Author Archive: Christopher Waldrop

All’s Will That Ends Will.

Source: Wikipedia

The Nashville Shakespeare Festival is putting on one of The Bard’s lesser known plays as part of their annual Shakespeare In The Park, but then they’ve been going since 1988 and, well, there are only so many ways to put on the same half dozen comedies and a couple of tragedies.

It’s also important when putting on a Shakespeare play to find ways to make it relevant to contemporary audiences, which is why I now offer Shakespeare’s Plays As Episodes Of Friends.

 

  1. The One On The Island

 

  1. The One With All That King’s Big Speeches

 

  1. The One That Happens In The Trojan War

 

  1. The One Where A Guy Is Exiled From Rome And Of Course Murdered When He Comes Back Because It’s A Tragedy

 

5.  The One That Goes All Over Italy

 

  1. The One Where Two Dudes Almost Get Married, And That Old Dude Comes Back

 

  1. The One Where One Woman Stands In For Another Except She’s Lying Down

 

  1. The One With A Boatload Of Twins, Literally

 

  1. The Other One With The Twins And Also The Obnoxious Butler

 

  1. The One With The Lady Pretending To Be A Statue And A Bear Attack

 

  1. The First One Of The Three Parters About That King

 

  1. The Second One Of The Three Parters About That King

 

  1. The Third One Of The Three Partners About That King

 

  1. The One Where A Greek Guy Finds A Bunch Of Gold And Dies

 

  1. The First One With The Prince And That Old Dude

 

  1. The Second One With Even More Of That Old Dude

 

  1. The One That’s Not Famous Where Everybody Dies

 

  1. The One That Is Famous Where Everybody Dies

 

  1. The One With The Suicidal Teens

 

  1. The One Where Two People Who Hate Each Other Get Married And No One Dies

 

  1. The One With Four Guys Who Quit Dating

 

  1. The One Where Everybody Gets Married After A Night In The Woods

 

  1. The One Where A Jewish Guy Loses Everything, But It’s A Comedy

 

  1. The One Where Some Get Married And Some Get Religion After A Night In The Woods

 

  1. The One With The Two Daughters Who Have To Get Married

 

  1. The One With The Riddle That Means Marriage Or Death, But It’s A Comedy

 

  1. The One With Three Queens That Convince A King To Go To War, But It’s A Comedy

 

  1. The One That Doesn’t Mention Either The Magna Carta Or Robin Hood

 

  1. The One Where The Roman Leader Falls In Love With Egypt’s Queen And They Both Die

 

  1. The One With The Tournament

 

  1. The One With The Hunchbacked King Without A Horse

 

  1. The One About The King With All The Wives

 

  1. The One Where The King Goes To France

 

  1. The One That’s In Scotland—You Know, The One We Can’t Say

 

  1. The One Where The Salad Guy Is Murdered

 

  1. The One With The Crazy King Who Dies Along With His Faithful Daughter Because It’s A Tragedy

 

  1. The One With A Black Guy Who’s Tricked By A White Guy And Dies Because It’s A Tragedy

 

  1. The One Where A Girl Is In Love With A Guy Who Doesn’t Like Her But It All Works Out In The End

 

  1. The One That Ends With A Big Feast But Maybe It’s A Tragedy?

 

Scoring:

More Than 30-You are a retired English professor and you have tweed pajamas that are older than “Friends”

20-29-Stratford-On-Avon tour guides know you by name

15-19-You’ve acted in Shakespeare In The Park productions several years in a row

10-14-You’ve Been To Stratford-On-Avon once and asked a tour guide, “How you doin’?”

