Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2018

Archive for the category “Theater”

It’s More Than The Weather

THERE MUST BE SOMETHING IN THE AIR. Are the planets out of kilter? Or maybe there is a bad batch of BBQ sauce going around?

This morning when I logged into Facebook to check in with a few folks I was greeted with a barrage of messages – all saying the same thing: “I couldn’t sleep last night.”

We had a nasty weather night here in Terre Haute (That’s French for “Your feet are cold.”) with lots of rain and falling temperatures. I figured that could be the cause, but those complaints came in from all over the country. Go figure.

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Would Somebody Explain That To Me.

OK, I HAVE JOINED THE RANKS OF MILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE. I watched the season ending episode of “Game of Thrones” the other night. Now – will someone, anyone, tell me what in the heck that was all about?

Characters came and went… and came back again. Strange creatures and zombies were getting starring roles. Weddings turned into blood baths. That one I could relate to – you should have been to my Cousin Lulu’s wedding. The bride wore a Carhartt wedding gown.

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That’s My Cue

BE WARNED. I’VE GOT ON MY THINKING CAP.

When that happens the dogs howl, babies cry and milk goes bad on the “Best if used by…” date. And I usually end up with my neck in a wringer.

What triggered my lobes into action was a feeling, a nostalgia, perhaps. I got an email from a local theater group that is holding auditions for their next production. I have no interest in that particular play, but it hit a responsive chord in my heart.

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Fiction Saturday Encore – “When Sylvie Sang” from February 2015

Fiction Saturday Encore – from February 2015

When Sylvie Sang

Microphone LargeThis story was created as a performance piece. I presented it a number of times over the years.

It is longer than my usual posts.  

I hope you enjoy it.

 

WHEN SYLVIE SANG the men at the bar would stop and turn on their stools to listen.  The bartender would dry his hands, move to the end of the bar and light up a cigarette.  The waitresses would huddle by the wall and hug their trays.  And the drunken man who cried softly to himself in the corner by the door would lift his eyes and rub his hands together underneath an invisible spigot.

When Sylvie sang, the room was locked in glass and still – as still as a new widow hearing that first long silence. 

In the spotlight the smoke was frozen.

“When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy.”

When Sylvie sang she never really heard the music or thought about the words.  She was far away in a small town by a riverbank, holding onto someone she loved.  She only heard his voice, felt his heat, and the nightclub disappeared.

When Sylvie sang she wasn’t there and the people she sang for knew that because she took them with her.

“What would they say if we up and ran away from the roaring crowd?”

But the song always has to end and when the music stopped the men at the bar would turn again and start to laugh and talk.  The waitresses would rush to cover their thirsty stations and the drunken man would close his eyes again and descend inside himself.  Sylvie would go out into the alley and smoke until the next set called her back.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015

Throwback Thursday from July 2015

I Can Smell Them

theater in the roundA FEW DAYS AGO I got into a discussion with an acquaintance about what it is like doing a play in “The Round.”

Theater in the Round is where the stage and the actors are completely surrounded by the audience. There is no formal stage separation with the audience sitting “out there” beyond the footlights. Such an arrangement can create problems for both the performers and the audience members.

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May The Farce Be With You

MY WIFE, THE LOVELY AND WONDERFULLY OBSERVANT, DAWN, and I were having a discussion about our favorite movies when the “Star Wars” franchise came up. I remember seeing the first film back in 19…whatever it was. I know we had electricity, so it was sometime after World War One. It’s been a while that I know.

I enjoyed the movie, but despite all of the special effects and nifty costuming, I realized that “Star Wars” was really just a Cowboy Movie. It was a fun and rollicking Cowboy Movie to be sure, but an Oater nonetheless.

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Read Your Rights

TODAY IS FRIDAY, THE GATEWAY TO REAL LIFE. I sat down this morning to write something brilliant, moving, hilarious, and earth shattering. After about 15 minutes of staring at a blank page I downed half of my coffee in one gulp and started looking through the detritus of links I’d saved on my phone. After another couple of minutes I came across a link that made me down the rest of my coffee.

