Buddy Snider

BuddyservingA week ago, my friend Buddy Snider passed away, and it broke my heart.

Buddy grew up next to the City Park tennis courts. Boyd Gilman lived across the street. That was like my second neighborhood, where I hung out all summer and most days after school. In the summers, my parents would drop us off on the way to work, pick us up on their way home for lunch, and take us back after lunch. My dad — a tennis player, would come to the park after work and we’d all play more tennis.

Buddy and Boyd were always there. Before I ever knew either of them, they were classmates, neighbors, and best friends to each other. They became my great friends also and a constant presence in my life for many years.

Children seemed to have a little more space to explore the world on their own back then, and we mostly managed ourselves and had some awfully fun summer days, playing in the creek, the lake, the woods, and on the courts. We also spent our tennis breaks on the swings, the slides, fishing, and even climbing the old fighter plane that was parked at the park for many years.

If we needed anything, we called our parents from the pay phone, went to Buddy or Boyd’s house, or asked Mike.

Mike Corthum was always there or nearby. He lived across the street. Mike was a Catawba professor when I was very young and my high school biology teacher when I was a little older. He also worked for the city, directing the tennis program for many years. He taught lessons and managed the courts. He was the best tennis player in town. I owe Mike a lot of money. There was a Cheerwine vending machine beside the courts and Mike would lend us quarters when we were thirsty and wanted something more lustrous than water.

Mike had a Volkswagon bus, and he would fill it full of kids (Buddy, Boyd, Jeff Hyman, Peter Tennent, me, my brother Jonny, Greg Alcorn, Dan Weant, Shane Smith and others) — and take us to far off places like Greensboro and Lexington and Winston-Salem and even Gastonia for tennis tournaments.

buddyHollar Brown and Mike Rimmer lived a block away. Martha Parrot also lived on that street (she was my age and she could beat me in tennis, I admit). David Beaver, another tennis player, lived within earshot of the courts.

I could name more kids from that neighborhood. It occurs to me that years and years of Boyden and Salisbury High School tennis teams consisted of kids in that neighborhood. That makes sense, since learning tennis is a lot easier when one has access to courts.

Tennis is a family sport and Salisbury had a big community of tennis families back then. The city park was the central gathering place.

Buddy was a lefty. We were on the tennis teams together at Knox Junior High and Salisbury High School. He played in the top six and was reliable to win his matches. Those teams won championships.

One Friday night during my junior year, Buddy gave me the support I needed in order to drink my first beer. I remember how bad that first sip of Schlitz tasted, but it didn’t seem to stop me from drinking the rest of the can, and several more. In fact, I learned to rather like beer and have enjoyed it ever since.

We played together, partied together, did a lot of wise-cracking, and grew up together.

Later in life, we would go years without seeing each other — and yet he was one of those special people who I could say anything to, about whatever I was dealing with, and count on him to be completely attentive and generous and straight.

I got married fairly young, but not as young as Buddy. He met Jane in college and married either before he graduated or soon after. He taught us how to grow up, be a man, start a family, show some responsibility. He led the way.

Thanks to my own family drama, Alicia and I got married in a bit of a swirl, on a Thursday afternoon in Reynolda Gardens (a week before the planned date). Buddy worked that day. Jane, his wife, was one of a dozen people at our wedding. My bachelor’s party consisted of having a few beers with Buddy at his apartment the night before.

A few years before that, the day after high school graduation, we were up all night waiting outside Buddy’s house for the sun to rise. We were on our way to the beach and Buddy’s parents did not want us driving at night. I remember sitting there in the car, with friends, in the dark, and Buddy bounding out of the house at dawn. I also remember some of the things that happened at the beach. Buddy left behind six grandchildren, and it would not honor them to talk about some of the crazier things that happened. So I won’t.

