What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?

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Nothing. There’s nothing funny about peace, love and understanding – though it seems that we don’t take them very seriously. I’m not saying that we don’t give them value. We do, we value peace and love and understanding in books and films and television shows, love songs and poems and theater and art and even church, sometimes. [I was brought up Catholic, so while I was constantly being reminded to love my neighbor the church leaders were busy condemning homosexuals and any woman who dared even considering abortion.] But do we take peace, love and understanding seriously? Do we treat it not only as something worthy to put on a poster, but something to aspire to? Do we teach our children, do we encourage ourselves, to put it into practice?

I don’t think we do. Not enough, at least. And I think it’s something that we need. I think it’s something we should be reminded of on a daily basis. Because we do think peace and love and understanding are valuable. Quite valuable. Songs and poems and Hollywood movies aside – we revere the likes of Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and Dr. Martin Luther King. They are heroes, icons, people to learn from, examples of lives to aspire to. And I know I’m simplifying all of this, but these people (and many others like them) are so remembered because they embodied peace and love and understanding. In a world of violence they preached and practiced non-violence. Surrounded by enemies, they not only sought to understand them but they loved them. It is right and good that we value these amazing people and in so doing it is right and good that we celebrate their values. But we should also honor them and ourselves by following their lead. Each and every one of us. Each and every day.

I know it is hard. It’s extremely hard to embrace peace and love and understanding. It’s hard for me and my life is easy: I’m healthy; I live in the United States; I have a job (for now); and I’m a white male.  And I’m trying. Yet despite these factors it is very hard for me to love those with no love for me. It is very hard for me to try to understand people with views and ideals contrary to mine. It is very hard for me to work towards peace when I want to fight, to argue, to prove my point, to show that I am right, when I meet with resistance from others. If it’s hard for me, how hard must it be for those that don’t have it easy: those who are oppressed, discriminated against, the victims of violence and poverty? How hard must it be for those people to live by these ideals?

There’s a video in heavy circulation of Malala Yousafzai being interviewed by Jon Stewart.  She’s a 16 years old Pakistani woman who shot in the head by the Taliban because she spoke out for women’s right to be educated. She lived. And she still fights. What does she think about peace, love and understanding? She tells Jon Stewart that we must not fight our enemies with violence, we must fight them with peace, dialogue and education. Wow. Wow. This is a 16 year old. This is a woman oppressed. This is a woman who was nearly killed. And yet, there it is: peace and love and understanding. And more. Is there any doubt why she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize?

While watching the interview I couldn’t help but wonder if I was witnessing the early years of a future Mother Teresa or Dr. King or Gandhi. I hope that all forms of media will help us to see that this woman is a hero for all the right reasons and that we can and should strive to be more like her. I hope our children see that. I hope we all do. [I tried to embed the video here, alas my technical skills are lacking. Please click on “video” above and see for yourself.]

Please also check out the Malala Fund, an organization created to help girls in the developing world reach their true potential through education.

 

 

 

Good Advice

Aside

Have you ever wondered, “What’s wrong with our world?”

What about, “What can we do to make it better?”

If you have so wondered, you should watch Tom Shadyac‘s documentary “I AM” . Click the hyper-link in the previous sentence or find it on NETFLIX.

If you haven’t … watch it twice.

Really.

It’s intelligent, moving, inspirational and, dare I say, important.

That’s all I’m going to say about it.

For now.

But I will add the following quote, which isn’t from the movie, but is thematically linked.

“The ‘norm’ for humanity is love.
Brutality is an aberration.
We are not sinners by nature.
We learn to be bad.
We are taught to stray from our good paths.
We are made to be crazy by other people who are also crazy and who draw for us a map of the world which is ugly, negative, fearful, and crazy.”

Jack D. Forbes, Columbus and Other Cannibals

(thank you BLACKOLOGY101 for setting out this quote)

Oh deer

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Last Tuesday night while driving through a section Maryland where suburban sprawl hasn’t completely spoiled the countryside I spotted a small herd of deer – herd sounds so large, it was really just a group of three or four – hanging about on the side of the road.  When I came to a full stop I locked eyes with a beautiful doe hanging in the amber light of the moon. One of her buddies looked my way but the others seemed completely uninterested in my existence. I took a picture with my aged iPhone, though the limited lighting and lack of flash resulted in hardly anything at all:

darkdeer

With the helpful polarization option on InstaGram however, this is what I got:

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I call it, “Ghost Deer” (not to be confused with the ghost deer of the Seneca Army Depot)

The picture is a little spooky. When I consider that the evening before I watched a deer get hit by a car, the picture seems a little more spooky.  And if I acknowledge that approximately 5 minutes after I took this photo I witnessed another deer take her final breaths, the photograph is whole lot spookier.

