27 February, 2009


I apologise for my temporary hiatus from bloggage. I have had a jam packed two weeks; and I can't go in to a tremendous amount of detail because it is "classified" and all that...

.... Buuuuuut it may or may not have involved a workshop of a new piece (that was actually very good--- which is exceptional, because workshops are often pretty atrocious) that included me dancing, yes dancing (!!) with... WITH... the great Mr. Cooper. There was singing and acting and dancing and the stage smooching of two lovely men and well, it was just thoroughly marvelous. I worked hard doing double duty, rehearsing during the day and performing in Carousel at night, but it was worth it to feel creative and challenged again. It was exhausting in the best possible way and utterly exhilarating.

The other exciting thing-a-majig is something I am not ready to share with all of you yet... but it has something to do with writing. I promise to share more when the time is right.

But I will say this... this has been one of the best fortnights of my recent life.

My return to bloggage begins again this weekend. Thank you for your patience. We will be on the move shortly. Please stand clear of the closing doors.

15 February, 2009

A Midnight Mitzvah*

There is a disabled man who lives around the corner from me. I really like him. I consider him my friend. But I have never spoken with him, we've never exchanged two words. But I respect and admire him more than I could ever hope to articulate.

Occasionally, I will see him on the tube, I will glance over and smile, and he will respectfully nod back to me, recognising both me and our silent neighbourly connection, with an expression both sincere and circumspect. He always wears a beautifully tailored suit, and he always smells aromatically and decadently of the Mid East. He wears simple wire-rimmed glasses and a perfectly folded handkerchief in his breast pocket. He is very proud and very strong and very, very wonderful. He is a hero. I adore him.

One of the many frustrating things about London is how taxing and difficult it is to get around. Although the public transportation system is vast and relatively dependable, the city itself is a sprawling creature with thousands of intricate tentacles. Or perhaps these strings of transportation are more like veins, all pumping life force throughout the circulatory system of the city, moving some in, and some out, resting at night. Our hero's disability affects his legs and feet, and his speed though steady and dignified and deliberate, is often compromised by the impatient, the careless, the heartless, or simply, the late.

Tonight I saw him outside the Underground station, walking steadfastly to the Bus stop, when suddenly a 67 appeared, and people started running to catch the Bus probably 60 yards away. Not much of a run for the likes of me. But for this man, everything about it was agony. The pain of not making it, especially at this hour of night, far exceeded any physical discomfort. I saw him struggle, and deliberately slowed my pace, and tried to allow all the other passengers to board the bus as slowly as possible, then took my good sweet time boarding the bus in my own right. I dove into my bag searching for my pesky oyster card, attempting to let my friend catch up. He was just a few paces behind! And when my efforts failed and the driver started to take off without him, I stopped him and said "Wait! Please!" and my friend triumphantly boarded the bus.

I sat down on the bottom deck by the window and didn't look back. He took the seat beside me, shifting into the seat out of breath but happy. Relieved.

"Made it," he said to me, smiling, breathless, looking me in the eye.
And then a moment.
He looked down into his lap, fists clenched around his knees. "Thank you."
"No problem," I said.

We smile at one another.
And that was that.

* Mitzvah (Hebrew: מצווה, IPA: [ˈmɪtsvə], "commandment"; plural, mitzvos or mitzvot; from צוה, tzavah, "command") is a word used in Judaism to refer to the 613 commandments given in the Torah and the seven rabbinic commandments instituted later for a total of 620. The term can also refer to the fulfillment of a mitzvah.

The term mitzvah has also come to express any act of human kindness, such as the burial of the body of an unknown person. According to the teachings of Judaism, all moral laws are, or are derived from, divine commandments.

06 February, 2009

"What the dickens!!"

So. I have this friend who is in the orchestra of Oliver! at Drury Lane. And a friend of mine and I wanted to go along and see him, especially as he makes a *very special* onstage appearance in the Oom Pah Pah scene.

When I sent him a message expressing my general excitement at what I was certain was a DICKENS of a performance, he at first expressed confusion, and then, DENIED the existence of such a phrase, accused me of fictions, and challenged me to prove it was real.

[Norma Desmond glare] HOW DARE HE...

