Dan Klein's Personal Crap
Photos of me now on their own page
Photos of birds (taken by me) from the
National Aviary, where I am a docent
(and birds from other locations, too)
Photos of critters (also taken by me)
Photo at right (with Collared Raven) by
Martha Rial / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (6/3/2005)
Music, Voiceover and Acting
I write music and I also sing with
In Acchord and have produced a CD.
If also act in films, so my theatre
resume is here, too.
And I also do voiceover work (sick of me
Writing & Blogs
Most of what is here now is about rites of passage – of
tumultuous or joyous times in my own life. I humbly offer them here in the
hopes that you may find a mirror into which you may gaze at your own soul,
and that they will help you through your own passages. Or, that maybe you
can just enjoy a good read... I also write a blog for
Pittsburgh Opera. It's more a collection of insights and observations
than a log of activities, and each article takes me between 3 and 6 hours to
write, so there is some research, too :-)
Nietzhe said "That which does not kill us makes us stronger". He may have
been an anti-Semitic old bastard, but he wasn't stupid. I'm stronger for the
trials I have survived - and if nothing else, I am a survivor!
I write a blog for Pittsburgh
Opera and Opera
Theatre of Pittsburgh. If you are thinking of fat ladies in horned
helmets and stuffy patrons, you've fallen for the same cliches that so many
of us have. If you think of "Moonstruck", you're closer to the mark (but
still not quite there). In my
blog, I go backstage (and other places). Here are the articles in
chronological order (or you can just go read the
whole blog, which
has articles by others, too).
- Actions and Reactions. I don't
really know how to preface this – it was a letter I wrote to my
Mother, and it explains itself. Well, perhaps it explains itself to a
descendant of European Jewish emigrees... When you need to emigrate, you need
a sponsor in the country to which you are emigrating (you can usually only
apply for asylum when you are already there – to get there you
need a sponsor). Without a sponsor, you stay where you are, and in times of
trouble, that can literally mean death.
Some of the names in the letter have been changed.
- Embarrassing Conversations About Sex
is about a conversation with my Mother when I was 12 years old. Just read
it, there's no point in trying to explain it here...
- Honoring a Friend.
My beloved cat "Thing" died on September 15
of 2005. He was 9 years old, just about to the day. And in writing
this, I see the word "beloved", and realize that that word has been so
overused as to lose much of its significance – it has grown hackneyed and
banal. Yet "beloved", at its core, still carries with it the dark power of
some other words, like "bewitched" and "enthralled". Words that import a
somber and solid feeling. And truly, Thing was beloved. I dearly loved him,
he was my dearest, my heart, my soul. Every time I saw him trotting out to
meet me, when he raised his head and tail in recognition of me, or when he
"whumped" down next to me as I lay down to sleep, my heart beat easier, my
breath came lighter, and my soul felt at ease.
After my first wife left me, I used to jokingly call him "my blood pressure
medicine", for indeed any time I held him in my arms, I relaxed. And I also
knew, as any pet "owner" knows, that my love was returned and redoubled.
People who do not know cats may scoff, and say that he was only in it for the
food. And it is true that some cats are aloof, skittish, or just plain
ornery. But not Thing. He made friends easily, and no one who met him ever
doubted that he loved me – I certainly never did!
I could go on about his life, but that is another story, another time.
This story is about the day after he died,
and a gift I was given that rocked my soul. It all happened two weeks ago,
but it is still vivid...
- Passover Story. I originally
wrote this story in 1980, after my first trip to Israel and Egypt. I was
invited to speak at a conference, and this was not a pilgrimage - but
after a while, I realized that I indeed had gone through a kind of rite of
passage for my own soul.
I used to tell it at the end of the Passover Seder, just before we say
"Next Year in Jerusalem". But in 1999, I went to the
Festival in Jonesboro Tennessee (you can't imagine how much fun
it can be to listen to stories for 3 whole days and nights, but believe me,
it was magical). And after the festival, I learned a thing or two, and
turned my story into a stand-alone piece that could be told to Jews,
Gentiles, Adults and Children. Enjoy!
