JUST CALL HIM DUKE

Our granddaughter called.

“I probably shouldn’t ask this, but I’m going to ask anyway. I’ve got friends who have to find a home for their dog. How do you feel about another dog?”

“Male? Female? How big? House broken? How old?” I think she knew she had a sale because I wasn’t flat-out saying “no.” I was negotiating.

“Small. Boston terrier maybe crossed with a border collie? Just about a year old.”

“I’m pretty sure I can give you a solid ‘maybe’ on that. Garry’s at the grocery store and I don’t think he wants another dog … but he’d say probably say yes if you ask. Because you’re you and he’ll do anything for you.”

“True,” she said. Garry’s feelings about Kaity are not a big secret.

Garry and the dog and dog’s parents all arrived at the same time.

Duke the First

We had some minor negotiations. A lot of running around and playing. Lots of tongues hanging out. Play positions, a bit of yapping. No biting, no sulking. He figured out the doggy door by following Bonnie through it.

Kaity said: “Grandpa, you should give him a name. He’s never had a real name.”

Garry went outside to clean up the walk and came in the house.

“His name is Duke,” said Garry. We were getting another dog.

Duke never had a name and has grown up inside a truck. He wasn’t confined to the truck. The family who owned him lived in the truck, too. Eventually they gave the dog up for adoption and the people with whom he was living liked him, but their dog really didn’t. They had had a week of growling and serious biting and felt it wasn’t working out. Unable to get in touch with the adoption people, there was Kaitlin. And then, there was us.

This is a dog who, like Gibbs, never had the room to just run around and be a dog. He looks more like a Cavalier King Charles or a Shih Tzu crossed with a border collie. He has a rather eastern dog-face.

Tom Curley believes that when you need a dog, a dog will be there. I had been thinking that both dogs were now past 10 years old as I was cooking supper. A dog appeared. Magic!

One ear up, one ear down. And I have a feeling he’s a barker.

THE BIRTH OF A PHENOMENON – BY ELLIN CURLEY

It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to be in on something, at the beginning, that becomes huge and enduring. My ex-husband, Larry, and I had that opportunity in law school from 1973-1975.

Larry started at Georgetown University Law School (GULC) a year ahead of me. In the spring of 1973, Larry, with a talented guy named Jack Marshall and a few other law students, got together and decided to put on a show. They picked the Gilbert & Sullivan show “Trial By Jury” – very appropriate for a law school. This was unusual. Law schools are not known to have many, if any, extra curricular, non-legal activities. Students are overworked and overwhelmed just trying to keep up with schoolwork.

Jack Marshall

Nonetheless, Jack and Larry’s group forged ahead. Jack was the director. They got a popular professor to star as the Judge. There wasn’t much rehearsal time and no marketing, but everyone involved had a great time. The performance was free, so it was hoped at least a few friends and family members of the cast would show up.

Six hundred people came to see the first show. The auditorium only held 200. People stood sardine-style in the aisles or sat on each other’s laps. The show was a smash! The Dean of the Law School said the show had bound the school community together in a unique way. He asked Jack to continue to produce shows until he graduated.

The next year, my first year in Law School during which I met my future husband, it was decided to try a more sophisticated performance. This show would have full sets, rented costumes and a large cast. Students, teachers and family members were recruited to do everything for the show, which was “The Pirates Of Penzance.” We ended up with a professional set designer and a professional seamstress volunteering their time.

I was in the chorus.

1974 “Pirates of Penzance“. I am in the purple dress, second from the left, second row

Larry was in charge of marketing. He had the brilliant idea to advertise the show in local papers and not just at the law school. Tickets were no longer free.

Jack was a brilliant director and the show was awesome. The cast was as close to professional as amateurs can get. We filled the auditorium for both performances. The cast and crew had a blast. The reviews were fantastic. The audiences were enthusiastic and the law school was thrilled. We made enough money to repay the school for what they had laid out for the production. We even had some money left over to put aside for the next year’s show.

That next show was “Iolanthe” and I was, again, in the chorus. This show became famous at the law school for a strange reason. William Rehnquist, who later became a Supreme Court Justice, loved Gilbert & Sullivan and came to our infamous dress rehearsal. It was an epic, four-and-a-half hour disaster. Everything went wrong. The set caught fire behind where I was sitting on the stage, and yet …

1975 “Iolanthe.” I am second row back, green dress behind the girl in pink dress

The actual performances turned out to be even more polished and well-received than the previous year. We made enough money to be self-supporting. A tradition was born.

Jack was hired by the Law School to stay on after graduation and keep the shows going. These shows have continued for 44 years. This is the only graduate student-operated theater company in the country. It also prides itself in being “America’s Only Theater Company With It’s Own Law School!”

The Georgetown Gilbert & Sullivan Society (GG&SS) is part of the admissions office promotional material used to attract new students. The Company’s success and popularity over the years caused the law school to remodel the Moot Court Room which was being used as the theater. They turned it into a fully equipped, professional theater.

