Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow …

This article 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC 4.19.2014

For Russell Mitchell and Richie Nocella, who too soon were taken to be a part of the greater Cosmos, and to Steve Ferrera and Dr. Robert Wilkinson, who are still here. And a special shout-out to William Shakespeare, John Updike, and all my South Jersey high school students without whom this story could not be told.

Have I ever told you about the time I performed the “Tomorrow” soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth live on the stage of the Folger Shakespeare Library? No? Well, that’s because up until last Sunday, I hadn’t done any such performance.

But now I can tell you the tale (and, no, you smart-assed Shakespearean scholars – it’s not a tale told by an idiot).

I performed the monologue as part of a day-long celebration at the world-renowned DC Shakespeare institution to honor what would have been William Shakespeare’s 450th birthday.

And, as you can see here, I even have visual proof, that, in the words of Macbeth himself, “I have done the deed.”

But my involvement with the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy actually begins more than 4 decades ago, which of course chronologically makes for a whole lot more than just 3 tomorrows.

In 1970, I was a 2nd-semester freshman at Villanova University. My English class was taught by Dr. Robert Wilkinson (who, unbeknownst to me at the time, would become a life-long mentor ). In the class were 2 of my best friends, Steve Ferrara, my Boston-speaking roommate, and Richie Nocella from South Philly. Richie, Steve, and I had all been randomly assigned to Dr. Wilkinson’s Freshmen Comp and Lit Class (a bit of fortunate fate that would change all of our lives) the 1st semester and had chosen him for our Spring Semester English course.

In our next class, we would be examining the John Updike short story “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and So Forth.” Obviously, Updike used the beginning of the Macbeth soliloquy for his title. So Dr. Wilkinson had assigned me to memorize the 74-word word soliloquy and deliver it to the class to start our exploration.

Piece of cake, I thought. And it would have been too, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my recitation happened to occur on what turned out to be the first beautiful warm day of a Main Line spring. So somehow Richie and Steve, now joined by the fourth member of our freshmen quartet, Russell Mitchell, decided to celebrate the arrival of warm weather by grabbing some quarts of beer and some smoking material and head to a small stream near our Havertown apartment.

Now, in my defense, I probably didn’t fully realize what Steve was suggesting. To this day, Steve speaks funny. You know the type – Pahk yer cah in the bek yahd. (I mean, come on, there are r’s in those words).

But no matter what the reason, I found myself partaking in the merriment and soon I was – what is the phrase I am searching for here – oh yes, stoned and completely wasted. However, I was confident that I could still deliver my soliloquy since at the time I was a keyboardist in a rock band and had performed numerous times under the influence of chemicals that made members of the audience appear to be things like crazy-colored, melting dragons spewing giant bubbles.

We arrived at class. Richie, Steve, and Russell positioned themselves in strategic places where they could best annoy me. Dr. Wilkinson summoned and I headed to the front of the room, where I proceeded to deliver the soliloquy in flawless fashion despite the best attempts of my trio of friends to distract me. But Dr. Wilkinson – did I mention he is one of the most brilliant men I have ever encountered – must have sensed something was awry. He asked me to repeat my performance. And this time, the outcome was decidedly different. I swear I thought I was beginning by repeating “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,” but instead it came out something like “Tomershthis, ang Teropoly um tomomsie.” And it went downhill from there. Anyway, we all had a good laugh, I graduated Villanova with a BA in English, and we moved on with our lives.

After a decade as a reporter, I switched careers and became a high school English teacher. I found myself teaching Macbeth in my British lit class. And so, as I had been asked to do so many years before by Dr. Wilkinson, I had each of my Honors and Academic students memorize the “Tomorrow …” soliloquy and deliver it to the class. To make it more memorable, I tried to pair up performance with interest. A member of the baseball team could recite it standing at home plate. Members of the drama club could say it on stage.  Classroom sweethearts could deliver it together. To this day, many of my students can still recite the soliloquy by memory when I see them. Of course, they then spoil the moment by pointing out that that is the only thing they remember from my class and exactly when did my hair turn gray.

