zeitbites . . . some things about yesterday . . . Mandela. Didion. Rodgers & Hammerstein.

Mandela Long Walk to FreedomNelson Mandela died yesterday. There is nothing to be said that I can say that hasn’t already been said better by someone wiser or more qualified to say it, and so I won’t go on at lugubrious and admiring length. I will just say, I wish I thought I would ever have the kind of courage and spine he had and I am grateful there are people in the world who do, who have, who fought the fights the rest of us were too weak, too afraid, too self-interested to fight. Peace, Light and Love to Mr. Mandela and his family and loved ones and may we all, every day, strive to live as much Peace, Light and Love as did he at his best. For more, read Maria Popova’s contemplation of his inauguration speech and wisdom from his autobiography (Click Here).

Yesterday was also the day of Joan Didion’s birth. Again, much was written and posted about this and when it comes to words, no one says things better than Miss Didion herself. Here are some links.

An interview in The Paris Review about “The Art of Nonfiction” (Click Here) … and

Joan Didion

Joan Didion

An interview in The Paris Review about “The Art of Fiction” (Click Here) … and

From Huffington Post Books: “Here’s What Joan Didion Can Teach You About Life” (Click Here) … and

From BuzzFeed Books: “The 14 Most Eye-Opening Quotes by Joan Didion” (Click Here) … and

From one of the sites I visit each day, BrainPickings, from its curator, Maria Popova, an essay about the brilliant Miss Didion essay, “On Keeping A Notebook” (Click Here).

I follow a lot of writers and literary-leaning blogs and there was mention of late in one of complaint that Miss Didion had not written enough recently. Really? I understand the desire for new genius from this icon, but if all she ever wrote were “Play It As It Lays” and any single essay from “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” or “The White Album” let alone all of that and the entirety of the rest of her work, it would have been and would be enough. I re-read her almost daily, certainly weekly. For me, the work of Miss Didion is like the bible to a fundamentalist; it is the basis, the foundation, the tome in which all of the answers and questions reside. To read her work is a life’s work. She has done enough. She is one of the greatest of the blessings in my life, another of the blessings given me by my aunt, Sissie, whose house in Libertytown had a room full of old, saved magazines through which she sent me to organize, and in which I found Miss Didion’s essays in “The Saturday Evening Post” magazine. I was still, then, a child when “Play it as it Lays” came out and did not read it until I was twelve, at which point I said to Sissie, who wanted me to be a writer; “I’m definitely going to have to be a singing star because I could never do anything this good.”

I did not become a singing star, clearly. Although I sang. And I have never written anything approaching Miss Didion’s level of concision, clarity, precision and skill. Although I have written.

Which brings me to yesterday, last night’s live production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music” which featured many Broadway greats like Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti and Christian Borle. In the lead role of Maria vonTrapp – originally played by the legendary Mary Martin, adored by Sissie – was Carrie Underwood. I am not that familiar with Miss Underwood’s work.

Here’s the thing: one of my gigs along the way to poverty was writing theatre (and other cultural offerings) reviews. Having spent decades being part of the other side – appearing in, directing, producing shows – and receiving reviews that were about the reviewer’s own self-indulgent sorrow about their own lack of talent or how they would have done something or their own personal grievances with me (or someone in the show or the show itself) I determined when I started writing reviews that I would not be snarky, would not attack, would find in each production (or book or whatever) the Love and Light inside it. I know that no matter how bad a work of art turns out (and I have made some awful shows myself) it isn’t as if the people involved set out to make something terrible and foist it upon the world. People mean to do good and to entertain and enlighten.

Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, Christian Borle

Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, Christian Borle

So, “The Sound of Music” is not one of my favorite shows. However, I think it is incumbent upon all of us who love musical theatre to celebrate it whenever a major producer does something like present a live musical on network television at great expense, with great care and promotion, featuring so many Broadway brilliants in the cast. That Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti and Christian Borle were singing LIVE in my living room last night was enough for me. I do think, however – and this might sound silly – that the production would have been much improved had they thought to hire someone like me and my dear friend, Alison Shafer, who have spent decades working with local, inexperienced actors and/or singers and young people of limited stage experience. We (and many, many local directors) have developed over the decades methods to help really skilled singers transfer their singing magic to lines and really gifted actors transfer their emotional acumen and method into song delivery: in fact, Alison and I, between the two of us, coached literally thousands of people into being better on stage and in performance; and we could have helped last night.

That said, I got into a Twitter thing with the haters. The level of cruelty and judgment and snarky-bitchiness resulted in me un-following five people who were just needlessly, ridiculously unkind. I don’t want to be a part of that world.

Carrie Underwood, Audra McDonald

Carrie Underwood, Audra McDonald

Nor do I want to be a part of the world where one is required to have one’s car repaired. After 48 hours of terror, I finally got my car back. It ended up being under $500 – for which I still had to sell blood – and should now pass the two month late emissions inspection (fingers crossed) but it STILL needs $2500 more of work and is over a decade old and burning oil at an alarming rate and needs all new belts and etcetera – all the sort of stuff that sends me into panic mode. HOWEVER – I have found THE MOST WONDERFUL GARAGE EVER! It is called SUPERIOR AUTO SERVICE CENTER and it is at 4624 Wedgewood Drive in Frederick, Maryland and their number is 301-682-3533.

Let me say this about the fellows who run the place; NEVER ONCE did they make me feel stupid or incompetent for my lack of caring for my car. NEVER ONCE did they pressure me to get ANYTHING done. EVERY TIME WE TALKED they explained what I absolutely HAD to do, and why, and how it worked, and what I could put off, and why I should or shouldn’t wait. They gave me an itemized list of what needs to be done – the prices – parts and labor – and explained each thing. They were INFINITELY patient with me. They laughed WITH me, not AT me, and made me feel a part of the process. And I am NOT a big enough blogger to have real advertisers or get kickbacks, so believe me I have no financial motive to tell you that if you live close enough to them to get your car worked on there – SUPERIOR AUTO SERVICE CENTER is like the Joan Didion or Rodgers & Hamerstein of auto repair.

Now, to somehow find $2500 in the next few months (years?) to make my car last. Hell, who am I fooling, I am out of Amazon credit – if I find $2500 it’s going to books and Starbucks and I’m out of ink for my printer and I need socks and I haven’t been to New York in –

Okay … here I am … going. Be nicer people. It’s a small world.

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