Our seats were right down front.When we sat down we struck up a conversation with the smiling man and his daughter who were sitting next to us. After a while he asked up, " Are you ready for your surprise?"
"You know - you're sitting right up front."
"Does it involve water? Should we be wearing raincoats.?"
He laughed . "No no, nothing like that. Its a good surprise. Just relax. You'll see."
Hmmmmm. Ok, I thought. Juliana and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went back to watching the place come to life.
Men in black were busy on the center floor. Putting out the rings, setting up equipment. Clowns appeared. As the stands filled more clowns ran around the floor, coming over to the crowd, performing tricks, waving, charging the atmosphere. One clown tried to jump over the railing in front of us to get into a little boy's lap but never made it - one prat fall after another.
At precisely 10:30 am the band struck up its music, Tyrone McFarland, the Ringmaster appeared - - the Greatest Show on Earth opened as the audience cheered. How can you describe a spectacle as it unfolds before your eyes. The circus is bright, colorful, and glittery and when the delightfully costumed clowns and the performers in their shiny, sequinned costumes, riding elephants and pracing horses, parade in front of you - well, your imagination takes over and you enter the a world of fantasy and fun.
The star of the show was Bello Nock. The show was billed as Bellobration.
Bello is a multi-talented guy - known for his hair-raising tricks. - hence the hair-do. He sings, clowns and scares you a bit with his sky-antics - as he climbs a pole and then performs tricks far, far above the crowd - and later climbs all over a rotating machine as it spins high over our heads.
He shows his nice-guy ness when he brings a couple of youngsters from the audience onto the floor - center stage - to help him with his stunt. He treats them with respect and kindness and puts them at ease surrounded by thousands of strangers.
Other enjoyable acts: The acrobats who stack themselves five high by being propelled up to the next catcher.
Trapeze artists who rise over-head and then amaze and give you a catch in your throat as they swing back and forth, higher and higher and then jump into the hands of a "catcher."
All the excitement I remembered from when they thrilled me as a kid.
And was there a SURPRISE? I should say so - it was US.
Juliana and I not only came to the circus - we joined the circus and it was an absolutely thrilling surprise.
As the music for the finale of the first act started a colorful six car mini-train chugged out on the floor. Each car was filled with clowns. They pulled up and stopped right at our seats. One of the clowns walked over to the steps and held out her white gloved hand to me and led me onto the sidelines. Juliana and forty other people - adults and kids - followed. First a clown placed an orange "Bello" hairdo on each one of us and then led us onto the train cars to take their places.
The trains moved onto the center stage. We were laughing and waving to the crowds as we moved among the clowns and performers, animals, and all on the main floor.
The man who had known about this "surprise" took our picture. I snapped pictures on all sides as I tried to see everyting - up close.
It was a moment.
It was quite a morning. The show started at 10:30 and ended at 1 pm. And every minute was FUN! Pure entertainment.
I was looking to add some touches to my circus story. I would say I more than got that wish.
I remember sitting on the wooden risers under the big canvas tent watching the antics of the clowns. I was bowled over by the elephants and the trapeze artists. But the most vivid memory - an image laid down by fear - is of Gargantua. Gargantua was advertisd as the largest ape in captivity.
Gargantua was on display in a small painted circus wagon on wheels. It had bars on the open sides and they were backed by glass. I don't temember him doing anything. Mostly he just sat there looking fierce and threatening. I held on tight to Mama's arm while we gawked at the captive.
Thanks to Wikipedia I now know more of Grangantua's story - how he was captured, and finally bought by Ringling in the 1930s as an attraction to bring in more money.
When I reminded my sister Kathy that Mama had taken us to the circus,she said,
"I remember that. Not much. I must have been little."
"Will, yeah, it I was nine you would have been four."
"And I remember Gargantua!"
"I bet every kid that saw him remembers him."
When I called I told Mama I was going to the Circus whith Juliana.
"Ellouise, that's a good idea, that's a really good idea."
"Did you go to the circus when you were a little girl?"
"Yes, I did.
Yes, I did.
