Friday, August 31, 2007

Better Than Coins Falling Out of the Slot Machine

I'm on the hunt for my ancestors. I've been working at this for about eight years now, and have quite an extensive family tree completed.

But there are certain family lines that have gaping holes. They sit in the back of my mind, just like the storylines for my novels. Some of them have been waiting for all of those eight years for me to come and find them. Thank God for the internet and all of the people posting information for me to find. Thank you, thank you, all of you!

Very recently I've had success in closing gaps for several family lines and the wonder of it fills me with elation. Sometimes the reality of what I'm discovering is hard to believe, placing the events of history right at my doorstep. It's something I've been taught at school as a piece of national history, but now it's my personal history. Tragic horrors that make great scenes in movies were lived through by my ancestors, whose blood runs through my veins.

I have quite a few fictional characters who tug at my heart, whose lives are filled with anguish and who show enormous bravery during the course of the story. Now I realize my ancestors could give these characters a run for their money. Perhaps they want me to tell their tales in fictional form. I've just uncovered a goldmine of stories that could keep me busy for the rest of my life!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 21 - Thirteen Favorite Cookies

I've been missing Ontario lately, which made me think of the Empire cookies I used to love when I was there. They seemed to only be available in the summer, and they weren't easy to find. The first time I tried them was on a trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Such a delectable discovery. For today's Thursday Thirteen, here are some of my favorite cookies.

1 - Empire Cookies The best thing about them is the tart raspberry filling contrasting with the sweet icing.

2 - Cowboy Cookies My old boyfriend's mom used to load these up with chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, raisins, chopped walnuts and coconut. Mmm! President's Choice in Canada has an All-in-One cookie that comes fairly close.

3 - Hermit Cookies I buy the Superstore Bakery hermit cookies a lot. Yummy! The spicy/raisin combo is the draw with hermit cookies.

4 - Traditional Scottish Shortbread Cookies For some reason I always prefer shortbread when it's in petticoats instead of the thicker fingers. But I'll never say no to shortbread, no matter what shape it is.

5 - No-Bake Coconut Macaroons
In junior high we made these in Home Ec class, and I was instantly smitten. Chocolate and coconut are two things I just can't resist.

6 - Christmas Sugar Cookies My mom has always made sugar cookies at Christmas, and when we were kids she turned decorating them into a party. She used to make tons so that whoever came to the party could take home their icing masterpieces. We still try to do our Cookie Decorating Party if we can.

7 - Jam-Filled Cookies My best friend's mom used to make these. I always thought they were terribly exotic!

8 - Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies When it comes to chocolate chip, I want the chunkiest chocolate that a cookie can stand.

9 - Belgian Cookies in Tins I love to collect tins, especially antique ones, so I have a weakness for the European butter cookies that come in tins. Especially the ones dipped in chocolate.

10 - Gingersnaps

When money was extreeemly tight one Christmas while I was at film school, I stayed up late on Dec. 23rd baking gingersnaps and peanut butter cookies for my husband and my sister so I'd have something to put in their stockings.

11 - Peanut Butter Cookies Gram used to bake these a lot when my husband and I lived upstairs at her place in Yarmouth. She was still in her 80's and baked and cooked all day while I was at work at A Buck or Two. I never said no to the peanut butter cookies!

12 - Oatmeal Raisin Cookies I love oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, as well. Even plain old oatmeal cookies will do in a pinch. I love the chewiness of oatmeal cookies.

13 - Peek Freans Fruit Cremes

Often with potato chips or peanuts, eating one leads to another and then another. Peek Frean Fruit Cremes are that way for me. If I eat one, I eat half a bag!

Ok, now I'm hungry for cookies...

