Canyon Cures

11 08 2013

My Yellowstone experience has definitely picked up since transferring to Canyon. I’m now working at the corrals which are 12-hour days that go fast because I’m so busy. I enjoy being around the horses and wranglers. It can get a little hectic, trying to get our guests on a scale to be weighed, but I manage without too much protest. For a fleeting moment, I considered doing this again next year. Another year in the park would be much different, provided I had a vehicle.

Surprisingly, I’ve been given a company car since the corrals are a mile up the road. It’s an old, white Chevy Cavalier. So old it still has a cassette player. Nevertheless, it gets me from point A to B just as my very own Cavalier did not too long ago. At one time in my life, I drove a 1999 silver Cavalier. It was the first car I ever purchased on my own and it was a damn good one. I bought it in Dothan, Alabama while working as a sports writer for the Dothan Eagle. I remember my dad coming to town to help me with the process, but refusing to co-sign despite prodding from my mother. I also remember being slightly aggravated with this decision. Still, I bought the car with help from a local bank and, years later after I paid off the loan, dad’s decision made perfect sense. He wanted me to establish my own line of credit.

And then greed crept in.

Not satisfied with a car that ran fine and was paid off, I sold the Cavalier and used the money to make a payment on a brand spanking new Honda Element. Along with greed it was an obvious overcompensation for something and I wish I knew what. I was in a problematic relationship at the time and trying to play the “Big Daddy” role — ultimately failing miserably. About a year and half after foolishly parting with the Cavalier, the Repo Man came calling for the Element, taking it in the middle of the night. It was early 2009. I had not quite hit rock bottom yet. But I was falling fast.

Four years later and I’m in Yellowstone — driving an older model Cavalier than the one I once owned — to a corral where I sell horse rides by the hour. Much poorer, much wiser, much happier.

Canyon life has been much better than Old Faithful for several reasons, none of which pertain to lodging or food. Old Faithful has the amenities, but Canyon has the charm. It’s a closer knit group here, far away from the over-regulated geyser basins. At Canyon, the atmosphere is laid back and easy going. We’re thick in the woods here. On my first night, I heard howling wolves in the distance. I’ve seen bear, bison and moose while hiking on nearby trails and we’re so deep into the wilderness, the news of the day (USA Today) doesn’t arrive until noon. Two of my colleagues from training are also here — Ashly and Kirk. Ashly is a quiet girl from Indiana who recently graduated college. We split the hours at the corrals. Kirk is from Georgia, in his 50s and comes from a distinguished Atlanta family. He’s a Tea Party supporter so we do not discuss politics much. Thankfully, Kirk gave me a crash course on the Canyon when I arrived. The area is incredibly diverse with towering waterfalls, a huge canyon with yellow stone walls, hidden lakes, scattered thermal features and wildlife abounds.

I’m rooming with another Asian, a nice kid from Taiwan. My previous roommate in Old Faithful was a gay 22-year-old Singaporean graphic artist with an obsession for Pokemon. He left without saying a word. I transferred to Canyon the following day.

I was definitely wounded when I arrived in Canyon. The summer has been challenging, at times it has been downright cruel.

And then I met Ann.

It was a difficult time for both of us, one might even say we were brought together by depression. I had signed up for the recreation center’s trip to Gardiner to see the Montana Shakespeare Company perform “Theater in the Park.” I did this not so much out of a strong desire to see theater, but more of along the lines of enjoying the drive to Gardiner and the incredible scenery of Dunraven Pass. There were nine of us on the trip. I was the only male. I noticed Ann’s accent right away and for a second presumed she could be French. Even better, as it turned out, she hails from Italy, a beautiful country which I visited for the first time this past January.

Theater Goers in Gardiner, Montana

Theater Goers in Gardiner, Montana

We talked the entire way to Gardiner. Once there we learned that thunderstorms had forced the outside performance to be moved into a nearby school cafeteria. The play was “The Recruiting Officer,” a peculiar work by Irish writer George Farquhar. Ann said she did not understand much of what was said. The accents were “Old English” and much of the theatrics were over the top with the obligatory gender bending roles that one comes to expect from a Shakespeare troupe.  All and all, it was a pleasant evening. Ann and I talked all the way back to the Canyon. Two days later we would go on our first hike together — learning more about each other. Step by step.

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28 05 2010

Gordon and I have had many meetings over the years.

I remember the first, inside a dingy coffeehouse in Downtown Panama City, where Gordon arrived — right on time — with cane in hand.

He lectured me about theater that day and he hasn’t stopped since.

“I going to teach you how to sit in a chair,” he said to me that day. His words still come to mind when I find myself slumping.

Meanwhile, the campaign is close to beginning. This is, what my consultants tell me, the calm before the storm. Tallahassee called today. They want to start organizing …. Tomorrow.

There is no turning back now.

“Keep a smile John,” Gordon always says before we go our separate ways.

Keeping a smile through November is going to be a tough act. Shouldn’t the challenger be angry? Shouldn’t he feel just a tad bit pissed off about the state of affairs in his District??

But we digress.

Anyone still reading this can follow me on Twitter @pcbjohnnymac.

It’s going to be a helluva ride.

Oh, and Gordon, I’ll see you soon.





Gordon’s Moon

31 03 2010

A lot has happened since Jim and I returned from that vacation.

I now live in a house with three other people. Still waiting on that check from Uncle Sam.

I talked to Gordon today on the I-phone. Wonderful product that I-phone.

