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Middlegate Station – “The Last Roadhouse”

By Analyn Revilla

On my road trip to Idaho on the motorcycles with Bruno, we spent a night at a motel-RV park with a mini-mart, a bar and gas station.  It was during this trip that I was kicking around the idea of ‘the edge’.  What is it about?  At Middlegate Station, a place to stop for weary travelers, I discovered a community that lives on the edge of the loneliest highway in America, Highway 50 in Nevada.  The roadhouse sits on the junction of Highway 50 and Highway 361.

In this age of internet and commercial industry, Middlegate Station is remote.  There were stretches of the road when we didn’t encounter another car for hours, except for transport trucks which were infrequent.  With smaller gas tanks, we took every opportunity to fill up, not knowing where the next gas station will be open or operable.  The map was only second best to word of mouth for reliable information.

We filled up at Gabbs and talked to the attendant who told us that the road is decent and recommended to gas up at Middlegate, because beyond that she didn’t know what’s opened.  Gabbs is a small mining town that experienced a downturn when the magnesium mine closed.  It was close to 3 pm when we rolled into Middlegate.  Inside the bar, there were windows that faced northeast on the L of hwy 50 and hwy 361, and a young man grilled hamburger meat.  At his feet was a toddler and further into the dark room, an older man behind the counter talking with two men who watched the TV with the volume at high.

We decided to refresh with some drinks before filling up the tanks.  I ordered a dark beer and Bruno had white wine.  It tasted good.  We looked at the menu.  “Freedom Fries”.  I told Bruno to keep quiet so as not to give away his French accent.  There were  $1 dollar bills pinned, stapled and taped on every surface of the place, except for the table tops.  The walls and ceiling were stained with tar from tobacco and grease.  The little girl started to cry.  The young man and older man, both with similar features, looked at each other.  They communicated without words.  Father and son spoke gently to the young baby, telling her gently that her mom will be back later.

I finished my beer and told Bruno I could have another one it tasted so good, and I wanted to know more about this place, these people.  There was something special about them.  Go ahead he said.  But I wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike if I had another drink.  I was exhausted after 2 days on the bike, and I wasn’t trained for these long hauls.  Then I thought I knew what the pony express riders felt when they rode from station to station at break neck speeds while trying to avoid getting killed.  My situation wasn’t as dire, but like them I was gloriously happy to come upon this haven.  We decided to stay, ‘if they have room’ I said.  The old man had watched us and listened to our conversation.

I asked if they had a room, and the old man said “Let me check.”  I was surprised by his answer, because the place looked deserted except for the local people, and there were only a handful there.  He checked his book, then said there is one room left.  I wondered if he was kidding me.  We took the room.  He gave us the key and the direction across the courtyards towards the row of trailers that were subdivided into rooms.  We finished our beers and moved the bikes closer to the trailer motel.

The room had a double bed and a single bed, a night table and lamp.  The toilet and tub were clean.  The space was cramped but the important thing was it was proudly clean and complete.  There were towels and grooming paraphernalia.  We unloaded the bike, put the gear on the single bed then headed back to the bar for food and more beverages.  After that we played horseshoes at the pit.  The proprietor, the old man, came to watch and made a friendly passing comment.  Bruno beat my pants, though he’s never played the game before.  Afterwards, we took a long nap and woke up at twilight.

Upon waking Bruno offered to get me something to drink at the bar.  He left me inside the room, and I lounged and listened to the falling twilight.  I heard voices and cars outside.  Bruno walked in with the beer and he had ice for his white wine. His news was there were some new people that checked in.  So they were busy after all.  The old man had expected others, so we were lucky to get a room.  Bruno urged me to get up to see the sunset.  We walked around.  The foothills were shadows upon the setting sun on the wild West.  It was in the middle of nowhere.  They have generators for electricity.  What about water?  Is there a well or do they have to bring that in?

We joined the others in the bar.  Beer and wine flowed, a man played the guitar and sang Western songs.  He did both really well too.  The locals and the new comers had known each other from before.  They had returned to film the 2nd half of the documentary ‘The Last Road House’.

In 2011, Ryan and Lisette Cheresson and their friends from New York were headed off to Burning Man.  The convoy stopped at Middlegate Station for some rest and to refresh their supplies before they got back on the road.  The couple were impressed by the people in this nowhere place which embodied strength and soul.  It was a community that lived off the grid, and in 2013 they found out that the owners Freda and Russ Stevenson were struggling to maintain their livelihood.  Their small community of people living in RVs and trailers relied on energy powered by a diesel generator.  With this documentary their intention is to draw attention to the need of this community to have access to a clean source of energy.  As the price of diesel had risen dramatically high, they want to help the community try to get funding for solar energy.