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - 15

Monday, August 27, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 16 - Celestial DNA

Celestial DNA

The world we inhabit
Hides its numbers
In the leaves

While buried in the sinews
Swirling within blood cells
The rhythm of the firmament
The curling of the tides
Tell the tale

The Young Ladies of Avignon
Standing in their
Crystal congress
Know their geometric afternoon

Amoeba glide
Snowflakes drift
Pollen ride the breeze

A mother feels the flutter
Child turning in the womb
The sweep of the grandiose constellations
In the frightening maw of time

God's fingerprints
And ours

Copyright 1994 Julia Smith

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Mystery of the Compulsive Liar

I've been the curious observer for some months now of a woman who is a compulsive liar. I'm absolutely certain she knows I've got her number as far as the lying is concerned. Yet like all compulsive liars, she appears to be incapable of preventing more fiction from tumbling through her lips.

Today she was at it again. And she really tried hard to make it convincing. She enlisted the aid of someone she normally doesn't have to deal with too much on a daily basis. That really piqued my interest. New blood, thought the liar. Desperation, thought the people who are used to her.

I decided to share a few nuggets of wisdom about the art of lying:

"A pathological liar is usually defined as someone who lies incessantly to get their way and does so with little concern for others. Pathological lying is often viewed as a coping mechanism developed in early childhood and it is often associated with some other type of mental health disorder.

A compulsive liar is defined as someone who lies out of habit. Lying is their normal and reflexive way of responding to questions. Compulsive liars bend the truth about everything, large and small. For a compulsive liar, telling the truth is very awkward and uncomfortable while lying feels right. Compulsive lying is usually thought to develop in early childhood, due to being placed in an environment where lying was necessary." - The Truth About Deception

The roots of lying often begin in an alcoholic household. Adult Children of Alcoholics "lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth. Lying is basic to the family system affected by alcohol. It masquerades in part as an overt denial of unpleasant realities, cover-ups, broken promises and inconsistencies. Lying as the norm in your house became part of what you knew and what could be useful to you. At times, it made life much more comfortable. If you lied about getting your work done, you could get away with being lazy for a while. It seemed to make life simpler for everybody." - Adult Child Characteristics

"The name of the game is denial. The 'elephant in the living room' syndrome is the perceptual lynchpin of all children of alcoholics. Mom calls the office to say that Dad is seriously ill; meanwhile, he’s just hungover. Excuses were given to friends, teachers, children, and anyone else involved in the family’s life as to why something could or could not happen, why they could or could not go somewhere, or why they had black eyes or broken ribs or were in the hospital and at some point, the child begins to believe it.

He learns he can avert unpleasantness, deny painful realities, and generally make life easier if he lies. He learns that the broken promises are really just lies, that the excuses are really just lies, that his happy family life is no more than a myth, and that there are some real benefits to be derived from lying. It is easier to lie and avoid the embarrassment of taking your friends home to a drunken father on the living room floor. He learns to lie to meet his needs." - This is a War-ADDICTION

"There has been recent data from a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The team from the University of Southern California studied 49 people and found those known to be pathological liars had up to 26% more white matter than others with antisocial personality disorder who were not liars and healthy volunteers. In general, white matter transmits information and grey matter processes it. Having more white matter in the prefrontal cortex may aid lying." - Richard Petty MD

"The Top 10 Compulsive Behaviour Symptoms

The following ten behaviors are probably the most common of what could be categorized with "Obsessive-Compulsive" disorders.

1 - 'Checking' behaviors
2 - Needing to buy something each time you go shopping
3 - Gambling for recreation, but continually losing and going into debt
4 - Susbstance abuse/addiction
5 - All work and no play
6 - Compulsive relationship behavior/ you 'must' be with another person/ stalking
7 - Compulsive lying
8 - Compulsive eating
9 - Sexual compulsions
10 - Compulsive exercising"
- Coachville

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 20 - 13 Personal Tributes to Canadian Opera Company Maestro Richard Bradshaw

Photo by Michael Cooper

1 - "One of my favorite memories of Richard is him conducting Cosi Fan Tutti at the Elgin. I crept up close to him to shoot at a specific angle and during the show as he is conducting he turned to me, still conducting, and he said 'Oh hello Michael. How are you this evening?' I laughed so hard I completely missed the shot!" - photographer Michael Cooper on Facebook's RIP Richard Bradshaw Group

