Out and About (Sort Of): Medical Journey By Howard Freedlander

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I began an unplanned medical journey two months ago. Consequently, I joined a men’s club, to which I had no intention of applying.

On April 30, I received a diagnosis of prostate cancer. By June 16, I underwent robotic-assisted surgery to remove my prostate. As I write this column, I am recovering well and quickly.

On June 24, I learned from my Hopkins Hospital doctor that the surgery successfully extracted all the cancer. I am cancer-free.

I thought long and hard about whether to share this information on a public stage like The Talbot Spy. I’m doing so because fortunately I suffered a form of cancer more common than I ever knew among men—and considered mostly curable.

My description so far betrays none of the fear and anxiety I felt—and obsessed about on a daily basis—beginning with the brief phone conversation with an Annapolis urologist, who told me the awful truth. The difficulty continued as I told family members and close friends. Even as I sat two weeks ago in the hectic pre-operation area, I worried about life after major surgery.

Cancer no longer was someone else’s problem.

As if studying for final exams in college, I read exhaustively about prostate cancer. I spoke with survivors, not only in Talbot County but throughout the country. I realized the membership of this club was larger than I ever imagined. While comforted to some extent by the survival rate, at least measured anecdotally, I could think of nothing else.

I learned that fighting cancer—or any other life-threatening disease—generates a level of self-absorption and self-centeredness that I typically abhor. I talked of little else. I felt distracted, prone to mistakes.

And I found out, as do others, I’m sure, the grace and comfort willingly offered by family and friends.

Despite the option of radiation, I chose surgery because it suited me personally; I simply wanted to rid myself of cancer as quickly and effectively as I could. Through a referral from an Easton doctor,

I found a physician at the renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital, well-experienced and well-respected in conducting robotic-assisted surgery. He not only was highly skilled, but just as importantly, a person with a nice human touch and incredible responsiveness to my questions and concerns.

 

I alluded to the inestimable value of support, both professional and friend/family-based. You expect the medical professionals to respond with expertise and compassion, and that generally happened. You lean on your family, and again I was the beneficiary of tremendous care and concern. My wife Liz was a great nurse and wonderful friend.

Everyone deals differently with personal calamity. I like to do personal research. And so I spoke with people to whom friends referred me, people whom I did not know, such as an attorney in Chicago and a real estate developer in Washington, DC; they unselfishly spent time explaining their experience with prostate cancer. Also, I constantly sought counsel and comfort from an Easton friend who had undergone prostate surgery in 1999 at Hopkins.

So, what do I do now that my two-month medical odyssey is over?

I will find another subject of conversation that excludes personal medical problems. I will continue retirement activities that have no connection to the medical system. Life as a patient is grueling.

And, finally, I will be ever thankful for a dose of good luck, renewal of good health and the ability to continue praying for those who endure life-threatening medical situations far more complex than early-detected prostate cancer.

Life looks brighter now. It’s time to move on. It’s time to laugh again.

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Of Skipjacks, Flyboys and Sailors with Author Dick Cooper

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While the Eastern Shore’s history has received special attention from a host of gifted writers over last few centuries, it is still pretty unique to have a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist spending three intense years tracking down both the well-known and the not so well-known stories of the Shore.

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 1.32.24 PMThat is exactly what Dick Cooper, a former editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has been doing, with the results recently published as a collection of 23 essays entitled, “East of the Chesapeake: Skipjacks, Flyboys and Sailors True Tales of the Eastern Shore.” Cooper introduces readers to the special places of the Eastern Shore and the people who call them home, the boats they sail and the traditions that make them and the region uniquely American.

In his interview with the Spy, the author talks about his exhaustive documentation of the building and restoration of the famed skipjack Rosie Parks at the Chesapeake Bay Martine Museum, the first plans for the C&D Canal, the curious tale of Two Johns, Maryland, and an overview of some other stories in his recent collection.

This video is approximately ten minutes in length.  Currently, the book is only available as an e-book via Amazon. Readers can purchase it here

What Didn’t Happen July 4, 1776 by George Merrill

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If you have a scattered mind as I do, always managing several ideas at once, you know there’s a price to pay. Being clear about things can be difficult: certain times get confused, particulars of some incidents get transposed onto others and important details are frequently omitted. In short it’s easy for people like me to become befuddled.

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 7.27.50 AMI thought it appropriate to write something about our signature national holiday. Although embarrassing to admit, I wasn’t sure just exactly what did happen on July 4th 1776 other than we became independent of Britain. Knowing myself as I do, I thought I’d better check on details so I wouldn’t shoot myself in the foot. I googled “What happened on the 4th of July?”