The evening prior I watched two deer dart across the highway. I noticed them, apparently, at the same time as the driver who hit the slow one. “Wow, look at those ….oh NO!” and the doe was wrapping up her violent and awkward tumble to the far right lane. The driver of the offending car seemed fine, the offended doe less so. Much less so. I hoped that she was able to shake it off and vault triumphantly into the brush. Maybe she did. And while I’m doling out maybes, maybe she is the very deer I photographed the next evening. And maybe, just maybe, what she was thinking that next evening while we locked eyes was, “See? I’m totally fine. “Deer” means “resilient” in Latin.”  I don’t remember much from my two years of Latin, but I’m pretty sure the deer has it wrong. I’m also pretty sure that Latin is not the only thing in this story that’s dead.

Back to Tuesday night. I took the photo, bid farewell to the herd, and drove away. Five minutes later, as I prepared to turn into campus I noticed an emergency truck, lights silently flashing, blocking the turning lane.  I pulled around and saw the driver standing in the headlights. I wish that I had looked at his face: did he show any hint of compassion or wonder or frustration? But I was too busy registering what he was looking at: a beautiful doe stretched out in the turning lane, her head resting uncomfortably on the curb. She was alive, but not for long: the position of her body, the bloody trail, her big, beautiful dark and ever darkening eyes made that clear. I moved on, pulled into campus, retreated to my room and prepared for bed. A few moments later I heard the gun shot.

Three deer encounters on two evenings. One creepy photo. Two dead animals. What did it mean? I recounted the events to Katherine. She was unconvinced that I had photographed an actual ghost deer (if there’s an app for that it’s not on my ancient iPhone 3GS), she offered, however, that perhaps my seeing so many deer (and so many female deer) in so short a time was a sign, a portent. So I looked into it and thanks to Google I found much on the symbology of deer.

From the site (that has nothing to do with picking up women at bars), Whats-Your-Sign.Com:

“The deer is linked to the arts, specifically poetry and music in ancient Celtic animal lore due to its graceful form.”

“The deer (particularly the doe, females) has the capacity for infinite generosity. Their heart rhythms pulse in soft waves of kindness. Match that graciousness by offering your trust to her. She will reward you by leading you to the most powerful spiritual medicine you can fathom.”

As set forth by Spirit Animals and Animal Totems,

“The meanings associated with deer combine both soft, gentle qualities with strength and determination:

  • Gentleness
  • Ability to move through life and obstacles with grace
  • Being in touch with inner child, innocence
  • Being sensitive and intuitive
  • Vigilance, ability to change directions quickly
  • Magical ability to regenerate, being in touch with life’s mysteries”

Beautiful. Not at all surprising, but beautiful.

Does any of this information elucidate my two evening deer-extravaganza? Was the universe conspiring to show me deer, to make me consider the deer? I’m not sure exactly what I believe, but I’m pretty certain the Universe is too busy to send me a personal message. I do know that these encounters affected me, stayed with me, gave me pause, compelled me to think on them and to write this entry. Maybe that means the deer is my animal totem.

According to a brief yet informative video at Whats-Your-Sign.Com an animal totem expresses an “affinity,  affiliation or connection to an animal,” and offers “messages of pure intent … pure information, guidance.”  Further, according to the video, the best way to connect to and strengthen one’s bond with their animal totem is “through observation, contemplation and meditation.”  I observed, I contemplated … arguably I’ve meditated on this animal and have even meditated on “what is my animal totem?”((1)) Does that mean the deer is my totem animal? I have the artist thing and the Irish heritage thing and the inner child thing but one would hardly call my form graceful.  Physically I’m much more badger-like ((ibid)). But I am striving for grace at least in behavior. As for my generosity, it is too, too far from infinite, but I am working to change that. Is that enough? Is that what this is all about? Is the deer my animal totem?

I don’t know. I’ll keep thinking on it, I’ll keep noticing. I do hope that I see more deer while I’m staying in Maryland. And, if the Universe is listening, I would very much prefer to encounter them whilst all parties involved are alive and happy and not in the middle of the road waiting for death. Which begs a final question: if the Universe feels that the deer is my animal totem, why does it insist on me seeing them die?

