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“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

A man has died, and I am undone.

On Monday morning, as I was preparing for work, I received notice that Clark Ginapp, my high school English teacher and theatre director, had died. I had been told that he had at most, a few weeks left, and that was less than 24 hours before. I’d been drafting a letter to him that I intended to mail. I didn’t feel it was my place to try to call him, despite some reassurances that it was. Now that letter, an update on how my life had gone in the years since our last class together, remains unwritten.

I can’t overstate the importance of Mr. Ginapp in my life. I grew up attending almost all of the high school theatre department’s shows. When I was in high school, I leapt at the chance to take part in them. As a director, Mr. Ginapp guided me through seven shows (three plays and four musicals):

The Wizard of Oz – Munchkin Lawyer/Winkie/Jitterbug
The Wind in the Willows – Clerk of the Court/Weasel (The British/Gay Weasel)
Little Shop of Horrors – Radio Show Host/Chorus
The Egg and I – Hi-Baby
State Fair – Harry Ware
I Remember Mama – Peter Thorkleson
Grease – Kenickie Murdoch

Each year, he cast me in bigger roles (with the exception of The Egg and I, because I was going to be out of the country for two weeks in the middle of rehearsals). Each show, he put that much more faith in me, put me under that much more pressure to be better. He believed in me, and I, in turn, came to believe in myself. We learned about proper blocking, and how to project our voices. We learned that the average human being is a dull-witted slug. We learned that “nobody’s cool, everybody sucks.” When I delivered Harry’s final farewell to Margy during dress rehearsal for State Fair, he said that if I could do it with that much emotion on opening night, that I wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house. During Grease, he told me that if I ever grew into my feet, I’d be a giant. These sort of stories just stick with you. More and more have come back to me this week as I’ve tried to write this.

As a teacher, he was my instructor for sophomore English, as well as AP English during my senior year. He introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I can now quote along with in my sleep (I have witnesses). He showed me the surprising depth of The Simpsons, and made me memorize Marc Antony’s soliloquy from Julius Caesar (and he had all of the cues prepared to help students remember the next lines). He taught me Macbeth, and that we should only refer to it as “The Scottish Play” while we were backstage (note that this reading was assigned while we were in the middle of a show). He is profoundly, and terrifyingly responsible for my sense of humor.

In college, I majored in English. I took a theatre class, and continued to support the local arts community in Colorado Springs. I further developed my love for literature and poetry, and made that my career when I began my work in libraries. I’m not a teacher, but I hope to have as much of an impact on the teens that I work with as he had on me.

This week, I have seen the beautiful notes left to him by my fellow students. I have shared in the grief of my community, and I have reflected for many hours on my time with him. I would not be the person I am today without Mr. Ginapp. Clark taught me that there was a bigger world beyond the city limits of Holyoke, and more importantly, he taught me that this was not something to be feared, but to be embraced.

I haven’t been able to decide which Shakespeare quote fits best now. On Monday, after first hearing the news, my mind immediately went to Hamlet’s speech, which I shared on facebook at the time. Several others have arisen since, and I think I’ll share each of them with you here. Mr. Ginapp, I hope, would be proud that so many of his lessons have lingered.

*********************************************************************

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

-Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II

*********************************************************************

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest, Act IV, Scene I

*********************************************************************

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.”

-Prospero’s Epilogue, The Tempest

*********************************************************************

You have taken your final bow, my friend. The stage is dark. The curtain falls.

Farewell.

Neil Peart died this week, and so I grieve.

I had the tremendous privilege of seeing him perform live on two occasions (August 2nd, 2013, and July 11th, 2015). I can’t pinpoint the moment in my life when Rush became my favorite band, but I know that there was always something in the lyrics, frequently penned by Peart, that spoke to me. I remember being absolutely blown away when I found out that the band was comprised of only three people and still capable of such a sound.

He was, and always will be, a legendary drummer and lyricist. I am grateful for his music and his books. I send my most sincere condolences to his family and friends, as well as to my fellow fans.

Rest in peace, Neil. Thank you.

“A Farewell To Kings”

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise

The hypocrites are slandering
The sacred Halls of Truth
Ancient nobles showering
Their bitterness on youth
Can’t we find the minds that made us strong?
Can’t we learn to feel what’s right
And what’s wrong?
What’s wrong?

Cities full of hatred, fear and lies
Withered hearts and cruel, tormented eyes
Scheming demons dressed in kingly guise
Beating down the multitude and
Scoffing at the wise
Can’t we raise our eyes and make a start?
Can’t we find the minds to lead us
Closer to the heart?

I never had the honor to meet Leonard Nimoy, and I am greatly saddened to know that now I never will. I have been a Star Trek fan for over two decades, thanks to my Oma and Opa. I would sit on their couch or living room floor with a bowl of ice cream and watch The Next Generation episodes with them (Oma loved Data, and even had an action figure of him).

