Archive for the ‘Charles M. Howell IV’ Category

Old Photographs and Easter Memories

Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Easter Sunday, April 17, 1938

Easter is the one holiday I can’t get very worked up about.  In my memory it’s a blur of egg hunts and getting dressed up and having a big dinner with the relatives.  And posing for photographs.  Always the obligatory photographs!  I guess, though, if that hadn’t been part of the Easter ritual, I wouldn’t have any memories of Easters past at all.  Certainly, I don’t remember going to Sunday School or church on Easter, although I think sometimes we did.

Easter Sunday, 1940, Portland OR

The first picture I have was taken in 1938.  Eighty years ago tomorrow!  I’m clutching a stuffed bunny and, although the photograph is in black and white, I have the vague sense that my “outfit” (hat and matching coat) was powder blue.  My mom, also in what appears to be a matching hat and coat ensemble, leans slightly to the right, reaching a protective hand toward my shoulder.  We were still living in Boston then and our surroundings are unfamiliar to me – perhaps near my paternal grandparents’ home at 12 Pierpont Road in West Roxbury.

Easter 1943

Two years later we were in Portland and one of the obligatory photographs includes my grandmother – the only photo I’m aware of with the three of us (Mom, Granny and me) together.  I treasure it for that!  Plus, I love my little bonnet and… was I actually wearing gloves?  One of the few times for that particular article of clothing.  For some reason, I dislike gloves and mittens…

                     Uncle Will. Photographer

Then, there’s a whole series of photos taken by my Great Uncle Will.  They were taken in the forties and fifties at every family gathering at his and Aunt Minette’s house in San Francisco.  Uncle Will was my Oysterville grandfather’s next youngest brother.  He was Water Commissioner (I think) in San Francisco and they had a lovely home in St. Francis Woods in San Francisco.  They were the designated Family Patriarch and Matriarch during those decades and relatives in the area gathered at their place on holidays – especially anyone who happened to be at Treasure Island or Alameda Naval Air Station during the war.

‘Quad’ All Dressed Up, Easter 1960



I have one Easter picture from when Charlie was little – taken around 1960, I think.  He’s all dressed up in his first sports coat and tie – visual evidence that we were still giving a sartorial nod to Easter.  And there must have been an egg hunt, too.  Maybe we even went to church… Lacking photographic evidence… it’s hard to say.  Maybe Charlie remembers.

Convergence and Compromise

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Charlie and Marta, Christmas 2016

The ‘kids’ are here!  Let the holiday fun begin!  Never mind that the kids are in their sixties and (ahem) a bit set in their ways.  It’s a little late in the game to expect the house rules to apply automatically when they cross the threshold.  Yet, I’m always a bit unprepared for the difference in our lifestyles – particularly when it comes to sleeping.

The crux of the matter is that Marta and Charlie are night people; Nyel and I are day people.  We are all a bit long-in-the-tooth to be changing.  Take yesterday, for instance.  Marta had flown in to PDX and we fetched her in time for our Friday Night Gathering.  Charlie was ‘expected’ in time for a late supper.  He arrived sometime close to 2:00 a.m.! YIKES! (We ate without him.)

“Tongue in Cheek” – Cover Band, 1980s

Nyel crashed first – about nine.  Me next at tennish.  Marta, who seldom goes to bed before 1:00 waited up, cribbage board and dice for Farkle at the ready.  It’s a ‘family’ tradition for the two of them to play games and ‘catch up’ well into Night One.  I did wake up about midnight-thirty and waited until Charlie rolled in before going back to bed.  The ‘kids’ were still going strong at four and, needless to say, I don’t expect them to surface today until noon.

“How did this disconnect with ‘normal’ sleep patterns occur?” I ask myself each time we converge.  I don’t think Marta became a night owl until she was a young adult.  She had her own band for a number of years (no need to say more, really) and during the lean times supported herself as a waitress and bartender.  In recent years, she’s had daytime jobs, though music is always just under the surface.  I think she manages with less sleep than I find necessary.  Most people do…

Charlie, on the other hand has always been a nighttime kinda guy.  I had THE worst time getting him up in time for school, even when he was in Kindergarten.  Fortunately, his career as a free-lance (mostly) writer allows him to follow an upside-down time schedule.  And, now that he’s acting in live theater… ditto.  His lifestyle and sleep patterns are a good fit — usually.  He and I have talked about our different sleeping styles and circadian rhythms and the whys and wherefores and have never reached any satisfactory conclusion as to what causes us to be so different.  Why am I getting up each day about the time he goes to sleep?