___________________________

((1)) A couple of days before meeting the deer my friend Andrus was trying to assign me a spirit animal. She was formerly of the belief that my spirit animal is a badger but is presently unsure. The badger is strongly affiliated with focus, tenacity and persistence – and as it has taken me a week to get this far in drafting this post, the badger may not be the right fit.

Where the sun don’t shine.

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“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That’s what I was trying to tell myself an hour after I woke up in one of those great “it’s all going to shit,” moods. “Sure things look bleak, sure money is tight, sure you need a survival job, sure it would be great to book a paid acting gig, sure it seems that things are not going to get better – but that’s ok. It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Is it? Is it really? Arguably, it’s darkest in the middle of the night when the Moon and stars are obscured by clouds. Sure, one could argue that the middle of the night is, technically, “before dawn.” But then that same idiot must agree that the sunset from the prior day is also, technically, “before dawn.” So where does that leave us?

I don’t know. I’m fairly certain that tomorrow’s sunrise isn’t going to change my employment situation or my financial situation or my “sometimes I’m just a wimpy, whiny, bastard” situation. But there’s always hope for tomorrow. Isn’t there? Fleetwood Mac tells us, “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop … it will soon be here. It’ll be, better than before, yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” I’m a fan of Fleetwood Mac, but I don’t think I should take advice from them. Didn’t they all end up sleeping with each other and destroying multiple marriages? Was that before or after they recorded this song?

Focusing on the tomorrow when life is tough is not an entirely original concept. Especially in song. Little Orphan Annie begs us to think about tomorrow. Maybe I should take her advice. According to that curly, ginger, scamp: just thinking about tomorrow, “Clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow.” I don’t know about that Annie. Right now I’m thinking about tomorrow and I can’t get the sound of Nine Inch Nails out of my head: “Every day is exactly the same.” I can’t help but feel that tomorrow, will suck. I’m sure Mr. Trent Reznor would agree.

But Annie persists: “The Sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow.” Bet my bottom dollar? That’s all I have left. Should I bet the last dollar I have? For what? Who would even take that bet? The poor, misguided followers of Harold Camping already bet their top, bottom and middle dollars that the Sun WOULDN’T come out after May 21st. They lost that bet. Whose gonna give me any action on a single green back that the sun will come up tomorrow? No one. That’s not a wise financial investment – and trust me, if I know anything, I know about unwise financial investments.

OK Annie, fine. For the sake of argument, let’s assume someone takes my bet. And let’s assume that the Sun DOES come out tomorrow. Why would that change anything? Won’t it just shed more light on all the crap I’m already suffering with? That won’t help. At all. That would only help if my problems involved a roving gang of vampires. If that was my problem, then Annie, you would be correct. In that case lady, the sun’s coming out would be of great assistance to me.

I see it now: I’m surrounded by hungry, angry vampires. The Vampire Leader – a beautiful, sexy, strong vampire woman named Vanessa – takes a step towards me and says, “There’s nowhere to go blue eyes.” (That’s the pet name she has for me.) “Any last words?” And I, very coolly, say, “How ’bout a last song?” And she smiles, laughs a bit, looks to her gang of the undead, they all laugh, and one of ’em yells, “A song? What is he some kind of fairy?” (He’s the intolerant vampire.) The leader then says to me, “So you wanna vamp it up before we vamp you up?” I give her a look like, “Ohh Vanessa, that was stupid,” then I take a deep breath, and sing: “The sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow …” The vampires are transfixed, puzzled, maybe even a little subdued by my melodious tones. I’m making my way through the song, hoping I remember all the words and wondering why the sun isn’t coming out yet. No, I didn’t think my song was so beautiful that it would draw the sun out, I just happened to look at my watch right before I made my snarky, “How about a last song” comment and I saw that it was 5:59 am. I also happened to know, because earlier I consulted my Farmer’s Almanac App on my iPhone, that sunrise would come at 6:01 am.