GG&SS logo

Over the years, shows and performances have been added to the repertoire. The GG&SS began producing three shows a year – a Broadway musical in the Fall, a straight play in the winter, and a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta in the spring. Each show gives at least four performances. The recruitment of cast and crew expanded to include the entire Washington, D.C. community as well as the law school. The productions are financed by Student Government.

The GG&SS is now an institution with its own history and fan base. Jack and his original crew are like rock stars at the Society. Stories about our first years are like folk-lore to each new batch of legal theater nerds.

In 2013, Jack Marshall came back and wrote and directed a 40th Anniversary alumni performed Gilbert & Sullivan revue. The current students also put on an anniversary production of “Trial By Jury.” A thousand alumni and fans came to see the four performances and celebrate the phenomenon that is GG&SS. Jack said that they were really celebrating that the law was unable to squeeze the humanity and fun out of generations of law students.

2013 40th Anniversary Playbill

It makes me happy and proud that I was there when all this began. I’m even in a photo of the 1975 “Pirates” cast on the website. Something that I was a part of has made a difference in people’s lives for more than four decades.

It’s still going strong. That says a lot.

HARMONY ON HIGH

HARMONIZING ON THE WATER AND DEEP IN SPACE


It’s not just about music. Harmony can mean the harmonious coöperation of … well … you name it. Harmonious, as in smooth. Without a hitch or fights. No arguments, pulling, shoving. No disharmony.

Our most extremely harmonious host and hostess …

These days, life is full of pulls and shoves, so when things are going well — as they have for the past few days — it is harmony through the land! Ring the bells of jubilation!

Photo: Garry Armstrong — And “Serenity,” a totally harmonious boat …

I should mention for you gamers out there that I got a unique try at playing a whole game of “Star Trek” on the virtual machine. Running a star ship is a lot more work than I imagined. I was exhausted when I finished. I felt like I’d really been running a space ship! Tom says “Skyrim” will be even more awesome. It makes earlier efforts seem slightly primitive. Each generation of this technology is a leap over the previous version. While the “humans and sort of humans” look very realistic, they don’t yet look entirely real. But I’m betting in a year, maybe less, they will.

I absolutely know if I got one of these machines and a game? My blogging days would finish in a hurry. Lucky for everyone I haven’t got that kind of money or blogging be damned … I’m off to see the universe and blow up some spare moons!

DESTINATION: FRIENDSHIP

A Trip to Alsace, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


In the eastern part of France, along the Rhine River and the borders of Germany and Switzerland, lies the region known as Alsace.  The colorful history and culture of this area could never be told in a brief post. From ancient time to the present, the land has been part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Frankish Realm, German Empire, Kingdom of France, Nazi Germany, modern-day France and others.  The fusion of cultures and languages makes the area a fascinating trip through history, tradition, architecture and cuisine.  A prominent feature of the region today is the wine vineyards.  A trip down the wine road is a delight.  I have done it often.

Green alternative

Although you can take a flight to Paris and go on to Strasbourg, the largest city of Alsace, by train, the more efficient and cheaper transit may be to fly to Frankfurt/Main, as I did on my most recent journey.  From there you have several choices to reach Strasbourg.  I have taken the Lufthansa bus in the past, but this time my friend recommended Flixbus.

This is a relatively new service connecting many western European cities with a “reliable and green alternative” to other services.  The new buses and quick trip to Strasbourg, along with the significantly cheaper prices compared to the Lufthansa bus, make it the best choice if the timetable fits your schedule.  This time it worked best and I arrived quickly in the center of Strasbourg.

My friend collected me at the bus stop and on we went to the small town of Selestat, which dates back to at least 727 AD.  We have spent much of our time together here in recent years.  It is the center of our adventures.  For me, the best part of the trip is to sit on the small balcony of his apartment, look at the castles on the hills around us and enjoy a local beer or glass of Alsacien white wine.

Selestat, Alsace, France

It is not necessary to go to exotic and expensive places to have a good time.  We watch sports and eat together in my friend’s apartment.  We visit with friends and relatives.  We make some local stops, but the time together discussing American sports is more enjoyable than I could explain.

When my friend was off to work, I took in some of the local sites with his father.  He speaks no English and I know little French.  It does not matter, we have a good time.  At least I am having a good time and I think he is too.  Sometimes I do not understand where we are going until we arrive.  I don’t mind.  It will be fun.  Our first adventure took us to a local distillery museum.  It is new and has interactive displays.  At the end you finish in a gift shop (of course) where we sampled their main product, Eau-de-vie (water of life).  It is really a clear, fruit brandy.  A friend of mine calls it French moonshine.  It will certainly wake you up if you took a morning tour of the museum and gift shop as we did.

The Maison du Distillateur

You’d need help to carry this home.

If a clear brandy does not suit your taste, perhaps the local chocolate museum and shop will.  On our next adventure, all I understood from my friend’s father was chocolate was in our immediate future.  How could I say no?

