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Al Martinez

Winnie the Pooh is about the sweetness in our lives. : In the 100 Aker Wood

May 28, 1987|Al Martinez

You get to the 100 Aker Wood by going past the Floody Place and past Where the Woozle Wasn't and past Pooh's Trap for Heffalumps.

Pretty soon, before you know it, you're near where Rabbits Frends and Raletions live and then, at last, Owls House.

And that, my friend, is the 100 Aker Wood.

But why, you ask, would anyone want to go there?

To visit Pooh, silly!

Actually, it's the Hundred Acre Wood, but neither Pooh nor Christopher Robin are terrific spelers, I mean spellers, so you have to use your imagination sometimes.

But then, isn't imagination what Winnie the Pooh is all about?

Of course.

And if you have to ask "Where's imagination and how can I touch it?" just remember what Christopher Robin once very wisely remarked when he was halfway down the stairs (which is where he always sat):

"It isn't really anywhere, it's somewhere else instead."

Everyone visits Pooh sooner or later.

Pooh is more than a series of poems and stories about Kangas House and Eeyores Gloomy Place (which is Rather Boggy and Sad) and the un-bouncing of Tigger and the search for Baby Roo when he gets lost.

Pooh is about you and me and that cognac-colored moment when a scent of memory sends us flying back through time to a place in youth where, for a perfect instant, nothing is wrong.

Pooh is about the sweetness in our lives, and while I am more Eeyore than Piglet, the sweetness brushed like a breeze against my face one night last week at the Coronet Theatre in West Los Angeles.

For an hour or so a British actor named Peter Dennis read from the works of A. A. Milne in a program called "Bother!" which, of course, is what Christopher Robin says when things aren't quite right.

But it was more than a reading.

It was a walk through the 100 Aker Wood (past the Bee Tree and the Sandy Pit Where Roo Plays) with a man who resembles everyone's kindly uncle and may even have been Christopher Robin's father, if you can imagine that Christopher Robin's father wore a polka-dot bow tie.

Dennis has been the voice of Pooh for more than a decade, and brings to this remarkable one-man show a quality that goes beyond professionalism into an area we can't even begin to define.

I almost didn't go to the performance. I can't remember why. I had something else to do or I didn't feel like it or there was a show on television I wanted to see. Maybe I had the flu.

But my wife said, "Oh, no you don't."

I said, "Oh no I don't what?"

"I have been dragged by you to the worst movies of my generation and you are not, I repeat not, going to get out of this by staying home to brood or write or vomit."

"Suppose I die?"

"I'll have your body shipped to the Coronet."

Did I mention she's a Pooh fan? I mean a Pooh fan.

She has two 50-year-old Pooh books she would kill to protect.

Her license plate is a variation of the note Christopher Robin leaves on his door when he isn't home. The note says "Bisy Backson." The license reads BZ BK SN. And she can quote from memory about half the passages in any Pooh book.

So I said, "OK, I'll go, but I deny ever having taken you to see a bad movie."

" 'The Incredible Melting Man'? 'The Fly'? . . ."

"Well, maybe those two."

" . . . 'Attack of the Killer Tomatoes'? 'Godzilla Meets . . .' "

"All right, all right. I'll go."

I'm glad I did.

The enchantment of an evening in the 100 Aker Wood was escape in its kindest sense, a brief removal from the pains and stresses that wrench our emotions from dawn to sunset, and sometimes into the shadows of our dreams.

"Wherever I am," Peter Dennis begins, "there is always Pooh."

Then he reads, " 'I'm never afraid,' said Pooh, said he, 'I'm never afraid with you.' "

I listened in rapture and admiration as Piglet did a Very Grand Thing on a blustery day, and Eeyore had a birthday and everyone wondered what Tiggers liked to eat.

" 'Don't you know what Tiggers like?' asked Pooh.

" 'I expect if I thought very hard I should,' said Christopher Robin, 'but I thought Tiggers knew.' "

What shall we do about poor little Tigger?

If he never eats nothing he'll never get bigger.

It was a special evening, and a few days later I talked about it to one of my best friends. His name is Travis and he is almost 4.

"What do Tiggers like?" he asked.

"Well," I said, "they don't like honey and they don't like haycorns and they don't like thistles. But they do like Roo's Strengthening Medicine, extract of malt."

"Tiggers like medicine?"

I nodded. "You can never tell about Tiggers."

I made a promise to myself to begin reading the Pooh books to Travis the next time he comes over. And he'll read them someday to someone else, and so ad infinitum.

They'll never get old.

It's like Milne said: "In that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing."

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