Friday, February 14, 2020

Guatemala's ruins provide fascinating look at long ago Mayan life

Exploring the ruins of Iximche, Guatemala, provides a fascinating look into the ancient Mayan culture.
Volcan de Fuego steams, smokes and hisses as the tourist drives by. 



THE MAYAN people were expert architects, scientists, artists and farmers who developed a sophisticated culture.
Guatemala offers access to the culture's spectacular archeological sites, where one can actually walk through (and surprisingly "on") some beautiful monuments and ruins.
Volcan de Fuego forms a background as farmers and
workers tend their crops and ship their wares.
We were astonished to be able to climb an ancient stairway to an altar on a recent trip to Iximche, due north of Puerto Quetzal on the Pacific Ocean.
Surrounded by Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, Guatemala is larger than its Central American neighbors, and touches both the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea.
BESIDES extraordinary ruins, the country of 16 million people is home to 33 volcanoes and more than 300 protected areas with stunning diversity including 300 micro-climates. Mountain biking, climbing and even  rafting are among celebrated diversions and the diversity of flora and fauna attracts nature lovers from all over the world.
The volcanoes were active the day we drove from Puerto Quetzal -- named after the country's showy national bird.  We saw two smoking, including Volcan de Fuego, which did serious damage in 2018.
Teenagers await a school bus, with some going to work.

Our cordial driver told us he'd advised the volcanoes not to blow that day.  His admonition was heeded by the volcano, which smoked and rumbled but didn't blow, as our mini-van cautiously passed by. A catastrophic eruption of de Fuego on June 3, 2018, took lives and we saw rubble still these months later. The death toll stood at 165 people, with 260  missing in Guatemala's most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years.
Colonial architecture abounds even
in Guatemala's villages where much
repair is occuring, here 15 kilometers
from Antigua (the city in Guatemala.)
WE WERE thankful to be spared, as only days before the volcanic island Whakaari on New Zealand's White Island's northeastern Bay of Plenty blew, killing tourists who, like us, were on a day tour.
Putting that out of our mind, we were off to soak up the colorful culture that is Guatemala: 23 ethnic groups, all with rituals and folk festivals.  Each of the country's 23 ethnic groups has its own language and the country's colonial past is evident in the architecture of the villages and the beautiful city of Antigua.
Antigua is a highlight for a visit to Guatemala, a
well preserved Colonial masterpiece.
We captured a close-up of this quetzal.
We found the people friendly and welcoming on this, our third visit. Antigua is a highlight for most travelers to Guatemala. The town has gorgeous streetscapes at every turn, fine restaurants and a lively nightlife. Students come from Europe, Britain and the U.S. to study Spanish and hike the looming volcanoes.
One may climb the ruins of Iximche, a pre-Columbian site.
 Iximcheʼ is a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican archaeological site in the western highlands of Guatemala. Iximche, meaning "the city," was capital of the Kaqchikel Maya kingdom from 1470 until its abandonment in 1524. The site included pyramid-temples, palaces and Mesoamerican ballcourts.
WE LOVED seeing families and generations strolling, admiring the ruins. Few people have cell phones. It's nice to see teen-agers taking time to visit and greet one another. This is a pattern we observe in relatively poor countries, a lesson perhaps.
We saw happy people, in a country struggling with development, trying desperately to improve infant, child and maternal health, malnutrition,
A young, pretty Guatemalan girl
awaits her school bus.
literacy, and contraceptive awareness. Catholicism is the major religion and volunteers are teaching birth control. 
 THE PEOPLE of today mirror their ancestors of long ago in many ways: strong, capable, friendly, smart.  They  cultivate fields and farm in ancient ways, and greet the modern visitor with kindness, sharing their remarkable heritage.

Color, class and character mark Palm Springs, where Hollywood stars flocked
in the day. Now, a diverse group of people live and visit this lovely desert town.
UP NEXT: Tucked neatly beneath the San Bernardino Mountain Range in the beautiful Coachella Valley, Palm Springs, California, offers world class art museums, fabulous entertainment including Oscar's, a lively female impersonator venue, a wide array of fine eateries, casinos, 100-plus golf courses and plenty of indoor and outdoor activity.  A two-part series begins next Friday. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn, live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on art, music, nature, travel, family and more:

Friday, February 7, 2020

A bus turned hotel means vintage fun for two children of the '60s

Bohemian Bus Beautiful represents a delightful retro-inspired alternative to traditional hotels and hostelries.



