Today marks 6 months since I started working for the Fairbanks Daily News Miner in Alaska. My Chi Chako moments still happen, and sourdough status is still far off.
Like last Sunday when I went for a solo hike near Angel Creek off the Chena Hot Springs Road.
“That’s bear country,” someone said to me the next day. “Of course you had a weapon or bear spray?”
“Not exactly,” I said. I carried a water bottle and a can of mosquito repellent.
However, we found 4 moose that day.
Chi Chako Senior Moments
Fairbanks café lunch prices are steep, so my wife sends me to work in a microwave-safe container filled with leftover pasta from the previous dinner and other goodies. A few days ago, I took out the bag, threw the container in the microwave, and nearly passed out when I opened it. The container contained not pasta but something like a Greek mushy eggplant dish. In other words, I stole someone else’s lunch. Feeling guilty, I closed the bag and put it back in the fridge.
I am careful not to confuse “Nenana” and “Tanana” in conversations so as not to look like Chichako. These mispronunciations have been picked up during my decades of visits to Fairbanks, Tock and Nenana as a tourist, and they are difficult for me, a new resident, to dispel.
One of my quivering memories of mispronouncing a name dates back to the second grade of parochial school. Her parents taught me to read early, and Sister Mary Restista often told me to read torn, dirty, and old geography books.
I loved reading books, even when I was alone or out loud. Her mother once ordered me to ditch my Charles Dickens books and go out into the sunshine “just once.”
While I was reading in class, Sister’s sharp voice disturbed my reading and woke the half-asleep students. “Sweet Lord,” she said in her native Polish. “Did you hear his voice, class?”
I squealed like a rat. “what happened?”
“You said, ‘Kansas,'” she yelled before taking me out of the game as a stand-in reader. “It’s alkane SAW, alkane SAW, alkane SAW.”
brush up on my Shakespeare
He recently had to correct several pronunciation mistakes while playing Prince Escalus in the Fairbanks Shakespeare Theater’s production of Romeo and Juliet. The show opens Thursday and runs for three weeks at Jack Townsend Point at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“Sira, why are you here, Master?” said at one rehearsal. I pronounced it like saying “syrup”.
“No, it’s ‘Sheila, Sheila, Sheila,'” barked the play’s prompter.
I also learned some very important theater tips from the prompter. Always close the door softly when using the portable toilet behind the scenes. When you slam the door, the noise will startle the audience and make your fellow actors ask if you were born stupid or trained.
Now, when I have to go, I ask myself if I can’t stand the water until the show is over, especially since I have to get out of my unzippered, baggy costume bottoms to work. “To pee or not to pee?” I ask myself in a very Shakespearean way. “That’s the question.”
I also learned to raise my voice about 19 notches each time a jet passed overhead during a performance. In my opulent Elizabethan clothes, I must resist the urge to raise my fist at the jet and shout, “What is this devil?”
This play was another treat for me in Fairbanks, especially since my wife Gothia is also a dancer in Romeo and Juliet. This will be her first time appearing in one of her plays, and I’m sure she’ll be out of her nerves by the time it’s over.
stand on stage for the first time
A long time ago, I dreamed of becoming an actor. I spent the entire summer of his 1969 as a Fellow of the Shakespeare Institute, attached to the American Shakespeare Theatre. The American Shakespeare Theater is his 1980s decommissioned fine institution.
My classmates included Shakespeare professors, critics, and graduate students from as far away as Japan and Mexico. Lecturers include legendary lecturers and guest speakers such as actors Morris Karnovsky, Brian Bedford and Moses Gunn, as well as American Shakespeare Theater artistic director Michael Cahn and British film director John Dexter was also included.
I was selected for a Renaissance and Today Fellowship based on my one-act play Mac Lady Bird, which satirizes the politics of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird. was
Let me digress for a moment. I actually “met” Mrs. Johnson when I attended a Court of Honor tree-planting ceremony in Buffalo, New York, by members of the Buffalo Fraternity and Sorority. We stood on either side of the red carpet as the First Lady swaggered toward her pit, shovel, and 12-foot-tall linden tree. I wore a flat blue pledge hat, which thankfully is now prohibited by the state of Buff as a hazing violation.
There was a nasty gust of wind that day that only a buffalo blowing off Lake Erie could possibly think of. I was worried that Ladybug’s headgear would blow off. She wore a red wool dress with her A-line skirt and slightly oval neckline, complemented by her square-toed black medium-heeled pumps. (Okay, here’s the reveal. I don’t know her red wool dress with A-line skirt in a red wheelbarrow. Of course, I made that fashion statement in the Buffalo News on Oct. 2, 1965. Quoted from a news article.)
“Outside the White House are different varieties of linden planted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt,” the first lady said as reporters transcribed the words. “Looking at this now reminds me of you.”
Of course, “you” refers to the hundreds of students, faculty, and filth surrounding the mound of dirt, not me.
Anyway, let’s go back to the Shakespeare Institute.
I still remember the first line of my decidedly amateur satire, which was read aloud as professors, graduate students, and professional actors read my lines on stage.
“Oh, the fire muse, or some other old muse that actually happens.”
I also performed for the first time on stage, playing the flute in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jon Hal in Henry IV, Part 1. I can still recite every line, which is amazing because these days I have to work many times harder to keep my monologues.
However, I have two painful memories from my time at the Shakespeare Institute. A professional actor tried to teach me fencing, but he was hopeless and gave up. He said it was like seeing a buffalo on roller skates with more subtle movements.
The second harrowing incident occurred after a lecture by Alan S. Downer, Professor of English at Princeton University, author of Shakespeare: The Five Plays we used as our text.
At 21 and too shy to ask questions in class, I followed Professor Downer outside as he slipped into the black limousine the Institute had reserved. I asked him a few short questions about my character, Prince Hal, and he listened.
“I’m sorry,” he said disdainfully, as if my question had been the loudest applause he’d ever heard. “I only answer questions like that when I’m paid to speak.”
I saw his big black limousine drive back towards Princeton. Was Professor Downer somehow related to Sister Mary Restituta?