Friday, March 28, 2014

Inherit the wind.

“The Play”

    Do you have any idea how many wannabe actors there are in the U.S.? Neither does anyone else. Someone has taken the time to calculate the weight of the average odor, but no one has interest in determining the number of wannabe actors. People’s priorities stink!

    I used to be a big wannabe actor. Now, I’m just big. About three years ago, I dropped my agent due to lack of interest. Hers. I’d get an e-mail before bedtime. -- “Mark, you need to be in Dallas tomorrow morning at 10:15 for an audition with a nose hair trimmer company. They liked your headshot.”

    I just hate auditions. I’d drive to downtown Houston and elbow my way into a packed room of people wanting to get a role as a pothole filler in a low-budget movie.

    Hundreds of actor-wannabes took the time, effort, and expense to drive to Houston, Dallas, Austin…  in the hope of padding their resumes. The Coen Brothers might one day say, “Wow! I see you played a member of a road crew in a zombie movie shot in El Campo. Impressive. How would you like to play alongside George Clooney?” 

    To be a professional actor you’ve really got to want it. Same way with entering a porta-potty behind a burrito stand just outside Albuquerque.

    I’m finally at the place in my life where I don’t want it enough. I’ve given up movie and TV commercial auditions. After saying that, I did audition a couple of months ago for a part in the Players Theatre Company’s production of “Inherit the Wind.” That’s stage acting. It’s different. More time consuming, more challenging and less lucrative.

The Courier supports the arts, so you may have heard of the premiere of “Inherit the Wind” and of my part in it. I’d tell you how opening night went, but it occurred just hours after my article deadline. We’ll both have to wait.

In the production, I play Henry Drummond, a character loosely based on Clarence Darrow, the defense attorney in the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. The topic of evolution makes the play controversial, but also very thought provoking. Not a bad thing, the provoking of thought. Usually.

There are close to a million people involved in this production. And, the vast majority of them put in a whole lot more time than I do. I’ve had a bunch of lines to memorize, and have been rehearsing six nights a week, but the production crew and staff are much more involved. They’re at the Owens Theatre in Conroe at all hours. They take care of the scenery, lights, sound, props, costumes… I don’t know what all. 

Do you know why they put so much of themselves into each play? They enjoy it. That’s what each of them has told me. They enjoy the stress, the time, the effort and the challenge. They are God’s gift to Little Theatre. Me? I enjoy standing on stage and pretending to be someone else. When rehearsal is over I’m ready to go home.

When you go to the play, please look over the program to get the names of the behind-the-scenes people. I’d name ‘em here, but there’s no room. I would like to mention Roger Ormiston, the President of The Players Theatre Company. That guy is usually at the theatre before I get there and after I leave. He’s been working on a system that shoots background photos on huge screens. They can pretend to be in Egypt without having to build a giant faux sphinx. Great name for a band – Faux Sphinx.

By the way, “Inherit the Wind” is directed by Don Hampton, who is a stage, TV and movie actor. The only other play that I’ve been in that Don directed was “A Christmas Story.” I enjoyed the experience a bunch. Don didn’t get after me all that much in that production, ‘cause he had about 30 youngsters in the cast. Patient was he. 
    In “Inherit the Wind,” there aren’t quite as many kids. I wish there were more so Don wouldn’t have time to focus so much attention on some of us older kids. At the end of every rehearsal we all meet out in the auditorium to let Don go over his notes. -- “Drummond, quit movin’! And, stick your hands in your pockets if you have to. Don’t make me nail you to a board. Oh, and occasionally say the lines as they are written.”

    I’ll be squirming in my chair just like I’m back in school. You’re never too old to get disciplined. If I ever make it to the old folks’ home, I’ll get to hear, “Now, sweetheart, eat your jello.” At least I’m not old enough for Don to start calling me “sweetheart.”

