Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

You sit in the waiting room.

You've been here for months, it seems. The green sweater you elected to wear has been removed to reveal that layering tee-shirt (A garment you received as a stocking stuffer three years ago, but have never worn in any external fashion. The print on the chest says "Naughty" in pink Comic Sans font.), and in a few minutes you will put it back on as the room's temperature takes yet another unexplained dive.

The Last Tuesday in March sits across from you staring at your knee. It's eyebrows crinkle suggesting a thought had just occurred. You know better, but ask anyway.


LTM starts and looks up at you. "Huh?"

"What is it?"


"What are y- it just looked like..."




Last Tuesday in March sinks back to staring at your knee with a sound just short of a huff.

You swipe your shoe across the floor, noting that the fibers in the carpet look darker when brushed one way, lighter when brushed another.

You can't take this much longer. The door at the other end of the room swings wide, but neither of your names is called.

Bloom County was the best comic strip. Ever.

The first book I read was 'Toons for Our Times, featuring Binkley (with medium hair), Opus, and a shaded Portnoy on the cover. The book was my sister's (and anything A. touched was the Holy Grail of Cool), so I borrowed it and spent the next several hours pouring over its pages, cover to cover.

To be fair, I had no idea why I was laughing at first, but it wasn't long before I was a rabid devotee. Every book I've read at least ten times and, for a while, could quote chapter and verse:

I would not mind if I did find a blue whale in my soup;
Nor would I mind a porcupine inside a chicken coop.
Yes, life is fine when things combine, like ham in beef lo mein,
But Lord, this time I think I mind; they've put acid in my rain.


Lucifer, do your duty!
Slam my head and shake your booty,
Wham, Bam , thank you Nell,
I'm on the Amtrak to Hell!

(Good lord, I just surprised myself by typing this from memory.)

I had a crush on both Cutter John and Steve Dallas, and wished I could be best friends with Michael Binkley (Who, in all honesty, I also had a crush on, but seeing as how he was perpetually 10 years old that seemed a little strange. What, do I mean stranger than having crushes on comic strip characters to begin with?...Um...Move along...nothing to see here.). I hoped one day to look like Bobbi Harlow (I do not.) I wanted to live in Bloom County and write for the Bloom Picayune...still kinda do.

Bloom County is counted among the major influences in my life. I attempted draw like Berke Breathed (with a dalliance in signing my name backwards for a spate), with only marginal success. My sense of humor grew around the strip (Part of its brilliance was the second reaction joke in the final panel, which was, in some cases, even funnier than the punch line. This style is part of what made the characters seem more three-dimensional.) and I would spend hour laughing myself to tears.

Imagine my unparalleled rapture when, in the back of Billy and the Boingers Bootleg, I found a record containing two whole Billy and the Boingers songs: "I'm a Boinger" and "U-Stink-But-I-♥-U". I made immediate work of taping the record (before it's inevitable ruin) and listened to these songs on repeat for weeks.

(Billy and the Boingers was the fictional band comprised of Steve Dallas, Bill the Cat, Opus and Hodge Podge, a rabbit)

Then, of course, it faded. I don't read the Bloom County books so much anymore and I hadn't listened to the Boingers in years - but then, some late nights one gets on a tear, Googling and whatnot and- Lo! and Behold! - look what I found.

This is for my friends Notnits and Erica, both loyal Bloom County fans, and for anyone else who gives ridiculously sincere presents at Christmas. Come join me in the Dandelion patch, where we'll wear our "Bill Lives" tee shirts and stick cucumbers up our noses and lay spam atop our heads. Raucous Caucus!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Who is this dagger I see before me?

As the Christmas Season languished sometime in early February, Mom would pull down the Christmas Ornaments and scores of Santas from around the house. Then, with great care, she packed them all into boxes to stash away until the next year. But rather than tuck the decorations together in a way that might use the inner space of the boxes to best advantage, she would assess which bulbs, snowflakes, or angels would like to rest for a year with other bulbs, snowflakes, or angels. Which two decorations belonged together? Was the this Santa friends with that Elf? The Mr. and Mrs. Mouse (a Dickensian duo, made of corn shuck) must always be together, as should the Gingerbread brother and sister.

(This often caused me to wonder if she was right. What if the Gingerbread brother and sister were desperate to get away from each other but instead, were wrapped, year upon weary year, tight next to one another...Sartre had nothing on these sequined Christmas dolls.)

This kind of packing did not end with Christmas. When rounding up bits and pieces for storage, much concern was expressed over how my Donnie and Marie dolls would react to my barbie sized Princess Leia doll. It was wondered which books would communicate best with one another - probably not a good idea for The Giving Tree to room with Franny and Zooey, but Flannery O'Connor's Mystery and Manners might get on surprisingly with Samuel Beckett's Collected Plays.

In Pixar's Toy Story, the leader of the toys in Andy's room, Woody, holds a "staff" meeting to discuss the schedule change in in Andy's birthday party. During this meeting he asks his flock of toys "Does everyone have a moving buddy?"

I saw this film on my birthday in 1996, and when those words hit my ears, it was all I could do not to yelp out loud (This, on top of my total wonder at the film before me.). Yes. Moving buddies. This made absolute sense.

The act of personifying inanimate objects is not uncommon, in fact, we do it all the time: Grumbling at a car or a computer when it is acting up, descriptions of nature (I read on one of D.'s pages that she'd like to punch the newly fallen Spring snow in the face). We can make sense of the world around us with greater ease by attributing human traits to the skies, a rock, your iPod.