This was the edge living in the outback without any of the infrastructure that we take for granted.  Yes, there was water for my showers at Middlegate, but at what cost?  There was cold beer and hot food, but at what cost?  I read someone’s critique about the hamburger served at Middlegate, and wondered if the person even considered the energy that brought that food on his plate in the middle of nowhere.

I experienced that edge during that 18 hour period.  It was in the fierce grit of people who were hanging on to the remains of a lifestyle choice.

‘The state of Nevada ranks fourth in the nation for solar energy capacity. There are currently 84 companies in operation in Nevada that provide solar energy, but Fredda said the $750,000 start-up cost is way out of her price range. Fredda has applied for several grants to install a solar array at Middlegate, all of which have been denied. If you’re not on the grid and can’t put energy back into it, you don’t qualify. This puts people like Fredda in an impossible situation. “If you’re not on the grid,” she says, “you’re a second-class citizen.”’

The edge was in the gracious hospitality of the inhabitants to strangers in an inhospitable environment.  The edge was the bond between father and son soothing the baby in her need and cry for her mother.  The edge was the man singing with his one of a kind acoustic Gibson guitar.  The edge was his deep gratitude and joy that Ryan remembered to bring him the proper tool to fix his guitar, because there wasn’t a luthier or Guitar Center nearby in any direction.

A conversation with the 22 year old, Maggie Urban-Weale, a journalism major and volunteer for the crew  was a reminder of believing in something good and not expecting rewards.  Later that evening, as we all walked to our respective rooms, we hung out under the moonlight and finished our drinks.  We invited her in to play guitar, and she sang ‘Closing Time’.   Speaking with the youngest of the crew members, I was reminded of hope and beauty.  The young people of today want a better tomorrow, and they’re striving for it with this project.

“There are an estimated 200,000 people in America living off-grid. Many of these people, who lack access to municipal utilities like power or water, are the ranchers, miners, and truckers who keep America moving. Middlegate keeps those ranchers and truckers moving, and is one of the region’s only social hubs. Places like Middlegate are important not only for their historical value, but because of their significance in rural communities.”

“Artistically, we are interested in the juxtaposition of the old and the new—how new technology (such as solar) can help save historic places (like Middlegate). We’re also interested in the interplay between the rugged individualism that categorizes much of the rural West and their need for governmental assistance. As one academic told us, for the people of Middlegate to reach out and ask for help means that their situation is dire.”  – http://www.lastroadhouse.com/

To book a room at Middlegate Station go to their website. http://middlegatestation.net/Home_Page.html

Middlegate Station

Middlegate Station

Mary Steelsmith – On Becoming A Playwright

MarySteelsmithMary Steelsmith

 

          by Diane Grant

 Mary Steelsmith, an L.A. playwright, whom many of you might know, is one of the new vice-chairs of ALAP. We met at Googie’s (recommended – you can sit for hours and the food is great) in Santa Monica to talk about her plays and playwriting career.

One of the things we talked about is where the impulse to write plays comes from. How do we start making up stories? Why do we start thinking about plots and dialogue?

Mary started early. She was a solitary child, the last of five much older siblings. Her Dad worked for the state auditor’s office in Boise, Idaho but also ran a working farm with cows, horses, and chickens. The family lived outside of town off a dirt road at the end of the main drag called Broadway Avenue, two fields away from the Broadway Drive In movie theater. Mary says, “You could actually see the screen from my bedroom window.” She couldn’t hear anything but would watch with fascination. It was her entertainment. She could see a movie five times in a row until the feature changed and become very familiar with the narrative and the characters. She says, “Snow White and The Three Stooges were dear friends of mine,” and because she couldn’t hear what they were saying, she would make up stories about them. And put herself in the story.

The storyteller and the ambition to be a playwright were born.

She left Boise in 1976, and always enterprising, adept at making something out of nothing, she came as a babysitter for people who had a time share apartment in L.A. The people she was with didn’t like L.A. and left but the new tenants let Mary stay in a little back room for the $50 a month.

