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WMSP, Part II, Episode IV; Thursday, July 27

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, Writing on May 1, 2019 at 12:06 pm

(Newbies go here; familiar readers, dive in below.)

Offstage left. In my place for my next entrance, poring over the strange three sentences, I’m so engrossed in unscrambling the words that I don’t notice anyone around me until a voice startles me over my right shoulder.

In my thought every word lied he was first?” says Bryan Munar. “Who was second, Mr. Edward?”

I turn to look at him and Bryan puts a finger over one ear, humming off-key and then singing, “Younger than spring-time, am I … ” He deliberately loses the key, which was wrong to begin with, spiraling off into wrong notes.

You sing so beautifully,” I say.

Bryan curtsies, flips invisible hair and puts a finger over his ear again, singing, “There is nothing like a da-aaaaa-aaaaame … ” Again losing the key, he sings louder.

From onstage, Joel calls, “Can we have it quiet offstage please?”

Everybody goes quiet.

Bryan mock slaps my shoulder and offstage-murmurs, “Geez, Edward, learn to sing.”

I could never sing as well as you, Bryan,” I say, matching his volume.

From my left another voice murmurs, “That’s a word scramble.”

I turn, discovering Jeremy Brandt, the production photographer, writer, local film student. He’s 20-something with curly, close-cropped hair and spectacles. Energetic. Upbeat. He looks like the fellow who should be solving this puzzle.

Bryan says, “Duh, of course it’s a word scramble.” He takes the paper from my hands, saying, “These words are familiar, like a famous quote or something.”

Let me see that,” Jeremy says. He stands next to Bryan, they’re both holding the paper, mulling it over, murmuring the words like a secret incantation.

They move closer to a dim, blue backstage light, holding the paper close to the bulb. Stagehands come through under the direction of Judy, and we all step aside as a large set piece is moved into the stage left entrance, ready to be rolled on. Bryan is left holding the paper against the light.

Do you practice fire safety as well as you sing?” I say.

Bryan looks at the paper and whisks it away. The light bulb has left a strange mark on the bottom of the paper, under the words.

We step up onto the concrete steps leading to the top of the theater, near another backstage light.

Oh my gosh, Edward,” Bryan says, then sings, “Inviii-iiiisible iii-hiii-hiii-hiiiiink.”

I’m the last one to see it: a square with nine numbered boxes, like an enclosed tic-tac-toe.

Invisible ink indeed,” I say. “Lemon juice? Milk?”

Jeremy sniffs the paper. “Now it just smells like old paint. But one thing’s for certain: that’s a magic square,” he says.

The paper looks like this:

in my thought
every word lied
he was first
____
|7|1|3|
|8|9|6|
|5|4|2|

Is this like Sudoku? So boring,” says Bryan. “I haaaaa-aaaaate iih-hii-hiiiiiit.”

Look at the words,” Jeremy says.

There are nine words,” I say.

OMG,” Bryan says.

Then we all say, slowly, finding the words that match the numerical order,

My … first … thought … was … he … lied … in … every word.”

Is this a note from your ex girlfriend, Mr. Edward?” says Bryan.

This is Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, by Robert Browning,” says Jeremy.

Eew, creeper porn?” says Bryan.

No, fucko, it’s a poem,” I say. “And I’m embarrassed to confess, I’ve never read it.”

I have, and this is the first line. That’s why it felt so familiar. Like, In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree,” says Jeremy. “Where did you get this, Edward?”

I found it. In a pyramid.”

They’re quiet.

I realize how fucking odd that sounds. I’m about to change my story, make a joke about pyramid schemes. But they’re looking at me in a way that gives me pause.

Is this … part of your blog thing?” Bryan says. “Too creepy. I couldn’t read past the third episode.”

Dude. Kill me off. Like, seriously. Put me in it and kill me off,” Jeremy says.

Wait, you guys are reading my stuff?” I’m pleasantly surprised.

A bunch of people are scared to walk to their cars at night because of your creepy-ass stories, Mr. Edwaa-aaaa-ha-ha-haaaaard,” Bryan says. He emphasizes the “hard.”

Edward! Where the hell are you?” Judy shouts from the bottom of the stairs, looking upstage toward the roll door.

I’ve missed an entrance. I scramble down the steps and jaunt onto the stage like I’m right on time.

All I can think about is the quote.

When I exit at the end of my scene, Bryan and Jeremy are standing offstage left with an old paperback between them. I peek at the title: The Collected Works of Robert Browning, Volume [faded, obscured number].

It’s from Jim’s library, over there,” says Jeremy before I ask.

Who names their kid Cuthbert?” says Bryan, focused on the words.

I go to the shelves near Joel’s office, formerly his father Jim Schlader’s office, searching for a duplicate copy. Nothing else by Browning. I return to where Bryan and Jeremy are reading, feeling like a third wheel.

Jeremy says, “This is awkward, it feels like you’re a third wheel.” He looks up from the book. “How do you come up with all this creepy stuff, Edward? And—wait, if this paper is related to your blog, how is it here? I mean, do you craft props to support your fiction, or … ”

I’m flummoxed. How to answer? They’re both looking at me now, as various actors and crew members swarm back and forth on their various paths. We’re a still pool amid furious rapids. In spite of our stillness, I’m aware of a whirlpool of doubt forming.

Is it possible I’ve imagined all of this? Clearly, it hasn’t been deliberate. But has anyone else here seen Weedbeard? Even the interactions between Obi-Wan-point-five, Weedbeard and Judy were a recovered memory. That may not have ever happened. Because the thing is, people literally do not “imagine” events and believe them. It’s a common term, “I must have imagined it,” but what it really means is, “I must have mis-perceived / mis-remembered / misunderstood what I was seeing.” When people see things that are not there, those people are delusional. And when delusional people believe the unreal things they see … Yikes, am I more than just depressed?

Mental illness—as far as I know—only manifests in my family in the form of depression. But is it possible that I’m the one who inherited a more generous dollop of genetic mental issues? There are multiple things I remember from my childhood that nobody else in the family has any memory of; in addition, I have what sometimes feels like a perception of an alternate universe, wherein some events coincide with events in our timeline, and I can feel when those events happen.

I can feel when those events happen sounds like something a delusional schizophrenic might say. Would say.

Holy shit.

I even have an entire timeline in my head of a massive earthquake that hit the Bay Area in 2012. It’s something I started to write down at the time. It didn’t happen in this world, but aspects of those alternate reality events had echoes in our own, most notably the predictions of Harold Camping, Jr., and the direct correlation between the days he predicted the end of our world and the days upon which the quakes occurred in that alternate timeline.

