08 December 2011

God is Gay

For Gov. Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Pat Robertson

God is Gay
God is Straight
God is Developmentally Disabled
God is a Rocket Scientist
God is Physically Deformed
God is a Supermodel
God is Black
God is White
God is Red
God is Yellow
God is a Man
God is a Woman
God is a Child
God is a Christian
God is a Muslim
God is a Jew
God is an Atheist
God is a Democrat
God is a Republican
God is an Independent
God is a Red Sox fan
God is a Yankee fan
God is You
God is Me

If God made us in his own image, he made all of us in that image.

He is just like each of us…

…except without the ignorance and mindless hate.

05 December 2011

For Virginia O'Hanlon

Yes, once again, it's that time of the year. And, once again, I'm just not feeling in the "holiday" spirit. In spite of that -- or perhaps because of it -- here is my favorite newspaper editorial of all time. It was written in 1897, by Francis Pharcellus Church of the New York Sun. (No matter how depressed and cynical I get during the year, this always cheers me up.)

Merry Christmas!


Is there a Santa Claus?

We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

- Virginia O'Hanlon
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

17 October 2011

Those Who Cannot Remember the Past

This is my entry in the 2011 Short Short Fiction Contest sponsored by Esquire magazine and the Aspen Writers' Foundation. The story had to be exactly 78 words - to celebrate the 78th anniversary of Esquire.

I have included the photograph - a still taken from a YouTube video of an Occupy Wall Street march - that inspired the story.

When I saw the blonde woman toast the protesters, I immediately thought about the attitude and words attributed to Marie Antoinette - "Let them eat cake!"

Then I recalled the warning of George Santayana - "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I thought about the events that have taken place this year in Greece, London, throughout the Middle East, and now in Rome. And, I thought, if it can happen there, it could happen here as well.

I don't agree with everything the Occupy Wall Street protesters are saying/demanding, but I understand where their anger is coming from.


Those Who Cannot Remember the Past

They gathered on the gilded balconies of Wall Street, overlooking the rabble – the indebted, those without jobs, those left homeless by "the bubble," the hopeless, the hungry – the so-called 99 percent. They laughed, took pictures, and mocked the people as they drank champagne. And, being well-schooled in margins, puts and calls, dollars and cents – but less so in common sense – they could not feel the heat of the coming fire; the glow of which already lit the horizon.

11 September 2011


For New York City - December 2001

A multi-ethnic mass of humanity
on the street; scurrying, bumping, jostling
without even a mumbled apology.
Bodies rushing everywhere; and nowhere.
People from around the world; here now
the artists and the crackpots,
the addicts and their crack-pipes,
and half-naked cowboys in Times Square.

Visitors craning their necks, looking skyward,
walking slowly along the broad sidewalks
taking countless pictures of the Big City;
holding hands tightly as if it will swallow them up!
They take in the fantasy-like glimmering
beauty filled with blazing neon signs
hiding the dark reality underneath
with their glowing sensuality.

I feel so perfectly at home here
in this place of bold, black strokes
and colorful, wildly psychedelic metaphors
here at the crossroads of the universe;
where even the wildest of dreams
can come amazingly true.
A place where I can find myself
and become lost in the crowd.

The power of this city radiates
up and down the wide Avenues of legend,
across the Streets of lore,
and through every building in between.
No place in the world can compare
to all of its glitz and glamour,
or to the always exciting hint of danger
hiding just under the surface.

The real strength of this great city
rests not in its buildings, but in its people!
It lies in their diversity and their character,
in their determination and their resolve!
It is the weird, and the wonderfully strange,
as well as the everyday normal people
that make this city what it is.
I love this City!

30 July 2011

Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On

“O brave new world that has such people in’t!”

William Shakespeare writes these words in the final scene of The Tempest. And, the people he means could easily be the members of the Rockland Shakespeare Company.

In July, the group celebrated their 14th year presenting outdoor summer Shakespeare productions by staging the play – which many experts believe to be the last he wrote alone – in the Amphitheater Courtyard at SUNY Rockland Community College.

RSC productions get better each year, and the company's continued devotion to presenting these works made The Tempest their most enjoyable performance yet.

(Stavros Adamides as Prospero and Malka Wallick as Miranda.)

The play, written c. 1610, revolves around Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, and his daughter, Miranda. Twelve years before the play begins, Prospero’s brother, Antonio – aided by Alonso, the King of Naples – stole power in Milan. He exiled Prospero and Miranda, having the two taken to sea and set adrift in a rickety boat. They survived and landed on an island filled with spirits and magic.