She kept writing but also she says, “wanted to see if the fat girl could become an actress.” She started getting extra jobs, was on the movie lobby card for Kentucky Fried Movie (got her friends in to see it), worked with the L.A. Connection improv group, putting out the hat on Sundays at Venice Beach, worked at an answering service at night and auditioned during the day. She got into the movie, Rabbit Test, with “this kid named Billy Crystal.”

Though she continued to act, she was always looking for places to put her plays. In Dramalogue, she saw a small ad for a workshop called Wordsmiths, a group that met once a week in the vault of what once was a bank building at 6th and Spring.

The deadline for submissions was close – “like the next Tuesday,” and Mary had to write something fast!

In the mid 1980’s, she had had a dear friend with AIDS, whom she almost married. The fear of AIDS was at its height and when Mary visited his hospital room, she had to wear yellow paper overalls, a hat and a mask and gloves. After he died, she became involved with Louise Hay’s Hay Rides, a support group for people living with H.I.V. or AIDS.

Hay’s initial meetings had grown from a few people in her living room to hundreds of men in a large hall in West Hollywood. A friend took Mary there one night and there were twelve hundred people in the room.

Hay, a spiritualist, had a simple message: “You are loved.” Mary, who had no training in the health field was told to “stand there with them,” which she did. “I would put my hands on their arms and say, ‘I love you,’ and that very night I looked over at the window and was sure that for a flash I saw my friend, Mike. It was so beautiful because I was sure I was in the right place.”

She continued to be involved and when the ad for Wordsmiths in Dramalogue appeared, had spent many nights with another friend, comforting him and taking care of him. To her surprise and sadness, at his funeral, she wasn’t acknowledged.

That experience become a thirty minute play called Bedside Companion, which she wrote in one weekend. She submitted it and was accepted into Wordsmiths.

The workshop was Mary’s first playwriting class. There was nothing like that in Boise and she had learned to write from “doing it over and over and over.”

The group would sit around a table after fighting for the good chairs, “that didn’t bend back,” and read each other’s plays out loud. Listening to playwrights reading her work was painful and instructive. When an actor sees a mistake in a line, he or she fixes it, “playwrights don’t know any better.” She heard rhythm, the sound of her dialogue, the movement of story. And she learned to rewrite.

The Wordsmiths moderator, the experienced and published fellow playwright Silas Jones, didn’t mince words and would say, “Oh, this is crap. I hate this play. Your play is not a play.” “Did I rewrite something? Oh, yeah.”

Wordsmiths has disbanded but Mary’s plays have gone on to many productions and awards. Her The Old Man and The Seed won first place in the Hewlett Packard 10 minute play contest and took her to Singapore where it was produced. Her full length, Isaac I Am, won the Helford Prize and was produced by Jacksonville University in Florida and in 2012 she was a delegate to the  9th International Women Playwrights Conference in Stockholm.

 

 

 

 

Throw out the kitchen sink dramas!

by Kitty Felde

This past weekend was DC’s annual “Page to Stage” Festival. It’s a tremendous gift from the Kennedy Center to local playwrights. Every Labor Day weekend, the Kennedy Center opens up rehearsal rooms, the Millennium Stages, donor event rooms, every nook and cranny on every floor, to staged readings of plays by local writers. Imagine the Music Center turning us loose for an entire weekend!

This year also included a special seminar for writers given by Michael Bigelow Dixon, formerly the literary manager and associate artistic director at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Dixon wants us to stop thinking about conventional reality and play.

Reading hundreds of plays for the Humana Festival, he says none of the current batch included anything other than realistic plays – kitchen sink dramas, domestic conflicts, even those that got away from home and hearth and tackled international issues were still written in conventional, realistic fashion.

He wants us to dream and has written a book to spark our imaginations about making theatre THEATRICAL.

Why? Not just to get our plays noticed, but to attract a modern audience.