2 - "Canadian soprano Measha Brueggergosman recalled being 'terrified' the first time she worked with Bradshaw, since it was her first time to sing French opera. 'He was absolutely brilliant at putting me at ease and making me feel like I was capable and strong,' she said." - Edmonton Sun

3 - Tenor Richard Margison, who not only worked under Bradshaw's baton at the COC, but made several recordings with COC singers, remembered Bradshaw as 'bigger than life, a real bon vivant ready for a little downtime party time. He was always easy to talk to, even though at times you sensed he was distracted with the thousand other things his duties required of him.' " - Charles Enman, The Ottawa Citizen

4 - Marie Berard, concert master at the COC, said Bradshaw was "the heart and soul" of the company. "He showed us every day about integrity. It's so rare to have someone in a position of power who has that, and he showed it to us on a daily basis. That's a huge legacy." - Edmonton Sun

5 - David Visentin, associate dean of the Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music where Bradshaw mentored students, called him an 'immense personality. He revitalized opera through all the cutting-edge productions he did with directors like Atom Egoyan and Robert Lepage.' - CanadaEast Online

6 - Tenor Michael Schade recalls that 'Richard thought of Toronto as a great centre of culture, not a little city north of New York and too far away from London's Covent Garden or the Vienna State Opera. The COC really was his main ride, the apple of his eye. He had more feeling for Canada than many native-born Canadians and was a proud ambassador of his adopted land, a true patriarch of our arts community.' - Charles Enman, The Ottawa Citizen

7 - "It reminds me of a conversation I once had with Andrew Chase (chef, restaurateur, composer and now food writer) who was also a big fan of Bradshaw and the amazing achievements of the COC under his aegis. Chase recalls having dinner at Biff’s after the opera and Bradshaw walked in to join a group at another table. 'In New York or London or any major city,' pointed out Chase, 'people would have stood and applauded their city’s great maestro. In Toronto, no one even glanced up. It made me so angry!' " - James Chatto, Toronto Life

8 - "The Four Seasons Centre was Richard's dream and he managed to do it against all the odds. I was with him through some black times, but he was always incurably optimistic." - Kevin Garland, executive director, National Ballet of Canada and formerly of Canadian Opera House Corp.

Photo by Michael Cooper

" 'I had moments of great anxiety,' Mr. Bradshaw told the Globe and Mail in late 2006 about the challenges he faced building the new opera house. 'I'd wake up in the night with a certain terror. But I don't think I ever believed it wasn't going to happen. I don't think I ever absolutely despaired because I don't think the most important thing in life to me is the opera house. The most important thing in my professional life is whatever the company is doing. That's where I'm lucky to be a conductor.' " - Sandra Martin, The Globe and Mail

9 - "Bradshaw was never happier than when he was talking about his family, his wife Diana and their two children, Jenny and James. Their pictures surrounded him in his Front Street office, and mere mention of their names softened his features with pride and love. Clearly, he dreamed of them -- and for them as well. And he made it all seem so very easy, whether it was making music or transforming dreams into reality, or simply being the proud father and husband." - John Coulbourn, The Toronto Sun

10 - "All this past year, the company's first season in the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Bradshaw's entry into the pit on performance nights became a ritual moment for the audience, which never failed to give him a long, loud ovation. I'm sure that as someone who knew the ups and downs of a life in the theatre, he was both flattered and amused to be cheered before a single note had been played." - Robert Everett-Green, The Globe and Mail

11 - "In 1998, as a seventeen-year old student at St. Michael’s Choir school, I arranged for an audition with the Maestro. After hearing me, in the way only he could, he asked me, 'What do you want from us?' So began my relationship or tutelage, with Richard and the Canadian Opera Company. No matter how raw a talent he discovered, he would give that person a chance, and in many cases, several chances. Nine years after I first met Richard, I have completed more than eighteen productions and close to one hundred performances with him.

