All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players… One man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages. At first the infant, mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.  And then the whining school-boy… the lover,  sighing… a soldier, full of strange oaths… the justice, in fair round belly… The sixth age shifts into… the pantaloon, with spectacles on nose and pouch on side… Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history, is second childishness and mere oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”  — Shakespeare

 

Welcome

Although I’m calling this website “a personal memoir in flux,” it is also my hope that the various sections will be of interest to people, whether they know me or not. “Out on a Lim” shares short observations on day-to-day life. “Limerances” chronicles longer remembrances of things past. “Limoscenes” presents descriptions of the plays I’ve written to date, with production photos. “Images in Limbo” shows pictures of the aging process, of me with family and friends. “Limpets” are the non-human dogs in my life, and “Limitations” are tributes to people who are no longer with us. So here I am, past imperfect, present progressive, future tense. Let me know what you think. — Paul

 


 

  • 5 January 2016: Checks and Balances

    January 5, 2016, by

    Every year, on my birthday, Grant Goodman, who was an early riser, would call me at 6 in the morning and sing “Happy Birthday” most endearingly because it was also mostly off-key.  Later in the day, we would get together for a special celebratory lunch or dinner, just the two of us, after which he would give me my present.  Every year, on my birthday, he would hand me a cute card containing the usual birthday greetings, plus a check the amount of which would correspond with the number of years I’ve lived, starting with $25 in 1969.  This went on without much surprise, year after year

    And so, on 5 January 2014, when he handed me the usual card with, presumably, a check for $70, I put the card aside, because that year I decided we would not eat out, that I would cook some of my favorite dishes from the Philippines, which required my full attention in the kitchen.  That night, after dinner, after Grant had long departed and all the dishes had been washed, I sat down for one last glass of wine and opened his card.  I took no notice of the check until I started to put it away, when I saw that he had written it, not for $70, but for $2,565.  There must be some mistake, I thought, so I called him even though it was past his bedtime.

    He was still awake.  He had been waiting for my call.  “No mistake,” he laughed boisterously.  “That check should take care of all your birthdays until you turn 100.”

    I turned 72 today, my second birthday without Grant because he died in April of 2014, six months shy of his own 90th birthday.  When my first dog (Imelda) died at 10 1/2 years old, and my second dog (MyKee) at 14 1/2 years old, it was only because Dr. Tom Liebl at Clinton Parkway Animal Hospital said “the quality of life has degenerated” and “it’s time.”  Did Grant subconsciously know he would not live to celebrate another birthday with me?  Did he suspect his time was up?

    I don’t know that I want to live to 100, especially if my health should start to deteriorate and I’m no longer enjoying myself.  My only regret is, if my third dog (KeeWee) should outlive me.  But I’ve already made provisions for her in my will.  Checks and balances, that’s what keeps me going, for now.  I hope I too will know when “it’s time.”

     

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  • 3 January 2016: Landscapes or Mindscapes?

    January 3, 2016, by

    I subscribe to the print edition of the Sunday New York Times, and it’s something I look forward to like nothing else all week because it affords many hours of informative and absorbing reading that I almost never get from the local paper.

    The Sunday edition always comes bundled in two sections.  I read all the news first, saving the opinion pages for last, before taking a break.  Then comes the “Arts & Leisure” section, the highlight of the week.  It makes sense that “Travel” would be included here, but I’ve always wondered why “Book Review” is tucked in with “Travel,” as though it’s part of “Travel.”

    And today I understood why.  The two are bound together because “Travel” allows us the possibility of escape from wherever we are, whether by air, sea, rail, automobile or even on foot; and “Book Review” offers journeys to even more places, wherever the mind can take us.

    Landscapes or Mindscapes?  Take your pick.