The grounds reflect More's artistic bent and world travels.
YOU'LL BE happily falling down the Rabbit Hole if you venture into Bohemian Bus Beautiful.
Proprietor and designer Blake More wants you to remember her unique home -- and you will.
The interior of Bohemian Bus Beautiful is welcoming to humans -- and
small-dog friendly.  Here, Nora eyes the camera in the comfy digs.
WORLD TRAVELER, artist, poet, More hadn't planned to stay long in her spread near Point Arena, Calif.  When she moved to Mendocino County 22 years ago, she figured she'd last about three years "before I got the urge to pick up and fling myself elsewhere."
The imaginative bus remodeling project took place between More's yoga teaching, school workshops (she collaborates with musicians to encourage young students' creativity), and her inspired artwork which includes collage, tile work, painting, sculpture, sewing, needle art and floral arranging.
Every corner of the property reflects her artistry -- from the gorgeously appointed Malibu Shower complete with tile, plants and a half-dozen choices of soaps and lotions.
Her nature-inspired off-grid property is a mile-plus inland from the Pacific Ocean on California's famed Highway 1, in the woodlands of beautiful southern Mendocino County,
oet, performer, artist, teacher and yoga practitioner. I love to garden, swim, hike, dance and travel (I
The artist's life of travel and residency in
every continent is reflected in her artwork.
have been on every continent)!
Each inch of the reconfigured school bus-guest house enlightens and enlarges the guest's perspective. Her wall collages, tables, trunks and lamp shades reflect her travels and life in Cuba, Japan, Amsterdam and the Bay Area.
More's immense talent in the visual arts mixes mediums seldom juxtaposed and combined.  She does both those with a unique flair.
Another imaginative enterprise
BOTH OUTSIDE the bus and around the grounds, guests are free to admire and use outdoor bath tubs (his and hers), artful mobiles and lighting, creative furniture, rock art.  Inside, the kitchen counter boasts a spectacular abalone design, mixed beautifully with a smooth finish.  Light-switch plates are collages.  Wood, plastic and metal all mix, merge and complement.
The bathroom offers
creative wall art and
abundant reading choices.
Blake's beautiful abalone
inlay work graces the
bnb's kitchen counter.
The property is secluded and sunny, surrounded by organic gardens and mature trees, native flowers and bushes.  Inside, a small, tidy kitchen has everything one needs to cook a pleasant
meal, with several of the windows screened to accommodate evening breezes. The queen bed is comfortable and pillows abound, for propping up for a late-night read. Cooler nights and crisp mornings are warmed by a cozy wood stove.
 Cookie and Keller relax at Bohemian Bus Beautiful.

Another artist's vision
 WE FOUND ourselves fascinated from the beginning of our three-day stay to the end.  There is such an abundance of creativity, detail and inspiration that one needs to spend at least a couple days to fully appreciate it.
 Even the bathroom, a short stroll from the bus, is inspired. "Comfy, creative, welcoming" describe the spirit of Bohemian Bus Beautiful.
And, important news for us, the bnb is small-dog friendly.  Just let Blake know in the initial negotiations.  Rates are reasonable and longer stays result in a price break.; › bohemian-bus

The architecture of the Mayan classical period is described
by a guide at the historic site of Iximche. 

UP NEXT: Guatemala. Come explore the ruins of the Mayan people in the remote villages of Guatemala. We visit archeological sites including Iximche, for a look at a remarkable historical lrgacy left by indigenous people.
Come with us, remembering to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, the arts, nature, family and more:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Nora's legacy: love, laughter, joie de vivre and lessons to us humans

Cookie cuddles not quite year-old Nick and Nora, after a bath in Davis, California. They were born there, September, 2005 


The Yorkshire terrier's small size belies its personality: energetic, spirited, domineering. Yorkies are affectionate. They love attention, a good choice for one who wants to dote on a dog with tenacious personality. Beneath the glossy coat beats the heart of a feisty terrier.--AKC's "Dog Breeds, What Dog For Me?"