Three years ago, I retired from teaching and instructional coaching and we moved to DC. But then I was asked by a friend to join him in educational consulting. Now I find myself splitting time between high schools in DC and Syracuse, working with teachers who teach in Twilight programs designed for students who are in danger of dropping out.

Last month, I was delivering an impromptu presentation to the teachers and students in Luke C. Moore High School in DC and, in the middle of the delivery, I used the “Tomorrow” soliloquy. While I was speaking the lines, I observed 2 teachers reciting them along with me. After the presentation, I discovered that one, an English teacher, had memorized the passage when he was a high school senior in Asia. The other, a math teacher, had been required to master the soliloquy when he was a 16-year-old student in Nigeria.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, that presentation served as a good rehearsal for my Sunday work on the Folger stage which you can view by clicking here.)

So that concludes my Tomorrow tale for now. I swear it all true except for the parts I made up. But does the story, as I always used to ask my students, contain any morals, messages, or meanings?

I think there are quite a few takeaways from combining Shakespeare’s original soliloquy with my several encounters with it over the decades. They include:

  1. Macbeth says the future “creeps” in a “petty pace.” He is wrong. The future doesn’t creep. One day you are delivering a Shakespeare soliloquy in your freshmen college class. In what seems like a brief passage of time (but is actually 4 decades) you find yourself delivering that same soliloquy on a stage.
  2. Macbeth calls life “a walking shadow” that after death is “heard no more.” Sorry, Macbeth, wrong again. Life is not a shadow, but substance. And memories allow our life stories to resonate through times that come long after we are gone.
  3. While it’s true that moments of our lives are “full of sound and fury,” they do not “signify nothing.” Our friends, our experiences, our memories all give meaning, not nothingness, to our lives.
  4. And perhaps most importantly, if 3 or more of your friends ever ask you to celebrate the warmth and beauty of a first warm Spring day, be safe, but take a chance.  For whether you are an idiot or genius, there really is no telling how your tale will turn out.

Courting the Good Life

This article by me 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC

Any good sales person will tell you you need to push a product while it’s hot. That’s why, with the Washington Wizards in the NBA playoffs for the 1st time in 6 years, it wasn’t surprising that the Verizon Center was offering private, personalized visits to encourage wealthy fans to buy complete playoff and full season ticket packages.

But what was surprising is that I got one of the invites. As a retired journalist and educator who now blogs about DC, I don’t fit the profile of a DC-area elite. But hey – what’s the old saying: you don’t look a gift to spend an hour touring the Verizon Center in the mouth.

So with my wife Judy (who makes all the financial decisions for our family and I was still hoping that maybe I could see the playoff games for the $21 I had in my wallet) we headed by Metro (what did you expect – a chauffeur-driven limousine?) to the Center, which serves as the home for the Wizards, the ice hockey Capitals, the WNBA Mystics, and the Georgetown Hoyas basketball team.

We were met by our young, enthusiastic sales rep. I was upfront with him. I told him unless he had a $21-dollar package for the playoffs I wouldn’t be buying. I was fairly certain of his response since I had spent much more for a sandwich dinner at the venue at a recent Sting/ Paul Simon concert. I prepared to head back out the door.

Instead, he offered a huge table of free refreshment (where was he at that Sting/Simon concert?) and proceeded to give us an engaging tour of the facility he knew extremely well. I told him I would be blogging about the visit and he had only one request – I couldn’t use his name since he couldn’t be quoted in an official capacity for the organization. So for the sake of this blog, I will call our guide RGS (for really good salesperson).

We started at the top of the facility with the private and corporate boxes with their big screen TVs and individual bathrooms.  We moved down the sections, where still-available playoff seats were marked in white. We explored the 3 private clubs for season ticket holders, each one bigger than the next. One is located in the bowels of the building so you can feel even more a part of the action. In that section, we saw the stored-section-by-section floor for basketball and the zambonis that fix up the ice at hockey games. We visited the locker room areas. We even saw the in-site parking space for owner Ted Leonis.

