Saturday, August 16, 2008

George and Emily in Our Town

Gypsy George and the Open Road Love Affair was on hand last Wednesday night, joined for harmonies and some cello accents by our own Emily Trask. What a night! Of course, they are talented. I had no doubt. And yes, they are both loaded with personality, which translated to a ton of showmanship. But, what I found myself mulling all night was this are two amazing people on the the brink.

Let me back-up a bit and say they are both wildly successful already. George has written music for film, including a project developed by Salma Hayak. Emily has been performing professionally since she graduated from college, and she is headed to Yale in fall (I love saying that.) She'll be working on her MFA in Theatre. Those accomplishments alone would fill a lifetime for most of us. That is why I say they are on the brink. They are just beginning. But, no matter where the open road takes them, individually or together, my one hope for them is that they don't miss today.

Too many of us spend our days rushing to tomorrow and we miss this day, this moment...this breath...the very elements that allow us to have a tomorrow. The everyman speaker in T.S. Eliot's poem "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" tells us "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." He has savored life in small helpings, tasting both the sweet and the bitter.

Madison native, Thornton Wilder, embraces that same theme in his classic play "Our Town' in which the main characters are named - ironically- George and Emily. The play is intentionally slow, some would say even boring. Traditional productions use no props, and little scenery. That combination of perceived boredom, and starkness allows the audience to drift. If things work as they should, in no time, viewers will be thinking "I can hear my grandmother's wooden spoon hitting the sides of her frosting bowl on Saturday afternoon, " or, "Sure enough, there goes old cranky McGee's dog, barking after the postman again," or "Is that heliotrope I smell?"

Whether we see Emily accepting a Tony award at some time in the future (which we will) , or hear George's name being announced as winner of an Emmy for "Best Movie Score" (which we will) , we can only guess what excitement, frustration, challenges, rewards, tears and smiles lie between then and now.

I was lucky that Emily came home this summer and agreed to work here at LaDeDa. She worked with us for several years at our downtown location when she was in high school and college. Her roots in Manitowoc are solid, and her ties with the store and everyone who works/ed here are strong. When she is home, it is as if no time has passed.

I was lucky that Emily brought George around. One of my friends, (no name - she'd strangle me with an English ivy vine) admired his perfect Greek nose, his Mediterranean complexion, his mysterious eyes, the subtly tight biceps...there was too much on her list to go into. Is a discussion of his Greek nose warranted here? I think not. But I'll tell you what I do like about him. George is cautious. There was no big bear hug when we met, no overly demonstrative hello's or goodbye's. Instead, he hovered on the outskirts of my work life, watching and deciding where he fit, and even if he wanted to fit. I think he found a place. He shared just enough for me to know I'd like him to share more. I think he liked it here. I believe he knows he's welcome.

Here you all are, enjoying the night. Emily turned the camera on you...asked for silly grins, and you obliged. Aren't you glad you did?

What am I reading? Atomic Lobster by Tim Dorsey, in honor of the annual Lobsterfest sponsored by Rotary. It's a madcap mystery with shades of Hiassen and Sedaris.

I also started Carlos is Gonna Get it. This young adult revenge novel is part my yearly new school year ritual. Although I'm not teaching high school any more, some habits are worth maintaining.