But how do you do this? Do we throw out everything we know about writing plays and reinvent the wheel? Not necessarily. Dixon has a few suggestions:

  • – Interruption: the “reality” of the stage play is interrupted by “real” life. How many audiences paid big bucks to see “Spiderman” for the play itself? More were there to see if a real-life event like an accident might happen. Is there a way to bring reality into our artificial worlds?
  • – Give the audience a choice: call it a gimmick, but from “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” to Alan Ayckbourn’s “Intimate Exchanges,” plays that let the audience choose its own ending are very popular. Is there a way to invite the audience to participate in the creation of your play?
  • – Anthropomorphize a character: put a talking animal on stage. Or a lot of them. Hint: there were WAY too many dog characters in our workshop.
  • – Interdisciplinary approach: try rewriting your play as a radio play – what do you have to eliminate? What do you have to add to make the audience understand what’s going on? Then rewrite it as a graphic novel. Then go back to the original script to add SOME of the elements.
  • – Ekphrastic drama – or what I call “dancing about architecture” – include other art forms in your work
  • – Distort time and space – ala Jose Rivera’s “Cloud Tectonics”
  • – Recontextualization – tell your story from someone else’s point of view. Think “Amadeus” and Salieri’s version of Mozart

Just a few thoughts to shake up your “realistic” world.
The book: “Breaking from Realism: A Map/Quest for the Next Generation” by Michael Bigelow Dixon and Jon Jory

Waiting for the Shoe

I read Moss Hart’s Act One (more than once). I absorbed Hart’s memoir into the fabric of my being, not unlike how I learned to drive, knowing just the right amount of pressure I needed to apply to allow for the tension in my brakes. Point is, I learned to have expectations; playwright expectations. These expectations have led me, over the last seven years that I’ve seen my plays read or produced in Southern California, to many a raw moment. Consequently, I’m learning to just be grateful. I’ve discovered that changing my nervous, expectant, perhaps entitled, behavior to appreciation has made for happier interpersonal communications between others and me, which has led to happier results.

A review of Bender is coming out tonight. And, I am giddy with excitement, waiting for the notice, expectant and afraid, at the same time wishing I was in New York at Elaine’s in 1955 waiting for the Times to come out in print. Isn’t that odd; to write something, purposefully, for human consumption, and then be afraid of being poorly judged?

I wrote a song about a shoe. Not a good song. But a fun song. About a shoe I saw laying by the side of the road… Have you ever wondered how something got to where it is? Where did that thing come from and how did it get there? I think that I like to write plays because I’m curious to know how all the pieces of our lives fit together.

Fact into Fiction

By Erica Bennett

 

Ruby: You make me feel like I’m nothing but the pimply-faced girl sitting in the corner at my own debutante ball.

Last week I experienced the most profound of four evenings. Four. In a row. I went from dress #2, to final dress, to opening night, to 2nd show of Bender, my new play with music. Each experience became progressively more and more fulfilling. I realize how rare these moments are, and I am extremely grateful for them…

However, as if I had some perverse need to break the winning streak, on the fifth night, I visited my high school reunion for three hours…

For four days I heard beautiful fiction. And, then, I remembered one font from whence the fiction sprang…

I’ve been told to write what I know. I don’t think I’m unique in that… Try explaining it to the folks…

Everything I write is dreadfully personal, and is at the same time, absolute fiction. For, while I didn’t have a debutante ball. Or a Bat Mitzvah. Or a Quinceañera. I did experience teenage acne, and Big dreams of getting out…

Sheriff Frank: Here’s to getting out.

Here’s to Bender for making me to forget what it feels like to be alone in a ballroom full of people.

2 more performances, August 30th and 31st. Check Women at Work Onstage for more details.

A Pilgrim On the Edge

 

by Analyn Revilla

The seed I planted in my mind before leaving LA was to experience the open road to rediscover my edge.  I felt I had lost it during the past few years in trying to survive living in a big city.  I’m no longer surprised, but happily accept, when events endorse my faith that the universe will give you what you ask for though I may not know when or how it will manifest.

Homeward bound along the I395 we spent our last night of our vacation in Lone Pine, CA.  The magnificent Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet, is a beautiful backdrop to a “small town with lots of charm”.  This town has grown to become a mecca for travelers, hikers and tourists since the Mt. Whitney trail was completed in 1904.  I discover that I came here as a pilgrim.  There was time when I looked at a mountain and I would imagine the traverse up, studying the contours and ridges to determine a way up to the top.  When we passed through Lone Pine two weeks ago, I described to Bruno my feeling of loss – why wasn’t I surveying a trail to climb up?  What a strange feeling to be aware of the loss, and then accepting the loss.

I haven’t hiked very much since I moved out here.  My excuse was the heat and dryness of the mountain ranges in SoCal which I was not accustomed to, compared to British Columbia, where the forest and meadows are lush and the flowing creeks spray cool mountain waters.  I had allowed this joy for the wilderness wither away as I embedded myself into the living of a desert city, yet a mosaic of cultures.  The tiles of faces, languages and smells from the streets are both an invitation and assault on the senses.  Which one to choose?