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Throwback Thursday from March 2015

The Five People I Almost Killed

Sedaka

FOLLOWING UP ON PREVIOUS SATURDAYS I have decided to post another piece from my catalog.

This was written as a performance piece to be done in front of a live audience.

                             ***** 

I think it is important to stress that in the title of this piece I say “almost killed,” and not “killed.” To the best of my knowledge I have never actually killed anyone. I just tend to come close. Sometimes very close and I’ve done so five times – so far. The five nearly “dearly departed” have all shared one characteristic: they are, or to a large degree were, famous. Let me explain.

 

Neil Sedaka -A pop singer and songwriter and almost the filling for a chalk outline on the pavement.

 I was driving on California Street in San Francisco up the steep grade to the top of Nob Hill. While motoring legally, staying in my lane, I noticed a fellow in a bright orange track suit jogging down the sidewalk. Under other circumstances, dressed like that, one could easily have mistaken him for a small-time Mob Soldier with poor taste in casual wear. The way things were progressing there should not have been any cause for alarm. Then Mr. Sedaka made his almost fateful move.

Without warning or, I suspect, even a sense of awareness of his heavily urban surroundings, Neil Sedaka, early Rock and Roll icon and current attraction at the Venetian Room in one of the swank hotels on Nob Hill, decided to make a sharp left turn. He veered from the safety of the sidewalk out into the street and directly into the path of my three thousand pound piece of American Steel.

 I slammed onto my brakes and my Ford began to slide on the steel Cable Car tracks. That wasn’t helping the situation. When I at last managed a complete stop and unclenched my teeth I was able to enjoy an extreme close-up of Neil Sedaka, who stood no more than six inches in front of my front bumper. I have to admit that I’ve never seen eyes that wide open on anything this side of seafood. His mouth was drawn into a grimace that was probably halfway through pronouncing something like, “Oh, crap,” or “Please God, not while I’m dressed like this.”

To say we made eye contact would be a severe understatement. I imagine that in his eyes I looked pretty scary too. I do recall that we both made a quick Sign of the Cross and I’d wager that we both pinched a sphincter as well.

 After what seemed to be several hours, but was probably no more than three seconds, Neil Sedaka, the great, and nearly late, singer of 1950s popular tunes, finished crossing the street and headed back to his hotel, no doubt for a stiff drink and a change of clothing. I continued on down California Street. I have no idea where I was headed after that. All I knew was that I came very close to having my name finally appear in the pages of Variety.

 And then there was the time that I almost killed Hollywood legend Henry Fonda.

 I was in New York City for a long weekend. I flew in to catch a few shows and see some old friends. I was not there to end the life and career of one of this nation’s finest actors. I just came close, that’s all.

It was Saturday night and I was attending a performance of “American Buffalo,” starring Robert Duvall. The theater was just down the block from Times Square. My seat was in one of the side boxes up above the sold out orchestra section. It was a good place to scan the audience for celebrities. I spotted both Kevin McCarthy of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” fame and Henry Fonda. Both were resplendent in very handsome tuxedos. I was not. Put me in a tuxedo and I begin to resemble a black-tie bowling ball.

After the final curtain, as the audience was shuffling out, I was directed to join a flow of other folks and exit the theater by a side door. I guess they didn’t want us mixing with the better dressed people who were probably heading off to the Rainbow Room or some other fancy nightspot – not to Howard Johnson’s for fried clams.

When I got through the exit door I found myself on a very crowded sidewalk, filled to overflowing with happy theatergoers. I turned left and quickly headed up the street. I hadn’t gone more than fifteen feet when I collided with another impatient audience member who was hurrying to get into the long black limo parked at the curb. We slammed into each other with enough force to rock us both back on our heels. Instinctively, we both reached out in an attempt to steady ourselves and prevent falling to the ground. I grabbed onto the nearest person, as did he. I grabbed onto Henry Fonda and Henry Fonda grabbed onto me.