There are so many stories that involve a lot of fun, youth, and foolishness. Many of those memories have been flooding back this past week. We were connected, so much a part of each others lives in those active, developing years, that the connection was something more powerful than I had realized until now. I have memories of Buddy at his house, the tennis courts, my house, the beach, the mountains, college/party visits at Wake Forest and Appalachian, tennis tournaments all over the state, talking about girls, going fishing (without ever catching a fish) — and countless nights romping around Salisbury doing things we should not have been doing.

When my father was in the last years and months of his life, at home much of the day by himself, dealing with his health, he would report to me that Buddy had been by for a visit. I was busy being a busy guy — often too busy for the people I love most — and Buddy was sitting with my ailing father. Two great men.

As adults, Our conversations were few and far between — but the level of connection and sharing was fun, meaningful, and rich. The last time I saw him was a couple of years ago, at a funeral. The time before that, we ran into each other at Lowe’s. He was carrying a heavy load of lumber across the parking lot, speaking proudly about his family, and advising me on whatever I was dealing with in my life. He probably gave me some handy how-to information regarding the homeowner’s situation that had me shopping at Lowe’s.

A couple of months ago, I called to tell him about our 40th class reunion. I was on the reunion committee and made many reminder/invitational calls, but the only person I spoke with at length and tried to convince to come was Buddy. He wasn’t feeling up to it. He said his energy was down. I see now that he could have been experiencing symptoms of what would take his life suddenly last week. I don’t know. He didn’t say. We had a long, heartfelt conversation that night and I will always cherish it.

Every conversation with Buddy made one thing clear. His friendship and loyalty to the people in his life were absolute. Fortunately, that included old friends like me. I’m sure it included the people he worked with and the prisoners he took care of.  Mostly, it included his family. He was completely devoted to them. A loving family like his is an accomplishment, and Buddy was enormously proud of that.

Buddy was a dear friend, and one that I loved. I never told him that and wish I had. I’m lucky to have known him and will always miss him.

Pretty juice

juice2Ajuice1fter making juice this morning, prior to stirring and pouring out, I thought it deserved a picture, or two.

It was so beautiful!

In the picture on the left, there’s a bottom layer of green — spinach, lemon, orange, apple, and cucumber.

Then there’s the beet — an overpowering deep red that, moments later, had taken over.

The top layer includes a bit of celery and carrot.

And it tasted fabulous.

There’s never been a film like Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood”

Last night I went to a late movie at Concord Mills, sat in a nearly empty theatre, and saw a movie that certainly has no equal in film.

Richard Linklater spent twelve years shooting “Boyhood.” Ellar Coltrane, who plays Mason, is seven years old in the first scene. He’s nineteen at the end. He also charts the childhood of his daughter, Lorelei Linklater, from a little girl to adulthood. The parents, Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke, also age — not quite as dramatically as their children, but well…the way adults age.

This happens in movies — with make-up. “Boyhood” is a great story about how human beings interact with their experiences and put themselves together. But there’s something about people aging in front of your eyes this way for real that tugs at your heart, no matter the story.

What an amazing risk, commitment, and accomplishment.

I think of children I’ve known at age 7, 12, 15, and 19. What if the child actor decides he wants to play soccer, have a girlfriend, or any number of things rather than continue making the movie he’s already spend years working on?

There’s something about that risk, the fragility of life (its essence, really), that’s simply there, in the background, throughout the film. Even its most mundane moments seem to offer a kind of heartbreaking emotion that’s unique — very hard for me to describe.

That’s not to say this is just a video of people aging. The story is episodic, like “Forrest Gump” or “Fiddler on the Roof” — and it works. It’s almost as if it invents a new genre.

It’s a brilliant, poignant unfolding. Adults say things and do things, sometimes big and life changing, sometimes small and insignificant. While the adults are oblivious, almost callous, to the impact, self-absorbed with their need to survive something or react to something, the children take all this in, give it meaning, and build their personalities, dreams, and ways of being around random events in time and space.

Life events (moving, marriage, divorce, the first day at a new school, a game of bowling) can shake your emotions pretty hard when held up to and seen through the innocence of a child.

