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Listen to Paul’s interview.

“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


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

13 January 2016: Brown Is Now The New White!

A white supremacist group which has proclaimed Donald Trump as “The Great White Hope” is now sending out robocalls to Iowans to caucus for Trump in the Iowa caucuses.  The robocalls begin with a peculiar homily from Rev. Ronald Tan, a Filipino-American pastor of the Assemblies of God Christian Church of Carson, CA.  He is also the co-host of a radio show “For God and Country,” which is sponsored by the American Freedom Party, founded in 2010 as “a Nationalist party that shares the customs and heritage of the European American people.”

Here is the convoluted message from Rev. Tan:  “First Corinthians states:  God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise and God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong.  For the Iowa caucuses, please support Donald Trump.  He is courageous and he speaks his mind.  God Bless.”  This is followed by a crystal-clear message from Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance:  “We don’t need Muslims.  We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture.  Vote Trump.”

In 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines was established by the United States, and full independence was granted to the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946.  Why a Filipino-American would be affiliated with a white supremacist group in 2016 truly boggles the mind.  Orange may be the new black on Netflix, but Rev. Ronald Tan and his followers seem to have convinced themselves that brown is now the new white!

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Bowie, Burroughs and Me

David Bowie died on 10 January 2016.  He was 69 years old, three years younger than I am.  The only album of his that I owned was Ziggy Stardust back in 1972 and, later, I was a big fan of three of his movies—The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), The Hunger (1983), and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (also 1983).  There were rumors that Bowie visited William Burroughs in Lawrence, Kansas, but our paths never crossed.  Not in the usual way, anyway.  I have already written about all this in (under the subsection “Limoscenes” for my play Lee and the Boys in the Backroom).  You can read the full entry there, but I am reproducing below the part that deals with David Bowie.

Because of my friendship with William S. Burroughs and James Grauerholz (see also my NAKED LUNCH entries in the “Limerances” section of this website), it was only a matter of time before someone would suggest that I adapt something by Burroughs for the stage. I forget now who made the initial suggestion. It might have been James Grauerholz himself, or it might have been Mary Doveton, the artistic director of the Lawrence Community Theatre, where my plays CHAMBERS and FLESH, FLASH AND FRANK HARRIS had originally premiered. I was intrigued by the suggestion, and immediately read all the published works of Burroughs. The dramatist in me responded best to the novel QUEER because it was the most linear of Burroughs’ books, and also because it was a tragic love story on many levels.

When James and William both agreed to let me adapt QUEER for the stage, they also gave me permission to look through and use carte blanche any of the unpublished correspondence during the time period of the novel (1949-1952) between William and his friends back in the United States, among them Allen Ginsberg. How can any playwright resist this offer? And so I looked through the letters in the filing cabinets in Burroughs’ house in Lawrence, and the structure of the play began to emerge and evolve.

I showed big chunks of the play to William and James as I finished writing them, and they both seemed very pleased. After they read the first draft, the only suggestion I got by way of feedback from James was that I should cut some of the puns I had introduced into the text. James told me that, although William was a wordsmith and loved wordplay, he was not really a punster. And so I combed through the script and cut out most of the puns, this being perhaps the only time I’ll ever confess to being caught with my puns down.

Back in 1987, I wasn’t sure if calling the play QUEER, like the novel, would be a good move, even in a liberal town like Lawrence, KS.  However, back then in America, within the homosexual community, even with thousands of people dying of A.I.D.S., it was well known that many gay men continued to have unprotected sex in gay bathhouses and also in the dark backrooms of gay bars and xxx-rated movie houses. I tried to draw a parallel between Lee’s promiscuity in Mexico forty years earlier, with what was going on within the gay community in America in the late-1980s. And, of course, there was that lusty song, “The Boys in the Backroom,” which the gay icon Marlene Dietrich had sung in the movie DESTRY RIDES AGAIN. I thought the song was rousing and carousing, maybe even arousing in a different context, and that’s why I decided to call the play LEE AND THE BOYS IN THE BACKROOM. In retrospect, maybe I should have had the guts to just call it QUEER, after the novel from which it had been adapted.

My friend Paul Hough was not available to direct this play. I did not think there was anyone else around who had the right “sensibility” for the material, so I decided to direct it myself for the Lawrence Community Theatre, May 8-12, 1987. Because William S. Burroughs is who he is, and also because James Grauerholz is a superb publicist, the production attracted a great deal of attention. I remember there being a great deal of talk about another production, Off or Off-Off Broadway in New York, but this never actually materialized.

James informed me later that I had never actually entered into a legal arrangement with William to adapt the novel and/or the letters, that there was no contract, that I had no right to pursue other productions of the play. Besides, he said, there were other “more important people” who were also interested in adapting the novel QUEER, not for the stage, but for the movies. Among the names he mentioned was David Bowie. But, to make matters worse, James dropped some hints that both he and William never really liked my play. Because of this, James and I stopped talking to each other for a long time. But we eventually made up before William died. We’ve never talked about the play again, and there has never been another production of LEE AND THE BOYS IN THE BACKROOM. Nor has David Bowie (or anyone else) ever adapted QUEER for the movies. But this may still be forthcoming.

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10 January 2016: The Big Short

There were half a dozen people in the theater today for the 12:05 PM showing of THE BIG SHORT.  I don’t know about the other people there, but I thought the film was brilliant, at least the 10 percent of it that I understood.  I need Bernie Sanders to explain the other 90 percent, which is why he has my vote.

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5 January 2016: Checks and Balances

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?

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…

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

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

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

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)

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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