(Isn't it funny how those attributions show up when the object acts to our disadvantage in some way? Curbs are lying in wait to trip us - those evil little teenaged fiends. That Napkin just LEAPS from your hand, over and over just to make trouble on a second date.)

Some trouble may appear when it roams unchecked. Telling your computer to "Hurry the ef up", is one thing, but separating The Princess Bride from Silence of the Lambs in movie collection because "Well, they just won't have that much to talk about" is quite another.

Thanks to years of packing dishes, school papers, stuffed animals, clothes, and toiletries with the intent that they all "get along", the world is teeming with personalities, some helpful...some less so:

Forks: Sturdy, forthright fellows with lots to say.
Spoons: Sweet, soothing types who are just trying to help.
Buses: Big, oafish and lumbering. They apologize all the time and never mean it.
TVs: Mouths always open, staring, bi-polar. When they are turned off they are listless and uncaring, but when they are turned on they won't shut up until everyone is looking at them.
Driver's License: What a tattletale.
Shelves: Open, interested. But the taller they are, the harder they gaze down at you, daring you to climb them for whatever knowledge exists in that hidden book up top.
Drawers: Shut mouthed, clammy.
Beds: A good one just wants to hug you. A bad one keeps you awake all night, humming the theme song to the Andy Griffith Show and asking you if you remember "that funny line from that show with the guy in it."

At least one isn't lonely in this type of world. Now if you'll excuse me, my Shampoo and Conditioner are disagreeing over the Stimulus Package. The Shampoo is such a goddamn Neo-Con.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Up, Up and Away...III

10:41am CST

1. My Skymall is dog-eared. The previous passenger seemed to be very interested in Inflatable Movie Screens and the Hairmax Laser Comb.

2. They gave me some Lorna Doone's. I could eat shortbread cookies all day.

3. My nerves have calmed a bit and I can enjoy the Mars landscape surrounding the Grand Canyon. EXCEPT RIGHT NOW WHEN THE TURBULENCE IS SHAKING THE PLANE.

4. Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuit in my stomach = Volcano Experiment in 7th grade.

5. In a few minutes, I will have to go. We begin our descent and I will return to my state of terror. As the plane nears the Earth, I will stare out the window, and send encouraging thoughts to the pilots. "You're doing great. Good Job. Little shaky there, but okay. You're okay."

I am aware how unreasonable this is. But christ, what if I didn't do it?

Listening to: Flying Theme From E.T., John Williams (Which, as a matter of interest, helps)

Also heard on this trip (Some more helpful than others):

Great Fire, XTC
Last Love Song for Now, Okkervil River
Bad Liver and a Broken Heart, Tom Waits
Princes of the Universe, Queen
I Dreamed a Dream, Les Miserables
Undertow, Suzanne Vega
Here Comes Richard, Billy Bragg
Austere, The Joy Formidable
Now, Mates of State
Again & Again, Bird and Bee

Since I am away, I will be taking a break for a few days and returning to regular posting on Monday. If you are just desperate for content, check out the labels to the right or have a look at some of my fellow bloggers. Excellent thinkers and writers all.

Up, Up and Away...II

I haven't always been this freakishly scared of flight. Time was, it wasn't a bother at all.

Then, one flight about 10 years ago changed all that.

My sister was in film school in Tallahassee, Florida and every so often I'd make a sojourn down to see her. (I don't recall the exact circumstances of this visit. Perhaps it was her graduation.) On the second leg of the journey, the Puddle-Jumper I was riding flew through a fluke electrical storm.

The plane dove, righted itself. Dove again. 90 degree angles. Outside a sea of greenish black clouds churned. Electricity shocked the wings. The fingers of God cracked open the sky like a pistachio nut.

A woman in back shrieked. The girl next to me was a braver stripe. She cried silent tears as the flight attendant, crouched, juddering, gripped her hand. This is it. This is when my string is cut.

Then...it stopped. The skies cleared and we made our descent.

Everyone shook hands with the pilots on their way out.


On the plane, the flight attendant is a no frills, officious sort, which I like. She barks out our safety orders and then goes through a wry, weary spiel regarding flushing the toilet when one is finished.

We wait.

I hear every click and whir in the plane. We move forward.

Bing Bong. We've been cleared for take off.

My heart beats so fast. I can't run. There's no where to go.
I cannot reverse this.
Go faster.
Hands shake.
Eyes drown in tears.
Pick up speed.
I breathe hard and deep.
I try to hide my face away from the man next to me. He can't see I'm afraid.
The plane tilts back.
My eyes won't close. I have to watch the ground.
My lips mumble the prayer I MUST SAY EVERY TIME.
In seconds, the world miniaturizes.
Perfect, sculpted dollhouses below and ant train traffic. The suburbs look like the Aveoli inside the lungs, winding cilia of cul-de-sacs and gated communities.
The plane turns.
Turbulence shakes the plane. I grip the armrest.
Higher still,
into the marigold sky.

Listening to: "Love Lockdown", Kanye West

Up, Up and Away...

This morning I am flying to LA.

I hate flying. Terrified of it. Under normal circumstances, I would be doped up, having pilfered a few Xanax tablets for occasions as these.

Not this time.

I’m not a screamer or anything. I am, however a heart-fluttering-lip-trembler. Ascent and descents are white knuckled terror rides.

But, By the Gods, aren’t I lucky! I got an email yesterday alerting me that I am on a Wi-Fi flight.