In a sequence towards the end of the film, Ethan Hawke’s character, the father, offers advice to his broken-hearted son. He’s not doing a very good job of understanding what his son is dealing and he finally admits, in passing, that he basically doesn’t know how to live life himself and has been winging it the whole time. This is obvious to us, the audience, but news to his son — and seems to bring everything full circle. My, how we judge our parents, forgetting that they are/were just like us — taking what they know to be right and good and winging it.

And that’s life. We wing it all the time, while the people around us think we’ve got it figured out and every action is intentional.

“Boyhood” is a remarkable film.

boyhood

Remembering Maya Angelou — a teacher of life

angelouIn 1994, just before Christmas, I embarrassed myself, just a little, at Maya Angelou’s house.

She had made a great big, delicious lasagna for her students, and I served myself a large portion.

“That’s too much, Mr. Post,” she said. “You don’t need to eat that much.”

She was right. I put some back.

After all, I was almost twenty years older than the other students in the class. I had a slower metabolism, and a bigger waistline. And I do eat too much.

This was the final class of the semester and Dr. Angelou had invited us to her house for dinner and  an evening of reciting poetry.

I was a student in that class, and that’s a key distinction. Student.  I was not a fan, and she made sure of that.

She was a renaissance woman, an American superstar of performance, letters, education, transformation, and wisdom. I had her books. I was at Clinton’s Inauguration, with a real ticket, close enough, with binoculars, to see her stun the nation with her grace and artistry as she delivered her poem,  “On the Pulse of Morning.”

And, thanks to an invitation from Laura Godfrey, Robert Jones and I went to Wake Forest one summer afternoon in 1994 and saw her speak to a group of Japanese exchange students.

After her talk she signed autographs. I did not ask for the autograph. I asked her if I could be in her class in the fall semester.

She said yes, if I would be there as a student, not as a fan.

I agreed, and she held me to that agreement.

It was a weekly class, on Tuesdays at 3pm. Each week, we were assigned a book to read and a paper to write. I read each book during the week and then read it again on weekends. Dr. Angelou asked a lot of questions, and she did not wait for me to raise my hand. She called on me frequently. She made sure the older guy in the room was there as a student, not as a fan.

Until now, I’ve honored that special request of hers. Shortly after that class, Frank DeLoach suggested I write a column about the experience for The Salisbury Post. I declined.

I had to get special permission to leave West Rowan Middle School an hour early, one day a week, to go to this class. Dr. Danny Thomas, the Assistant Superintendent at that time, had to get it cleared by the school board. I was a technology facilitator in a middle school and this class had nothing to do with my field of work. In order to embark on this adventure, I signed an unusual agreement saying that if I did not spend the next five years in the school system I would reimburse the system a certain amount of money, according to a formula set forth in the agreement, for those fifteen missed hours.

I needed name tags, bad. The first day of class, she went around the room and played the name game. It only took one round for her. She knew all of our names immediately. Then it was our turn. Each of us had to go around the room and speak each other’s names. We did this for several weeks. There were forty students in the class. Being the victim I can imagine myself to be when left to my own devices, I thought this was a little harder for me and a bit unfair. I went to Wake Forest. It’s not that big of a school. Many of them already knew each other! Of course I didn’t say that. It would have carried no weight at all with Maya Angelou. She was tough as nails and had earned the right to be so — while at the same time she personified, and gave language to, a personal and global stand for compassion and forgiveness and respect.

In those fresh and heady days, after the exciting Clinton victory of ’92 and just prior to Gingrich’s snide take-back win in ’94, there was a lot of possibility aflutter. She had been a star at the inauguration.

She loved her fame, and the platform it made available to her — and she loved teaching.

She joked that Nelson Mandela, who had just been elected President of South Africa, had asked her out. She got a huge laugh from the class when she described herself reprimanding him for making a play for her, because he was “still married to Winnie.”

She missed one of our classes and brought in a substitute professor from a different university so she could go to Los Angeles and shoot a movie, How to Make an American Quilt.

“He’s shooting around me so I only miss one class,” she said.