     

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  • If I Had a Gun…

    January 1, 2016, by

    For 24 years, the whole time I was in the Philippines prior to leaving for the United States, I knew that my father owned a gun.  I can’t tell you what kind it is, or what it looks like, because I never actually saw it.  I only heard it. Because, every New Year’s Eve, my father would take out his gun from wherever it was hidden and, at the stroke of midnight, he would slip out into the backyard and fire celebratory shots into the night sky, the noise competing with all the exploding firecrackers in our Manila neighborhood.

    My father died in early December of 1969, a year after I left for America.  I don’t know what happened to his gun, but some years later I heard from my siblings that, late one night, when my mother heard someone walking stealthily on the roof of our old house in Sta. Mesa, she apparently found my father’s gun and did what he did, slipping out into the backyard and firing warning shots into the night sky, frightening not just whomever was up there on the roof, but also all future intruders.  Those gunshots were to let everyone in the neighborhood know that my mother had a gun in the house, and that she was not afraid to use it.

    I am truly conflicted about this story about my gun-toting parents, because I’ve always been afraid of guns.  I’ve never had one, and I don’t ever intend to acquire one, the NRA and the second amendment be damned.  But, that said, if I actually had a gun, I think I might have put it to good use in some of the following situations:

    On the highway, whenever someone passes me on the right, or when someone cuts into my lane without signaling.

    In grocery stores, whenever anyone with tons of groceries decides to use the checkout line marked “For 14 items or less.”

    On airplanes, whenever there are mothers who do nothing to stifle the penetrating screams of their crying infants.

    In restaurants, whenever the avaricious owner fails to honor my reservation for a semi-private room, then sends me a long non-apology via voice-mail explaining why my party of nine was bypassed for a party of twenty because “twenty is more than nine.”

    In posh hotels, whenever affluent one-percenters give me the finger because I’m wearing my Bernie Sanders t-shirt.

    At home, while watching the news on television, and it’s (almost always) about Benghazi or Hillary’s e-mails or, worse, the latest pearls of wisdom from Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, ad nauseam.

    In the classroom, whenever an overly enthusiastic student will not shut up and give those who are more timid a chance to speak. When I started to feel this way, about five years ago, I decided it was time to retire.

    I may be a son of a gun, but thank God I don’t have a gun.  Now, if I had a hammer, guess what I would do with it?

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  • 31 December 2015: Asian Restaurants in Lawrence

    December 31, 2015, by

    Perhaps because I’m Chinese, I’m single, I eat out a lot and I also entertain a great deal, friends always ask me what’s my favorite Asian restaurant in Lawrence.  My answer, usually, is that I go to all of them because they all have dishes on their “special Chinese menu” that I like.  But if I have to rate them according to which ones I go to more frequently than others, then it’s true that I do have my favorites.

    On top of the list would be Oriental Bistro & Grill on 23rd Street—it offers the widest variety of Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Korean dishes, and I’ve never had a bad meal there.  Next would be Jade Garden on Kasold Drive—the place draws a lot of Asian students, and that’s always a good sign.  After that, it’s a toss up between Encore, Yokohama and Zen Zero, all in downtown Lawrence.  As for Chinese buffets, hands down it’s King Buffet on 23rd Street—besides the usual items you find at all Chinese buffets, King Buffet also regularly features roast duck, eggplant in garlic sauce, stewed tofu, etc.  Other Chinese buffets in Lawrence mostly try to outdo each other as to how many ways they can cook and disguise chicken.

    The service at all the establishments I’ve named above is fast, friendly, courteous.

    This, in contrast to an experience which I had recently, on Christmas Day, at a popular local Chinese restaurant which I will not name.  I had a 6:30 PM reservation there, in its semi-private room, for a special pre-ordered dinner for nine people.  When I arrived at 6 PM to make sure everything was okay, I discovered that the semi-private room was filled to overflowing with other people.  The owner told me that my group had been moved to a corner in the back part of the restaurant, where we were subsequently squeezed in like sardines, with tables of uneven height joined together, making the table-top cooking somewhat precarious and dangerous.  On top of all this, the appetizers arrived late, and the specialty dinner which I had pre-ordered was missing several items we had agreed on.