Riding, alone with my own thoughts, and only the wind to brush my jacket and pants, and whistling in my ears, I focused on the terrain.  There’s always something to be prepared for:  debris, crossing deer or elk, open cattle, falling rock, weather pattern changes, looking to see if Bruno is still behind me, the curve coming up, state patrol, the unwrapping scenery of mountains, valleys, basins and rock formations.  This is a beautiful country.  Every turn is breathtaking.  As one local in Snohomish Valley described, ‘God couldn’t have painted a better picture’.  Certainly, people are more apt to look at the bikes with its zig-zag of bungee chords to tie down whatever we deemed as ‘necessary’ for the journey.  That too changed on a daily basis.  We made trips to the post offices every few days to send back home the  simple little treasures , souvenirs and dirty clothes we had accumulated.

The daily grind of the road didn’t wear me out, except for a fresh fatigue from the intake of conversations, scenery and preparing for the next day.  I tried to meditate on ‘the edge’.  How did ‘Stella Got Her Groove Back’? (I never saw the movie, but the title was apt for my situation.)  How will I relearn to look at a mountain and have that joyful curiousity to climb it to the peak?  It took miles and miles of riding alone and just letting things happen.  Without expectations we chewed up the miles between LA and Hayden, and back down to LA again, doing a loop that closed again at Lone Pine.  I don’t know how it happened, but it happened – not by design – but simply accepting what was present at the moment, and making choices and adjustments as needed.

The choice between forging ahead into unknown territory or staying one extra day to fix the bike; the choice to decline the offer of a shelter overnight from a stranger because of the rain and lateness of the day; the choice to accept a round of beer at the saloon from a traveler who cared to ask, ‘Where are you guys from?’.  Regardless of the choices made, I see now that there is not a right or wrong.  It’s a matter of accepting the results of the choices made.   I’ve always pondered the quote from Miles Davis:

If you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if its’s good or bad.

– Miles Davis (1926 – 1991)

We rounded back to Lone Pine because we had determined we didn’t want to take the I5.  I’ve traveled along this path many times before, and I had never seen the Sierra Nevada, so it seemed to be the natural choice to make.  The first night into California we stopped at Susanville.  The motel owner welcomed us with the ‘biker special’ at $50 for a simple and clean room stocked with a fridge and a microwave.  By this time, we had learned to make nutritious and delicious meals using simple ingredients and cooking in the microwave.  I was still masturbating my brain to figure out how to get my groove back, but I was fully absorbed in fullness of traveling and the ripening of the end of a trip.  I had seen a lot of faces of the desert with its terrains and living and non-living habitats, such as the family living in Middlegate, Nevada running on a diesel generator and the beginnings of a solar energy.  Certainly these inhabitants of the desert are pushing to maintain a type of life on the edge.

Black Rock Solar is solarizing one of our country’s historic roadhouses. It’s Middlegate Station, on the loneliest road in America – Highway 50 in Nevada.

If you’ve stopped in whilst bumping around in the desert, you were probably glad for the cold drink or ice cream sandwich to wash the dust from your lips. But cold in the Nevada desert doesn’t come cheap. Off the municipal electric grid and powered 24/7 by a diesel generator, Middlegate’s future is in doubt after years of rising fuel costs.

Middlegate’s owners – Fredda and Russ Stevenson – and Black Rock Solar have secured a State Office of Energy loan and are working to secure more funding for a larger array to keep Middlegate Station viable with the power of the sun.

(http://www.blackrocksolar.org/news/2014/the-last-nevada-roadhouse-needs-your-help/)

The story above is the beginning of yet another blog I’d like to write about, as it is a story in itself.  But it watered the seed of my initial inquiry about getting the edge back.  One of the crew members, a bold and wise young woman, told me that you never really lose the edge because you always have the edge.  It didn’t dawn upon me till today that it’s like the knife that loses its sharpness.  A knife will always have an edge, but how it is used and maintained defines the kind of edge it has.  Using its metal against ceramic or breaking open a coconut shell with the wrong type of knife will chip or dull the edge.

