Friday, June 25, 2010


Tomorrow I get my daughter back.  I couldn't be more excited, or more proud.  She has been with our church's high school group on a "mission trip" (inasmuch as Unitarians have anything like a mission) to New Orleans to help rebuild and restore neighborhoods damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.  I could not be more proud of her.  No conversions, no handing out tracts or bibles, just hard work and walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.  I know she has hammered and painted and spent the day sweating and rebuilding a neighborhood garden -- working all the time one-handed because she rescued a little snail and refused to just discard it; she waited until she had a safe place to put it back into the garden.  That's my girl.  Respectful of the tiniest of karmas, her.

I'm especially proud that she decided to brave the weather and the heat knowing full well that her heart condition could be a limiting factor, and she didn't allow it to limit her.  Olivia has something called Long Q-T Interval, a heartbeat irregularity that causes her heart to beat more slowly under stress rather than faster.  Often, the only symptom of Long Q-T is sudden death.  We were lucky in catching it when she was five and she has been under the care of the area's most excellent cardiologist ever since.  He took her out of organized sports (so long, soccer) and put the kibosh on her riding a bicycle through the Navajo reservation a couple of years ago, but her mind was made up about this trip:  she was going to go where help was needed and do some good.

There are times I am just so very pleased to see the young woman she is becoming.  I used to worry so much, because I didn't have her in my life until I was 40; because she is an only child and will have no immediate family when my wife and I are gone.  But the connections she is building just because of the life she is living don't leave much room for worry on my part any more.

Welcome home, sweetheart.  I am so proud of you.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Million Worlds

So the other night I was watching the Tony awards, marveling at some of the performances, particularly those of the guys in "Million Dollar Quartet," the play about the one and only time that Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash got together at Sun Records and made music.  The men who portrayed those musical icons were just amazing.  At one time in my life, I wanted to be on the Broadway stage more than anything else in the world.  I came close; got a couple of wayyyyyyy-off-off-off Broadway gigs, but never quite got the brass ring.  Too tall; not the right chemistry with an actress; I heard just about every reason a director and producer could throw my way.  When I found myself tending bar and waiting tables far more than I was acting, I decided that it was time to change careers.  I ultimately found myself in the best job I ever had in my life, in the rare books and manuscripts department of the library of the University of Virginia.  Alderman Library, where I got to handle letters written by Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe and Henry Adams; to care for first editions by everyone from Machiavelli to Rex Stout; to see original manuscripts by John Steinbeck and William Faulkner.  It was the University's attic, and it housed everything you would expect to find in rare books and manuscripts, plus oddball things like original Disney animation cels, political cartoon collections, and a huge collection of ancient Chinese seals.  I actually got to curate an exhibit of the seals, which was very well-received, and the highlight of my time there.

But every now and then, I sit through something like the Tonys, or a traveling production at the Hershey Theater, and I get positively wistful for the stage.

The great, amazing physicist Michio Kaku, in his book "Parallel Worlds" (I think) talks about the Million Worlds Theory.  It's a theory in physics which posits the idea that every time we make a decision, the timeline splits into two universes, one where we decided things one way and another, separate universe where things were decided the OTHER way.  Over time this has created millions and millions of worlds where everything that could possibly have happened, HAS happened on one or another of the worlds.  It sounds like science fiction, but the idea is actually supported by some pretty sophisticated mathematics.  Certainly, so far it has not been disproven.

So somewhere out there in the multiverse there is a version of me who at least once got good news from one of those directors or producers.  Who did get a chance to be on stage in the big time.  I find this strangely comforting.  I'd like to think I'm somewhere doing a revival of "Of Mice and Men" or playing Little John in a musical version of Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood:  Men In Tights."  Or "Spamalot," please Universe, let me be doing "Spamalot" somewhere!

I hope the other me is knocking their parallel universe socks off.

Saturday, June 12, 2010


In 1999 I wrote a story for my daughter Olivia which I'd like to share with you all.  It was in response to something that was just beginning to gear up -- people buying toys and comics and slabbing them away in sealed plastic boxes AS INVESTMENTS.  They would never be read or played with, just...exhibited.

Unfortunately, this hideous development has caught on and continues to this day.  That comic of Superman's first appearance, "Action #1," which sold for a cool million dollars earlier this year?  Slabbed in a plastic box, where it can never be read or enjoyed by anyone ever again.  I don't give the proverbial rat's behind about preserving this wonderful piece of Americana; it's about as useless as eyeglasses on a statue if it's stuck in a plastic box and locked away in some safe deposit box.  "Grading" and boxing of toys and action figures has been less successful and less common than the same for comics, but it does continue, and I find it appalling.  Just my opinion.