This is what the first message contained:

RH & myself INtend to ATtend what we hear is a fine performance indeed of Oliver[Exclamation Point], not excluding our excitement for your personal rolicking portrayal as the Oom Pah Pah accordionist (I hear it's a DICKENS of a performance... doooo... you understand why that is funny?...[NOTE: that is me poking fun at D])

Shall we meet after at roughly 5:15?

This was his reply:

MB wrote on January 31, 2009 at 15:51

RH and AS, I'm very excited you're planning to come. Be warned tho, I don't do much, I just stand there in my ARTFUL Artful Dodger hat.

Oh, and strictly speaking, I am the Oom Pah Pah CONCERTINA player. Just so that is clear. I don't want any disappointment.

Al, I don't understand why DICKENS of a performance is funny, I may need a Humbley-style explanation.

Looking forward! xxx

Then RH got involved and replied:

RH wrote on January 31, 2009 at 17: 08

-Let it be noted that he is, indeed, the Oom Pah Pah CONCERTINA player.

-"Dickens of a performance" is funny because it doubles a common turn of phrase with a reference to Charles Dickens......who wrote
Oliver Twist.... hence.......oh where's Damian when you need him?



THEN....it turned in to THIS....

MB wrote on 3 February, 2009 at 05:16

Dear comrades:

Hold on, hold ON... "Dickens of a performance" is a common turn of phrase?? Are you losing your minds???!!! Please tell me you've never heard this before or are totally having me on or making this up...

The following exchange continued. It began on 3 February, 2009 at 18:00

AL: MB. I will get to the bottom of this dickens of a mystery....
MB: You're wasting your time I tell you! it doesn't exist!
MB: You made it up i tell you!
MB: If you google "dickens of a" it comes up with nothing. Nothing at all!
AL: That is just so infuriatingly false. NOT true. It comes up with dickens of a show, dickens of crime, dickens of a meal, dickens of a blah de blah!
AL: Oh my GOD it is EVERYWHERE. Your Oliver! reviews are LADEN with this phrase I am serious. Please get with the etymological program!!

Finally, others intervened:

SF said at 6:00pm February 3
"Dickens" used to be a euphemism for the devil I believe, so probably means "a hell of a time" Hope it helps!

MH said at 6:58pm February 3
I've heard it most in "Where the Dickens is ... ?" cf. My Fair Lady. I think the minced oath for Devil is correct. It's like Christopher Columbus for Christ. Or Jiminy for Jesus. Or Golly for God.

MH spoke up again at 11:21am February 4
My curiosity piqued, I've been Googling for the last 10 minutes (thank goodness(!) I've nothing better to do) and Shakespeare uses Dickens in this way in the Merry Wives of Windsor Act III sc ii. In THE UNQUIET DEAD episode of Doctor Who David Tennant says "What the Shakespeare?!" to Charles Dickens (played by Simon Callow) which gives a nice nod to the pop etymology that it is derived from Charles Dickens.

and again at 8:39am February 5
Um, correction: it was Christopher Eccleston's Doctor not David Tennant’s.

And finally, I reserached what I always knew to be true, and replied with the following:

The origin of the phrase "dickens" is 1590–1600; apparently a fanciful use of Dicken, form of Dick, a proper name. It had nothing whatsoever to do with Charles Dickens, but rose in popularity in Victorian times with the notoriety of the famous author. It appears in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor Act 3.2: "I can not tell what the dickens his name is."

1. - devil: a word used in exclamations of confusion; "what the devil"; "the deuce with it"; "the dickens you say"

2. A severe reprimand or expression of anger: gave me the dickens for being late.

3. Used as an intensive: "What in the dickens is that?", or, "That was a Dickens of a night!"
[Alteration of devil.]

3. Dick"ens\, n. or interj. [Perh. a contr. of the dim. devilkins.] The devil. [A vulgar euphemism.]

4. –noun
devil; deuce (usually prec. by the and often used in exclamations and as a mild imprecation): The dickens you say! What the dickens does he want?


And thus, I was vindicated, and I simply had to share this fascinating journey of Etymology and Semantics with all of you. It was a dickens of a journey.

But this brings up such an interesting point: I personally never knew that the word "dickens" did not refer directly to Charles Dickens, nor did I know it was a replacement for "devil." I learned so much from being challenged by my (diviiiiinely incorrect) comrade. Any other stories out there of Etymological fascinations?

MB: I'm paying homage to you. You are a dickens of a gal Al Silber.

... Why thank you.