A journey is the process of letting the inner wisdom spring forth, and giving that joyful creation the environment it needs to self-acutalize.  A journey into the desert just as prophets and gurus have practiced emptying oneself to transform was what I had been doing.  I had an intention but I didn’t have the ‘know-how’, and was left without a choice but to accept – accept what I had become, and then re-orient myself to move towards where I want to be.  There will be a re-learning to develop better habits to replace others which I have decided I need to out-grow.  Like a river that meanders around the bends and creating oxbows as it matures, there is a wholeness in both edges of a knife.  I’ve pierced sharply up a terrain and I’ve also shredded down loose scree from the top, and tumbled on my hands and knees; and bounded back up with a richer perspective.

My pilgrimage to Mount Whitney has just begun.  I left Lone Pine yesterday with a map and couple of books about ascending Mt. Whitney, along with tips from a local guide in the adventure store.  I feel the butterflies dancing in my belly and the perspiration on my palms thinking about the possibilities.  I could try to hike in the winter geared in cramp ons and ice picks.  That would be my first time, but it is a possibility that the guide described to me.  Staying on the edge has many possibilities.

 

Possibilities

On the Road Through Oregon

by Analyn Revilla

The signs of the road is a language in itself.  After 3000 miles of tracking across Nevada, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and California I’ve decided that it’s a language which I had taken for granted.  It was riding through Oregon’s  highway 31 that I took notice of two signs which to me was an oxymoron.  When leaving a small town the speed limit changes from 25 to 45 and upwards, and during this transformation there is a pair of road signs in this order.

1.  ‘DO NOT PASS’

2.  ‘PASS WITH CARE’

There is very little distance between these posts (maybe less than a few hundred yards).  I decided to interpret the law as ‘Do not pass’, but if you’re going to break the law, well you better ‘Pass with care’. i.e.  Make sure you don’t get caught.

I tried to find more information about this and found something in the internet was from Oregon’s Department of Transportation manual that describes the technical details of how to implement this law.

2. 2B-28 DO NOT PASS (R4-1) should be installed approximately 1000 feet in advance of the taper that begins the passing lane.

Minimum Size 36” x 48”

3. 2B-30 KEEP RIGHT EXCEPT TO PASS (R4-16) should be installed where the passing lane attains full width or at the beginning of the first skip stripe.

Minimum Size 36” x 48”

4. 2B-29 PASS WITH CARE (R4-2) may be installed in the two-lane section approximately 1000 feet beyond the end of the taper (if sight distance is adequate to permit passing).

Minimum Size 24” x 30”

source http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/TRAFFIC-ROADWAY/docs/pdf/english_chapter_3.pdf

And with that I have my  aha moment.  It is with these technicalities that we can sometimes become non-sensesical in our well-meaning intention.

I dug a little deeper and looked through the driver’s manual, and found multiple scenarios of when a driver should not pass:

No Passing

Do not cross the center line to pass when:

  • You are in a no-passing zone, which is an area that is marked for no passing by a solid yellow line in your lane. A “DO NOT PASS” sign may also be posted. Do not attempt to pass a vehicle if you cannot safely return to your lane before entering a no-passing zone.
  • Your view of oncoming traffic is blocked because you are on a hill or in a curve.
  • You are approaching an intersection, railroad crossing, or other area where your view of oncoming traffic is limited.
  • You are at or in an intersection.
  • You are at or on a railroad crossing.
  •  The vehicle ahead is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross

Well that was boring.  I just think it takes common sense.

One of the most interesting signs along the open road was on I97 which I’ve traversed for the first time yesterday.  It was the sign post for the 45th parallel.  When I lived in Salem (and was working on a project of ODOT – ironically) I would take my little Toyota Tercel on the I5 to Portland and cross the 45th parallel frequently during my jaunts to meet with friends at one of the many local breweries.

(I didn’t stop to take a picture of me at the 45th parallel, but pretend that GMC truck is my red Suzuki SV650.)

The 45th Parallel on I97 from Shiniko Junction

One thing I’ve decided on (and I kinda knew this all along, but this trip has reinforced what I’m looking for in life now), is my enjoyment of the open and friendly nature of small town folks compared to bigger towns and cities.  There’s a naïveté that comes from living in a small place where you know people by name, or at least by habit of seeing them, and extending that warm hospitality to strangers when they’re passing through your home.