My father passed away less than a year ago. On that occasion, Richard wrote these words to me, 'Now, you must fulfill all he knew to be possible for you and which you are already achieving so wonderfully.' Today, for the first time, I experienced indescribable emotions - the feeling of being in a void, unconscionable, inept - and lost. We must remember that the COC's father has left us a wonderful home. We must continue to innovate, revolutionize and inspire. 'Now, we must fulfill all he knew to be possible for us and which we are already achieving so wonderfully.' " - Robert Pomakov, bass, Canadian Opera Company

12 - "The Governor General of Canada, Michaelle Jean, recalled Bradshaw telling her at Opera Under The Stars in Ottawa on May 29 that he dreamed of bringing some of the company's productions to several Canadian cities. 'His enthusiasm was contagious,' said Jean.'He ardently promoted opera with boldness, his innovative spirit, and the high standard of his productions.' Bradshaw received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award in 2006. - Reuters article

13 - Carrol Anne Curry, the managing director of Dean Artists Management of Toronto, had several on-air conversations with Bradshaw for CBC Radio's Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. 'Richard came like a comet,' she said. 'He came, he flared, and he left a huge trail.' In conversation, she found him 'brilliantly articulate, scholarly, charming -- you really can't avoid saying charismatic. He attracted people, which was part of how he managed to build an opera house that two or three generations of performing artists had been waiting for.' She said Bradshaw, through the broadcast of last fall's Ring Cycle, had uniquely managed to become a personality of national reach. 'That production was broadcast from sea to sea to sea, and the whole country participated in that huge event in the company's life. (Julia's note: I was one of those Canadians gratefully glued to the live on-air broadcasts of all four productions of Der Ring des Nibelungen) 'For the first time since the touring days of the COC, the company truly lived up to its name, was really the Canadian Opera Company." - Charles Enman, The Ottawa Citizen

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - 14

Photo by Michael Cooper

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Thoughtful Blogger Award

This past Friday, not only was it the last day of the work week, but both Christine and Amy tapped me for the

Thank you so much! I feel very honored, especially receiving it from both of you. Here's a wonderful reason Christine is so thoughtful:

A Tour of Comic Con For People Who Are Too Far Away To Go Themselves

And here's a wonderful reason Amy is so thoughtful:

A Tour of Eldon House For People Who Are Too Far Away To Go Themselves

There are a host of bloggers to whom I would gladly offer a right-back-at-ya second Thoughtful Blogger Award (two examples - Christine and Amy!) But I shall endeavor to spread the joy even farther into Blogdom with these newest Thoughtful Blogger Award recipients:

Sparky Duck at Philly Transplant

It's very thoughtful of Sparky Duck to have taken readers on a state-by-state tour of the US through showcasing beauties who hail from each of the 50. Here's a taste:

50 Hotties 50 States Michigan As a former resident of Michigan I simply had to chose my old state!

Jessica the Rock Chick at Life is RANTastic! Technically she received this already on Aug. 6th, but I think that gives me the room required to send it her way again.

Check out her Blogathon 2007 for VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

Dewey at the hidden side of a leaf

She partakes in several reading challenges and shares her thoughts and opinions on all things bookish. Check out this comprehensive look at Maximum Ride: Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports by James Patterson.

Bridget at "...And Miles To Go Before We Sleep..." She's also received the award before but who can argue with quality?

Not only does she post wonderful pieces like this about Amish teens, but she routinely offers up recipes like this Hong Kong Fried Rice Cakes recipe.

Sandee at Comedy Plus

As her blog title suggests, Sandee offers up a lighthearted look at the world. Scroll down once you get to her blog for 'Hilary Goes To Montana'. She has an unending supply of hilarity and every serving satisfies.

Thank you again, Christine and Amy!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Poetry Train Monday - 15 - McGregor Bay

When I first moved to Toronto in the late 80's, I spent the first few years as a live-in nanny for a family with whom I had an outrageous amount of fun. If you can believe how great this was, each summer they went up to the Georgian Bay area north of Toronto to spend a week at their family cottage. And they brought me with them! And paid me my week's salary to basically be on vacation with them.