* * *

*NOTE: names have been spared to protect the incorrect...
** Blatant prodding of poor D is done with absolute love and is the friendliest of banter.

04 February, 2009

Domestic Happenings, Episode 7: Beep Beep

A Winter Special.

Sometimes Domestic Happenings are just... you know....random...

02 February, 2009

Hot Cocoa, Here I Come...

Snow Day.
The capital has come to a standstill.
Show canceled.
Time to snuggle in.
Hunker down.
Bundle up.

Snowmen made.
Hot chocolate prepared.
...With marshmallows.

And though the city is frozen, the people within it are oddly warmer than usual. Smiling, building snow people and waving at one another.

Snow days are magical for so many reasons.

01 February, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom

Dear Mama,

…to say what you want to say, you must create another language and nourish it for years and years with what you have loved, with what you have lost, with what you will never find again.
–George Seferis

I’ve been sitting staring at this blank page for about ten minutes now, attempting to grab, to clutch at the appropriate words to commemorate this day, this point in your life. I think what I am realizing is that “summing up” my feelings is going to be a futile gesture.

I think of our relationship now, and it makes me bubble with a warmth and security. We are more than simply Mother and Daughter (which, admittedly, is no simple thing), but friends, kindred spirits.
I enjoy your company.
I love to talk with you.
You are my best friend in the purest sense.
We 'get' each other.
The way we love and respect one another is without question, and almost without notice, so calm and real are the waters between us. I can come to you for a few moments of sanity, to talk (forever), to listen, to have my life held in your sane and discerning mind; to hold yours, to provide some kind of helpful commentary and to bask in contented love (this, incidentally, was perfectly displayed in our magnificent day at the V&A in 2008-- perfect 'day with Mom.')

I have learned so much from you, from the mundane to the extraordinary. From hair de-frizzing to bargain shopping, from table manners to how to deal with jealousy, from tampons to roasting vegetables, from driving to makeup, from dealing with success to dealing with grief.

I remember when you came in to my room when I was 18 months old, and picked me up out of my crib and took me over to the piñata shaped like a star, and slowly said “Star… it’s a star…”

I remember when I stole your diary from your summer in Mexico and thought, “My God, my Mom is cool.” I remember walking up and down Fairway every day.

 I remember cocoa-coffee in the mornings.

 I remember hijacking your love of Judy Collins.

I remember our trips home from school every day.

I remember your face after The Miracle Worker.
And She Loves Me.

I remember calling you when I first tasted crunchy peanut butter and your response was “I told you!”

I remember the look on your face after I delivered the Eulogy.

I remember our perfect, perfect day in London at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I remember your face being very patient with me, and trying not to laugh while I was hysterically crying about not understanding 'the MORTGAGE.'

I remember spreading Dad’s ashes around the baseball diamond.

I remember you patiently reading the label of the bath salts to me in the tub while I recovered from a migraine ("And Al? Should you have any comments or questions, please feel free to call this number in Nanhasset, Connecticut...")

I remember Cassie Victoria.

I remember Christmas tree pageants.

I remember.
I remember.
I remember everything.
It is the stuff of which our colorful and textured life has been woven.

But most importantly, through your actions you have taught me that life is an unending opportunity to see things differently, to keep re-framing disaster and discouragement into hope. There is pain and there is joy. There are hills and valleys. We are not always comfortable, but we can ride it out. You have never let a hardship stop your love of life. Every time we as human beings go through the process of hardship, we feel vulnerable, hopeful, unsure, and what we assume to be our weaknesses turn out to be our strengths.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

My birthday wish for you is, that, from within the pages of this book that is your life, you have learned that though at times you may feel it, that you are not alone. That you have never been alone. That, your influence in this wide and glorious world has been widespread; and bears complex, deep, and fathom-less roots. That the seemingly insignificant or minute expenditures of your energy have had profound effects on those you have come in to contact with. Twenty five years of marriage. Twenty Five years of parenting. An hour with Lauren Schefman. A series of Sundays with Fran Steinman. A phone call to Bergan Cooper. Belief in Jeremey Catterton.

You are a wonder, Catherine Silber. And I love you.

…and so now they begin Chapter One of The great Story. Which goes on forever. In which every chapter is greater than the one before…
–C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Happy 60th Birthday Mama. Here’s to the next chapter.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
-- T.S Eliot, Four Quartets

Today and always. with all my heart (and toes).
Your Very own,
Al x


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