As the play opens, fate has brought Antonio and Alonso near the island aboard a ship. Assisted by his servant, an airy spirit named Ariel, Prospero raises a storm – a tempest – which shipwrecks the two, along with members of their respective courts – including the king’s son, Ferdinand – on the island.

With the help of Ariel and various other spirits – and despite the opposition of Caliban, a savage slave who serves Prospero – the duke is restored to power, Ferdinand falls in love with Miranda, and, as Shakespeare writes elsewhere, all’s well that ends well.

(Christopher Plummer as Caliban.)

Over the last 13 years, co-directors – and RSC co-founders – Christopher Plummer and Patty Maloney-Titland, Chair of the RCC Performing Arts Department, have used various themes and settings in staging the plays – Hamlet set in feudal Japan, The Merry Wives of Windsor set in the American old west, and Love’s Labour’s Lost as a musical, to name a few.

This year, however, the two decided on a “non-theme” theme. In other words: they played it straight. The audience benefited from this decision. Without the distraction of wild costumes or music, the audience became immersed in the language of the play.

As Plummer writes in his Director’s Note, “The heart of this production is in the words and the strength of the characters who speak them.”

Plummer and Maloney-Titland cast the play following three days of auditions, and the group spent four weeks rehearsing.

“The RSC always mounts productions very quickly,” Plummer said. “We erected The Tempest in only four weeks, with an average of three to four rehearsals per week.”

The directors selected their actors well. Despite the limited rehearsal schedule, the cast delivered the excellence audiences have come to expect from the RSC. Each actor seemed perfectly suited for the role they played, and several are deserving of more effusive praise than space will allow.

Stavros Adamides portrayed Prospero with superb gravity. He delivered his lines, including the two most important speeches in the play – “Our revels now are ended,” and the epilogue – flawlessly.

Stephen Truax – in his largest speaking role to date – was excellent as the King of Naples. The role required him to display a far wider range of emotions than in his previous RSC appearances, and he did not disappoint.

Plummer played Caliban with energy, skill, and the unmasked zeal he brings to each Shakespearean role he plays. His bitter and yet still fun portrayal was reminiscent of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy of films.

Two new members of the RSC distinguished themselves in this production, easily holding their own while on the stage with their more experienced counterparts.

Malka Wallick lived up to her character’s name, portraying Miranda admirably. She exuded the wonderful, child-like innocence of one inexperienced in the wide world in general, much less the sordid world of politics and betrayal.

Theodora Kimmel stole the show as Ariel. While her appearance – she was covered from head to toe in pale blue material and make-up – made her stand out from the rest of the cast visually, it was Kimmel’s movements, her voice, and her confidence that commanded every eye while she was on stage.

(Theodora Kimmel as Ariel.)

Ironically, according to Kimmel, she was not the first choice to play Ariel.

“The part was originally given to someone else and then they dropped out,” she said.

There could not have been a more serendipitous withdrawal. Kimmel was outstanding in a role that – while not the largest – connects all the action in the play by aiding Prospero in his quest to bring the rest of the cast under his power, thus allowing him to regain his dukedom.

The actors were more than ably supported by the crew behind the scenes. Maggie O’Rourke (make-up), Karen Hummel-Kinsley (costume design), and Ebonie Avant (movement choreographer) did an exceptional job helping to create the characters the audience saw.

Although the first show was rained-out, the group presented five performances between July 9th and 17th.

Attendance was, “very consistent,” according to Plummer, with audiences of more than 100 at each performance.

Plummer thanked those who attended the shows for their continuing enthusiasm for the RSC.

“There is nothing like the electric connection between an actor and their audience,” he said.

A sentiment echoed by Kimmel.

“What would Shakespeare be without his loves?” she asked. “What would performances be without a sensitive and appreciative audience?”

“We are extremely passionate about the RSC and performing the works of Shakespeare for the community. I am very proud of what we have accomplished over the past 14 years…and I see no end in sight,” Plummer said.

He promised bigger things to come.

“In appreciation for all the support from our audiences, we are planning a 15th year celebration next summer; a mini Shakespeare Festival outside in the courtyard at RCC which will be filled with fun, food, and, of course, performances for all. You won’t want to miss it,” Plummer said.

06 July 2011

Pakistani Intelligence Finds Waldo

Disassociated Press
6 July 2011

ISLAMABAD – In a stunning announcement, Pakistan’s Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) today announced that it has found Waldo.

The bespectacled cartoon explorer, on the run since 1987, was tracked down at a beach party near Karachi, by a special team of analysts formed after Osama bin Laden was killed by American forces in May.

