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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

29 November 2015: Flesh Yesterday, Flash Today.

We rehearse Act Two of my play Flesh, Flash and Frank Harris this afternoon, for a free staged reading at the Lawrence Public Library at 7 PM on Thursday, December 3rd.

After having been the toast of London society in the 1890s, Frank Harris at age 76 is penniless and finds himself living austerely in Nice, France, where he reminisces about his life and loves with two happier representations of his younger self.  His reveries are interrupted at one point when he is visited by George Bernard Shaw.  In the scene that follows, the two old writers argue heatedly about the way women are depicted in their respective works.

SHAW:  You give your women no minds or souls, not even arms legs, just breasts and vaginas and assorted orifices!

OLD FRANK:  What about your women?  They all lack divinity and grace, mystery and charm, allure.  Their bodies are as dry and hard as their minds, and even where they run after their men, the pursuit has about as much sex appeal as a timetable!

MIDDLE FRANK:  Where are the Noras and the Heddas in your plays?

OLD FRANK:  Yours are the sexless dolls which Ibsen threw out of the doll’s house!

SHAW:  Why not also blame me for the current femininity in men and virility in women?

OLD FRANK:  Any attempt to destroy the womanly woman can only succeed in equally destroying the manly man.

SHAW:  Frank, why must the human race consist entirely of Frank Harrises and women of the sort you idealize?  Don’t you realize that there is only one Frank Harris in the world, and that the sort of woman you idealize never completely existed except in your imagination?

OLD FRANK:  I tried, in my autobiography, to show women as creatures with sexual passions, just like men!

SHAW:  The fleshly school of art, my dear Frank, is the consolation of the impotent.

OLD FRANK:  Oh? Then why are masturbating schoolboys its greatest patrons?

SHAW:  I know nothing of masturbating schoolboys.  They do not soil my books the way they do yours.

YOUNG FRANK:  What a pity.

OLD FRANK:  The whole world would be far happier today had less blood and more semen been spilled between 1914 and 1918!

SHAW (laughing):  Why are we bickering?  I come to praise Harris, not to bury him.

At the staged reading at 7 PM on Thursday December 3rd at the Lawrence Public Library, Young Frank Harris is played by Benjamin Good, Middle Frank is Will Averill, Old Frank is Dean Bevan, and George Bernard Shaw is John Younger.  Other actors include Jeremy Auman, Jeanne Averill, James Carothers, Amy Devitt, Margaret Kramar, Stephen Moles, Karl Ramberg, and Kitty Steffens.


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28 November 2015: Flesh Today, Flash Tomorrow.

We rehearse Act One of my play Flesh, Flash and Frank Harris this afternoon, for a free staged reading at the Lawrence Public Library at 7 PM on Thursday, December 3rd.  The play was written back in 1980, was produced by the Lawrence Community Theatre at that time, and subsequently also had a successful run Off-Broadway in New York.  So now, 35 years later, I am revisiting the play.

Before he wrote My Life and Loves, his scandalous five-volume autobiography which was immediately banned as pornography in both Europe and America upon its publication in the 1920s… before he  was a successful journalist and editor in London in the 1890s, where he was friendly with literati like Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw, and glitterati like the Prince of Wales and Princess Alice of Monaco… Frank Harris was first an Irish immigrant and student at the University of Kansas in the late 1860s.

There’s a scene in Act One which shows Young Frank arriving in Lawrence with Prof. Byron Caldwell Smith.  They are met at the train station by Frank’s older brother William and Mrs. Mayhew, a saucy local woman.

WILLIAM:  And what do you profess, professor?

BYRON:  Nothing of great importance, I’m afraid.  I’ve been hired to teach Greek and Latin.  I’m surprised the University didn’t send someone to meet me.

MRS. MAYHEW:  Isn’t that typical of those folks on the hill?  Come, I’ll take you up to Fraser Hall myself.  I have my buggy with me.  We can leave the long-lost brothers together.  Come, before it gets dark.  On the way, I can tell you all about the wildlife in Kansas.

BYRON:  How about the University?  Do you know any of the faculty?

MRS MAYHEW:  Wildlife, faculty, same thing.  Give a professor two or three shots of whiskey, and he becomes part of the local wildlife!

At the staged reading at 7 PM on Thursday December 3rd at the Lawrence Public Library, Young Frank Harris is played by Benjamin Good, William is Jeremy Auman, Byron Caldwell Smith is Shawn Trimble, and Mrs. Mayhew is Cynthia Evans.  Other actors include Jeanne Averill, Will Averill, Dean Bevan, James Carothers, Amy Devitt, Margaret Kramar, Stephen Moles, Karl Ramberg, Kitty Steffens, and John Younger.

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27 November 2015: BLACK FRIDAY MATTERS.

Being a person obsessed with language in all its odd manifestations, I decided to look up the origin of “Black Friday,” and here’s the best and the worst that the internet has to offer.