When we steadied a bit we both shouted, “Are you alright?” After all, Mr. Fonda was getting up in years, speeding toward his role in “On Golden Pond.” He had his entourage behind him pushing him back to a fully upright and locked position. I had him.

I’m sure the look on my face must have been a mixture of pain, shock, and “Uh-oh, I will be hated by the movie-going public forever if he dies.” The look on his face also reflected pain, shock and, “Uh-oh, this could cost me a bundle if this guy sues.”

For a remarkably skinny older gent he seemed pretty strong. He had ahold of my jacket with both hands and pulled me back up straight.

We stood there just looking at each other for a few seconds until our eyes stopped rattling. We both apologized for the collision and then we shook hands. At that point his “People” hustled him to his limo like they feared I was some sort of clumsy assassin with three names.

Kevin McCarthy was nowhere to be seen. I guess his body had been snatched safely out of my reach.

And then there was the time I almost killed Rock Superstar Graham Nash.

One of the stellar attractions of Washington D.C., aside from the ability to vent one’s frustrations by standing on the Mall and being able to shake your fists in the direction of both Congress and The White house simultaneously, is visiting the Smithsonian Institution. There you can experience both American and World cultural treasures.

A few years ago my wife and I were in D.C. and enjoying strolling through the exhibit halls of the Smithsonian. While there we saw a sign by the top of an escalator announcing an event having to with “The Greats of Rock and Roll.” I think you can see where this is going – up the escalator.

The collision, while not seismic in magnitude, certainly made an impression on both of us – actually on all three of us. This time it was my wonderful wife, Dawn, and I who “met up with” one third of Crosby, Stills and Nash. We had a two-to-one advantage.

My first impression of Graham Nash was, “Who the heck is this clumsy oaf?” My second impression was that the answer to that question was, “Me.” I have to admit that I really wasn’t paying attention to where I was going as we stepped off the escalator. I was busy reading the sign about the “Rock and Roll Greats” who were going to be visiting the Smithsonian and I turned directly into the path of the tall guy in the really nice suit.

As the pattern established in my previous near homicidal experiences, he and I grabbed each other to steady ourselves. Actually, I think we both grabbed out in an effort to steady just me. Graham Nash was much younger than Henry Fonda and I was now considerably older than I was when I rammed into Mr. Fonda.

While Dawn and I were there to just casually roam the halls, it appears that Graham Nash was there to participate in a scholarly seminar on “Woodstock, Flower Power and How David Crosby Has Managed To Still Be Alive,” or something similar.

Once we disentangled ourselves, Graham Nash and we all apologized and asked if any of us were mortally injured. Assured that we would all survive to collide another day, he hurried off to be scholarly-like and Dawn and I gazed after him, wondering out loud, “Who was that guy? He looks familiar.” Dawn commented that he certainly had a nice head of snow-white hair and I said that he was quite tall and had a great tailor. “Nice suit.”

It wasn’t long until our mutual light bulbs flashed on. “That was Graham Nash,” we both said, almost simultaneously. And we were both right. Of course, by then it was too late to prolong my grabbing hold on him and pose for some snapshots. Instead I have to be content with the memory of our brief encounter and to add him to this pantheon of my proximities with other people’s passing.

And then there was the time I almost killed well known actor Danny Glover.

I was minding my own business, not bothering anyone, when all of a sudden I found myself seatbelt deep in another near-manslaughter experience. And this time I had the feeling that at least one of us was truly going to buy the farm – and it was more likely to be me. Size matters.

I was living in San Francisco, in the old Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. It is an area, in a city known for being crowded and not motorist-friendly. The streets are narrow and clogged with cars, buses, trucks, and out of work performance artists steering pedal-cabs through traffic hauling around frozen tourists from Indiana. You can always spot the tourists in San Francisco. They are the blue people. They come to California expecting it to all be sunshine and surfs-up weather. Instead they find polar current powered gale force winds and hordes of eager sweatshirt vendors.