But I’m singing and it’s gotta be 6am by now and the sun isn’t coming out. I’m singing, “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely,” and there’s a hint of light but not enough. “I just stick out my chin and grin and say …” Then the weirdest thing happens, Vanessa starts singing. Her followers look at her like, “is she loco?” (Did I mention they were Latino vampires?) And then they ALL start singing. They don’t look at the sky they just look at me with big, toothy, fangy smiles and they sing. Loud. And actually, they’re pretty good. Now I’m singing with them, we’re at the chorus, “Just thinking about Tomorrow clears away the cobwebs and the sorrow,” and Vanessa is walking towards me, and the gang is closing the circle and we are all singing and I’m looking up at the sky and she’s getting closer and I stop singing and they all stop singing. Except for Vanessa, she belts: “I love you tomorrow, you’re only a Daaaaaay Aaaaaaa Wayyyyyyy!!!” While applauding I look to the sky, but there’s no sun. Vanessa puts a clawed hand on my shoulder and says, “Daylight Savings…you forgot to set your clock back, AT&T doesn’t do it automatically.” Before I can say, “Stupid iPhone,” she says “Fear not blue eyes, it’s always darkest before the dawn.” And then she rips my throat out.

See, even in that scenario Annie’s advice is of no use to me. So, no thank you, I will not take Annie’s advice and pin my hopes on tomorrow. The same goes for Fleetwood Mac and even Mr. Reznor. I will neither focus on tomorrow being better nor will I expect that tomorrow will suck as much as today.

But what shall I do? What can I do about this current, less than ideal situation? Live in it. Better yet, live THROUGH it. I will take a breath and regain focus. Instead of promising myself that things will get better tomorrow or next week or next month, I’ll try to love my life for what it is: flawed yet not without its beauty and grace. I will not waste any more energy on panic or fear. I will give help when I can, ask for help when I need it, and rejoice in the light, the darkness and everything in between. I will also try to make sure that the clock on my iPhone is correct. And maybe carry some holy water.

“The First Sunrise of 2010” by ptrktn

On the Importance of Making her Laugh ….

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“I took you into this world Thomas, and I can take you out!” She liked to say that and it was always impossible not to laugh when she did, for both of us. Mom stole that line from Bill Cosby, and it brought her great joy. She also often said “Hello Handsome!” with great enthusiasm, usually referring to one of her grandsons and sometimes to the dog when she was in a very good mood. It took me a couple of years to realize that she got that line from “Young Frankenstein!” “Bitterman, I fell out of the car! Did you see that Bitterman? I fell out of the car!” – that was another favorite, and she would say it doing a pretty damn adorable version of Dudley Moore’s drunken Arthur from the movie of the same name. I’m pretty sure “Arthur” was her favorite movie of all time. I’m not sure how she would have felt about the remake, as I haven’t seen it, but if it’s funny that’s good enough. Mom loved to laugh.

OK, everyone loves to laugh. Mostly everyone. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that I loved making my mom laugh. And I was good at it. Of course almost everything I did to make her laugh was stolen from Saturday Night Live or the popular comics of my childhood. One Christmas Morning my brother John and I left the family room, stuffed our shirts with the discarded wrapping paper and returned to perform an impromptu “Hans and Franz Merry Christmas.” Sure we were entertaining everyone, but we did it for Mom, and she loved it. On another Christmas, my then brother-in-law Grady accompanied me on the piano as I sang “Chopping Broccoli” from the very funny Dana Carvey SNL skit. It became a yearly tradition of sorts, “Sing broccoli Tommy, c’mon, please, for me?” she would ask. My mom had a lovely childlike innocence, a brilliant and loving inner glow that is hard to come by – it was hard to say no to her.

As I got older my Mom-comedy got a bit edgier. One weekend when I was home from Law School I came down to join Mom, Dad and my sister Jaclyn for breakfast. Mom asked “how did you sleep?” I responded, “not that great, do you think you and dad could keep it down tonight?” Mom looked at me puzzled for a brief moment until she realized what I was insinuating. Dad immediately started laughing, then Mom began to blush. Of course they hadn’t kept me up the night before, it was just fun to embarrass her – because after the embarrassment – laughter. “Oh, Tommy you are so bad.” The older I got, the more I would hear that. Mom rarely used profanity and we were never allowed to as children but once I was in College I used to drop curse words just to get a rise out of her. “Don’t say that word Thomas …” “What word Mom … “Shit”? Shitty, shit, shit, shitty, Shit!” She’d laugh, shake her head and .. “Oh, you are so bad.”

OK, maybe my mom-comedy was not edgy, it was juvenile. But it worked. For a while anyway. Mom developed Alzheimer’s when she was about 58 and it took her fast. By the time she was 60, she was gone. For all intents and purposes, Mom was in a coma-like state for about the last 6 months of her life, and the previous few months were not much better: she had not only forgotten who we were, but who she was and what it meant to forget. There was a lot of time that she would just sit there, unaware of where she was, who she was, unaware of anything.