RGS then escorted us down to court side. We sat at the scorer’s table. We sat in several different court side seats. And, may I say, the court side experience is much different than the in-the-heavens view I usually get.  My wife gave me her now-don’t-get-used-to-this-kind-of-life-look. I knew she was right, but for a second or two, I closed my eyes and imagined what sports is like when springing for court side seats is no financial barrier.

RGS asked us if we had any final questions. We said we didn’t and shook hands. Our tour was over.

But then a strange thing happened. As underdogs, the Wizards won both their away playoff games in Chicago against the Bulls. That means they will be returning tonight to the Verizon Center with a 2-0 lead in the best of 7 series. It also means that since my visit to the Center the Wizards are undefeated.

Now the sports world is well-known for its emphasis on lucky signs. Maybe I am one for the Wizards. So Mr. Ted Leonis, I have a special offer for you. I would be willing to become a season-ticket holder. Your salesperson RGS already gave me a great taste of what that life is like. I am sure I would be able to handle it.

Now I realize you are a business man. I am not asking for a free handout. I would be willing to pay $17.76 cents for the package. I would have paid you $21, but I bought an Arizona diet green tea drink.

I think you should seriously consider my offer. Imagine how much money you would make with an undefeated team. For a $17.76 outlay, that would be quite a bargain. In fact, that would make you one of the world’s great financial wizards. I will wait your reply. By the way, I am also available for the Caps and the Mystics if you want to try for an undefeated trifecta.

A Hairy Tale of 2 Jersey Boys

2 Jersey Boys – Bruces Springsteen and me – getting together in Georgia

This article article is part of an ongoing series of life in the Pandemic 2020

By Dave Price (5/29)

While this current worldwide pandemic has been both terrifying and deadly, it has been teaching us just how much we have in common. For the coronavirus is no respecter of status, talent, wealth, or fame – it is an equal opportunity presenter of problems.

Take the case of Bruce Springsteen and me.

Now even before the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Springsteen and myself shared several things in common. We are both Baby Boomers, although at age 70 Bruce is two years older than me. We were both born in New Jersey. We both spent our teenage years playing dances at our high school and then performing at clubs and bars at the Jersey shore. In the 1970s, we both had concert shows at Villanova University, where I graduated in 1973.

But then our careers diverged. Bruce Springsteen went on to become one of the leading rock stars in music history. Because of his prodigious talent, Bruce accumulated status, wealth, and fame. Because of my lack of his talent, I was reduced to playing keyboard as a sideline in some of New Jersey’s always loud, but never legendary classic rock cover bands.

But now Bruce and I have been reunited. Because of the widespread closings as America tries to control the spread of .the coronavirus, we have both been forced to have our wives cut our hair.

Actually, this is not the first time Judy has been my barber. From 1971 until I began my reporting in 1974, she would be the sole person responsible for periodically (as in rarely) trimming my hair.

The mid 1970’s however was the time period was where our two roads began to diverge. While I was enjoying my $80-a-week first journalism job, Bruce signed a big record company advance, a deal he sings about in some detail in his beloved song “Rosalita”.

But now, as I mentioned earlier, our hair, at least as far as cutting it is concerned, has reunited us once again.

Here is the cut that Jersey girl Patti gave Bruce.

And here is the trim that Jersey girl Judy gave me. Uh-oh … that’s Judy’s  psycho look. Oh no … I think she’s going to stab me.

Of course, even there, you have to offer Bruce the upper hand. His haircut made the national news. I had to write this article myself to even let anybody know that Judy was back to cutting my hair.
But that’s not at all bad. As everyone from Jersey knows, Bruce is the Boss, and as I can’t think of anyone else who I would rather have eclipse – or maybe in this case e-clips – me than Bruce Springsteen.

Of yeah. If you get around to reading this Bruce, you have promised to throw the biggest party ever when we can finally get back to live performances. And you know I’ll be there. Maybe before or after the show, we can get together and compare haircuts.

