Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Musings on Ferguson

Here I am again, livid, blood pressure raised because a cop was not indicted for killing an unarmed Black youth.  I thought it admirable that his family requested calm regardless of the outcome but didn’t think it could happen if grand jury didn’t indict. The rage would be explosive. What do you do with it? Where does it go? We’re been trying to manage our rage for decades now but it’s still an active volcano that periodically erupts.

I remember times I wanted to erupt—being pulled over by the police at least half a dozen times, when I was riding in a high-end car with a brother between New York and Washington, D.C. No reason. We weren’t speeding.  It was that old if a Black man is driving a nice car he must be doing something illegal thing. I remember every time police for no reason other than my color stopped me on the street. The first time I almost blew it. I’d been going to school in the northeast for eight years, had forgotten the necessary yessuh response required in the South when you are stopped by a white policeman. Luckily I was with a friend who interceded, replying with the prerequisite deference. The other times cops stopped me on the street I was in New York, in my own neighborhood, a place where I’d lived for more than a decade, where everyone knew me. This was during the Giuliani years. Several people of color I knew choose to leave New York rather than live under his oppression.

But I was stopped, at most, a dozen times. One of the young men profiled in PBS’ documentary Black and Blue, part of Soledad O’Brien’s Black in America Series, had been stopped and frisked more than a hundred times. Young black man, never been in trouble, going to college humiliated in front of professors and friends. His mother knows that he’s a power keg after these hundred degradations. Every time he leaves the house at night, they have the talk. The one that white parents don’t know about, where you tell your child not to let the white cop make him lose his temper.

Uh uh, it doesn’t matter if he has no reason to stop you. …  Let it roll off your back when he calls you out your name. … And control your face. Don’t be rolling your eyes.

We shouldn't have to have these conversations with our children. They shouldn't have to protect themselves from people whose salaries we pay.

You want our response to a decision that we perceive to be getting away with murder to be measured—only express your displeasure non-violently. But let me ask you this--is shoot to kill a measured response when an unarmed youth charges?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Inside the London Theatre - Week Two

Playwright Beth Steel was our guest Monday morning. Like Tim Schutt, she is 30. Her background should have put her in the most unlikely to be a playwright category—she wasn’t exposed to any of the arts in the coal mining town where she was raised, dropped out of school at 16, and never set foot in a theatre until she was 21. After a couple of years of going to see every play she could, when they returned to London, she went to see David Harrower’s Blackbird and left wanting to be a writer. Wonderland took four years from conception to stage.  Her father was her touchstone for this script. He accompanied her on a trip down into the mines. She spoke with refreshing candor about theatre dramaturges who questioned her play’s lack of a protagonist when she was, “creating a bloody world,” and the challenges of finding a home for her second play that required a huge cast and the re-creation of a pit.

That night, we saw another play that examined the Thatcher years. During the 11 years of Thatcher’s tenure, Handbagged lightheartedly imagines the private weekly conversations between the two most powerful women in England, the Queen and Prime Minister. There are two Queens, and two Thatchers. The older Queen (Marion Bailey), looks back on, and does not always agree, with the younger (Lucy, Robinson); just as the older PM (Stella Gonet) looks back, sometimes disapprovingly, on her younger self (Fenella Woolgar). Two male actors complete the ensemble, playing a variety of roles ranging from Dennis Thatcher to Nancy Regan. One of the members of our group summed up this production perfectly, comedy with serious relief. The standouts in the cast were the younger PM, Fenella Woolgar, and the older Queen, Marion Bailey who was this production’s guest.

Ms. Bailey talked with us about process—the challenges of communicating the emotions of someone who has to exhibit ultimate control in public situations. Her choice, to exhibit the Queen’s dissatisfaction through facial twitches and small hand movements, was inspired—they were little oops that slip past her self-control. Our critic in residence, Matt Wolf, expects Marion’s role as Sophia Booth in the upcoming film Mr. Turner will generate Oscar buzz.