I can't say what I saw right now but I know I liked it."
"Mama, do you remember when you took us to see Gargantua?"
'Yes, I do.
He was big and scary, wasn't he?"
Connections are precious.
I saw the picture in the Washington Post this morning.
Yesterday children lined the streets and watched the huge elephants and the clowns parade from Union Station to the Verizon Center where they will perform for the next four days. I wish I had known.
I sat at the breakfast table and stared at the picture of the elphant's rump and the clown standing on the massive pachyderm's back.
I thought Of Koki's story about meeting the Circus Train in the early morning hours in Charlotte when she was a kid. Daddy would have been there too.
I remembered the story about John King, the elephant man, who was killed that early morning in 1890 when the circus was unloading at dawn in Charlotte.
And I remembered when Mama took me to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus when I was about nine years old. We walked on sawdust, ate peanuts and stared wide-eyed at the trapeze artists swinging overhead, at the brave animal trainers, the white horses in the ring, and watched the clowns and their antics.
By the time we took our kids to the circus here in the 1960s the show had moved inside and many things were changed - except the excitment, the noise and the smells.
TMC showed the movie The Greatest Show On Earth, the Cecil B. DeMille Big Top epic with Betty Hutton and Charlton Heston not long ago - the film is filled with the sights and sounds of the circus.
It did not take long for me to decide - - I am going to the Circus.
I am not kidding. My ticket is waiting at the WILL CALL. Juliana is coming with me.
10:30 am Thursday morning at the Verizon Center when the music starts Juliana and I will be sitting in the front row.
Ten Canoes - an effective dramatazation of an aboriginal folk tale.
The movie was shot in the bush and in an authentic looking village. Nudity as that was the dress of the day. A little tedious because its not fast paced drama and you have to follow sub-titles. Successful in demonstrating the lasting value of a folktale.
Once- Charming low-budget independent film from Ireland. The original music won an Oscar for best music this year. Sundance festival loved it. We doubly enjoyed it for the Dublin locale shots.
The Jane Austen Book Club -
Interesting movie. Good acting. Enjoyed all the references to the sis Jane Austen novels as they played the Austen plots against what was happening in their own lives.
I love that it protrays the healing power of a supportive group of women for its members.
In winding up the plot the author and the screen writer have two of the husbands, reading Austen and joining the club. Karen hooted, "no way." At first I too wanted that to happen. But you know its not likely and let's face it - there went the neighborhood for the women's book club.
Rumor Has It - so-so movie starring Jennifer Anniston, Shirley MacClaine and Kevin Costner. Story revolves around the question of what happened after the end of the 60s movie "The Graduate." Their answers are somewhat plausible. The characters are two dimensional in upscale California settings. Its not a movie I would watch a second time. I was disappointed in Shirley MacClaine's stylized performance of Mrs. Robinson which resembled "Weezer goes to Pasadena."
I don't know why because I love movies.
When I really looked at it - $14.00 a month for two movies at a time - on a rolling wheel- is quite a bargain.
And when I understood the breadth of the films available - I was sold.
Setting up a queque - a list of films you'd like to see - is a feast of choices. Will it be a current movie or a series from PBS? remember Upstairs, Downstairs, all the series from Mystery? And more, and more, and more.
It turns out that our distribution center is in a near-by MD suburb. Depending on how quickly you drop your return into a mail box you can have a replacement over-night.
Best, in this time of high gas prices, we don't have to drive to pick them up. They come to us.
Its all to love.
What a treat! Stortyeller Kate Dudding was visiting from Albany and we met for lunch at the Phillips. And a wide-ranging conversation - from storyteller business to stories, ofcourse stories.
Kate delves into history and makes stories from it. I enjoy hearing her talk about the process she uses to tackle new material and then shape it into story. She has a cd about "Lighthouses" that is surprising as she takes an unlikely subject, a series of lighthouses, and turns their histories into entertaining and educational stories.
It is fun to have a visit with Kate and I look forward to seeing her.