This is the kind of thing I push to a mental back burner most of the time. It only really bubbles to the surface when I’m about to fall asleep, when I let my mental guard down.

All of the above runs through my head in the span of an interminable three seconds. I realize now that I can’t tell them anything about this. I need help. I need to tell my therapist everything on Tuesday.

Jeremy says, “Oh fuck. Is it real, Edward?”

Bryan looks from Jeremy to me, then back. “Wait, no? Please? Tell me it’s not real Mr. Edward.”

I’m frozen in place, entirely uncertain. I feel myself blushing.

The Browning Monument!” Jeremy says. “That’s it!”

Quiet offstage!” from Judy in the stage left wings.

Browning Monument feels familiar,” I say.

It’s a tower, Edward. It’s right here in the park,” Jeremy says, very excited. “’My first thought was he lied in every word,’ is the first line of Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came. This means you have to go to the tower!” Judy peeks around the corner from the wings, scowling. The three of us move away from the roll doors, toward the men’s dressing room. Jeremy says, quiet but nearly bouncing out of his shoes, “And holy fuck-a-mighty, it’s real!

Wait. This is all bullshit, right?” says Bryan. “You guys planned this? To freak me out?”

I’m looking at them. Thinking about how I never would have found this answer so quickly without them.

Have I found my detective companions?

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WMSP, Part II: a further entertainment

In Fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Sci-Fi, Uncategorized, Writing on April 24, 2019 at 1:12 pm

Act I, Sc. 2

(The Reader is alone in the forested darkness of the outdoors night time.
She is searching near an ancient monument. This monument looks at once familiar and out of place.
Nearby, a spot that looks as though it should be occupied. It remains, for the moment, empty.

A gentleman, the Interlocutor, enters. It is possible he wears a three-piece suit. You will not remember, therefore it is also possible he wears a four-piece suit.
The Interlocutor steps into the empty space. Theatre Majors, you’re welcome.)

INTERLOCUTOR
(Always speaking directly to the audience, unless otherwise noted.)
Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am not here.
It is at this point in the narrative that I am obliged to offer the following warning: the events you purport to be witnessing are not, in fact, occurring. Further, should you endeavour to describe what you’re about to not see to anyone, anywhere, at any time or place, you are obliged to begin with the following caveat:
“The first thing you need to know is that nothing I’m about to say actually happened.”
Remember that phrase, please.
Now, to our heroine—not of the opioid variety, though potentially just as addictive. We’ll call her the Reader, or simply Reader, where appropriate. She is an attractive young woman of whatever ethnicity you please. As you can see, she is appropriately attired in outdoorsy khaki and a campaign hat, the sleeves of her button-down rolled up because she’s ready to get to work.
Her neckerchief is from Camp Clever Redwoods in Trevarno, California; the slide has an emblem that is hard to see in this darkness—in full light, it is clearly two crossed diagonal upward-pointing arrows with strange symbols in the resulting four quadrants.
Trevarno does not exist. Do not go looking for it.
This is a young woman of parts.
On her back is a bedroll pack; a sensible and possibly weaponized walking staff leans against a nearby tree.
On her belt are an assortment of pouches, each containing necessities of the life-and-death variety.
It is unfortunate that, despite her being so well-equipped, she will—eventually—be devoured.
A waning gibbous moon shines down from above, illuminating the monument as best it can in its lessened state.

READER
(Speaks directly to audience.)
The first thing you need to know is that nothing I’m about to say actually happened.

(Interlocutor turns to us; single external take recommended.)

INTERLOCUTOR
Oh my. It appears I may have tampered with the text.
You will perhaps later understand that I have done so with your best interests at heart, ladies and gentlemen.

READER
(To herself, as she examines the monument.)
Long have I searched in vain for that which is hidden. Dark and desolate, the reaches I’ve trekked. Uncertain the path and treacherous the pass, my journey has been fueled by rumor and whispers, stymied by obscurances and sudden lackings. It is now, under this waning gibbous Scorpio moon, that I have come to this place in the dark of night to delve secretly for the first part of a lost book, a hidden book, a book that does not exist—yet sits at the center of a web of shadow.

(In the darkness beyond the fitful moonlight, we hear a sound.)

INTERLOCUTOR
Pause for a moment, ladies and gentlemen, as you can see our Reader has done; for, indeed, there was a sound in the darkness beneath the surrounding trees. Was it a night bird?
Observe her poise, listening over one shoulder.
Do you suppose she will maintain that poise when her belly is ripped open by the splintry teeth of whatever waits for her in the darkness?
Watch now as she shakes off her dread and attempts to reassure herself and, by extension, all of you.

READER
(As she speaks, Reader draws on the monument with chalk: four symbols at upper left, lower right, upper right and lower left.)
It is the custom of whatever forces seek to prevent the book’s discovery to sound dark warnings and foreboding cries in the night. These grunting warblers and howls of rending occur all along my path, which tells me two things:
The first is that they do not want me on this path.
The second is that they know—of my deepest heart—that which fills me with terror. For each time I believe I am close to that which I seek, they step in to suggest the approach of some—puppy nestled in the comforting crook of my grandmother’s arms.

(Reader stops, shakes head, disorientated.)
I did not mean to say that. Something is amiss.

INTERLOCUTOR
Observe: even as she turns to look around, I step forward to down center stage, gesturing with my left hand to lower the light on Miss Reader, thus obscuring the full nature of the symbols and whatever else she does in the darkness. None of this matters because / it is not real—

(/A gigantic, tattered and shadowy horror—the Bat-winged Hog—erupts, screaming, from the trees beyond the monument.
Interlocutor disappears, quiet; we are distracted by the horror of the Bat-winged Hog, its leathery wings beating as it claws its way through the branches.
Reader steps forward, executing a graceful yet complex reverence (in the balletic sense) as she drops her pack and arms herself with her staff.)

READER
Bat-Winged Hog! Thine is not the head I wish to impale upon a pike this night! Long my path and dark my days, but never under the shadow of thy impressively foul leatherflaps!

(Bat-Winged Hog shits a wad of leech-tar at Reader.
She steps easily from harm; the tar splatters on a tree, burning and wriggling as the tree screams; all beetles and bugs on or around the tree flee the leeches. Fungi lean toward the tree and begin a visible mycelium migration toward the tree.
Reader sees this and begins, while speaking the following, a desperate search of the surrounding forest floor.)