“From now on, when the children of the world want to know where Waldo is, you can tell them he’s in a Pakistani prison, and that’s where he’s going to stay,” said Lieutenant General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, Director of ISI.

“We put our best and brightest on this search,” said Pasha. “And, they did not fail us.”

Although few details about the actual capture were released, Pasha displayed several still photographs he claims show a Pakistani special forces team raiding a “Sweet 16” party being held on the beach at Hawke’s Bay.

Several members of the media attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate Waldo amongst the crowd of partygoers in the photographs, and questioned his actual presence.

“He was there, and now we have him,” Pasha assured the media.

Pasha stated that more raids could occur soon.

“We’re currently conducting follow-up operations using actionable intelligence obtained from Waldo,” said Pasha. “We are confident that other characters – such as Calvin and Hobbes, and Godot – who are being hunted around the world will soon be located and taken into custody.”

Pasha denied American involvement in the capture of Waldo.

“Absolutely not,” he said, when asked about U.S. assistance.

“In fact, it is because the Americans were finally off our backs about Osama that we were able to find Waldo,” he said. “We had so many assets focused on Osama – running here, there, and everywhere for the Americans – that this dangerous criminal continually slipped through our fingers.”

None of the team members responsible for the capture spoke with the media, but one ISI official, who identified himself only as “Peggy,” did.

“Truthfully, this was much more difficult than [finding] bin Laden,” “Peggy” said. “Bin Laden was staying in one place. Waldo was constantly on the move, hiding in large groups of people, in countries around the world.”

“Seriously, he was hiding right down the street from a military academy. Who would’ve guessed that?” he asked members of the media.

“Peggy” hinted that many in the ISI feel like they have been vindicated for what some in the west see as their agency’s long-term failure in the hunt for bin Laden.

“Did the CIA find Waldo? Did MI5? Did Russia’s FSB?” “Peggy” demanded. “No! ISI found him and will bring him to justice.”

Though never formally indicted for any crimes in the western world, Waldo has been accused of countless cross border incursions, after popping up in dozens of countries, apparently without passing through customs inspections.

01 June 2011

This is Not Politics; it is Human Rights

An open letter to the members of the New York State Senate.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak out for me.

– Martin Niemoller

Honorable Senators;
Soon you will bear the responsibility of determining whether same-sex couples will be allowed to marry in New York. Very simply, I hope you will choose the correct path and abolish discrimination against a group of your fellow citizens.

Don’t fool yourself, Senators, it is discrimination. You can quibble about the definition, but when you give one person or group the right or privilege to do something, and then solely and purposely exclude another person or group from that right or privilege – that is discrimination.

When you allow a white man to sit at a lunch counter, but not a black man – that is discrimination. When you allow a man to vote, but not a woman – that is discrimination. And, when you allow a “straight” person the freedom to choose – within age and consensual limits – who they wish to marry, and deny equal freedom to a gay person – that is discrimination.

In the long history of the United States, we have fought for freedom – our own and that of others. But, we have also discriminated against many different peoples. Black people and women fought for decades to win equal rights. Jews, Slavs, the Irish, the Chinese, Cubans; as each new wave of immigrants has landed on our shores they have endured discrimination, and fought for acceptance – for equality.

Sadly, even in 2011, there are people who must fight to be treated equally. They are American citizens. They are teachers, doctors, firefighters, police officers – the list goes on and on. And, in a large percentage of the country, they are being denied a basic human right.

It is, and should be, a right to choose the person you wish to marry, whether that person is another man, another woman, a Jew or a Gentile; whether they are black, white, yellow, or red. Or, even if that person is a Red Sox fan!

For all the bluster and name-calling, when you get right down to it, the issue of same-sex marriage is a simple matter of civil rights – the basic right to be treated equally.

Of course, opponents disagree with this view, and they come to the debate with a slew of “talking points,” statistics, quotes from The Bible, and outright lies, which they use to stir up fear in others and convince them that it is OK to discriminate against those who are different.

Supporters of this discrimination claim that it is vital in order to protect the sanctity of marriage. This is absurd and insulting to the intelligence.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.gov), in 2008, there were 7.1 marriages and 3.5 divorces per 1,000 Americans. That means that the divorce rate in the United States is nearly half the rate of marriages. Almost 50 percent of these “straight” marriages end in divorce!

In another study, Pew Research Center found that the state of Maine – where discrimination toward same-sex couples was reestablished in 2009 via the passing of Referendum 1 – has the nation’s second highest percentage of divorced people; second only to Nevada. Pew found that, among Maine residents, 15 percent of women (compared to a national average of 12 percent), and 12 percent of men (compared to nine percent nationally) are divorced.

