August is one of those months that mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. August means it’s vacation time, where for a day/week/month, one would get away to some location for a little R&R. Others may see this time as the “beginning of the end” of Summer, where it’s the time to start cramming all of those summertime based antics before Labor Day comes rolling around. For those that are attending a formal school session, it’s the period of the year where for the next few weeks and/or months, one will be placed in a classroom facing an instructor or two for a moment of readin’ ,writin’, and ‘rithmatic–or something to that effect! And for you sports fans out there, Baseball reason is progressing while Football season is just around the corner! So August holds a lot of unique qualities for a lot of different folks.
This writer is a big fan of August as well? Why? It’s mostly for the sentimental reasons as yours truly would take vacations where I would hit the road to see things, do stuff, and otherwise soak up all the sights and sounds of an area that was not available in the community I once hung around in.
What vacations could this writer of prose start upon? When I was a kid far too young to vote, my family, consisting of mom ‘n dad, as well as a pair of siblings (brother and sister) would plan to go off on a motor trip to some domestic destination far off from the ol’ homestead. Since traveling by air was rather pricy for what it was, we chose the “See America-Best By Car” motto that many of the oil companies used to place on their road maps. (Remember folks! This writer speaks for the period beginning in the late 1960’s progressing through the 1980’s. So if I note any elements that are not found within today’s landscape, now you know! This will also “date” me through my age. Just call this as a trip down memory lane!!)
Anyway, my first August vacations consisted of a weekend journey. Starting out from Chicago where I was once based out of, we would spend a weekend getaway to such places as the Illinois State Fair down near Springfield, as well as a side trip to St. Louis, where any tourist worth their salt would visit the Gateway Arch, perhaps one of the so-called “wonders” of the domestic world. Another weekend August trip was to head within the natural and semi-urban wilds of Wisconsin to see such places as Lake Geneva as well as nearby Madison. Or maybe we would spend a weekend visiting the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, a Milwaukee ‘burb.
The first “real” vacation trip, a junket that went beyond a two or three day weekend, occurred when the family clan would head on over to Niagara Falls to see the…well, Niagara Falls, and then drive in an easterly route to Washington DC, the home of a lot of well-washed monuments and a whole lot of government!
We were planning to start off that Monday, the first Monday of the month. That year, the first Monday of the month was August 2nd-my dad’s birthday. However, because my dad’s buddies wanted to take my mom and the “man of the hour” off to some dinner party, our vacation was put off until the next day. The kids, including yours truly, were not invited to the dinner party. However, we were able to pack our gear for the trip while mom n’ dad and their company wined and dined somewhere. The next day Tuesday, we were ready to go. But tragedy struck. Apparently, there was a minor problem that was going on with the bathroom sink. (What that problem was had since been long forgotten!) The original plan was to take off around the late morning/early afternoon period in order to avoid that day’s rush hour traffic on the expressways! So my dad called the plumber he’s known for a number of years, stating that he would arrive around 10:00 AM or so. Well, the plumber arrived two hours later that stated. He went on to fix the situation that was on hand, only to leave to get some parts he needed at the local hardware store that was only a few blocks away. He completed the plumbing work around 4:00 PM. Although we planed to leave to avoid the morning rush hour drive, we were now facing the afternoon rush hour! Nevertheless, we climbed into our fully packed 1968 Ford Country Squire station wagon (colored white with the fake wood paneling on its sides), and took off!
After facing the afternoon traffic that was clogging up the expressways named Edens, Kennedy, and Dan Ryan, (Chicago expressways are named after local, state, and federal based politicians), we were off and running with my dad behind the wheel, my mom seated “shotgun” reading the road maps, and the kids (yours truly included) nestled in the back seat. (The luggage was in the cargo area behind the back seat). Three kids of various sizes were crammed along the vinyl bench-type seat that Ford used on all of their station wagons build from the middle 1950’s well into the 1980’s. Our only entertainment was a lot of paperback books we took along ranging from picture books, books loaded with puzzles and games, and other forms of reading material to keep one busy. My elder sister was starting to get into novels written by J.R.R. Tolkien. My elder brother took a number of comic books along, mostly in the form of superhero titles. (Today, these comic book titles from DC and Marvel would be considered as “bronze age”–editions from the 1970’s that fetch decent prices in the comic book collecting markets.) And I had a few paperbacks consisting of reprints of comic strips from Blondie, Andy Capp, “B.C.” and of course, Peanuts. My folks controlled the car radio where we would be forced to listen (most of the time) to whatever station was pleasing to them. Since my dad hated rock ‘n roll, (and what other dads that were forty-plus aged would agree musical taste wise), that would mean that we kids could not hear the sounds of WLS as we traveled out of the city to the open country! But it wasn’t a total loss as we did hear segments of CKLW coming from Windsor, Ontario (serving the Detroit market) as we passed through Toledo, Ohio heading east along I-80.