Nora stayed in many hotels in her life, here the Omni
Los Angeles. She and Nick were also frequent fliers.
SINCE NORA left us two days ago, we've been touched by loving emails, phone calls, notes on our door. Anyone who has experienced loss feels our pain. Apparently this sweet pup touched many hearts.
Endearing, adorable Nick and Nora entered my life nearly 15 years ago, three days after my husband Billy died. His last act during hospice in our Arizona home was to cart his IV into our office to print out the profile of Yorkshire terrier, attached to his hand-written note:
"Cookie, this is the dog for you.  Two will fit in a dog carrier. Yorkies are your canine equivalent."  He passed the next morning, Nov. 11, 2005, unaware that six weeks earlier, in Davis, Calif., Yorkies Duchess and Duke became the parents of four pups.
My sister Robbie had spirited me off to her Davis home to await Billy's ashes. The year had not been kind.  Besides the recurrence of Bill's cancer, we lost all four of our elderly dogs and my dad Richard died.
Our great-niece, Peny, was one of many kids
to love Nora; always, she patiently acquiesced.

TO BE DOGLESS for the first time in my life, and to lose both my father and second husband, was a heavy burden.  Wise Billy knew
Lifelong love of dogs
I'd need the comfort of canine companionship.
Cookie, Nick and Nora at Torrey Pines,
a daily ritual after Jazzercise.
That Monday morning, sis and I walked her two labs to a nearby park.  A neighbor was playing fetch with his Yorkie.  I petted Charlie and it buoyed my spirits.  Then sis went off to work where she forwarded an in-house email from a colleague. "Two Yorkshire terrier puppies need adoption."
The rest, as they say, is history.  My sis, niece Amarylla and her fiance Steve along with great-niece Lucy, met the Yorkies that evening. It was a crazy, loving home with accordions in the living room. My niece's musical fiance, Steve, picked one up. I played a piano tune. We admired and held the pups -- tiny, about six inches long, completely black, less than a pound.
Their mother nearly died giving birth and the pups were delivered by Cesarean.   Their lovely colors slowly evolved in their first two years, when I met and fell in love with Bruce William Keller.  His beloved Yorkie, Miss Molly, was his constant companion during his college days at San Diego State Good gig, our dog's life
 William Powell and Myrna
Loy played Nick and Nora
Charles in "The Thin Man,"
inspiring the pups' names. 
University. She was named after the Creedence Clearwater rendition of "Good Golly  Miss Molly" so Keller already loved the breed.  He and the pups quickly bonded and we had many happy times together from Santa Barbara to Boston. Thankful for those memories, I offer Nora's obituary:
NORA CHARLES Jones Meyers crossed the Rainbow Bridge Jan. 29, 2020, after 14-plus years of defying death and enriching lives of her grateful and humbled human companions.  Nora lived large.  Her world was filled with travel, adventure and exotic treats collected by her parents on global travels.
Cookie shares ice cream -- their favorite strawberry.
She and her twin brother, Nick, were named after those flamboyant fictional characters created by Dashiell Hammett in his novel, "The Thin Man" and made famous by Hollywood. The movie personae were dapper, clever characters, favorites of Cookie, who interviewed the Nora actor, fellow Montanan Myrna Loy. Like their eponyms, Yorkies Nick and Nora were a charming, dashing couple.  They downed Greenies and
Yorkie day trippers
Nick and Nora stayed in hundreds
of hotels, here the Ashland Springs
during an annual Shakespeare trek. 

rawhide treats instead of martinis but possessed the same flair and allure of the Hollywood couple.
Nick and Nora are all eyes to the sky in Santa Barbara.
Intrepid and curious explorers, they looked the grim reaper in the eye numerous times, winked at him and sent him packing. Nora lost her spleen in a vicious attack by three off-leash dogs in an Arizona park. She survived a run-in with a wheelchair, and an attack by a ranch dog who mistook her attempts to play as an infringement. The pair bounced back after a fall from a second-story balcony while chasing squirrels. Nora nursed Nick through recovery from a rattlesnake bite that left him nearly blind in his left eye.
Nick and Nora preferred warmer climes but played in Montana's snowstorms.

Cookie Meyers sailing with Nick and Nora on San Diego Bay.