So much more to tell you, and so little space. A lot of people, a lot of work and a great script. Oh, and last Friday was our third show out of eight. Get your tickets on line at

    By the way, if you read a review of “Inherit the Wind” and it says that I stunk up the place, please note that the weight of the average odor is 760 nanograms. I forgot to mention back up there in the opening paragraph.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Happy Years

“Blustery roofsit”

    ROOFTOP – You’d better latch onto the person sitting next to you. We’re having a Winnie the Pooh day. It’s blustery as all get out. If one of us flies off this roof, I prefer we all go together. -- No, Vern! Let go of me. I was joking.

    Nobody is taking me with them during a roof-fall. Least of all you, Vern. Sheesh. – We shall not let Jokerman Vern ruin the rest of this bright, shiny and perfect seeming roofsit.

I ran across that “perfect-seeming” description in a play I was reading. Some of the best word combinations are those seldom used together. “Perfect-seeming.” That is so cool.

Of course, you can overdo something like that. Take the ” Tale of Two Cities” opening sentence. You know, the best of time, worst of times thing. Somewhere down the line Dickens came up with “…it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.” Give me a break. If you use the word “incredulity” in the first sentence of anything, you’ve lost 90 percent of your American readers. Including me. (And, yes, I still appreciate Dickens’ pleasantly poetic opening sentence. And, yes, the “pleasantly-poetic” term was not original.)

    Well, that was certainly a big wind gust. Makes me wish Vern was flying a kite. One of  those really big ones. -- Yes, I’m joking. But, still, Cheryl why don’t you trade places with your husband? Yes, I’m serious.

Has anyone noticed any dust in the wind? There’s supposed to be a dust cloud traveling from the panhandle. It’s so clear out this morning, that I haven’t seen anything more than leaves and taco wrappers. Have you noticed that many fast food patrons are afflicted with Trashcanophobia.

No one can sense any dust or sand in the wind? Anyone’s teeth feeling the least bit gritty? Well, then shut your mouth. Ha! -- Speaking of “ha,” Jill, came up for a visit last weekend. I do some of my best laughing when my kid sister visits.

Of course, we had to do our usual early morning cafe breakfast. Traditions sometimes stick like shoe-gum. The breakfast tradition is a good one. It could be so much better if breakfast cooks ever figure out what “scrambled easy” means. Or “soft scrambled.” They’ve pretty much caught onto “over easy” for a fried egg, but “scrambled easy” apparently means “keep-it-off-the-floor” to most egg scramblers.

I’ve even had the waitress circle the word “easy.” Might as well have had her circle “Bev.” I’ve sent my eggs back so many times that I’m immune to most germs passed along by spit. – Jill would’ve thought that funny.

But, forget breakfast… at least for now. The most fun part of Jill’s visit was “The Happy Years.” That’s a movie released back in 1950, starring a young Dean Stockwell, Daryl and Dwayne Hickman and Leo G Carroll. Names that six of us can still remember.

I don’t know when Jill and I first saw “Happy Years”, but we’ve been quoting lines from it ever since I can remember. If we ever got sleepy in church, one of us might say, “Hold ‘em, Tough. Hold ‘em.”

I like nonsensical lines shared by only siblings or close friends. – The “I like Maude Adams” line from “Happy Years” has been used for everything. We might be in a grocery store where someone is taking up the whole aisle. I’ll say out-loud, “I like Maude Adams.” Jill will go into a giggle fit.

One of the movie lines could also be used as a proof-of-life question should Jill or I get kidnapped. One of us would ask the kidnapper, “How many pancakes did The Great Big Man eat?” I’d tell you the answer, but it’d be foolish to give up a good proof-of-life question.

If that wind keeps up like that for about three days, I may be able to mow the weeds down there. Yesterday morning, I got out the battery-powered weed-whacker and tickled some of the vegetation. Battery powered weed-whackers have about as much cutting power as a rubber sword.

A couple of places I don’t have to worry about mowing are that patch of green by the trees in the back, and the patch next to the carport. Those are bluebonnets down there. I also sprinkled some seeds alongside the road, but haven’t seen anything spring up.

There’s also supposed be some red poppies out there, but I don’t expect much from them. I believe only about six bloomed last year. Tiny spots of red atop a small wave of blue. Everyone of you must return when the flowers are in bloom. Hopefully we’ll visit up here a few times before then, but we definitely need to make it a point to see the bluebonnets.