When I went onto the site, I felt vindicated, as if I wasn’t so flakey after all. Maybe I didn’t know exactly what happened but I discovered that many Americans didn’t either. According to The Washington Post most Americans think we declared our independence when the continental congress met on that Fourth of July in Philadelphia. Not so. Nor did the members of the Continental Congress sign the declaration that day. Actually the Continental Congress declared our independence on July 2nd and Jefferson thought this date would be “solemnized with pomp and parade . . . games, sports, guns [and] bells . . . from this time forward forever more.” It was comforting to know that even Jefferson didn’t get it right.

According to The Washington Post what actually happened on July 4th, 1776 – if Jefferson couldn’t get it straight I wonder why the Post thinks it can- our Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence that Jefferson had written with this caveat; subject to edits by a five-man team. Jefferson wrote the final draft, completing it in the third week of that June.

To further confuse our ingrained ideas of the fourth, Americans didn’t celebrate the first Independence Day until July 8th with a big party in Philadelphia, including a parade and shooting off lots of guns. Even George Washington who was in New York didn’t get the word until the ninth, ironically the last one to be told, save the British who finally heard about it on August 30th. They found the declaration seditious, didn’t consider it an occasion to celebrate at all, and kept on shooting at us anyway.

If we had cell phones, or even walkie-talkies, General Washington, could have been kept abreast of events and enjoyed a timely celebration with everyone else. Heaven knows he deserved it.

the finalizing in declaring our nation’s birthday went from July 2nd to July 8th. This is six days. Are we dishonoring our founding father’s efforts by just having a one day celebration or if the date falls right, only a long weekend? Might we not celebrate our nation’s birth by octaves, eight-day observances as some religions do? On second thought that may be a scatterbrained idea. As exuberant as most Yankees are about having parties, an eight-day cookout with a daily diet of beans, potato chips, franks, hot dogs, beer and hamburgers, nightly fireworks with all your kin constantly under your nose day and night may be over the top. A long weekend is probably best.
Happy Birthday, America.

Something Happened

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Something happened at the Charles Sumner Post #25 (G.A.R.) Monday night.

It was one of those moments you remember years later as a convergence of events that together become so much greater than the sum of its parts.

It was as if we stood, for a split second at a crossroads where hope and hopelessness collided and bloomed into a world of new possibilities.

In its simplest form, the evening was a performance by two gifted musicians, Guy Davis and Reggie Harris—who, as a gift to board members and friends of the G.A.R.— invited us into the heart of blues and gospel, taught us about the codes embedded in slave songs to communicate information about the Underground Railroad, and told personal stories about friends Pete Seegar and Odetta, all the while accompanying their narratives with songs, both original, and folk favorites.

But remember where we were—and the week we just endured.

We were in one of the two existing Grand Army of the Republic posts, meeting places for veterans of the Civil War Colored Troops, five days from bloody Charleston, South Carolina, and reeling from another year of cascading racial violence. And now we were transfixed by the heart-piercing folk-gospel and blues born out of centuries of African-American oppression.

And then it happened.

As Guy Davis tuned his guitar for the next song, an audience member stood to announce a headline that flashed over his cellphone: that Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina, was calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state Capitol.

The Post’s small, second-floor performance room erupted in applause and Amens.

If timing is everything, this moment was a rare intersection of the often flickering hope for racial equality, with a shock that maybe, just maybe, we were inching toward breaking down the walls of our prejudices.

A flag is a flag, dark, divisive and warped symbol that it might be, but it is the mindset behind the symbol that has to be reached for change to take place—and in the celebration of that moment, we wondered and hoped that this would be more than a televised moment of self-congratulations.

Davis and Harris gave us a voice Monday night to help articulate our sense of need to change the social landscape that kindles the kind of demented fury we witnessed in Charleston. It was the voice, in song, of history, oppression, hope, and challenge to take action.

Here are two songs in their entirety, one by Reggie Harris and one by Guy Davis, and the reaction to the announcement that South Carolina will remove the Confederate Flag from state property.

Out and About (Sort Of): Enough Already by Howard Freedlander

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It appears that the tortuous saga of the proposed Four Seasons community in Chester on Kent Island soon will come to an end.

A decision by the Maryland Court of Appeals to refer the proposed development to the Board of Public Works, which first acted on the project in 2007, may finally bring to conclusion more than a decade of litigation and contention.