We didn’t get as far on the first day as we spent out first night in Angola, Indiana, just east of the Indiana-Ohio border. The motel we stayed in was just “OK”. The TV set in the room was a black and white set, and the antenna didn’t work too well, meaning that we couldn’t get many stations. The ones we did receive were of pool picture quality. but it was a chance to read the maps and plan what we were going to see and do.
After passing by Toledo, Cleveland, and Erie, we finally arrived in the Buffalo, New York area within two days of leaving Chicago. When we checked in to a local Howard Johnson’s motor lodge located in one of the suburban areas (Kenmore?), we then planed our excursion to see the falls as well as the other attractions that existed in the area, using the handy-dandy maps and guides we grabbed from the AAA. Since our trip to the state fair the previous year, my dad took advantage of a family-based membership so we can take advantage to all of the incentives that the Chicago Motor Club (an affiliate of the AAA) could offer!
The next morning with plans in hand (thanks to the AAA), we traveled toward Niagara Falls, New York, home of the title falls in question. Across the border in Canada was Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Ontario side had more to offer in terms of seeing things. It was the home of the “Horseshoe Falls” that was more picturesque that the American side, and was the home to the official Niagara Falls museum. At this museum, one can see a selection of displays on the early days of the falls, including the selection about the people that went over the falls in a barrel. I recall seeing on display, a metal barrel with a huge dent on its side that was used by some person in the late 1910’s. According to what was written in the display, the person did survive going over the falls. But shortly after, he slipped on an orange peel only to break his leg from the fall! I don’t recall the whole story as intact, but that is why Google exists!
Getting back to the trip. As we were heading out to the falls area, my dad spotted a small building with a large billboard-type sign in front stating “Free Niagara Falls Information Here”–or something like that! Since my dad wanted to take advantage of “free” information, we stopped at this building. Although the building itself didn’t have any signage on it to why it was there for outside of dispensing “free” information, it was in reality a sales office for a local bus charter service. This company (the name since forgotten), sold chartered bus rides to the falls area. So upon entreating the building with Dad in the lead, Mom in second place, and the kids tagging along behind. we came to a counter in the front lobby area. Along the side of the room near the front counter was a rack full of brochures advertising other places and events that existed in the Buffalo area, although there were a few pieces of literature for places and accommodations located farther off in upstate New York. The place looked rather bland for what it was, although on the back wall behind the counter was a color photograph mural of the falls itself–the more picturesque Horseshoe Falls found on the Canadian side. Whatever the case, it was just a place to grab that “free” information, and my dad was going to get that info before we headed off to see the falls in person.
The woman behind the counter, an attractive lady (to me, anyway) that must have been in her early-middle 20’s, said “Hello! How may I help you today?”, speaking in an upbeat perky manor with a smile on her face. My dad, the man in charge, said “What can you tell me about what’s there to see at the falls?”. The lady replied “I can bring you somebody who can assist you!” Then she gestured to some man that was waiting at the wings donning a jacket that was more of a uniform that a traditional business suit.
He presented himself to my dad giving his name (also long forgotten) and making mention to my mom as well as the kids in tow. He offered us kids some soda pop dispensed from a beverage machine located just back of the counter off to the side. As we kids were guzzling our sodas, (Coke? Pepsi? Off-brand? What difference did it make to us? We just liked any soda pop, especially with the crushed ice loaded in each cup), this man got very friendly with my folks, asking where we came from, how long we were staying in the area, and other forms of prodding for details. Then he started to get into this kind of hard-sell for us to take a charter bus ride to the falls area. He went on to state that parking was very limited at the falls area and tourists of all kinds were heading off to the falls all at one time in massive amounts. In order to see all of the falls in its glory, he insisted that dad purchase a set of tickets to ride one of their air-conditioned busses that will take its passengers (us?) right up to the welcome center of the falls. There would be no hassles in finding a parking space (if you can find one at all), and one will travel in utmost comfort!
My dad, as the man as he was, would not take this form of information as information, but as a pitch for buying overpriced tickets for a bus ride. He was capable in driving the gang (us) in the family car himself to the falls for no additional cost. So after this man’s elongated pitch, my dad said “We’ll go see the falls to see if we can find a parking space. If we can’t, we head back to you!” And with that, he called for us kids to gather back with mom in second lead, and we headed out of the building and to our wagon parked out front. My dad was going to see for himself about the massive amount of tourists that would take every parking place that existed near the falls.