- Diary of a traveller - two bits I wrote while on my second trip to
Egypt in 1985. It is mostly a snapshot of
the trip, a set of vivid impressions of the people and the land. My
mom had lived in Africa for 6
years, and said much about it. She was right - once you drink from the
waters of the Nile, you must return...
- My paternal grandfather (with whom I was very close) died in 1987, when I
was 30 years old. I wrote down this eulogy
for him after I spoke it extemporaneously at his graveside.
- The next year, in 1988, my father (with whom I was even closer) died of
metastatic coecal cancer. He wanted to die at home, and so we helped him
pass as peacefully as possible, surrounded by the people and things he loved
(and who loved him). I wrote these a week
before he died, the morning after he
died, and a year after his death. They were
very hard to write, and I still cry when I read them. But writing them also
helped me through a difficult time, and have helped other people when they
went through a similar rite of passage through their own lives.
- In March of 1990, I blew out my right knee - ACL. We tried therapy, but
it didn't really help - some people are muscle dominant (their muscles hold
their joints together, and their ligaments just "help"), and most people
(like me) are ligament dominant - without their ligaments, they don't do so
well. After 6 months of rehab, I had a ligament transplant and repair
surgery. Shortly after the surgery, I wrote this
thank you letter to the donor family. I
didn't know who they were - in fact, the Center
for Organ Recovery & Education didn't know either, but they published
my letter in their monthly bullettin, and invited me to join their speakers
bureau (on which I still serve, speaking at health fairs, churches,
synagogues, and support groups).
Five years later, I particpated in a follow-up study, and wrote this
rather surprised summary of my feelings.
Coincidentally, I received a letter from
a woman whose son had died in a swimming pool accident around the same
time that I had my transplant. She read my letter on the wall of the
hospital where she donated her son's body for transplantation. It is
impossible to ignore a letter like that, and I called her. It was an awkward
conversation - what could we say? But we made contact. Maybe it was her son
that walked with me. Maybe not. It didn't matter. Through tissue donation,
someone saved my life. She helped to save a lot of people's lives. We've
never spoken since, but we made a kind of contact that few can know...
- In October of 1990, I went to West Virginia for the first time. I had
lived right next door for 17 years, and never been! I fell in love with it
on the first day, and wrote this story called
Homecoming about a cemetery on the hill
that I found while limping on my cane (I was still in rehab from my knee).
It seems from this synopsis that all my stories are about death, but
really they are all about life!
- Recently (we're now talking 2001, 44 years old), I have been experiencing
some occasional numbness in the fingers of my right hand. It's not carpal
tunnel syndrome. I know this because I had an EMG (electromyelogram), where
they test for it, and the results were negative. For good measure I also had
another test, and you can read about My
Arthrogram. In this story, I take a Dave Barry-like approach to the
medical profession (so no matter how bad it sounds, it's supposed to be funny).
- 9/11/2001 - what can I say? What can anyone say?
Something short and a reasoned and
possibly unpopular view answering the many calls for
- 2004 - I participated in a writing workshop, and tried my hand at
fiction. Well, some of it was fiction, and some of it was fictionalized
history. The style of writing is called "Flash Fiction", which means you
have to tell your whole story in 100-1200 words or so (nobody counts words,
and if they do, they're missing the point, which is storytelling, not
blind adherence to statistics). Anyway, some brief descriptions are
occasionally in order, but try to read the stories first, if you can.
- Signs and Wonders - Actually,
I started taking the writing workshop because I had bought my girlfiend
admission to the previous workshop, and she loved it (well, I had hoped she
would). And we had had some stupid fight about something, and since she had
been in the habit of writing, I just slammed out this piece (no, it wasn't
revenge, it was my muse telling me to do something productive). And then
realized it wasn't half bad, so I refined it, and well... my first piece for
the workshop. It's barely based in truth, but it is as true as any
reconciliation after a fight. The humor is all fiction, though :-) Oh - the
title is from a Primitive Baptist hymn.