One afternoon I was sitting with her in the living room. There was a James Bond movie on HBO, but neither of us were watching it. Mom appeared to be staring in the direction of the tv (the disease had progressed quite a bit at that point) and I was playing with my new laptop. I looked up in time to see the credits roll and the name of the producer: Albert R. Broccoli. I said “Look Mom, chopping broccoli,” neither expecting her to hear me nor to respond. But after a brief moment she gave a small, faint, tired laugh, looked at me with a focus I hadn’t seen in months and said, “Never stop making me laugh.” By the time I realized what had happened and before I started weeping, she was gone again.

It’s been over 12 years since she passed. I’m not sure I believe in an “After Life” but if there is a Heaven she’s up there and she’s probably watching. While I’m sure she has had her moments of thinking “what the heck is Tommy doing with his life?” I do hope she’s laughing and I hope she knows how important she continues to be.

So here’s to Joan Ellen Boyd O’Keefe. She brought me into this world; she loved me before anyone else did; and she loved me simply because I was.

Happy Mother’s Day.

I wanna be like Jesus

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I’m not one for writing poetry. I have nothing against the art form, the medium, I’m just not a practitioner. For some reason on the train today I was inspired, for lack of a better term, to write the following. I hope you like it.
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I Wanna be Like Jesus by Tom O’Keefe

I wanna be like Jesus.
I wanna have compassion for my fellow man,
My fellow woman.
I wanna ease their suffering.
I wanna ease yours.
Mine.
I wanna open my arms to embrace the world,
knowing that they might crucify me first.
Might? Will.
I wanna be like Jesus and let the sinners know they aren’t alone
and warn the judgers that this time there is no safety in numbers.
I wanna be like Jesus and have no agenda but love.
I want to explain that hate is fear,
That the bravest thing we can do is love.
That we must embrace the fear.
Embrace
Everyone,
Everything,
Me.
I wanna be like Jesus and walk on water in my mother’s eyes.
I wanna heal the sick,
Enrich the poor,
Help the lost be found,
And inspire others to do the same
not just talk about it.
I wanna be like Jesus and
tear down the temples just to make my point.
I want to grant forgiveness for those that do me wrong,
Smile in the face of adversity,
And love those that I fear.
Like my worst self.
I wanna be like Jesus even though I don’t think I believe in him.
Then again on most days I don’t believe in …
I wanna be like Jesus and make it about everyone else.
I want to make the world a better place.
I wanna help others find peace and love,
Not open their eyes but help them open their own,
And truly see.
Everything.
I wanna help people believe in love, in life, in the here and now.
I wanna be like Jesus and believe in me.
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NOTE: After I wrote this, I realized that I was “influenced” or “inspired” or I quite liberally yet unintentionally “borrowed” the rhythm, meter and form from a superior poem entitled “I wanna hear a poem” by Steve Coleman. Here’s the link: http://spin-poetry.livejournal.com/8200.html
You can also find video of him performing his piece on YouTube – I recommend it.

The Irish Witch

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I met her on the first day of the month-long winter intensive at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts – Winter 2009. It was the first day, or perhaps the second. (Everyday concepts like time and space tend to meld or at least warp whilst in a program like that.) I was among a group of 40 actors and educators seeking a deeper connection to and understanding of Shakespeare’s work. We had just finished a morning of movement exercises. The kind of exercises where you have to move like an angry person; or a happy person; or yourself as a child; or a color; or one of the seven deadly sins. We had finished one or all of those exercises when a little gray-haired woman sitting on the side (a woman I had failed to notice previously while I was Sloth, or 6 years old or Fuchsia) looked up at me and said, “You’re O’Keefe.” It wasn’t a question. It was a statement. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t saying it to snap me out of the previous exercise – that wasn’t necessary. She said it, I believe, so I knew that she knew who I was, as a manner introduction. I replied, “Yes,” or, “That’s me,” or something more clever. She just said, “A good Irish boy.” She said it with a wry smile and a glint in her eye, and I immediately learned two things: that we both shared the understanding that the term “good” is highly subjective; and that I really liked this woman.