“Who is this?,” he asked.

“Gordon, it’s John,” I said. “John McDonald.”

“Oh, John, thank you for coming over to see the play,” he said.

I had just returned from Jacksonville, where Gordon was directing the Eugene O’Neill classic “A Moon For The Misbegotten.”

'Moon' Set

O’Neill’s work tends to be gut-wrenching and Gordon’s adaptation was proof. Not many director’s are up to this kind of challenge.

“Your show made me come away thinking,” I told Gordon.

“Good,” he replied. “That’s what we want.”

He then proceeded to run down the theater scene in Panama City pretty good and I couldn’t say that I blamed him. It leaves much to be desired. Still clinging to hillbilly musicals and cross-dressing comedies.

These days, if one is to be truly intellectually challenged by the theater, they must hit the road — or take a plane  — and get the hell out of Panama City.

And Gordon was doing just that when I called,  heading back to Jacksonville — by bus.

“How ya like riding that Dirty Dog,” I asked him, remembering my most recent experience taking the bus to Atlanta. Some of those stations can be pretty scary.

“Oh it’s fine,” he said, in a reassuring tone.

I told Gordon that when he returned again from Jacksonville, we must meet for lunch. I had several questions about O’Neill’s play and it had been a while since Gordon and I dined out. I missed him.

Last night, I joined a group of nine at one of Bay County’s best waterfront restaurants. The chef personally made several trips to our table.

The conversation started with sports, shifted to business, inevitably moved into politics, then Hollywood, and ultimately ended with that tired game of “Who’s Gay.”

Don’t get me wrong, it was an entertaining evening, the food delicious, and I got to wear my skinny tie from New York. The one my Japanese friend Keita bought me at the American Apparel store on the lower East Side. I so enjoy dressing up for dinner.

Theater didn’t come up much at the table. I did mention seeing the O’Neill play, but only one other person seemed interested, so I didn’t spout off too much. After all, it was a pretty depressing story.

Intermission Mingling

Still, I marveled how, in Gordon’s “Moon,” words such as “Queer” and “Limey” and “Shanty” were tossed about and no one flinched. The crowd was so obedient that night. The actors clearly had many in the palm of their hands.

Above all, the performance made you think. Think about a lot things — overweight women, poor dirt farmers, alcoholism. And there were times when you wanted to look away.

That, my friends, is powerful theater.

And I don’t see anything wrong with that.





Vieux Carre

23 10 2009

We had a penthouse view of Gramercy Park.

Legend has it, this is the only private park in Manhattan. And we had the key.

Well, Barry had the key.

Across from the park, on the Westside, was the apartment. A four-story walk-up, the stairs got narrower as you climbed. The place was quaint with a kitchen, bedroom, living room and bathroom; all the esstentials for a bachelor pad.

The owner was on vacation in Germany. He was a speechwriter for the President of one of the local colleges and his book collection was quite impressive.

He and Barry agreed to do a home swap, which is quite common, so I’m told, in academia. One condition was that Barry look after the cats.

Come to find out, there were other conditions, but we’ll get to that later.

The cats were shy at first, but became easily seduced once the cat nip was located.

Barry let it be known that he had work to do while in the City and old friends to see. But he was adamant about seeing theater. Together, we scanned the papers and read the reviews. There was a little-known work by Tennessee Williams playing in the East Village that caught our attention.

‘Vieux Carre’

Williams has long been a favorite playwright of mine. He stories of the Old South, particularly New Orleans, ring so true. Many times in my past jaunts into the Louisiana bayou did I find myself in situations that Tennessee had so vividly described in his writings.

picture-Tennessee-Williams

Barry arranged for the tickets and we met three of his friends at the theater — Norman, a young actor and his artist girlfriend, Mary, who hailed from Wales and Mr. Christopher Berg, an older fellow from the Bronx.

The show was sold-out. It was a small theater, maybe 200 seats tops, and the crowd was primarily of senior status.

Some of the actors were already on stage as the audience filed in. It felt like we were a part of this French Quarter boarding house and that intimate atmosphere was something I had not experienced in a theater setting in a long time.

Christopher and I really enjoyed the show. Barry not so much.

“I thought it stunk,” Barry said.

Afterwards, I managed to get the director’s autograph and relayed my sincere appreciation for his efforts. My accent gave me away and the director smiled and thanked me for attending.

The five of us then headed for a nearby Spanish tapas eatery, Norman had highly recommended. The food was really good and the conversation free-flowing enough for Mary to invite us all back to her studio for drinks.

I bought a cigar on the way and Barry picked up a case of beer.

Mary said her building was once the home of the Ukrainian embassy. Inside her studio were large scale paintings and photography. She was most certainly a visual artist, but also very humble of her work.

Mary informed me of her ties to the South, having family in Tennessee. I relayed to her my fondness of the British Isles and how adorable I found her accent.

After a few drinks, Barry, Christopher and I called it a night. Minutes after saying our goodbyes, Barry received a call from Norman on his cell phone.

“So, Mary is Not your girlfriend,” Barry said in a voice loud enough for all to hear.

Why Norman felt the need to get that point across was beyond me. Nevertheless, Barry had arranged for Mary to drop by the Gramercy pad the next day to take some photos in the park.

We parted ways with Christopher at the subway station. He gave us both a big hug. Christopher was a nice man, very tall, bald and he wore distinguished purple-framed glasses.

We would see him again.