Sunday, July 30, 2006

Pelicans, vultures, Mayans, oh my!

Time to revisit the honeymoon! After a couple of days of pina coladas, and one day of rain, we went into full tourist mode and went to see some ruins! Here you go! --

Wednesday, June 27, 2006: Lamanai

Awoke just before 6 AM. Horrible weather, very heavy rain and wind. If the weather stayed like that, we would not have been surprised if the whole trip was cancelled. Chagrined, but not surprised. Well, the rain declined and went away by 7 AM, and the wind reached a much more manageable level.

Our boat, “Seaduced,” arrived at around 7:30, and we were off. Our pilot, whose name might be Ray so that’s what we’ll call him here, was also our “tour guide” for the first leg, accompanied by Leon, who used the wind to dry out a pair of pants. Before we turned inland we saw islands of mangroves. Ray told us they protected from erosion from heavy waves and winds and from hurricanes. I caught a great picture of a pelican by accident, when I snapped a photo of a short, narrow passage we were about to pass through:

As we headed inland, along a narrow river, Ray told us more about mangroves, and about some other flora and fauna. The mangroves are a fascinating plant: because of their importance to the country, you can’t cut them down, even on your own property, without governmental permission. They handle salinity very well, but need the nutrition from the silt. A mangrove will send out a “finger,” a single branch (of a sort) that will reach downward, until it touches water. Then it splits into more fingers, continuing down to take root in the silt.

We stopped in the town of Bomba -- a group of small shacks, a few people, some dogs.
(Yes, the dog's leg is like that. Apparently it had been that way for a long time, because he got around quite well.) In Bomba we got onto an old school bus, driven by a guy named Ernesto.

Along a bumpy road we learned that electricity s just starting to reach towns like Bomba, and that in each of these towns there is a school -- generally Catholic, the main religion in Belize -- and that parents can get arrested if their kids don’t attend school, and that the kids always wear uniforms. We also stopped where we could buy roasted cashews for a couple of bucks. Good cashews.

About cashews: the cashew seed -- the nut that we eat -- is outside of the fruit, the only fruit of its kind. Apparently the fruit is quite edible. But it is very acidic, according to Ray, and tough on the fingernails. The smoke from roasting them is also, over time, harmful to those doing the roasting, though I didn’t catch how.

Along our way we passed the Maruba Resort, which, according to Ray, is a rather hedonistic destination. We also saw a cattle farm (“grass fed, lean beef”) and numerous vultures.
Some time later, we boarded another boat. Ray and Leon were still with us, and Ernesto stayed behind. Our new pilot and tour guide was Eduardo -- “Eddie.”

As we headed down the New River, we saw the Saw Palmetto plant (good for the prostate, in case you hadn‘t heard by now) and the Northern Jacana -- a beautiful little wading bird, also called the Jesus Bird because it looks like it walks on water.

We eventually came into a lake, stopped at a pier at the Lamanai Archeological Park.

But first: Lunch! Rice and beans, fried plantains (taste-wise, the yummy love-child of fried apples and bananas), salad, and a choice of Coke, Fanta, water, and Belikin Beer -- the only Belizian beer. Of course, I had the beer. And then we hike. “Lamanai,” by the way, is a mispronunciation by the Spanish, said Eddie. The Mayans probably said something more like “Lamanain” -- “la-man’ a-een’ .” Lamanai(n) was built on a bunch of rocks -- the Mayans carted in a heck of a lot of rock to create a platform for the city comfortably above the level of the water (no flooding, great view of the countryside) and then built the city on top of that. The first thing we saw was a good-sized pyramid, so I thought --
--but later we came to the big temple which rose to 107 (?) ft. above the platform. And we could climb it! -- which, of course, Jenny and I did, accenting our climb with a quick romantic kiss at the top, and a moment to appreciate the view. The angle of the pyramid, with the height, was enough to kick in a slight fear of heights, so I didn’t mind coming down. But that was a thrill, and I’d love to do it again.

At Lamanai we also saw a toucan and a family of howler monkeys! Unfortunately the battery on my camera gave out before I could get a picture of the animals, or the big temple, or the *** palm (can't recall the name), which has the biggest leaves in the world* -- up to 35 ft., said Eddie [*actually, I researched this and he's incorrect -- the Raffia palm in tropical Africa has leaves up to 80 ft., but still . . . ]. Humongous palm leaves! Huge!