    The next day, because it was obvious that I was not happy about how my party had been treated, the owner left a long voice mail on my phone, part of which said, “I’m sorry I did not give you the room we had agreed upon.  Another group came in with 20 people and I had to give them that room.  You are an intelligent person.  You only had nine people.  Twenty people is more than nine people.”  What I find shocking is that I had been a loyal customer at this particular restaurant for over 30 years, that I had habitually given large parties there, not just on birthdays and holidays, but also cast parties for many of our theatrical productions.

    Sadly, all good things must come to an end.  2016 is the upcoming Chinese Year of the Monkey.  I hope that 2016 continues to bring this particular restaurant more “monkey business” than it can handle.  Meanwhile, there is no shortage of other better Asian restaurants in Lawrence to tempt us with their better food and better service.

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  • Steve Harvey’s Epistle to the Philippians

    December 22, 2015, by

    Never mind that host Steve Harvey mistakenly referred to people from the Philippines as Philippians.  The recent brouhaha over the crowning of the wrong Miss Universe is a good time to reflect on other memorable beauty pageants for Filipinos.  Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is not the first Miss Philippines to go on and win the coveted Miss Universe title.  She is, in fact, the third, the other two being Gloria Diaz (1969) and Margarita Moran (1973).

    While we’re at it, there’s an equally impressive line-up of winning misses from the Philippines who have also been crowned at other beauty pageants.  To date, we’ve had one Miss World (Megan Young in 2013); and no less than five Miss Internationals (Gemma Cruz in 1974, Aurora Pijuan in 1970, Mimilanie Marquez in 1979, Precious Lara Quigaman in 2005, Bea Rose Santiago in 2013).

    That’s nine beauty queens…and counting!  Each one had more than 15 minutes of fame in the Philippines.  They’ve inspired generations of capable young Filipinas not to be humble nurses and teachers, nor anonymous servants and nannies, but to aspire to fill out those swimsuits and evening gowns, and to weep copious tears of joy when it all pays off.

    If Filipinos were downright ecstatic each time one of its pulchritudinous brown women hit the jackpot, they were upright orgasmic whenever one of its priapic brown men managed to bag a foreign beauty queen—e.g., when Virgilio Hilario married the first Miss Universe in 1952, Armi Kuusela of Finland; or when Jorge Araneta married the first Miss International in 1960, Stella Marquez of Colombia.  And, of course, when President Ferdinand Marcos bedded Hollywood starlet Dovie Beams amidst much fanfare in 1968-1970, and then dumped her.  Dovie Beams was one of 239 people subsequently credited in the cast of The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977), in which she had a bit part as “the concubine.”

    That’s how you get over colonialism.  That’s progress.  St. Paul couldn’t have said it better in his Epistle to the Philippians.

     

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  • 15 December 2015: “Feeling the Bern” in My T-shirts

    December 15, 2015, by

    Like some women from yesteryear who acquired pretty sets of panties with the days of the week delicately embroidered on them, a couple of months ago I bought a bunch of “Bernie Sanders for President” T-shirts in different colors, one for each day of the week.  Although I know Bernie does not really stand a chance against Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for the 2016 presidential election, I feel that the longer he stays in the race, the more Hillary will be forced to move left of center, perhaps even take on Bernie’s life-long crusade against millionaires and billionaires, with his raging battle cry against the country’s top 1% for owning over 90% of all the wealth in America.

    I’ve been wearing my Bernie T-shirts everywhere, sometimes over heavier turtlenecks when the weather is cold.  The reception I’ve been getting varies greatly, depending on where I am.  At the farmer’s market in Lawrence or Dean & Deluca in Overland Park, or Trader Joe’s and  the Unicorn Theatre in Kansas City, I get smiles and lots of thumbs up.  At musical events at the Lied Center in Lawrence, or the Folly Theatre and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, people look at me quizzically, then move away discretely.  But not in Chicago.

    I was in the Windy City this past weekend, seeing a couple of operas at the Lyric, for which I dressed properly, because I had been forewarned on television about all the street violence and shootings there.