Sure, technically I was there to still keep an eye on the little girl, but in reality her mom was on duty and I think she just wanted me to have an opportunity to have some fun with them. Which I did!

Here is the poem that resulted from the first visit:

McGregor Bay

The envelope is opened
And the breeze chilled with rain
Opens on my skin as I
Separate the double prints

Slimed sunscreen and Muskol
Returns to my skin
Remembering becomes
The rustle of the pines
The hollow thunk of deck shoe on root

The hanging schools of rock bass
Under the shadow of the boat
Sharing the lake
I emerged from

The pictures time tunnel me
B-52 bomber drone of deerflies
Interrupt the pleasant giggling
Of blueberries hidden
In the springy shrubs
As they give themselves away
To be cradled in my hand like jewels

Smoke erupting skyward
Wine poured on skewered grill
Lake swallowing CD strains
And after the baby's safely asleep
To think we piled around that tiny screen
When we could have
Sacrificed some blood
For a look at the star show
Playing this location only

Copyright 1987 Julia Smith

Photos of McGregor Bay by Liz and Andy Betterton

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Did You Ever Hear the One About...

Because I've been thinking about the late conductor of the Canadian Opera Company all day, I decided some high brow humor was in order. Richard Bradshaw was such an ebullient man, I'm sure he must have told a few of these himself over the years.

What's the difference between a soprano and a terrorist?

You can negotiate with a terrorist.

Ten tenors and a baritone were clinging precariously to a wildly swinging rope suspended from a crumbling outcropping on Mount Everest. Grasping the rope as tightly as they could, as a group they realized they couldn't all hold on much longer; they decided that one of the party would have to let go. If that didn't happen, the rope would break under their combined weight, and they would all perish. For an agonizing few moments no-one volunteered. Finally the baritone gave a truly touching speech saying he would sacrifice himself to save the lives of the others. The tenors were so moved, they all applauded...

- LeAnna White,

Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of bleeding, he sings.

Fred and George, two bass players, get a night off and decide to go hear another orchestra play Beethoven's 9th Symphony. Unfortunately, the bass section of that orchestra has been out partying, and they are very drunk. In the 1st movement, one of them falls over in an alcoholic stupor. In the 2nd movement, one passes out, and in the 3rd movement, another bites the dust. At then beginning of the last movement, just before the famous bass recitative, Fred has had enough and says: "This is ridiculous, I'm going home!" . . . and George says, "Are you kidding? We can't leave now! It's the last of the 9th, the basses are loaded and there are three men down!"

This guy says to his wife, "Oh, baby. I can play you just like a violin."

His wife says, "But I'd rather have you play me like a harmonica."

From a Glossary of Musical Terms:

METRONOME: A dwarf who lives in the city

A Musician's Guide To Keeping Conductors in Line

1. Never be satisfied with the tuning note.
2. Look the other way just before cues.
3. Never have the proper mute, a spare set of strings, or extra reeds.
4. Pluck the strings as if you are checking tuning at every opportunity, especially when the conductor is giving instructions.
5. Percussionists have a wide variety of dropable items, but cymbals are unquestionably the best because they roll around for several seconds.
6. Loudly blow water from the keys during pauses (Horn, oboe and clarinet players are trained to do this from birth).
7. When rehearsing a difficult passage, screw up your face and shake your head indicating that you'll never be able to play it. Don't say anything: make him wonder.
8. If your articulation differs from that of others playing the same phrase, stick to your guns. Do not ask the conductor which is correct until backstage just before the concert.
9. Find an excuse to leave rehearsal about 15 minutes early so that others will become restless and start to pack up and fidget.
10. During applause, smile weakly or show no expression at all. Better yet, nonchalantly put away your instrument.

- Donn Laurence Mills

Maestro (to Horns): "Give us the F in tune!"

Violist (to Maestro): "Please can we have the Effing tune too?"