Charlie at Hanna Barbera, 1979

And then… voila!  This morning as I began reading Miss Pym Disposes by Josephine Tey, I found the answer.  Maybe.  Bed was a charming place at any time, but if one was so sleepy that neither riotous bell-ringing nor the wails of a colleague made any impression, then getting up must be torture.  Welsh, too, probably…. Celts hated getting up…

Charlie’s full name is Charles Morgan Howell, IV.  ‘Morgan’ is as Welsh as Welsh can be.  There you have it!  Thanks, Elizabeth MacKintosh (who wrote as Josephine Tey.)  You’ve answered a very basic question.  It’s his father’s fault.

“… Pack up your pack…”

Monday, September 4th, 2017

The Elizabethan Theater, OSF

I don’t know if an earworm slows you down or speeds you up.  I hope it’s the latter because I’ve got one and I’m behind.

We are scurrying to get on the road – off to Ashland for our yearly rendezvous with son Charlie and a short bout of theater glut at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  It’s a halfway meeting place, more-or-less – a bit more from Charlie who is driving from L.A. and a bit less for us.  We have tickets for four plays this year, two of them, unfortunately, in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater.

The weather news is not good.  In fact, it’s dreadful — the very worst!  Yesterday the measurement went from “unhealthy” to “hazardous” on the Air Quality Index, but so far today it’s back to “unhealthy.”  We know that the outdoor performances are happening on a day-to-day (and sometimes hour-to-hour) basis, so as they say:  “You pays your money and you takes your chances.”  Meanwhile, the Chetco Bar Fire near Brookings (which was caused by a lightning strike and was first reported July 12th) is only 10% contained and now covers 142,857 acres.  The smoke is affecting almost all of Oregon.

“The Bricks” at OSF

Tickets to the plays are a traditional Christmas gift from us to ourselves and to Charlie.  We take advantage of our OSF membership and order in early November, not knowing which plays audiences and critics will deem “best.”  It really doesn’t matter.  In the sixty years I’ve been going to Ashland, I’ve only been disappointed once or twice.  And, of course, we never know what Mother Nature might have in store for us when our dates are eight or nine months in the future.

We’ve never experienced being ‘smoked out’ but we have been at the Elizabethan theater in the rain – not so bad as to shut down because of danger to actors in fight scenes etc. (slippery stage) but wet enough that the action took place in street clothes.  As one of the actors later told us, “The costumes are far more costly than an actor’s salary!  They are the first to be saved!”  On those rare, rainy evenings, rainchecks are offered to those who want to leave by the intermission.  We are usually prepared with garbage bags to slip over our heads…  But I don’t think there is an ‘easy fix’ for smoke problems.

Shoalwater Storytellers Poster, 1981

So, here we are, packing the car with high hopes.  Our chicken-sitter is in place.  Our chickens have promised (we think) to be on their best behavior and we are optimistic about Nyel’s health and our car’s battery.  We have arranged to have brunch with Bob Cook, an old friend from the very first configuration of the Shoalwater Storytellers back in 1980.  And, we hope to hook up with Sharon VanHueit who also has relocated from the beach to Ashland.

Plays or no plays, we’ll have a great time.  As my earworm keeps telling me… “We’re on our way, Pack up your pack, And if we stay, We won’t come back.”  I don’t think that last part is true, though…  But you never know.


Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

Charlie’s First Picture

My son, Charles Morgan Howell IV, arrived on May 30, 1956, 7:44 a.m. – special delivery at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, California, Dr. Verne Voakes in attendance.  He weighed eight pounds which was considered ‘whopping’ since I weighed scarcely ten times as much – 90, soaking wet, as I remember.  It was a Wednesday and it was a holiday because, back then, Memorial Day was always celebrated on the 30th.  None of this last-Monday-of-May business.

According to his Baby Book – filled in spasmodically at best – Charlie’s first big trip was on June 24, 1957 “to Oysterville, Wash, for 2 weeks – home of family for 5 generations.”  I remember that we stayed across the street in what would later become known as ‘the little red cottage.’  I think we spent a lot of time in the family house where my Aunt Mona was caring for “Papa,” my 81-year-old grandfather, Harry Espy.  He was suffering from dementia and it was thought that it would cause him less stress if we stayed elsewhere.  (Were we so raucous?  I don’t recall…)

Charlie’s Birth Announcement

I don’t remember much about that visit except that there was no plumbing to speak of at the cottage.  There was a pitcher pump at the kitchen sink – probably the reason we ate most meals with Mona and Papa.  And there was a chemical toilet in the ‘bathroom.’  I have no memory of how I handled the diaper situation except for knowing that it was long before the advent of paper diapers.  It was the days of cloth-and-dump-and-sterilize-and-wash-and-hang-on-the-line-to-dry.

My only other memory of that trip is of Papa’s delight at holding his great-grandson for a photograph.  He actually chuckled as Charlie reached up to tug at his whiskers and I remember thinking what a familiar feeling that must have been to this father of seven, grandfather of eight, and great-grandfather of two.  I wonder what ever happened to that picture.

Charlie’s First Home in Belmont, California

It’s hard to believe that I’m now the age that Papa was then and that Baby Charlie is more than three times the age I was when he was born!  On the other hand, the years have whooshed by, jam-packed with surprises and accomplishments and more laughter than you can shake a stick at (as my folks were fond of saying).  I’ve been the recipient of grander bragging rights than I could ever have imagined when I first looked at that little tow-headed bundle!  Thanks for all of it, Charlie!  And let’s have lots more!

A Tea and Posy Day

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

My Grandmother’s Teapot

It’s not every day that our doorbell rings twice, each time with a lovely surprise.  But yesterday it did!  First came Pat Fagerland and, although she was ‘expected’ and we had planned to have tea, she immediately began pulling surprises out of her commodious bag of tricks.  First came a carton of half and half, next a package of cookies, followed by a tea infuser, a package of Earl Gray tea – everything we needed for a tea party except the hot water and the cups and saucers!  It was like Mary Poppins had come calling!

Willard, Edwin, Dale – 1916

We had a lovely “catch-up” afternoon and even with a bit of ‘family history’ thrown in.  Although I’m sure we had used the little blue teapot before, I hadn’t told Pat its story so yesterday I did.  The teapot was a birthday gift to my grandmother from my mother back in 1917.

Mom was five (and a half!) years old.  She had been saving her money to buy her Mama a present and asked her father’s permission to ride Danny to Trondsen and Petersen’s store in Nahcotta to make a special purchase all on her own.  Family friend Dean Nelson worked there and helped her choose the beautiful little blue teapot.  It cost the full amount she had saved – twenty-five cents!  Dean wrapped it carefully with brown paper and tied it securely around little Date’s waist – (Papa wouldn’t let the children use saddles; “too dangerous” he said) and she trotted home with her precious package.  It’s been in use in this house ever since.

While Pat was here, the doorbell rang once more.  “Flower delivery!  Happy Mother’s Day!”  The florists had outdone themselves once again!  A gorgeous bouquet and never mind that they had forgotten to note who it was from on the card.  I was pretty sure it was Charlie, though I did call to double-check!  So many people do so many nice things for me these days – like bring a tea party in a bag! – that I just had to make certain that those gorgeous posies were from my son!

It was a grand Friday – one full of reminders of the many blessings of friendship and family!  And this morning – a little sunshine to bask in!  It doesn’t get much better.

Six Degrees of Adulation

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche, 2013

My cousin Cheryl wrote yesterday: On the Seattle news this morning they interviewed 2 “Pinky & the Brain” cast members.  The two gentlemen that did voices for “Pinky” and “The Brain” are in Seattle for the Emerald City Comicon Convention.  Pinky & the Brain lives on…

I am so out of the pop culture loop that I didn’t even have an inkling that there was an Emerald City Comicon and this, apparently, is Year 15!  On the other hand, I do know that Rob Paulsen and Maurice ‘Moe’ LaMarche were the voices of Pinky and the Brain.  I have even met them – long ago at a party Charlie gave (in my honor, as I recall.)  It was back in the nineties, probably during the time the television series was running (1995-1998) and gathering Emmy awards right and left.  Charlie was the lead writer on the series and had invited cast members and other friends to a sort of “Come Meet My Mom” party.

Pinky and the Brain at Comicon 2007

And I do know what a Comicon Convention is.  Sort of.  My sketchy knowledge comes from yet another zany television show, “The Big Bang Theory.”  It’s about the only sitcom we watch regularly and the protagonists’ travails in attending the various Comicon Conventions – mostly in Southern California – make up the sum total of my Comicon knowledge.  Still… knowing that Pinky and the Brain are in attendance in Seattle this very weekend makes me feel closer to the entire phenomena.  In fact, I can’t help but wonder if Sheldon, Leonard, Raj, and Howard are in attendance, too.