Of course, we don’t all have to sit in the same places we are now. In fact, I insist. You were over the top, Vern. Over the top! And, Cheryl, you weren’t much better. – Yes, I’m joking.


Side effects are a given

Time for a placebo

    I have a friend who takes no prescription medication. Says he’s fine without it. He’s about my age, less squatty, more hair and groans less, but other than that we’re the same.

    Lanny (perhaps his real name) does take one of those baby aspirins every day. You know, the universal 81 mg dosage? A group of scientists got together and threw a dart at a chart. - “Eighty-one. So, we’re all in agreement? Our findings show that every air breather needs to take 81 mg of aspirin per day?”

    Aspirin is supposed to be good for our hearts. A whole aspirin thins our blood too much, but 81 mg is perfect for everyone. If you don’t believe me, believe the dart-hole in the chart.

    My body laughs at baby aspirin. When I swallow my fistful of medication every morning, that little yellow pill joins an assortment of spheroids that turn into the soup-of-health. If that tiny aspirin never showed up… well, I doubt it would be missed. I can’t see my stomach saying, “Wait a minute? I don’t see that li’l yella fella. The heart isn’t gonna like that.”

    I do not know if all the medication I take does what it’s supposed to do. I do know that it all constipates me. Gives me the Big C. I don’t know if it’s the make-up of the pills or just their shape. Something about medication does a number on my digestive track.

    The stuff I take to prevent kidney stones will sometimes completely skip the urinary tract and join everyone else in the big party goin’ on in my intestines. And, that pill for gout? Nobody knows what it’s doing. It’s supposed to go to my foot, but may end up in my underarms. How do pills know where to go?

    Truth is, I never read the encyclopedia of information that comes with each pill bottle. Constipation is a given, but I’d just as soon not know about the other side effects. There are thousands listed for each medication, and if I read them all, my brain will mimic every one of them. – “May cause weight gain or loss of appetite, hair growth or loss, constipation and/or diarrhea…”

    If I read anything about brain irregularities, I go crazy. My brain has been really taxed of late, due to a role I got in “Inherit the Wind,” which opens March 21, at the Owens Theatre in Conroe. (Hey, support the arts, okay!) Anyway, I’m having trouble memorizing all my lines for the play. Director Don Hampton thinks I should be able to say my lines without continually referring to the script. I don’t know what planet he’s from.

    So, I was in the study trying to memorize “…But one of the peculiar imbecilities of our time is the grid of morality we have placed on human behavior…” Kay came up to visit, so I told her how much trouble I was having. 

    Kay said, “Well, you are taking Lipitor for your cholesterol, and Lipitor is a statin. Statins can cause confusion and memory loss” How does she know stuff like this?  What all do they talk about on those designing shows she watches?

    Goes without saying that I quit taking my statin. I’m going to have to explain to my doctor during my next visit, why my cholesterol reading is still a bit high. Either that or I’ll have to diet and start exercising. Ha!

    It’s odd how my mind suddenly settled down after I quit taking Lumxapro or hippotor, whatever. The statin thing. I’m still royally messing up my lines, but at least I’m less confused about stuff. Like trying to figure out which foot goes with which sock. Did you know that socks are actually ambidextrous? Either foot. I’m not joking.

    I wish I had a doctor I could really trust. Someone who would change all my pills to placebos. He’d say stuff like, “Mark, whatever you do don’t take two of the small orange ones that look like Tic Tacs. One is enough to control your night sweats.”

    “Actually, doc, it’s ‘restless leg’ that I’ve got.” – “Whatever.”

    I’d have to find a real trustworthy doctor, one that I would trust not to give me a placebo, or else it wouldn’t work. I want a doctor like the one who gave poor ol’ Emma Brand on the Andy Griffith Show those candy pills. Bless her heart. I think she had the sciatica.

    That’s all I ask. Just give me a piece of candy coated pellet and make up something good about it. My mind will do all the rest. Of course, I’ll still ask, “Will it constipate me?” To which the doctor will say, “Not if you insert it into a chunk of cheese.”