In addition – again, according to the CDC – the rate of divorce in Maine is half a percent higher than the national average (4.6 vs. 4.1 percent).

Another interesting fact uncovered by the CDC report: the rate of divorce in Massachusetts – the first state to allow same-sex marriage – is the lowest in the nation.

Perhaps we should look to Hollywood to find the sacred bond of marriage that opponents speak of. Let’s consider Anna Nicole Smith and the 89-year-old J. Howard Marshall II, whom she married on his death-bed (surely a marriage based on true love), or Elizabeth Taylor, or any of the countless Hollywood “couples” who have married and divorced with alarming regularity.

Or, maybe we could look to our political leaders as the shining examples of this marital sanctity. John McCain, Ted Kennedy, Rudolph Giuliani, Ronald Reagan…all divorced. Arnold Schwarzenegger? Separated, and – given the existence of a love child – one might presume he's on the way to being divorced. Of course, there are some politicians whose marriages have survived; Bill Clinton, John Edwards, and Eliot Spitzer spring to mind.

It seems to me that if we truly wanted to preserve marriage we should campaign to outlaw divorce and stiffen the penalty for adultery, not fight to deny marriage.

Opponents argue that the “right” to get married is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States – for gay people or straight people. “Therefore,” they claim, “to deny two people of the same sex something like that is not an infringement of such.”

As for the first part, I agree wholeheartedly. Obviously, marriage is not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor should it be. Two consenting adults should not require the sanction of the state in order to get married. I would, however, ask you to look at another document – one just as important to our nation – and read these simple words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…” All men. Not all “straight” men. All men!

In response to the second part of the argument, I ask two questions: If the right/privilege/ability of a same-sex couple is not being infringed, what are we arguing about? If no infringement is present then, logically, a same-sex couple should simply be able to walk down to the local courthouse in any city, in any state of the Union, and get a marriage license…just like any “straight” couple, correct?

Unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, in a majority of the country, a same-sex couple can not receive a marriage license. How is that equality?

Perhaps the most frequent tactic used is quoting of the Scriptures. Opponents of same-sex marriage love to point out The Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality. And, to be honest, it’s my favorite tactic to observe.

“Why,” you ask? I like it because when you challenge “God’s Word,” they get indignant, or feign being insulted, and then usually say something like, “Well, if you’re going to turn this into an attack on Christianity, I’m not even going to debate you.”

This is, of course, simply not true. In actuality, the only thing under attack is the use of their beliefs to limit or deny the rights of people who do not share those particular beliefs.

You see, the freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution is fine with many of them, as long as it means they can worship as they please. But, when you point out that freedom of religion also means freedom from religion – freedom from having the beliefs of others thrust upon you, or their beliefs being used to deny equality – then watch out.

Unfortunately, despite all this professed belief in the Scriptures, words like compassion, charity, and love seem to have been lost in the mire. And, many people seem to have forgotten “The Golden Rule” that Jesus himself gave us in the Book of Luke: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

“The Bible says that homosexuality is an abomination,” they’ll say. Indeed, it does…in some interpretations. But, in addition to telling us what is not permissible, The Bible tells us what is. According to The Bible, slavery, beating your wife, and even human sacrifice are allowed, and in some cases, demanded. Luckily, we as human beings have evolved to a point where those practices are no longer considered acceptable or legal.

The truth is, The Bible is full of allegorical stories that can be interpreted in a number of ways. It was written by men – fallible, imperfect human beings, each with his own agenda and his own prejudices. In addition, it has been passed down through generation after generation, translated, re-interpreted, changed (can anyone say Council of Nicea?), and changed again. No one can truly say that The Bible we read today bears any resemblance to what was originally written.

Of course, if you still believe that The Bible, literally translated, is the final word on the matter, I’ll just ask this: If The Bible tells us that God made man in his own image, wouldn’t that include gay human beings too? And, if that’s so, who are we mere humans to question God’s design?

I don’t understand where this fear of same-sex marriage – of gay people in general – came from. When I joined the United States Army in 1990, I was asked – twice – if I was, or ever had been, a member of the Communist party or of any organization dedicated to the violent overthrow of the government of the United States. I was asked if I was, or ever had been, gay, six times. Six times!

Are gay people three times more likely to devote themselves to the destruction of freedom? Are gay people three times more likely to be bent on bringing about the violent overthrow of the government of the United States? To think this, even for a moment, is ridiculous to the point of absurdity.

