February 2009


Number 44


Shakespeare famously asked: “What’s in a name?” We obscurely ask: “What’s in a number?”


Being the baseball fan that we are, we could not help upon hearing Obama referred to as “44”  (as in the forty-fourth President of The United States of America) thinking of Hank Aaron who wore that number throughout his illustrious career.


For those whose familiarity with baseball does not go much beyond the name Babe Ruth, we offer these brief bio notes, complements of Wikipedia:

“After playing with the Indianapolis Clowns of the American Negro  League, Aaron started his Major League Baseball career in 1954. He played 21 seasons with the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982, his first year of eligibility.


In 1999, The Sporting News (a bible in the business) ranked Hank Aaron 5th on their list of ‘Greatest Baseball Players” ever. That same year, baseball fans named Aaron to the “Major League Baseball All-Century Team.”


He is the last Negro League baseball player to play in the major leagues.”


He made the number 44 special  and iconic. So much so, that other future Hall-of-Famers—Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson—wore it in his honor.


So while we sat glued to the wide-screen on Inauguration Day, a day filled with history, jubilation and great expectations, our thoughts at one point turned to that number. Once worn by a ballplayer from the Negro Leagues … now worn, so to speak, by the first African-American President of the United States.






In making that connection, our hope is that kids of all colors and stripes, can now begin to dream dreams that go beyond one day being a great athlete, or movie star, or winner on American Idol. For so many in our sports/pop entertainment-driven culture, those seemed to be the only roads leading to great reward. Perhaps with the swearing in of number 44, that will finally begin to change. It is after all, a brand new ballgame.


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A Pause To Ponder Pinter’s Passing


When Harold Pinter died this past Christmas eve at age 78, the obituaries of course, all focused on his unique style of playwriting. It is a style perhaps best characterized, as one of bringing an unidentified or undefined menace to bear, on some poor characters, who unbeknownst to them are in over their heads.


Often the unfortunate chaps (they’re generally men) serve as pawns amid some power game of chess, that they cannot even begin to understand. This scenario is what has come to be called… “Pinteresque.”


We remember playing one such character ourselves— Davies, in The Caretaker.  It was the very first time we had ever stepped on a stage (and therefore probably as clueless as the character himself) in an “anthology of scenes” produced at Queens College in 1972. Here’s a snippet of that classic “Pinteresque” scene:

DAVIES:  He wakes me up! He wakes me up in the middle of the  night! Tells me I’m making noises! I tell you I’ve half a mind to give him a mouthful one of these days.


MICK: He don’t let you sleep?


DAVIES: He don’t let me sleep! He wakes me up!


MICK: That’s terrible.


DAVIES: I been plenty of other places. They always let me sleep. It's the same the world
over. Except here.


MICK:  Sleep’s essential. I’ve always said that.


DAVIES: You’re right, it’s essential. I get up in the morning. I’m worn out! I got business to see  to. I got to move myself, I got to sort myself out, I got to get me fixed up. But when
I wake up in the morning, I ain’t got no energy in me. And on top of that I ain’t got
no clock.


MICK: Yes.


The next thing the obits invariably noted, is the famous “Pinter pause” wherein nothing is said for the longest period of time, as the air hangs dead between the characters; filled with more meaning than any words could ever convey.


But our reflection upon hearing of Pinter’s passing, had to do with something of a more personal nature, experienced as a member of the advisory board at the T. Schreiber Studio in New York. As a sidebar, this is a company where we had once studied the acting craft under the tutelage of its founder Terry Schreiber. We were also fortunate to appear in some of its productions.  (


Terry had already been in contact with Pinter for permission to revive two of his plays—The Birthday Party and The Homecoming—in celebration of the Studio’s upcoming 35th anniversary.


In brainstorming as how to best promote this event, we came upon the idea of actually having Harold Pinter at the theater on opening night. Terry then sent him a letter of invitation.


What we got back, was a warm and gracious reply, that was decidedly absent any of the famed Pinter pauses. We were even singled out by name for special thanks. That correspondence is presented here in its entirety.



An interesting footnote as to why Pinter corrected Terry on addressing him as “Mister”` rather than “Sir”: though he was offered knighthood by Prime Minister John Major, in behalf of Queen Elizabeth II in 1996, he declined it.


