Saturday, November 15, 2008

Evening at the Karamu Theater

Seated Nude by Beni E Kosh

“One of the lost cities.” That’s how many people talk about Cleveland and they may not be far off when they say “lost.’ I like it better than calling it dying although it might be irrelevant because when something is lost it often dies for lack of nurturing. But sometimes hidden under the smoking rubbles you find a live spark warming a lonely Cleveland night.

I discovered such a spark last night at a small theater on East 89th Street in one of the city’s lost neighborhoods.

The Karamu theater company is currently presenting “Waiting2 end Hell” it starts out as a feel good comedy with a nod at gender stereotyping which quickly explodes into full blown relationship drama.

The play by William a. Parker is based on Terry McMillan’s book “Waiting to Exhale.” The director, Terence Spivey, has staged the play to give the cast plenty of space to wheel you into the lives of Diane and Dante and their close and not so close friends. Someone said to me, “it’s a women bashing play.”

I did not think it was bashing women but the play described how easy it is for women to become complacent in a domestic setting. The play is sure to stir echoes of past struggles and maybe offer some belated wisdom to appreciate what you have before you loose it.

The impressive cast gave a great ensemble performance capturing the nature of each of their respective character and bringing the audience to that often elusive suspension of disbelief stage. No doubt the close proximity of the audience to the actors was the magic glue that held it all together.

“Waiting 2 End Hell” is playing at the Karamu Theater till November 23rd.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Life at a plant in Cleveland Ohio

Men at work

Monday to Friday, I work in a Cleveland manufacturing plant, it is a dirty place located in an ugly neighborhood with little amenities. We don’t have fancy restaurants within walking distances or any kind of boutiques. We can walk to the Speedway for a gas station special, a hot dog and a soda and maybe a ding dong if you feel like it.

Once you park your car in the secured parking lot and use your badge to get through the clinking steel turn stall, they own you for the day. As you wave at the guard shack and arrive at the front door, you are greeted by all the forbidden, you can’t carry a weapon, but that is a good thing considering the way that I feel some mornings. You can’t go past the yellow line without personal protective equipment; that one always makes me smile, they mean hard hats and work boots that protect your head and feet from all kinds of nasty accidents, I think prophylactics. The biggest poster is that no one is allow to smoke within 30 feet from the doors and absolutely no smoking inside presumably to protect all the non- smokers from harmful smoke, a thoughtful if ironic management position if one considers what kind of toxins the average worker breathes per hour in the plant.

In spite of a dreadful setting the men and women working in the plant are gracious to me, always greeting me and opening doors and lifting gates on my behalf. They show the kind of thoughtful behavior that makes living in society harmonious.

They are smart and but they shine the brightest when they attend the mandatory state of business meeting with our plant manager. They scheduled these informotials about twice a year. Normally, salaried employees attend during business hours. The plant employees attend according to their shifts.

Last year, I missed my time slot so I went to a second shift session. The new plant manager was excellent at pointing the improvements that were in the works for the employees. She was on a roll untill the question period, when a guy in the back raised his hand.

“I just want to point out Mam, that we used to have seventeen custodians taking care of this plant.”

“Yes?” She said with intense interest.

“We appreciate all the new flowers and fresh paint in the Human Resources area but if I go to the bathroom and there is no toilet paper in the stall and no paper towels in the dispensers, I am left in a difficult position.”

Everybody cracked up with this very polite and clever way to tell her that she was full of crap. Never underestimate the insight that comes with sitting on the toilet with time to think about what is essential.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gay and not so gay marriages

Think about it!

I switch my opinion about people almost daily, are they cruel or thoughtless. I was listening to a news show this week-end which mentioned that California had done a 360 on allowing gays to marry.

Why is marriage called a holy union? Most couples that I know are not in a state of grace except for a few unions often not sanctified by Church or Government, where partners treat each other with affection and respect.

Don’t get me wrong, I have seen exploitation in gay relationships as well but in heterosexual relationships it seems that money is the third silent partner which drives the relationship. Traditionally marriages were sealed by a contract executed by a religious organization, more a business proposition than romantic alliance. Not much has changed and even though people now will marry for love in the back of their minds they assess each other’s assets. This is not to say that it is wrong. But it is really important to value the same qualities and understand that life is fluid and the common journey littered with bumps and pot holes.

To marry for procreation may sound antiquated but most women and men want a partner who will be a good parent. You don’t hear too many people say, I want a husband who will be a scumbag and beat me and my children or I want a wife who will be more concerned with material stuff than with me and our family or goals.

No, we are looking for partnership and if we are careful about the choices that we make we can find it. Many gay couples have an advantage over “regular unions” and that is that being of the same gender, they can read their partner better. You can be married for years with a partner of the opposite sex and still be unable to understand what makes them tick.

The element of surprise can be a wonderful element in a relationship but unpredictability can make you crazy when it is practiced over years of companionship hence the importance of marrying someone who is truly compatible. Just as engineers do better when they talk among themselves, artists do better with other artists.

When two adults want to engage in a permanent legal union after much soul searching or very little, who are we to say that matrimony is only to be recognized if it is between a man and a woman? We can all be given the right to choose the method of our own destruction or elation.