When I served as a deputy treasurer and liaison to the Board of Public Works (BPW) during Act I in Annapolis, the issue, on the surface, was an easy one, overlaid however with complexity prompted by organized opposition to a proposed development catering to senior citizens. While the BPW, one of the most powerful public groups in the state, was being asked to vote on wetlands issues related to storm drainage, opponents understood that its only resort to killing the project was by persuading the BPW to disapprove the wetlands licenses.

The meeting, which resembled a zoning hearing, lasted for hours as Governor Martin O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot heard exhausting testimony from opponents and proponents alike. When the board finally voted, the governor and comptroller voted in opposition, while the treasurer voted in favor.

The developer, K. Hovnanian, appealed the BPW decision to Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court, which ruled that the decision rendered by the board, was based, if I recall correctly, on what the court viewed as faulty reasoning used by O’Malley and Franchot. This decision came shortly before I retired in May 2011.

I do not pretend to know all the machinations that have occurred during the past four years, a process that now brings to the fore the question of whether a valuable, environmentally sensitive waterfront property should become a quality housing development. For opponents and proponents, the question really comes down to this: should this property be developed?

Hovnanian has spent an ungodly amount of money designing plans, redesigning plans and litigating on the county and state levels. The company signed a legally defensible development agreement with Queen Anne’s County. It fulfilled every requirement imposed by the Maryland Department of Environment. One wonders why this firm, enduring endless twists and turns, simply didn’t throw in the towel and save a large amount of money spent on attorneys’ fees.

Opponents justifiably want to preserve a pristine piece of property so close to the Chesapeake Bay. Kent Island already has enough traffic congestion it needs no more, according to the opponents. The fear of additional pollution is a real one.

I am torn.

On the one hand, the developer has jumped through every hoop imaginable in gaining approval for a project scaled down considerably from its original plan submitted many years ago. Rejection of this project would virtually signal to real estate developers and business people that doing business in Maryland is an undertaking fraught with unpredictability. Maybe that perception exists regardless of the outcome of this imbroglio.

Unless changes have occurred allowing the Maryland Department of Environment not only to exact obedience to a checklist but to determine whether a project is environmentally sensible, I wonder if the Board of Public Works can deny wetlands permits based on broader concerns.

As an administrative body, can it decide the wetlands licenses and hence the viability of the project? Can each member, individually elected, vote, however each wishes, on the broader issue: should the project be built and potentially cause environmental damage as well as more traffic congestion/

In St. Michaels, opposition raged several years ago about the proposed development of Miles Point, another lovely waterfront property that caused residents heartburn about an upscale development that would dump more traffic on the often congested St. Michaels Road. The project didn’t happen— because a wealthy person bought the property from the developer and determined it would remain undeveloped.

My guess is that a solution of this type was investigated by opponents of Four Seasons, with no angel in sight to remove the property from development.

As someone who has ranted about uncontrolled development in Middletown and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, I find myself—devoid of current information during the past four years—sympathetic to Hovnanian for persistence and the opponents for fighting to preserve a property untouched by construction amid the heavily populated Kent Island.

This battle, fought too many times in court, needs to end.

Enough is enough.

Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis, and Philadelphia.

Second Look by George Merrill

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I was never a good student. Indeed, in high school and graduate studies I barely scraped by. My mind was unruly. It would wander but then arbitrarily seize upon some select fragment of my studies and it would become indelibly fixed in my mind.

My first year in college English we were assigned T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets to read. Most of the poetry went over my head except for this particular selection from Little Gidding. It’s stayed with me to this day:

And the end of all are exploring
Will be to arrive where we started,
And know the place for the first time.

As a middle- aged man, although I’d been making photographs since I was fourteen, I took photography courses at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore to hone my skills. The class consisted mostly of young people so I was the old man of the class. They tolerated my presence with curiosity and good humor, as they might regard some toothless dinosaur mingling in their midst.

The class held periodic critiques of one another’s work. The picture I chose to show on my first critique I thought was marvelous. I took it at Baltimore Harbor. The picture showed a seagull on a dock piling perched stone still but appearing regal. I was struck with how the bird stood and I snapped a picture. The picture was clear, had full range of tones and I was sure that my class would be dazzled.

As the critique began I eagerly waited comments. When it was my turn, the heat suddenly went up. One young person said, ” Wow man, this is such a cliché, I mean what are you trying to say.” One young girl, following his comments blithely reported that she hated seagulls and did I know that they were not only carnivores, “like cannibals, man” but that the guano they left all over Baltimore was really gross and “totally icky.” And on it went. I felt as though carnivorous seagulls had surrounded me and I was being pecked apart.

I was particularly devastated because I loved photographing marine scenes and I thought that that this represented the pinnacle of my nature photographs. I was being told in no uncertain terms that my work was banal and uninteresting.