5-9-You’ve heard of Stratford-On-Avon

1-4-You barely passed Freshman English

Answer Key:

  1. The Tempest
  2. Henry V
  3. Troilus And Cressida
  4. Coriolanus
  5. Two Gentlemen Of Verona
  6. The Merry Wives Of Windsor
  7. Measure For Measure
  8. The Comedy Of Errors
  9. Twelfth Night
  10. The Winter’s Tale
  11. Henry VI Part 1
  12. Henry VI Part 2
  13. Henry VI Part 3
  14. Timon Of Athens
  15. Henry IV, Part 1
  16. Henry IV, Part 2
  17. Titus Andronicus
  18. Hamlet
  19. Romeo And Juliet
  20. Much Ado About Nothing
  21. Loves Labour’s Lost
  22. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  23. The Merchant Of Venice
  24. As You Like It
  25. The Taming Of The Shrew
  26. Pericles
  27. The Two Noble Kinsmen
  28. King John
  29. Antony And Cleopatra
  30. Richard II
  31. Richard III
  32. Henry VIII
  33. Edward III
  34. MacBeth
  35. Julius Caesar
  36. King Lear
  37. Othello
  38. All’s Well That Ends Well
  39. Cymbeline

I’m Not Walking Here.

I have no clue what this means but it’s in front of our mailbox.

A road crew came down our street and didn’t do anything except mark spots they’re apparently going to work on some time soon. I have no idea what exactly they plan to do even though the city has a new tracking website that sort of but doesn’t actually tell me anything. The street could use some improvement. There are no potholes but there are definitely rough patches.

And one thing I’d like to see, but probably won’t get, would be sidewalks. It’s just not likely because the neighborhood wasn’t designed with pedestrians in mind. The streets are very narrow, sometimes too narrow even for two cars to pass in opposite directions, and the driveways and long stretches of most yards have drainage ditches. In some places there’s a pretty steep slope down into the ditch right off the road, which I know from all the times I walked home from the bus stop and had to take a big step to the left when a car went by.

It’s not just for me, though, but for everyone. I see a lot of people out walking in my neighborhood, and a lot of people who live in the neighborhood have dogs. The dogs don’t run loose—that’s a problem sidewalks wouldn’t solve, although there was one guy who lived here several years ago who’d trained his dog to run alongside his beaten up 1973 El Camino, in chewing gum gray, while he drove up and down on the wrong side of the street. I suppose it was good that his dog was getting some exercise but the car really needed to be put out of its misery, and, with the cloud of black smog it left in its wake, the rest of us did too. Fortunately he moved away.

There’s also a dog who lives down the street who spends all day alone in her yard. I see the people who live there coming and going and the dog, whose name I’ve learned is Lucy, wags her tail and follows them around, and they completely ignore her. Why they even have a dog is beyond me, but I see other people who live in the neighborhood stop and talk to Lucy and give her treats. That’s how I learned her name: I met a neighbor out walking her dog, and she said, “We’re on our way to visit with Lucy.”

So at least she does get some interaction with people and, thinking about that, adding sidewalks is secondary on my list of personal neighborhood improvements, but it would make it easier to stop and talk and spend time with Lucy without having to worry about oncoming cars.

Bugged.

The other day I went into one of those giant hardware stores to get some light bulbs. I was also trying to get in at least ten-thousand steps for the day and I once walked more than two and a half miles through one of those stores—not on purpose; I was trying to find someone who could get something off a high shelf, but that’s another story.

I always go through the garden section because I like to look at the plants and I noticed they had several varieties of carnivorous plants for sale in plastic boxes. Actually they had several varieties of dead carnivorous plants.

From the information on the side of the boxes it seems to be a pretty cool company, although I haven’t been able to find much about them online. The “Women owned” part intrigued me and made me think it’s a company that deserves some support. When I had a carnivorous plant collection most of the growers I knew–I’d guess around three-fourths–were men. But there were some things about the plants that bugged me.

First of all August is a terrible time of year to buy a Venus flytrap or any species of North American pitcher plant, which I think is what they were selling based on the pictures on the sides of the boxes. These plants go dormant in the winter so they should be planted and given a chance to acclimate in the spring so they have a nice long growing season. The “Never below 40°” is just flat out wrong for North American carnivorous plants. They shouldn’t be subjected to a hard freeze, although some North American pitcher plants to grow as far north as Canada, but they do need at least a light frost to go fully dormant. Tropical carnivorous plants, which are mostly easier to grow, need to be kept warm all the time because, well, you know–they’re tropical, although some of them don’t mind cooler weather.