So, what better way to express my anguish than by live-blogging about it?


I woke up at 3:45am, with a strange hangover. The Kerpatty boys made an impromptu visit last night bearing 40 Ouncers…what on Earth? I don’t drink beer very often let alone the "King of Them". That’s the risk I run when the whole sketch group I direct lives a block away. They keep me young, I suppose.

After a fitful sleep, I lurch out of bed and bumble around the apartment. No packing was done last night...so I toss whatever I can find in my suitcase. Clothes in the bag, boots, what the hell are we doing out there?…do I need a skirt or – whatever, I’m taking it.

I wash the dishes, take out the garbage and head out. Everything here? I haven’t even locked my door and the Magical Thinking begins. Transformers tee-shirt Rebar gave me for my birthday last year (To which I squealed like a child, put on immediately and have not flown without since)? Check. Book borrowed from Notnits, which he will never get back unless he wrests it from my cold dead hands? Check. Human Finger bone. Check.

I treated myself to a cab, down to Midway airport (“The K-Mart of Airports” as Jan calls it. And it’s true isn’t it?). The driver is a smiling fellow with a Spiderman knit cap. Walking up to the Walgreen’s to retrieve some cash I saw him slow down. He called in a dialect, “I’ll wait for you.” Two or three cabs had slowed down and beeped in my direction, but I denied them. His friendly demeanor won him the fare.

At 5: 15 the streets were nearly deserted. Billy Ocean’s "Loverboy" popped on my iPod as we drove past the Chicago Skyline. The view out my window spread out like the opening for a 1980’s crime procedural.

The airport wasn’t all that hectic. I don’t expect it to be anything other than what it is – A barnyard of nervous, enclosed travelers, all astonished at every inconvenience. I spot a group of Navy boys – can’t be older than 19 – all looking like they walked right out of 1942.

The nerves start to ramp as I get to the gate, and I am filled with the irresistible urge to consume. I wander the unsatisfying saran-wrapped options, picking up a shining baked good, thinking better of it, putting it down, snatching up another. Finally, I head to the McDonald’s and get a Bacon Egg and Cheese biscuit, knowing full well that I will regret it later. (Editor’s note: Indeed…I do.)

I am reminded of a performance piece I never followed up on – An actor smashing a giant plastic McDonald’s “M” while Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” plays.

I chuckle as I eat my breakfast. Take THAT, McDonald’s.

(When the first oily bite goes down, I can feel my heart Lub, wait a second and then Dub.)

The waiting area is packed. Taking the only free seat, I begin to type.

The woman next to me makes no effort to conceal her spying over my shoulder.

We start to Board. My heart grips.

Listening to: “Heaven’s on Fire”, Kiss

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

A few years ago, my theater company produced a show called Pretty Things by Zach Helm (Helm, the writer of Stranger Than Fiction and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, was a good friend in college). The original title was Semasiology (A branch of linguistics which asks for the meaning of the word vs. Onomasiology which asks for the word that expresses a concept).

The production was, to some extent, troubled - a number of budgetary and technical concerns got in the way, as well as a script that had some challenging ideas and excellent writing, but perhaps needed another go through.


The story focuses on Annie Parker, a woman struggling with addiction and mental illness, who is also a brilliant writer. In what came as something of a surprise to me, I was asked to play Annie.

On a certain level, I believe I was miscast. I'm not sure I was an appropriate match, physically - and I'm not much on the self-torture of the unsung genius. But Annie was one of the most difficult roles I've ever had to play. The idea of this person scared the living hell out of me, possibly because she was an outward manifestation of some truly private demons, and I didn't feel much like wrestling with that kind of thing in public.

And then there was the 9 minute long suicide scene at the end.

During the run, I compiled a CD that I listened to only on show days. It took me from beginning to end of the show, got me in the mind set I needed.

The song, H. by Tool was a cornerstone of this CD. It speaks of addiction, loss, love, and obsession in ways that made sense to me long before Annie, and even after.

Even now, I can still feel Annie bumping around in there. As disturbing as this show was for me to perform, I'm not sorry I did it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

"Find a penny, pick it up...

And all day long you'll reach into your pocket, think it's a dime, pull it out for the vending machine and go, 'Faahck.'"

It is assumed that all pennies carry the same level of good luck when found out in the open. This, however, is untrue. One cannot just go swiping pennies up off the street and expect to win the lotto every time. When picking up a penny, in order to manage expectations, it is important to consider these factors:

1. Appointment. This is the most crucial aspect to reckon. Is it face up or face down? If Lincoln's head is visible, pick it up right away. Regardless of other concerns, it certainly couldn't hurt. If it is face down (The Lincoln Memorial, with its tiny, tiny Lincoln inside), leave it. Side step it, do not reflect on the coin in any way. Forget you ever saw it. That penny has the bad joo-joo and until a foot, or dog knocks* it to the obverse, this copperish circle will bring nothing but agony to its holder.

*Only Chance removes the curse. You can't just knock the penny on purpose with your foot, and expect the luck to change. It doesn't work...and the universe will make you pay for cheating.

2. Location. A penny's luck increases in relation to its distance from a position of pecuniary use. For example: A penny on the carpet runner a foot away from a Walgreen's cash register is low grade good luck. In this instance, the best one can hope for is a free trial of Pert Plus in the mail. A penny on the sidewalk may bring a broken fare box on the bus, right when that extra $2.25 is needed. A penny in the middle of a busy intersection could result in turning a street corner to discover that ever-pined-for long lost love.