The next day I went to my instructor, Paul, and told him how hurt I was, particularly with the implication that the things I liked to photograph were superficial, “Hallmark like” as another classmate had commented.

Paul smiled and said, “Oh, that’s not the point. You must always stay with the things that you love most. Your task is to return to them and see them in new ways.” The invitation to see in what’s familiar something new, and find in what’s new something familiar was a signature moment in my artistic endeavors but also in developing my spiritual life. The suggestion I took from it was not unlike William Blake’s classic words: “To see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wildflower.” It takes a second look.

I believe there’s an essence to things. There’s an essence in people – their spirit, if you will. Their spirit always totals more than the sum of their parts. I understand that means treating first my impressions tentatively while continuing my explorations. Things may seem radically different after the second, third or fourth look.

With my camera I returned to many of the same marine sites I had photographed. I saw many more possibilities for making engaging images. The critique, although hard to hear, had opened my eyes.
At about that time, my wife, Jo, and I were planning a move to the Shore and went house hunting.
Over a few months we explored possibilities in Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and several here in Talbot County and nothing seemed to feel right. Late in our search our realtor, vexed, asked just what was it that we were looking for. We weren’t sure.

Early in our explorations we saw a house. The interior was filled with furniture, interesting, but cluttered for our tastes. The exterior looked like a bunkhouse. We dismissed it and continued exploring for several weeks and on a whim returned to the “bunkhouse.”

On the first look we hadn’t noticed how, among all the houses we’d seen, this one let the beauty of the outside in. The dark wood interior, rather than seeming oppressive as it did at first, we now experienced as warm and welcoming, the way subdued lighting can create an intimate atmosphere. We knew this was where we wanted to live. In short, we had, in this particular exploration, arrived where we’d started, and knew the place for the first time.

Perhaps I remembered those words from Eliot’s Little Gidding that I first heard in college because I knew at some subliminal level I would, in many of my life explorations, be returning to where I started to find what I was looking for.

In the way people assign names to their homes here on the Shore, we’ve called ours, “Second Look.”

The Secrets of Prufrock with Tom Cousineau

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There are many good things that come with small college towns. Lectures, performances, adult education classes are good examples, but also having easy access to literary experts when you are having a community fundraiser to celebrate T.S. Eliot’s epic “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

It is the poem that most people of a certain age had to memorize in high school, while others struggled through it as college freshmen, but even with that kind of cultural saturation, few people actually know what to make of Eliot’s Prufrock, now celebrating its 100th anniversary of publication.

So, leave it to Chestertown to have an Eliot scholar living amongst us on High Street.

In fact, Washington College emeritus professor Tom Cousineau not only has taught Eliot for more than fifty years, he continues his academic scholarship even into retirement. The most recent example is his near completion of a new book, “The Séance of Reading: Uncanny Designs in Modernist Writing,” which has its own chapter of Prufrock entitled, ‘The Eliot Way.” The web page for which is available here.

In his interview with the Spy, Professor Cousineau helps set the stage for next Friday’s community recital of Prufrock with his own insights and conclusions. He also recommends at the very end of our conversation that readers compare Eliot’s Prufrock with W.B. Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium, which came fourteen years later.

 

This video is approximately eight minutes in length

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
By T.S. Eliot

S’io credesse che mia risposta fosse
A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,
Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.
Ma perciocche giammai di questo fondo
Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question…
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

. . . . .

Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows? …

I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.

. . . . .

And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep… tired… or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

. . . . .

No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old… I grow old…
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Sailing to Byzantium
by W.B. Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Review: Garfield’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” Shines

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Somewhere the master playwright Anton Chekhov is either fit to be tied or laughing into his cup of vodka. I suppose both could be possible, and that’s probably how Christopher Durang would write it given the impulse.

On the other hand, we get to laugh throughout the Garfield’s summer masterpiece, Durang’s “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”

Mocking desolate souls can be a tough sell but Durang gives away freely large chunks of theatrical  personality disorder in the Bucks County household of Vanya and Sonia. Given a hiccup in timing—a long, long pause for instance— of these good actors, you could find yourself l slipping off into the murky depths of an existential crisis.

But this crew doesn’t let us go there. Instead, we skim across a sunny lampoon of Chekhovian despair, and from what I’ve seen, this cast has the chops to keep things brisk. I don’t usually associate the word ‘frolic’ with anything in Russian literature—The House of the Dead, anyone?—but I may have found an exception. How else can you explain a family that dresses up in Disney characters—yes, Snow White is one—and yet ruminates sadly about their unredeemable past?