The return trip to San Pedro was also lovely, but fairly uneventful (except for a brief stop on the bus trip to view a juvenile alligator from a distance). We were tired tourists, relaxing and drinking rum punch. Going from the mainland back to Ambergris Caye we hit some choppy water. I, of course, sat in the front of the boat to feel the wind in my face and get the best bounce as we sped along. I felt like a giddy 12-year-old. Or a happy Labrador. The boat slapped the water hard enough that the next day my rear felt like it had gotten a spanking. Heh.

Still to come -- the final, legal ceremony, and manatees! And maybe a touch more after that . . .

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Blessing

It's too good to not share it, so here's the blessing my Mom said during the handfasting:

"May these things be featherweight and fleeting in your union:
Annoyance and anger;
Jealousy, possessiveness, envy and distrust;
Boredom and indifference.

"Let them go, let them flit away, they're gone . . .

"May these things be long-lived and deep-rooted in your union:
Honesty, acceptance, compassion and forgiveness;
Contentedness, comfort and ease;
Touching, tenderness, attentiveness,
Excitement, passion;
Romance, delight, and most of all,

"As you grow old, and older, and older together,
May your love stay forever fresh and young.

"May you ever look upon each other with clear eyes and an open heart,
And thereby know love;

"For all arises from Love and seeks to return to Love;
Love is the Law, the teacher of wisdom, and the great revealer of mysteries."

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tanks, Tecumseh! I'm all tied up!

Jen and I took a trip this past weekend to see some friends in the outdoor drama TECUMSEH! If you happen to find yourself anywhere close to Chillicothe, Ohio (about an hour south of Columbus), between now and early September, go see it. It's a great show!

And today, while returning from a commercial audition, I saw something odd on the Baltimore beltway. On the back of a broken down, big rig truck, on a sort of modified flatbed, I saw what looked like the back end of a tank. And when I passed it, I realized it was a tank, painted in desert camouflage (fortunately, I was not in desert, cuz then, I might not've been able to see it, right?). It just seemed strange. First, how much does one of those things weigh? And second -- it's odd to see such a representation of might and power, of irresistible force, just stuck there on the side of the road!

And now, without transition, I shall tell you about the second ceremony, the handfasting:

June 20 -- The Handfasting

Okay. A “handfasting” is a Celtic-pagan sort of ritual. Why did we do this? Well . . . We wanted something a little different, something a bit more free-form. We wanted something for some of our local friends. We wanted something in which my mom and my sister Amy could play important roles. To be honest, that last one was the most important reason for me.

The ceremony took place outdoors, late in the Tuesday afternoon (mid-summer’s eve, the day before the Summer Solstice), at the small octagonal stage at Howard Community College. Many of those who came are HCC students and alums, people who have gotten to be friends through Yo Mama’s Cookin’ (the improv group that Jenny co-directs with Bruce Nelson) or through productions that Jenny and I have been a part of -- Christmas Carol (an adaptation that Jen directed and I made masks for), Love Hurts (the fight / dance show that Jen directed and I was head writer and asst. dir. for).

Sue Kramer officiated. Sue heads the HCC Student-Alumni Arts Association and is a friend of mine and Jenny’s of a few years now. Amy was my best “person,” and Michael Wood (a friend and HCC’er of many hats) was the “man“ of honor. Sue brought some “props,” you could say. A true theatre person, she is! Items, to indicate the directions.

Mom, who is the de facto expert in pagan matters, created a circle for our ceremony.

Okay -- the ceremony begins. Sue is onstage. Amy and Michael walk down the aisle, then Jen and I. And then Sue goes to the script (supplied by me and Jen, like in the first ceremony). She starts by describing what a handfasting is, which, uh, Jen and I figured out by researching online, and much of our text was pretty much pirated. Then she honors the four directions. Then my mother does a blessing, a marvelous blessing for our union, wishing us plenty of love and laughter. Then, we exchange rings. Amy held the one that I put on Jen’s hand, and Michael held the one Jen put on mine. And then Sue ties us up.

Kidding! KIDDING! Okay, here’s where handfasting gets its name. Amy and Michael also carried cords, which I made from colored floss, the same sort of stuff used to make friendship bracelets. The marital union is a binding of two souls and the cords are symbolic of this: that 1) we will honor and respect each other, 2) we will share and seek to ease each other’s pain and 3) we’ll share each other’s burdens and seek to grow together, and 4) we will share each other’s laughter, each other’s brightness, and each other’s “positivity.” A cord is tied around our joined hands for each.

