Heartland III: Not My Mama’s Shakespeare

It’s astounding
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
So listen closely
Not for very much longer
I’m going to lose control

Quick–what’s the next line?

Stratford Festival Theater
Shakespearean Festival Theater in Stratford Ontario, originally built in 1953. Photo by kajmeister.

Forty-two years ago, I saw the legendary Canadian actor Brian Bedford play three roles at the Stratford Canadian Shakespearean festival in repertory: Angelo in Measure for Measure, Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Richard III. The breadth of his performances changed my idea of what actors could do.

Forty years ago, as a freshman in college at Berkeley, I watched a science-fiction movie about a transvestite where people shouted at the screen and threw toast and rice. It changed my idea about how a movie can connect with an audience.

Who would have thought that, getting old, we would wax nostalgic about doing the time warp?

Stratford Festival program, Rocky Horror
Stratford Festival’s Rocky Horror, starring Dan Chameroy. Program photo by Stratford staff, uncredited.

Gimme That Ol’ Time Theater

Continue reading “Heartland III: Not My Mama’s Shakespeare”

Heartland II: Where My People Lie Buried

If you trace your ancestors, how far back do you go? Great-greats? Where the four brothers married the four sisters? Pre-Civil War? Neanderthals? Perhaps I should start simply, just with my mother and my grandfather, a more manageable task.

Last week, I wrote about the inspiration of seeing the Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota. This week, I am traveling the path of my own people, my mother’s family, whose lives were sprinkled across the northern plains of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. We are Finns, who emigrated from Lapplander landscapes with thin, tall trees, who journeyed from bleak places of chill and sleet to cross the American “west” until they reached an equally bleak landscape. Home!

Copper Harbor lighthouse, Michigan
Copper Harbor lighthouse on Lake Superior above the Upper Peninsula Michigan. Photo by kajmeister.

Not to worry. This is not a full genealogy review, not a list of begats and son ofs in biblical proportions. I did a Family Tree project in the fifth grade which had some of these details, but don’t have it with me. I may be misremembering or fictionalizing pieces (I think Grandpa Hugo was oldest of 11… I think there were four brothers and sisters intermarrying…) In point of fact, my aunt has also compiled some kind of detailed review, to the point where if you go into the Finnish-American Center in Hancock, Michigan and mention the surname Busse, they say, “Oh, Ainie!” even though she lives 350 miles away.

This is about the environment of my mom’s family. What was it like where she was born and grew up? Why did she always yearn to be near a city, preferring traffic over trees? Why did she enjoy the 108-degree heat of Sacramento? Why did her family have such a strange, biting sense of humor? What was all that SISU about? Continue reading “Heartland II: Where My People Lie Buried”

Heartland I: The Carving Climbing Out of the Mountain

Crazy Horse carving, September 2018
“My lands are where my people lie buried.” Crazy Horse Memorial, September 2018. Photo by kajmeister.

Korczak, the sculptor, slung his drill over his back and climbed over 900 steps for almost 40 years.  He blasted bits out of the granite mountain, day after day, grinding down the 563 -foot side to lay out room for a long pointing arm. If ever there was a visual definition of the word “surmount”–to mount upon, to prevail over–this must be it.

One man, one drill, one mountain.

Crazy Horse Memorial 1974
Memorial in 1974, when I first visited. Photo by memorial staff, copy on Pinterest.

He hadn’t gotten especially far by 1973, when I first saw the Statue-To-Be, driving across South Dakota on our cross-country trip moving from Detroit to Sacramento. Now, returning back to visit some of my old haunts in Michigan, the memorial was the first big stop on our trip through the heartland, this pink-tinged grassland of our country’s center.  Korczak’s grandchildren are now in charge, and the crew is slowly but surely pulling the image of the proud warrior out of the granite. Continue reading “Heartland I: The Carving Climbing Out of the Mountain”

How to Assemble a 3000 Piece Puzzle

Have patience.
Pace yourself.
Take deep cleansing breaths.
Change your perspective, often.
This is either about practicing yoga or putting together a large jigsaw puzzle.

3000 pieces is a gobsmacking lot of pieces. The level of difficulty is turned up to an eleven. It’s like completing six separate 500 piece puzzles with their pieces all mixed together. There is a lot of guesswork involved.

3000 pieces is not for the faint of heart.

3000 assembled puzzle
3000 puzzle assembled, The Tribuna of the Uffizi, by Zoffany. Photo and assembly by kajmeister.

Assessing Your Puzzle

The first thing you must do is look the puzzle in the eye and show it who’s boss. (You are.) Make it clear that there will be No Nonsense here! These pieces are going to fit together, and that’s all there is to it.

Does that work? Meh.

Pick an exemplary puzzle. Choose one with lots of little bits to work on and not too much of the same color. The Tribuna of the Uffizi worked quite well. But all start the same.

The first thing you do is take some pieces out of the box and flip them over. I hate flipping the pieces over. That is my least favorite task of all the tasks, except putting together 50 black pieces all the same shape (see What Makes a Bad Puzzle, below). If it’s 1000 pieces or less, I enlist helpers in the house to do the flipping, spreading, and sorting, but when it’s big and on the other table, they are no help. They sit in the other room with the TV, shouting out Jeopardy answers, chortling, and munching popcorn as I sit alone, wondering if that shape is a bit of elbow or windmill. Continue reading “How to Assemble a 3000 Piece Puzzle”

Farewell, Old Van, Old Friend, Lady Penelope Reinhardt

Our van with us and namesakes
Van Lady Penelope Reinhardt pictured with me, Lee, Lady Penelope and Reinhardt. Penelope & Reinhardt from Pinterest. Family photo by kajmeister.

 

Lee was vacuuming out the van, first with the lightweight upright and then with the portable, meticulously digging into all the crevices.

“I wonder if this feels like getting a corpse ready for burial?” she said.
“Oh, surely not!” I laughed. “I would have said sprucing it up, like putting on a new suit when you go in for a job interview.”
“No, I really think it’s more like grooming a dog before it’s going to be put down.”

I sighed. It was time. It was due. It was overdue. The van was being readied to head over to the used car dealership, part of a potential exchange for a newer used car, the daughter’s first car purchase.

Van Origin Story

We bought the white Honda Odyssey in the spring of 2001, the year of 9-11, before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, before smart phones and iPads. The kids were not yet six and not yet four, the age where we could take them on long driving vacations, up to the lake, or camping, with plenty of room for luggage, tents, pillows, and the other accoutrement you drag around with children.

When we test drove the car, we had to persuade the salesman to let us take it home to see if it would fit in the garage. This “mini-van” was the longest of its class and the heaviest, the hardest on the tires (we went through four sets in 17 years). We had measured but needed to see if you could really walk around it with the garage door closed. Just barely. The salesman seemed to find that a really odd concern, as if you would buy a car and then, if it didn’t fit, just park it on the street for the rest of its useful life. Who uses their garage to park cars in these days anyway? The answer is us and our next door neighbor, and no one else in the neighborhood. But she fit. Continue reading “Farewell, Old Van, Old Friend, Lady Penelope Reinhardt”