That night we saw Ben Power’s new version of Euripides’ Medea at the National, one of the UK’s publicly funded theatres. This updated version, set in modern times, features Helen McCrory, wife of Damian Lewis of Homeland fame, in the title role. McCrory opens the door to Medea’s subconscious. She does not create a monster but a woman, both formidable and vulnerable, trapped in a situation where her only means of asserting herself is to commit an unconscionable act. Like the chorus of Corinthian women, we don’t condone what she does but we understand. The chorus, under Carrie Crackwell’s direction, is sometimes the townswomen, sometimes—through staccato dance movements and monotone, mechanical voices—the reflection of Medea’s inner turmoil. I thought both of the men were weak, especially Danny Sapani’s Jason. He lacked magnetism. I didn’t believe a woman would murder her brother for a man like this. There were moments when I didn’t believe him. His assertion that he married the king’s daughter, Kreusa, to protect Medea and his sons felt like a lie. Danny was our guest the next morning. He was much more commanding in person than I found him to be on stage the previous night.

The National performs in repertory. The following night we returned to see a different production, a revival of Alan Ayckbourn’s A Small Family Business. Ayckbourn’s farce is a morality play, illustrating how minor compromises can lead to moral disaster. The small family business is a furniture store. The play begins with hero Jack McCracken’s appointment as its managing director. Jack an umbra-moral man, who doesn’t know that the entire family is robbing the business, promises a regime of honesty. After the party to celebrate his appointment, he makes his first moral compromise—he hires a slimy detective to prevent him from reporting his daughter to the police for shoplifting. One compromise leads to another, each to protect someone in his family, and by the end of the play he has covered up a murder that obligates him to use the family firm for drug distribution. It’s masterfully plotted but I didn’t buy it, that a man who was railing against the theft of something as small as a paperclip could degenerate to covering up murder and distributing drugs. But the performances were superb, notably Alice Sykes the taciturn Goth daughter, Matthew Cottle the furtively lecherous private eye, and Nigel Lindsay the hero who slides into moral ruin. Nigel was our guest the next day.

Nigel was as charismatic in person as he was on stage. After graduating from university, he worked for three years as a financial analyst and hated it. Then he performed in a friend's charity production, quit his job and enrolled at the Webber Douglas Academy. Immediately after completing this two year course, he began getting stage work. He talked about balancing his career between commercial pieces like Shrek the Musical, he played the title role in London, and less lucrative ventures like plays at the National. Jokingly he tells us his wife and agent let him know when it’s time to take another money-making job. Like the other two British actors we’ve met (Marion Bailey and Danny Sapani), Nigel moves seamlessly between film, television and stage/commercial and non-commercial projects. After Beth Steel, he was my favorite guest.

Our final play was The Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Wolf Hall, a stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s fictionalized, multi-award winning biography. Wolf Hall documents the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. I’d read this book, couldn’t imagine that this 600-page novel with scads of characters and locations could be tailored for the stage. Mike Poulton, who wrote the play, and director Jeremy Herrin do a masterful job. Poulton compresses Mantel’s mass of subplots and secondary characters into mini-scenes and vignettes extracted from the novel’s most important bits, cutting or consolidating everything else. There’s too much story for scene changes, the action unfolds on a stark rectilinear grey set. Minimal set pieces appear and are removed as needed to move us from palace to prison to country garden. Stunning costumes and lighting provide the atmosphere. Director Herrin moves the narrative forward with amazing economy—the widowing of Cromwell is staged in seconds, so rapidly that an inattentive audience member could miss it. The standouts in the cast were Paul Jesson, who added comic overtones to Cardinal Wolsey, Nathaniel Parker as a romantically naïve King Henry, Lucy Briers as the zealous and dignified Queen Katherine and Ben Miles as Cromwell. Not the villainous Cromwell we’ve seen in earlier movies and plays but a principled man and loyal friend. Wolf Hall was the perfect finale to our eight-play theatre blitz. I was sorry that I didn’t see the Bring Down the Bodies, the play based on Mantel’s second Cromwell novel.

Ben Miles, our final guest the next day, was late. I was leaving early to meet Teia and missed part of our conversation him. Miles talked about the collaboration with Hilary Mantel to develop the script that is still evolving. Hilary, who was ecstatic that The Royal Shakespeare Company wanted to stage her books, was an integral part of the play’s development and major contributor to the its success. Ms. Mantel is completing her third book in this trilogy and the BBC is producing a six-part television series of the first two books that will air next year.