I remember very few specific episodes, but I recall very clearly the sense of wonder I felt every time I heard that theme song. TNG was the Star Trek I grew up with. I was only a few months old when it premiered, and it aired its finale just after my seventh birthday. It was a massive part of my childhood. While TNG was my first Trek, it was by no means my last. I watched every episode of every series I could find (including a happy discovery of the first three season of Deep Space Nine on VHS at my local library’s book sale one day). I learned as much as I could about the different characters, and even bought a Klingon dictionary for me and another for my best friend. I have continued to return to The Original Series over the years, due mostly to a long-ago viewing of The Wrath of Khan on some almost forgotten Saturday. I didn’t know who Khan was at the time, but the death of Spock was incredibly poignant, even if it was a foregone conclusion that Nimoy would be returning in the next movie (the TV guide said so, and the TV guide was never wrong).

Netflix and DVD releases have allowed me to maintain access to Star Trek whenever I feel the desire. I’ve seen more of Spock’s adventures in the last two years than I ever did as a kid. I’ve come to know more and more of Leonard Nimoy’s work, Trek and non. I have to say that the man was admirable, on-screen and in real life. Spock told us the “Live long and prosper,” and Leonard Nimoy did. I’m going to do my best.

A great man has left this world, and I need to take a moment to talk about him. His name was Theodore Jerry Baum, and he was my English teacher in my junior year of high school. Mr. Baum died almost a month ago. I’ve been trying to figure out how to memorialize him in a better way than the sadly lackluster obituary our local newspaper provided.

Like most of the kids my age, I met Mr. Baum long before I took a class with him. When you live in a small town, everyone knows everybody else. He taught English and Television Production at Holyoke High School. My first (and sadly only) class with Mr. Baum was my junior year of high school, and I’d been terrified of him. The man was a sort of urban legend, and he had a reputation, at least in my head, of teaching the hardest English class around. No nonsense. Strict, straitlaced. Or so it seemed.

After a while, though, I got to know him a little better. I learned that he loved German food, and that he delighted in playing practical jokes. When my independent study German group decided to have a German meal at school, I made brats and sauerkraut, brought a crock pot full, and let it simmer in my classroom all day. Mrs. Ortner’s room was right across the hall, and she made it quickly known that she HATED the smell of sauerkraut. Naturally, after sharing lunch with us, Mr. Baum took a cup full of sauerkraut and left it hidden in one of Mrs. O’s trashcans for the rest of the day.

He could move far faster than I ever would have thought possible for a man his age. One of his best pranks involved sneaking up on then-counselor Mrs. Vieselmeyer with an air horn, letting it off right next to her head. She spun around and would’ve likely knocked Mr. Baum into the next semester if he hadn’t jumped away.

On another day, I was walking through the library when a book fell from one of the shelves. As I bent to pick it up, another fell. I glanced up in time to see Mr. Baum hiding on the other side of the shelf, chuckling to himself as he pushed the books through onto my side.

As a junior, I participated in the district academic bowl. He was one of our moderators, and at one point in the evening, a question required the phrasing of a line from Oliver. Cue Mr. Baum singing “Consider yourself at home, consider yourself one of the family.”

No tribute to Mr. Baum would be complete without mentioning his cat, Brutus. There were several cats that he owned throughout the years I knew him, and each one, regardless of gender, was named Brutus. I never knew how many of them there were altogether, just that there was always one at a time, a constant companion for him.

He loved to garden during his retirement. He moved into a house down the street from my parents, one that had a lovely garden in the back that had been carefully tended for years by the previous resident. Many afternoons I could go for a walk and find him there, Huskers cap on his head, trowel in hand, continuing the work of maintaining the flowers and vegetables that were growing there.

I’ll never forget him. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I knew him better than most. That would be doing a great disservice to the many people whose lives he touched. I knew him. That was enough.

 

“Farewell”
Trifecta.
A wager once,
Now a confluence,
Defined by writers who
Gather to share their stories
With like-minded others and learn
To express themselves, leaving each one
Vulnerable, but stronger. Thanks, and farewell.

 

This piece is my entry for the final Trifecta Writing Challenge, and as per our prompt, is a 33-word free write. I would like to thank everyone who has come to visit my blog since I started the Trifecta entries exactly one year ago today. It’s been a hell of a year. You are all absolutely incredible people, and I hope that we manage to keep in touch with each other even after our weekly writing assignments are no more. Particular thanks must, as almost always, go to V. Without her, I never would’ve discovered the joys of these challenges. It’s a very bittersweet day indeed. I like to think that I’ve grown a great deal as a writer since I started participating in Trifecta, and it’s all thanks to you, dear readers, fellow Trifectans. Thank you. I’ll see you around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Mr. Bradbury,

I never had the opportunity (as some lucky individuals did) to meet you in person. I will not have the chance to shake your hand and say thank you for Fahrenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles, and so I’m afraid that this will have to suffice. Thank you, Mr. Bradbury. I’ll never forget the worlds you showed me.