READER
Dark this night and dim this moon—if we are to battle, let us battle under a full moon in a sign less toxic to thy most undead and yet porcine self! Terrestrial scorpion’s sting may hold no danger for your farmstead cousins, O Harbinger of the Rotting Trough, but Luna in Scorpio may prove fatal for one who lives only by night!

(Bat-Winged Hog shits another wad of leech-tar in the crook of a tree, then begins chewing one of its front feet off.)

READER
Bat-Winged Hog! I see thy plan: self-chewed foot planted in leech-tar shite grows Hogling Toothface! Even as you struggle with this foul endeavor, I scour the forest for your doom!

(True to her word, Reader drops to her knees and, lighting a small oil lantern from within her pack, begins searching at the bases of trees. She continues this throughout the following, until otherwise noted.

Meanwhile, Bat-Winged Hog nods, delighted and giddy at its clever plan; the foot is fully chewed; gouting poisoned blood, this creature of night plants its severed foot in the leech- tar.
Immediately the leech-tar quivers and spurts, like a lanced pilonidal cyst.
Hogling Toothface begins to emerge, face-first: its visage entirely of teeth, with one or two eyes misplaced and a rapacious digit, of profound interphalangeal artiuclarity, which protrudes from its forehead and spastically beckons: come-hither.

Interlocutor appears.

During the following, Hogling Toothface is thoroughly birthed with many splats and a final, massive plorp. He screams and bawls and makes his way down the tree toward Reader like a baby bird seeking its nest.)

INTERLOCUTOR
A word or two about Hogling Toothface.
As you can see, he is ugly and small.
His eyes, such as they are, do not easily stay within his skull. Ah, there we go: one of them has gotten snagged on a twig and—plorp—how unpleasant. Ah, but see? It does not merely dangle: it
watches.
The face which lost that eye, while made entirely of teeth, might be mistaken as merely horrific—but not necessarily dangerous.
This is incorrect. Should you encounter him on your night hikes at Audubon Canyon Ranch, my friends, be not mistaken: the bashing of his head against your hip or pelvis will not merely
break but will immediately pulverize bone. The teeth of his face churn against one another, turning in and biting, ripping from their sockets to pierce further with their twisted roots.
This causes him excruciating pain. Which can only be relieved by the use of that peculiar cranial protuberance you see jutting from his forehead. This is known as his Toothface Poker … his Naughty Dentist … or his Fingerling Potato.
All of which are comparatively innocuous euphemisms for what is, as clearly described in the stage directions of this text and reinforced by the words I speak, a rapacious digit. Meaning that is its sole purpose: the indiscriminate penetration of the penetrable.
This is a digit of profound interphalangeal artiuclarity. Meaning it has bones and it can move all sorts of ways.
As you can see, it spastically beckons: come-hither. Why? Because, seeing that gesture, you are more likely to run. And by all means, do. Run! Run away, fast as you can.
Yes, for you see: the fact is, no matter how fast you run, Hogling Toothface is faster. Because Hogling Toothface wants you more than you can possibly imagine. Male, female, gender neutral, gender switched, no matter!—whatever flavor you represent, you have holes. And running, you present
at least one of them.
So if you’re out and about on the trails of an evening and you feel eyes on you, or you hear the thumping patter of little cloven-hoofed babyfeet, know that you will soon be the very special friend of Hogling Toothface.
See now how close he is? See now how he reaches for her? Watch now and see her story end in screaming, in anguish, internal ripping audible in the cold forest of the night, her body discovered by park rangers in two weeks, assumed to have been fed upon by carrion eaters.

(Hogling Toothface is indeed just above Reader, reaching for her hair, his digit dripping leeches from the tip. He is grabbing her hair—

Reader leaps to her feet, her actions fitting her words as follows.

Bat-Winged Hog reacts, enraged, to all that follows; its wings get tangled and torn, stuck in the branches of the trees.)

READER
False Parasol! Thus do I raise this mushroom above me, its toxicity shading me from the dark sun of your evil origins, Bat-Winged Hog!
Only a fool runs from Hogling Toothface! See now how I grasp him by this foul protuberance! See how he is disabled by his pleasure at the contact, but, O! See now his doom!, for indeed this mushroom can be stuffed into the dribbling hole of his unnatural pene
traitor, spelled with an ‘I’ because I see that his very existence is a betrayal of all things good and right in this world!
With this broken twig I shove and stab the false parasol into his fallacy of a phallus!, tamping it deep past his un-mushroomed tip like the poisonous charge of a fiendish cannon, I seat the round in the breach and prepare to fire! Cannoneers to your posts!

(Reader wedges screaming, struggling, near-orgasmic Hogling Toothface in the crook of a tree, facing Bat-Winged Hog, readying a box of strike-anywhere matches.)

INTERLOCUTOR
She cannot possibly succeed.

READER
Friction-primer set! Sergeant, fire!

(Reader strikes the match, igniting Hogling Toothface’s anus.

Hogling Toothface screams in ecstasy and pain, his digit clogged with poisonous mushroom, the screech building until with a plorping FWOOM, the False Parasol and much of Hogling Toothface’s strange digit shoot like a cannonball at Bat-Winged Hog.)

READER
To Hell with you and your foul progeny, Infection of the Nightmare Barnyard!

(Reader’s aim is true: Bat-Winged Hog is blasted from its place in the trees, ripping from its wings and disintegrating into smoke and dust. In its place is a harmless, beautiful moth.
At the same time and in the same manner, Hogling Toothface disintegrates. In its place is nothing.
The leech-tar in the tree has been covered over by healing fungi; the trees will thrive.

Interlocutor is staring, incensed, at Reader, who crouches, wary, catching her breath. After a moment, Interlocutor remembers the audience. He turns to us and smiles.)

INTERLOCUTOR
It appears that our entertainment will last an entire evening, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me now to summon a truly diverting amusement—

(Music fills the glade.
Interlocutor is halted in his speech by its beauty.
The moth moves through the trees, appearing now i
n a shaft of oddly bright moonlight (considering that this is a gibbous moon).
If a moth can appear dazed, it does. [Note to directors: consider puppetry; training moths is perilous at the best of times.]
Reader executes a deeply graceful reverence in the moonlight.
The moth dances in the air to Reader’s speakings.)

READER
Hyalophora Euryalus, I salute you. In your eternal spiral quest to reach the moon, you have been waylaid this night by forces most unpleasant. It was never my intent that you would be used in such shadowy crabblings.
Go now and flutter thy glorious wings, for someday thy offspring shall feast upon Ceanothus! Pseudotsuga Menziesii! Ribes! Salix
!