That afternoon I met Teia at the Tate Modern, in South Bank, to see the Matisse cut-outs, an extensive exhibit of the final chapter in his career. Teia and I walked along the Thames, had a leisurely late lunch, browsed through her favorite bookstore and had a final drink before I returned to College Hall to pack and she headed back to Bromley.

In between the morning lectures, the plays and the nightly discussion, I got a see a little bit of London—the British Museum and the Portrait Galley, a marvelous exhibition on contemporary UK male style, Return of the Rude Boy, an afternoon at Chelsea Market. London didn’t captivate me during my first visit but I loved it this time. I’ll be back.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Inside the London Theatre, Week One

I’m back in San Miguel. Thought I’d write this blog sooner but it took forever for me to get my body clock to spring forward six hours, reestablish my routine. Now I have the space to reflect on this nine-day class that was a theatre lovers dream.
I could have gone to London, researched what plays were running, and selected eight. But it wouldn’t have been the eight I saw, only some of these would have hit my radar. There was an edge, an element of risk to the most of them. It was a eclectic mix where politics, power and women dominated—two imports from the U.S., Bakersfield Mist and Mr. Burns, two new British plays that take place during the Thatcher administration, Wonderland and Handbagged, two classics, Richard III and Medea, an adaptation of a novel, Wolf Hall, and a revival of A Small Family Business.
If I’d come on my own, I wouldn’t have had Matt Wolf, our resident critic. Matt, a native New Yorker who transplanted to London, has written about theatre for virtually every major newspaper and magazine on both sides of the Atlantic. Each morning he discussed the play we would see that evening, sharing his encyclopedic knowledge—he discussed production history of the revivals, chronicled the careers of the each plays’ cast and production team. According to my friend Karen, Matt is one of the reasons people come back to this program year, after year. The second reason is the guests, our morning conversations with someone from the cast or creative team of the play we saw the night before. The night sessions, getting to talk about the plays right after we’d seen them with seasoned theatre-goers, were the icing on the cake for me.
The first two days we moved from the most traditional play in terms of form and staging, Bakersfield Mist, to the most experimental, Mr. Burns.
Bakersfield Mist, examined the question, what ‘s authentic? This two-hander, starring Kathleen Turner and Ian McDiarmid, was inspired by actual events. Maude has found a painting at a second hand store she thinks is a Jackson Pollack and Lionel, a Pollack expert, comes to her trailer to authenticate it. They clash on multiple levels, regional (west coast east coast), class, and culture. Power shifts during their dialogue. Each time Lionel dismisses the painting’s authenticity, Maude spurts out new information that rattles his assessment. The script was contrived, used alcohol as the means to get Lionel to loosen up and reveal himself, but the performances were superb, especially Turner as west coast trailer-trash.
The earthy Kathleen Turner was our guest for the next day. I was impressed with how thoughtful she’d been about her career. Knowing that women of a certain age find it hard to get work in film, she’d never gone more than two and a half years without doing a play. Now she works primarily on stage in regional theatres in the U.S. and in London. When in New York, she teaches an acting class at NYU, Shut Up and Do It. 
The next night we saw the completely out-the-box Mr. Burns, a play that breaks all the well-made play rules. Set after some apocalyptic event in the future, when there is no electricity and everything has been destroyed, we watch as pop culture, exemplified through the television show The Simpsons, evolves to high art. In the first act, immediately following the apocalypse, a group of survivors entertain themselves recalling favorite episodes of The Simpsons. Act II skips forward seven years. This group is now one of several traveling troupes performing the adventures of the Simpsons and commercials. They’ve exhausted their memory banks and are now buying other peoples’ memories of Simpson episodes. The third act, 75 years later, is a performance of a one-act opera, Mister Burns, a Chinese-whispered version of the Simpsons episode Cape Fear that incorporates snatches Edward Scissorhands, Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, and a Britney Spears tune. Critics and audiences either loved or hated Mr. Burns. In our group, only of three or four of us, including Karen and myself, enjoyed it.
The designer, Tom Scutt, who also designed Medea, another play on our list, was this production’s guest. I was shocked at how young he was, barely 30. Tom who graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2006 with a degree in Theatre Design, has designed (both sets and costumes) an impressive number of shows. He talked about his major challenge designing Mister Burns, creating a different set for each act that could fit in the confined backstage area of the theatre.
Director Jamie Oliver’s Richard III takes place during London’s winter of discontent (strikes, shortages of milk, butter and salt, buses cancelled because of fuel shortages) in 1979 and imagines a military coup. The set, the command headquarters of the military operation, was greyed-out to indicate different locations. There was an artificiality to it that didn’t work for me. Other elements seemed contrived, drowning Clarence in the office fish tank, making the office a character in the play that responds to the action. The final scene was much to bloody for my taste. But I did like Martin Freeman’s understated Richard. Instead of an over-the-top villain who seduces the audience he is intelligent, calculating and mocking.
Oliver was our Richard III guest. In his quest to attract young audiences to Shakespeare, he has reduced ticket price to 15 pound on Mondays and is re-imagining Shakespeare in ways that will attract this demographic. He chose someone who had television and movie fame to play Richard—Freeman played Tim The Office, Dr. Watson in the BBC’s Sherlock and is probably best known for his work as Bilbo Babbit in The Hobbit trilogy. In addition, he wanted an actor who hadn’t done Shakespeare because he didn’t want the language “to be everything” like it is in most productions. One reviewer said,
“Freeman chops up the verse into neat little segments rather than giving us the architecture of a speech … simple, plain Clarence, for instance, becomes a withering put-down of his gullible brother.”
I applauded his decision not to make Richard the ultimate charmer. No matter how seductively Richard was played in earlier productions I’ve seen, I never believed that Lady Anne would marry him after he killed her husband and her father. In Oliver’s production, Anne’s marriage to Richard is pragmatic; it provides protection. The primarily young audience applauded the production, several members from our group left after the first act.
Our final play the first week, and my personal favorite, was self-taught playwright Beth Steel’s Wonderland. Wonderland, which was a finalist for The Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Best New Play, begins in 1983 just before the start of the coal miners' strike that, with Thatcher’s assistance, broke the back of their union. Ashley Martin-Davis’s superb multi-tiered set, with its mesh wire floor and a cage lift, separates the world above, dominated by those intent on undermining the strike, from the dangerous and dirty world of the miners. Steel creates a world, one infused with camaraderie and solidarity, which is vividly recreated by the ensemble cast. The storyline traces two newbies who have barely started working when the strike is called—one supports the strike the other becomes a scab. As the strike drags on, and the miners are able to support their families, we watch the destruction of a once proud community.
We’re free for the weekend. Most of the group has bought tickets for additional plays; I head to Bromley to spend time with Teia, my oldest friend, and her son Zack. When her friend Pam drives me back to the residence Sunday night, I’m doing my please baby, please baby, please routine trying to convince Teia to meet me Friday afternoon in central London so we can hang out for a few more hours before I return to Mexico.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Little Help From My Friends

