John William Garand has written volumes. He just didn’t seem to know when he would share it with the world. Then he met Smithtown Patch Editor Peter Verry and was convinced to start blogging.
The floodgates opened and Garrand, who says he writes every single day, began sharing on Patch. Sometimes very personal essays, travelogues and poems.
Garand is a Hauppauge resident by way of a New Hampshire farm, Manhattan and, well, too many places to count in between.
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Want to know what makes this eloquently spoken man tick? Read his blog on Smithtown Patch. But for a little more insight we sat down with Garand for a virtual chat by email. Here’s what we discovered about our resident Patch poet.
Patch: I see from your profile that you were a professional puppeteer at one time. What was that like? Do you still put on shows?
John William Garand: I was fortunate to work for a company, Nicolo Marionettes, that had miniature Broadway-like shows with all of the lights, costumed-performers (puppets), and scenery. It was good for learning the craft of theater. I even got to perform with Symphony Orchestras and Professional Singers. The first time I saw Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall was when I was standing on its stage in front of a full orchestra.
Believing is an important part of performing. When an audience believes in physical animation, it is special. As an actor, it is much easier for me to take to the stage, myself. Marionettes have strings that break and continually get caught. Puppets are props with an attitude. Yet, marionettes gave me a chance to perform as characters for which I would never be cast. When I first started, I was hired as an actor because the voices were "live". Imagine me cast as the Handsome Prince? I think not. Yet, with a marionette, I did portray Tamino in an adaptation of Mozart’s "The Magic Flute". Many shows I was in were performed over a hundred times. It was training I treasure. The most difficult was performing the Holiday Show at Macy's in Manhattan's Herald Square. We did ten twenty-minute shows a day. Each day was begun preparing to run a marathon.
On tour, I performed in the East Coast and Southern States. Witnessing Southern life for this New Englander was an experience. For the City of New York, I spent three summers touring the Boroughs. One summer, I toured for the Central Park Puppet Theater. The other summers were spent getting to know the neighborhoods of Brooklyn. Beginning each day at Coney Island, walking on the boardwalk to work, cannot be replicated. Nor can working at the Smithsonian Institution's Puppet Theater. Working in this “Nation's Attic” has to be among the happiest of times.
My spouse, René, and I still perform annual puppet shows for our neighbors in Hauppauge. Our neighbors are great friends. In fact, René did puppet shows for them fifty years ago! Some members of his first audience still come to see our productions. Introducing theater via puppets is what I have found to be rewarding. Although I have retired from professional puppeteering, performing our shows each year satisfies that urge to act which never leaves me.
P: What was the last book you read and did you enjoy it?
JWG: Paul Greenberg’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food was the last book I read. Greenberg’s easy, conversational way is an entertaining read. Anyone who is interested in eating should read this fascinating tale of Salmon, Sea Bass, Cod, and Tuna as well as many other edible fish. I now know more than I ever thought I would on the business and sport of fishing.
Currently, I am reading two books. One is a collection of short biographies entitled The Scientists: An Epic of Discovery edited by Andrew Robinson. The other is Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr by Richard Rhodes. Needless to say, Paul Greenberg’s book sent me on a scientific exploration — again.
P: You’re a transplant from New Hampshire by way of Manhattan. Were you really a “barefoot farm boy” as you say in your poem “Slipping Onto?”
JWG: I was, indeed, a barefoot farm boy. In the summer, I was always barefoot running around the fields and woods and playing in the brook. I lived on a Family Farm, which had two milking cows, sheep, pigs, a horse, and a pony. I was responsible for the bantam chickens, ducks, rabbits, and a dog. Mowing the lawn was a chore I had to do. One of my “special talents” I listed on my acting resume was milking a cow! But, even though I knew how to milk a cow, it wasn’t my chore to do. Churning butter was a chore. (My Mother and Father, in retrospect, did most of the chores the farm required.) Making bread and jelly was more my cup of tea. I liked the alchemy of working in a kitchen. Working in the vegetable garden weeding was a big chore. Today, I laugh when I am in our Zwerglipatch Gardens here in Hauppauge for I do not mind working among the ornamental plants freeing them of weeds. My Father cannot understand growing flowers. I tell him by not growing vegetables, René and I can support our local farmers — which is true. My Father is happy to know he gave the skill of farming to his children “for you never know when there will be another Depression.” He is right. I do know how to “survive.”
P: Why did you choose to settle in Hauppauge?