One afternoon, a bee flew in the open window and Dr. Angelou flew out the classroom door, waiting until someone got the bee out. She was allergic.

Another day, the TV cameras and crew were there, and I got to see a glimpse of myself on a national news magazine type of show (can’t remember which one).

She often said that she loved teaching so much that if she had become a teacher before she had become a writer, she never would have become a writer.

She was in a state of loving awe for her son, and took time in every class to talk about him.

The course was “The Philosophy of Liberation.” We read and discussed To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf, Federico García Lorca’s “The House of Bernardo Alba,” Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” Wole Soyinka’s The Man Died, Kobo Abe’s The Woman in the Dunes, Paule Marshall’s Praisesong for the Widow, James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time, and a number of others I no longer remember.

That winter evening, after the salad and garlic bread and lasagna, shortly before Christmas break, with Wake Forest students feeling the weight of exams and me, the oddball teacher from Salisbury, hoping I would look good and remember the poem I had memorized, we all gathered in the living room of this wonderful, generous woman — an international celebrity. The chairs were set in rows, a close, cozy arrangement. One by one, each of us took our turn at the front of the room to recite our poem.

That was our final exam. Enjoy a meal at her house, memorize a poem of our choice, and give it to the class.

I memorized Shelly’s “Ozymandias,” a sonnet, fourteen lines in iambic pentameter. It was a challenge for me, but a safe choice, and fairly typical for the evening.

There was a young man in that class with a physical handicap that affected his voice and required him to read, in a labored fashion, one word at a time, with one eye barely an inch from the page, bearing down on it with a magnifying glass.

A moment I’ll never forget is when he came to the front of the room.

“What’s your poem?” she asked.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” he said.

“The whole thing?” she asked.

“Yes,” he said. There was no hesitancy. No emotion. No confidence. Nothing.

I remember thinking, “Can he do that? Is he going to be all right?” I had suffered for a week learning fourteen lines. Prufrock is 131 meandering lines of various lengths that take all kinds of odd twists and turns.

He delivered it from the heart. He was Prufrock. It was one of the most authentic, moving, powerful experiences of my life.

Dr. Angelo had created the perfect space for that young man to transform who he was for all of us that night. He ambled to the front of the room as a kid with special needs. When he took his seat, a few minutes later, he was an engaging, magnetic, delightfully giving human being.

I’m so sorry to hear this loving, graceful, remarkable woman has passed away, and I regret that I never made an effort to contact her in any way since then. She said, and made sure we got, that we were not her students in that class only, but students of hers for life. And that’s true. With her legacy, we were, and are, students of hers for life. I cherish the memory of that class, am grateful for it, and, like millions of people around the world, am extraordinarily honored to have known her.

How to make a perfect batch of easily peeled hard boiled eggs

EggWe have chickens, and although they are nearing the end of their laying careers, we still get more eggs than Alicia and I can eat (In recent weeks I’ve been having smoothies instead of eggs for breakfast).

So we have an ample supply of eggs and today I embarked on boiling a dozen.

When hard boiling fresh eggs, the challenge comes in the peeling. Older, grocery store eggs peel easier. Fresh eggs sometimes have a firm grip on the shell, and, when peeling, much chipping and deformity can ensue.

I’ve found ways to mitigate this problem. One way is to use a certain pot. I don’t know why, but this one particular pot in our cabinet delivers eggs that are easier to peel. Another way is to take them fresh from the boiling water into a bowl of ice water, and then peeling. The temperature change seems to shock them out of their shell.

But it’s still a challenge and some eggs don’t retain their smoothness and are sometimes so pockmarked that they become a treat for the dog.

