Broken families

I’ve been thinking a lot of about “family” lately, and for a few reasons besides the headlines. Just outside my office, a family of mourning doves has taken up residence in the eaves. These beautiful birds with their plump, gray-ish tan bodies, smallish heads, and black dot eyes with the distinctive blue eye-ring are among the most familiar and abundant in all North America.

I actually had installed some anti-nesting bird wire in the eaves, but two industrious doves found a way to wedge in between the wires and set up housekeeping. And once the nest was built and the eggs laid, I couldn’t disturb the young family.

We’ve been following the progess of the doves closely. We watched the “daddy” dove stand guard over the nest for hours from a short distance away. We once watched the “daddy” dove change places with the “mommy” dove on the nest, so she could fly away and get some food, water, rest, etc. The TG and I watched their slow, careful exchange of places on the nest for a long time: it was like a “National Geographic” special.

Now the eggs have hatched. There are two hatchlings, the way these doves usually propagate. (They breed twice a year.) And the baby birds are very cute. They are still in the nest; they haven’t flown yet. I wonder when they will leave their little twiggy home and go out into the world.

Now that they are here, I’m happy to have observed these beautiful birds through all these weeks of change and birth. The only problem is that they crap all over the decking below the nest: nasty little pellets of poop. So as soon as the doves fly away and the nest is abandoned, I’m going to install another couple of rows of bird wire to keep future birds away. Enough of this shit!

Mourning doves cooing

The courtship dance of mourning doves

Broken families

The other thing that has me thinking about family is the flawed-but-wonderful production of Eugene O’Neill’s flawed-but-wonderful play LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT that the TG and I just saw. It was the Bristol Old Vic production directed by Richard Eyre with Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville that’s made its way out to Beverly Hills(!) after engagements in the West End and the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Broken families

I’m embarrassed to say that it was my first time seeing this play live. I know the famous 1962 Sidney Lumet film with Katharine Hepburn, Ralph Richardson, Jason Robards, and Dean Stockwell. (Just let that cast sink in for a minute; the first three are three of my favorite actors of all time.) And I own a DVD of the very-flawed-but-still-somewhat-wonderful Laurence Olivier production from 1973. But this was my first time seeing the play in-the-flesh, and it has stayed with me strongly.

I thought that Irons and Manville were absolutely superb, acting on the highest level. Their roles are so beautiful and tragic, and the two actors captured much of what O’Neill envisioned. (Of course, in a play this great, there can be no one perfect version of a role: there are many great possible James and Mary Tyrones.) I wish that the two young actors who played Jamie and Edmund -- Rory Keenan and Matthew Beard, respectively -- had been stronger. As it was, I was transported. It was “a great night in the theatre.”

Irons was brilliant, embodying the fading-matinee-idol figure of James beautifully. He created surprising sympathy, an imperfect patriarch trying to keep his family together. Lesley Manville was astounding. At times, she seemed to be making up the dialogue as she went along: she was that real, that alive.

I’ve been re-watching the Lumet film on YouTube. It’s not perfect, but it’s great. If you have a spare two hours and fifty minutes and want to watch some legendary actors impersonate most beautifully four of the unhappiest people in the unhappiest family you’ve ever seen, watch this:

For an extra dollop of acting genius, here is Christopher Plummer delivering James Tyrone’s great monologue about his acting career. Heartbreaking, like the whole play. (Plummer is one of my very favorite actors. Every time I’ve seen him -- THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN, his Iago to James Earl Jones’ Othello, and his solo John Barrymore show -- he’s been beyond brilliant. If you don’t watch the whole thing, watch this.)

A trailer for the London production of this LONG DAY’S JOURNEY – a little taste of the spectacular Irons and Manville performances

Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville interviewed


The older I get, the more important family is to me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for these refugee families who struggled to get to the US border, only to be separated and caged.

Children in cages; some of them, usually the boys, being drugged. And they’re building camps, too. (Excuse me: we – the American people – are building camps.) This is a dark episode in our history, we’re right in the middle of it, and it’s not going to be over anytime soon.
It’s painful to think about, but worse to ignore.

Give to any of these organizations if you can:

We Belong Together - women for common sense immigration policies

United We Dream - the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country

Womens Refugee Commission - advocating for the rights and protection of women, children, and youth fleeing violence and persecution

ACLU - fighting attacks through the legal system

Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) - protecting unaccompanied children who enter the US immigration system alone to ensure that no child appears in court without an attorney.

Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project - providing asylum seekers with legal aid and community support across the country

Human Rights First - helping refugees obtain asylum in the U.S.

La Union del Pueblo Entero - founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, a community union that works in the Rio Grande Valley from the grassroots up 

And just wait until the Mueller investigation is finally released. As Senator Mark Warner of the Intelligence Committee told his dinner guests (according to Politico), “If you think you’ve seen wild stuff so far, buckle up. It’s going to be a wild couple of months.”

The TG and I are going on a vacation for a while. I don’t know if I’ll post anything or blog during that time. (The vacation just might be a vacation from social media.)


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Christian Correa