Directions and How Not to Give Them

When you’re on the road and you want to see countryside you’ve never seen and get to know wide, unfamiliar vistas just outside your windshield, all you have to do is ask for directions. Unfortunately, I have found that people are much better at asking for directions than giving them. And I’m not just talking about husbands and wives here. In small to midsize towns across this country, directions can be, well, fuzzy.

Me: “So how do I get to the reservoir park from here?”

Local: “Easy. Go straight down this road until you get to where the Dairy Queen used to be, then you make a hard left.”

Me: “I’m not from around here.”

Local: “Well, I won’t hold that against you.”

Me: “What I mean is that I don’t know where the Dairy Queen used to be because I wasn’t here to see it in the first place.”

Local: “You missed a good thing. Especially Wednesday nights.”

Me: “I bet. But for the left…is there another landmark?”

Local: “Hmm….usually you can see Butch Seeker’s dog, Diablo, out on the porch about a block before then.  You can’t miss him – big black lab/bear blend that runs right up at you frothing at the mouth ‘til he reaches the end of the chain, and then his feet just fly out from under him.  Kind of funny really.  After you see Diablo, make the hard left in about a block.  Can’t miss it.”

Me: “What if Diablo isn’t outside?”

Local: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, his owners might have him inside the house.”

Local: “That’s a good one. His owners won’t let Diablo inside the house. He’d tear it apart. You should see the yard. Come to think of it, you will see the yard. Diablo is one of the reasons the Dairy Queen moved. So after the torn up yard and your hard left, you just keep on goin’ until you….

Me: “Wait a minute.  What do you mean “hard left.”

Local: “As opposed to easy. Believe me, this left ain’t easy. You got to work it. If you don’t, if you arc real soft around that corner, your right front tire will hit a pot hole the size of a wagon wheel, and stay there.”

Me: “Got it. After the left?”

Local: “You can’t miss it.”

Now there’s a phrase I’ve heard a thousand times.  “You can’t miss it,” – the epithet of direction givers. Of course 90% of the time, they’re wrong.

And you can’t depend on GPS when you’re touring.  I was in Winnemucca once and was following the GPS directions to what I thought was the theatre, when all of sudden, the robot voice intoned: “I don’t know where you are now, Tim.  No one from Google has ever mapped this area.  Trip Advisor sent several scouts here in the late 90s, but none ever returned. Get me out of here.  Take three hard lefts and step on it. That’ll get you back to the hotel.  You can’t miss it.”


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I’ve lost my “brisk!”

The AMA recently declared that walking was a great way to get into and stay in shape and may add years to your life. However, in the report, they stipulated that “brisk” walking was needed to assure the best results.
In taking my daily walk recently, I discovered one unalterable fact: I have lost my “brisk.” If I ever had one. No, I would characterize my walking more as a “trudge.” Or perhaps a “plod.” Luckily I don’t believe I have reached the zenith of aging walks: the “shuffle.” I think, and hope, that “shuffle” comes later. I probably have to go through “slog” and “shamble” to get to “shuffle,” so I think I’m safe for a while.
My wife, Love, has put forth a perfectly simple theory. She says that slowing down is probably connected to the midsection of the body, and that you have to be able to see your feet in order to move them into the brisk gear. I have to admit: when I stand straight and look down, I cannot see my feet. At first this little test caused me quite a bit of consternation. I thought perhaps I had misplaced them, or left them at the foot of the recliner, as I do my slippers. Or perhaps my feet were still in my slippers, not wanting to come out of their warm morning abode.
I was somewhat mollified by the discovery that if I breathe in…deeply…and hold my breath, and look straight down, I can make out the occasional toe or three. Although I can’t distinguish at all what they’re connected to.
Love also suggests that the midsection in question has increased in girth as my eating has increased in speed over the years. She remarks that perhaps the expansion is due to my not chewing well, and finishing my meals in about ½ the time I used to take. I simply attributed the stomach growth to the natural process of losing the sharpness of my teeth over time, forcing me to absorb larger and larger pieces of food.
However, it now occurs to me what has really happened. I have simply moved my brisk from my walking to my eating. That’s where I put it. Well, time to trudge. Talk to you later.

