Monthly Archives: February 2022

Outmaneuvered on Outlander

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Okay, I admit it, I tend to obsess at times about television programs. I am crazy about Downton Abbey, I can’t watch enough Blue Bloods and if it has anything to do with Star Trek, I’m right there to watch. I don’t just watch these programs, I devour them; I put myself in the position of the characters, whether it’s in the elegant drawing rooms of an English mansion or on the bridge of a star ship, I can see it all.

This preface brings me to my latest obsession. It is an historical fiction piece called Outlander. It first drew my attention because the premise of the program is the story of a woman from the 1940s who somehow fell through a rock in the Scottish wilderness and found herself 200 years in the past where she: escaped sexual assault multiple times, was tried as a witch, and best of all, took up with a beautiful, 200 year-old Scotsman in a kilt! This program fascinates me and of course, I am binge-watching it, imagining myself with a clan tartan over my shoulder and a bonny Scots laddie to dance the Highland fling with.

I was watching it tonight, happily wiping away a tear as the beautiful highlander and his wife-out-of-time bride (yes, indeed, they married) conquered yet another problem by somehow bridging the 200-year gap between cultures and custom. My husband walked in and I told him, “That’s it, I’m going to Scotland and throw myself against every rock in the Highlands until I manage to get the one that takes me 200 years into the past.”

He didn’t even really react to this statement. He just picked up his evening paper and remarked, “You’d never make it 200 years in the past,” before disappearing behind the day’s news in print.

“Oh, I know there are a number of things I’d need to take with me, so I’d have to carry a bag of goods,” I said, getting up to make a list. “Now let’s see, I would need to take along my coffee maker for certain.”

“They didn’t have coffee and they also don’t have electrical outlets, even European ones,” was the immediate answer. “I think they drank whiskey for breakfast and rounded the day’s activities with a good cup of ale.”

“Well, that would never do,” I said, shaking my head. “I’m not going to put up with a drinking man.”

“Women didn’t get to pick in those days,” was the depressing response. “If the Scotsman wanted to sit around drinking all day and into the night, the lasses at home said naught.”

“I wonder when they finally developed indoor toilets,” I mused, “I simply can’t do without an indoor bathroom. Where would I pee?”

“I think they were still whizzing in the corner of the dining hall 200 years ago,” he said, trying to hide his smile, “you know, to get rid of all of the whiskey.”

“I should take my computer and plenty of paper and pencil,” was my next thought. “Imagine what a great living I could make, writing stories about the future. And my beautiful, 200-year-old Scotsman will think I am so clever.”

“I don’t know,” was the doubtful response, “you’re going to want to check with the antique laddie. He might think you should be in the kitchen, cooking the haggis and minding the bairns.”

“I hate haggis and I’m too old to have babies,” I grimaced.

“Oooh, that might upset your wee bonny laddie,” he said calmly. “He’ll want to be furthering his line, expanding the clan. He won’t want a bride who is too old a lassie.”

“He’s 200, what’s he got to complain about?” I was becoming a little frustrated with my 200 year old dream being squelched by a 70 year old nay-sayer.

“Hey, don’t get mad at me, this is your plan,” he said. “So, when might I be expecting you to drop through this looking glass, my fine, fey Alice? I’ve planning of my own to do, you ken?”

“Well,” I began, staring fondly at the comfortable sneakers and winter clothes that didn’t involve a wind blowing up my skirts, “I’m still giving it a lot of thought. I may need to put this journey off for a wee bit–till I’ve made a better strategy.”

My husband said nothing more. He just smiled a little as I began to realize that my beautiful, 18th century Scotsman may have been outdone by a 21st German with a pretty clever brain!

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Props and other magnetic items

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Working in the theater has been one of my great joys in life. I write the plays, cast the plays, and choreograph the plays–okay, so I just make sure that nobody is standing directly in someone else’s way onstage–choreograph sounds better.

I have done a lot of plays over the years and, and because of this, I have collected a lot of props and costumes. At first, there was nowhere to store them except for a couple of untidy cabinets in my classroom. I had to move them out, however, when the kids began to report that all those hats and feather boas and gun belts sticking out of the crowded doors, made them feel like someone in the closet was watching them.

My first little prop room was a dark little space in the corner of the old gymnasium. It featured a wire cage (don’t ask, because I don’t know why), about ten coat hooks and a few feet of floor space…if you didn’t count the old toilet taking up its share of the floor. Alas, this inauspicious space did not stop me from acquiring even more props and quite a few articles of clothing as well. I removed the wire cage and put in a plastic set of shelves and strung an old broomhandle between two of the coathooks. This wasn’t ideal, but it kept the clothes off the floor–after I had acquired some clothes hangers, of course.

A sane person would have become more discriminating about the theater baubles I collected, but not me. I just kept attracting items like a magnet attracts metal and when the plastic shelves began to sag under the weight, I bought more plastic shelves and stacked them one in front of the other. This made it hard to find props, but they all fit in the tiny bathroom-turned-prop room.