    Even with the confusion and memory problems, I doubt I’d fall for that one.


The balloon man.

Joel and Lacy
A Perfect Storm Saturday

Up until a couple of Saturday’s ago, I had trouble telling people “No.” If you gave me enough leeway I’d commit to practically anything. Logic being, that something bad would likely happen to me at some point, and I’d never have to deliver.

Well, it just so happened that on that fateful Saturday I was alive and healthy when three commitments converged. I had no excuse, nothing that would prevent me from owning up to my responsibilities. Isn’t that just the way of things?

The first commitment on my Saturday list was to cover the Montgomery County Rodeo Parade with my friend Cindy, for Lonestar Internet Radio. Parades are a nightmare to cover, even if you have a program with a list of the entries. We didn’t.

Cindy was also a part of my second commitment.  We had both agreed to co-emcee the goings on at a Chili Cook Off. I accepted the gig so I wouldn’t have to be a judge. I judged chili last year and hurt myself. It took me two weeks to stop crying.

Instead of judging, Cindy agreed that we would host the awards ceremony, handle the karaoke segment and explain the rules about how it’s best to sample the different chili concoctions before settling in on your favorite. Some things that seem basic to most of us lose all meaning once people start fighting for a place in line.

After the cook off, I was supposed to pick up Tracy’s ’89 Toyota pickup at the repair place and drive it back to him in Pasadena. Tracy’s truck was having some issues and since he’s Kay’s kid brother, I agreed to bring it up here to let my favorite repair guy handle the job. Tracy didn’t have a favorite guy.

So I had the day pretty well lined out for me. Fortunately, I had the morning free. Well, I did until I noticed the leak in the downstairs toilet. The repair would involve replacing the weird contraption in the toilet tank and fixing a leak at the faucet. I don’t like to take the lid off a toilet tank. And, I’m certainly scared to death of messing with a faucet.

While plotting my toilet tactics, Kay informed me that a puddle had formed beneath the kitchen sink. I thought there was a good chance that the source was the web-like pipe network that I had repaired at least three times.

You may not believe this, but I managed to temporarily take care of  both jobs in only three hours, and one trip to Home Depot. I was so proud of me. The plumbing job did slow my arrival time at the radio studio, though. That and the fact that there were no parking places in the vicinity of Conroe.

    I believe there were 406 entries in the Montgomery County Rodeo Parade. I don’t know for certain, ‘cause like I mentioned, we had no list of entries. Listening to parade coverage from two people who don’t have a clue as to what’s happening is just slightly worse than listening to two people who do have a clue. It’s a parade! -- “Here’s a wagon with two horses and some people waving. Do you have any idea who they are Mark?”– “I they’re candidates for—Aghhhhhhh! Clowns! Get them away!”

    The rodeo went so long that we barely made it to the Chili Cook Off in time. I think a few of the patrons would’ve had fun without Cindy and me, but I’ve got to say we turned up the “fun meter” a notch or two.

    Karaoke was a gas. At first many people were afraid of making fools of themselves, so we had to do a lot of coaxing. An icebreaker was needed and it came in the form of Melvin and Larry who got up and performed “Surfing USA.” Keep in mind they managed this with no alcohol on the premises. After their performance the number of volunteers skyrocketed. It was hard to do worse.

    While the Karaoke was going on, a friend of mine, Joel, was busy creating balloon art for all the kids. Balloon hats, jewelry, helicopters, boats, bows and arrows… You would not believe what all that guy can do. And, he’s an ex-student of mine, so I’m largely responsible for his talent. (By the way, if ever need a balloon artist and face painter to liven up a get-together, google “Oodles Entertainment” out of Willis. I wouldn’t plug Joel if he wasn’t fantastic. Oh, and he’s ex-student. Remember?

    After the chili event, I picked up Tracy’s truck, and Kay followed me in our car to Pasadena. The truck ran great and the window on the passenger side actually worked. I mention that, ‘cause I never asked my mechanic friend to fix it. He didn’t charge me for it. Didn’t even place it on the list of stuff he did. I love my mechanic. He was one of many good things that came from the Perfect Storm that was Saturday.

