Stick Fly at Writers Theatre

Sometimes birthday gifts are particularly special and the gift of Stick Fly at Writers Theatre was a great choice. One of our wonderful ‘daughters’ contacted me about a month or so ago and asked what we were doing on February 19th. I checked the calendar and said that we were free. She told me that she was getting us tickets for Stick Fly in Glencoe, a play by Lydia Diamond.

Lydia Diamond is an American playwright and professor who was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1969. She has taught playwriting at the following impessive institutions: DePaul University, Loyola University, Columbia College Chicago, Boston University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has a B.A. in Theatre and Performance Studies from Northwestern University and among her plays are: Stick Fly, Harriet Jacobs, The Bluest Eye (an adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel), and Voyeurs de Venus.

We loved the play. My first thought was how does the cast react to doing this play, being African-Americans and playing to an almost completely white audience in a lily white Chicago suburb? The cast was composed of a dad, two sons, a white female significant other for one son and a fiancée for the other, and the daughter of the maid.

There were lots of things to discuss in this play where you have different educational and financial backgrounds of the various characters. The play takes place on Martha’s Vineyard. Besides the usual possibility for conflicts, there are issues concerning what parents want and need on the part of the success and life choices of their children and the ways in which children often disappoint their parents, some never managing to please them. I need to clarify here, that in my head, parents have a responsibility to their children but at a certain point, they no longer have the right to impose their ideals and values on their children’s choices.

Then, there are situations that fold into other ones. Where is the mom in the family, why isn’t she there? Is everyone comfortable in this beautiful home or is this an out of the ordinary experience? Why isn’t the usual maid here? She is sick and her daughter is replacing her. Why is her daughter experiencing a rough time?

In any case, the dialogue is beautifully done, some moments happening simultaneously, yet flowing into one another. The set beautifully plays into it by appearing to be one multi-leveled room that soon turns out to be separate rooms, allowing us to see people separated by invisible walls.

The universality of the conflicts is what is most striking. We are not used to seeing African-Americans from families in which education, money, and intellectual prowess have been around for much longer than my entitled white, yet blue collar background in which I was the first to escape the rough beginnings. Yet, we ALL experience the same problems, just different versions of them.

This is the second play of Lydia Diamond’s that we have seen, both of which were seen at Writers Theatre. Both of them were especially wonderful and both beg they question, if you haven’t been to Writers Theatre before, what are you waiting for?

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Doggy Sleepover

Before I even got Lincoln in the house, the two were quite excited in the car.

For some reason, we have not managed to get Stewart and Lincoln together for a long time. They met as puppies but haven’t gotten together much since. It should be a no brainer since we have a fenced in back yard but it has not happened. Lincoln has gotten together with Lucky and Lucky with Stewart but Stewart has not had too many opportunities with either Murphy (the Black lab) or Lincoln (the Catahoula Leopard mix). This weekend Lincoln is with us.

I dragged over the absolutely, humongous bed Lincoln has, but frankly, that was a waste of time. Lincoln never looked at it. I did manage to get Stewart on it for a short moment. I put it in our bedroom right away, thinking that Lincoln might take advantage of it, he is a major couch potato of a dog. He never went near it.

I picked him up in the early afternoon and he was excited to get into the car, but it quickly registered that he wasn’t going to the place he expected. Lincoln and Jakey have had an arrangement. Jakey lived around the corner from Lincoln and well, they two went back and forth to each others’ houses per need. Jakey just moved to Oregon, so that is no longer a possibility. When our son and his family went north for the weekend, Lincoln needed a place to hang out, so…

At first, Lincoln seemed a little dumbfounded. He clearly remembered Stewart and they kind of played at first, but it was a little different. Lincoln was not interested in any of Stewart’s toys and not so much interested in playing in the back yard. A little later on, that changed and I sent them out back, happy it was so cold so that they could not get muddy.

Dinner was easy, each respecting the other when eating. Taking them out in the icy weather was more of a concern. I managed that pretty well each time, each dog being a formidable strength if he desired to go somewhere.

It all went well…more to come…

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Colder weather

I guess they really knew what was happening when they said it was going to get cold and snow. For once, we actually got closer to what they promised snow-wise and well, the temperatures did plummet. I went outside and shoveled what was left after the plowers were here. It was hard to tell how much there had been in total and I have already been out twice.

When I got dressed, I actually thought that perhaps I would end up changing clothes since I would sweat through what I was wearing. I did not. I guess that it was so cold, between 14 and 16 degrees Fahrenheit, that I just didn’t warm up that much. My hands were freezing with my simple deerskin gloves and I came in and put on the heavy duty mittens.