- Close Encounters - I had
toyed with this idea in poetry ages ago, but it never amounted to
much. Flash fiction is relatively easy, but poetry is hard. If you ever
want to try something that is fiendishly difficult, try songwriting (I suck
at lyrics, but I do "okay" at music). Anyway, wolf
meets man (back in neolithic times) from the eyes of the wolf.
- Diamonds and Rust - the
truth in this rheumy eyed recollection is that my Grandfather, Grandmother,
Father and Uncle did indeed come to the United States on the S.S. Ryndam from
Rotterdam. And my Grandmother's name is really Taube (it means "pigeon" or
"dove"). And, well... everything else is true too. This piece is all extracts
of stories my Grandfather told me. Except one thing - the discourse on
Lady Liberty. And I
will confess without shame that I borrowed that from a story I heard on NPR,
as told by Jerry Springer. He is, in spite of his schlock/shock TV show, a
remarkably intelligent, astute, liberal, savvy man. Check out his
Jerry for Ohio page, if you don't
believe me. He'll run for office in the next election, and if I lived in Ohio,
I'd vote for him! Oh, yeah... I know that there is a song by Joan Baez with
the same title as the story - it is a great image, and I wanted to honor it.
- And on The Eighth Day - I
started this 14 years before I finished it. I was invited to a briss (a
circumcision), and I confess that it was my first and last. Don't read this
story as being pro-circumcision, but I do try to put things in a fair
and honest light. This piece was published recently in "The Compleat Mother",
a quarterly publication on childbirth and mothering. Oh, and my
mother is a researcher and
published author in the field of female genital mutilation, and is now working
on male circumcision, too.
- Cheesecake - I did professional
improvisational comedy for 6+ years. There is an improv game called "Three
Views of a Scene", where three players semi-simultaneously tell a story from
three different viewpoints. I was thinking of the famous picture by Sam
Shaw of Marilyn Monroe with her skirt blowing up around her (from the film
Seven Year Itch, but check out what the scene
looked like). And I thought about an alternative reality that the picture
could have been taken in, and wrote this piece, with three views of that scene.
- Costa Rica Leather Shop
- An old poem of mine, cast as a very short story.
- All Hallows, even - Another old
poem of mine, cast as a poem!
- ENFJ - my girlfriend had taken some
tests (which included the Meyer's Brigg's test and the Strong Preference
test - hence the title), and gotten some - uhh... - "alarming" results. Here's
a humorous piece based on the first reading of the test results.
- A-ring-a-ding whirr... - when I was
four years old, I wanted a Mr. Machine (it was a toy that you could take apart
and reasssemble, and it would walk and make noise). Back in those days they
cost $18, which was a lot of money for a four year old's toy. So my
Mom made me a deal - when I learned to read, I could have a Mr. Machine. To
her chagrin/delight/dismay, three months later, I had my toy. Her father (my
"Opa") did not believe that I was really reading - he figured that I had
memorized Green Eggs and Ham (and Ham wasn't kosher, so that made it
worse). My father had a rare comeuppance when he instructed me to read for my
Opa - every other word, backwards from the end of the book - which I did,
thinking it was a splendid game. I didn't realize that particular family
dynamic for years... Anyway, Mr. Machine went the way of all toys, but
earlier this year, I found one on eBay (the 1960's version comes apart, and
has a metal key - the 1970's version doesn't, and has a blue plastic key).
It cost a bunch, but really, it was worth it :-)
- Ring of Fire - Your reaction
after reading this story should be "Euwww!". That is what my
reaction was after writing it. This was a (non-winning) entry in a short
story competition. The theme was "Fire", and Johnny Cash had died a few weeks
before, and, well... that's the excuse for the title. The story was
pandering to the avant garde nature of the publication that sponsored
the contest. Euwww!
- The Lifeguard - For three
years (1990-1992), I was a volunteer escort at an abortion clinic. Really,
it was much more than that - they did general gynaecological services in
addition to abortions, but when I saw the "rescues" on the news (hundreds of
protestors blockading the clinic, terrifying the women who needed to get in),
I became a clinic escort. I am a night person, so being awake at 7am is
rarity for me, yet every morning for three years, I was on the line at that
hour. This story is autobiographical, and I am very proud of what I did for
those three years.