Then there are these kinds of pennies:

The risks here endow this penny with vast amounts of good luck. However, is it worth the potential Typhoid? This is a question only you can answer.

3. Level of potential humiliation.
How judged will you feel by those around you if you pick it up? A penny's luck increases with the amount of personal embarrassment you are willing to risk. And really, that should be any time. You are picking up a penny for luck. What are you - six?

4. Time of day. The clock runs out at midnight for found pennies. If a penny is picked up at say 11:42pm, one really can't expect much more than NOT to get mugged. The early bird gets the worm. Begin your penny search well before dawn for best results.

5. Did YOU drop the penny? If so, all bets are off. It's someone else's luck now. Don't even waste the one calorie it takes to pick it up.

(Every time. I swear...every time. These things are what I think when I see a penny on the street.)

Semi-realted note: The original title for this was "It rains pennies from heaven". But then I got hung up on the very idea of hot copper pennies shooting at bullet speed from the sky.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Friday, March 20, 2009


Today is something of a catch up day (After a raucous slumber party with my four-year-old nephew, R.) so, from the vault comes Capgras.

The following scene is the result of an assignment given last year for my writing group. From a book called "Vanishing America", everyone was given an article on items or customs that have all but disappeared from the American Landscape. The goal was to write a scene in which the item or custom was NOT the focus, but if one were to remove it, the scene would fall apart. My item was a rotary phone.

(Phones are an issue in general. The rings give me the willies and talking on the phone is nerve wracking.)

To be fair, I'd been working on this idea for a while (as follow up and component in a potential thematic trilogy to Minnesota Normals.), but this assignment gave me the chance to tinker with it. I have plans to continue it into a full length play, but it's been ages since I've picked it up.

For more information on Capgras Delusion, you can go to the ever dubious Wikipedia Article.

This piece was presented as part of our RAW series last May.

VIVIEN, a woman
GENE, her husband

(Interior of a mid-range resort hotel suite in 1962 at around 6am. There is a giant king sized bed with a dark green satin bedspread, and two nightstands on either side. Atop the left-hand nightstand is a black rotary dial phone. The floor is covered in gold shag carpeting. On the far left is a door leading to a bathroom. Some of the bathroom is visible from the stage, the sink and the shower.

There are paintings on the wall that look like they may be of lovers, but they are blurry and poorly drawn.

Through the door, enter GENE and VIVIEN. They are both in their mid-thirties and dressed as if they have been out on the town, though a little worse for wear. GENE is carrying both of their coats and leading VIVIEN into the room by the arm. VIVIEN has a bandage on her forehead. Her makeup has run around her eyes, giving her an even more beleaguered look. GENE leads her all the way in, and gently closes the door behind them while he is talking…it seems he has been going on and on. VIVIEN never takes her eyes off of GENE.)

I mean, for heaven’s sake, for heaven’s sake. The club manager is gong to hear from me this afternoon. Give him a piece and I mean a very large piece of my goddamn mind, if you’ll forgive my saying so, a piece of my (Replacing goddamn) “mm-mm” mind.

It’s all right, da-, uh, darling.

What were they thinking, after all? Do they really need to wax a dance floor to a high gloss shine, when, what, we’re all just going to scuff it up with our feet? And they could have shown a little, I mean, an INCH of something…sympathy. Just one or two fingers of sympathy for all that humiliation.

Of course.

Acting like it’s my job…they have people for this! My job to clean up the blood, while you’re sitting there in “Mm-mm” agony! (A beat) Oh…I need a shower. A shower and about eighty winks…(looks at her. She is still staring) Honey, are you still mad?

No…no not at all.

I didn’t mean to laugh, I really didn’t.

I know.

GENE (Starting to laugh)
I didn’t honestly, but you should have seen it. It was a scream, I never will forget. You did that twirl out there and all of a sudden like in a cartoon, both your legs just fly right out from under you and opposite ways they were supposed to go (Makes a big jerking X with his arms.) I was just laughing till I saw you’re head…It was…(looks at her, she is not laughing.) I’m sorry.


Anyway, he’s gonna get a chunk, not just a piece of my mind. Not now, certainly, but this afternoon. I’m beat. I know you are.


I’m gonna take a long hot shower, maybe shave. You should do the same, I bet it would do you a world of good.

You’re right.

I know you’re mad, you sure are quiet. I love you. (Gives her a peck on the cheek and heads to the bathroom) Mind if I go first?

(VIVIEN shakes her head. He skips in to the bathroom, but leaves the door open. We see shadows of him taking off his clothes and getting into the shower.

VIVIEN watches intently and listens for the shower to start. Her head turns up to look at the phone on the night stand. She glances back at the bathroom, and sensing that he will not be out for a while, carefully lifts herself from the bed and moves to the phone.

Taking great pains, she places her finger under the receiver, and lifts it to her ear. She pulls her finger away with one protracted shift. VIVIEN then places her finger in the “0” hole and in an achingly deliberate motion spins the dial, trying to keep any sound from traveling to the shower.

She waits for a beat.)

VIVIEN (Almost whispering)
May I have a line out please? (A beat.) But what if I’d rather you just give me a line out, please? (A beat) Why can’t you do it? (A beat) It doesn’t say anywhere on here to dial 9. (A beat) Fine…fine…I’ll do it…sh! Sh! I’ll do it!