I soon found out that the knowing, little gray-haired woman was Clare Reidy and one of my Basics teachers. Basics is a class we took every day for the first week in which 10 or so students worked to better understand, connect to, and perform Shakespeare’s text. Clare’s specialty in this class was Shakespeare’s imagery. Her knowledge went so far beyond a deep understanding of Shakespeare’s text: she had an amazing command over the historical, religious and symbolic facts that serve as context for Shakespeare’s works. Her insight (especially when coupled with that of my other teacher Dennis Krausnick) was mind-blowing. With her instruction, Shakespeare’s words took on new life for me. As an actor, I understood, I connected to, and explored the depth of Shakespeare’s words more than I ever thought possible. As a spectator, I watched actors breathe new life into ancient texts. And it was Clare that helped us do that. Her overwhelming comprehension, her passion about the work, and her ability to convey both of these gifts to her students was almost other-worldly. Which is why I wasn’t particularly surprised when she told us she was a witch. An Irish Witch, to be precise.

I remember more than a few students asking, “Is she really a witch?” But I didn’t pay any heed to the question because I was pretty sure that she was. Just as I knew that Clare knew that “good” was a subjective term, I knew that her being a witch had nothing to do with childhood story time witches. She was an Irish Witch because she was schooled in history and art and literature and folklore and the way she worked that knowledge, the way she shared her passion, was nothing short of magical. And she was Irish. If she hadn’t given up “the drink” years before I met her, we would have shared quite a few glasses of Irish Whiskey.

She was not only the first Irish Witch I ever met, but she was also the funniest. A year after we met, I was back at Shakespeare & Co. as an acting intern. During our dropping-in workshop – where we learned a fantastic method for connecting to the text – I was sitting next to the little Irish troublemaker while two actors were putting up the scene from “The Tempest,” Act. III, s. 1, between Ferdinand and Miranda. As the scene began, Clare leaned over and whispered, “I always wanted to cast Miranda as a 13 or 14 year-old girl, pre-pubescent, right before she starts coming into her sexuality.” Clare’s statement was not a comment on the lovely and talented Emily (early 20’s) who was putting the scene up in class, she was once again showing her knowledge of and passion for Shakespeare’s works (Clare acted and directed when she wasn’t teaching.) Towards the end of the scene, Wolfe Coleman (a tall, strapping, actor much too handsome for his own good) as Ferdinand, kneels before Miranda and says:

I am in my condition
A prince, Miranda; I do think, a king;
I would, not so!–and would no more endure
This wooden slavery than to suffer
The flesh-fly blow my mouth. Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides,
To make me slave to it; and for your sake
Am I this patient log–man.

MIRANDA:

Do you love me?

FERDINAND:

O heaven, O earth, bear witness to this sound
And crown what I profess with kind event
If I speak true! if hollowly, invert
What best is boded me to mischief! I
Beyond all limit of what else i’ the world
Do love, prize, honour you. Hear my soul speak:
The very instant that I saw you, did
My heart fly to your service; there resides,
To make me slave to it; and for your sake
Am I this patient log–man.

Clare immediately looks at me and whispers, “on second thought, I’d cast Miranda as a 76-year-old woman.” How could I not laugh? And yes, I’m pretty sure I got the stink eye from Dave Demke, which caused Clare to laugh.

That summer Clare helped me get to the heart of The Duke in “Measure for Measure.” She was invaluable not only as a resource for acting, but she was a supportive friend. Someone to whom I could bitch and complain to – we had a tendency to gossip, especially because we knew it was not what good Irish boys and girls do. The next summer I didn’t get to see her nearly as much as we were both busy doing different projects. But the little time I spent with her was a joy.

My favorite Irish Witch passed away this weekend. I could write about how I wish I knew her better or longer, how I regret that I didn’t make more of an effort to “go grab coffee” as we promised each other we would – but that misses the point. I won’t express my gratitude for what time I did have with Clare by being greedy and wishing for more. I’m grateful to have crossed paths with this Irish Witch.

Clare left an indelible impression on my life. Two weeks ago, I was in class working on Hamlet’s “Oh that this too, too, solid flesh would melt,” when my teacher complimented me. She said my imagery was fantastic – she could see “the un-weeded garden that grows to seed.” I said thank you twice: once aloud to her and the other in my mind, to Clare.

I don’t particularly believe in heaven, but it’s times like this that make me want to. I’d like to think that Clare is up there now, gossiping with Shakespeare himself and telling my mother that I’m still a “good Irish boy.” Give ’em Hell in heaven, Clare. You will be missed.