It seemed that my dad was right. Near the welcome center was a large parking lot in front that was only two-thirds full. The massive number of tourists that would be gopping up the place were nowhere to be found. Although there were a few folks milling around, it did not consist of the huge crowds that the bus charter counter man claimed would be there! Upon seeing this situation, my dad said to my mom “See? I told you so! All they were trying to do was to gyp us! Glad we didn’t fall for that!”
Well, although we didn’t fall into that ploy, I really didn’t know what my dad was talking about! I guess I would’nt know a sham if it was ever presented to me. However, I did see one portrayed on an episode of Dragnet not so long before, but Joe Friday made it more obvious. Besides, that sham took place in Los Angeles, not Niagara Falls, New York.
After seeing what the falls area had to offer, including that side trip over the border into Canada to see the better side of the falls as well as that museum loaded with actual barrels that folks used when going over, we said “good bye” to Niagara Falls and slowly we turned–step by step, inch by inch, to drive along the interstates to our next destination, Washington, DC.
We’ll continue with our take of this August Summer vacation tale in the next issue. See you then!
NEWS AND REVIEWS
Performing at The Actors Company theatre is Cyndy A. Marion’s YOU ARE PERFECT, a surreal tale that speaks for the past action, the present situation, and the fate of Susan Atkins, one of the followers of the inner cult lead by Charles Manson.
The setting opens within the prison cell of Susan Atkins (Lindsay Danielle Gitter). She was part of a grouping that was lead by a young and eager man on a mission, Charles Manson. (Michael Wiener). Susan has a visitor in her cell, a middle aged woman (Kristin Samuelson) who is present to assist on guiding her upon what she did that got her inside. Susan takes upon this woman that desires to help, although what she did for “Charlie” was part of something that would be of a change, even if that change involved a detailed emotional passion with the aid of hallucinogens. As The Woman speaks to her, Susan sees Charlie as a man the held his plans for himself and his group of believers to do what was supposed to be carried out. Susan shifts between the visions of Charles, as well as why The Woman is there at her side. Susan learns that The Woman shares a fate that Susan will encounter, perhaps as the two may be of one.
This tight single-act play written and directed by Cyndy A. Marion takes its basis on an actual episode that occurred in Los Angeles almost fifty years ago, during the era where the so-called youthful lifestyle of California included sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll–with a hideous twist. In this show, the three performers play their roles in different dimensions. Lindsay Danielle Gitter as Susan Atkins is a free spirited young woman that may not necessarily fully comprehend on what she did for her leader, although she doesn’t fully admit guild, let alone any other actions. Michael Wiener as Charles Manson is a man that is firmly ground on his undertaking that seeks an eerie blend of revenge and a revolution, based upon the musical “messages” found within the lyrics of The Beatles’ “White Album”. Kristin Samuelson as The Woman (she doesn’t hold a character name) is president first as an aid, developing into a stern near mother-esque personality, finally morphing into Susan’s later being. (Herself?) These trio of performers presents a time and era where the notion of a free sprit can make a difference, for their better of for its worst.
What makes this presentation appealing is its visuals. Ruth Albertyn provides the set and projection design. The physical sets only consists of a folding chair, a table at its stage left side, a folding cot, and a lone toilet. This represents Susan’s only world for the moment. On the back wall projected is moving imagery that represents Charlie’s inner mind and thoughts, as well as the places that Susan, along her her fellow cult members, are upon with their mission. There isn’t anything graphic displayed. Anything graphic are only seen within the eye of the beholder–the audience.
The timing for this show exists is a perfect circle. One year from now (August), will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the life and times of a failed musician turned cult leader who carried on a act that would revolutionize a belief. Although this review won’t get into the details on that episode, this play speaks for that time and era. Granted, a bit of creative license was added for story and plotting purposes. One question remains? Will something of this magnitude ever repeat itself? If it does, then modern technology (and social media applications) will take on a bigger part. Charlie told Susan the title compliment, and that same complement speaks for this stage performance.
YOU ARE PERFECT, presented by White Horse Theater Company, and performs at the Actors Company Other Space Theater, 916 North Formosa Avenue, one block south of Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles (West Hollywood adjacent) until August 10th. Showtimes are Wednesday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinee at 3:00 PM. For ticket reservations, call (323) 960-5521, or online at http://www.Plays411.com/Perfect
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2018 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!