(She covers the cradle button with her finger and gives a desperate peek towards the bathroom. Again, VIVIEN lifts her finger from the button at a snail’s pace, and dials 9.

GENE calls out from the bathroom and she nearly drops the phone entirely)

You know what you should do, Viv? You should turn on the Television and see what’s on…I wonder if there’ll be anything this early. I always wanted to be there right when they take the flag off the air you know what I mean?

Yes..of course.

(VIVIEN looks at the TV and then back at her phone. She brings it up to here ear and hears the dial tone. Forgetting the TV, she begins the tedious work of dialing the full number. Each digit takes her forever and she is growing more impatient with every slow ticking of the dial.

When at last VIVIEN is finished, she hold the receiver to her ear and presses it onto her sweaty face...waiting. The faint rigs can be heard, three then four then five rings. )

VIVIEN (Whispering to herself)
Please pick up…pick up. WAKE. UP. (A faint “Hello?” is heard) Mom? Are you there? (mumbling “Yes, I’m here”) I’m so glad to hear your voice. (“What on earth time is it?”) I don’t know about six, I suppose. (“Well, good, god Vivien, you sure picked a ripe time to call, you’re father damn near had a heart attack.”) Does Dad still work for the secret service? (“What kind of question…” ) Mother listen, to me…(“It’s really early, vi-“) Just shut up for a second-(“What did you just sa-“) Please listen to me mother…I don’t want you to worry – well, maybe a little bit I want you to worry, but please, I need your help (“You’re scaring me now..”) Please, I- there’s been a accident, and I’m alright…I went to the hospital to get stitches and mother, you have to listen carefully (“I am, for chrissake.”) Mother, the man who picked me up from the hospital is not my husband. (A Beat…”What?”) It’s not Gene, mother. I don’t know who he is, but he is not my husband. (“I don’t understand..”) He looks just like him, he talks just like him and whoever did this is very good at what they do, because he even swears like Gene…I don’t know what they’ve done with him….but this man is not Gene. (“Oh, my god.”)

(The shower stops from the bathroom, but VIVIEN does not notice)

I know what it sounds like…but you have to come get me. Right now…right now you have to come. (“Do you know what time it is?”) YES! I know what time it is goddamnit…you can’t leave me here with a perfect stranger-

(GENE enters with a towel wrapped around his waste)

Who’s on the phone?

(VIVIEN nearly leaps out of her skin and is horrified by the sight of the top-naked man before her)

It’s, um, it’s my mother…I wanted to…

(There are mumbling sounds on the other end of the line becoming more and more frantic.)

Oh…tell her I said hello. I’m sure she wants to know what happened.

Yes…(Into the phone, in the face of the screaming rambling) Right mother, mother – Gene, uh, Gene says, “Hello” (“What? I thought you said…Vivien”) Yes, we’re great. We’re going on a duck boat later today. (She gives a strained laugh trying to cover.) Yes…oh, heh, yes…Dad is such a card…(“Vivien Marie, What are you talking about?”) Okay…I’ll see you soon. I love you too.

(There are some faint mumbles on the other end that continue until she hangs up. She inadvertently slams the phone down. GENE has been standing watching her.)

Sweetheart, you look terrible. Like you’ve seen the “mm-mm” devil or something.

Well, thank you, Ge-, uh, Gene. That’s what a new wife truly loves to hear. That’s exactly it.

Oh..I didn’t mean…

I know what you meant.

Viv, why don’t you take a shower. And we’ll both just feel like it’s a new day…(chuckles) Well, it is a new day, isn’t it?


(GENE moves towards her, his still wet body opening up for a hug. She moves away and stands near the door. A beat. VIVIEN bursts into tears. GENE is utterly baffled.)

Christ, honey…

Just stay right there…I’ll feel better in a little while…it’s been a - it’s been a long night and I don’t…I don’t…

(VIVIEN stares at GENE and slowly brings her fingers up to touch her bandage, which has begun to soak through with blood.)

Aw, goddamnit! Those numb nuts down there don’t even know how to give a couple of stiches…Christ.

(He marches over to the phone and pick it up)

I need a line out please. (a beat.) What do you mean I have to dial 9? (A beat) where does it say that? (He looks a the phone) Why can’t you do it? No forget it…FORGET IT.

(He slams down the phone, picks it up again and dials 9. He dials the number and looks over at VIVIEN while he awaits an answer.)

We’re creating a world full of people who can’t even do a goddamn favor anymore.

(Abrupt end)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. It has long been my secret desire to be in a Queen tribute band.

2. When I see someone wearing a fur coat on the bus or the EL, I wish I had a tiny bottle of red nail polish that I could open up, and - Blup Blup - drop one or two droplets on the back or the shoulder.

3. The amount of busy you are grows like a goldfish in relation to how much time you have. Projects keep getting finished, quarters wrap up, but I swear to god I can't find a spare minute to save my life.

4. Favorite word this week:


1 [fond]
–adjective, -er, -est.
1. having a liking or affection for (usually fol. by of): to be fond of animals.
2. loving; affectionate: to give someone a fond look.
3. excessively tender or overindulgent; doting: a fond parent.
4. cherished with strong or unreasoning feeling: to nourish fond hopes of becoming president.
5. Archaic. foolish or silly.
6. Archaic. foolishly credulous or trusting.

5. Least favorite word this week:


6. Below are the outtakes from yesterday's world premiere film, Milk. It's somewhat troubling that the outtakes are longer than the picture itself, but not surprising.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


But not that one...