I know several same-sex couples. These are not men who haunt dark parking lots outside of adult bookstores. They are committed, hardworking Americans trying to make a living. And, they are as devoted to each other as any “straight” couple I’ve seen.

During my time on this planet, I’ve learned that on most issues there are many points of view. Often, there is more than one “right” answer – more than one way to believe; “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” as William Shakespeare tells us.

In this case, however, the simple fact is this: same-sex marriage should not be a political issue. It is a human issue about justice, equality, and ending discrimination against a group of American citizens.

Too often, this argument revolves around hate and fear, when it should revolve around love. We spend – if we’re lucky – 70 or 80 years on this little ball of dust before we “shuffle off this mortal coil,” so why not try to be happy – and allow others to be happy – while we’re here?

I ask opponents of same-sex marriage to consider a few more simple questions: Does denying the happiness of others make you any happier? How does the marriage of two other people – no matter their genders – affect your marriage? Does defeating same-sex marriage make your own marriage – or any other marriage – stronger?

No one is telling you that you have to be gay. Nor is anyone saying that you have to like gay people or their lifestyle. But, that doesn’t make gay people any less human than you are. It doesn’t make them any less an American citizen than you are. And it certainly doesn’t give you the right to discriminate against them. They are not asking for special treatment or privileges, only for equality. They want – and deserve – the same treatment and respect that every other American citizen receives, no more, no less.

This issue is not important only for gay Americans; it is important for all Americans – gay, straight, black, white, Democrat, Republican, believer, atheist, and everyone in between. You must realize that once you deny equality to one person, or one group of people – once you see them or treat them as something less than you are – you make it that much easier to see everyone as something less than you are. And, eventually, someone will do the same to you. Someday they will come for your rights as well…and there will be no one left to speak out for you.

Americans, New Yorkers, Senators; I sincerely hope you will each find the courage to help end discrimination against your fellow citizens by voting to allow same-sex marriage in New York.

Thank you,

Bud Koenemund
Pomona, New York
1 June 2011

14 May 2011

New York City Area Summer Shakespeare - 2011


New York Public Theater (Shakespeare in Central Park):

All’s Well That Ends Well & Measure for Measure
June 6 – July 30


Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (on the outdoor stage)
June 22 – July 31

Timon of Athens
July 6 – 24

September 7 – October 2


Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival:

The Comedy of Errors & Hamlet
June 14 – September 4


Rockland Shakespeare Company:

The Tempest
July 8, 9, 10 & 15, 16, 17


22 April 2011

Will's Power

For the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's Blogging Shakespeare Birthday Project - 23 April 2011

O for a muse of fire, that would ascend the brightest Heaven of invention...
- William Shakespeare, Henry V

Usually – though not always – it’s best to begin…well, at the beginning. The first Shakespeare I remember being exposed to was in my eighth grade English class. We read Romeo and Juliet out loud, in class. I hated it! Being a shy kid, I resented being made to read in front of the class. And, I’ll admit, I didn’t get much of what Will was saying.

After R&J, we read Macbeth. That was better. Witches and sword fights, ghosts and bloody murders, suicide and a severed head – that was cool. Though, again, I didn’t understand many of the words, and I was too young to appreciate the language Will used.

The first Shakespeare I ever truly understood was Henry V. In 1991, I was serving in the United States Army in the Republic of Panama. One afternoon – in between missions to the darkest jungles you can imagine and cutthroat games of Dungeons & Dragons – one of my roommates, Darryl Weeden, got his hands on a VHS copy of Kenneth Branagh's film adaptation of the play. Darryl all but forced us – our other two roommates and I – to watch it with him.

I enjoyed it right from the start: Canterbury’s intrigue; Hal’s response to the Dauphin’s gift; his speech when treason is discovered in his midst; the siege of Harfleur; all of it. What truly set the hook, however, was that speech. The one Hal delivered to his men right before the battle of Agincourt:
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (4.3)

To borrow from Hal’s speech before the walls of Harfleur: Consider my sinews stiffened! Saying that I was blown away would be a gross understatement. The beauty of the language struck me. It wasn’t only what Hal said, but how he said it. The next day, I borrowed a copy of H5 from the base library and devoured it. That’s when my love of Shakespeare began. I read every play the library had. And, after I left the Army, I began buying my own copies of Will’s work.

These days, my Shakespeare collection rivals that of the local college library. I own three copies of the Complete Works, individual copies – in many cases multiple copies – of the plays and the sonnets, and numerous books about The Bard and his works.

