Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in Review

On this last day of 2011, I thought I'd list a few of my favorite memories of the past year (before I forget them)...

About twenty years ago, I played the role of Arvide Abernathy in a production of Guys and Dolls at a now-defunct dinner theatre in Niagara Falls, New York. Our Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown were both prima donnas, who were constantly sniping at each other. Our Benny Southstreet went to jail the day we opened, and the director had to go on in his place. The producers sank all of the profits into their next show, which was a flop, so nobody got paid. In spite of that unpleasant experience, I allowed Gabriel Vega to persuade me to reprise the role of Arvide in Comedy Tonight’s production of Guys and Dolls this past spring. I'm glad that I did. It was a much better experience this time around. There was no backstage drama, everyone was a joy to work with, and nobody went to jail. The only thing I didn’t particularly enjoy was hauling around that big bass drum.

The Cast of "Guys and Dolls" (minus the drum)

Some of the best friends we've made since coming to California have moved away. (Was it something I said?) About ten years ago, Ron and Judie Kewish moved to the central coast. Then, a couple of years ago, John and Roxanne Diesel bought an RV and hit the road so they could spend more time with their children and grandson. Once a year we all try to get together. This past June, we rented a house near the beach in Cambria. We visited Harmony (population 18), drove up the coast to see the elephant seals, stopped to do some wine tasting at Hearst Ranch Winery in San Simeon, and took a lot of walks on the beach. Here's a picture of Loretta, Roxanne, and Judie standing on a bluff overlooking the ocean. I don't know why Judie is sticking her tongue out at me. (It must have been something I said.)

Loretta, Roxanne, and Judie

I was honored to be asked by Marilyn Zaslow to write a script for, and perform in, her Fairy Tales in the Park production of Aladdin in July. It’s always fun doing Fairy Tales in the Park — the atmosphere is relaxed, you get to rehearse and perform outdoors in our beautiful southern California climate, and children are the absolute best audience. And what a talented and fun group of people I got to work with — if you can call this work!

The Cast of "Aladdin" (minus Marilyn, who took the picture)

In late August, we flew to Indianapolis, drove to Fort Wayne to pick up my Aunt Sheila, then drove to Virginia to visit my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. It’s been a pretty rough year for my folks. I’m so glad that they were both in fairly good health, and were even able to go out to dinner with us. And I'm so glad that Sheila was with us. She did a lot to boost my mother's spirits, and she kept Loretta and me entertained on the long drive from Indiana to Virginia and back.

Mom and Sheila at Macaroni Grill

After we returned to Indiana, we were able to catch up with Aunt Becky, whom we hadn't seen in years. The day before we left, she met us for lunch at the Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso, Indiana, which is about halfway between Fort Wayne and her home in Elgin, Illinois.

Me and Becky

In November, we attended the wedding of our nephew, Mark, in Hawaii. We shared a townhouse near the new Disney resort on Oahu with Loretta's brother, Rob, and his daughter, Jenny. Rob perfected his broccoli salad, Jenny learned to surf, and we all learned that, if you go swimming with an electronic ignition key in your pocket, your car won't start. It was a memorable trip—a reunion of Loretta's family, two Hawaiian-style Thanksgiving dinners, and a beautiful wedding by the sea. But one of my fondest memories of the year is of Loretta, Jenny, and me sitting on the beach, watching the sun go down over Ulua Lagoon.

All in all, it's been a pretty good year for me. I hope it's been a good one for you, too. Now, on to 2012!

Happy New Year!

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