First the worst:  The day after Thanksgiving was “when slave traders would go into town to show off their best slaves,” offering to sell them at a discount so plantation owners would have all the “help” necessary for the onslaught of winter.  Contrary to popular opinion, Shakespeare in his play Otello did NOT use the line, “The Moor, the merrier.”

And then the best:  The day after Thanksgiving was “when retailers had one last chance to offset all their losses from January through mid-November,” by offering to sell their shoddy goods at a discount, thus moving from being “in the red” to “in the black.”   To hide their dark  intentions, the retailers enlisted the help of Santa by dressing him up in red, accompanied by his favorite reindeer, who had a red nose.

And there you have it.  It matters not which one you pick because, in my opinion, all Fridays matter.  After all, wasn’t it on a Friday that Christ died on the cross, to save us from the gross consumerism of Christmas which begins the day after Thanksgiving?


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Thanks Be to G(rant).

Growing up as I did in Manila, even with the all-pervasive colonial influence of the United States, the yearly gross consumption of food on the last Thursday in November simply was not part of our cultural appetite.  Hard to imagine Filipinos as Pilgrims, not even as Filgrims, except perhaps on the receiving end.  But, after I left the Philippines for America in June of 1968, and was invited to spend my first Thanksgiving with the kind and gracious family of Grant K. Goodman in Cleveland, Ohio, I have become a well-fed convert, proceeding to spend the next 45 Thanksgiving celebrations with Grant.

Every year, starting around Halloween, I remember Grant getting spooked by the idea that no one would invite him (or us) for Thanksgiving.  Finally, sometime in the mid-1970s, vowing to be spooked no more, he decided that we would give the party ourselves, that we would gather as many “orphans” as we could around our table, sometimes alternating in our respective homes, sometimes at the Lawrence Alvamar Country Club buffet.  This became a tradition among the “orphans” until two years ago, when Grant died unexpectedly in April of 2014.

Although I am not spooked by the idea of no one inviting me for Thanksgiving now that Grant is no longer with us, I was very moved when Toots and Jerry Schultz welcomed me into their home last year, and equally moved this year when David Bergeron and Geraldo Sousa asked me to join them for the traditional dinner at their home later today.  I had six invitations this year, and was sorry I had to turn down five of them.  I’m sure that, somewhere, Grant is relieved I am not alone on this day which meant so much to him.  My only hope is that all the other “orphans” who used to gather around our table have had invitations as well.  If not…

I am now resolved that, next year, thanks be to G(rant), I will continue the tradition he started.

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26 November 2016: POTUS, TOTUS and PUTIN.

TOTUS (Turkey of the United States) was granted a presidential pardon amid much fanfare yesterday at the White House by POTUS.  And now all eyes turn to President Vladimir Putin.  Will he or won’t he pardon a troublesome Turkey shooting down a Russian plane for flying where it shouldn’t?  Or will the hungry Bear gobble, gobble?  Yesterday Ukraine, today Syria, tomorrow Turkey.

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25 November 2015: Ashes unto ashes…

I was with a group of KU retirees right outside Pioneer Cemetery in Lawrence this morning, the closest we could get to watch the 9 AM detonation and implosion of McCollum Hall on Daisy Hill.  Although we waited in anticipation for over an hour, and the actual destruction of the building took only ten seconds, at this moment, hours later, my heart is still pounding, and I can still hear the fifteen or sixteen thumping blasts before the one big terrifying BANG which brought down the imposing ten-story structure.  And then, suddenly, the wind brought the airborne debris in our direction, covering not just many among the living but also all our friends and colleagues who lie buried at the cemetery.

Here’s what went through my mind:  Is this what Syrians experience on a daily basis as their buildings are bombarded and their lives are destroyed by the airstrikes from the west?  Did it really all begin with September 11, 2001?  What was it like for people in New York on that fateful day?  And what was it like for people who lived near the Nazi death camps and the crematoriums during World War II?  What was it like to stand beneath snow that does not melt?  Ashes unto ashes, dust unto dust.

And then the following lines from Emily Dickinson:  “As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow–First–Chill–then Stupor–then the letting go.”  Except I cannot seem to let go.  Not yet.  Maybe never.

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25 November 2015: Ibsen’s Nora Goes to Paris!

After over forty years of teaching and seeing countless productions of Ibsen’s A DOLL’S HOUSE, I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the recent KU production of the play, but I did, and it was one of the best theatrical experiences I’ve had in a very long time.  Afterwards, my friends and I volunteered various sequels for what might have happened to Nora after she decides to leave her husband and children.

Here’s my version.  With her friend Kristine’s urging, Nora takes up embroidery and sewing, then takes in laundry as well.  But this cannot begin to pay for all her bills at the local sweetshop, so she falls back on her flirtatious ways and begins to show old men her sweaty silk stockings for a fee.  Next, she moves to Paris where, before too long, she changes her name from Nora to Violetta and becomes a famous courtesan.  She catches pneumonia from removing her stockings once too often in public, and is soon consumed by passion as well as consumption.  The composer Verdi is one of her many admirers, and he writes an entire opera about her.

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