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Sharing Number 35
by Rick Brown


Friday, March 2, 2007, 7:10 p.m.

It’s been a little while since we visited our friends Don and Cindy’s charming wooded getaway Summit Haven Retreat in the Hocking Hills of Ohio. We’ve always had a wonderfully relaxing stay there. And the piece de resistance is that we get to bring our French Boy Henri. So when we realized the 35th anniversary of our first date was coming up (our personally delayed Valentine’s Day) we could think of no more romantic place to celebrate. So we booked the big cabin for three nights. One of which we invited friends Joe and Anita to join us on.

The drive south from Columbus used to take more than an hour. But with the completion of the Lancaster by-pass…and I have nothing against Lancaster really…it took us less than an hour. Of course once you turn on to Wildcat Road…an aptly named narrow country road…the adventure begins. Wildcat (Are there REALLY wildcats in Ohio? I’ve lived here all my life and found the only “wildness” has to be of one’s own making.) Soon becomes a road only in name. And once you see the sign for Summit Haven Retreat and turn…let’s just say it’s best you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle with plenty of clearance…especially this time of year.

Upon reaching the pinnacle of the summit, Yvonne, Henri and I were confronted by a parked Chevy Blazer obstructing our path to the cabin. Upon further gaze it became obvious that a downed tree of considerable magnitude blocked the lane. While today was a sunshine and fluffy clouds affair with temps in the 50’s…the wind was…well March like. Remember learning about kites in grade school…and how March was the perfect month to fly them? While generally that is pure unadulterated B.S. this day fit the stereotype perfectly.

Not long after cutting the engine on our trusty Cherokee a figure emerged on the horizon. To our glee it was none other than Don’s son and caretaker Scott wielding a more than substantial chainsaw. And after friendly salutations and some small talk he went to work clearing our path. I had wanted to document his heroism with a picture of him and his weapon of mass destruction. But since we bring everything with us to keep from leaving this nirvana unless we have to, by the time we got the car unloaded, he had vanished to his abode over the rise.

Already we have enjoyed the solitude, a fire, the view, and a dip in the hot tub. We’ve exchanged small gifts of love and toasted ourselves with cold Harp beer. On my final trip outdoors for firewood…with the eventual pleading with the dog to come inside (Hey! I miss my yard and the smells out here! Well…you wouldn’t understand.)…I noticed what seems to be a full moon in the late winter sky.

Saturday, March 3, 2007, 1205 p.m.

Drove into Logan for a New York Times and various other sundries late this morning. This is one of my favorite moments while staying at Summit Haven. It’s not so much I’m enamored by the town itself…it’s okay. It’s the quiet drive along rolling hills on seemingly dangerous roads that I relish. That…and the fact that while Ohio might not be wild…it is definitely friendly. People wave at you. At first I thought it was because I was yielding like a local on the narrow byways. But at the first crest of Wildcat Road Good Old Guy I Do Not Know waved enthusiastically my way while Dog I Have Yet To Pet wagged his tail exuberantly at the sight of me. Same for Another Guy I Do Not Know and Unfamiliar Three Legged Hound who was happily hobbling at his master’s side.

Sunday, March 4, 2007 12.12 p.m.

Anita and Joe arrived for a late lunch about 1:30 yesterday. Along with their 40-pound Chocolate Lab Minnie we relaxed in front of a blazing fire for a while. Then it was off to take the dogs on a run. Up to this point Henri and Minnie were staking out territory…working things out so to speak. But once out in the woods both pooches bonded big time. Henri seemed to be showing his young protégée the ropes concerning “how far ahead” of her masters might be acceptable. I’m always amazed how this little foofy 18-pound hound can hold his ground with bigger dogs…establish himself as the Alpha even. And this afternoon was no exception. Of course this being March both canines absorbed more than their share of mud, sticks, and grime that comes with the joy of a dog off the leash!

Once both animals were clean enough to go inside, all six of us kicked back and watched the Ohio State men’s’ basketball game. Yes there is TV here on the summit. Just enough…with good enough rabbit eared reception…to let you watch what you want given the limited selection.

During the game it began to get blustery outside with sideways snow. March had come in like a lamb Friday but immediately returned to its lion like posturing less than 24 hours later. What a fickle mistress March may be. No wonder it’s when the Madness happens.