From an Edmonton Centre newsletter, program notes from a piano recital:

Tonight's page turner, Ruth Spelke, studied under Ivan Schmertnick at the Boris Nitsky School of Page Turning in Philadelphia. She has been turning pages here and abroad for many years for some of the world's leading pianists.

In 1988, Ms. Spelke won the Wilson Page Turning Scholarship, which sent her to Israel to study page turning from left to right. She is winner of the 1984 Rimsky Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee Prestissimo Medal, having turned 47 pages in an unprecedented 32 seconds. She was also a 1983 silver medalist at the Klutz Musical Page Pickup Competition: contestants retrieve and rearrange a musical score dropped from a Yamaha. Ms. Spelke excelled in "grace, swiftness, and especially poise."

For techniques, Ms. Spelke performs both the finger-licking and the bent-page corner methods. She works from a standard left bench position, and is the originator of the dipped-elbow page snatch, a style used to avoid obscuring the pianist's view of the music. She is page turner in residence in Fairfield Iowa, where she occupies the coveted Alfred Hitchcock Chair at the Fairfield Page Turning Institute.

How many conductors does it take to change a light bulb?

One, but, then again, who's really watching?

What is "perfect pitch?"

When you lob a clarinet into a toilet without hitting the rim.

Two musicians are walking down the street, and one says to the other, "Who was that piccolo I saw you with last night?"

The other replies, "That was no piccolo, that was my fife."

Never look at the trombones; it only encourages them.

- Richard Strauss

And what humorous look at opera would be complete without a link to What's Opera Doc? ?

Or The Rabbit of Seville ?


Friday, August 17, 2007

Richard Bradshaw 1944 - 2007

"I never allowed myself to disbelieve," Richard Bradshaw remarked on the eve of the opening of the Opera House in Toronto last September.

He called his relentless ambition to move the Canadian Opera Company out of its prior home venue at the Hummingbird Centre to its proper home in the new Four Seasons Centre his 'Thirty Years' War'. Colleagues and friends describe him as 'a genuine titan, 'fiercely proud', 'tenacious and passionate'. Elaine Calder, President of the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon describes Bradshaw as 'avid for life. He was funny. He was hugely intelligent. He was interested in a range of things beyond music.'

As an usher at the former O'Keefe Centre, now the Hummingbird Centre in Toronto for eight years, I was privileged to work with Mr. Bradshaw whenever the Canadian Opera Company performed at our theatre. Opera performers, management and patrons lived up to their diva status on many and numerous occasions. But the conductor/artistic director never displayed any of that sort of behaviour. Not even to Front of House staff like myself, who was obliged to ask him to show his pass over and over again.

He often stopped to chat with me, and was the epitome of erudite urbanity. He always, always had a twinkle in his eye, regardless of what financial and artistic burdens he carried on his shoulders. He dressed in hip, casual style that never reflected his age, since he plunged forward into life with the gusto of the truly young-at-heart.

"Most companies rely on a regular diet of popular operas to bring in the crowds," writes John Terauds for the Toronto Star. "But Bradshaw was convinced that, if they were presented well and performed convincingly, a general audience would come to appreciate even the most challenging works in the repertoire.

Even that bold undertaking proved true.

A couple of years before he was officially named the company's artistic director, Bradshaw conducted while Robert Lepage directed a 20th-century double bill of Bela Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle and Arnold Schoenberg's Erwartung in 1993. Torontonians loved it, as did audiences in New York, Australia and Scotland, where the touring COC won the Edinburgh Festival's top prize."

I worked those shows during this production, and it had a huge effect on me as far as understanding the role of design in a production, how it serves the story/performance.

"Bradshaw was hailed for both his accomplishment in bringing Wagner's Ring Cycle to the stage and his conducting.

'I've never heard such a range of hues and intensities from this orchestra, or a more deeply grounded bass. The famous 163-bar opening elaboration on an E-flat major chord felt like the tuning of the building itself,' Globe and Mail critic Robert Everett-Green wrote." - Arts

"He always treated me with tremendous, wonderful kindness and respect," says Canadian Baritone John Fanning.