    Early one morning, however, wearing one of my Bernie T-shirts, I found myself sharing an elevator with a couple in the tony Allegro Hotel where I was staying.  One isn’t supposed to look at people in elevators, so I didn’t.  But I did note out of the corner of one eye that, early though it was,  they were dressed as if for an evening party, or maybe just returning from one; that the woman was much older than the man; that she was wearing around her neck artificial pearls the size of Christmas tree ornaments; that the pancake on her face was so thick she had better not smile or we would all crack up with her; that she looked like Marlene Dietrich just before she died.

    In any case, as the elevator door opened on a floor before mine and the couple started to leave, the man glowered at my T-shirt and muttered darkly under his breath, just loud enough for me to hear: “More power to the one percent.  We earned it, and we get to keep it!”

    To which I replied meekly, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

    He gave me the finger and, before either of us could reach for our guns, the elevator door shut and I was able to return to my room without further incident, where I replayed the rather surreal event in my mind several times and slowly began to “Feel the Bern.”

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  • 14 December 2015: THE MERRY WIDOW(er)

    December 14, 2015, by

    Although I had seen the Metropolitan Opera’s energetic new production of Franz Lehar’s THE MERRY WIDOW in its Live-in-HD series in movie theaters last year, I could not bypass the chance to see the same production live onstage this past weekend at the Lyric in Chicago.

    Instead of Renee Fleming and Nathan Gunn, this time we had a more age-appropriate Nicole Cabell as the wealthy young widow, and Thomas Hampson as her reluctant lover.  It’s hard for me to decide who’s better, Gunn or Hampson, having been a big fan of both for a long time. But, comparing the two in the same role in the same production, I think Hampson was perhaps having more fun with the part.  The real winner, however, is Susan Stroman’s refreshingly innovative direction and choreography. She brings Broadway glitz and pizazz to this beloved operetta, and everything old is suddenly new and young and vibrant again.

    Just as a side note, in the Metropolitan Opera production (now available on DVD and Blu-Ray), the non-singing comedic part of Njegus was played by University of Kansas graduate Carson Elrod, who stole every scene he was in with his rubbery face, his pitch-perfect line delivery, his clown-like agility.  In Chicago, the part was played by Jeff Dumas, who seemed to be channeling the fey and mincing spirit of Truman Capote.  Funny, yes, but the caricature was also vaguely disconcerting.

    Finally, I must admit that I was a bit apprehensive about this past weekend in Chicago.  The last time I was in the Windy City was in March of 2014, with Grant Goodman, my friend and colleague for nearly 50 years.  We saw three operas at the Lyric on that trip, and also two concerts.  It was a wonderfully memorable trip, but Grant died unexpectedly a month after we returned to Lawrence.  I was afraid that, this time, without Grant, Chicago would be sad.  It also rained the whole time I was there.

    In life, Grant Goodman took good care of me, always looking after my well-being.  In death, he continues to do so.  I think he would have been as disappointed as I was by BEL CANTO Saturday night, as rejuvenated as I was by THE MERRY WIDOW Sunday afternoon.  When I was sipping my complimentary glass of Proseco by the fireplace in the lobby of the tony Allegro Hotel yesterday evening before dinner, watching the bartender and all the subsequent uniformed waiters dancing in attendance around me, I could hear Grant guffawing because I was playing the part of “the merry widow(er)” in his absence, at his expense.

    Here’s to you, Grant.  Thanks for all the memories.  Long may your archetypal laughter and joie de vivre remain in my collective unconscious!

     

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  • 13 December 2015: No Bel In My Canto

    December 13, 2015, by

    I read Ann Patchett’s BEL CANTO shortly after it came out in 2001.  The diva in the novel was said to have been inspired by opera star Renee Fleming.  So when Fleming announced nearly five years ago that she had optioned the novel for a new opera to premiere at the Lyric in Chicago (music by Peruvian-American composer Jimmy Lopez, and libretto by Pulitzer-winning Cuban-American playwright Nilo Cruz), you could almost taste the excitement in the air.

