The Hills are alive with the Sound of Shakespeare

Summer would not be if not without Shakespeare. Somewhere, there is a performance  of one of his plays against a scenic backdrop that melds with the production and I go. I am not dumb but I am not Shakespeare smart. In today’s era, Shakespeare used a lot of language that confused the simple soul. The “prevey thee and thou are nots” was language of the time yet is not easily understood by anyone of the 20th or 21st century. I have gone to a production of Shakespeare in the Park since my 20s. I saw Meryl Streep play  Kathrine against Raul Julia’s Petruchio. I saw Richard Dryfuss as Iago in Othello. The draw, however was not just the play but the atmosphere of the Delacourt Castle. If the play was performed in a dungy Broadway theatre, it becomes one of many theatre productions vying for the price of a ticket and I would not be interested. In Central Park, however it is a magical.

This week, Tony and I went to Boscobel . It is the home of the Hudson Valley’s Shakespeare Festival in an outdoor theater overlooking the Hudson River with West Point’s military stature looming in the background. Ticket holders rolled their picnic coolers to their spots to feast on their dinner of smoked salmon, kale salad and Sauvignon Blanc. I wondered whether they were there for Shakespeare or like me, for the atmosphere.

My husband, who couldn’t be concerned about the likes of a Shakespearean, came with me for the experience and because he is a nice guy. The play was “As You Like It” – not one of my favorites or by any means and not one that would entice a non-Shakespearean to be a fan. I fed him cliff notes hoping to keep him from checking his phone every 5 minutes.  The opening line “All the World’s A Stage”wasn’t enough to grab his attention. I don’t blame him. Next time, I’ll try for Romeo and Juliet.

In college I took a course entitled “Understanding Shakespeare”for the sole purpose of getting more out of the plays than just the backdrop of the New York skyline. We studied the Tempest and Coriolanus. After understanding the Tempest, it occurred to me that the Bard usually throws in several plots to counter or confuse the viewer. Nevertheless, I liked the Tempest and learned that stories are many times peppered with magical outcomes (i.e. Jon Snow’s return in Game of Thrones). Coriolanus, however was in the lines of a brutal warrior who did not play the games of politics to win support (how unique).

To help in understanding the language of Shakespeare, our final class project was to take a scene from any of our readings and offer a different scenarios of the same scene. I picked a scene from Coriolanus where he was confronted by his mother. As is no surprise, the scene is dominated by the mother, Volumnia.

Volumnia: Why does thou not speak? (translation – What’s the hell is the matter with you. Why don’t you talk to your mother anymore!! You never call.).Next scene: Volumnia tells her daughter-in-law how she raised Coriolanus to be a great soldier, and takes more enjoyment from his victories than she would from a husband’s embrace. (interpretation: “I gave up my life to you and you are a rotten son”. )

I wish I could write like Shakespeare but take comfort that I am not any of his characters. They are miserable soul searching people that are better off dead which most of the characters in his plays usually end up being.





Woodstock Today

It was a week in August 47 years ago, when I was only 18. On one end of the spectrum it was the Manson murders. On the other, it was the epitome of peace and love with the Woodstock festival. In-between, it was the Vietnam War. Emotions ran up and down that week and much of that era for me. I find it happening to me again.

In this month, the news has been of police shootings, terrorist attacks, and more terrorist attacks. I am upset not because it is happening but because it is happening in the same way the Manson murders took place – by a misguided soul who believes they were justified in their actions of mass killing to support a maniacal concept that they are carrying out the work of a higher power. Someone is either lying to them or they are delusional. I think both.

The Manson girls survived to live their days in prison and after so many years, they admitted they were wrong in their actions. The perpetrators of the recent mass killings have not survived and so we are unable to get the satisfaction of their remorse. The Dallas lone shooter, the Orlando vigilante and the Nice truck driver had to be killed to be stopped. Had they been captured, there might have been some insight into their warped sense of duty. Maybe we could find a way to have closure on these crimes such as with the Nuremberg Trials. It is not to be. We are left to mourn and question.

But where is the other end of the spectrum – our Woodstock, our love festival to remind us that there is peace and love in the world. Unfortunately, gatherings like that do not happen anymore. I know for me, the fight has dwindled down. I’m not willing to get out there and voice my opinion. First of all, I’ve done that and second, I’m too old to make that much of an effort. My Woodstock is in a less crowded venue, within the bubble I call my life.

My peace and love is being around my family and friends whom I love and love me back. Over time, that group has changed. Some within my bubble have gone out and others have entered anew. Some I appreciate more and my bond with them has grown stronger. Others have moved onto a different bubble or life got in the way and the effort to get them back was overwhelmed by obstacles.

This past weekend, Tony and I were at the wedding of a dear friend’s daughter. The wedding was beautiful in so many ways but the affair also brought together some friends we hadn’t seen in awhile. It was a great reunion and we are going to try hard to keep up the friendship even if for only once or twice a year.

My festival of peace and love does not include a half a million people I don’t know. It is with a few people I have in my life that are in my bubble. My bubble residents may and probably will evolve over the years, but I’m okay with that. Today my Woodstock festival is homegrown and offsets the violence in the world. And without the mud.P


The Downsized Budget

Lately, there has been a boost in conversation with both my friends and with my husband about sticking to a retiree’s fixed budget. I prefer to discuss this topic with my friends as we always come out patting ourselves on the back on how smart we are with our spending. When I talk about this with Tony, it results in making me want to go out and buy some extravagant item before I can’t.

It is true that spending habits change when one decides not to work anymore. But the best part of this retired life is that I believe we actually fine tune what we spend on what we do and get more out of it. Here’s my view on how to tilt the budget scale. Clothing: those semi-uptight corporate suits that filled my closet to cover two weeks of wear so as not to repeat an outfit, are now replaced with graphic yoga pants, jeans in various colors and cute t-shirts – all for much less money and it reflects my lifestyle. For old times sake, I sometimes breakout the suit for church.

Rather than shove a quick getaway into the 4th of July weekend our trips now take place during the less expensive weekdays. When working, if the moon was in the seventh house and jupiter aligned with Mars, that meant that the holiday fell adjacent to the weekend, your boss let you leave early and you did not get stuck in traffic resulting in a major fight before your jaunt even started. In my commune, no one goes away holiday weekends. At the start of the weekend, we have cocktail parties (dubbed “garage meetings”) and then babysit the grandkids while the parents attempt the quick getaway. Then we get to give the kids back.

Finally, those expensive so-so dinners in NYC with parking, tolls, gas, cocktails first then dinner all adding up to a mortgage payment is replaced with a craft beer dinner at the Roadhouse in town where you can walk home or a lakeside restaurant with a water’s edge view. The food is good, I’m looking over the calmness of the lake while sipping wine. And when the bill comes, I don’t feel ripped off.

In the state of New York, they still allow you to turn in your recycles for a refund. In an attempt to be frugal, I started saving the plastic water bottles so I could get my five cent per bottle refund. On my first time out to cash in my 10 bottles and collect my fifty cents, I stood in line behind a woman who had a black garbage bag full of plastics claiming her refund at this recycling machine. This expert-refunder was constantly clogging up the machine, holding up the line until it was fixed and made me realize I had better things to do with my time. The hole in my plan was that I would have to eliminate a car to store all those plastics in the garage. Seeing as how my husband would rather eliminate me, I immediately put the kibosh on this idea.

No, I am not meant to collect plastics, clip coupons or adjust my life to the gyrations of the stock market daily. Luckily, I don’t have to. I just have to do what I am doing and nothing more.