Notes on Woodstock 2019 – Day 2

Early Afternoon

Since we had spent 11 hours at the Bethel Hills site yesterday, we decided not to go early today. At noon, we went to lunch at the Two Rivers Grill in Matadoras, Pennsylvania where we staying. There we met my new favorite waitress, Lisa, who had just started work that week. For a few years now, if my wife Judy and I order dessert, we share. I’ve made it a standing joke to ask our servers to bring Judy a smaller fork or spoon so that I can get more of the dessert. Today, Lisa complied. But there was a twist. She brought the smaller fork for me, explaining that Judy, as a female, deserved the larger portion. Our dessert was delicious. It was fresh-baked caramel covered apple pie (neighboring upstate New York is known not only as the original home of Woodstock, but also for its apples) with home-made vanilla ice cream. And I don’t even like apple pie.

On the elevator at the Hampton Inn we met a Buffalo couple, Maria and Gunner, who had just arrived that morning and were going to the Woodstock for the first time. They asked us several questions, and since we all had lawn seats for the Santana performance, we asked them if they wanted to travel to the Bethel site with us. They said that would be great and the four of us were on the road by 3 p.m.

While Gunner and Maria wandered around taking in the atmosphere and the sights that we had been exposed to yesterday, Judy and I decided to focus on a just a couple of exhibits.

First up was the Light Bus, a version of which had actually made the journey to the original 1969 festival. In fact, the bus itself has a storied history. In 1968, Bob Grimm, who was then playing in a rock band named Light, asked his friend Robert Hieronymus to “paint us a magic bus”. Heronimus immediately got to work transforming a 1963 split window VW Kombi bus into a vehicle covered with esoteric symbols to welcome in to what was then being called a new Aquarian Age.

Like Ken Kesey and his fellow pranksters on their famed bus Further, Grimm and his friends made the trip across country in 1969 to Woodstock. Their painted bus was featured in an AP Woodstock photo that appeared in newspaper’s around America. Based on that photo, the bus began appearing in all kinds of publications and became a a talismanic of the peace and love portion of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

In 1972, the bus was used to run errands for the Savitra commune in Baltimore. Within a short time, the now decaying bus became unusable. However, in 2009, as part of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, a limited edition diecast model replica of the Light Bus was a popular best-seller.

In 2018, Hironimus and a team of artists restored a 1962 Kombi VW bus in a secluded barn in Maryland. Now, that restoration was drawing big crowds, most of whom wanted to get the pictures taken with the Light Bus in the background.

Next, I headed to Recovery Unplugged tent to talk Jim, a recovering alcoholic police officer from my home state of New Jersey who I had chatted with briefly yesterday. He was at Woodstock at a representative of the music-based alcohol and drug treatment program Recovery Unplugged offers at its facilities in Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and northern Virginia. A fourth facility is expected to open soon in Nashville.

Jim explained that Recovery Unplugged are pioneers in music-based addiction treatment. “Actually, our C.A.C. is the man who literally wrote the book on music-based addiction,” Jim explained, pointing out Paul Pellinger’s book about the story of Recovery Unplugged Music Is Our Medicine. Several musicians including Steven Tyler and Richie Supa of Aerosmith, Morris Day of the Time, and the rapper Flo-Rida are associated with the program.

While we were talking, a Bethel Woods worker approached and told Jim that he and his fellow workers would have to take down their tent and secure all the Recovery Unplugged items as a severe storm was expected to strike the area in about half-an-hour.

Judy and I decided to seek shelter in the Woodstock Museum until the storm passed. We focused on two of the exhibits, one explaining in depth the background of all the artists who performed at the first Woodstock festival and the other a temporary exhibit We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future.

The special exhibition features a collection of of authentic Woodstock artifacts including Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Airplane’s bass guitar and the tunic he wore, handwritten lyrics for the song “Goin’ Up the Country” by Alan Wilson of Canned Heat, and a speaker cabinet and missing equipment used by Bill Hanley, whose work established the standard for outdoor concert sound.

Other sections included Voices from the Past, which presented first-person commentary about changing American society in the 1960s; Woodstock Remembered, first person accounts from people who attended the historic three-day festival; Woodstock Through the Lens, a collection of photos taken at the festival; and What the World Needs Now, an interactive exhibit tat engaged participants in conversations about what they want from society today and how the experiences from 50 years ago could inform attitudes, decision-making, and actions today.