And once we are “bound,” Sue presents us to the attendees, the audience, the “gathered throng.” And we walk down the aisle again, to cheers and to the flashing of cameras.
And then we went to a bar called The Judge’s Bench to celebrate, where there were drinks and many appetizers, and at one point a special performance by Tinted Windows, the marvelous and funny two-person band comprised of Ashanti and Candace Cooper.

Friday, July 21, 2006

King Pete and Palm Trees

I LOVE BEING A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR! I’ll be onstage soon again, in SLEEPING BEAUTY at Imagination Stage, where I shall play the King and Pete. We start rehearsals in late August, open Sept. 22, and will run through Nov. 5. I’m very excited. I get to sing again, some good solo stuff, too. For the first time in a while, I WON’T be playing a 1800’s military man! I hope I can hold off on the desire to salute someone.

To heck with chronological order. Here’s an entry from my journal -- when Jen and I started the honeymoon in Belize:

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Up at 5 AM. Ugh. On the road at 6, heading toward Philly. Arrived at the Phil. Int’l. Airport at just after 7 -- on the way, I spilled bottled “frappaccino” (sp?) on my pants, so I changed into a fresh pair in the “economy parking lot” at the airport. Checked in, passports, x-rays, take off your shoes, still plenty of time, quick breakfast, flight to Dallas.

Dallas: short lay-over, but long enough for lunch. Last chance to make calls -- message left on Pat’s voice mail -- and off we go! Window seat, Jen in the middle, pudgy teenager in the aisle seat. The p. t. copied the lyrics of a song he listened to on his CD player (with ear buds), then showed the lyrics to Jen, suggested that he had created those lines all on his own. Meanwhile, I took pictures of clouds.

And then, I looked at the expanse of water that I assume is the Gulf of Mexico. And then: land! Belize! Coastline! Trees! Lots of trees! Little roads, and little villages, in expanses of trees. Jungle! Landed at Belize International Airport -- so small, compared to the standard American fare. Palm trees! I laughed like a giddy kid. Passports checked, then get the bags, go through customs -- “Anything to declare?” -- “No” -- Picked up boarding passes, printed on regular notebook paper it seemed, with specific info penned in. And then into a 17-seat Cessna prop plane. Jen is a bit amazed by this having never been in plane like this before, not really, but I’ve flown in 2-seaters with Phil before, so it doesn’t grab my attention so much. I just keep looking out the windows at the palm trees, the water, hey what kind of bird is that? The plane drops off a few at Caye Caulker -- a neat little island, not as touristy as Ambergris Caye, more laid back, not as much to buy there. Off we go to Ambergris -- San Pedro! A little airstrip, in a not too big town (from a tourism info mag: “At the height of the Maya culture about 2 million people lived and traded on the Ambergris Caye. The population in the entire country of Belize is about 250,000 today.”). Our taxi is a little Toyato van, with a green license plate. Apparently all the taxis in S. P. are Toyota vans with green license plates. We go along an impressively bumpy dirt road to our hotel: Mata Rocks. (We had considered renting a golf cart during our stay, but with roads like that, what’s the point? We later learned that a grater periodically smoothes out the road). Along the road, we go by a stray dog who seems to love a particular pothole as a place to bed down -- the dog partially moved out of the way for us, then returned to the pothole, making a golf cart go around him without any notice on his part.

Mata Rocks Resort : A cute little place. The rooms are alright, not stellar (the oddest part was that there’s not much place to put your clothes, so it all stayed in the suitcases), but it has a nice beach, and hammocks, and a cool little tiki bar, where we could (and did) get pina coladas and laid in the hammocks and looked out on the Caribbean Sea. We chose Mata Rocks because of the hammocks and the beach and the view, and because “mata” is a Shawnee word (it means “no”), and we thought that was neat.

More to come on ceremonies and honeymoon soon . . . .

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Warner‘s 50th, and Raybud in a Suit

Warner Crocker just turned 50. Warner is the fearless leader (a.k.a. artistic director) at Wayside Theatre, where I was recently in a production of THE KILLER ANGELS. There was a big party for him this past Sunday, and I was fortunate enough to swing by for a bit. There were a lot of people! It was grand to see so many -- Thomasin (who set up this shindig for her husband, and major kudos to her for that), Malia, Natalie, the one and only Larry Dahlke, Carl and Andrew, the Galbraiths (who housed me when I worked there), Tamara, Ray (great suit!), and so many more. Most of these folks I haven’t seen since I was out there last fall. I only worked out there for 7 weeks, but . . . well, when I saw these folks there were big hugs all over and excited greetings, it felt like old friends. And, of course, there’s Warner.