JWG: René’s Parents, shortly after they emigrated from Switzerland, bought a house in a new development in the “wilds of Long Island”. They were told nobody would ever live that far out away from the City. René’s Father began a small repair business of Swiss Precision Instruments in his home for a bit of extra money. Over thirty years ago, shortly before René and I met, René joined his Father’s business and helped make it viable. Today, with the help of the Internet, too, Long Island Indicator Service Inc. is well-respected in this Country and elsewhere. I joined the business when it became difficult for me to puppeteer due to a broken scapula. Eight years ago, René’s Parents offered to sell us their Hauppauge home. At this time, after having lived together in a Chelsea garrett studio apartment for more than two decades, René and I realized that maybe it was time to leave Manhattan. Frankly, after that fateful 9/11 day, Manhattan did not seem the same to us. Do I miss Manhattan? Yes. Do I like Hauppauge? Yes. I like Long Island weather, too. Compared to New Hampshire, Long Island is the Tropics!
P: It seems from your blogs and your profile that you like to travel. What was your favorite place(s) to travel to and what is the best thing about traveling?
JWG: In a word, the best thing about travelling is discovery. René and I have been to places we thought we would never see such as Malta, Portugal’s Algarve, Budapest, South Africa, and Malaga in Spain. Yet, we have spent many weeks in places like Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and Hawai’i. When we travel, we spend at least two weeks, usually four, in one place. The problem with that is you usually feel like you are, indeed, living in a new environment. Neighbors and merchants become your Friends. When we have to leave, it is sad to say goodbye to our new Friends — and leave our new “Home”.
P: Besides Patch, of course, what is your favorite website?
JWG: After being prodded by my Niece and a First Grade Friend, I joined Facebook to keep in touch with Friends new and, well, old can be such a cruel word, but, you know what I mean. I look at THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE ADVOCATE, THE PBS NEWSHOUR, and NPR on a daily basis. I do like both the SMITHTOWN PATCH and SMITHTOWN MATTERS, too, as they are both my new hometown newspapers.
P: You’re a very prolific blogger. How do you find your inspiration? (Especially when writing poems. That seems very hard to do.)
JWG: Interesting question. “Everything” is the answer popping into my mind. I do carry a wee notebook in my pocket to jot down various musings or sightings. (One of my personal favorite volumes of poetry I’ve entitled JWG’s WALK WITH ME — ANAUTOBIOGRAPHY as it is the result of taking notes because I did not own a camera.) My mind is in a constant whir.
I do write, literally, in a notebook each day. I still can’t get myself to write directly onto a computer. I would delete too many words. As for poetry, I write a poem a day. Some of my poems are composed in a few minutes; others take hours; a few are set aside to finish many months down the line. But, I do have to finish one poem for each day. Each volume of poetry is structured as to its form. I began writing poetry in earnest when René and I spent a month in Ha’iku, Hawai’i. It seemed logical to me to write my volume JWG’s HA’IKU HAIKU. I do give each volume I write, whether it is prose, my poeprose, or poetry, a title. Rarely do I begin with a title. However, there is always a first. I am now working on two volumes of poetry (JWG’S DISCOVERIES and JWG’s THE READER) and a volume of musings (title to be announced).
P: What is the best thing you get out of blogging?
JWG: Sharing my thoughts. I always told my Friends who knew I wrote on a daily basis that I would share my words with them when I had five volumes on my shelf. I changed that to ten volumes. Then, twenty-five. Well, after finishing the twenty-second volume, I ran into Peter Verry. He asked me to become a blogger on SMITHTOWN PATCH. He opened a door for me. I said I would think seriously about it, as I liked his editorial spirit. I didn’t know if I was truly ready to be open with my words. When opportunity knocks, it would be silly not to answer the door. Thus, I took a deep breath and began my blog. For those who have read it, please, be patient. I will finish sharing each of my unfinished sagas. I am thankful that Peter Verry gave me this opportunity.
Your blogs are very personal. Do you mind sharing your most personal feelings with the world?
Perhaps the best answer to this question is sharing the poem I wrote after I received your e-mail:
Happy and Honest (from JWG’S DISCOVERIES)
I have been asked questions
Concerning my past and present
Which I intend to answer truthfully.
My Life is an open book.
Looking at my written words,
Which I considered to be private
And to be shared when I am no longer here,
I find they may help others like Me.
I happen to be gay.
I have always known who I am.
Yes, it was easier to be private.
I held passion within my breast.
Silence was not helping Me.
Speaking makes a happy, honest face.
You can click here to read all of John William Garand's blog posts.