The snow never stopped.

It is now snowing fast, but it is consistent. As I mentioned, I have already shoveled twice and you can already see snow on my driveway.

We had more than one experience like that and one could not help but wonder when the shoe was going to drop and the ‘real snow’ would happen. Real snow would be more like six inches or more and then more would arrive just after you cleaned it all up. This has been a different kind of winter in so many ways.

This day is somewhat cold, somewhat humid, making it seem colder, and sunny. I have two dogs to walk this morning and so it will be a bit more of a challenge.

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Dog Walking

There are all kinds of dogwalkers. They come in all shapes and sizes, much like the canines they are walking.

I must say that most of them are younger than I am. I see some who saunter and I see many who, like me perhaps, appear to be rushing. For whatever it is worth, although I enjoy getting out, sometimes I view my dogwalking time as a chore. As much as I would like to do otherwise, I somehow cannot wrap my head around it. Rationally, I see it as a really good thing getting out, even if it is only a few minutes. I enjoy seeing things I would otherwise miss and I often even manage photos while doing so. Yet, I view it as a chore in my day.

I do enjoy seeing people in my neighborhood I would otherwise not talk to and I have my regulars. There is Stephanie from down the street with her dog, Bessie, a favorite of Stewart’s. We talk about Canada, about the fact that she studied French, and any other thing that comes across our minds. I see the guy in the neighborhood with his fou-fou dog. Have a question for what is going on? Ask him and he will know. It is not in a bad way, not like a gossip, he just seems to know all of the goings on. He knew more about the people across the street from me than I did and he lives way down the street.

In the end, it is good for all of us to get out and yet, how many of us do? How many of us are out there when the first flowers are pushing their spring green little heads out of the dirt? How many of us are out there to hear and see the first robins that make a showing when spring is finally on the way?

The moral of the story is, « Get out there, otherwise you are missing out! »

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Öreg (Old man)

Uncle Joe, in his younger days.

My grandfather retired, I think, the year I was born. I was in my thirties when he died. This is me in his arms.

Öreg! I recall hearing my Uncle Joe say that to my grandfather, his father. I remember the disdain in his voice, something that would be barely obvious to anyone but me or to a close family member. I remember disliking it, and in retrospect I am sorry that I never said anything. To be honest, nobody every questioned my Uncle Joe, he was truly the crown prince, the only boy in a family of four, all the rest female. My oldest aunt fought to stay in school and was forced to quit high school. My mother fought and won, her younger sister also completed high school. Frankly, I am surprised that Uncle Joe didn’t go to college. In any case, my in-laws were floored when I told them that he had not attended college, he gave off great appearances.

My Uncle Joe had little respect for my grandfather, as far as I could tell. My grandfather had a stormy younger life. He came to this country, seemed to have gotten kicked out of South Bend, Indiana, for having, as we think, gotten a girl pregnant. That apparent pregnancy caused my grandfather to have been involved in a fracas with her brothers which may have ended up with one of the brothers being seriously hurt and my grandfather fleeing the city forever. He ended up in Cleveland, Ohio, a haven for newly arrived Hungarians and married my grandmother with the goal of taking her back to Hungary. WWI intervened and they never went home. He worked for the railroads and was fired for his union work. He was a strong, wiry, blond haired and blue eyed Hungarian with a temper as fiery as hot paprika. One time he beat up my mom for refusing to go to the store for him before going back to school after lunch. Another time he and my grandmother were involved in a shouting match that ended up in such anger he pulled out a gun on her. She promptly threw it in the attic and the legend has it that it was never found.

Nonetheless, by the time my grandfather was called Öreg, or old man in Hungarian, my grandfather was really a pretty decent human being. He was more of a father to me than my uncle was. My uncle even changed his name from Bori to Borie, just to show that he was of a better class than my grandather. It amused me to no end because how can an ‘e’ on the end of your family name make you classier? It irked me to hear my grandfather called Öreg. Öreg was one of the few Hungarian words I ever heard my uncle even say, he pretty much refused to speak Hungarian.

The whole story came to mind as my son called me ‘Old Guy,’ something I actually am. He, however, did not say it with disdain. Nonetheless, it brought up the story of my Uncle Joe and his dad, Öreg. Uncle Joe’s life, in my estimate anyway, was less than great. He happily retired to Florida with my aunt, but lost touch with his adopted daughter and once he moved down there, I never saw him again. I did get down to Florida to visit my aunt twice, though.

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