Archive for July, 2011


A Long Way

July 27, 2011

I’m in Stratford, Ontario.  I made the eight-hour drive on Monday.  I took a break along I-69 in Indiana when my Complete Symphonic recording of Les Mis was about halfway through Act I.

Heading back to the car, a young guy with a backpack stopped me.

“Excuse me, sir, could I ask you a question?”

“Sure.” I rolled my eyes behind my sunglasses.  My tongue was at the ready with, “Sorry, I don’t know how to get there.”

I noticed he resembled that Taylor Lautner from Twilight.  Maybe a few notches higher on the wholesome-smile scale.  And a few notches more trustworthy on the shifty-eyes scale.  (Fortunately for me, he was also a few notches lower on the studly-physique scale.)

I pursed my lips.  I feared that Christian goodness was about to come out of his mouth.

“How far are you driving this way?”

Oh my.

“A long way …” I said, realizing the ugly truth.

“I hitchhiked here from Indianapolis.  Could I get a ride with you for a while?”

I’ve never been accosted by a hitchhiker before.  I didn’t realize they could be tidy, cute and twenty-ish.  I suppose this is beneficial to successful hitchhiking, though.

I was immediately on the defensive.  To say “no,” I would be a jerk.  To say “yes,” I would be a nice guy and willing victim of violent crime.  To be wishy-washy, I would suggest mild insanity.

“Sorry, I can’t help you … thanks.”  I threw on the “thanks” in an effort at politeness, but I knew that it really didn’t work at all in that sentence.  I mumbled odd amendments to the statement over my shoulder as I walked away (opting for the hybrid approach of being a mildly insane jerk).

Much later, I decided that in order to say “yes,” I would have had to talk with the vagabond for an hour and deduce whether he had a screw loose or not.  I’ll remember that the next time I’m traveling and have an extra hour to kill.

But if he were such a wholesome, trustworthy youth, what was he doing hitchhiking?  Couldn’t he afford even a bus ticket?  Where were the fine upstanding parents that raised him?  Couldn’t they have financed his trip?

And why was he asking me in particular?  I do not exude free-spiritedness and generosity.  I daresay I look rather austere and Republican, except when I trip over something—then I look like Jerry Lewis.

I felt some regret as I headed back to my car.  His was probably a perfectly innocent adventure.  It might have been nice to help a frugal or down-on-his-luck (and cute) individual.  And it’s always easier for me to make conversation with someone never to be seen again.  I can speak freely about thoughts and feelings without worrying that inappropriate revelations might come back to haunt me.

I rounded my car, opened the door and glanced back his direction.  His eyes had followed me—still holding a glimmer of hope and expectation.

I closed the door and drove away.  Les Misérables accusingly sang at me: “Look down and show some mercy if you can.”

Given another opportunity, I doubt I would have told him to hop in the car.   I’m sure he found a driver who was friendlier, more generous, and less fearful in the face of attractive potential ax-murderers.

This non-event will live somewhere in the vast kingdom of might-have-beens that exists in my mind.  A long way from my real life.


‘Twill Vex Thy Soul

July 1, 2011

I didn’t mention in my sidebar that I finished Becoming Shakespeare and have since read Richard III and Titus Andronicus.  I’ll be seeing both plays this summer in Stratford, Ontario.

I am not a fan of horror.  I don’t claim to be otherwise.  I have a weak stomach for such things.  I don’t read Stephen King.  I avoid movies with words like ‘nightmare’, ‘scream’, ‘saw’ or ‘massacre’ in the titles.  I liked Misery and Silence of the Lambs at the movie theater, but I’ll never watch them again.

Those of you familiar with Titus Andronicus will understand why I’ve been sleeping with the lights on for the last week.

For everyone else, Titus lands squarely in the horror genre.  Definitely rated R.  I heard the play described as bloody.  I thought I was prepared for bloody Shakespeare.

I sat in the audience while eyes were plucked out in King Lear.  I gazed on Macbeth’s disembodied head as it was paraded around in his own play.  I witnessed the stage-carpeting carnage of Hamlet.  Perhaps less graphic, but equally bone-chilling was  Laurencia’s tongue-lashing of her father and other men in Fuente Ovejuna (by Lope de Vega) after they allowed her to be raped by the local bullies.   Certainly Titus would be no more gruesome than any of these, would it?

Well, yes.  Yes it would.  The word ‘grisly’ is more apropos.  The list of casualties starts in the opening scene.  After that, one should have a notebook to keep score.  But lest you become numb to the routine beheadings, Shakespeare spices things up with macabre maimings.  Several characters are mutilated and left to wander around the stage on morbid display as others make tasteless jokes.

Thankfully, I am finished reading Titus Andronicus.  Now I can laugh haughtily (my favorite pastime!) at Titus references.  I don’t know if it was worth the price, though.

I think I’ll pack my wubby for this year’s Stratford trip.