When I returned from Vermont at the beginning of June there was a message on my voice mail offering an amazing gift. A friend who had registered for an Inside the London Theatre program through the University of California Alumni Association was not going to be able to attend. She was offering me her space in the class—morning discussions with noted critic Matt Wolf about the eight plays we’ll see and the London theatre scene, conversations with the actors, directors, playwrights and designers working with these productions, nightly discussions following the shows. I knew I would love this.

I grew up in theatre. Mama designed sets for Baldwin Burroughs at Spelman College. I appeared on stage for the first time when I was six or seven as one of the children in his production of The King and I and Mama's best friend was and actress.  Still I hesitated. I’d already spent the money allocation for vacation this summer—went to New Orleans for the last week of JazzFest, spent ten days in New York and another ten in Vermont. Spent most of the money I’d made from the consultant job I’d finally gotten after an almost five year hiatus. But new work possibilities are on the horizon. Go on Cynthia, I told myself, defy your home training, raid your savings account for something that’s non-essential.

Plane tickets to London were expensive. I would be going during high season and wasn’t booking 30 days in advance. I needed all my girl friends egging me on,
you deserve it … you can’t refuse a gift like this … girl you could die tomorrow, long life ain’t promised,
to get me to hit buy on Ovitz and purchase the non-refundable ticket.

This would be a new experience. I’d passed through London once my work with Cassandra took us there to launch her Blue Note Til Dawn album at the Jazz Café. Hadn’t gone to the theatre while I was there. Theatre was a staple of my New York life but I’d never done a blitz, never packed eight plays into 13 days.

