Monthly Archive for: ‘May, 2012’
I don’t know much about theatre, but I know what I like.
Among other things, I especially like a play with both a plot and a story (they’re not always the same thing); laughs both obvious and smart; poignance without smarmy sentimentality; intelligent and intelligible scripting (again, not always the same thing) ; and lively and precise interpretation. Mark Sutch’s production of Glen Berger’s one-man show Underneath the Lintel: An Impressive Presentation of Lovely Evidences, is just such a play. It’s at the Warehouse Theater in Cornelius starting Thursday. Go!
Full disclosure, Mark is a campus buddy whose path Dodger and I often cross in passing through the Cunningham Theatre Center parking lot on our way squirreling. Mark’s also a fine actor and director and does full justice to the clever conceits and labyrinthine nuances of Underneath the Lintel. He plays a librarian. A book comes in more than a century overdue. As “evidences” reveal themselves, he traces the tardy borrower’s identity over space and time in an allegorical tour de force of spirit, both human and divine, that will make you wonder as he wanders there and back again, maybe. Yes, it spirals out toward the metaphysical at certain necessary points. But it ain’t heavy. I laughed out loud at well-timed intervals where Berger’s accessibly erudite script and Sutch’s creatively honed precision meet with the vital force of human recognition. I saw myself. And I left the one-hour-twenty-minute show a little more open to the possibilities of life, a little gladder to be here now.
I chatted briefly with Mark after last Saturday’s performance at CAST’s digs on Davidson Street in NODA, just down the hall from Amelie’s, a great location since you can get a salted caramel brownie before and after the show. Mark was beaming a light from within, not at all from ego, it seemed to me, but truly as a joyful vessel for his part of the experience. Or maybe that was just how I felt.
The production moves to Cornelius for the weekend starting this Thursday. And with or without the salted caramel brownies, it’s a winner.
Earlier this week, I wrote, kind of, about being up on the roof of Chambers.
Now, courtesy of newsman and editor extraordinaire David Boraks of DavidsonNews.net, one of the nation’s premier, independent hyperlocal news sites, comes a special gift:
A recording of Chambers bell ringing.
As commencement approaches, take a moment to close your eyes and think what this sound has meant to the Class of 2012 these last four years.
Ominously, over your head: late to class. Faintly, from your pillow: Waking up late for an 11:30 class. Happy: End of a class you’re glad is over. Sad: End of a class you wish would never end….
It’s the last day of exams, it’s four days before graduation, it’s three weeks and a day before Alumni Reunion Weekend, and it’s a scant six weeks until the end of Davidson’s fundraising year. The joint’s a-jumping, and I orta be working on some dang deadline assignment, but I just have to take a moment of libertas here to give a shout-out to the people I work with, Davidson’s fine staff and faculty, and the people we do it all for, our fine students. When we all get this busy and focused on our own little tasks and domains, it’s easy for me to lose the sense of wonder about work. Okay, maybe “sense of wonder” is pushing it, but hey, I wonder sometimes, don’t you?
Anyway, just yesterday, I was a bit short of temper and a tad crabby of mien with a dear, longtime colleague and friend who was just doing her job. My top priority today is to apologize and invite my friend to lunch. After all, lunch with friends is more important than any small-minded workaday frustration my little pea brain comes up with, on a regular basis.
Anyway and in the meantime elsewhere, some ragged-out kids are in the home stretch of their last exam cram of the year. Breathe, kids. In five years, it won’t matter exactly how you did, and you’re already going to do generally how you do no matter how much Red Bull you drink. Breathe. (You forgot again, didn’t you?)
Down the hill a ways, the good folks at the Lula Bell Houston Laundry are offering free steaming of graduation robes to get those tacky little creased squares out, where they’ve been folded up in plastic bags in a hot warehouse for months. Two words: Polyester remediation. Two more: Thank you.
At Vail Commons and Davis Cafe, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel sustenance is being served with a smile. Grounds crews are watering and praying over the late-season winter rye on Chambers Lawn, and casting hopeful eyes to the skies for Sunday.
From the Vagt Wing of Chambers South’s hallowed upper admin halls to the tiniest glimmering corner of a top-drawer professor’s online classroom support space, from the deepest recesses of payroll and tuition accounting data to the construction of a new dorm and a new college store on Main Street, from housekeeping staffers who spend their break time as greeters at the north “flagpole door” of Chambers to the mellifluous tones of WDAV wafting through my very own office, this place is rich in wonders of mind and heart. I could go on, but I mustn’t. I must do what I orta do and crank some deadlines.
