Soliloquy: My kingdom for a big yellow taxi

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When Joni Mitchell wrote “Big Yellow Taxi” in 1970, parking lots seemed permanent. When a parking lot went in, something else came out, and it was cause for mourning. You never thought the past would be able to come back from the parking lot.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

Now, parking lots — or parts of them — come out, and landscaping goes in. No need yet for tree museums.

If you’re really lucky, you can even find antiquities when you tear up a parking lot.

CNN reported this month that when folks in Leicester, UK, dug up one parking lot, they found an ancient nail. It was lodged in the spine of a skeleton, and they’d first thought the nail was an arrow barb.

The skeleton is believed to be King Richard the Third.

The cold case team determined that the nail belonged to Roman times. (The cold, cold, cold case team will have to get on that one.) Meanwhile, other investigators searched for Richard’s descendants to gather DNA and check their answer.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?

Especially if what’s gone is King Richard III. We don’t know what we’ve got.

We might have the scheming, child-murdering villain of Tudor history, or we might have a pious, “perfect prince” who was just a hapless victim of Tudor propaganda — the saintly version put out by the Richard III society in Leicester.

Richard III looks like comic strip hero Prince Valiant. How could Prince Valiant kill his nephews? If the Richard III society has its way, Richard will morph from Shakespeare’s murderous, too-ambitious king, killing his way to the crown, to a kinder, gentler monarch.

Whether Richard was villain or Valient, his death was gruesome. He might not have lost his horse, but archeologists suspect he’d lost his helmet at the end, according to CNN.

When I heard of the discovery of Richard III, I immediately thought of my friend Wendy Fossgreen. She played an unlikely Richard in our junior high performance, hobbling admirably around the stage.

I played Buckingham. I auditioned for the part because I mistakenly believed that more lines meant higher status. Little did I realize that although I’d have to spend weeks memorizing, no one cares about Buckingham.

I ended up with all the drudgery and none of the glory.

But it was a great play, even for junior high kids who barely knew their Thees and Thous.

Our teacher, Elizabeth Pinkerton, believed in junior high kids, believed in Shakespeare and knew that exposing kids to the words and rhythms of Shakespeare was a great way to teach many things at once: vocabulary, history, public-speaking, taking direction, timing, self-confidence, drama, poetry and abject embarrassment.

And, for the most part, we got it all. Including one excruciating period of silence when no one on stage knew whose line it was. That moment stretched on endlessly while the prompter frantically tried to catch up, to no avail. I remember burning with humiliation as the silence grew, hoping, hoping, hoping that among the thousands of lines I’d had to memorize, this wasn’t one of them.

You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Finally, Kermit Houghtaling, who played the Lord Mayor, brilliantly ad-libbed Shakespeare: “Let us go and pray,” he said, and we conniving nobles all filed off stage — to practice our abrupt, new-found spiritual devotion. Then we quickly found a script and started again.

Kermit’s was the best life lesson of all.

Donna Marmorstein writes and lives in Aberdeen. You can contact her at dkmarmorstein@yahoo.com.