(The moth bows and flutters up toward the Scorpio moon.
Its music continues through the rest of the scene.
Reader kneels to the moth and the moon, then moves her pack and staff to the base of the monument, making notes in a leatherbound journal during the following. It is clear she expected a different outcome.)

INTERLOCUTOR
Ladies and Gentlemen, thus do we conclude this portion of the evening’s entertainment. Little does our Reader know she has spoken the words which open a gateway to the moon. And, on levels yet to be discovered, her words may have echoed toward other gateways. Would that this were enough to save her. Alas. The next scene will, I suspect, prove most diverting—even to those among you whose tastes are more, shall we say, European? Splendid. Now / to change the scene—

(/One of the symbols on the monument glows blue, a deeper music thrumming from the monument itself, harmonizing with the music of the moon moth.
Reader is startled, stepping back, journal in hand, to observe.
Interlocutor stares in shock.)

READER
Cold my nights and shadowed my path, but now I know which new path to take! Thank you, little Moon Moth! I am inspired by your in-spiral-ation!

(Reader dons her pack and takes up her staff, heading off upstage left, exploring once again this dark forest.
Watching her go, the Interlocutor gestures. From under the ground comes a crooked figure in a tattered black hooded robe. It is under the thrall of the Interlocutor.)

INTERLOCUTOR
I bring you, now, from deepest dark
To run and fetch a prize;
You’ll scour and scathe this wooded park
Until you behold with your eyes
The slender girl with shapely thighs
Whose trek you’ll halt until she dies
And, left to rot in leaves and bark,
Her knowledge with her lies.

HOODED THING
I will halt her, choc’late malt her.

INTERLOCUTOR
Halt her first in little ways,
Frustrate every breath;
Then take her toes and split her nose,
Pull the petals from her rose,
Bite her ’til her mind quite goes
Then halt her quite to death.

HOODED THING
I’ll halt her in the darkest ways, I’ll pleasure me, she’ll scream for days.

INTERLOCUTOR
Go now!

(The Hooded Thing bounds off, grunting and growling, after Reader.
Interlocutor turns to us.)

INERLOCUTOR
(Continued.)
Let us change the scene.

(Interlocutor exits; as he does so, the scene changes to … )

Missy

In Uncategorized on June 10, 2015 at 7:42 am

I’m on The Drabble!

mother n childBy Edward Hightower

“Who’s doing wigs?”

“Missy Schwartz.”

“Thank God. The last one – ”

“Isn’t Missy your ex?”

“Define ex.”

“You know what we mean.”

“We dated. We’re on good terms.”

“You’ve got quite the reputation.”

“Do I?”

“Always coy, this one. Anyone wanna smoke?”

“Yes, let’s.”

“Okay, so we’re alone. Spill.”

“I got her sister pregnant.”

“That was you?”

“She miscarried.”

“Nope.”

“What?”

“She died. Missy adopted the kid.”

“Hi, guys!”

“Missy – ”

“Who’s that you got with you?”

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The Sound of Music: Act II, Scenes 5 – 7

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 at 9:16 pm

There’s a no cell phone / no tablet / no computer rule in the rehearsal space.

I broke it last night.

The reason for the rule is that it distances the cast and crew from one another; people spend all of their time buried in their devices. It’s certainly true: the cast of Spelling Bee at Berkeley Playhouse were all so connected that we didn’t necessarily connect as much as we could have. Who’s to say if we needed more in-person connection? It was a great production, one I am proud to list on my resume. But there were times backstage when, owing to my unpopularity in certain quarters of the world (home), I had no messages to respond to (or, more accurately, nobody was responding to my messages). As a result, I would accidentally begin one-sided conversations with the gentlemen in the dressing room, not realizing that they were hooked into their phones and wouldn’t be responding. This is something of which I was just as guilty when I would have some form of communication to which I could respond.

So the rule at Sierra Rep is one I fully embrace. I love it. And when I broke the rule last night, I was instantly chastised.

Here’s what happened: when I arrived, a question of trivia was raised that I could not immediately verify or refute, so I went to check Google right away, forgetting that there is no T-Mobile reception in Columbia, CA. So there it was: my phone couldn’t connect to the internet. But while I had it out, I wanted to look at the rehearsal schedule. For The Sound of Music.

“Hey, Edward? Could you put your phone away? Thanks.”

This from Scott Viets, Artistic Director of SRT and director of The Sound of Music. Utterly polite and professional.

“Oh! Of course, I apologize,” quoth I, turning the phone off and putting it away.

Boy did I feel like an assnugget. Haven’t felt that way in a while, and I’ll be honest: it stuck with me for a little bit. So I had to ask myself: why are you so stung by this? You knew the rule, you forgot, Scott was totally nice about it. What’s so special about you that you shouldn’t be reminded of the rule when it happens?

I couldn’t find an answer of any use, so I chalked it up to residual asshole on my part: the asshole who forgot the rule was still smarting from having been caught forgetting the rule. Ridiculous. Time to focus on the work. So I took my lines outside and started working on them.

Well, I started to take my lines outside. But as only those with regional reception can check their phones, everyone else is free to chat. So somewhere between the top of the stairs backstage and the stage door at the bottom of the stairs, I was shanghai’d into about ten conversations. By the time I made it outside, I had to pee. Then I was called to stage my portion of Act II, Sc. 6.

Gotta say: Act II, Sc. 6 is delicious for me. That is all.

After that was staged, I went outside and recorded my lines and blocking into my phone verbally, writing down what I’d missed as we staged it. After that, I went in to look for something and Drew asked if I’d like to run lines. So we ran his lines for a while, until he was called to stage something.

Which is when I went downstairs to find that Gretl’s dad had heard me say something about backpacking and had brought a map of the Carson-Iceberg/Emigrant & Mokelumne Wilderness Areas to show me where the best trailheads are.

He also told me where to get the map (Forest Service Office / Ranger Station), and where to find the Forest Service Office / Ranger Station (Greenley Road, Sonora).

Thus has my quest attained direction.

He even told me where there’s an awesome little cache in the woods, near a pond near a lake. That’s all I’m saying for now.

Something else splendid happened last night when I was sitting downstairs in the green room, but in order to tell you about it, I need to give a little backstory:

At the first read-through, I was sort of sitting across from Gretl. I made a joke about crocodiles. She just looked at me. Drew said to her, “You know what, I’m gonna give you a piece of advice: just don’t listen to anything he says. He’s very silly, and just about everything that comes out of his mouth is ridiculous.”