    Oh, and the parade? Hard to believe, but the cleanup crew only had to shovel up 26 pounds of horse defecation. That’s a record low. Probably. Not sure anyone keeps a horse-poop diary. They should, but I doubt they do.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Near Homicide

“How I almost murdered Dennis

Dennis is far right and I'm far left.

    ROOFTOP -- The stupidest thing I ever did was try to kill my big brother Dennis. I’ve seen the incident play out a hundred times in my mind, but here and now I can see it more clearly. I’m pretty sure it’s the roof doing that to me.

My attempt at homicide took pace when I was just a kid and we were living on Pinewood Street in Pasadena. Till now, the only good that’s come from the incident is that it caused me to put to memory the words of an ancient poet who wrote of life’s costly mistakes.

    When I was a kid, Dennis was my best friend. We built forts together, camped out together, played football and baseball together, and even slept in the same bed. Back then, a lot of kids had to do did that. Take my word. Please.

    I would do practically anything for my big brother. Still will. But when we were kids, there were times when I hated him. I wouldn’t say it out loud, ‘cause “hate” was a curse word back then.

Dennis was faster, more agile and just all around better than me in so many ways. That’s what nearly led to his death. We were playing outside with all our friends when Dennis started taunting me. He’d hit me and then run off a few feet and try to get me to chase him. Just showing off.

    I’d take a lunge at him, but he’d jump back before I could reach him. My friends started laughing at me. Each time Dennis struck, he’d give me his sly grin. I hated that grin.

    Finally, I took off after him. There was no way I could catch Dennis in a race. He was so much faster than I was that he could run backward faster than I could run forward. And, that’s what he started doing, all the while giving me that stupid grin. I’d stop to catch my breath and he’d walk over and slap me again. I bawled my head off as I chased him from yard to yard.

The routine finally ended when I spied a chunk of wood at the curb. It was more of a club. I picked that thing up, and with Dennis about 15 feet from me, still wearing that taunting grin, I threw it at him as hard as I could.

I missed his head by about two feet. The scary thing was, I do not remember feeling relief that I’d missed. What I do remember was screaming, “I wish that had knocked your head off!”

    When I turned to run back to the house, I saw the parents of one of my friends sitting in their lawn chairs taking in the whole spectacle. I could almost hear what they were thinking. -- “ Those Hayter kids. Whatta buncha brats.”

    About 20 years ago, Jill asked if I had a favorite saying that she could sew on a plastic frame for me. She was big into stitching yarn onto those plastic grid things. Asked if she could stitch some treasured words for me. I love Jill. 

I wrote down THE poem for her… the very words that are now displayed on the wall just to my left. It’s from a famous 12th century mathematician and poet by the name of Omar Khayyam. In a “Rubaiyat” (one of his lengthy works) he wrote:

“The moving finger writes and having writ, moves on:
Nor all thy piety nor wit shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears washout a word of it.”

Kayyam borrowed the notion from an Old Testament story told in the fifth chapter of Daniel. A fascinating read. For me, Omar’s words meant that the minute that chunk of wood left my hand, THE finger began to write the outcome. Had the club landed where I had aimed it, the life of an entire family would’ve changed drastically. Nothing I could do to bring that moment back. I don’t see how I could’ve lived with that.

There are not all that many happy thoughts in the message of Omar’s Rubaiyat. It’s a warning, and warnings are not all that uplifting. However, after many rooftop moments, I’ve managed to find some better words concerning the crazy things we’ve done in our youth. Found ‘em in another bit of scripture.

In one of his parables, Jesus mentioned that the angels of children “constantly see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 18: 10)

    That notion, no doubt, silly to many, is cause for my belief that an angel diverted the trajectory of that chunk of wood… an angel on a mission to look over two of the “Hayter brats.”

In her waning years, my mother told me that she prayed for each of her kids every day of our lives. The names of all seven of us reached God everyday. And everyday, God heard my mom ask that He look after her kids.