Now, most of these folks know him better than I, having worked with him more than I have. And I suggest you check out Larry and Carl and Malia’s blogs to see what they say. They talk about his passion for the work, his mentoring. His grand laugh, of course. Read what they said, they can tell you more than I can. So what can I say to add to their comments? Well, let me tell you about what he did when he saw me at this celebration. He gave me a hug. But not just an ordinary hug. A bear hug. And in this hug he wrapped an arm around my head and held tight and close. This was not one of those faux-proper, cordial, pat-ya-on-the-back-three-times guy hug. Nah, this hug had value. This is one of those guys who, when he calls his theatre friends “family,” he really means family. God, I love that. Why do so many people like and admire him? Because he loves the work, and I think he prefers to have the same sort in his company. (And check out Warner's site, too!)

Now, I’d said I’d talk about the wedding ceremonies. Each ceremony was very important for its own reasons, and I don‘t consider any of them to be more or less important than the others. It was a lot of work, but I’m very happy with how they all went. Here’s the first ceremony:

Friday, June 10, 2006. The outdoor stage on Sugarloaf Mountain in Chillicothe, Ohio. This is where the show TECUMSEH! is staged, and Jen and I have a lot of history there. It is a great show, performing every summer, and if you have a chance to see it, do so. The ceremony took place a little after midnight (okay, that technically makes it Saturday), shortly after the opening performance. Raymond Speakman (a.k.a. Raybud) officiated. Raybud is a very good friend to me and Jenny. He is a real mountain man, big guy, red hair and red beard, actor, hunter, proud father of Caleb (who is one now), former competitive arm wrestler, pyrotechnics expert, and a great guy. For the ceremony, Raybud wore a suit, which is a very rare thing.

We positioned ourselves center stage. Near me were Demetrius Thomas, who plays the lead this summer and on this night was my best man; and Donald Leffert, production stage manager, and Marion Waggoner, the executive producer, both groomsmen this evening. On the ladies side: JJ Cobb, who had played Tecumapese for a number of years, and who became Marion’s wife a few years ago and mother of his second child Kane (yes, they are raising Kane now, heh-heh). JJ was the maid-of-honor this evening. Bridesmaids were Annelise, who is playing Tecumapese this summer, and Raina, who is now the head costumer. The other witnesses to this ceremony were this year’s castmembers and a few friends from other recent years.

Jenny entered by canoe (the stage has a pond behind it) to music from the show and to the cheers of the witnesses. A simple white dress, flowers in her hair. Marion escorted her from the canoe to her place on the stage. And then Raybud began the ceremony, reading from a script that Jen and I had put together earlier. Ray said a few things beautiful things about marriage and about us, and asked other people for a few words of their own -- we hadn’t warned them in advance, so Donald wasn’t quite sure what to say. I think he said something about love being like scotch, because I tongue-in-cheek offered that as an idea for him. Marion said something brilliant that I can’t recall most of, but I do recall it began with “Love is 10.000 pounds of thrust . . . .” Marion is an aerospace buff. Then Jenny and I said a few special things to each other, and there were tears and the sounds of “Aaaaawwww” from the people around us. And then Raybud launched into some wedding lines taken right from the show itself. It was great!
The ceremony concluded with Raybud presenting us to the witnesses, concluding it with God help us all!” And then we had cake and champagne. It was a wonderful, fun night.

More to come . . . .

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Officially Unsingle

I now have this ring on my left hand, and I have some stories to tell, stories of the ceremonies, and stories from our honeymoon in San Pedro, Belize -- where we did not have any Coronas, but we had a few pina coladas, and we did get caught in the rain, but not nearly so much as the NE US did while we were away. And we saw Mayan ruins, and manatees and rays and monkeys, and we relaxed in hammocks while we gazed out onto the Caribbean Sea. I will tell you about these things, in upcoming entries. However, the world decided it would continue turning during our blissful unawareness, and upon our return we found we had A LOT TO DO. Hence, the delay.

Wierd: there are a couple of comments that have appeared in my blog that seem to be from some French person trying to sell me on "Miami Telecom," or something like that. I don't know why, but perhaps it has to do with both entries using the word "callback." Check out the comments sections from May 15 and 22.

Good: a couple more comments have appeared regarding Colin, and I have added them to Colin's Page.

And about the picture at the top: that was taken from the patio of the room we stayed in in San Pedro on our first full day there. That's someone kite surfing, with a rainbow behind him. I believe that at the same time NE US was getting pelted.