In Just No Time At All . . .

elkins, anne

Anne Elkins, my Berthe from “Pippin” – one of the good ones, one of the dear ones

One of the dear ones has died.

Last night I was a roiling, boiling, bursting mess of fury and sorrow over the hate against LGBQT people being legislated and signed into law in North Carolina. I disconnected from social media, dove into a fantasy-romance sort of novel, and turned off my heart and head as much as I could. Sometimes, one must. Or, sometimes, I must.

So, this morning I decided to focus on joy. I needed healing. I headed out-of-doors and took notice of all the blooming spring happening in my own backyard. I posted on Twitter using the hashtag “HugaHomo” which I’d said last night on Twitter when departing it, suggesting people hug the homo nearest them because I, alone in my bat-cave, reading the North Carolina hate news, was in need of embrace.

spring 2016 1 spring 2016 2 spring 2016 3 spring 2016 5 spring 2016 6 spring 2016 7

I take comfort in the blooms of spring. The return of color. The promise. My dear Sissie, she loved spring too and was fond of saying in a Katharine Hepburn-esque way, “The forsythia are in bloom.” Sissie, about who you’ve much heard if you read/follow/know me. When I was a boy-child of twelve, she, the first in a treasured line of  older-women who would enrich my life with friendship, wisdom, humor, and unconditional love, took me to New York City and my first Broadway musical, Irene, because she was afraid what the family would say if she took me to the other big show playing at the time, Pippin.

Fast forward. Age eighteen. I became involved with the inception of the new theatre in my small town, The Octorian Theatre Company, a group of young upstarts intent on shaking up the long-standing community theatre and its reliance on old-warhorses of shows by doing only new, risky, sexy shows. Like Pippin. In which I did a turn as The Leading Player. Octorian’s founder, director, producer, Steve, was wise enough to recruit for the role of Berthe one of the doyennes and reigning prima donnas of that long-running community theatre. Mrs. Anne Elkins.

I’d first met Mrs. Elkins, as I called her then, when I, twelve years old and just back from the Irene – New York trip, auditioned and was cast by that hoary community group to play Floyd Allen, boy-child, in Dark of the Moon. A few years later, a hardly formed but very tall fourteen year old, I was again (mis)cast as the young husband in one or another Neil Simon comedy playing opposite a very (and justifiably) unhappy twenty-seven year old wife. Mrs. Elkins played the mother (in-law?).

As Pippin took shape, I was a very different person than I had been during the previous two shows with Mrs. Elkins during which I’d been awestruck by her talent — she was a formidable actress and singer, and regaled me with her tales of working as a big band vocalist. At eighteen, I was a horrifying mess of a human being, a terrified, nasty, vicious, desperately lonely boy in  a man’s body, trying to find a place in a world that often did not want me. And there was Mrs. Elkins, surrounded by dope-smoking, foul-mouthed, determined to be sexy and shocking young people by whom she was amused and most certainly not abashed, and she insisted that I call her Anne.

I did. But it felt wrong. Always. It was another honor and privilege I wanted to deserve but was naggingly, quietly certain I did not. I was tortured by such doubts then (and, well, now) and those doubts, along with the fear, the certainty I was not enough made me — I am sorry to say — very cruel, very often. I see now that I was arming myself, my cruelties and drug use and anger like the prickly quills on a porcupine meant to protect me from the predators I saw everywhere in the world.

Mrs. Elkins – Anne was not fooled. One day after having watched me throw myself into performing Simple Joys with a vigor of “I WANT I WANT LOVE ME LOVE ME” so desperately intense it horrifically distorted what little technique and charm I might have had, Anne took a quiet moment with me and said, “You know, I know you don’t want anyone to see that pretty heart you have beating in there somewhere under all that bluster, and I’m no expert at anyone’s life or business, but I think if you just calm down and quiet down a bit and let it shine, you’ll accomplish what you’re trying to with all the yelling and running you’re doing. And you might even have a little energy left over to be happy.”

Good advice. About which — again, I am sorry to say — in that moment I was furious, although — I am happy to say — my breeding and fondness for older women did not allow me to express. I said thank you. I thought about it. And I did Simple Joys the next time with very little movement, a snap here and there, a turn or two, and, wouldn’t you know it, my best number in the show.

This week, my dears, I’ve been doing a lot of screaming and yelling. Of late, this life, I have been attacking my reality with such vigor, living in such desperately intense fear, and feeling so horribly lonely and solitary, unseen and unheard, reaching out in all the wrong ways, to suspect people, longing to be hugged, held, heard and, at the same time, panicked I am wearing out and exhausting the few who do see me. I want. I want. Love me. Love me. All that.

Last night: North Carolina. Last night: googling someone I thought I knew a bit and finding out they were a felon. This morning: the spring. This morning: message from someone to whom I’d sort of reached out, who’d sort of reached out to me, saying, “You’re really not enough.” This morning: a message from a loved one, “Wanted you to hear it from me, Anne Elkins died on Monday.” This morning: I am going, now, to pick up my dear 88-year-old mom, who I still have, and have hair day, lunch day, look for Vienna Sausages and no-sugar-added peaches at the grocery store day.

This morning, maybe, listen to Mrs. Elkins — sorry, Anne, that’s who you are to me — and calm down and quiet down and let my pretty little heart show? Maybe a snap here or a turn there, but, holy mother of all things, maybe, please, have a little energy left to enjoy the blooms and be happy?

Yes, and bring me my fucking trapeze!

Thank you, Mrs. Elkins, and, I wish I could hear you, one more time, singing your song; No Time At All.

No Time At All lyrics

 [BERTHE]
When you are as old as I, my dear
And I hope that you never are
You will woefully wonder why, my dear
Through your cataracts and catarrh
You could squander away or sequester
A drop of a precious year
For when your best days are yester
The rest’er twice as dear….What good is a field on a fine summer night
When you sit all alone with the weeds?
Or a succulent pear if with each juicy bite
You spit out your teeth with the seeds?
Before it’s too late stop trying to wait
For fortune and fame you’re secure of
For there’s one thing to be sure of, mate:
There’s nothing to be sure of!Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

I’ve never wondered if I was afraid
When there was a challenge to take
I never thought about how much I weighed
When there was still one piece of cake
Maybe it’s meant the hours I’ve spent
Feeling broken and bent and unwell
But there’s still no cure more heaven-sent
As the chance to raise some hell

Everybody….

[ALL]
Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Now when the drearies do attack
And a siege of the sads begins
I just throw these noble shoulders back
And lift these noble chins
Give me a man who is handsome and strong
Someone who’s stalwart and steady
Give me a night that’s romantic and long
And give me a month to get ready
Now I could waylay some aging roue
And persuade him to play in some cranny
But it’s hard to believe I’m being led astray
By a man who calls me granny

[ALL]
Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Oh, it’s time to start livin’
Time to take a little from this world we’re given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all….

Sages tweet that age is sweet
Good deeds and good work earns you laurels
But what could make you feel more obsolete
Than being noted for your morals?

Here is a secret I never have told
Maybe you’ll understand why
I believe if I refuse to grow old
I can stay young till I die
Now, I’ve known the fears of sixty-six years
I’ve had troubles and tears by the score
But the only thing I’d trade them for
Is sixty-seven more….

Oh, it’s time to keep livin’
Time to keep takin’ from this world we’re given
You are my time, so I’ll throw off my shawl
And watching your flings be flung all over
Makes me feel young all over

[BETHE AND BOYS]
In just no time at all…

 

 

One thought on “In Just No Time At All . . .

  1. Loved this because I remember her and because I have my own mother to take on errands and because I would have loved to see that Pippin

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