Monday night, the Kerpatty! fellas and I had a rehearsal for our upcoming show, Single Entendre. Our rehearsals tend to be on the loose side - doing bits and watching YouTube videos. This is not typical of my directorial style, but I know enough with these guys to get out of the way. I'd rather have an hour of messy belly laughs, than some overwrought sketches that don't work.

It was silliness as usual at my place, and then we came across a set up we all thought was pretty funny. Pat was giggling and said:

"We should film this."

The three of us looked at each other, waiting for the other two to say yay or nay.

"We've got a camera right here."

"We can go and get some stuff from the Walgreen's"

After a few moments of convincing ourselves to put in the time, we left for the drug store to pick up a few needed comestibles. The trip should have taken about 10 minutes, but with the "Bit Factory" in full swing, we made it back in around 45. The Walgreen's staff, I'm positive, thought we were on a steady diet of psychotropics.

At the end of every rehearsal, I'm pretty much drained. These guys make me laugh so hard, I can barely breathe.

For your viewing pleasure: Milk (but not that one)

You may want to click here and watch it in High Quality (Click the HQ button on the lower right.). I'm not sure it will translate in this site. (Also, when embedding, there's a cut off problem I have yet to resolve)

And if you're hungry for an earworm, there's always this.

Our show opens on Friday for all interested parties:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: Birthday Edition


Today is my sister, A.'s, birthday.

I did not, as most children do, come into this world alone. I had someone waiting for me.

A. was on this planet for four and a half years before I showed up.

It is not possible to explain the universe in which she and I live.

"Gosh",You were right there, jumping into bed with me at night, torturing her by drawing on her back with lip gloss, A. makes things, draws, constructs, plays with me, she acts - the first time I saw her act in any real way, I was agog - envious, adoring - she writes, lovely poetic cool things that made sense to me - she taped me in secret, we taped mom in secret, she was my ally, I bugged her all the time to play with this thing or that thing, God was everywhere and nowhere, God was a show, Special, Special, Peculiar is more like it, I admired her so, she made set pieces for me to play on, she laughed at me, I was so glad when she left for college - what a stupid teenager (I wasn't glad at all - I was petrified), hanging out with A. was always the best thing - once she said "I like who I am when I'm with you. I feel like myself" ME TOO ME TOO - but you can't say those things back right away because they never sound sincere - A. is thoughtful in ways I can never be - She tries, she works, she makes the effort every day, without fail and WITH FAILURE, good failure, bad failure, Calls on the phone when I was brainsick, why were you ever so understanding when I never called you back? Get away from me. Please never leave. Things she said shaped the very core of me, once she told me "Why would you want to be a part of something somebody else made when you could make something that's all your own?" I told her years later that what she said helped define what I wanted and she said "Oh, god, I hope I haven't ruined your career." I am not sorry you said that. One bit. A. is always looking for ways to be creative, to think, to feel. And don't you say you're not, A. She knows everything, it seems, and looks to learn about everything, always curious, it takes her easily triple the time to go through a museum because she reads EVERYTHING. You were right there. You were right there. Waiting for me. "Gosh."

I would not be who I am, were it not for her.

This is the very first record I remember us owning. It was A.'s and it was her favorite song.

Happy Birthday A. I love you. You are my favorite.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Beauty's Sister is Vanity

I got a haircut yesterday.

As haircuts go I suppose it's not the worst thing ever, (The worst being the night a college friend took a pair of shears to my head, after I arrived at her door, sobbing over what Super Cuts had done to my locks. She had been drinking wine and must have been feeling like a savior. "Come in, we'll fix it," she said, and ushered me into her candle lit studio. By night's end my head was nearly shaved.), but it plagues me and will do so until I let it grow or it gets fixed. My hair is one of my vanities.

You probably wouldn't know it. It's usually flopping around, in my face, with no effort to make it look "done" in any way. A profession to be free of vanity is, in itself, a vanity. I take great pains to look carefree.

This means, if I want to be free of futzing with my hair for more than a few minutes every morning, that I have to get a decent cut - one that falls okay, without me having to pin it back or try to hide any imperfections with sprays or product or whatever (Back in the day, I got up every morning to CURL MY HAIR. I'm somewhat astonished that my hair survived my teenaged self's need for scorching and perming. I even dyed it, quite by accident, fluorescent orange using an over the counter sample of highlighter. God. I felt like my head was on fire everywhere we went. )

I have a regular place I go, but impatience overtook me. And really, I just wanted a trim...why not head around the corner to my friendly neighborhood discount groomers and have them cut about an inch off?

I walked in to the "House of Hair"- as I'll call it - and the fellow behind the counter looked at me with some trepidation. "Can I help you?"

"I'd like a hair cut."

His brow furrowed. It was as if I had asked where they kept the aluminum siding.

"Oh. Okay."

I sat down and waited. Within about twenty minutes, Denise emerged from behind the partition.

Denise appeared weary - a 30 who looked like a 40 but said she was 25. Her hair was streaked with blond stripes typical of this type of establishment (Go into any number of discount salon franchises and check out the hairs of the women there. At least two will have calico mops). The head she was working on prior to mine, paid his bill, and from the second he approached the counter until he exited the building, she did not stop talking. Her droning monologue was loud and full of question marks...like a Valley Girl recovering from blunt force trauma to the head:

"Do you need any product or stuff? It's on sale right now. It was really great to talk to you! I hope you'll come back...are you gunna use your card? Gah! I just had two cups of coffee and I'm like, whoa, you know? I drink a lot of coffee and everything like that, but right now I feel really, like god, you know? Oh, yeah go ahead and swipe your card...did you need any product, or anything like that? Oh. Wait...did I ask you that already?"