Group 93 - artists who studied under Professor Luciano Penay at American University- and now work with him in an annual critique group - are exhibiting their works at AU now. I am very happy to be one of the group.
It is a large show because we have a huge space and Prof. Penay wanted to include a strong selection of works by each artist so that you could really appreciate the work of that artist. We appreciated that opportunity because you rarely have that kind of exposure in a group show.
A selection of the textiles I have in the show.
When it was time to throw these shoes away I just could not do it. We had walked many miles together and gotten very comfortable with each other.
How to save them from the trash bag?
make them into art -
so I spent hours collaging them and remembering our times together.
The shoes with heels held me up during my first storytelling performance and many after that.
For a number of years i wore those shoes whenever I needed to be a bit dressed up.
These flat heel shoes walked me through three jobs, held me up to tell stories and carried me most everywhere everyday for quite a few years.
Once I transformed the shoes into art works I did wear them several times when I told stories, especially stories about quilters. Then I moved them from my closet to my studio and packed them away.
Several weeks ago at Pyramid Atlantic Adjoa Burrowes, Gretchen Schmerhorn, and I were working up a new book/story project. My heart leaped when Gretchen suggested we use "decorated" shoes as the form for the book structure. I remembered my old friends waiting in their box in the studio. They would be great start-up examples.
You see why I cannot throw things away?
Doesn't this speak to that point?
Take a look at this tattered and worn sandal. It holds the sources for my story and my book for the class. What if I had tossed it and its mate into the trash bag.
This sandal walked me through Israel, Jordan and Eqypt when Jim and I made our trip to the Holy Land ten years ago. I would like to say that it walked me to the top of Mount Sinai but actually because of a sprained back I rode a camel most of the way and then walked and crawled up the 750 steps to the top.
Because our group was to reach the top of Mount Sinai in time for sunrise we all met together at the foot of the mountain at 2 am. Sulieman, the camel driver, and his huge beast were waiting for me as Jim had arranged. Even though the camel knelt down for me to mount his back, he was still too tall for me to climb into the saddle without help from Jim and several others.
I had expected that we would walk along with the members of the group. But no. Not long after we started off Sulieman tugged on the reins he held as he walked along beside us and led me and his camel off the path. "It will be safer here, Madam. He will be more sure-footed."
Sure-footed? To reassure myself I peered down into the blackness at his feet. I could not tell where the camel was stepping or how important it was for him to be "sure-footed" on the side of this mountain because it was pitch dark. I could not see a thing. Except the distantlights of the flashlights the members of my group carried. They were yellow points of light bobbing like fireflies - far away.
And here I was, perched on the top of the camel, swaying as I clutched the front post of the saddle. For two hours I rode slowly up the mountain under an inky black sky which was filled with tiny stars that twinkled like precious diamonds. Once I started to breathe it became a magical, mystical experience.
When we reached the point for me to dismount, Sulieman said, "Madam, throw your left leg over to the right side. It will be more easy for you to slide off."
Throw my leg over. What was he thinking? After two hours I could not feel my leg much less move it. My legs felt frozen in place straddling the camel's back. Fortunately Jim arrived right then and he was able to handle the more private parts of my body as I was hauled off my lofty perch.
There was still the challenge of the 750 steps to the top. But I made it. I was standing next to Jim at the summit when the brilliant orange sun rose in the east - a breathtaking and memorable sight.
A few years later, these same sandals walked me through Greece and Turkey in the footsteps of Saint Paul.
Throw them away. Surely you jest.
These sandals have stories to tell.
This is just the first.
Here you can read the history, trivia and other things about wearing the green .
Best news for us -
Jim was discharged from the hospital this afternoon and is now at home.
We drove along Pennsylvania Avenue under bright blue sunny skies. Over the past few days the trees have flowered. The new life of Spring is blooming. We recognize it in Nature and in ourselves.
I have a broad band card attached to my lap top so while I watch out for Jim I am surfing far and wide from the fifth floor of GW Hospital. Almost like bi-locating.