Now, that’s funny. And it might be true. But I’ve had someone tell a child actor that before, and the result was atrocious: when I played Guido in Nine, an actress said roughly the same thing to the kid playing Young Guido. So when he wouldn’t make eye contact with me AT ALL during the emotional climax / revelation of the show, I was trapped: this kid’s eyes were everywhere; floor, ceiling, wall, shoes, audience. I was trying to connect with a tiny Mad-Eye Moody, it wasn’t working, so I went to the director and asked him to talk to the kid. He said he would.

Next performance, nothing.

So before the performance after that I went to the kid and said, “Hey — did Ken talk to you?”

“About what?”

“Eye contact.”

“What’s that?”

“Well, you know how in the last scene I’m singing to you about how I need to go off on my own?”

“Yeah …”

“You know what would really help me, would be if you would just look me in the eyes when I sing that.”

“What? Why?”

“Because you’re staring all over the place and you’re supposed to be my younger self, and since I’m talking to you it would really help me, as an actor, if you would just look me in the eyes — nowhere but my eyes — when I’m singing to you. Can you do that?”

“I guess so …”

“It would help a lot.”

He kind of sidled away and I crossed my fingers, but at that night’s performance he was tracking international moth competitions. I went to the director and asked if he could talk to the kid again. Turns out he’d forgotten.

Still nothing in the performance after that, so I went back to the actress who’d originally told the little shit not to listen to me. I explained the situation, and she called him over and said, “Okay, you know what? When I said that about not listening to him, I meant if he was being silly. But when he’s asking you about acting stuff, it’s important.”

Right about then, the director walked in, with his checklist. At the bottom of the list I saw, as he came over to the kid, was the kid’s name. He took him aside and reinforced everything we’d been saying, and for that performance (the final performance), the little shit looked me in the eyes. I got what I needed (emotional connection), the waterworks started, it was incredibly moving. It was the best performance, by far, of the run.

Would have been nice if he’d talked to the kid, oh, I don’t know … weeks ago.

Back to the first readthrough for SOM: Drew told Gretl to ignore me, and I said, “Wait a minute, though: if I say the building’s on fire, or watch out for that open trap door, I’m not kidding.”

“Umm, no, in those cases you should pay attention,” he said.

But it was too late. At the second rehearsal, Gretl told Marta, “Don’t listen to anything he says, Uncle Max says he’s silly.

But last night, Gretl’s dad told me she’d made a three-mile hike with him, easy. So after we staged Sc. 6 and we were all leaving the stage, I said to her, “Hey, Ruby. I hear you hiked three miles recently. That’s awesome.”

She stopped, turning, about to step off the stage onto the single-step cube that we’re using as a convenient (if unsafe) stair. “What?” she said.

“I hear you went on a three-mile hike. That’s awesome. Well done,” I said.

She just looked at me, silent, then stepped down and went to her seat. I wrote it off.

Later, however, when I was in the green room talking with her dad and the kids were on break, she walked by and whacked me on the shoulder: a single pat, almost a smack, but it was a silent greeting, a hello, an acknowledgement. It said, you’re people, I get you, I trust you, hi. No eye contact, not a word spoken. Just a whack on the shoulder as she passed, looking for her snack.

The simplest and most meaningful gesture I’ve ever experienced in my life. Probably nothing to her.

In these times it was a powerful, unexpected, reassuring moment. I’m still trying to work out why.

All I know is, I’m delighted that I wasn’t buried in my phone, cut off from the world around me. The asshole who was upset at being reminded of a rule would never have noticed that gesture.

Good rule, Scott. Thank you.

The Sound of Music: Act II, Sc. 1-4

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2014 at 7:32 pm

Last night we staged Act II, Scenes 1-4. I’m in Scene 4, at the very end, and wasn’t called until 6:30, but I rode down to Columbia with Drew and then walked around the town, playing tourist for a bit. Took some photos, as collaged below:Image

During rehearsal, there was some time when the Von Trapp children, sans Luisa, were all backstage, with little or no supervision. This is always worrisome, as there are powertools and kids are inquisitive / fearless. While I was waiting to go on, I noticed they were getting a little loud.

I step back there, “Hey, here’s a fun idea: how quiet can you be when you’re backstage?”

A three-foot blonde tornado named Grace says, “Hey! I’m as loud as I want: I’m a Sumo Wrestler, HUUUUUHHHHRRRRRRR!!!”

I ask, “Wow, is that part of your character preparation? Are you going to do that in the show?”

“Noooooo,” she laughs.

“I think you should. Opening night, you should just surprise everybody with a Sumo pas de deux.”

“Will you tell us about the Orange Juice again?” Grace says, her glasses magnifying her already large blue eyes.

“The what?”

“The Orange Juice — you come in and tell Uncle Max about the Orange Juice …”

Brigitta pipes up, “She means the Au Jus.”

“Oh, you’re talking about the Anschluss?” I say.

“Yeah!” now a bunch of the Von Trapp whelplings gather around me as Grace says, “What is that?”

“It means connection or annexation,” I say. “It’s what happened when Germany basically took over Austria. It’s the reason people start hanging Nazi flags everywhere, and it’s eventually why you guys have to leave the country.”

Chorus of informed, “Ooohhhhhh.”

Grace says, “Say it again!”

“Anschluss.”

“Orange juice, orange juice!”

“Shhh,” says Brigitta.

“Who do you play in the show?” I ask Grace.

“Marta.”

“I’m sorry, did you say you play Farta?”

“No! I play Marta! Marta, with an ‘M’!” she says, and Gretl and Brigitta gather closer.

“What’s your last name in the show?” I ask.

“Von Trapp, don’t you listen?”

“Of course I do — so … your name is Farta Von Crapp?”

Laughter, shocked eyes and whispers of, “He said a bad word …”

Grace says, “Oh yeah? Well, your new nickname is Crappy! Crappy Jenkins!”

Best. New. Nickname. Ever.

The Sound of Music at Sierra Repertory Theatre

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I’m spending the Summer of 2014 working at Sierra Repertory Theatre (SRT) in Sonora, CA. If you know my work, you know that there are two roles I would ordinarily play in this show. But I didn’t audition for it, back when they had auditions — I don’t even know when that was. This production was not on my radar. What I did do, was contact the AD about a production of Spelling Bee that they’re doing in the Autumn. Having recently — and successfully, I might add — played Panch in Spelling Bee in Berkeley, I sought to parlay that experience into being cast up here later in the year.

