PICKLEBALL JESTS

Most everybody knows there are only two things worth milking—a cow and a joke. So lacking meandering cows out here in the racing, rushing mini-metropolis of New Paltz we tend to depend on getting as much milk as we can out of any joke that passes by. We do what we can with prepared jokes, the kind spilt on the internet, but the kind we like best are the ones that pop out of the blue, you know, out of the course of life as she is happening, like this one :
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An Opera—of all things!

A while ago when I was searching for a poetic, suspenseful, action-packed play to put on I came across exactly what I was after. It was a play that Oscar Wilde had bequeathed to this "contemptible" world, but that was, alas, unfinished. As I hate to see good things go down incomplete—a play or a person—I finished the thing and in due time I put it on. (Now it's playable and in print and anybody with guts to spare can stage it. You can read the preface I wrote and download the first few pages by clicking here.)

Time passed and an idea waltzed into my mind. You know how a poem sometimes seems to yearn for a tune to go with it and lo, there's a song. Or sometimes a comedy wants a bit of music and there you have a musical. And sometimes a tragedy cries out to be—an opera! Well, this play, A Florentine Tragedy, should be an opera! It's got illicit love, lovers from different levels of society, lust, suspicion, suspense, violence, death. Opera, opera, I tell you. Like Oscar's Salome that Strauss operasized. Now what do I know about opera? What I know about opera I experienced at our family's Sunday dinners back in Brooklyn. And grand opera it was. So who is out there that can turn this Renaissance tragedy into an opera?
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The Lady or the Tiger ?

Frank Stockton - Author of The Lady or the Tiger

The other day I got to thinking about choice and how it seems that sometimes we have it and at other times we have no choice at all. And how I've proclaimed—talking out of both sides of my mouth— "I'm a free man; it's a free country and I'm free to choose whatever I want," as well as " I really had no choice." Or in another version: "You leave me no choice!" (which sounds like a threat out of a B movie or since they've stopped making A movies out in the dream factory it could come from any new A movie). Then, sailing into my mind, like a paper airplane, came the recollection of a tale I read way back when, one that has rattled in my memory ever since.

The story is The Lady or the Tiger? and it was penned by a moustachioed Canadian called Frank Stockton about a century ago. It purports to be about choice, and maybe a few other things. As the story goes, there was a king in some far-off, semi-barbaric kingdom who built a great arena in which his brand of justice could be displayed. Now, this king had, as you might expect, a "semi-barbaric " daughter and she fell—well, I won"t give it away. You can experience the story for yourself. It's a haunting tale that used to be required reading in the barbaric days of the last century. Here's a condensed version I recorded recently with some friends.

Give it a listen and then read the rest of the post...


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Pickling Along

Today was a red letter day in the annals of pickle ball. Today my wife, my very own wife who despises exercise, actually met me at the courts and played the game of the hour.

To my surprise she played well, using a strong backhand, a stroke she doubtlessly developed during the years of whacking her two bull-headed sons upside their respective heads. Unfortunately, the game requires accuracy in placing the ball where the opponent ain't and for that the backhand is not the best stroke. But she learned and gave me two good games; one went to ten—ten.
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GET YOURSELF INTO THE PICKLE

Frank Crocitto - Pickle Ball

So I goes to my neighbor to see if he's got a pry bar so's I can pry something and he ain't got no pry bar but he sez to me like he's a hen that's been sitting on an egg all day and just can't wait to ask somebody this: D'ya evah hear o' pickle ball?

Now me, whats played baseball and basketball and stickball and hockey (on skates and off) and futball—which is what they call  soccer in Italy and such places which don't know no better—and real trueblue football and handball and tennis and volleyball and kick-the-can-running-bases and plain old kick-the-can and punchball and slapball and a lotta other things and so on and so forth and etcetera, I think to myself: Me?!! Me??!! never heard of a game? What kinda game could it be if I never heard of it? You know how your mind goes when it's too stupid to realize it's not the center of the universe. Besides what the heck kinda game that's worth playing goes around with a moniker like pickle in its name? The only name dumber than that of the games I ever heard of that ain't got no dignity to it is that dopey game called Monkey-in-the-middle. Right?

So I sez to my neighbor with all the distance and looking-far-down-the-schnozz disdain jest like I'd taken a big bite outa a very very sour pickle like used to come in a barrel in a Jewish deli I used to frequent on Second Avenue—when Second Avenue was Second Avenue. "No, I never heard of it," sez I, ready to drop the whole matter and go somewhere else for a pry bar. But my neighbor jest smiles and acts like he didn't hear the tone my voice was taking and the way my legs are turning my whole body around like two greyhounds that are gasping and tugging to take me home. And he sez without taking time to spit, "I tell you what: let's go see Rick."

Rick? I think to myself. I don't have the time to go see Rick.
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TO FINE-TUNE TOYN

How many times have you heard it? Unsuspected wisdom coming out of the corners of unlikely mouths; a statement redolent of the halls of Olympus; a pronouncement—a non sequitur; a cap, a clincher, a crown to the muttering of innumerable opinions: "Those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." Yessir.
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SOME BLOGGARY ON HIGH BARBARY

High Barbaree

It was yesterday, it was sixty years ago. I saw a strange title on a billboard. A short while later I heard the movie was playing at the Endicott, down 13th Avenue, the closest theater to my house, where admission was exorbitant: a nickel during the week and a dime on Sundays. I went, with a raggle-taggle of friends.

HIGH BARBARY was the feature. To be more historically precise, they spelled it with a double ee—HIGH BARBAREE (I think). It was a war drama, I knew that, and an airplane figured in it. That it was a serious, eerie tale I had no doubt, but jingling in my head on the long, hot, summer walk was an imbecilic set of syllables: "Hey, bob-a-ree-bob!" which was a scrap of sounds people were repeating in the neighborhood, which must have come from a hit song or a movie.

Out of this mixed fudge of memories I see Van Johnson, a blonde, freckle-faced, All-American-kind-of-guy, bidding farewell to June Allyson, a blonde, freckle-faced kind-of-girl, before marching off to war. But before he goes an uncle of his, an old salt, who barely steps onto land long enough to wet his whistle, arrives to tell him of his most recent failure to find the uncharted island somewhere in the Pacific that he has been searching for all his life. Thomas Mitchell plays the old salt with delightful, wheezing enthusiasm.

The youth goes off to fight the Axis and becomes a pilot of a fighter plane flying missions in the Pacific. A Japanese Zero shoots his plane down, killing the rest of his crew. Unaccountably, his plane doesn't sink and he floats for days in the desolate waters, in an eerie stillness, under a blinding sun.
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