Of Lies and Better Things on the Way

Monday Morning Musings:


Men should be what they seem,

Or those that be not, would they might seem none!

–William Shakespeare, Othello, Act III, Scene iii

“ they are not men o’ their words: they told me I was everything; ’tis a lie…”

–William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act IV, Scene vi

“Here’s wishing you the bluest sky
And hoping something better comes tomorrow
Hoping all the verses rhyme,
And the very best of choruses to
Follow all the doubt and sadness
I know that better things are on their way.”
–from Dar Williams, “Better Things”


We walk through a living, mortal city

see buildings transformed

here an insurance building, now condominiums

a Starbucks at its base


is the history erased

or still held there, a trace of perfume or smoke

left somewhere in a bit of old oak

and here, the cobblestones and bricks remain

some things, perhaps, stay the same


We travel through space and time

in books, movies, theater, art

from my small town’s fall festival

to Philadelphia streets

then we enter the London theater

of centuries ago—a show,

the stage framed with the red velvet proscenium curtains

uncertain what we will see

amongst the esteemed company

there at Convent Garden

where a substitute actor

steps in to play the part of Othello, the Moor–

a black man? Well, that’s not been done before!

A character declares, “People come to the theater to get away from reality.”

The cast members of this well-known London troupe are divided,

some undecided about how they feel,

but willing to try some new techniques

or at least to somewhat tweak

their stylized manner and gestures

though scandalized at how Othello touches Desdemona

Do they understand the play and his persona?

We see a bit of the handkerchief scene

enough to glean how it might have been

the critics were vicious, in racist prose

derided Ira Aldridge’s performance in the show.

He is an anomaly upon the stage

We see there both passion and his rage

later hear him, as Lear in madness decry the lies

as fury builds and slowly dies,

around him, slavery still exists

(and even now)

though we can hope through sorrow

that better things come tomorrow

and better things are on their way


We discuss and dine

and drink some wine

(well, beer for him)

we’re both well pleased by the cheese

that we nibble sitting there as day turns to night

caressed by a breeze

perhaps it’s wandered round the world

unfurled and carried hope and sorrow

and we discuss the present and the lies

ignorance that triumphs over facts or the wise

but still we hope that tomorrow

better things are on their way


Younger daughter and I go to a concert

Dar Williams sang of the pagans and Christians

sitting at the table–

and just like them, we’re able to sit with different folk

but at least they were silent, and no one spoke

and I was more fascinated than annoyed

by the man touching the woman and the other woman stroking her hair

both unaware, I suppose, that we couldn’t help but stare

as we enjoyed the songs, the reading, our food and wine

so yes, we also came to dine

(a bit like the Gilmore Girls—

if they were vegetarians with curls)

and Dar sang of the babysitter, now urban planner

and “positive proximity”

(despite city’s life often anonymity)

she spoke of transformations she has seen

spaces empty and dark, now full of life, green

and when she sang “Iowa,” we all sang along

we all sang the chorus to the song

and despite lost hopes in November

our fears and sorrow

we left in hopes for better things tomorrow

that better things are on their way


In the blood

in the dreams

in the cities

and in the seams

and it seems

and it seems

that we wade through streams

against the current

things that are and things that weren’t

sometimes floating

ever light

drifting far and out of sight

journeys through space, time, day, and night

to ponder, to wonder

at art’s spell, we fall under

does it hide or amplify

the truth and the lies

and those who are afraid of women

and those who lie, quite unredeemed

or even worse

(notes on a theme)

they are exactly what they seem

but in our sorrow, we can dream of tomorrow

and let hope linger here, now stay

better things are on their way


We saw Red Velvet at the Lantern Theater Company.  The play is based on the life of the real actor, Ira Aldridge. We saw Dar Williams at World Cafe Live.




26 thoughts on “Of Lies and Better Things on the Way

  1. I lift my glass (well, it’s a morning cup) to liberal libations and dipping your crusts into salsa (?) and pots of profound drama in your fair city. Maybe I misunderstood, but I was puzzled by this: “. . . a substitute actor steps in to play the part of Othello, the Moor–a black man?” I thought Othello is usually played by a black man.