One of the years that Charlie won an Emmy for his script writing on the show, the awards took place in New York.  Most of the Pinky and the Brain cast were there, also receiving awards, and Charlie’s uncle and aunt, Jim and Joy Howell, hosted a cocktail party for them in their SoHo flat.  Joy told me that she served mostly cheese.  “They’re mice, right?” she laughed.

Too bad Seattle is so far from Oysterville.  Too bad Charlie isn’t at the Emerald City Comicon, too.  We’d host a party for Pinky and the Brain in a New York minute, as they say!  Narf!

To Laugh or To Cry?

Monday, October 31st, 2016
Cousin Eva and Friend

Cousin Eva and Friend

Two disparate bits of information from cyberspace today – a letter from my cousin Eva in Austria saying that she has decided to give up her U.S. citizenship.  And, from my son, a video of the opening credits from “Pinky and the Brain.”  Both are Trump related – one serious and one silly, but each a disturbing commentary on where we are right now as a nation.

Eva has been a late life ‘gift’ to our family.  Until fifteen or so years ago, we didn’t know of her at all.  Her father was a much younger half-brother of my grandmother’s and, shortly after World War II, he had distanced himself from the family for reasons still not understood and, as it turned out, had moved to Austria, married, and raised a family.  Not until after his death did his daughter Eva discover that we, his American family, existed and reached out to us.

We’ve visited back and forth – Eva coming here, we going there and periodic spurts of correspondence by snail mail and cyberspace.  She has been proud of her dual citizenship and, especially around election times, her commentary and questions have been lively.  As with my other European friends, I’ve often thought how much better informed she is than I.

Back in February she wrote…we are so worried!!! Everything has changed in this last year and D.T rump is at the top of the worrylist; the USA are of course very important for us…. the situation in Europe is getting worse and worse…In all of Europe the right sides are gaining popularity And Trump is unbelievable, stunning us time and again. I really don’t understand his attraction. Do people think he will help them? Please tell me which groups want him!  Sanders seems the best candidate, the others are uninteresting. And what do you think about Hilary?

Rob Paulson and Maurice LaMarche

Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche

I was still digesting her latest news – I decided to give up my American citizenship… when I saw Charlie’s Facebook Posting.  He wrote: I’d love to be able to say this election is all just something we wrote, but these guys have gone completely rogue.  He is speaking of Rob Paulsen and Maurice LaMarche – who voiced Pinky and the Brain – and their remarks Saturday at L.A. Comic Con concerning what Trump would say if elected Prez.  (Charlie was Producer and Head Writer for the P&B show during the last two of its three seasons.)  This is what he was talking about:

Maybe it has finally happened… we’ve all lost our grip on reality and the world is morphing into a Saturday morning cartoon.  Scary!

As the parent of a senior citizen…

Monday, August 8th, 2016
"Staycation" - from  a CMH  FB post.

“Staycation” – from a CMH FaceBook post.

It is somewhat amazing to me that my son has not lived under my roof for more than forty years.   Not only that, for most of that time we have lived more than a thousand miles apart.  However, at least we live in the same country and on the same coast.  In that regard I feel lucky.

We see one another several times a year, talk to one another a couple times a month – or more frequently, depending on what’s going on in our lives.  From my perspective, we know and understand one another well.  But it wasn’t until Facebook came along that we could get a sense of those day-to-day concerns and situations that are difficult to convey through long distance communication.

Diversity roundtable discussion at Charlie's - Olivia Christina Delgado Photograph, a CMH FB post

Diversity roundtable discussion at Charlie’s – Olivia Christina Delgado Photograph, a CMH FB post

I know, for instance, that Charlie often has gatherings at his home – has had for years.  There are the periodic meetings of the book club he has belonged to for twenty or so years. In 2008, he hosted weekly spaghetti feeds for Obama workers in his precinct.  Groups of actors and directors meet there now and then to rehearse or explore new plays.  All of which I hear about from Charlie but, until FB, haven’t had any sense of how those gatherings look, who they might involve, what ‘his people’ look like – no real picture in my mind.

Same with his cats.  I’ve seen photographs, of course, and I’ve met them in person.  But what part do they take in Charlie’s daily life?  It’s one of many areas I had never given thought to until Charlie ‘friended’ me for my birthday a few years back and I began to see his FaceBook posts.  The friending was a move made with some reluctance on Charlie’s part.  I’m not sure why but I hope he isn’t sorry.  I certainly am not.

