Oops. Pardon my mug.

If obliviousness were a respected skill, by now someone would have awarded me an honorary doctorate in it.

Walking along the hallway of the home where I’ve lived for a decade. Stop in surprise. “Hey, how long has that wall sconce been there?”

I’ve spent most of my life living almost exclusively inside my head, so I am proud of my recent accomplishments. Nowadays, each day I experience the outside world, for many minutes at a time. (The minutes are not consecutive. But still.)

Several decades ago, a friend gave me a mug for Christmas. It was covered in cat drawings. (Drawings of cats, not by cats.) I was surprised, because that friend was not known for kitschy or cutesy. I glanced at one frolicking cat on the mug, forced a smile, thanked my friend, set it aside.

The mug sat in a cupboard for ages, until I came to appreciate the camp value of having a cat mug. I began to drink my public coffee in that mug. I carried the mug with me around offices, into meetings, probably even as a volunteer in my kids’ classrooms. It turned out to be a hell of a sturdy mug. All those years, all those trips out in the world, hardly a chip to be seen.

Only very recently, washing the mug, I realized.

Those cats aren’t frolicking. They’re having an orgy.

I can’t tell you how many people noticed. My obliviousness extended to other people’s reactions to my dirty cat mug.

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Habits of the Unwatched Bee

Like many a gardener, my appreciation for insects was transformed when I began spending time around plants. I’m downright proud that so many plants in my yard have bees buzzing around them all day.

My impression has always been that the bees browse and linger over their meals.

But I’ve never tried to photograph them before.

Turns out they move all over the damn place.

My mad plan to photograph bees at a variety of flowers began while out for a walk this morning. A distant neighbor has a spectacular hedge of Matilija poppies (a southern California native plant), which tower ten feet tall, invade for a few weeks each year, then disappear. But I digress.

Anyway, I liked this bee. See it? On the yellow globe center of that Matilija bloom:

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So then I wanted more photos of flowers with bees. I kept my camera/phone ready, but for the rest of my walk, I saw nothing but yards devoid of bees. Why would bees ignore all those flowers? Perhaps those yards use pesticides?

(If only someone would invent something like the internet so I could investigate such questions.)

Back home, there were plenty of bees around my plants but. They. Would. Not. Hold Still.

I took a whole lotta photos and got two that sort of included bees. Can you spot the bee butt near the bottom of this photo?

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Zoom in he’s going to land no, wait, ahhh, there he goes…

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Perhaps my next photo project should involve snails.

(The WP Photo Challenge is Partners.)

Improv/Stage Review: Improvised Shakespeare Company

I’m not good with live theater. I watch with underlying tension – afraid the actors will commit some bigtime flub that they won’t be able to rescue.

No, I have never witnessed such an event – although I have witnessed actors exchanging meaningful subtle glances — doesn’t that sound terrifying?

No, I don’t know why I care – but I do care, and have for years. It’s like being afraid that someone else will dream he’s back in high school and can’t remember his locker combination.

Perversely and/or because of all this, there is one stage event that I attend as often as I can: performances of The Improvised Shakespeare Company (ISC).

Every ISC show starts the same. Five guys walk onto a bare stage, the audience shouts phrases, the troop’s founder selects one of those phrases and it becomes the play’s title: the five guys make up a 1.5-2 hour play, using the style, themes, locales, situations of Shakespeare. No props, no costumes, no intermissions. And as the founder promises, they make up characters on the spot, they learn no lines, “… and if ever you are wondering where the story is going, so are we.”

During a show, the ISC wordplay and inventiveness are staggering. Also, I love the way the troop enjoys what the other guys come up with. And the ways they extricate from the jams they get into (for example, they each play multiple characters, and sometimes they have to play scenes with themselves). I’m impressed at how convincing their settings and characters can be. They play girls, old coots, servants, nobility, soldiers, merchants; in castles, on rivers, on turrets, in town squares.

They are frequently raunchy, which most in the audience seem to prefer. Sometimes that raunch gets a little easy/obvious, but you never know where they will take an idea. As might have been predicted, “As You Lick It” got pretty dirty, yet “Brothello” had an innocent sweetness, while “Straight Outta Venice” was just plain goofy (beware the suspended pickle jars).

ISC is a stand-up comedy troop from Chicago (although some of their players live and work in Los Angeles). Lucky for me, they perform monthly at Largo-at-the-Coronet, a small wonderful venue where I’m a regular. When I visited Chicago, I saw the Chicago troop perform and – based on that single night – I prefer the Los Angeles troop, but who knows where another night may have led.

ISC tours, and seems to be expanding those tours. They play frequently in New York. Watch for them. Go see them. You can read reviews and you can watch You-Tube videos but none of that will capture the essence of the live show.

If you do get to see them, let me know what you think! You might react like my daughter, who was put off by the audience’s enthusiasm and overall couldn’t get into it: “I can see they’re geniuses and all but – meh.” Or you might react like me, and line up your tickets months in advance.

I am grateful to The Improvised Shakespeare Company. They make me laugh out loud, repeatedly; such laughter is one of the great treats of being alive.

In addition, ISC has inspired me to write improvisationally. I’ve got a new piece of fiction, DDsE, that I am writing by adapting their stage constraints: 300 words per day, don’t plan it, don’t rework it, just write and keep going. I don’t know where it is headed or what eventual format it will be (novella? scripted video? comic book?) but, some 50 segments into it, I am jazzed about the results. More about DDsE soon…