So off we went to learn about the making of chocolate and to see a demonstration by a craftsmen who melted chocolate and then created leaves and animals and a variety of chocolate charms to the delight of the crowd.

The chocolatier spoke French so I understood little, but watching him create was a joy.

Le Maitre Chocolatier

Old church, small town Alsace

The region is dotted with small towns that are a step back in history.  We have no such places in the US, as these town contain buildings that pre-date America. The culture has evolved over many more centuries and the history of many of these locales tells tales that would delight an historian. In each of the stops, we see a lifestyle unlike our own. I particularly enjoy the ancient churches for what they tell us of the individual towns.

It was love and sacrifice that brought people together to build unique structures before there was any modern technology or construction equipment.

Ribeauville, Alsace, France

I could wander endlessly through the streets of these old towns and villages, stopping in shops to view the local wares.  It is a joy to have a cup of coffee at one stop, a pastry at another and perhaps a wine at another.  The slow pace of exploration is so much more pleasant than the tourist traps of the major cities.

Yes, I enjoyed Paris and would even go again, if I could, but the back streets of the small towns will fill your eyes with delight and warm your soul for reasons you will not fully comprehend.

Sunset in Alsace

Each time the sun sets on our visit in France, the sadness grows a little stronger.  That is because there is one less adventure in our future, one less year to be together.  It is also a time of joy, because there was one more adventure and one more memory to take home.

THE CAT IN THE TREE – BY ELLIN CURLEY

The story of the cat in the tree is part of our family folk-lore. While not a major, life-altering event, it’s a good story with a happy ending.

Tom and I were scheduled to leave for London the following day. It was summer. Both of our young adult children were living at home with us. We were relaxing after dinner when we heard a cat meowing from outside the house. Our two cats — we also had three dogs — were exclusively indoor cats.

Tom, me, our kids, David and Sarah, and our three dogs at our wedding in 2002

We commented that we hadn’t realized our neighbors had cats. After a few more ‘meows’, we decided to do a head count and make sure that both of our cats were where they were supposed to be. One cat, Hillary, was missing. Shit!

So all four of us went outside and started to frantically search the fenced in backyard for our missing cat. We were worried she might be injured since she lived on the second floor of the house. The only way to get from there to the back yard, was off our bedroom deck and roof, which was pretty high up from the ground.

We searched and searched. It started to get dark so we got flashlights. When we called, she would answer us, but we couldn’t pinpoint her location. One minute she’d sound like she was off to our left. The next minute, she’d sound as if she was on our right. We got increasingly confused. We were also beginning to panic. We had to find Hillary if we wanted to leave on our trip the next day!

It eventually occurred to us that cats can climb trees. We might be looking in the wrong place for Hillary. So Tom took the flashlight up to the bedroom deck and shined it straight into the giant evergreen tree right outside our bedroom. There she was. Contentedly sitting in the tree. We figured she must have started to slide down the slanted roof and caught her fall by jumping onto the overhanging tree branch.

Tom said he’d climb the tree and get Hillary. The rest of us were afraid Tom would kill himself so we tried to dissuade him. Tom convinced us that it was an easy tree to climb and that he was an expert tree climber. So we agree and Tom climbed up to the second floor level and tried to grab Hillary. She got spooked and moved higher up the tree. After this little dance continued for a while, our daughter, Sarah, decided to step in.

Who do you call when your cat is stuck in a tree? The Fire Department. Sarah called our Volunteer Fire Department. She explained that both her cat and father were in a tree and needed help. The operator then asked Sarah if it was her father or the cat’s father who was up in the tree with Hillary.

Hillary

The Fire Department actually came. You might think firemen rescue cats from trees all the time and would know how to do it. This was true — fifty years ago. Not, however, these days. The firemen asked US what we wanted them to do. “Get a ladder.” Tom answered. So they brought out a tall ladder. But it was not tall enough.

The fireman then yelled up to Tom, “The ladder’s too short! What do you want me to do?”

What Tom did was creative and brave. He grabbed Hillary, hung upside down by his knees on a branch and handed the cat off to the fireman at the top of the ladder. Victory! Everyone gathered around the rescued cat – and completely forgot about Tom, still hanging upside down in the tree. One fireman finally went back to the tree and asked if Tom could get down on his own. Tom was hot and sweaty and exhausted, but he managed to climb down safely.

Before the firemen left, one of them phoned in a report to the office. This is what he said: “One cat and one adult male in tree. Successful recovery.”

That pretty much sums it all up!

THE WHEELS OFF THINGS – BLACK & WHITE

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Wheels


Photo: Garry Armstrong

Photo: Garry Armstrong

It was Shirley Jackson who reported that “the little wheels off things” would forever appear in our lives. And they do. Big wheels in cars and bicycles and everywhere the roads run, but little wheels of gears and motors and toys. We find them everywhere. We look and we wonder — where did it come from, this little wheel? What sprocket, gearbox, or clock sprung this wheel?