I was in my compact Ford approaching the intersection of Haight St. and Masonic Ave. – one of the busiest intersections in the area. I was planning on going straight up Haight. Unfortunately my plans meant nothing to the guy in the huge woodland green Range Rover coming the other way who decided to make a left turn onto Masonic. I must assume that Range Rovers did not come equipped with turn signals for that model year. Either that or the other driver had never mastered the complicated ritual involved to activate his turn signals. Luckily both vehicles had good brakes. If one of us had not had them we would have ended up sharing a front seat.

The sound of screeching brakes brought all other traffic, automotive and pedestrian, to a halt. It was a shame that I had left my celebrity autograph book at home because, in that moment, I found myself bulging eyeball to bulging eyeball with Danny Glover. I enjoyed him in “The Color Purple.” I enjoyed him in all six hundred of the “Lethal Weapon” films. I did not enjoy him looming over me, with a death grip on the steering wheel of his six thousand pound chunk of British Status Symbol inches away from my car window. Danny Glover has a very large head. Perhaps it just looked that way because he was so close.

That Range Rover is a legendary off-road vehicle and Danny Glover came within inches of taking it off-road and “On-John.” My car would have, maybe, left a smudge on his bumper if we had collided. The Ford and I would have been reduced to a wet spot.

Sitting there in the intersection, Danny Glover, grimacing down at me, I felt, just for a moment mind you, like Oprah felt in the early reels of “The Color Purple.” Danny can be an imposing figure. I feel that I can call him Danny since we were so close.

Finally, other drivers on the street began to honk their horns. No one was dead. There were no flaming infernos blocking the way – just two guys who had come close to crashing. “Nothing to see here – move along, people.”

Slowly, after his blood pressure subsided and his eyeballs receded back into their sockets, Danny Glover finished his ill-advised left turn and exited both the intersection and my life. If Danny and I ever meet again under more sociable circumstances I will remind him of our first meeting and tell him that he holds a special place in my list of the five people I almost killed. And that he owes me for the cost of having my upholstery professionally cleaned.

And then there was the time I almost killed, lead guitarist of The Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia.

“What a long strange trip it has been.”

Why, why, why do these things continue to happen to me?  Is it just a case of being in the wrong place at the right time? Am I meeting these people or are they meeting me? Is it all some sort of a sarcastic, dumb as a box of rocks, Kismet?

I never meant to almost shuffle off Jerry Garcia’s mortal coil. It’s not like I was stalking the man. After all, our coincidental meeting took place in my neighborhood, not his. Actually, it took place at the same intersection where I shared a special moment with Danny Glover.

This time I was the one making a turn. I was in the right-hand lane. My car had turn signals and I knew how to use them. I indicated my intention to go right onto Masonic Avenue and I started my turn. It was at this point that Jerry Garcia almost joined “The Suddenly Dead.”

While Danny Glover was at the wheel of a large off-road vehicle, Jerry Garcia, a Rock and Roll icon, adored by a huge, fanatically loyal following known as “Deadheads,” and incidentally, a very wealthy man, was moving through San Francisco traffic on a bicycle. That is a dangerous thing to do – even if I’m not nearby.

I began my turn onto Masonic, heading downhill at this point, when from behind a vehicle coming uphill, a rather chubby, bearded man on a bicycle pulls out into the downhill lane, pedaling furiously. At this point we were no more than twenty feet apart. While riding a bike in heavy traffic is risky business, doing so into the face of oncoming traffic, with me headed right at you, is just asking for it.

Calling upon my gazelle-like reflexes I hit the brakes and Jerry, with the sudden realization of the situation all over his face, swerved his bike toward the curb. I have to admit that he had a pretty good reaction time for a man his age. He threaded that bike out of traffic, over the curb, narrowly missing a tree and a large bus shelter. He skidded to a stop, across the busy sidewalk, up against the side wall of a local brew-pub. The people seated inside must have been surprised to see a real, luckily alive, rock star outside the window gasping for breath and, undoubtedly, with the pulse rate of a hummingbird.