Anyhow, here it is, my proposed script for a picture book (it's only 500 words) written during the height of the Beanie Baby craze -- enjoy!

©1999 by Tom Hayes

Once there was a little gray bean-bag horse named Shadow.  Shadow had everything that a little gray beanbag horse was supposed to want.  He lived in a nice clear plastic box, where he never got dusty.  His box was up on a high shelf, where he never got too much sunlight, so his beautiful coat didn’t fade.  And even his tag couldn’t get lost, or bent, or broken off, because it had a little plastic box all its own.  Yes, Shadow had just about everything that a little bean-bag horse could ever want.  He should have been very,  very happy.

Only he wasn’t.

In fact, what Shadow was . . . was lonely.  Very, very lonely.

He spent each day in his box on his shelf.  He could look out and see the other bean-bags in their  plastic boxes -- the kitten, the duck, the puppy, the pelican, the cow and even the iguana.  They sat on the shelf in their boxes, day in and day out, just like Shadow.  But he couldn’t ever play  with them.  Once in a while, The Owner would come into the room, and look at all the boxes.  The Owner might smile, or sigh, and maybe she’d dust a box or two, but she never talked to Shadow or the others.  And she certainly never, ever, ever  took Shadow out to play.

And then one day Shadow heard voices.  Shouting.  And before he even knew what was going on, The Owner came into the room and whisked Shadow and the others outside, to something called “a table” which was in something called “a driveway.”

Before long, a Lady came along and talked with The Owner.  She gave The Owner some papers, and The Owner put Shadow into a bag, where it was very, very dark.   Shadow was starting to get  a little scared when -- the light came back!  The Lady from the driveway took Shadow out of the bag.  She handed Shadow to a beautiful little girl.  Both The Lady and The Little Girl were smiling.

The Little Girl opened up the box, and took Shadow out!   She played with Shadow for a really long time.  They played Races, and Pretend, and Farm, and even Cowgirl.  And then it was time for bed.  The Little Girl hugged Shadow under the covers.  “Ow!” she said.  “What’s that jabby thing on you, Shadow?” she asked.  “Oh,” she said, after looking Shadow over, “It’s your tag.”

The Little Girl called for her Mom, and The Lady came in.  She took off the tag so that Shadow could be hugged.  And was he ever  hugged!  He was just about as hugged as hugged can be.  It made Shadow happy in a way he had never been happy before.

From that day on, Shadow played with The Little Girl every day.  He got dirty after a while,  but The Lady gave him a bath and he got clean again.  He never missed his tag.  He never missed his box.  And he never, ever, ever  missed being up on his shelf, because he had Love instead.  

Shadow had everything that a little gray beanbag horse could  want.  And he couldn’t have been happier!

The End

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More Recipe Fun!!

It's been a quiet week in Lake Woebegone -- nothing doing at church or home or school.  When things are this dead, I like to cook.  This will knock your socks off -- Bistecca al Funghi:

4 tenderloin steaks - room temp
1 small onion - minced
1/2 stick unsalted butter
10 oz fresh mushrooms - sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
Flat Leaf Italian Parsley - roughly chopped to garnish
4 thick slices of Italian Bread
2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt to taste
What to do:
Melt 2 tbsp of butter into a large saute pan over low heat. When melted add your onion; cook for approx 5 mins. Stirring frequently. Add your sliced mushrooms, mix together; pour wine on top; cook until wine has evaporated. WHILE wine is evaporating, mix your tomato paste with 6 tbsp warm water, whisk until combined. Pour mixture over mushrooms, season with salt; continue cooking over low heat, stirring often. WHILE the mushrooms are cooking, put the olive oil into a medium saute pan over medium heat. When hot add the bread and cook until golden. Turn the bread and cook the other side. Remove bread, place it onto paper towels to absorb extra oil; set aside. Wipe the bread pan clean with a paper towel. Melt the remaining 2 tbsp of butter into the pan over low heat. Add your steaks, season them with salt; cook approx 3-4 mins on each side until done (this will depend on the thickness of your steaks as well as how done you prefer your steaks). When steaks are cooked, remove them from the pan; allow them to rest for at least 5 mins.
To assemble: Place the toast onto your serving plate, Add the steak and top with the mushroom sauce and garnish with a bit of parsley!