Bruce Keller with Nick and Nora at Oceanside Harbor.
THEY DEVELOPED an abiding love of culture but despite exposure to highbrow activities -- classical music concerts, art museums, Shakespeare festivals, foreign film marathons -- their tastes included Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton and Lyle Lovett.  They wagged their tales to "How Much Is That Doggie In the Window" by Patti Page.  Their "top ten" recordings also included Cat Stevens' "I Love My Dog," and Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?" They insisted Ed Sheeran's song, "Shape of You," was written for his Yorkie, not his girlfriend.
They accompanied their parents to seven Tony Bennett concerts, including two with Lady Gaga. In short, their artistic bent mirrored that of their mum and dad:  eclectic, universal, diversified.
They were also a beloved fixture at plays, writing workshops, yoga class, interviews, shopping treks and Jazzercise. They snoozed patiently on couches or in the Explorer between acts, jaunts and intervals.
Nora was amused but puzzled when people compared her to "Star Trek's" Chewbacca. She tolerated observations that "You two look like a pair of koala bears." ("Humans mean well," she told her bewildered brother, reminding him that the koala is a marsupial not a bear, and that the taste of eucalyptus is over-rated.)
Nora loved a good road trip to visit cousins, aunties, uncles and admirers in Mendocino, Atlanta, San Francisco, Phoenix, New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans.  Her friends included a gifted Israeli painter who captured the pups on canvas, and fellow Yorkie devotees, a delightful English couple who visited them in Montana.
  Nora and Nick logged over 125,000 airline miles and listened to their mother's endless exasperation when the airlines refused to boost her own mileage tally or establish their own account. "Thank you for your humorous letter, but we must deny your request for miles on behalf of Nick and Nora's travel," wrote a customer service agent.

Kindly Joe Rosenberg DVM came to our home
Tuesday, to help Nora cross the Rainbow Bridge
and console her sad parents and brother Nick.
NORA SLOWED down during her last months but still kissed and cuddled. Her parents cut short a trip to be with her on New Years Day when her dog sitter -- worried at her lack of appetite -- took her to her San Diego vet.  A loving neighbor cared for her while we flew home then she spent a week in UC Davis Veterinary Hospital's ICU, enduring tube feedings, IVs and prodding by well meaning personnel who struggled day and night to save her from hopeless kidney failure, They bought us brief, precious time with our cherished friend.
Declining food, including her favorite strawberry ice cream, was the death knell for Nora. She'd early on developed a reputation for robust consumption of appetizers ranging from  turkey droppings and deer scat to carcasses of unidentifiable roadkill. ("I may be dressed for black tie dinner, but I do love to snack," she said.)
When she could no longer walk-- and she loved to hear that word-- we decided to help her.
She passed peacefully with a house call from compassionate vet, Dr. Joe Rosenberg, who consoled Nicky while we wept. We said farewell, not good-bye, whispering, "Ah, dear Nora. You'll always sleep in a special corner of our hearts." Her ashes rest in an urn described thus: "Nora: she lived life to her Yorkie fullest."
 Dr. Joe Rosenberg:

Cookie and Keller brought Nick and Nora to dog-friendly
Bohemian Bus Beautiful recently in Mendocino County.

  It's a bus like no other you've seen, a lodging unlike any you've enjoyed. Bohemian Bus Beautiful in the lovely coastal woods of northern California is a dog-friendly get-away where artist and writer Blake More runs an inspired air bnb. Her fanciful artwork includes collage, sculpture, painting, mosaic, fiber work, a garden with lights and many magical touches. Even the bathroom and outdoor shower are treasure troves of unique artwork accented by nature. Each space has something to admire, ponder and appreciate. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature and the arts:

Friday, January 24, 2020

Brit Speak, America Speak; same language, different meanings....

England-born Sue Speight and American Christene "Cookie" Meyers in York Minster, go back to back in an ancient part of the hallowed cathedral. The two friends have an array of colloquialisms and enjoy one another's language differences. 
Sisters Misha, Cookie and Olivia, with niece Amarylla
are bundled up in "jumpers" and "overcoats" UK style.
In the US, sweaters and jackets.