Yvonne and I made a delightful Greek styled pasta with shrimp (see Food and Drink for the recipe) after which everyone vegged out.
This morning Joe joined me on my drive into the relative civilization of Logan, Ohio. And Minnie (Such a contrary name for a large creature.) joined us on our adventure…even taking the initiative to sit in Joe’s lap on the way into town. What a sight that was! Fortunately she did decide the back of the Cherokee was a suitable environment for her on the journey back. At the moment everyone is doing his or her own thing…as we used to say in the 60’s. But mostly we’re picking up sections of the Sunday New York Times and digesting them at our own leisure. My most favorite of Sunday afternoon endeavors.

Monday, March 5, 2007, 12:04 p.m.

Well…our celebration of number 35 is coming to a close. Minnie and Henri took the four humans out for yet another walk yesterday afternoon. Another “Celebration of Mud”…especially for puddle loving Minnie. But the cabin owners are dog folks and have the foresight of providing a lot of doggie towels. Anita and Joe…having many Labradors through the years…had the wisdom to bring even more.

And so after a late afternoon dinner of Yvonne’s scrumptious mushroom risotto we bid farewell to our friends and their pup. As expected Henri moved into his “I’m so glad to be the king again but…hey…where is that new friend of mine? The one who annoys me yet I want to be around…mostly…sort of…yes.” mood. Yvonne, Henri and I enjoyed a quiet Sunday evening of unspoken family. Without the rambunctious play of two dogs vying for attention, chew toys, et al…the company and conversation of good friends…I again notice what inevitably draws us back to this weekend utopia. The blessed silence.

Closed Eye

by Llori Stein

by Alexi Vontsolos

Now I'm maudlin
driving from the airport.
I notice things at this
hour of the morning.
A person in a robe.
Is he going to buy
the Sunday paper?
I have the bustle of
a new town in my
eyes. There must
have been a scramble
back home, for drama's sake.
I notice the easy corner
people pushing carriages.
I am the unpredictable element.
We said good-bye again
and I felt like
Montana trout.

Dogs Bark in the Himalayan Night
by Dennis Toth

"Dogs bark in the Himalayan night."

That is the state of these times.
Like the dogs of Constantinople, bound
And abandoned in their sacks.
Leather bound or vinyl -

Does it matter?

Like the voice of the Popol Vuh,
Lost histories eventually return as songs.
Dreams drift between the stars
And we creatures, burnt and ravaged,
Lumber toward the sea.

Unowned Sleep
By Cory Tressler

Trying to capture a lucid dream,
As I walk thru the streets of Baltimore,
On a foggy, lazy September.

Yesterdays glide past in golden Velour uniforms,
Smiling, sad faces show secret contempt,
For a world gone slightly estranged from reality.

Our time is filled with black and red Van Gogh swooshes,
Extinct reptiles and birds pace in our ever-unresponsive conscious,
While a collective mass of humanity pushes their right big toe to the floor.

~ Body coughs, flips, and repeats breathing reflex ~

Motions, feelings, brightness,
Impossible to stop spectacular unimaginable colors,
Hypnotizing music swoops in from unknown sources.

Unexplored life remains unexplainable as it passes by,
But walls are destroyed and defined,
As I tumble, cartwheel, and laugh inside lighting and thunder.

Half-embarrassed I reach for love,
She joyfully hugs my manic acts of self-realization,
Melody shakes my hand while my feet tingle with pleasure.

An Ohioan Visits Shanghai, 2007

by Wes Boomgaarden, Columbus, Ohio, USA

Walking the streets of Shanghai in late January of this year, I searched for the words to describe this city to my octogenarian parents, who are still thriving in rural Minnesota. They were perplexed as to why I would leave a perfectly good home in comfortable Ohio to travel halfway across the world to a communist country. Besides, there are no other Boomgaardens to visit in China: visiting relatives is the primary motivation for travel when you’re from rural Minnesota.

Dad had some reason to be skeptical of his second son going to Shanghai. Shanghai was a port of call for him when he served in the U.S. Navy during the WWII, in 1945, shortly after the Japanese Imperial Army had been removed from an ugly occupation of the city. He did not have particularly fond memories of liberated Shanghai. Mom sent me a snapshot dated 1945 of Dad and his buddy sitting in a Shanghainese rickshaw. Mom was never too sure about that rickshaw of its city.


Shadowbox Cabaret
Easton Towne Center
Columbus, Ohio
* * * * *
by Rick Brown

Let me begin by coming clean. I have never been a big fan of musicals. And because of that I have been to very few. Yet when I learned Shadowbox was performing Cabaret I was more than a little intrigued. I have known these fine actors and musicians for some time now and have felt for quite a while that, although I enjoy their usual shtick, they have been sometimes limited in scope by their usual raucous "sketch comedy and rock n roll". The troupe was being held back by their own successful formula.