Congratulations, seniors! Go get your robe steamed. See you Sunday.
Updated: Laundry makes Google alert again!
Forgive me, Dear Readers, for recycling this vintage piece from spring 2006. But recycling is good, right? Anyway, it’s the week before graduation, we’re all about efficiency on a hard deadline right now, and I must dash. Enjoy! —JSS
It is the first day of spring—not by the calendar, but by the campus daffodils—and there is a cool breeze and warm sunshine streaming all around the Chambers dome, which is at arm’s length from me this fine Carolina morning. On the other side of me, there is empty space, much more of it and far emptier than I might have imagined from the brick walkway down below. I stand very still near the edge of the roof facing Main Street, then slowly turn a 360.
“Kind of gives you a loose feeling behind you, doesn’t it?” deadpans Ruben McIntosh. Ruben has worked in Davidson’s physical plant since July 1962, and he holds the key that got us up here. I laugh out loud with College Communications Fellow Jonathan Crooms ’04. The two of us failed last summer to jimmy the newfangled locks in Hance Auditorium (aka Perkins, aka Dome Room) to get out here, so we jumped at the chance this morning to accompany Ruben to the roof.
“Now, I feel like my Davidson experience is complete,” Jonathan says, taking a deep breath and casting a far gaze across several county lines.
You know that feeling of a “Davidson moment”? Well, here was a whole cascade of them, rolling fast and thick and all mixed in together across the years and blue-green acres, from Davidson’s own “Lake Wylie,” built right over there near the future Erwin Lodge in the 1890s; to the golf course that cropped up in the early 1900s behind today’s soccer field; to the strapping young graduates who momentously stripped off their graduation robes to reveal the military uniforms they would wear to herald a new age through the battles of World War II; to the DCPC steeple cross itself, on which Ruben once laid his own hand, by God, doggedly outstretched from a shaky repair construction scaffold in 1968. Davidson moments cascading on down through the disasters and the joys and the grudges and the friendships and the unbridled intellect and the romantic souls that still resonate and inform this nearly terquasquicentennial (175th; I had to look it up) Davidson spring.
Chambers trembles, and up here on the roof, the big bell dutifully tolls its standing orders to an empty spring break campus. And I think to myself, there astride the topmost center of my daily universe: Nothing could be finer.
Surveilling Facebook over my second cuppa joe this morning, I saw a post by my pal Charles Oldham ’97, a Charlotte attorney. It was himself in a picture above the fold, on the front page of the New York Times! I quick made a ROFLMAO-style Facebook comment, then messaged him to ask for commentary for Daybook during this 15 minutes of fame. Ever the scholar and Davidson gentleman, Charles obliged.
Quoth he, with pith: “As for the Amendment itself [passage of Amdendment One in N.C. on Tuesday], I’ll just say that the outcome of the vote is obviously disappointing. But, if it motivated the President to step up and recognize the demographic trends that clearly are taking hold nationally, then great.”
NYT online verison of article with photo: “Obama Says Same-Sex Marriage Should Be Legal.”
I had a dream that Dodger was running free in Richardson Stadium at Davidson College, which is against the rules. I was crawling across the rubbery track, doing a breathlessly dreamy slo-mo “fail” at getting to him. He dashed merrily about the artificial turf field, paying no mind to the authoritative benchmarks of the gridiron, nor to me. La, la, la! he went, happily. “Doooddggerrr!” I went, unhappily.
Rather than burden ourselves here with tortured interpretations, I posit the dream as archetype: Spirited soul instinctively running free, gleefully heedless (happy) of the synthetic culture of benchmarks we construct with our increasingly compulsive content manipulation and the resultant aggravation of inbred psycho-social neuroses (unhappy).
Okay, maybe just a little bit of tortured interpretation. I can stop anytime I want to. I just don’t want to. Anyway, after my coffee, I spontaneously started thinking about computer file management. Coincidence? I think not. Bear with me.
Time was, I was known as the print packrat of any newsroom I happened to inhabit. Today, my archival record of published communications in recent years is spotty at best. It’s just too easy to say, “It’s on the Web” or “It’s in the Cloud.”
More analogy: The web of life is a wondrous thing, vital and necessary and connective. And webs entangle, even make us scream and bat our arms in front of our faces like crazy persons.
Clouds are primordial and matchless avatars of human imagination floating free above the gods’ green earth. And they rain, sometimes on our parades.