SRT said they’d love to see video of my stuff in the show. I said, absolutely. I asked Berkeley Playhouse if I could get some video of my audience interactions, and they said, essentially, we’ve already got video — what do you need? So I told them, and I got the video. They were lovely about it.

Sadly, my video editing skills are nil. I did not succeed at getting trimmed video clips to SRT in time, and I wrote it off as a sacrifice to the Gods of Timing. Then, some weeks ago, Scott Viets contacted me and asked if I was interested in reading for Herr Zeller in The Sound of Music (SOM).

For those of you who don’t know, Herr Zeller is the Nazi who tries to strong-arm Captain Von Trapp into joining the Nazi Navy. What Scott said he was looking for was, a real German dialect and a genuinely intimidating presence. He also said they needed a video asap — probably remembering that my other video never arrived.

Let me be clear: dialects and presence are my meat and potatoes, my cup of tea, my MO and my MA. I love dialects. I love playing the “bad guy” (I put this phrase in quotes because my villains always believe they are heroes). I love combining all of the above, and I just love playing Nazis. Reason being: is there a more immediately evil character than a Nazi? Nope. So, really, the uniform does all my work for me. All I have to do is pursue my wants with life-or-death stakes, and everything’s superb. No reason to play “evil,” and charm can be chilling.

So, one night after we got home from an A’s game (at which, it should be noted, they kicked the Angels’ collective ass), I threw on some un-summery clothes and created this little gem. I share it for amusement only. I made about ten or fifteen versions, and that’s the one with the fewest fuckups. As you can see, there are some moments when the pauses are too long and I have to fill them with schmacting, the camera angle is wrong and emphasizes my gut. I’m sure there are other problems, not least of which is the hiccup at the end. By the time I shot this one, it was after 1 am and I was tired.

Uploaded the video, submitted it to Viets at SRT, and within an hour of its arrival he called to offer me the job.

A miracle, I tell you. Couldn’t have come at a better time. Long story, there: best saved for another day.

Fast-forward over the following events: paid off outstanding fines from traffic violation, got new license, new car battery, SMOG check one [fail!], oil change, two attempted diagnoses of failed! SMOG check lead to my usual SMOG check place who — SMOG check two — PASSED! my car (they had no explanation for why the other place failed it, everything passed just fine), paid registration at DMV, got insurance and, BOOM: my car is running, insured, registered and splendid.

Sure, right now it leaks oil like a sieve.

Sure, right now it leaks steering fluid like a sieve going over Niagara. In a barrel. Made of sieves.

But it’s a 1988 Honda Accord with 134,000 miles on it. DONE! This is my forever car until I can afford a hybrid bio-diesel Honda campervan. No, those don’t exist.

Yet.

So I drove up here on Tuesday, arriving in Sonora around 10:30 am. Checked into my housing (delightful, more on that later), and attended the my first rehearsal, which was a read-through with the full company.

There is one other actor staying in the same house as me. His name is Drew Boudreau, he plays Max Dettweiler in SOM and he’s hilarious. Hire him, now. We carpooled to and from the first read, and on the way back I had to state the obvious, “You, sir, are hilarious.”

He said, “And you, sir, are fucking terrifying. I’m sitting there, as a Jew, shaking in my shoes.”

Laughing in delight, I said, “You’re Jewish?”

“Yes! And you’re asking them about their electricity and I’m having fight-or-flight reactions to the guy who’s staying in the next room.

Every time I think about this, I chuckle.

So far, things could be worse.

Spelling Bee: First Rehearsal

In Theatre, Uncategorized on April 25, 2014 at 8:06 pm

March 8, 2014
Thoughts on my first rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Berkeley Playhouse, as dictated to my phone while moving my car during a break at rehearsal. I will include both what my phone perceived and my attempt at translation, followed by elucidation as needed. Enjoy.

“Thoughts on my first rehearsal for spelling bee Playhouse, largely based on well everything. The cast appears all to be under 30, possibly even under 25. I feel like a dinosaur. I’m wearing plaid vest red tie navy blue shirt weather double batch the next AM., is that matters is that I feel so old in this cast I think I could I’m old enough to be something simple father.”

The cast appears all to be under 30, possibly even under 25. I feel like a dinosaur. I’m wearing a charcoal plaid vest, red tie, navy blue shirt. Overdressed. Will have to slob it up over the next couple months. This is a new experience for me: I feel so old in this cast, I think I’m old enough to be their father.

“The directors very attractive.”

The director seems to be a lovely human being. That always helps. I say “seems” because I have made the mistake of believing first impressions in the past, and it did not turn out well for me. So, I’m cautious. But she really does seem to be awesome. Time will tell, and I will trust with a grain of salt.

“I’m determined to be on my best behavior in this cast, but generally that’s true of every cast I will try to come apart. At the moment always comes when I make jokes that actually, it doesn’t always come. But it could come. And since I suspect that the majority of my doctors last year for from 510, and specifically Berkeley California, then I am cautious about making jokes. So dot dot dot its tricky.”

I’m determined to be on my best behavior in this cast, but generally that’s true of every cast of which I become a part. And the moment always comes when I make jokes that upset or offend someone. It doesn’t always come, actually. But it could come. And since I suspect that the majority of my cast hail from the 510, and specifically Berkeley, California, then I am cautious about making jokes. So … it’s tricky. I always assume that Theatre People will get my jokes, will be entertained by my schtick. Apparently, however, I am an acquired taste. Having been attacked and vilified by complete strangers — in a Theatre group — on Facebook, I am cautious. I will try to stay silent, say nothing, interact with nobody. That is a very difficult challenge, because I’ve hardly left the house since last May. I feel a bit like Robinson Crusoe thrust into a garden party.

“Interesting the first two musical numbers reversed are considered group members in which I do not appear to sing it note I have spoken words with them and I suppose it was good that I was there, but. No focus is given to my aunts music is fun absolutely fine, not necessarily I’m entering the cafe close email goodbye.”

Interesting: the first two musical numbers we rehearsed are “group numbers” — in which I do not appear to sing a note. I have spoken words within one of them and I suppose it was good that I was there, but: thus far, no actual focus is given to my material in the music. Which is absolutely fine, we had a lot of material to cover. Panch does not sing anywhere within the score. I hope that we’ll get them nailed down before it gets stressful. I can already feel how peripheral I am to this production. I’m entering the cafe across the street to refresh my beverage before returning to rehearsal, so I will close this email and say goodbye.

