We look at the world once, in childhood.
The rest is memory.—Louise Glück, Meadowlands
I was born, geographically, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the 1950s, but I grew up in Dayton, Ohio and its suburbs, and sometimes my speech betrays my eastern Midwestern roots. My 15 minutes of fame came early in my life, in the form of a televised appearance in a regional spelling bee when I was nine years old. I won a transistor radio and a lot of dictionaries.
I received a BA from Northwestern University, whisking through in three years because I didn’t have the money to stay longer. I also took a business degree from the University of Pennsylvania—it seemed like a good idea at the time. After an internship in New York and a year in Minneapolis, I settled in suburban Washington, D.C. I arrived, as they figure time here, in the last months of the Carter administration.
Since 1985, I have lived several places in Reston, Virginia (four different zip codes, in all). Gulf Oil’s ads in the 60’s that described a planned community growing in the Virginia suburbs captivated me, so this is a bit of my dream come true. As with all dreams, the reality comes up somewhat short, but I’m glad to be living here.
My family isn’t particularly close-knit, and is scattered across the country. My mother lives in Sacramento; my father died in 1998. I’ve been married, and I’ve been not. I haven’t decided which I like better. For more than ten years, I’ve been dating a wonderful girl named Leta, who shares my reservations about permanent marital arrangements.
I have no obsessions, which is what it takes for a really special web site. (But, through some strange compulsion, I have kept every AOL disk I’ve ever received.) Nevertheless, here are just a few of the things that I do for love instead of money:
My creative energy goes into acting at the community theater level. I work most often with Reston Community Players. I also perform with Silver Spring Stage in Maryland and Elden Street Players in Herndon, Virginia. My personal successes include
- Ellard Simms, The Foreigner by Larry Shue
- various roles in The Laramie Project by Moisés Kaufman et al.
- Joseph, The Butterfingers Angel… by William Gibson
- Guildenstern, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
- Austin, True West by Sam Shepard
- Rick Steadman, The Nerd by Larry Shue.
I have also performed a little Shakespeare, the obligatory Agatha Christie, and a commedia dell’ arte farce by local playwright John Morogiello. I do Christopher Durang whenever and however I can. (And, at one time or another, all of us have been in You Can’t Take It with You.) I do a little stage-managing, too. (A more complete list of the roles I’ve played is here.)
For the past five years plus, I have been a volunteer adjudicator for the Washington Area Theatre Community Honors (WATCH) program.
One of the things that I find amazing about theater is its short-term collaborative nature. It’s something like guerrilla warfare. For a period of about three months, a group of people—anywhere from five to 105 of them—work together to make art. What they make is no more permanent than breath and light. And then, the show is over, the sets come down, and that unique team of people is no more. But out of this continual re-forming of teams every several weeks, a genuine community arises. (Neil LaBute put this idea much better than I ever could.)
Austin and Guildenstern were dream roles for me. These are the roles that I would love to play in the future, should the right opportunity come along. For a few of them, I know that it’ll be years before I’m ready (and old enough!); for others (like Roma) my window of opportunity is closing:
- Krapp, Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett
- Felix Ungar, The Odd Couple by Neil Simon
- Chorus, Antigone by Jean Anouilh
- Dysart, Equus by Peter Shaffer
- Richard Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
- George, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
- Charlie Baker, The Foreigner by Larry Shue
- Big Daddy Pollitt, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams
Several years ago, I started looking at birds (I prefer this expression, used by the late Claudia Wilds, to alternatives like “birdwatching”). I am still developing my ID skills, and I haven’t traveled extensively, so my list is still quite short. Some of my life birds from around the continent are here. I’m a member of the American Birding Association. For the past ten years plus, I have been a volunteer nest box monitor at Huntley Meadows Park.
Once you start looking and listening, even the most mundane birds show their marvels: the flash of white on a mockingbird’s wing, a crow’s scary stare. A cardinal’s song has an arc to it that sounds like a lobbed grenade.
It’s one of life’s little jokes on me that the first of my avocations calls for cast parties that don’t start until 11 PM or midnight, while some of the best birding is in a marsh two hours out of town at dawn.
Saturday mornings (and some Thursday evenings), I work at Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic). I sit in a small recording booth and read textbooks—literature anthologies, philosophy monographs, carpentry manuals, self-serving Washington autobiographies, programming tutorials that were written and sold by the pound, the latest economics texts, footnotes and all. It’s an intellectually stimulating way to do my good deed for the week. Our students listen to the recorded texts on specially-designed CD players that enable them to skip ahead to the next page or chapter break.
On a purely financial basis, I contribute to the American Friends Service Committee. The AFSC is a Nobel Prize-winning organization with worldwide programs that focus on issues of economic justice, peace-building and demilitarization, social justice, and youth.
Like a lot of people my age, I’m interested in things retro. I am fond of old radio dramas, especially Gunsmoke, which is broadcast locally on WAMU 88.5 FM. There isn’t much in the way of repertory cinema in this area, so I scrounge on Netflix for movies with Ella Raines, or Barbara Stanwyck in the years when she was a hottie. The great thing about black and white film, as well as radio, is that it leaves so much more to the imagination. You’re involved in the work, in some way that I can’t begin to describe.
When I was a kid, I was a baseball fan. I saw the Cincinnati Reds play in Crosley Field, and Pete Rose autographed his first book for me. I drifted towards football when I was teenager, but I’ve come back to baseball. These days I follow the Atlanta Braves (yes, I know it’s not an imaginative choice) and I try to root for the local teams—the Nationals and the Orioles—at least until each year’s mid-season meltdown.
Very gradually and casually, I have also picked up a taste for NHL ice hockey. Of course it helps when the local team is in first place in its division.
My weekly comic strip used to come from Ben Katchor. And it seems like I buy every John Coltrane CD that I can get my hands on.
What else is there to tell? My Myers-Briggs type is INTJ. The book says that one percent of the general population is INTJ, but it seems like I run into them all the time. I wish I weren’t so judgemental: I’m an INTP wannabe.
I’m also a Leo, whatever that means.
Professionally, I write software. Currently, I am a member of the Digital Media team at NPR. Over the past twenty years or so, I have worked on a requisitioning and purchasing system for the state of Connecticut, the online version of Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR), a web-published database of Canadian legislation and case law, and various sites for AARP.
I may not have achieved wisdom, but I usually know the difference between what’s serious and what’s solemn.
Oh, and there are 100 more things about me that you might need to know.
Everybody gets just so much immortality and then it’s time to grow up.—Garrison Keillor, The Mid-life Crisis of Dionysus
Last updated: Saturday, 6 December 2014 15:23