Tricks, Treats, Poughkeepsie

The Martin Prosperity Institute released what it called its “annual survey” of Halloween in America five years ago. This was its third annual Halloween survey, but it has not produced a sequel to this seminal study of all things creepy, ghostly, and scary since. My hometown broke it, I believe.

The Institute’s work in the field of Halloween enjoyment, a study not seriously undertaken by most people older than eight, led in 2013 to many national news articles that expressed shock at its conclusion, which was: the best place for Halloween in the United States of America is Poughkeepsie, New York.
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On Broadway!

A continuing series: How to Be AwkwardTM, by Mark Aldrich.

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Noises Off is one of the most popular comic plays of the last forty years. If you have ever seen it performed, you know it can be hilarious; the film version proved that there are some plays that can not be made into movies because they are so completely theatrical.

This is a story about the original Broadway production and an apology from me to Victor Garber, who starred in it.
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A Traveler’s Tale

He was a writer, that much he made certain I knew. A poet.

I never looked for his book online or in a bookstore. He showed it to me, or he showed me a galley proof of it. And now, more than a decade later, I do not remember his name or enough about the book to find out whatever happened to him or it.

The two of us were passengers on a plane, and 98% of my personal air travel history dates from the years 2000 to 2004, when I moved from upstate New York to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and twice a year I returned home for holiday visits. The typical route was: Eastern Iowa Airport to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to Stewart International Airport (or sometimes Logan in Boston), because there are no direct flights between Iowa and anyplace else I have ever lived. The book author was a wadded-up sheet of paper’s direct flight across the aisle from me.
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Lighting out For ‘The Woods’

We called it “The Woods.” Well, I did. Sometimes, I referred to it as a “forest,” which it most certainly was not. Our backyard ended at a line of trees and dross beneath them; the lightly manicured, suburban lawn did not grow beyond that line, despite my teen-aged lawn mowing efforts to expand the lawn by clearing the dead leaves and branches away. That tight boundary made The Woods appear all the more elemental, foreign, forbidding, and, of course, inviting.

There was nothing truly elemental or extra natural about The Woods, though; it was not even a particularly non-developed land that surrounded our development. High tension power lines that fed electricity to our thousand-house neighborhood ran along an unpaved road about three football fields away from our back door; thus, the three-hundred-yard-deep stretch of trees that ran the entire backside of the neighborhood, from the Metro-North train tracks along the Hudson River on up and away from the river, merely existed to separate us from the taller-than-average power poles.
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Remembering Pete Seeger

In 1996, in my job of assistant editor at a weekly newspaper, I awarded myself the title of music reviewer for a single issue and attended a concert given at a local high school by Pete Seeger, who died three years ago today at age 94. (Our newspaper’s actual music reviewer was only interested in attending and writing about rock concerts. This was a stroke of luck for me.) I wrote a review, even though I knew that a review is not what one writes about a Pete Seeger concert. An appreciation. A thank-you note. But not a mere review judging aesthetic merits.

It was a great concert, by the way.
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A Memory of Mary Tyler Moore

The television star (this is one of those occasions in which “icon” can not be overused) Mary Tyler Moore died earlier today at the age of 80. I have one brief, personal memory of an encounter with her. I wish my family had saved the answering machine tape …

In our current era of Twitter and Facebook and the many other social media outlets, virtual celebrity encounters can be had quite easily. (Among my Facebook friends are the accounts of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks plays several games each night on the service.) These encounters were more rare once upon a time, the 1990s, say.

In the 1980s, Mary Tyler Moore and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, lived in Millbrook, New York, in Dutchess County. This is the county in which I was born and raised.
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When I Was Ten …

The child has few memories, so those he has are detailed.

We were in my hometown for some reason one summer Sunday afternoon a couple years ago and I said to my girlfriend that I wanted to show her where I grew up. (As if adulthood is a condition I suffer from or enjoy.) We drove down roads I used to bike on, walk on.

I grew up in the suburbs, in upstate New York, in the 1970s and ’80s, a neighborhood without sidewalks, where kids biked across their neighbors’ lawns (well, I did) without fear of criticism. (Well, I wasn’t.) I remember that I knew which houses had dogs that were poorly restrained (so I could avoid those lawns or else find a new speed in my pumping little legs) and which houses were simply scary for reasons no one could explain but everyone knew which houses simply seemed scary.
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A Memory of Cary Grant

Cary Grant was born 115 years ago today. My memory of seeing him in person:

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Starting in the mid-1980s, Cary Grant toured in a one-man question-and-answer show, A Conversation with Cary Grant, in which he spent ninety minutes or so answering questions from audience members. Several other movie stars and celebrities have since taken on similar productions in which they and their fans bask in an accepted and reflected adoration— Gregory Peck, for one—but Grant was the first. The show was an extended, and deserved, curtain call from beginning to end.

One cool feature to Grant’s tour was that it brought him to theaters in which he had performed during his vaudeville years in the 1920s. Thus it was that in April 1985 I found myself sitting in the balcony of the small (1500 seat) Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston, New York, a stage on which he had performed decades earlier. I was 16 and a movie nerd and Cary Grant was my idol.
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