Night

While we were inside, the threatened severe storm never materialized and we headed to the amphitheater lawn to meet Gunner and Maria and enjoy in tonight’s concert with The Doobie Brothers and Santana, with its leader Carlos Santana whose musical breakthrough came from the song “Soul Sacrifice” which was featured in the award-winning 1970 documentary on Woodstock.

Of course, the original Woodstock was plagued by incessant rain storms that turned the festival fields into veritable seas of mud and mess. In fact, one of the lasting moments from the film featured the crowd shouting the “No Rain, No Rain” chant which provided the segue into Santana’s energetic performance.

Well, as if to prove the musical gods have a sense of both history and irony, after the Doobie Brothers concluded their set (which included their huge hits “Listen to the Music”, “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Long Train Runnin,” and “China Grove,” as well as my all-time favorite Doobie’s tune “Ukiah,” lighting flashed and thunder rolled. Those of us in the amphitheater (which has a reported capacity of 16,200 but on this Saturday night, was estimated to be far more than 20,000) prepared for bad weather, and, indeed just minutes before Carlos Santana and his current band were scheduled to take the stage, rain began falling.

As they have on this tour all summer, Santana was paying tribute both to Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of his band. With an explosion of noise from the crowd, a precoded version of the rain chant from the Woodstock burst from the speakers and, once on stage, the band broke into three songs that became their standards from their initial Woodstock debut – “Soul Sacrifice,” Jin-go-lo-ba,” and “Evil Ways”. Now, while it is true you can’t go home again, or as the Chinese put it, you can’t put you feet in the same river twice, that Santana there-song opening was about as close as you can get if you had been one of the estimated 400,000 who attended Woodstock in 1969.

Complete Set List for Santana at Woodstock 2019

  1. Woodstock IntroPlay Video
  2. Soul Sacrifice(with ‘Light My Fire’ tease)Play Video
  3. Jin-go-lo-ba(Babatunde Olatunji cover)Play Video
  4. Evil Ways / A Love SupremePlay Video
  5. (Da Le) YaleoPlay Video
  6. Put Your Lights OnPlay Video
  7. Exodus (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover) (with The Doobie Brothers) (with ‘Get Up, Stand Up’ and ‘… more )Play Video
  8. Black Magic Woman / Gypsy QueenPlay Video
  9. Oye como va(Tito Puente cover)Play Video
  10. Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile) Play Video
  11. Happy Birthday to You(Mildred J. Hill & Patty Hill cover) (for band member and roadie… more ) Play Video
  12. Imagine (John Lennon cover) (Cindy Blackman Santana on lead vocals) Play Video
  13. Hope You’re Feeling Better (with rap interlude and blues outro)Play Video
  14. Total Destruction to Your Mind (Swamp Dogg cover) (with ‘Miss You’ tease, ‘(I… more )Play Video
  15. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)Play Video
  16. Breaking Down the Door Play Video
  17. Corazón espinado Play Video
  18. Maria Maria Play Video
  19. Foo Foo Play Video
  20. Encore:
  21. Are You Ready (The Chambers Brothers cover) (with Cindy Blackman Santana drum solo) Play Video
  22. Smooth Play Video
  23. Peace Love and Happiness (with band introductions; with… more ) Play Video
  24. Get Together(The Youngbloods cover)

It’s Dead + Nats = No Hats for Us

Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia and Vince Welnick perform the National Anthem at opening day 2013 in
San Francisco

When considering the Grateful Dead, you probably don’t think about baseball. But the still popular improvisational San Francisco jam band and the game known as the national pastime have a strong connection.

Original Dead co-guitarist Bob Weir is a baseball fan. In fact, it was reported a few years ago that Weir was considering working on a music project involving famed Negro League pitcher Satchell Paige. 

The Dead first came to widespread prominence during the 1967 San Francisco-based Summer of Love and a love affair of sorts was born between Weir and the hometown Giants. In 1993, Weir, along with now-deceased Grateful Dead members, guitarist Jerry Garcia and keyboardist Vince Welnick, sang the National Anthem at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for the Giants opening day game against the Florida Marlins Weir and former Dead bassist Phil Lesh also sang the anthem for a 2014 National League Championship game in the City by the Bay.

