I was much older then

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, July 8, 2008

“He ‘Havel’ was going to have to overcome his shyness. It would cause him a great deal of pain, and he might never get used to it, because although a writer is an exhibitionist, he is a different kind of exhibitionist. He had decided to become a writer because he was not able to show off any other way.” —Havel’s authorized biographer

I wrote my first play in sixth-grade titled “Home Sweet Home” in Miss Frost’s class. It was my last play. I wonder if students are invited to write plays today in sixth-grade. This was written back in 1955, I think. Long before many of you were born. The play was about a family where the mother takes ill and is hospitalized and the father and the children try to figure out how to operate without her and to manage life. To borrow from Dylan, “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.”

My play didn’t get as much attention as Vaclav Havel’s “Protest.” Of course I am not sure how many of you have read any of Havel’s plays.

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At the July 4 parade Knowles Dougherty peddled up and engaged us in thoughtful conversation. He was in town for three days and he had stopped by Rydjor Bike Shop to rent a used bike to get around while he was in Austin. Chad told Knowles he thought Dan would have just let Knowles use it while he was in town. This warmed Knowles. Me too. It was a nice aging pale green bike, what used to be called an English Bike way back when. Knowles was going to make an offer on it and thought he could transport the bike back to the Cities on the bus. He hadn’t looked into that yet.

After the parade of flying candy, Knowles walked with us back to our house to make a call. It’s reassuring to find another “land line” user. He too has stayed clear of the everywhere-cell phone that occupies more hands today then cigarettes used to when cigarettes were in their prime. Knowles made his call but no one answered. We chatted a few more minutes and soon he was peddling south on what used to be Kenwood and now answers to Fourth Street.

I noticed or heard that the other day was the 183rd day of the year; the mid-way point and now we are on the decline, moving gradually away from our condensed summer and hopefully slowly toward fall. For the time being we have the joy of summer to nourish us. The tree leaves have finally come full size. All the baby birds have hatched, or maybe they haven’t. They are pretty private about that.

Elections are coming up and finally we have women running again for the city council and county commissioner seats and you still have until July 15 to file. I think woman would be less apt to give the mayor the finger and they would dress up a bit more.

The other night I read about an Optimist Club that is having a tough time towing an upbeat line these days. This is an Optimist Club in Arizona. They “beam through the Pledge of Allegiance, applaud each other’s good news—a house recently sold despite Arizona’s down market, and one member’s valiant battle with cancer.”

But then talk turns to the State of the Union, and the Optimists become decidedly bleak. They use words like “terrified,” “disgusted” and “scary” to describe what one calls “this mess” we Americans find ourselves in.

The list of problems contributing to the mess includes: a protracted war, $4-a-gallon gas, soaring food prices, uncertainty about jobs, an erratic stock market, a tough housing market.

A 60-year-old elementary school lunch aide inducted “just this day” as an optimist sums things up with: “There’s just entirely too much wrong right now.”

Sunday last, I treated myself on my wife’s birthday to Neil Simon’s “The Good Doctor” at the Jon Hassler Theater in Plainview. Neil Simon presents a collection of Anton Chekhov’s stories that are, “well… charming and clever.”

I arrived late and was ushered into the theater and seated in the reserved front row. A few minutes later I looked at the row behind me to the left and there sat Knowles Dougherty who had come down from the Cities. It’s a small world.

The play runs next Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. Sunday it closes.