 If I had hit him with my car, he would not have qualified for my list because of the modifier “almost.” Jerry Garcia would have died several years sooner than he did.

 As an afterthought – I was still living in that neighborhood when Jerry Garcia actually did die, without my involvement. The street was quickly besieged by news crews wanting to photograph Deadheads in Mourning. On the corner of Haight and Ashbury, ground zero for misplaced and discarded youths, CNN and a couple other news contingents were crowded around a young woman who was sitting on the sidewalk tending to several lighted candles. She appeared to be weeping and wailing. Surprisingly, she stopped suddenly, looked up at the cameras and said, “You want more, it’ll be twenty bucks.” The cash quickly appeared from the networks and she resumed her sobbing and keening for the Evening News.

 I can’t help but think that if Jerry had died underneath my Ford, instead of while in a drug treatment center, it would have been more dignified.

 Oh, well.

 Three of these near-misses with death took place while I was living in San Francisco – a quasi-risky place under the best of circumstances. Graham Nash was in Washington D.C., while Henry Fonda and I met in New York City.

As of this writing two of my semi-victims are, quite positively, dead. I had nothing to do with it, I swear. I have alibis, or at least really good plausible deniability.

Happy Birthday, Momo

stevie-wonder-surprisedIT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY FOR THIS EARLY IN THE YEAR. The sun is shining and the temperature is in the low 60s. If I didn’t know better I’d call it a Spring Day. I like it.

The only dark cloud on the horizon seems to be that it is getting to be time to take the Toyota in for its 30K mile checkup and an oil change.

“Open your hood, stick out your air filter and say ‘Ahhh’.”  The mechanic grabs the fan belt and says to hit the turn signals and cough. Rotate those tires.

I don’t expect there to be any major problems. It seems to be running just fine. It goes forward when I step on the gas and it stops when I hit the brakes. Beyond that I don’t ask for much. It’s a car – not a financial advisor or a podiatrist.

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A Quiet Morning – Screaming Comes Later

quiet2ON A QUIET MORNING LIKE THIS ONE WHEN IT’S JUST ME AND MY COFFEE I can feel the tensions of Life sloughing off like frost off the car’s rear window.

It is 16° degrees outside, but I don’t mind it right now because it keeps some people at home and away from me.

These days it seems like most people are screaming – at one another, at the government, at the world, at themselves. When things don’t go the way they like they start to scream thinking that will make things better – “Better” being the way they want things to be. It doesn’t work of course. It never has, it never will.

Self-Delusion is so much neater than Reality.

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I’m A Slow Learner

50183_2061823_5045_nlcvinyl_1_901930424__v13I’VE BEEN WEARING A SWEATSHIRT today that trumpeted my old college alma mater – well, one of them anyway. It took four different schools for me to finally earn my degree. I attribute that high body count to

1) Moving from one state to another.

2) Not going to class, and

3) Finally getting serious about it all.

My sweatshirt is from Baldwin-Wallace University. Never heard of it? It is one of those school that ranks at the top of the list nationwide, but to most people, it might as well be the University of Neptune.

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Throwback Thursday – “Do We Need More Performance Art?”

Throwback Thursday 1

 

 

 From November 2015

 

I HAVE BEEN SURVEYING THE WORLD OF PERFORMANCE Aperformance art2RT.
It’s not hard to do –just look in your local newspaper for listings under “Live Entertainment and whenever you see something that boasts only one person doing the show, you’ve found it. But beware and tread carefully.

Most of the “Performance Art” solo performers that I’ve met over the years have been solo because nobody else in their right mind would get on a stage with them. Would YOU want to share the stage with a guy smearing ice cream all over his body? Not unless you brought the chocolate syrup and a spoon. But that would also call for a very low passable sense of culinary hygiene.