ASK FOR a burger and fries and you're likely to get a blank look in the United Kingdom.
"You mean chips?" asks the waitress.  "No, I don't want potato chips.....Oh, yes, that's right. Fries are chips here, so yes, please, I'd like chips with my burger."
That was years back, 30 trips ago to England, Scotland and Wales.
I soon learned that there are more than a few fun differences in language and many harmless ways to tease one another. George Bernard Shaw famously said that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.”
On my first adult visit to the Cotswolds with college friends, the hotel clerk asked, "When would you like a knock-up?"
Of course he meant, "When should we call to awaken you?" Naturally, in the U.S. it means with child, as in "she's knocked up."
Chips in America are potato chips.
Chips are french fries in the UK and
if you want our chips, ask for crisps.
WHEN ORDERING FROM a menu or shopping, residents of both countries may climb a learning curve.
In England, our eggplant is aubergine; Zucchini is courgette.  Molasses is treacle. Shrimp are always prawns in the UK.
And if someone offers you a biscuit with afternoon tea, do say yes.  It's a cookie, not that morning pastry we load up with jam.
untri for a foreigner in either country is often confusing.
These are called chips (in the UK) 
and fries (in the states.) 
 "Let" means to rent out in England, to allow in the U.S., "please let me pass."
Flat is an apartment in the UK, off-key or low of pitch in America.

Cookie takes a break at "interval" during a play; in the
UK that's what we in the U.S. call intermission. 
AA is an automobile association in England, Alcoholics Anonymous or American Airlines in the US.
In the UK, a la mode -- fashionable; in the US, with ice cream
Lounge can mean a room of relaxation in the UK; in America, always a bar with alcohol.
banger, in the UK is a sausage, or car on its last legs; in America, it's a gang member, party or song. Bash means "have a go" to a Brit; in America, a fun party.
BOMB IS a particularly fun word to analyze on both sides of the pond.  In the UK, the phrase has long meant a striking success.  That's catching on in the US, but it still means to go south in a hurry as in "opening night completely bombed." It can also mean to imbibe excessively.
In our country, a governor is head of a state; in the UK, he's "boss" of something.
This photo of the Eiffel Tower 
might be called "brilliant"
in the UK, "pretty" in US
A boot in the UK is a car trunk, while in the US it means footwear. A lorey is the UK's version of truck. In the UK, a jumper is not something you use to start a dead car engine. It's a sweater.
BOTTLE CAN mean courage in the UK; in the US it's a container.
Jelly is a dessert in England; in the US, it's fruit spread for toast.
Aside from its better known meaning, a hog in the UK can also be a  yearling sheep; in the US, it's slang for a hot motorcycle.
Brilliant in the UK means tops or very best; in the US, it means bright, smart, pretty.

These Englishmen and women are enjoying a pint at the pup,
where in the U.S., we'd have a drink in the bar.
Pecker means courage "keep your pecker up" in the UK; it's penis in our country and "willie" is a UK penis. (My Irish gran also referred to a man's "John Thomas," --"he should keep it in his pants.")
A geezer in the US means an old fart; in the UK, he's a gangster.
Buffet in England means a snack, usually on a train; in the US it is a sideboard or serve-yourself arrangement, sometimes lavish.
INTERVAL is a theater intermission in the UK; in America, a gap in space or time.
A "jolly" can be a short trip in England (she's off on a jolly) while in America it means jovial.
Our vacation is an Englishman's holiday. Bugger -- don't bother me: "bugger off" in the UK; in America, an endearing term for a child. "What a cute little bugger.".
Carriage in England is usually a railway coach; in America, transportation for a youngster.
This train car might be called a carriage in the UK. 
Mind in the UK means watch. "Mind the step."  "Give way" means watch out or let pass.
Crisp; thin fried pastry, like our chips; in America, an adjective meaning crunchy.
Entree is a starter in the UK, a main course in America.
A UK half is a half-pint, usually beer; in the US it's a measurement. Our bars are their pubs. Pissed means drunk in England, angry in the US, with an "off" added.
A bonnet is a car hood in England; in the US, it's a lady's hat. Our overalls are UK dungarees. Our robes are dressing gowns in the UK, where a vest is a waistcoat. A macintosh is a raincoat in the UK. Sneakers or trainers?  Galoshes or wellies? Depends on which side of the pond you call home.
These kids might be called bairn in Scotland and North England; they could
also be referred to as tykes, tots, nippers, moppets or squirts.  (Our great-
niece and nephew, Penelope Margaret and James Brian Ganner.)

