Thanks for your class, Mr. Owens

It was the name of the course that got my attention: “Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth.”

So, about four years ago, I signed up for a winter course at the Adult School of Montclair on Shakespeare’s King Lear.  The class, which met once a week in that funny turret room at the Montclair Public Library, consisted of reading the play aloud, with people taking turns.  

The class was led by a local actor I’d never heard of.  He was superb — providing historical context and fascinating asides; talking about all the Lear productions he’d seen and been part of; and giving striking line readings of his own.  His name was Geoffrey Owens.

Over the course of about eight weeks, the diverse people in that turret room, sitting in a cozy circle, grew closer—delving into the madness of Lear, as the weather outside turned icy.  It was wonderful, and a little bit weird — you felt like were halfway between being a member of the audience and an actor on stage. It was an experience not to be repeated. Mr. Owens guided us to a deeper understanding of one of the great works of our shared cultural history.

The next time I heard anything about Geoffrey Owens, it was on the CBS Evening News two days ago.  Someone found him working as a checkout person at the Trader Joe’s on Route 3 — and recognized him from his long-ago days on The Cosby Show.  Oh, the shock! The scandal!

But, as his story went viral, Mr. Owens may have the last laugh: at press time, he was publicly offered a TV acting job by Tyler Perry.  And that would be an ending the Bard himself would approve of.

As usual, Shakespeare put it best, discussing the value of honest work: “The labor we delight in physics pain.”

Mr. Owens, thanks for that class.  And if you ever teach another one, sign me up.



In support of Mikie Sherrill

We have Congressional elections coming up on Tuesday, Nov. 6; the deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 16.  This is a huge opportunity to undo some of the damage that the president and his Republican enablers have done to this country. In the 11th Congressional District (in Montclair, almost everyone above Watchung Avenue is in the 11th), we can replace the retiring Republican representative who voted to repeal healthcare.

The Democratic candidate Mikie Sherrill is committed to defending and expanding health care for all. Her Republican opponent Jay Webber is endorsed by the Tea Party Patriots Citizen Fund and supports repeal of the ACA.  We can assume that Mr. Webber would vote in lockstep with his party to repeal the ACA if given the opportunity. A lot of people in this town appreciate having access to more affordable health care. Mr. Webber should explain how we would benefit from repeal.

Mikie Sherrill believes in a woman’s right to choose and supports funding for Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood performs cancer screenings, testing and treatment for STDs, sex ed, pregnancy testing and provides access to birth control. Mr. Webber would defund Planned Parenthood, offering instead the system of Medicare and Medicaid clinics run by the government. These clinics as currently funded do not have the facilities or staff to handle all the women who would need services should the Republicans ever succeed in shutting down Planned Parenthood.

Mikie also supports common sense gun controls: a universal criminal background check on all gun purchases and a federal ban on assault weapons.  We don’t know what Mr. Webber thinks about gun control because he says nothing about it on his website but he does have a 93 percent approval rating from the NRA. He earned this rating by voting consistently in the New Jersey Assembly against any restrictions on gun ownership.  This is an important issue that many people care deeply about. Why isn’t he talking about this?




Let’s vote; don’t get distracted

It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged by the daily drama of tweets, insults, outrages, scandals, indictments and convictions emerging from the White House. Heart breaking failure to provide relief to Puerto Rico, separation of children from their parents at the border, all enabled by a servile Republican Congressional majority. But we need to stay alert  to what is being done in the departments behind the scenes, that will have an impact on the lives of our children and grandchildren for decades to come.

Let’s focus here on some rather urgent domestic issues—dangerous and tragic international problems are for another letter or another letter writer. First, it is obvious that the Affordable Care Act is being stripped of much of its foundation, even though  its repeal could not pass Congress. Therefore, fewer people will get coverage, premiums may rise, and protection for those with pre-existing conditions (nearly everyone by the age of 50) is being threatened.

Regulations to curb tailpipe emissions, coal-fired power plant emissions, and methane emissions from oil and gas wells are being stripped away. The very air our children breathe, now and in the future, is being endangered systematically, so that fossil fuel producers can receive literally billions more in profits. Not to mention the effects on our rapidly changing climate.

Consumer Financial Protections are being weakened, rules are not enforced— so that widespread fraud in student loans, payday lenders, etc, will once again be rampant. Relief from repayment of fraudulent student loans is being stripped.

NJ 11th for Change, of which I am a member has been working on getting out the vote, making sure all are registered, providing Vote By Mail applications and voter information. We have a chance for a historic change in the 11th District, and call for accountability from all candidates and elected officials. I am supporting Mikie Sherrill as a candidate who pledges to fight for the people of our district. Let’s vote.