***

Interesting to note how accurate some of this was.
As of this writing, we have two weeks left. The reviews are all stellar, and there are currently some cheap tickets available via Goldstar: http://www.goldstar.com/e/81887

NaNoWriMo WINNER!

In Uncategorized on December 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

As of sometime between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Wednesday, November 20, I passed the goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I did this at a blessedly quiet write-in at the Livermore Public Library. It was at this write-in that I made some other writers laugh for the first time, won a lobster (who even now is nesting in the left hand pocket of my vintage French military greatcoat), and met a NaNo who is the embodiment of the human incarnation of the Last Unicorn. I also learned that there was a write-in the following Thursday — as in, the very next night — at the Panera in Dublin, CA.

Now, everyone in my region had received messages from our NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons about these things, but sometimes an event doesn’t quite seem real until one finds others who are planning to attend. So I frothed myself up and attended the Panera Write-In the very next night.

I think I got one sentence written. It was not an evening of writing. From what I understand, these Panera Write-Ins are perhaps more dedicated earlier in the month. And apparently they’re also year-round. Since that night, I have attended one more Panera Write-In, and the majority of the group was playing Munchkin. That’s an awesome game. I was entertained as I ate a tasty sandwich.

No writing done.

Clearly this is an issue of self-discipline. I should go to these and sequester myself behind a house of cards. Perhaps adding a team of trained sea otters who will cavort at my command and distract the other writers. Blah, blah, blah. It would distract me, too. Only a few of these writers seem to have the discipline to write while a game of Munchkin is going on. I must find a way to do this. The two most obvious assistances are music and headphones; I have headphones and a superb playlist on Spotify. Unfortunately, the WiFi connection at Panera in Dublin seems spotty at best.

My computer does not like having a lot of sound files in it, as I learned when I produced an audiobook through ACX.com. So I’ll have to tinker a bit. And none of this should really matter terribly much, because I won NaNoWriMo. I still need to finish my novel and edit it, but I am a winner. In spite of the fact that of my grand plans to get a bunch of extra writing done on specific days didn’t really come to any form of juicy fruition.

Here’s why:
1) Between Day 3 and Day 4 I jumped from 8,000-ish words to 12,000-ish words; by Day 6 I was holding steady at 15,000-ish words; on Day 9 I jumped to 25,125 words.
1a) Here’s why: on November 6 I started not mowing lawns for nothing resembling a living, as well as never helping out with the cleanup and prep of a house here in Livermore that needed to be put on the market asap. So on 11/6, 7, 8 I wasn’t tearing shelving out of a garage, mowing lawns, using a leaf blower for the first time (fun!), and doing all sorts of other stuff that has blended together in my memory as a gasoline-scented montage of hunger fumes and Red Bull. So when Saturday, November 9 rolled around, with its all-day Write-In, I was at the computer by 7 am and wrote until we stopped to watch some Dr. Who around 7 pm; when the show was over and my lovely fiancée went to sleep, I wrote until just before midnight.
1b) Having lost entire days, you see, to not working outdoors and prepping that house for sale, I was very worried that I would not make my goals. So the days when I leapt forward by several thousand words were days that followed periods of exhaustion and near inactivity. Turns out I have a smidgen of self-discipline, as long as I make it clear to certain people (Maxwell and the fiancée) that I need an entire day, and that there shall be no Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on the television during that time. The leap to 25,125 words kept me well above my goals for the rest of the month. By Day 16, I was over 42,000 words. (This should have been exhilarating. However, it became clear to me at that juncture that I was not going to finish the novel by the time November 30 rolled around, and I began to freak out a little bit. I wanted to finish the novel, not just meet the goal. Alas, my story does not fit into a tidy, tiny 50,000-word format. And when I realized this, I felt like a complete failure. Ridiculous, no?)

Even though I had surpassed my goals and had the beginnings of something fabulous on my hands, I was convinced I had somehow failed. I posted embarrassing things on Facebook, along the lines of: “I’m already at 42,000 words halfway to the deadline, and there’s no way my novel will be complete by the end of the month! WAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Laughable as it is, I was seriously distraught. And the root of my distress I found buried in a box of confusion at the crossroads of the NaNoWriMo Goal and My Personal Yardstick Of Success. I was trying to write 150,000 words in 30 days. And that’s quite possible. I may have done so if I’d not been not mowing lawns. But my unemployment checks are tiny — well under Minimum Wage, if one calculates the amount of time I have been putting in to job searches [prior to NaNo] and considers the checks payment for that time, which is how I like to think of it — and without my work outdoors last month, we’d have been short my half of the rent. So the work I was doing was useful. And what I realized was this: people who are fully employed and / or in school and still manage to get 50,000 or 30,000 or 20,000 or even 5,000 words written in a month are the real winners.

An unemployed actor who occasionally doesn’t mow some lawns and has oodles of time on his hands? Meh. No big surprise.

By mid-November I was getting notices from EDD that they were going to cut off my meagre supply of money. I started putting more things up for sale on Craigslist.

Nothing sold. I stopped applying for jobs and figured I’d just keep mowing lawns and writing.

Then, sometime around 11/24-ish, I received a notice from EDD that they would still be paying me. I filled out the form and was about to put it into the envelope when I noticed an X in a box with a phrase near it, the gist of which was: bitch, you’d better offer proof that you’re applying for jobs! Because we watch, motherfucker, and you haven’t been on our shitty website searching for jobs in weeks!”

Commence frantic search of e-mails for proof of jobs applied for: company, contact info., person contacted, etc. Results: many applications, no responses. Even though in my mind I had utterly stopped, the difference was this: I had stopped signing onto CalJobs to look for work, because their website is creaky and clunky and counter-intuitive. I am pleased to have found enough applications made during November to fill in those early weeks.

However, I didn’t get any responses from several of the places to which I applied. Some of them should have been automatic, given my resume (big fish) and their overall talent pool (shallow). I’m not being conceited here, friends, this is actually something I’ve done in the past and have revived of late in order to keep my chops up: audition for small companies who can’t afford to pay me a living wage.

It may be kind of a dick move when one considers the torment to which I will possibly subject some of the directors, but here’s the thing you don’t know about theatre companies: in order to be able to survive at all, just about every established small / community theatre company has at least one person to whom they can go when they need the money for an emergency expense. If the director wants an actor badly enough, and the actor can’t do the job without a living wage, there is occasionally a secret agreement reached whereby the actor appears to take the same piddling $250 stipend as the rest of the cast, when in actuality she is getting a living wage.