A jock is a Scotsman in the UK, or a private soldier; in the US, an athlete.
We don't use "nick" often but in England, it's a common word for ''steal."  Ditto pinch.
Panda is UK slang for a police car while we think of an adorable endangered animal.
KNICKERS -- women's underwear in England, "don't get your knickers in a tizzy." Seldom used in the US.
Frame in the UK can mean plan or propose something: "let's frame it." In the US it's what goes around a painting or photo or a scheme to misrepresent or set someone up.
A mate is a friend, not a partner or spouse.
A mobile is a cell phone in England while we use the word to mean able to move easily.
A mum is a mother; we think of a flower or a caution for quiet. A nappy is a diaper in England. In the US, a wee snooze.
THE FIRST floor in the UK and Europe is our second floor. Ground level in America is their first floor. And never the twain shall meet.....isn't it fun?

 Keller and Cookie with Nick and Nora on a recent hike in San Diego.

  NEXT UP:   Join us as we bid farewell to a loyal friend and true road warrior, Nora, our beloved Yorkshire terrier. We look back on her lively life, her travels with us and her circle of global friends and admirers.  We explore her musical tastes and recall her fondness for Greenies and strawberry ice cream. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn, love and live and visit us Fridays for a fresh take on travel, the arts, family, pets, nature and more:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Theater's balm, calm, fun helps in best, worst times of our life

During a period of challenge, loss and tragedy,a fine production of "A Chorus Line" at Welk Theatre, buoys the spirits.
This week's column bids farewell to a longtime treader of the boards and theatrical talent while saluting new productions. Our late friend, Karen Jackson, could have played several roles and sung "Tits and Ass" or "What I Did for Love." 
The fine production runs through March 22.  -- photo by Ken Jacques

Although she never smoked and seldom 
drank, Karen Jackson could vamp it up.
Her memorial is in Billings this Saturday. 

and theater marketing departments

Everything was beautiful at the ballet
Graceful men lift lovely girls in white
Yes, everything was beautiful at ballet

Hey! I was happy... at the ballet -- from "A Chorus Line"

Karen Jackson, second from left,
would second the motion that theater
can heal, comfort, elevate, stretch us. 