The plants in the boxes had also been dead for so long I really couldn’t tell what they were but one picture shows what looks like a cobra lily or California pitcher plant, or Darlingtonia californica if you want to get scientific about it. It’s a cool looking plant but it’s also not one for a casual grower. It’s not one even most experienced growers want. It’s got very special needs and, while I have heard of people trying to grow it at home, the only way they could do it was to rig up a cooler and a pump to provide it the cold running water it likes to have running over its roots all the time.

Carnivorous plants are fun to grow and there are plenty of varieties that are easy to grow which is why I hate to see dead or dying plants in lousy packaging stuck in the back of a garden center where they won’t get any attention or, worse, will get picked up by someone who doesn’t know any better. I feel like the plants deserve better and I feel like this company that’s selling them deserves better too.

Looking Up.

 

Source: Wikipedia

Wishing on a star is one of those ancient traditions that probably sprung up in multiple cultures over time. The same goes for wishing on the first star spotted in the evening–the author of “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, wish I may, wish I might have the wish I wish tonight” is anonymous and it seems like such a simple, straightforward combination of rhymes it seems possible it was coined by more than one person even without any of them knowing each other. Then there’s Jiminy Cricket who sang “When You Wish Upon A Star” in the Disney version of Pinocchio. I prefer Collodi’s original in which he’s merely a talking cricket who warns Pinocchio not to be lazy, gets smashed with a hammer, and comes back as a ghost, but that’s another story.

Wishing on a falling star seems like it would be even luckier, since they’re rarer, but I think it must also be lucky to wish on a planet. Jupiter and Venus shine more brightly than any star in the night sky and, being closer, seem more likely to grant a wish, or at least have some influence over our world, even if it’s only an occasional gravitational nudge or errant burst of radiation.

These are all thoughts that ran through my head the other night when, looking roughly north by northeast, I saw the first star of the evening, which just happened to be Arcturus. Of course it was Arcturus. It’s the brightest star, with the exception of the sun, visible in the northern hemisphere. It’s just under thirty-seven light years away which makes it a pretty close neighbor. That, combined with being a red giant, is what makes it so bright. It also might have a planetary system.

Could there be life around Arcturus? Let’s say yes. This isn’t science fiction so much as science speculation. We haven’t found life anywhere else in the universe yet but there are a lot of places we haven’t looked, and given the size of the universe it would be strange if our little planet really is alone. Still Arcturus isn’t exactly the best candidate. It’s at least a couple of billion years older than our sun, not to mention the fact that it’s a very different kind of star, all of which means whatever life is out there is likely very different from anything we’re used to. And even if we can communicate the distance means just exchanging a couple of friendly hellos would take almost seventy-four years. A lot can happen in that time.

I’m sure I saw Arcturus a lot when I was a kid. Thinking back to all the summer nights I checked the sky, and assuming it was in roughly the same position then, which it probably was since the stars are pretty regular, it’s very likely that first bright star I saw at night that managed to not be obscured by the streetlight at the end of our cul-de-sac. Arcturus could shine even through light pollution.

And that’s why I see it so often now. It’s annoying, really, that I’ll see a bright star in the evening sky and, checking an astronomy app, I’ll confirm that it’s Arcturus. Again. And I’ll think how nice it would be if it could move over and let something else shine, The next morning I went out and in roughly the same position, bright enough to be seen in the early dawn sky, was Jupiter.

Wish granted.

In And Out.

Who invented the drive-thru window? It’s a trick question, I know, because restaurants that serve food to go date back at least to ancient Rome, although funny reports that they had “drive-thru windows” are probably a joke because wheeled vehicles were often banned in cities where you’d find restaurants, and it was mainly the wealthy who traveled long distances in wheeled vehicles anyway. And while it’s true that some British pubs, and probably taverns and bars across Europe, have historically had open windows where people could come up and order a pint most of the time customers would sit and sip their bitters at tables right next to the building.

There is a funny and underappreciated 2001 indie film called Scotland, PA about the first burger joint to have a drive-thru window. It’s pure fiction—the story is somewhat loosely based on a certain Scottish play by Shakespeare—but it’s clever and also worth checking out if you want to hear Christopher Walken say “baba ghanoush”.

My own associations with drive-thru windows, too, is that they’re mainly for terrible food. What I mean is you go through a drive-thru window if you can’t be bothered to stop and you don’t really care about the quality of what you’re getting because most of the time it’s been sitting under a heat lamp for at least an hour.

There are exceptions, though. The other night my wife had a craving for barbecue and, lucky for us, there’s a pretty good place down the street that’s both nearby and has a nifty drive-thru window. They cleverly converted an old full-service garage with a car wash into a restaurant and put in a pick-up window. And the service was fast—so fast I didn’t really have a chance to get a good picture of some of the cool advertising on the inside walls.

And because it’s so close the food was still pretty good by the time I got home.

What was left of it, anyway.

Could Be Better.

H.G. Hill Park at Nashville West. Source: Google Maps

I was waiting for some work to be done on the car and decided to stroll around the small park next to the Nashville West shopping center. Not that long ago the whole area was woods. It was private property, someone’s old farmland I think, that had been left so trees grew up, providing a buffer between the interstate to the north and the neighborhoods to the south. Then, I think, the owner died, developers swooped in, and the whole area was bulldozed and they crammed in as many retail outlets as they could. The park feels like a perfunctory afterthought, probably a city requirement to provide a certain amount of “green space”. There’s a playground in one corner, and some benches, and a guitar sculpture on one side.

Mostly, though, it’s just empty, treeless space. Across from the guitar sculpture there’s a tunnel that separates the park from a few small office buildings and a preserved log home, possibly some memorial to early settlers although there’s no information about it anywhere.

And inside the tunnel there’s a lot of graffiti.

It’s disappointing, though. A lot of it just feels like people came in with markers, maybe some spray paint, and doodled a few messages and tags, a few swear words, an “I was here”. There’s no spark, no real imagination, no effort.

And I had the unsettling feeling that this was all a metaphor for where I am in my life right now. I’ve been in a holding pattern, stuck. My boss reminded me the other day that I need to take some vacation time or I’ll start losing it. I’m not sure what I’d do with vacation time. There aren’t a lot of places I feel safe going, not that much to do. I’m not depressed but I feel down. I need to get through this. I need to make a change.

There’s a poem by Rilke called Archaic Torso of Apollo that’s all about looking at a great work of art and feeling it completely change your perspective. The poem ends, “You must change your life.”

Sometimes looking at really lousy art can prompt the same thought.

What’s At Steak.

The other night my wife asked for Salisbury steak, the only thing to ever come out of Salisbury except for Stonehenge which, admittedly, doesn’t count, because Stonehenge has never left Salisbury and the stones that form it are from Wales anyway. And Salisbury steak isn’t really steak, either, but ground beef that’s usually swimming in brown gravy and, at least in my experience, is used to hide a great big hunk of gristle, although if it’s properly prepared this is placed in the exact middle so you can get halfway through it before you hit the chewy, tasteless center.

According to culinary history the Salisbury steak dates back to the 19th century and in fact all Salisbury steak served in American households up to 1987 was made in the 19th century and was among the first foods to be frozen commercially with the invention of electric refrigeration in the 1890s. Over one million servings of Salisbury steaks were placed, along with peas and cubed carrots, a cup of surplus potatoes that had been dried, ground into powder, bound back into a dried, solid form, used as classroom chalk, re-collected, reconstituted with water, and seasoned gently with salt, and a scoop of baked apples from the disastrous Apple Surplus that afflicted Washington State in the summer of 1899, all of which was placed  in aluminum trays which were then sealed in cardboard boxes and placed in a storage facility in the Sierra Nevada mountains. They were then released in the early 1950’s with the widespread popularity of the television finally giving these “TV dinners” a reason to be served and, with the invention of the television tray, a place to be served.

Since the 1980’s the popularity and consistency of Salisbury steak has waxed and waned, with one of the principle ingredients from 1989 to 1991 being wax, and, from 1993 to 1994, wane, an unstable substance that disappears as soon as it’s exposed to air or anything else.

While it remains a staple of the frozen food industry to many a comfort food, particularly for those who grew up in generations where a TV dinner was a nice way to give one or both parents a break from cooking, and, for younger generations it’s a “retro dish” that, unlike some of its earlier versions, is often made with actual beef. Ironically the future of Salisbury steak may also be entirely meatless with vegetarian and even vegan versions becoming available and food scientists experimenting with various substances, including uncured, natural latex, magma, and recycled Nickelback CDs to produce the texture and lack of taste provided by the traditional gristle center.

What else does the future of Salisbury steak hold? It’s difficult to say but when I asked my wife how hers was she said, “Pretty good,” a description of Salisbury steak that hasn’t been heard since the construction of Stonehenge.

Looking In.

Octopus at the Dauphin Island Estuarium.

When I was four my family took a trip to Maine with an uncle, aunt, and cousins. We stayed in a cabin on Green Lake and fished and picked blueberries and did other various Maine things, including slipping briefly into Canada, but what I remember most vividly is an aquarium we visited one day. There was a touch tank where a woman talked about the various animals and I was the only one who’d hold a sea cucumber, and there was a tank full of live scallops. Another woman put a starfish in the tank to show us how scallops, when threatened, can actually swim away. We stopped at another roadside aquarium that was much smaller—I only remember the touch tank, which I think was in the main lobby, but it was still a neat place.

I’ve become kind of a connoisseur of aquaria over the years. If we go somewhere and there’s an aquarium I’ll visit it. Sometimes I’ll even wander into pet stores just to look at the fish, although I’ve learned the hard way that a home aquarium is a lot of work. It’s said that watching fish in an aquarium is very relaxing and you need it if you have to do all the maintenance, but that’s another story.

Here are some of the aquaria I’ve visited over the years:

-Really spectacular and one I highly recommend. My wife and I went several years ago on a trip to Atlanta and the main thing I remember is one of the first exhibits we came to was a tank where you could pet stingrays, which is always fun. It has multi-level tanks and also tunnels that take you completely under the water.

The Oklahoma Aquarium-If you look at a map and notice that Oklahoma is pretty far from any ocean shoreline you won’t be surprised that the Oklahoma Aquarium is small and, while it has a few nice exhibits, including some cool ones of jellyfish, it’s not that great. At one time they had an octopus. When I went it had died and they had it preserved under a glass dome which seemed like a terrible thing to do to such a noble creature. If you’re in Tulsa and looking for something to do go to the zoo.   

The Florida Aquarium-Another spectacular and highly recommended one. I went there with my parents a few years ago and one of the best parts was a large horseshoe crab exhibit, and we just happened to be there for horseshoe crab mating season. There was also a large Pacific octopus that, being nocturnal, seemed to be asleep and completely bunched up against the glass, but it was still a thrill to be so close to such a noble creature.

The Tennessee Aquarium-In spite of the fact that Tennessee is also deeply landlocked this aquarium in Chattanooga is absolutely magnificent and well worth the visit. There were amazing exhibits of seahorses and leafy sea dragons, and one tank with several cuttlefish. The cuttlefish appeared to be asleep but, hey, I have a thing for cephalopods, obviously, and it was really interesting to be so close to them.

The Aquarium Of The Pacific-Located in Long Beach, California, this one’s not one of the bigger aquaria I’ve visited, and, unlike others, was specifically focused only on animals of the Pacific, but I’ve been there twice and still feel like I didn’t see everything. It has some enormous multi-level tanks and great exhibits, including grass eels. There’s also an outdoor area with touch tanks that have anemones in them. I asked the woman there if the anemones really were safe to touch. She could have been sarcastic but instead just laughed nicely and said, “Go ahead and try!” They were lovely and soft, and it may have just been my imagination that I felt a bit of a tingling.

North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island-This one was surprisingly small for an aquarium located so close to the ocean, but still a nice way to spend a couple of hours. There was a small live octopus in one tank when we were there, and I could have watched it for at least a couple of hours. It was very active and looking for a way out.