This doesn’t happen everywhere. But it’s how I’ve made much of my living since 2007.  Of course, if the director is not impassioned in her argument, and if the backer is a dick, and if the theatre company is poorly managed, and if there’s a butterfly in a rain forest who hates Sondheim, I probably won’t get a living wage from the small company for which I auditioned this past Saturday.

That audition only happened because I sent a second e-mail with headshot and resume attached, along with a polite post-script inquiring about the earlier e-mail. So I have sent several similar e-mails in the past week or so, and have learned that many of the missives I sent in the early weeks of November just did not arrive.

Mercury Retrograde much? Maybe not. You’d be surprised how many butterflies hate Sondheim.

In the meantime, I am signing up for general auditions galore and looking at a local Masters Program in Holistic Psychology. We’ll see what happens. Auditions and rehearsals take time away from writing.

[Did you read this? Are you a human being? Consider commenting below. Many thanks!]

Fascinating Bots

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Every like and follow I’ve had on here seems to be a bot.

Am I wrong? Are you real?

Comment, please.

Searching for Sibley

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2013 at 7:12 am

My nephew came with my fiancee and I yesterday in search of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. In my mind, it was in Berkeley somewhere above the Lawrence Hall of Science. I don’t trust my GPS to get me to the right spot these days, so I thought I should ignore it and ask my nephew, a Berkeley High (keyword: high) alumnus. He said he knew how to get there. So we went to Berkeley, took a right on Claremont and climbed the tiny, winding, steep streets in the fiancee’s 2010 Honda Civic until the nephew deemed it appropriate to turn left. This initial left turning was at the intersection of Claremont Avenue, Fish Ranch Road and Grizzly Peak Blvd.

Locals will know that we were wrong. Chuckle at our expense as you read further: it seemed to me that we were headed in the right direction. However, at the moment when the nephew said to turn right and we’d be there, I couldn’t help but notice that we were driving into Tilden. Not Sibley.

My first clue came from the sign that said STEAM TRAINS, before we even reached the official entrance. There is only one park with Steam Trains in the East Bay Hills: Tilden. We drove toward the golf course, ended up back on Grizzly Peak Blvd., and I realized that we were indeed in the wrong region. “Take Grizzly Peak,” I said. “Back toward that crossroads where we left Claremont. I know where to go, now.”

The fiancee did just that. I followed our progress on the GPS. It told me, eventually, that we were inside Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. I watched us drive over the double red lines of the Caldecott Tunnel. Right around the time that we reached the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline, I became frustrated and re-set the GPS to take us to Sibley. Following its instructions, we then took a circuitous, labyrinthine course through the residential streets below Grizzly Peak and Skyline, eventually ending up back on Grizzly Peak, heading back to the first crossroads of Claremont, Fish Ranch and Grizzly Peak. This time, still following the GPS instructions, we turned right on Fish Ranch Road. It took us down the back side of the ridge to the Orinda side of the Caldecott Tunnel, over the tunnel to … a creepy back entrance to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. We followed the road a little further past a parking area on what I have since learned was the eastern approach of the original tunnel, known variously as the Kennedy Tunnel, the Inter-County Tunnel or the Broadway Tunnel. Before seeing that road and getting curious about it, I had been told — and believed — that this tunnel was originally part of the pre-BART Key System.

The Key System, for those of you who don’t know, was a system of electronic trains and streetcars that served the East Bay and, to the best of my knowledge, connected with various other local electric streetcars and trains in the greater Bay Area (I’ll update this as I learn more). The lower deck of the Bay Bridge originally had two railroad tracks on the south side for this specific purpose. (My mother used to take those trains to San Francisco with her friend Barbara. They smoked cigarettes and were tres tres chic.) GM pulled some major shenanigans in the late 1950’s, basically buying the Key System through a front company, replacing its board of directors with GM cronies, and cutting back service until they’d replaced everything with buses. For a more detailed history, check here. Guess who fought this transition? Every city council in the East Bay. Guess who won?

If you’re the kind of person who likes moving pictures (and if I have whetted your appetite with all these words of electric trains), you might enjoy this short film.

So: the old tunnel is said to have been open to pedestrians after the Caldecott Tunnel opened in 1937, but closed in 1947 for safety reasons. This is fascinating to me, because I know that my older brothers were exploring the old tunnel as recently as the early 1970’s. Apparently the western end has been completely sealed — we drove right past it in our GPS-led wild goose chase — but the exact condition of the eastern end of the old tunnel remains, as of this writing, a mystery.

Attentive readers will ask the question, “How is it a mystery if you were on the eastern side of the ridge, on Old Tunnel Road?” Thank you for being attentive, attentive readers. The answer is simple: the approach to the tunnel is fenced off, as that area is controlled by the East Bay Regional Parks District. And since the original purpose of our quest was to explore the Sibley Volcanic Preserve, we parked near that back entrance and started walking up a very well-paved road.

Friends, sometimes I have trouble breathing. This was the case a ways up that road, so we turned back to the car and I talked the nephew and the fiancee into indulging me: “You have to pee, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet, let’s find the entrance I was actually looking for.” By the time we reached the Skyline Boulevard entrance to Sibley, my lungs were doing just fine. Here’s the kicker: when I reverted to the GPS for directions at the intersection of Grizzly Peak and Skyline an hour or so before, we were literally a couple hundred yards from the Skyline entrance to Sibley. Annoyed as I was at having chased the wild goose via my fuckmook GPS, I now know many things of which I was previously unaware. Thanks, Garmin! You suck, but it’s educational.

I felt amazing after our sunset hike, but the entire reason that I wanted to go to Sibley was to do some research for Notes From The Future. There is a specific entry that uses Sibley, but I had never actually been there before yesterday. I had used the Interwebs to get a view of Mt. Diablo from the Berkeley / Oakland hills, and thanks to our friends at Google Maps, I was able to get a general idea of how things would look.

Specificity is preferable to generalization. And, while we made quite a nice bit of progress into Sibley, we were forced to return to the car when the sun had set. I was unable to reach the spot I sought, thanks in large part to the educational tour led by our GPS. So I will be heading back there this week, with plenty of water for Maxwell and a camera for tasty goodness. Any local geologists care to join me? I’m just a little bit obsessed with geology and volcanology and will make you talk for hours.

[Update: Apparently there is a separate tunnel, known as the Train Tunnel, somewhere on or near Pinehurst Road. I have yet to see or even approach either end of that tunnel, but will make a point of exploring a bit next time I’m in the vicinity. Perhaps that was the tunnel my brothers explored. From what I understand, it is just as thoroughly sealed as the Kennedy Tunnel.]