And on. And on.

I should've left.

The eye rolling and sharp responses given Denise by the other style techs, were red flags I ignored. (at one point Denise just kept taking people's names for hair cuts, even as the day was drawing to a close. She was told, in a stiff voice, by the manager, to QUIT TAKING NAMES. This didn't stop Denise from asking three or four more times if she could add anyone to the list. I thought the manager was going to drink Barbasol.)

During the change over, in flurry of "who was assigned to whom", I drew the short straw and Denise was my lady.

She didn't wash my hair. She gabbed a pair of clippers and went to it.

It didn't seem so terrible at first. Once the clipping was over, I thought it was okay...then came a parade of product: pomade, spray, gel, mouse. She yanked my hair this way and that and finally said...

"Okay, hon, all done."

My hair did not look good...but I paid and left, thinking that I just needed to get used to it. It was fine, I told myself. Just fine.

I went to buy a pair or jeans. I slipped them on and glimpsed myself in the mirror - OMG. WTF. ROFLMAFJSHCBHDFIOEOWKMMMMMMXXX.

It was like I was Barbie, and Denise was a four-year-old with access to scissors and burgeoning anti-social proclivities.

And then, I did the thing I never do. I went back. I screwed it up, and went back. The Manager was none too pleased to see me.

"M-my hair...it's doesn't look - I-uh, I just, um..."

She glanced only for a second in Denise's direction and with finality said, "I'll fix it. Come over here."

I could hear Denise say "Wut happened? Why don't you like your hair?"

The manager said nothing and went straight to work, amid mutterings of "oh, god." and "Fucking- what did she do?"

As she finished up, doing what she could, she leaned down and whispered in my ear "You need to call the Manager on Monday and get your refund. It is really important you do that. Call the manager. Denise is not working. Call the manager."

Looking into her eyes it was evident that she was full up to the roof of her mouth with Denise.

I scurried out onto the sidewalk.

Now, I'm faced with a dilemma. I could use the money back with my impending trip to LA...but do I really want to be responsible for this woman losing her job?

I have yet to make the call.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome to the future

Imagine for a second that you are watching this commercial as part of a 1984-ish Sci-Fi flick cautioning us about the dangers of technology.

The droning, uninflected lyrics (The use of words like "Elation", "Sensation" and "Shivers" with no hint of the actual feeling). The humans staring into the camera with a helpless, unaware gaze. No two humans are shown interacting.

But the digital world is so alive. So vibrant. That's where the action is, friends.

I saw this a few days ago, and was flash-chilled to the bone.

Is this a commercial Comcast or Second Life dot com?

Sure, Comcast is wont to parody itself, and I am more than happy to partake in the miracle of the internet, but this feels like a candy-coated entreaty to plug the Matrix right into my head hole.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. I used to think I'd remember everything I ever thought. If my mind came up with it, then wouldn't it remember the whateveritwas later on?

This is not to say that I would recall everything I ever learned - for instance, Geometry. External knowledge, and all that Pi-r-Squared, can easily be cast aside like clothing or makeup. It is an external application to the brain.

But my thoughts, my imaginings, those are created internally and as such shouldn't they always remain a part of my biological make up?

It is only in recent weeks that I have realized that I believed this, and also that it is absurd.

a. My own biological makeup has changed almost completely since I was a child. These are not the fingernails that accompanied me into this world. The teeth in my mouth are all second wave. The swirl of primordial goo that was my brain as an infant has grown into a full sized adult melon. I have sloughed off cells, why not ponderings?

b. Even if the genesis of each thought is internal, it is informed by external forces. There's that whole nature vs. nurture argument - while influences from without shape a personality, there are undeniable natural pushes from within that complete the picture. (I'm not quite sure why there's such a drive to choose between one or the other. It seems impossible to exist in this world without an acceptance of both.) No thought is generated totally on its own absent of the outside world...so, it follows that these imaginings can be lost or discarded just as easily as Who was the 23rd President?

This came to me on the bus while I was trying to recall the most awesome thing ever.

But I forgot it. It sank to the murky depths...maybe after another storm it will resurface.

2. Why aren't we grossed out by the following when they are produced by us:

Loud, wet breathing sounds
Fingernail clippings
Used toothbrushes

But when somebody else does it, it's like a freak show.

3. Favorite word this week:

Clot |'klot|
1. A thick, viscous, or coagulated mass or lump, as of blood.
2. A clump, mass, or lump, as of clay.
3. A compact group: a clot of automobiles blocking the tunnel's entrance.
v. clot·ted, clot·ting, clots
To form into a clot or clots; coagulate.
1. To cause to form into a clot or clots. See Synonyms at coagulate.
2. To fill or cover with or as if with clots.

[Middle English, from Old English clott, lump.]

4. Least favorite word this week.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Relative favorite colors

(Unrelated note: This morning I overslept. I can't remember the last time I overslept so totally, with no hope of covering it up.