The generous administrators at my school eventually reached the conclusion that I was going to keep collecting without culling, and they built a new, larger, better lit prop room. I moved in my plastic shelves, changed my broom handle for a regular closet rod and didn’t worry overmuch as the years went on and as a result, I kept the cardboard carnival sales trays I had made and the pig’s ears and snouts we had constructed and the five candy-striped shirts we used once in 20 years. My hoarder’s instincts served me well.

Finally, it became clear, as props and costuming began trickling out the prop room door, that something would have to change. I used a beautifully contrived photo of a nearly organized prop room for this article because I would never show you the nuclear bomb test site I call my theater “home-away-from-home.” It was time to begin cleaning with an eye towards throwing some things away.

I began with the costumes. I ruthlessly discarded the yellow dress with the lace ruffles that I hadn’t convinced anyone to wear in 20 years. I threw away the tatty-looking grey suit that has seen one too many performances. I even seriously considered throwing away the black cape that I made ten yeas ago from a bedsheet and a shiny piece of black material. All, all of them were in the garbage, when I decided I just couldn’t part with them. The cape and the suit had so many memories for me and who knows? I may convince some girl with terrible taste in clothes to wear that yellow dress yet.

I think you can see the problem here: there are two kinds of things in that prop room. First, there are the things that have been used in productions over the years that I am fond of. I really can’t toss away the old black suitcase–sure, it smells bad, but it has graced the stage and offended the noses of so many actors so many times. It just has to stay! Second, there are the things that I have never worked into a play–but you never know. I may have use for 12 football helmets or ten office phones in a production I haven’t even thought of yet. In the meantime, I will store the football helmets right on the floor so they are easy to trip over and the phones, well, they could go on the plastic shelves that aren’t sagging quite so much!

It is my belief that I will never clean my prop room. It will continue to accumulate “stuff” until it is so stuffed it explodes. But I cheer myself with the thought that maybe it will wait until after I retire–that way, it will be somebody else’s problem! Good plan, huh?

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Feeding the dog

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I took my shower tonight with my after-school eggroll cooling on the bathroom counter. Maybe you’re wondering why I would take such an odd thing into the shower with me. The answer is: I have a dog.

Now, I’m willing to bet right now that dog-owners understand what I’m talking about. There may even be some cat-owners who fight their felines for the food that only humans should consume. At our house, if the food is in the house, the dog figures it’s hers and if it turns out she doesn’t like after licking it all over, she will happily spit it back for us.

My eggroll was locked in the bathroom with me, so that after my shower it would be cool enough to eat…and it would still be there for me to eat. I’ve been the victim of an egg-roll thief before, and I learned.

We have tried everything to convince the dog that she is not welcome to food simply because it is in the kitchen, to no avail. She has particular favorites: bread is big with her, she adores popcorn, she also is willing to consume any meat available, but her true love is chocolate.

I thawed out a loaf of banana bread left in the freezer from Christmas. I had a slice–it was pretty good, so I decided I’d have some more. I went to the kitchen, but cutting board was bare.

“Why did you put away the banana bread?” I whined to my husband, “I was going to have some more.”

“You got banana bread out?” he said, leaving his football game for a moment. “Great! I’d like some.”

We both stared at the empty bread board. Then we looked at the dog, who was sitting calmly watching us, bread crumbs littering the floor around her. Okay, so now we know not to leave down banana bread, or white bread, or whole grain bread or lefsa, or crackers. All of these are just too much temptation for the dog. She prefers it with butter or jelly, but she’s not choosy–she’ll take it any way she can get it.

It is also a bad idea to pull the broiler, with two sizzling steaks on it, out of the oven and turn to reach a meat fork. Before I could turn back, she had one of those steaks half-eaten and was standing on the other. I really hope she burned her mouth, but I was too busy trying to stab her with the meat fork to ask!

Chocolate seems to be our downfall. She once ate the middle out of some chocolate bars of which we had none. My husband suggested we cut around the outside, but I wasn’t eager to risk dog slobber, just so I could have a brownie. She also ate half a chocolate pie one night. He was so determined to have some of that pie anyway, that he carefully ate around the other side. He offered to share–I wasn’t tempted!

Chocolate bars, chocolate candies, chocolate cookies are also open season for her. She is particularly fond of Reeses peanut butter cups and Oreos, but if it’s chocolate, she is right on the spot.

If you’re wondering by now why we don’t do a better job of keeping our food out of her hands, it’s because we’re getting old, and we don’t pay close enough attention. She took a pop tart out of my hand at breakfast one morning. I yelled at her, got up to wash my hand at the sink and came back to find her slurping the rest of my cheerios out of the bowl. I offered her my coffee, but apparently she only takes it with cream, because she refused.

I don’t really expect this situation to improve because the dog relies on our inattention and lack of forethought to get her snacks. My husband has been insisting for a long time that she is just taking advantage of our carelessness..she’s really not an aggressive food thief. Last night, he was eating popcorn and throwing some to her as well. He stopped so that he could make comment to me while holding his next piece of popcorn in his hand. Before he could react, the dog leapt into his lap and snatched the kernel of corn neatly from his fingers. Then, the dog calmly climbed down and sat on the floor, looking at him.

“You’re lucky you didn’t have it at your mouth,” I observed, “because your non-aggressive food pig would have taken off your jaw to get it.”

That’s what we get for feeding the dog!

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