    And then, when it was revealed that Danielle de Niese had been engaged to sing the part of the diva at the Lyric during its 2015 holiday season, I could no longer contain my excitement.  Just as Mr. Hosukawa in the novel had fallen in love with Roxane Coss from the first moment he heard one of her recordings, I have been in love with Danielle de Niese ever since I saw her on DVD as Cleopatra in the Glyndebourne production of Handel’s GIULIO CESARE.  With no hesitation whatsoever, I reached for my wallet, deciding this would be my extravagant Christmas present to myself this year.

    I loved Ann Patchett’s novel.  One reason is that, in spite of the large cast of characters, because the narrative is told from the omniscient point-of-view and we are privy to everyone’s thoughts, we feel as though we know each one of them intimately.  I wondered how Nilo Cruz would handle this in his libretto.  Sadly, in my opinion, he didn’t. Except for two arias given to two secondary characters in the second act of the opera, we are mostly just outsiders observing the action, and we remain mostly unmoved. Danielle de Niese looked petulantly beautiful, but I thought she was otherwise completely wasted.

    Sometimes I wish I weren’t a writer or a playwright. If I voice any negative opinions about somebody else’s work, I risk being accused of having pen envy. But, truthfully, last night at the Lyric in Chicago, I did not enjoy my Christmas present to myself. There was no bel in my canto.  Be that as it may, the opera will probably go on to win the No-Bel Prize in Music.

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  • 11 December 2015: The Ladies and the Trump

    December 11, 2015, by

    Donald Trump’s mother was a Scottish immigrant.

    To date, he has been married to three lovely ladies, two of whom are East European immigrants.  First there was Ivana Zelnickova from Czechoslovakia, who gifted him with three children, one girl and two boys.  Then came Marla Maples from Georgia (in the United States, not the one in the former Soviet Union), who produced only two children, a boy and a girl.  Finally, there’s Melania Knauss from Sevnica, Slovenia, who has narrow hips and has yet to reproduce.

    Thus far, as far as we know, Donald Trump has seven grandchildren.  His first-born, Ivanka, converted to Judaism when she married Jared Kushner, and together they have two children, a boy and a girl, but a third is on the way.  Donald Jr. has outdone Ivanka by having five children, two girls and three boys. So there is no danger of the line ever dying out.

    Since we already have one Trump progeny converting from their father’s Presbyterian faith to Judaism, let’s hope that, in future, none of the other Trumps and Trumpettes ever become Muslims, radicalized or otherwise.

     

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  • 9 December 2015: “I am Spartacus!”

    December 9, 2015, by

    When I was applying for a visa to visit the United States in the late 1960s, the many forms I had to fill out were full of questions like, “Are you a communist?”  “Have you ever been a communist?”  “Are you a homosexual?”  “Do you intend to become a homosexual?”

    Then, in the early 1980s, friends visiting from overseas report that they were asked additional questions like,  “Are you a drug addict?”  “Are you an intravenous drug user?”  “Are you HIV-positive?”  “Do you have AIDS?”

    And now, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump wants to stop all Muslims from entering the United States because they might be terrorists.  This he intends to accomplish by simply asking, “Are you Muslim?  ‘Fess up!  Are you a Muslim?”

    One of the essential freedoms guaranteed all Americans is the freedom of worship.  Those among us who are horrified by Trump’s stigmatization of an entire religion, who see inevitable parallels to the persecution of Jews by Adolf Hitler, ought not to sit idly by and do nothing.

    Remember Spartacus?  At the end of that movie, when the frustrated Roman soldiers demanded to know where Spartacus was hiding, his many followers all stepped forward, one by one, each one proudly declaring, “I am Spartacus!”  If it should ever become necessary, those of us traveling abroad, upon returning to these United States, in solidarity with our non-Christian brethren, we too can proclaim, “I am Muslim!” 

     

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