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Say What?

Say What? I have just discovered that I am going deaf. No need to panic. Evidently it’s only selected frequencies I can’t hear any more. When I went to my otologist (Yes, that’s what ear docs apparently like being called) at Costco….I tend to do most of my medical examinations at Costco….he informed me about those frequencies.

Together, otologist Joe and I went through them one by one. Of course my wife was present….she would never let me go to Costco by myself, are you kidding. The one time I did go by myself, some 15 years ago, she made me return every item. Of course I had just unloaded the van, so I had to reload, and re-unload in the Costco parking lot. Not as easy as it sounds when you’re grappling with a 17 foot canoe, a 46-inch TV and a 12 piece stainless steel patio set with sunken pool.

You should know that I call my wife “Love,” not because I can’t remember her name but because once, in a moment of total exhaustion, I called her by my first wife’s name, “Lulabell.” (This was before I began calling my first wife “evil.”) Unfortunately the mishap occurred inside a Costco store across several aisles and my voice carries pretty well. Love sounds a lot better.

At any rate, Love was with me at the Otologist’s as he went over the results of the hearing exam. And lo and behold, as he began to listen to my wife’s questions about those missing frequencies, he determined they were exactly the same frequencies my wife used for speaking. Unbelievable coincidence! And what’s more he revealed that he had the same affliction….but the unheard frequencies were those of his own wife, Jezebel.

He also opened his file cabinets to reveal a drawer full of husbands suffering the same malady! This introduced me to a whole new world, so I began listening more closely to the couples and families around us and discovered that men can lose the frequencies of almost any women in their family:  mothers, sisters, wives and even daughters.  Who’d a thunk?

Love is not quite so convinced. As a matter of fact, since this episode began, I hardly see her anymore at all. She seems to spend a lot more time “out.”

When I ask where she’s been, she says I couldn’t hear her anyway, so why tell me what she was doing? Well actually, she didn’t say that last part…, she had it written down on a large whiteboard she has affixed to the refrigerator. The one that tells me what she wants me to hear each day.

Well, I gotta stop. Love’s iPhone just told me it’s time to go to Costco.

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The First Time (Conclusion from Blog #1)

April, 2012 Yikes, have I been remiss in my flogging. Actually my agent, Thor, now tells me it’s Blogging, not flogging, but then again, Thor doesn’t have to write them. I wanted to finish my account (Blog #1) about the first performance of a McManus show, in Sandpoint, Idaho, October 2, 1992! The theatre was packed, about 95 degrees, and Pat had his shotgun out in his van if I embarrassed him.

So I begin the show in less than ideal conditions, and a strange thing happened:  people laughed, laughed from the first lines, and then they laughed harder!!  They laughed so hard that it discombobulated me completely. Remember, I’m on stage alone, playing 15 different parts, and trying to recall the lines to a play that Pat had completed only a couple of weeks earlier.

So, the laughter comes over me like waves pounding on the shore.  And I was the shore! Pound Pound!  I was actually thinking to myself:  “Please stop laughing.  I’ve got to concentrate up here and I can’t think when you’re laughing so much.  Stop It!”

And in the middle of a story, 20 minutes into the show, that’s what I did.  I stopped.  Completely lost.  I was sweating because of the heat, I couldn’t think because of the laughter so I stopped.  I kind of bent over, held my hands up to my chest in a gesture of giving up and I said something like “This has never happened to me before,” and I then left the stage.  One audience member yelled out:  “Go take a break, look at your script, and we’ll still be here when you get back.”  That comment was both reassuring and terrifying.

Later people would tell me they thought I was having a heart attack, but they decided to stick around and see how it came out anyway.

Meanwhile I had moved to the parking lot behind the theatre where there was shade and I collapsed on the ground.  A nurse had run out of the theatre after me, apparently thinking I needed medical attention and she found me, sitting on the asphalt, propping up a brick wall with my back.  She blurted out:  “I’m a nurse and I don’t think you’re having a heart attack!”  Good news.

Then my director, Jack, and my wife, Leslie found me and ever the diplomats, questioned me:  “What do you think you’re doing out here?!  You’ve got a show to finish.”