I think I’m pretty typical of mothers everywhere in that my most cherished ‘pictures’ of my senior citizen offspring are of his earliest years.  In my mind he is still that tow-headed imp who never quite marched to anyone else’s drumbeat.  Thank goodness!  And hooray for the glimpses into his current world that tell me, in that respect, he hasn’t changed much at all!

Back Stories from Front and Center

Thursday, July 14th, 2016
Allen Elizabethan Theater, OSF

Allen Elizabethan Theater, OSF

Last night we saw Hamlet.  It was presented at the outdoor theater – Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Allen Elizabethan theatre.  Our seats were perfectly situated in the very center of the first row of the first balcony. The night was balmy; we had no need of the jackets we took ‘just in case.’  And, I felt the extra pleasure of being accompanied by Polonius, himself.

It was just a few months ago that son Charlie played that part at the Archway Theatre in Los Angeles and in one of those weirdly random thoughts I suddenly remembered that Peninsula friend Phil Allen has been in L.A. and had seen him,  Phil Allen.  Allen Elizabethan Theater.  (Oh well.  You had to be there, so to speak.)

Danforth Comins as Hanlet

Danforth Comins as Hanlet

I’ve seen other productions of Hamlet at OSF, but this was the first in the outdoor venue. Somehow, I expected them to make more use of the various levels built into the permanent set.  Except for the single musician (who, unfortunately was also cast as the gravedigger) those upper staging possibilities were reserved primarily for the ghost of Hamlet’s father.  He  could be seen glowing and whooshing from level to level periodically, sometimes seconds after appearing in the audience or on the main stage.  There must have been three or four actors dressed for the part rushing around backstage so that they could be glimpsed simultaneously in those now-you-see-him-now-you-don’t appearances.   And, thinking back on it, it was a perfect bit of stagecraft.

Charlie and Sydney in Ashland

Charlie and Sydney in Ashland

I was interested in Charlie’s take on the production.   In general, he liked it, as we all did.  (‘All’ being the 1200+ audience members who gave a standing ovation at the play’s conclusion.)  Charlie commented on some of the spots where the director Lisa Peterson had trimmed Shakespeare’s original play (which is never run in its four-hour entirety) and said that Derrick Lee Weeden’s Polonius was more avuncular in character than his own.  He thought Claudius (the evil uncle) was well played (I didn’t) and none of us were much enamored of Gertrude (Hamlet’s mother.)  And, he thought Danforth Comins was a dynamic and sympathetic Hamlet.

All of which made me, once again, feel deprived that I couldn’t have seen the production Charlie had been in.  Next best thing, though, was to sit next to him last night under the starry skies of Ashland sharing yet another OSF experience!

Running Lines in Ashland

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016
Elizabethan Theater at OSF

Elizabethan Theater at OSF

Last night we met son Charlie for our annual get-together at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, if you can call two years in a row an “annual.”  Ashland, Oregon is more-or-less halfway between Oysterville and Los Angeles – an eight-hour drive for us; eleven for Charlie.  We foregathered (as my mother would have said) at an Italian restaurant for dinner – Charlie’s treat!

After catching up with one another about all those important items like our chickens and Charlie’s cats, the conversation turned to theater topics.  Although we did speak a bit about the plays we will be seeing here – Yeoman of the Guard, Twelfth Night, Great Expectations and Hamlet – the focus was on a play Charlie will soon be in: Proof.  In fact, the production is in rehearsal now and opens July 23rd.  In deference to Charlie’s absence this week, the director had the cast block his scenes last week and they are working on other scenes as we speak.

Charlie, 2015 (at Bailey's Bakery and Cafe

Charlie, 2015 (at Bailey’s Bakery and Cafe

Charlie brought his ‘sides’ with him – those portions of the script containing his part – and betwixt and between our theater-going, I’ll be running lines with him.  He plays ‘Robert,’ a recently deceased mathematician praised for his groundbreaking work in his youth, but whose later years were plagued by delusional mental illness.  He appears in three major scenes — all in his daughter Catherine’s imagination and in flashbacks.

The play debuted in 2000 in New York and, the following year, won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play.  It is faintly reminiscent of the film, “A Beautiful Mind” about mathematician John Nash — presumably, also based on his life — and was, itself, made into a movie in 2005.  The movie starred Gwyneth Paltrow as Catherine, along with Anthony Hopkins as Robert.  Although the film added minor characters, the play has only four.

We ran lines for his first scene last night.  He’s pretty much letter perfect but says he needs more work on his second and third scenes.  Betwixt and between we’ll continue to run lines today and tomorrow. Seems fitting, somehow, that we’ll be doing so here at OSF.