Now calling themselves Dead and Company, the remaining original members of the band – Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart with newcomers John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and  Jeff Chimenti continue to perform sold-out concerts across the country. Over their 54 years of performing in various configurations, members of the Dead have built one the most devoted fan bases in all of rock. The tie-died fans, called Deadheads, consider the band a lifestyle, not just their favorite musical act.

Realizing the relation between the Dead and baseball and the band and its fans, executives for several baseball teams have been scheduling special Grateful Dead Night for a home game. The first such promotion was created by the Giants in 2010 to recognize the 15-year anniversary of band leader and counterculture guru Garcia’s death.

“The Grateful Dead are an iconic band that appeals to a wide demographic, so it was not a difficult decision to make,” the chief operating officer of the Milwaukee Brewers Rick Schlesinger told Business Sports Journal

Now, while I appreciate the eclecticism of the Dead, the laid-back lifestyle of the Deadheads and have attended a few band shows over the years, I am not a fanatical follower. But our 46-year-old son Michael has been attending shows regularly since he entered college in 1991. And he has hopes that our 10-year-old grandson Owen will also someday come to understand the joy expressed at a Dead concert.

So when my wife Judy and I discovered that the Washington Nationals were holding an August Grateful Dead night promotion which included giving away Grateful Dead baseball caps, we saw it as a way to pick up hats for Michael and Owen.

Now Judy and I, being South Jersey natives, are Phillies fans, but since we now live in Crystal City, Virginia, which is only four Metro stops from the Nationals Ballpark in Washington, D.C., we have been attending a few games a year there, especially when the Phillies are in town.

We bought out tickets online. On game night, we headed to the Nats’ ballpark. But as all Deadheads know, when the Grateful Dead are involved you can expect the unexpected. 

Arriving at the stadium, we were surprised that the Dead caps weren’t being distributed at the gates as they do for bobble heads, t-shirts, and other promotions. “No big deal, they’ll probably just give them out when we exit,” I told Judy.

We were greeted inside by swirling, dancing bears (one of the group’s many symbols) and a local DC tribute band playing Dead covers on the giant screen. As we began making our way to our seats, we saw a fan sporting a Dead baseball cap. Then a few others. Then a whole lot more. Judy checked in at a promotions kiosk to see what was going on. She was told that only those fans who had purchased special tickets at a special price would be receiving the special hats. They were being distributed at a large blue tent outside the First Base gates. 

This wasn’t what we had expected, but since we had only really come to get the two Dead baseball caps, we decided to exit the ballpark and see if we could sweet-talk someone into giving hats to us even though we didn’t have the right tickets.

But despite the fact that we did see about 25 hats still on the table, we had no luck. We learned that actually the promotion had been “capped” at 3,000 fans and the special-ticket holders who didn’t pick up their hats would have them mailed to them.

Of course, as another rock legend, Rolling Stones vocalist Mick Jack has been singing for 51 years, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might get what you need”.

And, at this point, Judy and I decided we needed to get back to our apartment and pack, since we were leaving the next day for the 50thanniversary celebration of Woodstock, at the original Bethel, New York, site of the festival.

On the walk to the Metro, we briefly discussed buying Grateful Dead caps online for Michael and Owen. But, although we love both of them greatly, we decided against it for economic (our son is a professor of economics and Owen has expressed interest in becoming one himself so I’m sure they will understand) reasons. We had spent $20 each on our tickets and $24 each for dinner. In addition, I had treated myself to one of those $6 ballpark Cokes. With tax and Metro fares, that meant our hatless baseball sojourn had cost us more than $100. 

Besides, I’m fairly certain the Nationals will have another Grateful Dead promotion next season. And I know that if I decide to go that game, I won’t be leaving without whatever Grateful Dead swag they’re offering. Or maybe, on second thought, I ‘ll just buy Michael and Owen tickets to a Dead show next year. That would probably be cheaper.