Showing Mom Around

Sorry I haven’t been blogging lately.  Or you may be quite relieved!

My mother (nearly 80 now) just visited my home in New York and boy did we have a great time.  She stops by every year or so and has no interest in tourist sites or even our roster of great restaurants.  She wants food shopping.  We hit all the great spots and she takes home lots of goodies back in Florida where she has three freezers.  She cooks a lot (must be where I got it from) and loves to put things up for later and for neighbors.

So we went to Arthur Avenue in the Bronx (the real live Little Italy in New York) where she stocked up on great stuff, Murrays Cheese Shop and Chelsea Market (one of her favorite spots), Union Square Green Market, and Sables for fresh whitefish salad, bialys and other good stuff.

Finally I took her to a lovely gourmet store called Agata and Valentina.  She has specified that it will be the first stop on her next trip (to pick up fresh products for me to cook up for her visit) and her last stop (for her to stock up on things for her to bring home).  Yep, a good trip.

Always exhausting looking after her and always exhilarating watching her love the food discoveries.  I’m a pretty lucky son.


As always you can find more at and on Twitter @walterthinnes

MEETING WITHOUT END gets a spin at Mary Baldwin University

This weekend I visited Mary Baldwin University in Staunton, VA.  There I had the chance to see a performance of the theater department’s spring plays titled “The Play’s the Thing.”  They presented a number of short works directed, performed and generally written by students.  My niece Julianna (Toni) Thinnes chose one of my short plays MEETING WITHOUT END as her directing class project.  I’ve seen a number of different productions of this work and Julianna’s version differed significantly from previous versions.

That is one reason I enjoy seeing my scripts performed and why I give directors wide latitude in how they choose to shape them.  As far as I am concerned there is no “right way” to stage one of my works.  Sometimes I learn something unexpected along the way.  This particular script is a rendering of a corporate meeting full of trite phrases and business catch words that get progressively mangled along the way.  Most directors have played it straight but Julianna turned it into the circus underlying the concept.  Interesting.

Staunton itself is a lovely little town but I must admit that it was hard to find a place for a drink when we wanted it and crossing the GW Bridge back home was a nice relief.  Glad to visit, happy to live in Manhattan!

Walter and Julianna

As always you can find more at and on Twitter @walterthinnes

WBAB Cold Finger Run

Again this year I joined in on the WBAB Cold Finger Run on Long Island.  Hundreds of motorcycles participate in a police escorted ride from the Cradle of Aviation Museum Center (Charles Lindbergh took off from the field on his historic flight across the Atlantic before being elected a Nazi friendly President in an alternative history novel by Phillip Roth which has disturbing echoes for today, but I get ahead of myself) to Patchogue (where Hitler’s real nephew lived after the war – OK, I’m milking this for all I can!).

The weather wasn’t that bad, 40 degrees with sun and some wind.  The money raised on the ride goes to charity and it is very noisy with many bikes with very loud pipes.  I seldom choose escorted rides but this has become a bit of a tradition for me.  Being on New Year’s Day I am usually free and it is sometimes fun to disrupt the drivers on Long Island roads with police escorts waving us through red light intersections and past stopped cars.

The last couple of years Pamela and I have skipped the after-party to stop by a lovely restaurant nearby called “Bobbique.”  More on a coming review. Meanwhile you can actually pick us out on the big group picture below. Way back on the right on the row closest to the photographer my orange (official paint color is “cognac”) Can-Am Spyder RT-S is in the sea of black leather bikers.  Join us next year!


As always you can find more at my website and on Twitter @walterthinnes

New Bedford, MA (+the future of Freedom Training)

As previously noted my ten minute play “Freedom Training” was included in the 14th Annual Short Play Marathon for November 12 in New Bedford, Massachusetts.  As I planned to attend I wanted to stay overnight because the event did not finish until 10:30 in the evening and it is a long drive back to NYC.  I asked the sponsors of the event for a recommendation and they told me of a Bed and Breakfast run by one of the actors in their production and I booked a room.

Captain Haskell’s Octagon House dated from the early 1800’s and has been lovingly restored.  It is a charming place that I thought would be suitable for an overnight stay before returning to the city.  Our host, Chuck Smiler was very gracious and was performing in a couple of other works for the marathon, but not my script.  We checked in between sessions and proceeded to the theater.

The reading went well and at the end of the evening Chuck approached Pamela and I saying ” You didn’t tell me that your play was about Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964.”

I wrote the script a couple of years ago linking the 50th anniversary of that summer with a couple of other influences that focused on the classrooms in Ohio as they prepared for that adventure in Mississippi.  After initial workshops and readings many people had commented that it seems to be the first scene of a longer work instead of just a ten minute play.  While I like to inhabit my plays with vivid characters with a full backstory and a true moment in time hoping to avoid the sketch that is so easy to fall back on while writing short works, I didn’t see “Freedom Training” as a longer work, just the ten minute play I wrote.  And that was that.

Chuck continued, “I know someone who was there for Freedom Summer and has continued her work since then.  Would you like to meet her?”  Wow, fantastic, and Gloria Xifaras Clark joined us for breakfast the next morning.  She not only was a part of Freedom Summer but returned in the years since, cultivated friendships that have lasted fifty years and even donated her records of the event to University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Wow.  As she spoke about her experiences my brain started popping with what indeed would follow my short play.  Already at the breakfast table I was assembling in my head the outline for a full length work.  I have just started to explore her archives and I have a lot of work to do, but I do indeed want to write a longer version.

Oh, and as for Captain Haskell’s Octagon House Bed and Breakfast?  I highly recommend it to you if you ever visit New Bedford for the lovely atmosphere, the warm welcome from the host, the delicious breakfast and most of all, the potential inspiration you will find there!


*as always you can find more at my website and on Twitter @walterthinnes*

Spring Lake, New Jersey

While attending performances of my play “Your Turn to Watch Dad” by the South Street Players we stayed in the lovely little Jersey Shore town of Spring Lake.  Just one night at the Hewitt Wellington Hotel.  Very nice place on the shores of a nice little lake and just blocks from the beach.  The surrounding town is very well to do and quiet.  Clearly they jealously protect their enclave.

Luckily the restaurant included a superior fancy restaurant perfect for celebrations.  “Whispers” is a fancy schmancy white table cloth BYOB with a terrific menu.  The service was impeccable, attentive yet to intrusive, friendly but not overly familiar.  I enjoyed the Mozzarella Burrata and Grilled Jumbo Shrimp with Fettucini while Pamela had the Lobster Crepe and Sea Bass.  Excellent food.

On the way out in the morning we enjoyed Ray’s Cafe in the small downtown.  The shore is pristine and we watched whales playing and breaching off shore.  I am sure this is a big beach town every summer but I was struck by the lack of public facilities at the beach.  I’m sure this town prefers it that way and are much happier to have the tourists go to neighboring towns where there is more retail and bathrooms.  The fancy homes that line the shore probably like it that way.


*as always you can find more at my website and on Twitter @walterthinnes*