Yesterday, one of the bikes had an electrical problem.  We had to stop every hour to cool down the engine while traveling along I97 into the city of Bend.  I was in Bend 20 years ago, and it was a smaller community to what it has currently grown into.  I almost wish Bruno had a chance to experience it as it was then because today it feels like another large cosmopolitan city.  The downtown core boasted nice restaurants, boutique shops and microbreweries along the river; and the city had its fair share of Subarus also.  Definitely, Bend has come into its own as a world class destination.  The State Patrol man who pulled me over for riding my bike between cars told me so.  He was nice.  He didn’t give me a ticket, but reminded me that though they practice lane sharing in Europe and California, this is not so in Oregon.  After checking into a motel we found a place to eat with good food and wine.  Despite the basic needs being met, we felt a little let down, because we missed the warmth of small town folks.  We noticed that the restaurant was rather quick to move us along.  In our minds, we thought maybe because we were tourists, and not the usual suspects who were repeat customers.

So, we spent a so-so night in Bend, and the next day decided to steer clear of bigger towns.  We got as far as La Pine (30 plus miles south on the I97) where we filled up the tanks.  I asked the gentleman who pumps the gas if he knew of a motorcycle mechanic between his town and the next big town.  He  recommended a place called Peak Performance.  We rode around a little while and asked for directions from other people, and found the garage a mile down from the main drag.  A large man with a beard was cleaning his fingernails with a knife.  ‘What can I do ya for?’ he asked.  We got off the bikes and Bruno explained that his fan wasn’t turning on and he was loosing coolant.  The big man thought glanced at me then said, ‘It’s all her fault’.  His words broke the ice and gave me relief.  After he suggested some reasons as to the root cause of the problem, he said he’ll be right back.  Within minutes he returned and told us to ride the motorcycles to the back where somebody was waiting to help us.

We talked with the mechanic who tinkered a bit, and feeling like we were in his hair, we asked if we could leave him with the bike for a couple of hours.  Sure, he said.  We told the owner our plan to stay the night in La Pine.  He recommended a a simple and clean motel.  Cool, that’s all we want.  Before going, we asked for his name.  Mark, he said.  Later, we checked into ‘The Highlander’ where we dropped off some gear and got something to eat at the nearby Harvest Hut.  In less than 2 hours we were back to check on the bike.  The mechanic, Alan, said the problem was a loose wire and showed us the spot in case it happened again.  When we asked how much for the repair, he said, ‘Well I didn’t really spend very much time on it.  $20.’  Unbelievably cheap for the quick service and fixing the problem.  We gave him $40, and he smiled such a wide grin.  ‘Where are you folks staying?’ he asked.  We gave him the answer, and he wished us well.

We all leave our impressions in this life in many forms, including sign posts.  Certainly being earth friendly is a good thing all around, but more impacting is being heart friendly.  It’s genuine goodness that does not mean to be a passing trend but a lasting legacy.

P.S.  If you like wine and you’re passing through Lakeview, Oregon towards the California border, there’s a place called ‘Stringer’s Orchard’ in New Pine Creek.  It’s a good stop before crossing into California for some wine tasting and homemade preserves.  The winemaker specializes in wine and spirits from the wild plum, and the taste is very special in a good way.

 

Stonehenge in Maryhill Washington

by Analyn Revilla

Live from Goldendale, Washington, while listening to Hank Williams on my laptop, and my hubby is packing up the motorcycles with our gear; I’m thinking of what to share with you that will give your day a panache.  Been on the road since last Monday, over one week ago.  We started from LA and drove through California towards Nevada taking the backroads on a pair of two wheels each.  I ride a Suzuki SV650, and Bruno rides a Honda Shadow 1100.  We’re traveling with my electric guitar and a Line 6 XT with headphones, so that I can noodle at the end of the day when we pull over after a day’s ride.  Our destination was Hayden, Idaho.  It’s just a few miles north of Coeur D’Alene.  We left his buddy Jean Pierre and his family just yesterday.

What’s over here near Goldendale?  There’s a life size replica of Stonehenge in Maryhill.

Stonehenge in Washington State

This was a memorial that Sam Hill built to help us remember that war is not the answer.  Sam Hill was Quaker and was a proponent of peace.

Hill constructed two notable monuments. The replica of Stonehenge, at Maryhill, commemorates the dead of World War I, while the Peace Arch, where today’s Interstate 5 highway crosses the U.S.–Canada border, celebrates peaceful relations and the open border between the two nations – Wikepedia

We visited Stonehenge two hours ago; the replica was impressive as it sat on the edge of the Columbia River, and to the west was a view of Mount Hood.  A few yards away from Stonehenge stood a war memorial dedicated to fallen soldiers from the surrounding area.  The period spanned from WWI thru Afghanistan.  Despite the impressive site, we noted the bare flagpole stand.  We found this strange.  The flowers were dried.  The other two cars that drove to look at the monolith site did not bother to visit the war memorial.