And this came with bonuses. My oldest friend, the one who had provided shelter following Hurricane Katrina, a home after I fled the storm, ten days after purchasing my house in New Orleans. I stayed with her in Atlanta until she left to for her new job in London. We hadn’t seen each other in almost nine years.  Plus a newer friend, who’d left San Miguel and moved back to the States, was attending the class.

I wasn’t the least bit New York blasé, gawked out the window like the tourist I was when my car drove through Central London past 18th century stone buildings, ornate ironwork, public squares. We were staying in the hub of things, in Bloomsbury, around the corner from the British Museum. Chuckled at the serendipity of staying next door to RADA. Our residence was next door to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Staying up all day was the best way to get my body clock into this time zone. Around 11:00, Karen, my friend from San Miguel, another woman in the program and I took the tube to South Bank. We walked along the Thames, looked across the river at Big Ben, explored inside the National, one of the UK’s most prominent publicly funded theatres, lunched outside Somerset House and visited their Return of the Rude Boy exhibit before returning to College Hall.

The 40+ people attending Inside the London Theatre this year—predominately left leaning Californians, mostly seniors, only one other non-white participant—had dinner together that night. Many had been coming to the program for years. I couldn’t wait to begin experiencing this program that brought people back year after year.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Letter to Van

Vandelear, last month I went to New Orleans for its 45th Annual Jazz and Heritage Festival. It was the first time I’d gone back since you made your transition. At every turn I remembered the first time we went with Sandy and Leslie for the 25th. We rented a house in Gentilly, an African-American residential neighborhood. Sipped the local beer, Black and Voodoo, in the backyard while lightening bugs flickered the night we arrived. The next morning we headed for the Fairgrounds. Everything we loved was inside—fantastic music, seven tents of it, a crafts market (where we spent every dime we could afford on handmade goods), and booth after booth of great New Orleans food. For four days we were on sensory overload. Sandy’s homeboy, Richie Havens, performed and Aretha and the Neville Brothers closed out the Fest. We all had a fabulous time but you and I were the ones who fell in love with the Crescent City, started talking about moving there as soon as we returned home.
This year I went with Lita—my you, here in San Miguel. Physically you’re polar opposites; she’s white, average height and way too thin. But you have the same essence, both over-the-top women who live life, head-to-toe accessorized, at a full tilt. She’s vintage rather than Afrocentric but you’re both clothes horses and several of her Art Deco pins could easily have been in your jewelry box. Of course I thought of you as Lita and I enjoyed JazzFest this May.
I carried you with me when I left Lita and moved on to New York for ten days. I split my time there between two friends I met through you, Paul, who you’ve known since college, and Stephanie, your first tenant when you bought the house in Baltimore.
Paul and I walked down memory lane every day. He looks great. The rest of us are expanding but he hasn’t put on a pound. We spent lots of time reminiscing about the parties you and I gave in my old brownstone—Thanksgiving dinners, summer bar-b-ques, and Paul’s fabulous 50th in the yard. That might have been our best. Formal dining outside when the garden was at its peak; roses and lilies in full-force bloom, a few pink and red peonies still on the bushes. The food that day was perfection—your caviar drizzled deviled-eggs, Martha’s recipe for salmon stuffed with oranges and leeks, the champagne floats we served with the cake. I haven’t entertained like that since we stopped giving parties together. Life’s changed now that you’re not in it.
Stephanie’s life has changed too. Now that you’re gone, she doesn’t have a road dog in Baltimore who’s as adventurous as you were. She’s spending more time in New York, hanging with friends there and her old crew in New Jersey. We miss having your life intermingled with ours. 
Vandelear Walker you left a big hole.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Touching My Old Life