I replied:  “Give the money back.  I’m not going out there.  Are you crazy?”

Jack:  “Tim, what’s the problem?  They’re laughing real hard!”

Tim:  “That’s the problem!  I can’t think of the words, because their laughter keeps interrupting me.”

Jack:  “That’s pretty much the point of comedy, isn’t it?”

Tim:  “I hadn’t thought of that.”

During the discussion, Jack and Leslie led me back to the wings of the stage, one on each side, pulling and pushing.  I begged them to refund the ticket money, and then a strange thing happened.

I felt a “presence” grab me by the elbows, almost as if it was directly behind me, and I was “moved” forcibly but gently onto the stage.  Then I felt a shove on my back. I was facing the audience.  I turned to look behind me to see who was there, and the space was empty.  Nobody.  Eerie.

I looked at the audience, they settled down, and I said:  “That’s the last time I eat lunch in Bonner’s Ferry.”  (Bonner’s is a neighboring and rival town.)

That got a laugh, and I went on with the show.  I have forgotten entirely what happened from that moment until I was bowing to wild applause some 90 minutes later.

In the weeks that followed I tried to reconstruct the rest of that evening.  No luck.  Just a blur.  I talked to some friends about this strange “presence” because it was powerful, calming and frightening at the same time.  One friend asked me what name came to mind when I thought of the presence.  I blurted out immediately “Emmanuel.”  Now, I’m not what you’d call a seriously well educated Christian, but after a little research I discovered that the name itself means “God with us.”  I took that as a good sign.

I guess it was then, with that touch, by that presence, that I really felt I was doing the right thing, at the right time in the right place.

Le me know if you have felt that?  Thanks for listening.



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Now go clean up a mess.

Sorry I’ve been away for so long. Traveling a lot. I have to interrupt my descriptions of the first McManus performance, because I attended Arts Northwest October 17-20, and it was my honor to be a master of ceremonies for two of the Juried Showcases. At the end of the last showcase, I made some remarks that I had written earlier. Several presenters and artists wanted a copy of them. So here they are:
“Bob Greenwood, founder of Sun Ergos, a theatre and dance company, believes that throughout history the job of artists has been to clean up the messes.
Give you a recent example: schools are cutting music and arts programs and classes left and right. As a result, to help clean up that mess, more and more artists are expanding their outreach activities and including innovative and accelerated learning motifs.
Bottom Line Duo now has a contract provision requiring that Bottom Line presenters arrange for educational outreach to the schools, at no cost to the presenter. As a touring actor performing the stage Comedies of Patrick F. McManus, I get more and more inquiries about the acting workshop I do, “How to create truth in a world of lies,” and I don’t charge for it anymore.
In the absence of school programs, students seem more enthusiastic than ever. Missoula Children’s theatre has never been busier. In Spokane, JayDean Ludiker, a noted fiddler and teacher, now sees more than 100 students each week.
Bluegrass bands in eastern Washington and northern Idaho, featuring parents and young performers, self taught, are popping up faster than you can say Appalachia and the 1930s.
In a very tangible and visceral way, the artists showcased here can remind us and our audiences that spirit, humor, relationship and authentic expression can sustain us in these bad times.
Maybe we can’t clean up the big messes: an economy skewed to benefit the rich, financial institutions failing miserably and a lack of civility in politics that hasn’t been seen since Caligula roamed the roads of Rome.
But these messes provide us with an incredible opportunity. As artists and presenters we get to help and encourage our audiences make their way through this complex and depressing morass. With laughter. With emotions that resonate to the core. With powerful responses that can enlighten even the darkest parts of our being. We’re kind of like a family working together, and the audience becomes our children, our brothers, our parents and finally, us. We celebrate life in the midst of passages. To smile, I need only recall the distinctive and delightful sound of the laughter of Janet Bradley, co-founder of Arts Northwest and Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre, who died unexpectedly this spring.
We become what artists….and those who enable them….have always been: the people in your life who tell you the truth. That you were born radiant, that you remain radiant and that you will always be radiant.
Now go clean up a mess.”

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