    What better gift could parents possibly give their children? I can’t help but believe that the seven Hayter kids kept some angels pretty busy. What a joy to have faith that they were there. Are there.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Beatles and me

“The Beatles”

    Three friends of mine lost a great deal of respect for me after my confession that I never really cared that much for the Beatles. My recollection is that I said something like – “I can’t think of many noted bands whose songs moved me less than the Beatles’.”

    You would think I spit on the Alamo. – No, way! You’ve gotta be kiddin’! Let’s kill him! – Since that revealing moment, my friends have been introducing me as “the jerk who hates the Beatles.” They apparently have a somewhat different recollection of what I said.

Kay watched “The Grammy Salute to the Beatles” and told me how much she enjoyed it. She eventually coaxed me into watching the recording. As I zipped through a commercial break, Kay told me one of her secrets. She “reminded” me that she saw The Beatles perform at their concert at the Houston Coliseum back in ’65. It was the first I had heard of it. She insisted that she told me long ago and was surprised that I had forgotten. I’ve been surprising her a lot lately.

    I told Kay that Cindy Cochran, my co-host on “The Mark and Cindy Show” was also at the Coliseum that day. Even though there were no assigned seats, Cindy and her entourage sat up high in the nosebleed section, ‘cause they chose not to get in the middle of a mob of running and screaming girls headed for the floor-seats.

    Kay, on the other hand, ended up on row 10 at floor level with her screaming friends. Fortunately, Kay doesn’t know how to scream. I believe I’ve mentioned that. Oh, she’s explained stuff to me louder than she needed to, but she never screams.

    Neither Kay nor Cindy could hear the music for all the screaming. Cindy told me that the boy she was with was even screaming, causing her to lose a great deal of respect for him. Neither Kay nor Cindy could tell me what songs were sung or who the opening acts were.

Kay told me that the chairs at ground level were old foldout chairs and were wobbly as all get out. The only way anyone could see the stage was to stand on a chair. The thought of girls standing on wobbly chairs yelling and waving their arms around was, no doubt, a paramedic’s nightmare.

Kay told me that she rode to the Coliseum with a carload of her friends. The most surprising thing to me was that Regena Cross let her go. Kay was a freshman in high school at the time, yet her mom actually let her climb into a Chevy Biscayne with a bunch of girls and head to Houston to see the Beatles. That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard about my ma-in-law. I love the lady more having heard it.

Cindy’s mom actually drove Cindy and her friends to Hobby Airport to see the Beatles when they arrived. Cindy said there was a limo on the tarmac and that all the girls ran right up to it to make sure that The Boys from Liverpool would have to pass through them before they could leave.

Cindy got so close to the limo that, as the crowd kept pushing toward the car, she got her arm caught on the side mirrors. The crowd kept shoving and she almost got smushed to death. (She didn’t really say that, but I sensed it.) Oh, and it turned out that the limo was a decoy. As soon as the plane landed, the Beatles were hurried into an armored van and whisked off.

    Kay didn’t mention anything about nearly getting smushed, but I still liked her story. When she finished, I told her that I always thought it was The Dave Clark Five that she saw in concert. She said, “Oh, I saw them, too.” -- What? For all I know, this girl spent an all-nighter with Elvis. As I live and breathe…

    Me? I’ve paid to see The Bee Gees, Joe Walsh, Stevie Nicks and John Denver. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that I also paid to see Buck Owens. My big brother, Larry, dragged the rest of his siblings to see Buck at the Summit. He didn’t pay for our tickets. He just dragged us.

    I did leave out another performer that I’ve seen. My absolute favorite. He wrote and sang more meaningful tunes than anyone… according to me. I’m talking about Neil Diamond. Over the years, Kay and I have been to two of his concerts.

I came close to going to the Crighton to see the Diamond impersonator perform. I understand he was great. So were the tickets. It would’ve cost me $43 a ticket to see someone impersonate my favorite performer. Twenty-five dollars is my limit for an impersonator.

 I haven’t asked, but Kay may have gone without me. That girl is full of secrets.