Don Fried — Playwright & Author

Archive for the ‘My soft spot’ Category

I’m forwarding this to you because I know you will be moved by it and want to help out this poor man and his family.

Dear Mr. Fried,

Good day from Mr. Fahad Maniqua.  I am writing to you from an office in nigerian-scam-centralLagos, Nigeria.  Unless you’ve been living in an isolation chamber for the past 10 years, you’ve certainly gotten dozens of emails like this one. But this one is different, because it is 100% true.

My father was the Chairman of the Royal Bank of Sulabasi for many years.  He amassed a huge, illegal fortune which he had deposited in a completely secure, honest bank in Nigeria.  Then a few months ago there was was a coup in Sulabasi and all of my father’s corrupt political cronies were deposed and our family was expelled from the country with only the clothes on our backs and one-way tickets to Nigeria.

When we arrived in Lagos, we were informed that the only way we could withdraw the money from our account was if we could get rich Americans to send us their bank account details and passwords and deposit $10,000 for “expenses” into a numbered account in the Cayman Islands.

Would you do this for us, please?  In exchange, we will give you 10% of the $20 million in our account.

In addition to this being a hugely profitable opportunity for you, you can feel good that you are rescuing me and my 4 brothers and 3 sisters from having to sit in this office day after day typing phishing emails.  It breaks our hearts to have to participate in a dishonest venture like that.   But as I said before, this email is not like those ones.  This one is completely true.

Please reply as soon as possible, and I will give you instructions on how to forward your bank account information and where to deposit the $10,000.

Thank you,

Mr. Fahad Maniqua

In order to help out Mr. Maniqua, it would be best if I acted as the facilitator.  So once you have stopped sobbing over this story, send your account information and expense money to me, and I will forward them on.

north-table-mountain-2I’m back from my hike on North Table Mountain with 4 friends from the Boulder Outdoor Group.  As the mountain’s name would suggest, once we climbed the 400 or so vertical feet from the trail head, the top was more or less a mesa, about 8 square miles of gently rolling terrain, broken by some impressive rock formations. By 10 am, the wind blew off the morning haze, and the views over the city of Golden on the one side, and Denver and the plains on the other were spectacular.

That wind down in the valleys often amounted to a gale at the top of the mountain, which threatened to blow us off the trails as we hiked the circumference of the summit. On the other hand, the sun shone strongly most of the day, and when we were away from the edge of the mountain, it was practically toasty.

There were a couple of inches of snow covering much of the top, and my trekking poles came in handy to prevent me from sliding down the steeper sections of the trail. It’s funny how quickly I come to rely on them again and transition from being a two-footed animal to a four-footed one.

The layer of snow and the frosty temperature in the morning had discouraged walkers, and although the trailheads surrounding North Table Mountain are less than a half-hour drive from one of the largest population centers in the country, we encountered only three other hikers in the 4 hours we walked. The lack of people encouraged the wildlife, and we saw a coyote and a herd of about 60 deer which spend the winter sheltering beneath the cliffs on the edges of the mountain.

Having the opportunity for days like yesterday is one of the reasons that Rhonda and I selected Boulder to move to when we left Europe.  Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Last night, in spite of my well documented antipathy for all things Christmas, I went with some of my fellow-singers from the Rocky Mountain Chorale to a recital by the phenomenal choral group Kantorei in Denver.  The show was in St. John’s Cathedral, which is absolutely gorgeous and has amazing acoustics.

It was exclusively Christmas music (you have to understand, waxing lyrical about Jesus was never particularly big on my side of the synagogue), but once I got over that, I was mesmerized.

Then, when we were leaving, I commented to my friends that I always find vacating the venue after one of those performances DISCONCERTING.

Yes, they groaned too.

I’m off for a hike to North Table Mountain today with the Boulder Outdoor Group.  If I don’t post again tomorrow, you’ll know that my backside is frozen to a rock somewhere up there.  Don’t bother sending help.  It will probably be too late.

“Wanted: actor to play homeless man for 2 hours Saturday morning. No pay, but you can eat lunch with us afterward.”  That’s what the email read. It was sent to everybody on the mailing list for the University of Colorado’s Department of Theatre & Dance.

With the beard that I’m growing for my upcoming role as Darwin, I realized that I certainly looked the part. As a sometime actor, being convincing as a homeless person sounded like an interesting challenge.  And as a playwright and author, I find it useful to experience as many different situations as possible. So I emailed back. “I’m a 57 year old actor, with grey hair and a scraggly grey beard. Attached is a JPEG. Let me know if you want me.”

A few hours later, back came a response. “We’re a Christian student group on campus and we’re doing a series of exercises that we’re hoping will help our students get a better understanding of what it means to be a man.  (Not that any of us organizing the event have it all figured out, but hey you have to start somewhere, right?)  The exercise I want your help with is about ‘accepting responsibility.’  Normally this means accepting responsibility for living a “moral” life and looking out for your friends, and that’s good, but I want to expand that idea.  The participants are going to have a short time to get from on place to another.  I’ll also give them a “hindrance,” like tying two guys’ ankles together.  I’d like you to dress as a homeless person and position yourself somewhere on their route. Make up a compelling story, and when they come by, ask for their help in taking you somewhere out of their way.”

At 10:30 the next morning I was sitting on a low concrete wall on the appointed route. I was dressed in some ratty old clothes that I normally use for painting around the house, and had my cover story devised and rehearsed. Along came four students, two of them with their ankles tied together. I kept my eyes down until they were opposite me.

“Hey, could you guys help me for a second?” I asked, half looking up. With barely a glance, they walked past. Strike one, but I figured they deserved a second chance. “I could really use some help,” I pleaded after them, my voice cracking. One of them stopped and looked back. The others stopped a few steps further on. “You go on. We’ll catch up” the one who had stopped said to the two tied together.   They hurried on, and he and the fourth student came back to me.

“I’ve been staying at the Homeless Shelter on North Broadway, and I was supposed to meet somebody at a place called Half-Fast Subs to talk about a job painting houses. I walked five miles down here, but someone told me that I’d gone a block too far. Now I’m feeling really bad and I’m afraid I’m going to pass out if try to make it back on my own.

“Do you want us to walk you over there?” asked my benefactor? Bingo! “That would be great,” I responded. “I don’t want to fall and crack my head open.” I put an arm around each of their shoulders, and we set off, followed by the stares of dozens of curious passersby.

They walked me to my destination, about a block and a half away, while I told them the sad story of my life. I used to own a painting contracting business, but I’d had some bad luck and …” We reached Half Fast, where they dropped me off, and they ran off to catch up with their colleagues.

“God bless you,” I called after them.

An hour later, changed into regular clothes, I walked up to the picnic table in a nearby park where the four students and their mentors they were having lunch. They smiled at me without recognition, and then four jaws dropped in unison. I introduced myself, and the event organizer explained what had gone on.   Then we discussed the exercise and all agreed that both missions had been accomplished – theirs and mine.