In addition, I buy movie versions of every play I can get my hands on, and regularly attend stage productions of Will’s work performed by several theatre companies in and around New York City. Then, of course, there is the Shakespeare action figure, the Shakespeare bobblehead, the Shakespeare doll, the bottle of Shakesbeer, the skull…you see where I’m going here.

While I admire all of his works, Shakespeare’s Histories are my favorite plays. The jealousy, greed, and villainy; as well as the loyalty, bravery, and self-sacrifice portrayed in those 10 plays remains unmatched. Truthfully, is there a villain in literature better than Richard III? (One might make a strong case for Iago in Othello. But, did Iago have his own nephews killed? His own wife? Wait, ummm, scratch that last one, bad example!)

Of course, there are theories that Richard didn’t order the murders of the princes in the tower. Some think that King Henry VII (Richmond in Richard III) had them killed to strengthen his hold on the throne. And, that argument illuminates yet another way to appreciate these plays. As a student of history, I enjoy comparing Shakespeare’s version of events with that of the history books and the theorists.

Twenty years on, Henry V remains my absolute favorite play. I read it again every couple of years, I’ve seen three different stage versions, and I watch various film versions a few times each year. As I watch, I think about my roommates, and the other members of my unit. I think about how Darryl – the oldest of us; he was 24 and a fantastic artist serving in the Army to make enough money to attend art school – made us all watch the Branagh film, and how we were inspired. I think about how Shakespeare really got it right with those lines; how those guys, who I probably would’ve barely spoken to if I’d met them back “in the world,” became my brothers.

I laugh when I think about my adventures with those guys. Like the time 20 of us piled into a room to watch the animated dinosaur movie The Land Before Time. When an earthquake struck, and the baby dinosaur became separated from his mother, we – 20 trained soldiers; men who would kill with their bare hands, eat someone’s guts and ask for a second helping – had tears in our eyes. Though, none of us would ever admit to that.

I remember our “Pool Assaults;” a score of Infantrymen scaling the 10-foot high decorative concrete wall of the base pool in the middle of the night. We’d climb up to the 10-meter diving platform and all dive at once, then scurry back to the barracks, leaving a trail of water for the MPs to follow. Why? For no other reason than it was something to do. We were Infantrymen; we worked hard and played harder.

I think about the night my friend Ken Perkins cut open a Cyalume stick in an attempt to discover what made it glow in the dark. It spilled all over him when he split it open. He then proceeded to leave glowing hand and foot prints up and down the barracks hallway.

Or, I recall any of the dozens of other good times we had in spite of the heat and humidity, and between the push-ups, and the jungle, and the stuff I wish I could forget.

When Hal urges his men to the breach once more, I feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand up because I’ve been in situations that required that kind of bravery and I have had such brothers beside me.

That is where Will’s power truly lies. Not only can he use language to take me somewhere I’ve never been – Agincourt, Dunsinane, Verona, or Cyprus, for example – he can also take me back to the places I have. His writing connects the then and the now, the character and the reader.

When Romeo first sees Juliet, I know how he feels because his words remind me of the first time I saw the woman who broke my heart. When Hamlet contemplates suicide, I can feel his anguish because I've had those same arguments with myself. And, in the epilogue to A Midsummer Night's Dream, when Puck begs for my applause – "Give me your hands if we be friends" – I give it to him. No, not because I am a "merry wanderer of the night," but because he and his fellows have bewitched me with their words; words given to them – and in many cases created out of thin air for them – by the author.

William Shakespeare did not make me a poet – it took the aforementioned broken heart to do that. But, he lit the path by showing me how to use words to translate my feelings, experiences, and dreams into language. Using his form – the sonnet – just felt natural. (And, though some will argue that adherence to any form stifles creativity, I contend that it challenges a poet to become all the more creative.)

So, from The Mad Sonneteer to The Master, happy birthday, Will. “To me, fair Friend, you can never be old,/ For as you were when first your eye I eyed/ Such seems your beauty still.” – Sonnet XIV

01 April 2011

The Day My Marriage Ended - April 1, 2004

This date always brings back the pain of how my marriage crumbled so quickly. You may have heard about it. If not, below are the news reports.

Sadly, when it comes to heartbreak, what happens in Vegas, doesn't stay in Vegas!


Spears Weds Outlook Editor
Bard Wire Report
April 1, 2004

Las Vegas (Bard Wire) – Oops, she did it again! For the second time in two months Britney Spears has married.

A publicist for the pop-princess announced today that Spears tied the knot after a recent performance at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas.

The small ceremony took place in the wedding chapel of the Excalibur Hotel and Casino just after 4 a.m. on Sunday, Mar. 7.

According to her publicist, Spears, age 22, married Bud Koenemund, age 35. Koenemund is reportedly the Editor-in-Chief of Outlook Student Press, the newspaper of SUNY/Rockland Community College, a small school 25 miles north of New York City.

“I don’t know what it is about that town [Las Vegas], it just makes me want to get married…I think it’s the overwhelming class surrounding everything there,” the new Mrs. Spears-Alexander-Koenemund wrote in a statement released to the press.

Koenemund, who was in Las Vegas for a journalism convention, held a brief press conference today.

“Britney and I are insanely happy together, and we plan to remain that way for the rest of our lives,” he said.

Several reporters asked Koenemund what attracted him to Spears.

“Well, there is her obvious physical beauty, but Britney also possesses a surprising, almost encyclopedic, knowledge of the works of William Shakespeare. What could be sexier than that?” he said.

When reached for comment, Spears answered a similar question.

“He made me laugh. He comes on very serious, but once you get to know him deep-down, he’s very funny,” she said.

Friends of Koenemund doubted a wedding day would ever arrive for the editor.

“Bud may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on him, because he had railed so long against marriage,” Benedick Padua joked. “But doth not the appetite alter?” he added.

On Jan. 3 of this year, Spears married hometown friend, Jason Allan Alexander, but the union was annulled only 55 hours later. This is the first marriage for Koenemund.

In a related story, Las Vegas Police and members of MGM Grand security are investigating how a student journalist from New York gained back-stage access at the hotel.


Spears Dumps Editor, Ends Second Marriage
Bard Wire Report
April 1, 2004

Las Vegas (Bard Wire) – Britney Spears’ second attempt at marriage has ended. Her union with New York newspaper editor Bud Koenemund lasted only three and a half weeks.

The couple officially separated earlier today, according to their respective spokespeople.

Though brief by conventional standards, this marriage outlasted her first by more than three weeks.

Reportedly, the trouble in paradise was due to jealousy, and the long-distance nature of the relationship.

According to a source close to Spears, Britney couldn’t handle the fact that Bud was constantly surrounded by young, scantily-clad, college girls.

A spokesperson for Koenemund told a different story however.

Benedick Padua presented copies of public documents pertaining to Spears’ brief marriage to Jason Allan Alexander showing that Spears is, in fact, still legally married to Alexander.

The documents, available at thesmokinggun.com, plainly show that a marriage license was issued to Britney Jean Spears and Jason Allen Alexander. However, only 55 hours after the wedding, an annulment request was granted to Britney Jean Spears and Jason Allan Alexander.

“The misspelling probably wouldn’t be enough to overturn the annulment,” said George Dewey, a partner in the Las Vegas law firm Dewey, Skrewem, & Howe.

Apparently, it was enough for Koenemund.

“Although Bud is deeply saddened by the ending of his marriage, he has no interest in being ‘the other man’,” Padua said, “he doesn’t want to be used only for his body, like some brainless piece of meat.”

Legal experts on both sides commented that the divorce proceedings in a case like this could get very nasty.

31 March 2011

Mets Eliminated From Playoff Race

Announcement Comes Hours Before Season’s First Pitch

FLUSHING, NY (Pirate Press) – In a move sure to stun many fans of the New York Mets, team officials today announced that the team has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention this season.

The admission came at Citi Field, just hours before the first pitch in Friday's season opener against the Florida Marlins.

"We just feel that it's important to be truthful with our fan base," said Sandy Alderson, Mets General Manager.

Alderson told reporters that a small group made up of team management looked into the team's chances during spring training in Florida.

"We looked at our roster, our current and recent injuries – including those of [supposed franchise shortstop] Jose Reyes - and we looked at what has happened over the last four seasons," Alderson said. "Unfortunately, we determined that this team stood a snowballs chance in Hell of making the playoffs this season."

Following consecutive late season collapses in 2007 and 2008, Mets players suffered a frightening string of injuries in 2009, which virtually crippled the team for most of the year. The 2010 season proved no better.

"After those three seasons, frankly, we expected a strong rebound in 2010, but we came out of the gate snakebit and never recovered," said Omar Minaya, former Mets General Manager.

Minaya was fired - along with Mets manager Jerry Manuel - following the 2010 season.

"It seemed like every single thing that could go wrong did," Minaya added, "from dropped pop flies against the Yankees, to our closer breaking his hand punching an old man, we saw it all in 2010."

"Truthfully," Alderson said, "at this point, there's a better chance that the world actually will end in 2012 than there is of the Mets playing even .500 baseball this season…much less make the post-season."

Mets players and coaches were disappointed by the announcement.

"Baseball has been very, very good to me, but not this year," Chico Escuela, Mets outfielder, said through an interpreter.

"What can I say? Sadly, eternal optimism doesn't live in Queens anymore," said Terry Collins, current manager of the Mets. "All we can ask is that our fans wait 'til next year…again."

18 March 2011

Eyes: Young and Blue

Not a fan of my blue eyes. I adore brown. Who wants to swap?
- Lara Schutz, 22 February 2011

Photograph by Lara Schutz - copyright 2008

Eyes: young and blue. One matched pair, slightly used;
Called striking, on occasion. Asking trade.
No known impairments, still sparkle like new.
Seeking an extra-genetic upgrade;
Recessive genes – too slow in receding –
Have denied me the brown shade I adore.
Thus, I beg an exchange satisfying
Purely aesthetic desire, nothing more;
My mind will retain the burdens perceived
Within a scant two dozen years of sight;
Memories – good and bad only conceived –
Remain, to fade slowly in life’s twilight.
Alas, I know this yearning is but vain
Hope, tinged with an envy I can't constrain.

17 March 2011

Once Upon a Time...

For "Her."

Let’s sit and write a sonnet together,
Just you and I. I’ll pour some drinks and play
Songs that still remind me, while you whisper
Words which linger in my ears. I’ll obey
Your charge wistfully, quickening the quill
To flagellate my soul in equal parts
Healing and torture, as grief beyond will
Suffocates the love that once filled my heart;
Anon we’ll return to the past; a time
I knew, even then, was but a broken
Fairy tale, and at the bell’s midnight chime
I am left a knight without his maiden.
I'll fill this page with things I long to say,
For your magic oft’ fades ere light of day.

07 March 2011

"Fat Tuesday" is Insulting to Obese Americans

Just a little satire for Mardi Gras.

My friends, I am fed up with the city of New Orleans. I said, brothers and sisters, I am fed up with the city of New Orleans. I am as mad as Hell, and I tell you I will take it no more! I am sick and tired of being annually insulted, degraded, jeered, mocked, and slurred.

The city and citizens of New Orleans ask for our help in rebuilding, yet they continue to use their paganistic Mardi Gras celebration as an excuse to taunt millions of overweight Americans with their observance of "Fat Tuesday." Fat Tuesday? What, I ask you, is there to celebrate about being Fat? Are these heathens and the tourists they attract celebrating the increase in heart disease and diabetes brought about by being overweight?

Do they celebrate the fact that many overweight Americans are heading for an early grave? Do they not care how hurtful the word "Fat" can be? What will they celebrate next, Wide-ass Wednesday? Fried Foods Friday? Accept this outrage no longer, friends!

As one of the growing masses (in numbers and in girth) of overweight Americans, I call on you to join my new group: the Organization to Reduce Excessively Offensive Slogans (O.R.E.O.S.). We demand that "Fat Tuesday" be immediately renamed a more politically correct "Obese Tuesday." We will no longer sit idly by -- eating our Twinkies and Ring-Dings -- while unthinking and unfeeling people continue to use a term as offensive as "Fat."

Say it loud and say it proud my friends; "No Justice, No Peas…or Carrots, Celery, and Corn!"

In addition, we will soon be filing a lawsuit against New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin for fraudulently claiming that New Orleans will be a "Chocolate City." This blatant attempt to lure obese people to New Orleans with the false promise of nearly unlimited sweets will not be allowed to continue.

Thank you America!

Bud Koenemund
Grand High Exalted Poobah of O.R.E.O.S.

09 February 2011

I Fear Sleep for the Dreams That Often Come

A villanelle for Arthur H. Monigold.

I fear sleep for the dreams that often come
In the darkest hours after midnight,
When my mind is defenseless, my heart numb.

Engulfed in blackness, I sense the phantom
Approach, but I cannot flee, cannot fight;
I fear sleep for the dreams that often come.

Powerless, I am once more his victim.
Past trespass will allow no rest tonight,
When my mind is defenseless, my heart numb.

My innocence again becomes flotsam,
Broken by incestuous appetite;
I fear sleep for the dreams that often come.

The shame of my own guilt becomes tiresome
To bear, though memory will still indict
When my mind is defenseless, my heart numb.

To unrestrained emotions I succumb,
While praying these nightmares fade in day's light.
I fear sleep for the dreams that often come
When my mind is defenseless, my heart numb.