Newport Aquarium-Located on the Kentucky/Ohio border this is another one that proves you can be completely landlocked and still have an amazing aquarium. The Newport Aquarium remains one of my favorites because it has the most brilliant pairing of exhibits ever. As you walk through you’ll come to the otter exhibit, a large room made of faux rock with an opaque glass ceiling and, of course, otters hopping and swimming in their pool which is set up high so you can look them in the eye. It’s bright and loud and everything echoes and the otters make everyone scream with delight so you can get overloaded. But then you walk into the jellyfish room which is lit only by the light from the tanks. The walls and floor are covered with burgundy fabric and there are soft seats where you can sit and just watch the jellyfish glide back and forth.

The Dauphin Island Estuarium-This is another little one set on the edge of the sea, but they have a stingray and shark petting tank—and I recommend sticking around for feeding time. It has a wonderful river exhibit with several kinds of turtles and a large tank with grouper and other sizable fish, and seahorses and, the last time I was there, a live octopus, and she was just magnificent. Sadly octopuses don’t live very long, even under the best conditions, and a woman who worked there told me they only have one if local fishermen bring one in. Most are so stressed from being caught they don’t survive, but this one was in fine shape and I watched her change color from cream to purple to pale orange. They also have a touch tank with horseshoe crabs and if you’re lucky you’ll be there during mating season.  

Tag, You’re It!

I took this picture on November 6th, 2021:And then I took this picture on March 15th, 2022. Same spot, but someone had added, or, depending on how you look at it, tried to cover, what had been there.

 

And then there was this, which I took a picture of a couple of weeks ago.

The addition of “Your move!” is a nice touch. The funny thing about this is, in all my years of looking at graffiti, I’ve noticed that even most taggers–the ones who just put up a name without doing more elaborate pieces–have a certain amount of respect for each other and even public art. They mostly go for blank spaces like empty walls, light poles, occasionally even sidewalks.

Here, though, are a couple of artists going back and forth. It’s not just a static work. It’s a work in progress.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.

Source: See Rock City.com

There’s a house being built behind us. There was a house there—a perfectly good house, but someone must have decided it wasn’t good enough because they bought the property and had the house bulldozed. Now they’re building a bigger one that, unlike the old one that had reddish brick, will be completely white with black trim. It’s a trend that started about a decade ago, I think, when my wife and I were on our way to work and noticed that a house we passed on our way to work each day was being demolished. Then a new all-white, black-trim one that was at least twice as big was built in the same spot, and sat empty for at least two years. During that time I guess it attracted the attention of other house flippers, since it wasn’t attracting any buyers, and they wanted to get in on the business of not selling houses so others like it started going up.

I really don’t mind the changing look of the neighborhood, but what I do mind is that, because the house behind us is going to be so much bigger than the one that used to be on the same lot, they’re cutting down a lot of the trees that used to be between us and the previous house. What I hope they realize is that, even though we have a fence in the back, technically our property line extends fifty feet past the fence, which means some of those woods are ours. It’s none of my business if they cut down every tree on their lot. For all I care they can dig up the entire yard, cover it with cement, and paint it green. But I like the modicum of privacy that our trees offer.

They also, once, offered some protection.

One Saturday, not long after my wife and I first married, I kept hearing a strange twanging sound every time I went out into the backyard. I could hear rustling in the trees too. I couldn’t figure out what it was but it also didn’t bother me much until the afternoon when an arrow landed in the ground a few feet from me. It was a hunting arrow and had hit the ground with enough force that I was only a couple of feet from an arrow in my foot.

My wife and I decided to drive around the block to check on our neighbors who had their name nicely printed on their mailbox. And they had a SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse in their yard.

Instead of knocking we went home, looked up the last name in the phone book—this was when you could still do that—and called. A nice guy answered. I like to think he was the one who picked out the birdhouse. He said he wasn’t the one shooting arrows but he knew who was responsible, and he was very sorry, and he said he’d put a stop to it right away.

I never heard another twang after that, but I did save the arrow just in case.

I don’t know when anyone will move into the new house, and I doubt they’ll be the types to practice archery in the backyard, but when they do I might just send over a SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse. So they have a reason to keep at least one tree.

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