This piece was published in the Globe and Mail Thursday, December 28, 2006:

"June 16, 2006. Baton in hand, Richard Bradshaw stands on the podium. Before him sit the 70-odd members of the Canadian Opera Company orchestra, playing the death scene from Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. Behind him, in the auditorium, an invited audience of COC friends and patrons come to celebrate an evening many thought would never arrive: the imminent opening of Toronto's $181-million Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.

For Mr. Bradshaw, the COC's general director, this is the consummate moment. Rendered all the more meaningful by the power of the music, it's the culmination of an impossible decade. Of lobbying, schmoozing, fundraising, pleading, cajoling, squeezing, begging and, yes, praying -- what Mr. Bradshaw has famously referred to as the Thirty Years War.

When the piece concludes, he rushes off stage, overcome, brushing past well-wishers, tears welling in his eyes.

That was a pretty amazing experience," he says now. "You really had to hold on."

But one must be careful of such emotional surrenders, he adds. Armed with an amusing quip or anecdote for every occasion, Mr. Bradshaw remembers what the British director John Dexter once said: "If you weep, they won't." They, as in the audience.

No worries on that score. Far from weeping, it's been a ringing chorus of bravo, bravissimo, maestro." - Michael Posner

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Thursday Thirteen - 19 - 13 Things About My 25th High School Reunion

This past Saturday, my husband Brad bravely accompanied me to my 25th high school reunion. Here are 13 things about the reunion and my high school days, all mishmashed together in true reunion fashion.

1 - I'm the sort of person who enjoys celebrating milestones. Rather than be horrified that I'm 42 and where did all the time go, I'm so thankful that I'm here to celebrate this reunion. We had a memorium to 3 alumni who are no longer with us, so I'm very grateful to be alive and kicking.

2 - Here's Brad sitting down to dinner after some meet-and-greet chatting with people I hadn't seen in decades. I thought everyone looked pretty good! A couple of the hottie guys were still hot if not hotter. Some of the ho-hum guys had morphed into hotties while I wasn't looking. And most of the women looked amazing. It's hard to be objective about yourself, but I feel I'm in the fine wine category - getting better with age.

3 - Brad and I sat at a table by ourselves when dinner started, and I said, "Let's just sit here and see who joins us." Within a few moments, friends from my crowd descended on us with hugs and filled our table like a magic wish. It couldn't have turned out more perfectly.

4 - Next to Brad was ( I believe) Wayne Pace, someone I went through school with but never really knew very well. But next to Wayne was Pat Savage, brother of my Very First Boyfriend.

He has quite a resemblance to Philip (He Who Gave Me My First Kiss), don't you think?
That's Philip there in the little photo below.

A recent one - he's now an assistant professor of Communication Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. This comes after working for over a decade at CBC Radio in Ottawa and then Toronto.

Brother Pat hasn't done so badly for himself, I must say - he's now the vice-principal at Dartmouth High School (our old rival school.)

5 - I really enjoyed talking with Pat. He pulled up a chair, sat next to me once dinner was over, and said, "So. The next afternoon," he said, meaning after our graduation, "what did you do?" He wanted it all! The whole story. I've stayed in contact with Philip over the years, but it was nice to spend time with Pat, who sat behind me in grade 12 Canadian Literature class.

6 - Moving along the table, there was a lovely couple, Amer Ahmad and his wife, who ended up being charming dinner companions though I never really knew Amer when we were in school together.

Jazz East

But next to Amer sat Chris Elson, here on the left, current professor at Kings University and active member of Jazz East, an organization that promotes and facilitates jazz performance in Nova Scotia, including the Atlantic Jazz Festival. Chris was a good friend and frequent bandmate of my second boyfriend, Pat Kilbride. Neither boyfriend was in my year. First boyfriend Philip was a year ahead of me, while Patrick was a year behind me. Both of them are very positive influences in my emotional development, so having two people so closely connected to them sitting at our table gave the evening a very full-circle feeling for me.