I just returned from New York, the place where I came of age; the place where I went to college. After graduation, I was in and out for two or three years before moving there permanently when I was 25.
When I started my current journey in 2005, the one that was supposed to take me to New Orleans but ended up dropping me in Mexico, I went to New York frequently. Every time I went to inspection the post-Katrina restoration of my house, the one I only got to live in for ten days, I spent a few days in NY before returning to San Miguel. New York was changing. More neighborhoods were gentrifying, more whites were moving uptown increasing the rents. But it still felt like the New York I’d known. It doesn’t anymore. The transition to Manhattan becoming a playground for the rich is complete.
A close friend, whose daughter is staying with her while she saves for an apartment, said the average rent in Manhattan for a one-bedroom is $3,000 a month. And commercial rents must be astronomical because the City is like any mall in America now, filled with chain stores. Only a handful of one-store retailers still exist. What made shopping in New York unique were the boutique stores, the visions of one or two proprietors rather than a corporation, the shops that sold handmade goods. Most of the merchandise today is what you can find in any other big city in America. There’s a sameness to shopping now, more places to buy but less options.
But what I miss most about this new New York is its lack of diversity. Ethnically there’s plenty but its class stratified now, something I never thought I’d see in Manhattan. The old neighborhood restaurants may not have had ambience but the lower income members of our community could enjoy a meal. They’re priced out of the new established. Intermingling across economic lines is minimal. This wasn’t true during the years I came into my womanhood, from the late 70s thru the 80s during the height of City’s creativity. Those years everything creative—visual art, design, poetry, theatre, dance—converged in the gritty Lower East Side. Established artists, like the Burtons, arrived in limos for parties in rundown lofts. This mixing of established and emerging artists, artists from all genres, incubated work that was vibrant, that broke boundaries, work that sometimes made its way into the mainstream.
Theatre was what brought me to New York but today Broadway plays it safe. Of course there are other venues that take chances but more and more the mainstream is interested in the bottom line. If For Colored Girls moved from the Public Theatre to Broadway, they would recast the show. Hire recognizable actresses like Kerry Washington and Lupita Nyong'o to ensure box office. They’re afraid to do dramas without a bankable star—Toni Collette in The Realistic Jones, Bryan Cranston in All the Way, the too old Denzell Washington in the too-often revived Raisin in the Sun, Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan. It’s not that I object to seeing these fine actors on Broadway, it’s what they symbolize the makes me nuts—playing it safe.
Two years ago when I was in New York I was dying to see The Best Man because of its star-studded cast—James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, Eric McCormack. Each had applause-getting moments but they did work together as an ensemble. It was super safe but didn’t create great theatre.
Don’t get me wrong; there are things about the new New York that I love. I’m not like some of my friends, the ones who’ve lived here for more than 30 years, who hate the City now. I love that it’s cleaner, that there are flowers planted in open spaces throughout Manhattan, that there are bikes rental stands everywhere, that we finally have a police presence in Harlem although this also pisses me off. We needed them more before whites came uptown, when there was gunplay in the streets.

What I object to about the new New York, besides the astronomical cost of everything, is it’s too sanitized, the ways it’s become like everyplace else.  It’s still exciting, you can’t have that much art, dance, music, theatre and great food packed into 23 square miles without creating energy. But I miss the edge. I miss the grit. During this year’s visit, we drove through Times Square at night, a panorama of glaring neon that creates the backdrop for this adult Disney Land on steroids. Signs with barely a foot of space between them, so crammed with advertisements that your eyes don’t know were to focus. We traded sleaze for this glitzed-to-point-of-sleaziness unreality. What I can’t wrap my mind around is why this is better?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Don’t Brag

In early December when a friend told me that a cold/flu bug was ravaging San Miguel, I said confidently, I never get sick. It had been at least 10 years, maybe 15, since I had a cold and the last time I remember having the flu I was in college. If I start getting the sniffles, I reach for my trusty oil of oregano, put 10 drops in a glass of water and knock it out before it can take hold.

Christmas day it hit me. It didn’t come on gently, it hit hard. And after years of living here in the perpetual sunshine I didn’t have any of my magic cure. The next morning I headed straight to Moonrise, our local health food store. One dose didn’t knock this out, or two but after a couple of days I felt good enough to join some friends for brunch. But it came back, twice. Finally after almost three weeks I had to admit my immune system wasn’t what it used to be and went to see my doctor, an acupuncturist, alternative medicine and medical doctor from Columbia. He gave me options, herbal medicine, which would take longer or antibiotics. I couldn’t handle longer and opted for the anti-life.

My oldest friend, who is living in London now, called to wish me happy birthday today. She was also down with a cold and had been bragging earlier about how she never gets sick.

She told me, “As soon as those words were out of my mouth I knew I shouldn’t have said that."

Our conclusion, don't brag.