And now I’ve found the most perfect way ever! Here it is:

1. Put one dozen eggs in a pot. Fill with water. Ignite stovetop and adjust to its highest flame.
2. Get a phone call. While on the phone, move to my office (a separate entrance from the house).
3. Talk for awhile. Get off the phone. Take notes from the call. Send the caller an email.
4. Make another phone call.
5. Check email.
6. Go the bathroom. Because the iPad is upstairs, go up there to use the bathroom. Sit on the toilet and rewatch a few minutes of 30 Rock.
7. Go downstairs. Watch a few more minutes of 30 Rock.
8. Hear loud pop come from the kitchen and imagine that something must have fallen or the house is settling and continue to watch this hilarious episode of 30 Rock.
9. Hear another pop.
10. Continue watching 30 Rock.
11. Hear another loud pop.
12. Get my ass up and go in the kitchen to see what’s causing all these pops.
13. Notice the burner on the stove flaming away underneath a pot of dry eggs.
13. Remove the pot from the stove and fill with cold water.
14. Peel the eggs, cooked to perfection, with ease.

Voila!

Jenny Lee Wright’s one woman show — A Narcissistic Evening of neurotic behavior

Pleasantly surprised?

No, I was pleasantly AMAZED at Jenny Lee Wright’s one woman show — A Narcissistic Evening of neurotic behavior at Spoken Space Theatre tonight.

It was a FULL show — polished and well-prepared — and kept the house alive with loud, authentic laughter throughout.

This was a premier, and one night only. But the show is a done deal and begs for more productions.

Think Carol Burnett or Tracey Ullman for a new generation.

Jenny is completely at ease with her nine, distinct personalities, each of which is at ease moving between improv and story and conversing with the audience.

When I saw the promo videos, I thought, well…maybe it should be psychotic rather than neurotic. But no, neurotic fits. Also charming and adorable and alive and engaging.

My favorite was Ash, the yoga girl, and Donna, “the voice of reason inside Jenny’s head.”

A really awesome accomplishment, and I’m proud to have been a part of this show getting its start in a small theatre in Salisbury, NC.

Now, I anxiously await to see where it goes next.

Love Poem, the short film, directed by Simon O’Keefe

I wrote Love Poem in the 90’s, when we were doing the 9×9@9 shows at Theatre Charlotte.

Since that time, it’s been produced several times in 10 minute play festivals. At one point, I thought I would shoot it. And I’ve had a number of requests from people in this country and others to make that film. I always said what I always say: “Sure!”

To my knowledge, nobody’s ever shot the script, until now.

Simon O’Keefe, a film major at SUNY Buffalo State College emailed me in February and asked my permission to film the play.

And today — he emails to tell me that he has done that.

I love this, on many levels. It’s a contribution to students who are creating their lives: Simon, a sensitive, engaging director; Joseph, the spot-on DP; and Elan and Amanda — the beautiful, meticulous young actors.

And of course it’s fulfilling for me to see these words explored on film. It satisfies the person who, although never on stage or on screen, is always the biggest ham in the room, the writer. Thanks, ya’ll, for  this extraordinarily generous gift.

It’s awesome work, creating film, and you did great work. I hope you learned from the experience and got an A (that would be my grade) — and I hope I have the opportunity to see your careers unfold in the future.

I’m proud to share this:

“Love Poem”
Starring Elan LaFontaine and Amanda Wickmark
Cinematographer Joseph Wachowski
Directed by Simon O’Keefe

lovepoem
Elan LaFontaine and Amanda Wickmark in “Love Poem”

thoughts about local political talk

Rowan_County_nc_sealHere are some thoughts I thought about the Rowan County, North Carolina, campaign for County Commission — a very interesting and frustrating topic.

This blog is great. It describes what happened: “What is the Fish House?”

These Facebook pages are also great: Fire Jim Sides and Craig Pierce and La Resistance.

I may be wrong (and I hope I am), but as a strategy for electing a more progressive, responsive commission, I’m not so sure.

It’s a Fish House, Mall Tax, These-Guys-Aren’t-Good-Policy-Makers strategy.

Fire Jim Sides and La Resistance are awesome for generating interest and energy.

But a campaign requirers more than talk about the past. It requires a vision and promised actions for the future. Winning an election requires actual votes for one candidate over another — and I actually think focusing on the mall and the fish house and “wrongness” of people may help Jim Sides. It would not surprise me at all to see the opposition vote split 10 ways and see Mr. Sides increase his vote count in the next election.