I learned two very important lessons the night I witnessed this very ... very fine production. Number One - I was wrong about musicals. They can be powerfully entertaining in the right hands…hands such as these. And number Two - I was right about the depth and spectrum of Shadowbox Cabaret’s talent. Their performance of Cabaret is spectacular ... .breathtaking.

The stage play is very dark at times. It celebrates sexuality ... bisexuality ... the party ... decadence ... all under the impending fog of Nazism closing in around everyone. Steve Guyer's superb staging and direction make this a history lesson we all need to learn ... again and again. The juxtaposing of actual newsreels projected on the video screens brings the horror and violence ... and hatred ... into sharp focus. And having a part of the Kit Kat Club physically in the audience makes the story all the more immediate.

Amy Lay

Amy Lay portrays the Emcee at the club. Her joyous camp and vamp persona transcends the "is she a woman or is she a man or is she a woman who wants to be a man?" introduction of the character. I guarantee ... 10 minutes into the show you will not give a damn. The enthusiasm Ms. Lay brings to the role shines throughout the entire production. Her exhilarating opening number "Wilkomen" ... along with the singing and dancing of the full ensemble ... grabs the audience immediately and never let’s go.

Newport Shadowbox's Lori Hunt plays the Kit Kat's premier entertainer Sally Bowles. Ms. Hunt's portrayal is mature and sassy ... with enough sexual prowess and drive to make the character believable and real. Her singing is strong and on the mark, particularly on the title tune "Cabaret". Playing her love interest Cliff Bradshaw ... an American writer visiting Berlin as inspiration for an as yet unwritten book ... is Tom Cardinal. Exposed early in the play as bisexual Mr. Cardinal is so affable and warm that, like the Emcee, his sexual preferences become akin to the color of his eyes. The interplay between Ms. Hunt and Mr. Cardinal is dynamic yet at times off handed. And the climax of their relationship ... its ultimate demise ... is paramount to the truly engaging ending of Cabaret.

Less so is the love story between landlady Fraulein Schneider (Julie Klein) and fruit dealer Herr Schultz (Jim Andes). Ms. Klein's character works wonderfully. Her seasoned stage experience is obvious here. But Jim Andes ... while he sells the elderly Jewish man's role for the most part ... is at a distinct disadvantage. I think Mr. Andes is just too young to play an old Jewish man ... at least in the context of a production where most actors are closer to the age of the character they are portraying. Still ... this is a minor flaw. Mr. Andes performance ... while a bit pedestrian at times ... never sinks to stereotype or caricature. A noble effort from a young man trying to act twice his age.

Christina Connor is great as Fraulein Kost, the "problem" tenant in Fraulein Schneider's boarding house. Her swagger and "don't judge me" prostitute persona reminds everyone of the skeletons in our own closets. This strikes a particularly ugly ... and familiarly relevant ... chord at the close of Act One. Nazi Ernst Ludwig ... played skillfully close to his vest by J.T. Walker ... sings "Tomorrow Belongs To Me" encouraging others to join in. Mr. Walker's rendering of the song is at once ugly and powerful. At this point all of us are forced to face the reality of how we might conduct ourselves given a severe and real threat involving fascism and hatred. We have stepped too close to this precipice of late here in America.

The usual rock and roll of Shadowbox's BillWho? is here replaced with an orchestra fronted by Matthew Hahn. Augmented by woodwinds, percussion, keyboards and bass, Mr. Hahn glides his guitar tastefully through a spectrum of cabaret music. The excellent staging and direction of Steve Guyer, beautiful and visually exciting choreography by Katy Psenicka and the dramatically effective lighting of Josh Arnold combined with the acting, dancing and singing talents of this fine troupe, makes Cabaret truly a gem.

But it is Amy Lay who ties this magnificent performance together. From her opening tune to closing number she weaves her magic in and out of this wonderful stage production, wrapping it into the sum of all its parts. Dancing, singing, mugging, smiling ... winking ... and ending ultimately with her final ... total sacrifice, Ms. Lay's Emcee is every man. Her performance forces us to look deep into our souls with brutal honesty. Not to decide our fate as a man or a woman ... but as both. She inspires the audience to transcend the physical and ask ourselves ... honestly ... who am I? Who are we? How do I perform this dance of life with a joyous dignity? But more importantly…how do I die with it?

Cabaret is performed every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and again at 7:30 p.m. until May 13th. For more information go to http://www.shadowboxcabaret.com/ .

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Issue 1 - January 2002