Reminds me to write about a film I watched on Jet Blue when we flew to CA three weeks ago. Is it really only three weeks - seems a lifetime ago. Anyway:
How William Shatner Changed the World, a documentary about the television series Star Trek was fascinating to watch. In it Shatner ( formerly Captain Kirk on the Star Trek show) talked about the development and evolution of the show, first aired in 1966, and how it had influenced the imaginations of kids of the era. Remember all the futuristic gadgets? The mobile communicator, the "beaming down" device, and the ships that soared through space?
During the documentary they interviewed scientists and inventors whose imaginations were so fired by Gene Roddenberry and his ideas when they watched Star Trek that they went on to careers in astronomy, physics, electronics and space technology.
Voila - all the technology we enjoy today - cell phones, computers, broad band cards etc, etc,
Think about it - if it hadn't have been for the Star Trek inspiration to someone I could never have called Robin in CA from a vaporetto on the Grand Canal in Venice. what's your special phone connection?
And they cut the arts from the budget in the schools!!!! What are they thinking?
We arrived at the hospital at 12:30 pm as instructed.
And began the long wait.
GW ia a large urban teaching hospital. The surgical waiting room was packed with patients waiting their turn to be prepped for surgery and their families.
Each patient is given a hand-held beeper and when it is your turn the light turned red and the things begins to squawk - - reminded us of waiting for your hamburger at Fudruckers.
Jim's surgery was scheduled for 2:45 PM. Wouldn't you know - traffic backed up. He was not called until 4:30 PM and not taken to surgery until 5:51 PM. It is tense to wait like that but we chatted and laughed most of the time.
Once Jim was in surgery we went to the cafeteria. I have no clue what I ate. Then back upstairs for more waiting. We watched people coming and going until at 7:45 PM when our plastic beeper came alive - squawking - calling us in to talk with the surgeon.
Good news. He removed the tumor and did not see anything foreign in the area. Sewed Jim's parts back together and pronouced. " he is doing fine."
Thank you, Lord.
Everything goes onto "hospital time" - waiting for Jim to wake up, to have all the stuff done in the recovery room that is needed, getting the room ready and finally at 10:30 pm I walked behind Jim's bed,tubes and equipmnet and as a young man in a tan scrub suit wheeled him to his room - 5N 553.
Karen and Jimmy had gone up ahead and were waiting for us. Somehow Karen had gotten a small cot for me so that I could strectch out instead of sitting up in a chair all night.
You see, I believe a patient needs an advocate when they are in the hospital.
I tell a funny story about my job as a "watcher" on airplanes. But that is nothing compared to this. I come with Jim and I am prepared to work.
Why is it that "simple" is never my first reaction. La Bruha would be perfect. I like it. People enjoy it and the story is on the tip of my tongue.
I liked this old folktale from Mexico when I first read it a year ago and have told it from time to time since then but now, after seriously adapting it for the Rogue, I really like it. I have developed a motivation for one of the characters that was not in the original version I read and it gives the story a more subtle adult meaning.
Ah, the magic of storytelling.
Keep focused on the fun.
Our own bed felt warm and wonderfully familiar. We had been very comfortable and well cared for both at our daughter's and when staying with Jim's brother and his wife - but, cliche or not - no place like home.
Now today - back into our groove - I am storytelling tonight and Jim is preparing for a full day of patients tomorrow. Its good to feel the comfort of the routine.
But it is not going to be all that simple. Friday Jim is having surgery at George Washington University Hospital. Nothing these days is ever completely simple.
I hope you will stop back. I will be filling in with a rreport on the Rogue and some of the great acts that we enjoyed and other news. And adding pictures.
First its the chore of getting through the mail. Isn't it amazing when you face how much junk mail drops on you - every day its not so bad but when it piles up it is a tree or two.
Testing my new camera as Jim tests his moves - remembering his high school days when he worked in his Dad's filling station.
We enjoyed our time in that brand new Pontiac G-6 from Hertz. When we pulled out of the lot at the Oakland Airport the odometer registered 4 miles. On our return we had clocked 1010 miles.