La Resistance ad in the Salisbury Post. 4/6/14

He’s refusing to talk to the press and still getting all the attention. And he’s getting it for things that don’t matter that much.

There are good arguments against the county buying the mall, but there are also some valid arguments for buying it. Either way, it’s a done deal. Over. In the past.

If commissioners intend to damage the downtown and the city of Salisbury, that may be completely valid. There is evidence for that being the case. However, it’s hard to prove, much less run against, an intention or a motive. I’m not sure it can win a county-wide election.

The noise is good because it raises awareness and will likely increase voter turn-out.

But the noise needs to be channelled into a coherent strategy, and I’m not seeing that. It may actually be too late for that, since it’s too late for candidates to file.

I’ve heard the argument about switching party registration, as a strategy.

Okay, then what?

Which candidates on the Republican side support the schools? That’s what I want to hear. And I think that is what voters want to hear.

The schools are the backbone of any community. The economy, crime levels, jobs, quality of jobs, poverty, income levels — everything hinges on the quality of the school system. Every public problem the community faces could be dramatically transformed over time via the consistent presence of a high quality school system.

It’s a simple equation. Quality of Schools Now = Quality of Life in the Future. Period.

What about a candidate who champions the schools?

If there is one, who would that be?

For many years, Jim Sides has not worked WITH the school board. He’s worked against it. This way of governing has had an impact, and we’re seeing that all over. Rowan County has been behind for a good while and it’s going to take new leadership over time to catch up.

Politically, buying the mall was dumb. It’s easy to make jokes about it. But the county is growing and the government will need more office space. It’s a lot easier to justify buying the mall than it is to justify trashing the school system.

It’s almost like wasting valuable time talking about prayer at meetings. Fire Jim Sides and La Resistance are doing something similar to that. Being passionate about something that doesn’t matter that much.

Malls and fish houses are easier to talk about than facing the brutal facts about our school system and how much time and money it’s going to take to recover.

That’s the kind of noise and campaigning what I want to hear.

Purple, directed by Michael Kamel

In October, Michael Kamel, a young filmmaker, asked if he could use the script of my short play, “Purple,” for a short film.

I said sure, go for it. Michael is a freshman at George Mason University.

I get a fair number of requests such as this. They ALL warm my heart — and I mostly never hear about the project again.

Michael emailed me today, saying he’s been busy with “school, school, and more school.”

Yet, lo and behold, he actually made the film.

Today, sent me a link.

I’ve gotta say, I’m impressed. A lot of people make a lot of videos. And a lot of people talk about making films. Michael made a film. And he took care to do it well. He got more out of that script than I would have imagined.

The script…well, it’s fun and strange to look back and think what weird things were going on inside my head in 2007, when I wrote this.

The film… great work, Michael! I love it. You really know how to work with your actors. Thanks also to Jacob and Bri. I don’t know them, but I love them for breathing life into these characters. 🙂

purplepic

The Lego Movie

I missed a lot of good movies this year.

Last Saturday night, having had the opportunity to see a movie for the first time in a while, I scanned the web, looking for something good.

I wanted to see 12 Years a Slave — and I will see it — but I had spent a lot of time in my car last week and didn’t feel like driving an hour each way — which is what that would have required.

None of the movies here in Salisbury interested me.

Except… I noticed… The Lego Movie was getting great reviews.

The last time I convinced Alicia to see a movie she didn’t think she would like — with me promising it was supposed to be so good she  would, she didn’t.

It took some talking to get her to go to The Lego Movie. It took something for me to go. I’ve never seen Toy Story, or any animated greats in the past several decades. But we had not been out for a while and she was willing to be a sport about it.

The Lego Movie is a great movie. It’s a lot of fun with lots of quick wit, and we both enjoyed it completely.

Even thought somebody thinks Everything is Awesome is a fascist song, I’m absolutely sure it’s not. And it’s catchy enough, and repeated enough, to ensure you will be singing it on the way out.