This monument that Sam Hill created has not made the lasting impact he meant it to have.  I stood beside Bruno at the memorial to make a silent prayer.  I thought, despite his efforts to help us to remember that ravages of war and how it only tears families apart and distances cultures from one another, we still continue to carry on with our prejudices.

Traveling through backroads of Nevada and Idaho, I was a little apprehensive, because of my racial background.  I was not sure if I would encounter blatant racial prejudice.  When a dog smells the phenomes of a fearful person it makes the dog fearful too.  Don’t be afraid, I told myself.  Face your fear, and I discovered that 99% of my fear is in my head.  I have met wonderful and kind folks through this part of the country that have been labeled as red-neck country.

I ride on and open my heart, open my mind to the open road.  Take it as it comes, and face your fears.

Zombies, Regency and Women on the Fringe 2014!

by Sue May

I was excited to be back at the Fringe viewing new work by women playwrights for LA FPI’s Women on the Fringe. And thank you Hollywood Fringe for having us (LA FPI) back.

Susan Sassi is one hard-working writer, producer and actor!  Sassi’s Victorian Courting & Zombies is a hilarious musical romp where zombies run amok amongst aristocrats of the Regency period.  Much like we all (projecting) run amok at the Fringe while trying to dodge traffic, find parking and our seats (with camera in tow) in the nick of time, but in much more comfortable clothing.

Due to the Regency period’s societal hierarchy, the upper class were most often viewed by the common folk as sublime and fantastical, fiction-like, or in this case, as zombies who run with the “in crowd.” Inspired by Jane Austin, the work structurally and ideally mimics the period by using fantastical creatures who rub elbows with Dukes, attend formal balls and even propose all in zombie-like fashion.

I loved the comedic timing of this work. The actors’ chemistry and energy billowed throughout the audience and beyond, making me want to jump right in and sing along (something I never think of or happens!).

Susan, thanks for the great writing and fun times with the Funktard sisters.  I can’t wait to see what happens to them next!  I could watch your show again and again. What can I say, I’m a sucker for zombies.  Enjoy the video.

A special thank you to Susan Sassi and the cast and crew.

Directed, Shot and Edited by Sue May

Produced by Simplexity MediaWorks

 

Writing About Writing

By Jessica Abrams

Whenever I submit a play to a festival or fellowship and that cunning little box pops up in the submission form asking to discuss what you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship or what, specifically, would you like to work on in your play?, a sinking feeling starts to creep into my stomach because I have no idea what I’m going to say.  I do know that it will require pulling something out of thin air that will take more effort than the actual writing of the play did.

In short, I will have bad flashbacks of high school English all over again.

A little about me and my relationship to institutionalized learning: I pretty much hated it.  Sure, I loved when the teacher asked us to be creative and use the material on the reading list to write our own interpretation of the story; but to discuss and dissect something as directed by someone who was often no more interesting than the cardboard holding the pages together caused me to compulsively doodle or get lost in the hairstyle of the person sitting in front of me.  I never understood why we were being led through the beautiful forest and, instead of simply going where instinct took and enjoying the experience, had to keep our heads down and study the compass the whole time.

That’s what these questions feel like; and I’m completely willing to admit these are very much my own issues coming up.

How to answer questions like, “What do you hope to achieve if awarded this fellowship?”  I hope to work with great people who can help me take my writing to the next level.  “What would you like to work on in your play?”  Anything that is keeping it from being the fully-formed, fleshed-out piece of theatre that I originally set out to create.  I don’t mean to be snarky or arrogant.  I really don’t.  I am genuinely flummoxed by these questions, especially when they require an entire paragraph of answer.

But last week I filled out one of these forms.  It took three days.  And something happened: I found myself taking the time to really give these questions some thought — not just so that I would sound erudite and thoughtful and everything that, on a good day, I’d like to think I am, but so that maybe, just maybe, I would find something that I could take with me regardless of the outcome of the application process.

And maybe, in the end, that’s what I hope to get out of this: learning.  A little or a lot.  About me, about others.  About what we do and why and how we do it.  And how that learning can help us grow — not just into the artists we want to be, but into the people we want to be.

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