    You, Doug and the girls have rich, cultural life with Philly so close.
    Here’s to hope for a good today and a better tomorrow. 🙂

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts and comments, Marian. No salsa over the weekend–bread, cheese, jam, and chips at Tria, and at the World Café, we had a hummus platter, seitan “wings”, and eggplant fries with some kind of horseradish dip. YUM!
      In the mid-nineteenth century, Othello was played by a white men in black face (as previously, men played women’s roles). There were few black professional actors anyway, and Aldridge, who was born in New York, left the U.S. for England in the hopes of obtaining more work. In 1833, Aldridge was the first black man to play Othello on a major London stage. Like Othello, he was also married to a white woman.

  2. I love it when you take me to Philadelphia with you. So much to see and do, though I would have liked to have spent more time with Othello and felt I was intruding on you and your daughter. So sorry. But, eager to go back again. 🙂

    • Hahaha. Thanks, Janet.
      I actually would have liked to have seen more of Othello in the play, too–and more about the protests and such going on.
      My daughter and I didn’t feel like you were intruding. No worries. 😉

  3. The song of Dar Williams I first heard was ‘The Great Unknown’ and it still is as relevant today as it was then… (maybe growing up as a nuclear family has something to do with it) – the history slips away for the future and all the promises, just don’t look at the cracks in the facade…

    • I love that song, too. It does resonate–nuclear families and duck and cover drills. She didn’t do it last night though. She was also reading from her new book. The first song I heard of hers was “When I was a Boy,” which she did sing last night. I can still remember hearing it when I was in the car one night, and then looking for her album.

  4. What a wonderful play-going life! Food and wine looks lovely. The cancer center in that photo gave me pause because it first seemed a blight on the landscape, then a haven.

    • Thank you, Luanne. The play was interesting–lots of things to think about.
      That is a great point about a blight and then a haven. That area of the city is full of Jefferson University/hospital buildings, medical centers and offices, and there is such a mixture of buildings that are old, new, and renovated for new purposes.

      • Aww–thank you, Claudia. That’s fun that you know where we were.
        When we walked a bit down Walnut Street after the play, my husband realized that was where we had taken my mom for her appointment with a retina specialist. There are so many medical buildings around there!

      • Yes, very convenient, I took my son to Wills for years when he was small for eye appointments plus my retina issues more recently. I worked in the Independence Hall area for a long time and used to walk along Walnut up to Broad to our other building, past these sites, all the time. Many memories.

  5. You always have such full and interesting weekends! And thanks, as always, for sharing.
    I seem to always reach for Dar’s “The Beauty of the Rain”. But, yes, better things! (K)

  6. Yes, much sorrow and despair in November, but you’re right, Merril, let’s hope for better things to come. Perhaps a lovely slice of “impeach” pie?

    Lovely photos as always filled with love, food, and wine. Cheers, dear friend. 🥂

  7. I also thought like Marian that Othello was a black man or acted by a black man – thank you for your musings Merril, I much enjoyed the lyrical meanderings! May all our tomorrows be brighter – and those breezes from afar and from so long ago bring in refreshing recollections.

  8. Dar Williams came to Ohio and it was a busy winter weekend, months ago after you mentioned her. I regret that I wasn’t able to go. She sounds wonderful in your description and how she reaches into your heart and mind, Merril through her music.
    Ira Aldridge sounds like someone who is amazing and fearless. Thanks for this share that meant a lot. Your photos show such fun and laughter. This means you truly do have hope in your heart. 💞

    • That is such a kind comment. Thank you, Robin!
      Yes, same daughter and I saw Dar Williams at the same location last October. We both really like her music, but she is also a very engaging, down-to-earth performer. And the World Cafe Live is a great venue to see performances.
      I imagine Ira Aldridge was amazing and fearless. I didn’t know anything about him until I starting seeing info about this play.

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