So, these were my thoughts when I read this morning of the passing of Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, published the same year my own earthly story started. Pondering Where the Wild Things Are in turn made me think of something Amy Diamond said Saturday to friends gathered in Davidson in loving memory of her husband Robert Whitton, a Davidson College professor who died last year after being struck by a car on Concord Road.
I cannot do Amy’s words of that close moment any verbatim justice with my words here, but the gist of her encouragement was for us—the “us” is important, she emphasized—for us all to live the lives we dream of, to live and tell our stories, making them up as we go along for as long as we go along, and even to call on more than mere facts when necessary to tell the story we want to tell. The “want” is important, too, she emphasized.
“Robert told stories about me,” she said through tears more joyful than you can imagine, “that simply were not true!” And then somehow, the shared hilarity that followed was truer than any fact ever could be.
It was just one beautiful moment in a glorious day of musical celebration of Robert’s life, including a New Orleans-style march from Summit Coffee to the intersection of Concord Road and Faculty Drive. Bittersweet as that march was, I could feel an abundance—a web, a cloud—of life and laughter and love, deeply and broadly, all around and through us, Robert’s good spirit dashing merrily, doggedly, timelessly into the full-moon music of the cooling evening, telling the story he wanted us to tell for him, and to him, happy and unhappy and everything.
What can I say, on a personal note, about Hansford M. Epes, Jr., Davidson College Class of 1961, registrar and avatar for the life of the mind, mentor and dear friend?
No, really, what can I say without getting in trouble? Our best conversations have happened off the radar, between classes and meetings, on Chambers Lawn far from walls with ears, under a gentle spread of tree canopy and tobacco smoke, whilst Dodger gives playful chase to fluffy woodland creatures.
Well, like my mama always says, you don’t have to tell everything you know.
Please enter the url to a Vimeo video.
Montage of Hansford pictures set to music by Professor of Music Neil Lerner
What I can say is that I’ll miss having Hansford handy in person in my workaday world. But I am glad he will remain e-vailable for pithy, acerbic one-liners steeped in decades of familiar tradition as well as forward thinking about Davidson, about the world, and about Davidson in the world. Not to mention steeped in decades of the unavoidable administrivia and occasional tedium that is part of any workaday world, and which can make one, you know, pithy.
The easy part of dealing with Hansford’s retirement from where I sit, challenging as it was, was writing the college homepage story, which we got posted just in time for last Friday’s Hansfordpaloozafest in Lilly Family Gallery. The event was a powerful, fun, and fitting tribute put together by Wall Professor of Humanities and Professor and Chair of German Burkhard Henke, with a lot of help from his friends. Get this: A full 12 out of Hansford’s 14 original Junior Year Abroad in Germany, 1967-68, trekked back to campus to honor him, as well as past Davidson Presidents Tom Ross, Bobby Vagt and John Kuykendall and many, many others.
Writing the official document to news-release standards allowed me to get the Hansford essentials down while tamping down my own growing sense of loss at his pending departure from the first floor of Chambers Building.
He first laid eyes on Chambers in 1957, and was well ensconced there by the time I showed up in 1981. As a student I knew him only in passing, as a damned fine Humanities lecturer. The luck of the draw never landed me in his small-group section of “Humes,” and I was a francophile so I had no reason to visit him in the German Department. Plus, I was callow.
Though I didn’t benefit from Hansford incisive and good-natured counsel individually as a Davidson student, I certainly have done in the last decade as a Davidson colleague.
By way of example in the public domain, a few outtakes from our interviews for the aforementioned news profile:
• On sloppy syntax [archly, with vigor]: “Structure is one of the components of language that conveys meaning.”
• On the life of the mind [enthusiastically, with satisfaction]: “I just actively enjoy learning stuff…. Hey, if you like learning, then the easy road is to throw yourself into a community that does it all the time”
• On the Humanities program, which he helped grow from infancy and later chaired [wryly]: “If you take Humanities 40 times, you’re bound to learn something.”
• On choosing Davidson [mock melodramatically]: “I’ll never know if I would have thrived in New Hampshire or Connecticut.”
• On looking back over the decades [drily]: “At what point did I go from being a young turk to being a [woopsy!] legend?”
• On the 1960s [youthfully]: “It was the 1960s, for God’s sake!”
Happily, Hansford will continue to live in this community he’s helped build, in Davidson and on Lake Norman, and even more happily he’ll return to the Humanties classrooms of Davidson as professor in Spring 2013.
And, I hope, go for a walk with me and Dodger now and then under the gentle spread of tree canopy over Chambers Lawn.