THIS WEEK's column is part eulogy, part testimonial. It weaves a tribute to my friend, Karen Jackson, with our mutual love of theater and kudos for a quartet of fine productions we've seen this week in San Diego.
Karen Jackson's life will be celebrated in Billings Montana, Saturday.
She died before the holidays after a brief, ferocious battle with cancer. Critical care for my beloved Yorkie, Nora, and my partner Bruce Keller's Scripps post-transplant tests prevent my being in Montana for the tribute, championed by Karen's longtime collaborator Julie Omvig. Another actor-mime friend of theater, Bonnie Banks, will read my piece.
Bruce Keller and Cookie
in Coronado for
"Babette's Feast."
I KNOW Karen would want us to "go on with the show, so celebrating her love of theater, we're seeing seven plays in two weeks here in San Diego.  With each one, I toast Karen's memory and think how much fun we'd have sitting side by side as the house lights dim.
A beautiful, melancholy story of love, loss, longing and life's
paths not taken, "Bloomsday" runs at North Coast Repertory
Theatre through Feb. 2. --photo by Aaron Rumley
The lovely line from "Everything Was Beautiful at the Ballet" epitomizes what theater does for us, for our souls, our peace of mind, our place in the world. Theater transports us, opens larger worlds. Karen did that.
Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado mounted
a lovely production of "Babette's Feast."
The west coast premier runs through Feb. 16. 
When I think of Karen, I laugh.  She was one of the funniest people I worked with. In many musical collaborations, we sometimes shared the ladies' dressing room.  At Gramma’s Drammas in the late 1970s, Karen was brilliant as the formidable Carrie Nation in Barry Manilow’s “The Drunkard.” I was music director. One night, the house manager called "five-minutes" as we crammed Karen into her corset. We giggled as we reached the top snap, about to fasten it when it blew! The girdle whipped off Karen and hit the wall.  We collapsed in laughter. As we wrestled it a second time into submission, I quipped, “Well, I guess that rules out breathing.” Karen deadpanned: “Who’s breathing?”    
Karen Jackson, right, with her longtime collaborator
in dozens of productions, Julie Omvig, who organized
Saturday's 3 p.m. celebration of life for Karen.
Karen cultivated her gift for making us laugh to an art form, at Gramma’s Drammas, Billings Studio Theatre and Calamity Jane’s.  Like many comics, her sense of humor was her salvation.  She suffered sorrow, disappointment, deep personal losses, including a beloved brother and many adored pets. Like all of us in theater, she picked herself up, started over again. The show must go on.  Karen’s caustic look and withering eye masked a heart the size of Texas.  Her humor coped with hurt, buoyed us up, helped us cope.  What a wonderful gift she gave us in making us laugh – at the world, our town, our foibles. 
 "The Humans" at San Diego Repertory Theatre is on stage
through Feb. 2. Funny, troubling, textured, Karen Jackson
would have loved it and probably played the mother. --Photo by Jim Carmody
And that voice. Expressive, perfect timing.  Karen was versatile.  A comedienne extraordinaire, she also melted hearts with her ballads. I loved being in her company off stage, and accompanying her on stage.  We shared a lifelong love of musical theater; she was one of the few people who knew every tune I played from The Great American Songbook.  Our tastes were similarly eclectic: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Jerome Kern, Kander and Ebb, Harold Arlen, the Gershwins, Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim.  When “Company” debuted in the early 1970s, I suggested we sing
Karen Jackson, third from left, was a
gifted clown with a fabulous voice, here
in one of her many Calamity Jane's roles.
"You Could Drive a Person Crazy.” HOW I WISH that had happened.  We did collaborate though, on several Sondheim pieces when Bruce and I,
Todd Yeager and
Karen Jackson, upper left, as Carrie Nation
in Barry Manilow's "The Drunkard" at
Gramma's Drammas in Billings.
Karen and a half-dozen other talents sold out the house in  Skip Lundby’s BST “off-nights.” Karen sang two Sondheim ballads. Todd and I sang “Class,” that irreverent “Chicago” lament.
Besides timing, humor, stage presence, Karen exhibited grace. She usually aced the lead, but one time, not. She auditioned for Sally Bowles in our 1977 BST production of “Cabaret.” As head of the bawdy Kit-Kat Band, I listened to her deliver the title song perfectly. However, the lead went to Kathy McCarty. Karen graciously agreed to play Fraulein Kost, who lives down the hall in the boarding house. It's not a huge role but she stole the show with her haunting “Tomorrow Belongs To Me,” creating a
Karen Jackson, seated with cane and dog, had hundreds of
roles, dozens of faces. A natural clown who could sing! 
memorable cameo. What a pro. Bruce Meyers was a splendid emcee and Todd, her life partner, was Cliff Bradshaw, the writer who travels to Berlin and falls for Sally. The four of us formed a fast bond during that long-ago show.
Karen and I would be orchestra center for "Murder for Two,"
an inventive new musical coming soon to New Village Arts.
It features JD Dumas and Tony Houck. (Karen and I would
audition, too!) -- Photo by Daren Scott 
THEN IN 1979, when Bruce and I saw Len Cariou and Angela Lansbury in Broadway's “Sweeney Todd,” I dreamed of Bruce and Karen collaborating again. Todd would play Judge Turpin. Julie would be Lucy Barker. Vint Lavinder would be Pirelli or the Beadle.  Cameos for all, a huge chorus of friends. I would be music director. Skip Lundby would direct. It would be magnificent.  But that was not to be, so we save it for a heavenly encore.
Everyone on both sides of the footlights loved Karen's humor, grace, compassion, enormous talent, her ability to make us laugh, shed a therapeutic tear.
Heaven sent us a gifted clown and now has called her back. “Isn’t it rich?” Yes, she was.  Rich, rare, one of a kind.  How we miss, cherish and honor her.  
Karen's life will be celebrated Jan. 18 from 3-5 p.m. at the Columbia Club (former Knights of Columbus) 2216 Grand Ave., Billings, Montana)

Sisters Misha Minesinger, Christene "Cookie" Meyers and Olivia Cosgriffe
(in red) and niece Amarylla Ganner, enjoy their "jumpers" or "jackets"
which we Americans refer to as sweaters and coats.
UP NEXT: "Brit Speak, America Speak" could be the title of our next column, a lively essay about the differences in language and word play, with the Atlantic Ocean dividing them. Jumpers are sweaters, nappies are diapers, and a boot might be what we Yanks call the trunk of a car. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at travel, nature, family, love, loss and the arts: