Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Wicked good, as the Brits say. It is the Brits, right? Anyway, my beloved and I trekked two hours down the road to see the roadshow of the Broadway hit, WICKED, and I have to say, it was stupendous. Marvelous sets, stunning costumes, wonderful lighting, super songs, and totally talented singers and dancers. The theater was packed, and I can see why. The musical's reputation is well deserved. If you get a chance to see a production near you, GO.

While I waited afterwards for the line into the ladies room to resemble something smaller than an infinite conga line, an usher and I discussed older musicals we loved. We agreed on West Side Story, South Pacific, and My Fair Lady, and of course, Camelot. Both of us could name some of the stars on Broadway in each, and then, we realized that those Broadway shows later became films. Nowadays, films (The Color Purple, Legally Blonde, Nine to Five, Billy Elliott) are going to Broadway. When did the trend reverse itself? And why? Is there a dearth of writers who are willing to slave on a Broadway production first? Or is the allure of Hollywood money and prestige trumping stage efforts? I imagine so, and who can blame the writers/songwriters? Millions of people go to the cinema, while fewer can get to Broadway.

Since one of my children has taken up a life on the stage, I've rediscovered the joys of live drama. The audience is physically connected to the actors by being in the same space with them, breathing the same air. In smaller theaters, we see them sweat, work, and strive to put the play's best foot forward. The audience becomes an extra character in the production. I love that feeling.

Speaking of extra characters, we have a new puppy. She came from a local rescue shelter for a foster care stay and has ended up as a permanent part of the family. It's a good thing she's charming, funny, and terribly smart. Our 16 year old cat is trying to train her to be civilized, but he has little patience these days for puppies, and who can blame him? He's a long-time dog lover, but Callie clearly has never been taught respect for her feline elders. She'll learn, even if it's the hard way.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sad, Sad Days Ahead

As if the suicide of suspended Nascar Nationwide driver Kevin Grubb, found dead in a hotel room, isn't horrible enough, now Cup driver Jeremy Mayfield has been suspended from Nascar competition indefinitely because of a positive drug test. I'm crushed. Just as I was thinking Mayfield was getting his team on an upswing after his gutsy driving in the Richmond race, he not only doesn't make the Darlington field, but his suspension is announced an hour before race time. What a downer of a note on which to start what should have been a fun night race.

I'm not taking sides - Mayfield has an explanation, he alleges - and Nascar has made some colossal blunders, such as suspending Tim Richmond back in the '80s for taking Sudafed, and acting as if Mauricia Grant made up every little detail in her multi-million dollar sexual/racial harassment suit. Then they go and settle the suit to the obvious satisfaction of Ms. Grant, as well as firing two employees mentioned in the pleadings. As to Tim Richmond, it's a sad, sad story about the death of a very talented driver from AIDS, and it's clear Nascar didn't have any idea what was going on, except Richmond seemed to be very ill at times.

It's particularly annoying that Nascar won't say what drug they found in Mayfield's specimen, but I understand privacy concerns. It's up to Mayfield to work it out, and I hope if there's a problem, that it's faced squarely and handled appropriately, for his sake. Shane Hmiel has said he suffered from severe problems for years, and self-medicated to try to feel better. After his suspension, he found a treatment program that has helped him immensely, and I'm just grateful he didn't end up like Grubb. Truck driver Aaron Fike has also benefited from being discovered with a heroin addiction, and is, from what I read, well on the road to health. Good for them.

But it's still scary to think they raced while high. That's unacceptable any way you look at it.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Richmond: Start-and-Parkers

Although the weather played the rain-game off and on, it couldn't dampen the crowd's enthusiasm. Despite not selling out, the stands looked fairly full, and the parking lots sure were. Our tent was used by several tailgaters who forgot theirs,and we met some lovely people and had a nice time chatting during the off-and-on downpours. Friday night, we brought some Nascar-newcomers to the track, and I'm guessing new fans were born. Good racin' both nights. The entire weekend is a mini-vacation for us - we love the atmosphere, the camaraderie, and talking with people we'd never have met if we hadn't gone to the track.

A big shout-out to under-funded Jeremy Mayfield for his guts and stick-to-it-ness Saturday night in the Cup race. His car wasn't great - he was a back-fielder the whole night - but he kept pitting and working on it, and by golly, he finished the race in 35th place. (Ahead of Jimmie Johnson, I might add.) At least he was running. A handful of cars pulled into the pits after a few laps, clearly start-and-parkers. When the pit stall doesn't have one crewman or a single tire, you know they're not planning on racing. The economics of fielding a car are daunting - $250,000 for one race if you're going to do it right. There's no way the purse will cover those expenses, not if you tear up your lone car. I have a crazy idea. If Nascar insists on having 43 cars in the field, set up a S&P fund. It'll be used by those teams with more spirit than money, and allow them to at least buy tires to try and stay in the race.

A lot of writers are start-and-parkers. They rush into the first hundred pages with all kinds of enthusiasm, then reality sets in. There's not enough story, they haven't figured out where it needs to go, or the sheer labor of writing discourages them. While I don't believe in writer's block, I do believe in planning ahead so you don't run out of steam when you hit the first plot point. It's akin to having a crew, tires, and a crew chief in your pit stall. You need that backup, a plot, an outlines, characters planned ahead of the actual writing, to keep the car (oops, book) on the track.