Sunday, June 30, 2019

Free Shakespeare in the Park 2019: Pleasanton, California

Entry for 29 June 2019:

Shakespeare in the Park is one of my favourite outdoor summer attractions, perhaps less dramatic than 4th of July fireworks but ultimately much more fulfilling.  Years ago, probably in the 1980's, Diane and I went to a play in the park behind her parents' old house near Amador Valley Community Park in suburban Pleasanton. If memory serves, I think it was the Merry Wives of Windsor.  During our current month in California we've been aware of the signs of the season.  One of these is the Alameda County Fair, located right in Pleasanton: We didn't get to this this year; however, we did manage to their big fireworks display last night, almost a full week before the 4th of July.

I'd been wondering about Shakespeare in the park.  Do they still do it in Pleasanteon, I wondered to myself.  Then, yesterday morning I decided to retrace part of an old running route, along the Arroyo del Valle and through the park behind Diane's parents old house. And there, behind the aquatic center, was the unmistakable sight (site?) of an empty stage set up in anticipation of a play.  As I ran past, I spied a poster and deviated from my route just long enough to confirm that there was in fact a performance of Free Shakespeare in the Park this weekend.

So it was that we joined a couple hundred other people on the grass at the north end of the park this evening, the sun still burning on us at 6:40. There were all kinds of people, all different ages and ethnicities, on chairs, blankets and beach towels, eating, drinking and watching the play, the opening night of the current run of Free Shakespeare in the Park, a musical version of As You Like It. 

 Although we were sore from sitting on the ground for a couple hours and had a lot more trouble getting up afterwards than we did 30 years ago, we were delighted with the world premier performance of this version of the play (with original music by The Kilbanes). Most of Shakespeare's songs for the play were included, with new music and a lot of the action and Elizabethan language carried and in some cases updated in musical numbers.  Of course, the original Shakespearean language has its own music and is immensely clever, and there was a fair dollop of that also, but not too much for the diverse audience gathered there. 

I've seen this popular Shakespeare play before, of course, but never really connected with it. However, this version felt more vivid and timely, with the current themes of injustice, refugees and gender confusion. The acting and music (including 5-piece band) were really well done, and kept the whole thing lively, entertaining, but also unexpectedly moving at times.  I found myself tearing up several times, such as at the end of the first part, as the exiles in Arden Forest sang Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind.   Highly recommended!

The play, put on San Francisco Shakespeare Festival, will be in Pleasanton for the next three weekends before moving on to Cupertino.  For more information, go to:

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Belately Remembering John Haden, 1950-2011

Entry for 1 June 2019:

When I was in Lodi this past April, I ran into Tom Gundershaugh, a friend from school.  He was full of news, but one of the people he mentioned was my best friend in elementary school, John Haden, whom he said had died some years ago.  I felt surprised and a bit shocked, as if I had lost another part of me, in addition to my two best friends from high school, Philip Frey and Margaret Linstrom Weitzel. 

This morning, the day after my 69th birthday, I woke from a dream in which I had been talking to John.  I had not dreamed of him for years.  On waking I suddenly remembered, that today, the 1st of June, was his birthday.  It had always seemed special to me that our birthdays were only one day apart, and both at one end of a month or another.  Somehow my dreaming self – my internal image/memory of John -- had remembered this and was announcing this to me.

When I got back this afternoon from the last day of a very successful day of EFT training here in Lausanne, Switzerland, I talked to Diane and Kenneth on Zoom for a while.  Then my mind went back to John again.  Clearly, my dream was telling me to do something about John’s 69th birthday, falling a day after my own birthday. 

However, I didn’t even know what year he’d died.  (Tom had just said that it was several years ago.)  So I did a Google search and eventually was able to dig up first his one recording and two obituaries, one from The Oregonian, and the other from the Lodi News-Sentinel, the local newspaper for the town we both grew up in.  Today I am marking his passing by reprinting the longer of the two obituaries:

John David Haden, 1950 – 2011: John was born on June 1, 1950 in Marinette, WI and passed away July 4, 2011 in Portland, OR. John was a former resident of Lodi and 1968 graduate of Lodi High School. He is survived by his daughter, Deborah Haden, sister, Carol Arlin, nephews Sean Arlin and Jason Arlin, and niece, Rhonda Elliott. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bob and Beth Haden. John drove for Schwan's and he was a maintenance manager at West Hills Racquet Club in Beaverton, OR for 21 years. He was a member of the Sons of the American Revolution and Oregon Public Broadcasting. He played guitar for the former bay area band, Parish Hall. He was an avid PC gamer and adored his dog, Snappy. His family invites you to a celebration of his life on July 20, 2011 at 11:00a.m. at the Grace Presbyterian Church, 10 N. Mills, Lodi, CA. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society.
Published in Lodi News-Sentinel from July 13 to July 20, 2011

John and I met when my family moved across town to Mariposa Way.  I lived about block away from him, at least in 10-year-old boy distance (which involved hopping over the neighbor’s back fence and sneaking down their driveway without be caught).  John was always laid back and friendly, and his house was quiet compared to the noisy chaos of mine.  We played with HO scale toy soldiers and model airplanes.  He introduced me to pop music; I remember that he really liked the Beau Brummels.  We had lots of really interesting 10-year-old boy conversations.  Once I stayed overnight and got sick to my stomach after eating cauliflower.  (I still can’t stand cauliflower…)

After we went to junior high we sort of drifted apart but still kept in touch.  John got into music; I got into more academic things. His parents ran the main jewellery store on School Street; sometimes I’d drop by and say hi to him; when Diane and I got married we had his dad do Diane’s wedding ring for us.  Somewhere along the line he had some trouble with drugs; I was worried about him so once when I was home from university we arranged to catch up with each other, which was nice.  I went to grad school and then moved to Toledo, Ohio. He moved to Oregon.  In 1998 I ran into him at our 30th high school reunion, and we had a really nice visit and even went and saw his family’s old house. That was the last time I saw him.

For me, John was my cool friend; the person who was up on interesting things and wasn’t anxious and uncool like I was.  I think that somehow everyone needs a friend like that.  I know that I certainly did.  I like to think that at least a bit of his coolness rubbed off on me, but perhaps I’m flattering myself.

It turns out the John was the bass player with a “nearly famous” Northern California R&B trio with the unlikely name of Parish Hall (eponymously named “Parish Hall”); their one album was released in 1970 on Fantasy Records (the same label Creedence Clearwater Revival recorded with). I know that I talked to him around that time, but I guess he was too modest to mention it…
So I bought a copy of the album and listened to it for the first time tonight; I loved it. There is a page devoted to Parish Hall at:
Buried on this page are several comments about John’s passing, and a link to his version of Bob Dylan’s "Knocking on Heaven's Door", which appropriately was played at his memorial service in Lodi, in 2011, including the added verse he wrote for it. It is a splendid musical epitaph:

 Left to right: John Haden, Steve Adams, Gary Wagner (I'm sure about John but not the other two)