The on-star navigational system was not activated for the rental so we used our own GPS. We really like the portable Tom-Tom our family gave us. Gets us there every time.
Although its comical when you know where you are going - because Mandy does not always agree - and keeps politely insisting - "Make a U-turn. Make a U-turn." Fun to frustrate her.
Well, the Rogue Festival is over for this year. Until next March. I look forward to coming back.
Because I had asked for a small "cafe" venue I was assigned to Ashtree Studios, a comfortable stand alone building with art on all the walls. For my four sets over the two week-ends I combined folktales with personal stories, letting whatever happened during the day suggest which personal story to tell. The audiences were responsive and I was delighted to have a review printed in the "Undercurrent."
A reviewer in the "Undercurrent" wrote -
Yesterday's Secrets - Old Tales of Magic, Mystery, and Romance
Posted March 1st, 2008 by cdfierro
"Ellouise Schoettler's show was pleasant. I know that when we use the word pleasant, it is usually in conjunction with a Sunday walk, or the smell of flowers in bloom. I only partly mean that Ellouise's show was this type of pleasant. The show was storytelling, traditional storytelling, and in that sense it was pleasant like that Sunday stroll, or fresh flowers. However, I don't want you to think that this was storytelling to do by the bedside. This was the kind of storytelling that you would imagine was done before the advent of radio, TV, or even the printed word.
The cadence of Ellouise's words worked well with the depth, sharpness, softness of the words that Ellouise used to tell her stories. The stories that were told spanned regions (old Mexico with witches and corrupt judges; Egypt with tales of love and being true to oneself; English tales of a serial wedder/killer; and a fish tale from Ireland), time and topics. And it was pleasant, in the best possible way."
The major excitement of the Rogue comes from seeing the works of other performers.
Ryan Paulson and his "Wisconsin Pentecostal" solo show. Its a young man's passage story and blends music and storytelling in a heartwarming story of youthful disillusionment and experience. Paulson is a fresh talent briming who engages his audience. I look forward to seeing more of his work.
San Francisco writer and performer Lynn Ruth Miller wears her 74 years with pride and says," my life as a performer began at 71 and its getting better all the time."
Her heartwarming stories of her immigrant childhood in Toledo are captivating and touching. Filled with characters who loved each other, they combine humor, nostalgia and sweetness. Part of the delight of her performance is watching her enjoy being with her audiences.
Colorado performer Barry Smith put forth a very interesting and challenging program, The American Squatter, which is a story that is every parent's worst nightmare - an adolescent rebellion that rides along a drug trail that ends in a "squat" in London where the group lives in filth and barely knows it. Those familliar with his trip enjoyed the program; those who have not traveled this road are relieved that he survived. It is a very well-constructed piece which combines a Powerpoint album to move the story along. I was fascinated by his successful use of technology and storytelling.
Fresno performer,Tony Imperatrice combined music and storytelling to weave the story," I was a Sexually Confused Teen-ager." Tony has a wonderful voice and I enjoyed the way he used a few bars of well-chosen tunes from the times to strengthen the story and move it forward. Although he told it well, I could not fully relate to his tale of young male's macho conquests - a gender difference, I guess. But I did appreciate his willingness to make himself vulnerable for the sake of the story. I missed his show last year, "The Confessions of a Church Organist" - I am looking forward to his show next year,
Fresno performance artist, Mallory Moad, put on a fascinating show using video and personal performance to give a real time persona to a migraine headache. The interactions between Moad as the real-life heachache victim and Moad as the pre-filmed video headache persona were intriguing.
There was many more performances scheduled during the two week-ends. This barely scratches the surface. Unlike the classic storytelling festival where all focus is on storytelling - the variety of talent and performances gives the Rogue a special richness.
Could it be that I am becoming a fringe convert? Well, I do admit - - I like them.I want to see more fringe festivals - how about in Canada or the grand-daddy of them all Edinburgh, Scotland. Hmmmmmm.
One house he lived in is gone - just a parking lot. I know that feeling. My Granny's house in Charlotte is a parking lot and Nanny Diggle's house where my Dad grew up fell to make way for an ATM. But there is enough that is familiar so that he feels at home in his memories.