The cast has a strong grasp of Durang’s sense of fun, and each member brings to the play his and her own nicely developed character. We get to know them quickly and begin to anticipate their quirks and hope that they can surpass each antic with something even a little more strange.

For Chekhov fans, little in-jokes are sprinkled throughout the play. The house, for instance, is in the middle of a cherry orchard, although there is an argument over the number of cheery trees required for “orchard-ness,” one of the moments that Durang entices and simultaneously rejects the Chekhovian motif. It’s fun, and I think there’s a seagull in there, or a bird of some sort. After all, Chekhov helped pay for school by selling goldfinches.

Directed by Bonnie Hill, with a wonderfully composed country farm set design by Earl Lewin, Vanya and Sonya and Masha and Spike, gives us a strong cast able to concoct a magic formula for an off-the-wall evening of angst-free entertainment. Bob Chauncey, Julie Lawrence, Diane Landskroener, Dylan Wayne, Maya Betley and Jane Jewell will open the Garfield play tonight.

Stop reading Crime and Punishment, leave your dacha,  and head for the Garfield tonight, this weekend or the next.

For schedules and ticket information, go here.

Publisher Note: An Investment of Spying in Chestertown

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Six years ago this June, in a small garden shed in the back of my house on Calvert Street, I pushed a button on my computer to publicly launch The Chestertown Spy for the first time.

It was hard to predict at that moment how this new online news source would be received. While I had been involved in Chestertown since I first came to Washington College as a freshman in the fall of 1974, and later returned in the 1980s to serve as its vice president for college relations and development, there was no indication that anyone, besides loyal friends and family, would find this new Spy, named after the original Chestertown Spy of 1793, useful and interesting.

First Draft for Spy Website-1

First Draft for Spy Website

That first week seemed to confirm the worst. Less than 150 readers found their way to the website, and with little or no marketing money available, the odds that the Spy might rise to a legitimate and credible news source for public affairs, the arts, and local culture, seemed increasingly like a delusional dream on my part.

Nonetheless, with the help of some very distinguished retired journalists like John Lang, Gil Watson, and Bill Chaze, and a handful of remarkable freelance talents such as Jean Sanders, Nancy Taylor Robson, Liz Richards Janega, Kurt Kolaja, Kelly Parisi Castro, and Mary McCoy, as well as one very unemployed nephew, Chris Metzloff, all working, it should be noted for almost no compensation, the Spy marched on.

It also took six months for the Spy to find its first sponsors. Both Cross Street Realtors and Chesapeake Architects were the first to sign on, both of whom shared the same blind faith as the Spy’s writers, that this little newspaper could indeed play an important role in the life of a small community.

Fast forward to June of 2015, and it is unmistakably clear that the Spy has evolved into a critically important part of the social and economic ecosystem of the greater Chestertown community. Rather than 200 readers a week in 2009, that number has risen to 5,576 unique readers a week, or just about 500 more people than actually live in Chestertown.

And our sponsors have grown just as dramatically. From those lonely days with Cross Street and ChesArch, the Spy now averages thirty organizations  or businesses each month that support the newspaper.

While these results are extremely gratifying, in order for the Chestertown Spy to have a long-term future, with a sustainable operating budget, we must now ask for the support of its readers as well.

From the moment the Spy was created, it has been part of our charter never to charge readers a subscription fee. While there has been some financial incentives to do so, a subscription-based business model would disrupt the very nature of the Spy’s mission. Our goal is to become the primary news source for Chestertown with no paywalls. We want everyone and anyone to have access to news and critical information about their community as part of our primary educational purpose.

Nonetheless, we do hope that some of our readers will help with the Spy’s costs of publication on a voluntary basis periodically.

And we will be starting that effort on June 26 at the Garfield Center with some very special friends of the Spy performing a community recital of T.S. Eliot’s epic poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Why Eliot and why Prufrock? It turns out my maternal grandfather published that poem in Poetry Magazine in 1915. It was the first time Eliot had been published in the United States, and the poem itself became universally praised for single-handedly launching modern 20th century poetry. It was a remarkable event in American literature, but it made no money for the publishers then nor since it arrived on newsstands in June of that year, precisely one hundred years ago. It was just the right thing to do for poetry then, as much as I think it has been the right thing to do for Chestertown to support the creation of the Spy.

On behalf of the Chestertown Spy’s team of editors and writers, we sincerely hope that a portion of our annual unique readership of 200,000 will understand this important case for support. With their help and yours, we see a very bright future for the Spy, capable of having its own hundred years of service to the community it loves.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher & Executive Editor
The Chestertown Spy

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