Mr. Pinter marched to the sound of his own drummer, who was rarely in lockstep with the grand parade. Too bad his aversion to air travel prevented him from coming to our theater. It would no doubt, have been a “night” to remember.   



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A Tragedy in Chinatown



NEW YORK—An unoccupied van having been left in reverse mounted a sidewalk and rammed into a group of preschool students on a busy street in Chinatown on Thursday, killing two of the children and injuring at least 11 other people, authorities said.


The crash, on East Broadway between Catherine and Market Streets…


We know those streets well. Those were once our streets; our old neighborhood. And so it was no surprise when we heard from our friend of almost sixty years—Victor Papa, who still lives on the Lower East Side and has dedicated his life to serving that community— asking if we might consider writing something that might be read at a memorial service on February 11th.


In his role as Executive Director for Immigrant Social Services Inc., Victor is always on the scene; good times and bad. When the World Trade Center went down, he was there comforting those who were wandering the streets in a state of shock. And now he is once again being called on to play a role in trying to bring some comfort to those victimized by such a mindless tragedy.                    


Here’s the poem we wrote and sent to him.




                           A child’s life is like a piece of paper


                             …on which every person leaves a mark.


                                                                     —Chinese Proverb



For certain, the librarians at the Chatham Square branch

Have been doing their best to leave just such a mark.

“Chinese children come here without brooding;

But with zest and curiosity on their faces,”

Said one such public servant in 1910.


Five generations have since come through that door.

Each open to what this building might offer,

As too did Hayley Ng on that icicle day.

At age four, she must have giggled

At the “Shark in the Park” story;


She might have been all ears about the animals

In the wonderland tale entitled, “Snow.”

Was a new mark made before she left that day—who can tell?

Parents, family and the “Red Apple” school teachers 
Of course made theirs on an almost daily basis.              


But how delicate as well, is a piece of paper.

And how sudden the fates can tear it apart                 

As they did on that day not far from that door.          

We’ll now have to make our marks instead

In thick white chalk on a gray slate of sky.                 


Our duty, to keep, Hayley’s story alive.


                                                                         —Ron Vazzano



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Thoughts Off the Top of Our Head On an “Over-the-top” Hat



By now you probably have forgotten the inaugural address. As President, Obama spoke that day in sobering prose, not poetry. The poetry was left  somewhere far behind; buried in the rhetoric of an intense primary season and fall campaign. No knock on Barak, for to quote Cuomo (Mario): “You campaign in poetry; you govern in prose.”


Though of course, there was a poet at the podium that day. But her name recognition faded faster than “wet snow on a New York City street,” if we may. The title of her poem went even faster than that. And fastest yet?  Remembrance of but a single line from that poem. As a public service, we offer in order: Elizabeth Alexander…”Praise Song for the Day”... the first stanza: Each day we go about our business/ walking past each other, catching each other’s/ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.


We think more than anything, her tepid reading in the frigid air, did her in. A fire in the belly was needed and was missing.


And the controversial Rick Warren who led the invocation? His prayer will only be remembered by God who will probably keep it to Herself. Sometimes, it is just too cold. Even for prayer.


But Aretha? Oh, Aretha! Singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee. And in that hat?  That hat. How can we ever forget THAT HAT! The Bow bigger than The Bronx.




“Sweet l-a-a-a-a-a-and of Li-ber-te-ee-yee-yee-yee….Of thee I see-yee-yee-ying”



Our daughter, with her inimitable sense of fashion and the current “Facebook-zeitgeist,” couldn’t resist trying it on for size.


Photo by Almie Rose


Given our fatherly pride, we thought she looked beautiful. But in an instant the “father” in us, was overtaken by the fifteen year old adolescent that still on occasion rears its sophomoric head. And so we couldn’t resist putting together our own fashion show.


Photo editing by Almie Rose                       


Once we got to Putin, we started to consider other world figures for such adornment.    Say, bin Laden. But the father returned in time to reconsider, given the wonderful sense of humor of Osama’s ardent  followers. In lieu of a fat hat on our heads, we might find a fatwa. We decided to close down Adobe Photoshop and call it a day.


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