling worm on my hook, which made me feel sorry for it, so when I flung my line toward the water, I was happy to see the worm come off the hook and wriggle away. Still, I kept casting my empty hook into the river to make it look like I was really fishing.

Grandaddy really was fishing. One after another he reeled in beautiful speckled sunfish. They looked like this:


He caught fish after fish. Some, the size of his hand, he unhooked and tossed back in, but if a fish spanned both of his hands he kept it, setting it gently in a bucket he'd filled with water. Happy to be off the hook, they swam around and around.

Soon, I quit fake fishing and started watching the fish in the bucket, giving each a name that fit its personality. One swam around really fast, so it was Speedy and another swam really slow, so it was Pokey. Fish after fish joined them, each getting a name.

Finally, when the lunch bag was empty and the bucket was full, Grandaddy declared our fishing trip was over. We got in the car, he wedged the bucket between my feet so it wouldn't spill, and off we went, back home.

When we got there, my mom looked in the bucket and said, "Well Dad, I guess I know what we're having for dinner."


Grandaddy started to sharpen a knife. I looked in the bucket at Speedy and Pokey and all my new pals, happily swimming around, not knowing the terrible thing that was about to happen to them.

So I did the only thing I could do.

I threw a fit. I wailed and cried. I stomped my feet. I REFUSED to let him kill my new pets.

Grandaddy said, "Come on, Sally. You eat fish, don't you? Why do you think we went fishing?"

But I wasn't having it. No way. These fish were my FRIENDS. Not FOOD.

"OK," sighed Grandaddy. "Get in the car."

He wedged the bucket between my feet again, and drove the half hour back to the river. Wading into the water with me, he submerged the bucket and let all the fish go. I watched as they swam away, their orange spots glittering in the sun, and I was both happy and sad to say goodbye. So Grandaddy did it for me.

"'Bye Speedy," he said. "'Bye Pokey. Have a good swim."

We got back in the car, drove back home and had burgers for dinner.

After that, I did other fun things with Grandaddy, but that was the one and only time I went fishing with him. If it had been a normal fishing trip where we ate the fish at the end, I'd probably never have remembered it. But since he drove back to the river and let the fish go, just because he loved me more than he loved a fish dinner, I'll never forget it.


At the end of this letter, I gave kids my agent's address so they could write me back, and told them that I loved to hear stories too. But you all know where to find me, and you can tell me as many tall tales as your hearts desire. And even if it's a fish tale, I might actually believe it.