And we are embracing new memories.
There is a Starbucks on Olive Ave - in what was once a small shop. I love it there. It is a rally point for tattooed Harley riders wearing black leathers and studs. We sit outside at one of the small black round metal tables surrounded by these road riders and I absorb the atmosphere as I watch them. And I wonder.
What do they do in their lives when they are not outfitted in their gear. Is this who they always are?
when a balding man shaves his head and wears heavy hair on his face he has a serious macho persona.
when a slim, big-chested woman wears a tee-shirt, tight fitting washed jeans and three inch stilleto heels its hard to imagine her at work at a computer. And I wonder how does that outfit work-out on the back of a red Harley Davidson bike?
they are companionable group, smiling, talking and laughine with each other - as though they share a joke or wisdom all their own.
They make strangers who wander into their world welcome.
Sitting just out of the sun
At Starbucks on Olive Ave
Viewing the Regulars
The poet in a yellow straw panama hat
reviewed his poems in a bulging notebook
Read several out loud including
a portrait of a fish
At a small round table
a woman smoke a filtered cigarette
which she had pushed into a long black plastic holder
Would that ward off cancer?
Young people come and go
Pick up a latte and move on
only the "regulars" settle
While I sit and watch these people
Jim walks around his old neighborhood
Treading the sidewalks of his childhood
Memories holding his hands and his heart.
We left the hospital later that evening and drove to our daughter's home two hours away. Basketball season was still in full swing for them because her oldest son is playing on a winning team and they are in big-time playoffs. Very exciting. The whole community was backing the team on their latest rung on the latter. We were happy to be here and to get caught up in the excitement.
Our daughter packed sandwiches so that we could snack as we stood at the head of the line waiting for the ticket sales to open.
Families were laughing and joking as they lined up. You could feel hopeful excitement.
I fell into a conversation with a father in line behind us, "why did you come out from the East Coast?" he asked. "I am a storyteller and I am out for the Rogue Festival in Fresno." " You mean you are going to it?" " Yes. and I am performing." A bit of quiet as that tidbtbit settled. "Are you interested in storytelling?" I asked. He waited a few minutes and then, "Actually I have a desire to tell stories. I have a story in me I want to tell."
names of a few local area storytellers he could contact and suggested he attend the East Bat Storyteling Festival in the Spring. He already had a shelf of storytelling books. He is on his way. I hope he follows through. I would like to hear his 9/11 story.
When the teams ran onto the court we saw that the opposing team was made up of big, strong guys who could hit basket after basket. Our guys played hard and well. They fell behind and then rallied coming within two points but when the bell rang - we were down - and so that was it.
That's what happens in these play-offs. Before the game the team was a contender - afterwards the season was done. No more games. For the seniors -the end of their high school basketball experience. For the other team-members - such deep disappointment.
Remember how deeply these disappointments hurt when you were in high school? Ouch!
You know something - loss and disappointment hurt like that all through life.
Its that the stakes get higher.
But we did meet - an east meets west romance - and I wasa forever linked to California. And then Stanford re-entered the picture. Our daughter moved to California where she married a Stanford man - a second generation Cardinal - and they are raising possible third generation Cardinals.
But I had never been to Palo Alto - until ast night.
After my 3:45 PM story set yesterday Jim and I drove across Pacheco Pass, through Gilroy to Palo Alto and this moring we are sitting in the surgery waiting room. We came to lend moral support to Jim's brother's family while he has some serious surgery.
So after all these years we are finally seeing the workings of Stanford Hospital.
It is an impressive place. Great public facilities.
Beautiful light filled spaces with soaring ceilings and glass walls in public areas - but the most incredible surprise so far as I am concerned - terrific art along all the hallways and on the walls in public rooms. This is a wide-ranging diverse collection of museum quality art well hung and carefully placed. The colors in digital prints (from the 1980s) are surprising and beautiful.
All that window dressing is a big plus but the best is the medical care and concern for the patient and his family. They really excel at that.