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I Decline To Recline

retired1EVEN THOUGH I’M TECHNICALLY RETIRED I still find my days filled. I’m not “busy,” but “occupied.” And I don’t mind that at all. I think it helps to keep my mind and body just clicking along.

We have all known people who have retired only to take up permanent residence in a recliner in front of the TV. That is what they do – and they are dead within a year. These are also the same people who, if you asked them to tell you about themselves, would start off by talking about what they did for a living. I’ve never understood people like that.

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Throwback Thursday – Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be

Throwback Thursday1

From September 2015

Downwind Of Upstage Is No Place To Be

FB_IMG_1441895951206THERE IS A GOOD REASON my wife, the lovely and unfailingly perceptive, Dawn, calls my trips to St. Arbucks, along with, “The Usual Suspects,” my “Play Group.” I admit that there are some days when the maturity level drops below Pre-School closing in on Pre-Natal.

For several days now the main topic of conversation among the group has centered on the television western series, “Gunsmoke.” This show hasn’t been on the air since 1975. Why this has become important enough to warrant two days of conversation is unknown.

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Throwback Thursday from July 2015

Throwback Thursday 3

I Can Smell Them

theater in the roundA FEW DAYS AGO I got into a discussion with an acquaintance about what it is like doing a play in “The Round.”

Theater in the Round is where the stage and the actors are completely surrounded by the audience. There is no formal stage separation with the audience sitting “out there” beyond the footlights. Such an arrangement can create problems for both the performers and the audience members.

Read more…

Fiction Saturday – The 5 People I Almost Killed – Conclusion

 

AddTextToPhoto(9-9-2015 4-55-5)

And it still is.

For “Fiction Saturday” this is the second and concluding part of this Quasi-fictional account of some strange days.

So…

 

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Fiction Saturday – The 5 People I Almost Killed

AddTextToPhoto(9-9-2015 4-55-5)This “Fiction Saturday” posting differs a bit from the usual format  –  in that it is (How shall I phrase this?) – embellished truth. Just look at it the way you approach things in your local newspaper.

So…

“The 5 People I Almost Killed” – Part One

I think it is important to stress that in the title of this piece I say “almost killed,” and not “killed.” To the best of my knowledge I have never actually killed anyone. I just tend to come close. Sometimes very close and I’ve done so five times – so far. The five nearly “dearly departed” have all shared one characteristic: they are, or to a large degree were, famous. Let me explain.

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All I Need Is Another 105 Years.

1I’VE WRITTEN ALL SORTS OF CRAP. In fact, most of what I have written is crap. And that covers a lot of years.

My earliest recollection of writing anything outside of school assignments was at about the age of nine or ten. Since then I have written a lot of fiction, a ton of nonfiction, a textbook and website training materials, theater performance pieces for myself and other actors, jokes for comedians, and I even wrote business letters for a coffeehouse owner whose command of English was spotty at best. The one thing that keeps me at it is that, over time, I’ve gotten better at it.

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With A Song In My Heart

Singing 7LET ME BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT IT- I’m not the best singer in the world. But I think that I was always passable. I never have been a virtuoso, but today I saw an item on Facebook that put me in the same bracket as some of the Big Names.

Someone, I don’t recall who it was posted a picture of Kelly Clarkson, a singer who is definitely BTSB (Big Time Show Biz). With the picture was a link to a video of her performing somewhere. It carried the caption saying that after listening to her sing I would be crying too.

Well, that’s no big deal.

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There Was An Old Man, Name Of Julius

poem 2THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN MUCH ADO about “The Ides of March.” We can pin that on William Shakespeare and his dramatic version of the offing of Julius Caesar. Also known as “Brutus and The Boys Giving the Shank to the Boss.” There have been plays, movies, books, a ballet and an opera about Julius going for a dirt nap. I’m also aware of a limerick about it all.

“Beware the Ides of March,”

Said the Sage from on top of the Arch.

But Caesar ignored him

And went to the Forum

And got stabbed right in the gazarch.

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