Here are a few recent pictures of my second boyfriend, bassist Pat Kilbride. In the first picture, from the Toronto production of "The Lord of the Rings" orchestra, left to right: Nick Coulter, David Quackenbush, Pat Kilbride, Levon Ichkhanian

At the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto, Sasha Luminsky on accordian and the String Quartet left to right: Bogdan Djukic, Jonathan Craig, Pat Kilbride, Wendy Solomon

7 - And here's the man who finally, truly won my heart - Brad Smith. Had to move to Toronto to find my true love, but I enjoyed the journey.

Brad was attending The New School of Drama in Toronto when we met. We both worked as ushers at the Runnymede Theatre (Famous Players cinema) at the time. He went on to appear in most of my student films when I went to Ryerson.

8 - Here's a man who takes 25th reunions very seriously. He flew in from Australia to attend this!

John was in choir with me, and that meant we performed together in several musicals. For some reason I always played the comedy relief roles opposite John. In "Oklahoma!" he was Will to my Ado Annie. And because John is a natural improv virtuoso, that's exactly what he did once we stepped onstage. Was I thrilled? I kept threatening him, wanting desperately for John to stick to the script, but it never happened. Only the onstage magic. Somehow I held on for the rollercoaster ride.

"Actor, Writer Director and Theatresports legend, John has featured in such comedy combos as "The Bouncing Sheep" and as the mad evangelist Billy in "God's Cowboys". He has made films and starred in the long-running Theatresports spin-off "Improzac". He's currently playing The Rookie in "Cops on Heat", fresh from the Melbourne Comedy Festival." Celebrity Theatresports Challenge

9 - Next to Chris is Sean Day, who was the longtime boyfriend of one of my choir friends, Dawn Dort. That meant he attended all the choir parties and we had many spirited times together. Dawn and I stay in regular contact, going away on Girls' Nights when she comes home from Seattle, along with Shelley, who also lives here in Halifax, and Maureen, when she's home from British Columbia. Sean himself stays in contact with Dawn, and stood up for John Knowles when he got married in Australia.

Sean now works as the town planner for Antigonish, NS, a beautiful university town halfway between Halifax and Cape Breton.

10 - This is a photo from high school days of the art teacher/play director, the infamous Sheila MacLean. A hearty Yorkshire lass transplanted across the sea to Nova Scotia, Mrs. MacLean had a personality that projected easily to the back row. She had a wickedly sharp temper that kept all her student actors quaking in their boots. I used to do a perfect impression of her: "LOOK, you TURKEYS!"

Photo by Rhonda Burke

"Funny, every time I think of PA Drama, the phrase, "STOP BEING SUCH BLOODY TWITS", pops into my head. It haunts me." - Peter Yorston, Prince Andrew High School Drama Geek

11 - The reunion was split into three events. The night before the dinner, there was an informal gathering at the Celtic Corners pub which I didn't go to, having been socked with the same migraine I'm still fighting off 7 days later. I wanted to be certain I was at the main event at Brightwood Golf Club. But I soon found out that the pub night was probably the best fun anyone had had in a long while. Musical alumni, including John Knowles and Chris Elson formed an impromptu jam session and played the night away.

12 - The following day was family day out at Rainbow Haven beach. My best friend Connie and I drove out and spent awhile walking up and down a very crowded beach. No one had erected a sign or flag or anything indicating a reunion group. So we sat on our towel, had a great afternoon enjoying the sunshine and fresh sea air, and headed back not having bumped into a single Prince Andrew alumni. Ah well. C'est la vie!

13 - I really enjoyed my 25th reunion. The only thing that would have made it any better would have been if more people had been able to come. But like most east coast migrators (due to limited economic opportunities out here) a lot of our class of 1982 has flown far and wide to seek their fortunes. For 13 years, I was one of them, having the time of my life in Toronto. But I felt so glad to be back in town for this reunion. I would have hated to miss it.