After a typhoon rush of sticky sleep [sleep has become a difficult knot to untangle. When I do sleep, I sleep HARD, hot dreams with posterized images of rabbits or searching for a hairpin or continued conversations about knuckles. The waking is so labored that at times I cannot remember if these conversations did or did not happen or if I found the hairpin or if that rabbit really was quite so pastel. It is only later that I realize there is no rabbit.] I wake with a gasp and glimpse the white daylight in my room. This is not 6am. This is not 6am. I pick up my phone - I have been using it as an alarm - and it declares, in that unforgiving sans serif font, 9:26. I have a meeting with a student in 15 minutes and here am I, still in my pajamas, unwashed, unkempt, and smelling like sleep [you know that smell]. Still in brushing off the fingers of the Dreaming, I tried to will time to reverse. It's the same impulse right after a car wreck or revelation of explosive information, the brain tries to heal itself and the rift your behavior has created by thinking, no it is NOT 9:26. It is NOT. It is 7:30. you only overslept a little. It is NOT 9:26. Time will reverse.
[At this point, too, the other portions of the brain still waking up have emergency meetings in the the conference room over by the Medulla Oblongata over the whys and whynots of time travel in general. Best to keep them busy. I need to get dressed.] But it is 9:26 - 9:27, and the seconds are ticking even as I scurry around my apartment as if it is not my own, as if I have never been there before. Whose clothes are these? Who brought me here? No time for a shower I throw on whoever's clothes these are, pull my hair back and stumble out of the apartment, still bewildered, half-wondering where I'm going. Then comes the misty recollection that I am a teacher and these are my students and I owe it to them to be there early and show up for fucking meetings I set with them especially for the most timid and sensitive of the bunch - which is who I am meeting today. Could this cab driver STOP ADHERING SO CLOSELY TO THE SPEED LIMIT? Does he not know that when a body catches a cab in the morning that the body is probably LATE...aw, crap, he smiled at me and now I can hold no grudge. Turn! Turn! I run up the stairs, three flights, to my class room, 10 minutes late for my meeting, but I sit and give him my full attention. He is none the wiser...but I'm sure he is wondering why I'm so intense.

Even now I feel a little waterlogged.

Waterlogged with corn syrup.)

This was supposed to be a post about the relativity of favorite colors to objects and food. But it has been overrun by parts of the brain heretofore sequestered in the conference room over by the Medulla Oblongata.

Verdict on time travel still unresolved.

Very well.
I don't like blue or brown M&Ms. I eat them first. And then the yellows and then the orange. I eat the green last.

I got jipped on greens in this package.

My actual favorite color is red.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

In the back of a mid-70's station wagon, dimpled, vinyl seats can turn a mild summer day into a plague of humidity and prickly heat. Before air conditioning had been perfected to its current arctic capabilities, children in back seats everywhere were subjected to heat that coated every available skin surface, from the crook of the Knee to the Almost Inner Ear. This, combined with vinyl upholstery, drenched the backs of our thighs, the soft of our tee-shirted upper arms with perspiration.

On these days, whatever salty vapors swirled around in the back of the car, it didn't matter as long as we were going to Carowinds.

Carowinds is an amusement park, along the lines of a low rent Six Flags, on the border of South and North Carolinas. Church youth groups, little league teams, seventh grade choirs, all made the pilgrimage from March to October, as a treat for job well done over the year. Carowinds was home to the terrifying likes of The Carolina Cyclone, Thunder Road, and White Lightening (though White Lightening is no longer, I'm afraid.) all roller coasters guaranteed to compress your body with astounding g-forces.

Carowinds (aside from trips to camp or the beach) was the absolute living end. No sleep was had the night before we loaded ourselves into the car. The three hour drive to the Piedmont area was torture. Hot, sweaty, nauseated (I had a special gift for car sickness, surpassed only by my mother.) .

Whatever the level of actual fun, the perceived fun, the mythological fun was what mattered. By day's end there would have been tears, someone dropped their effing wallet AGAIN, someone got lost, a new food allergy was discovered, knees got skinned, countless fixed games were lost.

But the sheer joy of the day was what lingered.

And it always seemed that, when pulling into section D of the blistering Carowinds parking lot, Games People Play by The Spinners was on the radio, without fail from 1975 to 1983.

Hearing it even now, makes me a little giddy with anticipatory nausea.

Monday, March 9, 2009

It is one of those days.

It is one of those days when I keep spilling only the most aggravating things. Never water. Never a few splashes of tea. It is a full canister of granola, wet coffee grounds, face powder, or bouncy balls.

It is a full day of 52-pick up.

It is one of those days when I slip, trip or fall over everything in public. A crack in the sidewalk, a mysterious opened bottle of shampoo, a jerky bus helmed by a jerky bus driver, my feet. And right in front of one of my students, or that fella.

How am I the only one feeling the earthquake?

It is one of those days when can't remember a single thing. Not a name, or a word, or how to tie my shoes, or dress myself, or the order in which I apply shampoo and conditioner, or that I should not dress myself before getting into the shower, or left from right (but I never could), or hot and sharp , or Hello, or big hand and little hand, or don't hit, or don't bite, or will you please leave that thing alone, or , or, or-

My Etch-a-Sketch keeps getting shaken before I'm finished.

It is one of those days when I pay for my bus fare all in nickels...and three of them are Canadian.

It is one of those days when not even one solitary note of music sounds good. It reminds me of something I would say if I knew how. Every song might as well be Celine Dionne. (This could have something to do with the fact that I got out of bed at 4:15am and inexplicably started watching Clay Aiken videos.)

It is one of those days when even calling it "ennui" takes too much energy.

It is one of those days after Daylight Savings when I curse it for taking my one hour away. When will the jet lag be over? Not 'til October, I bet.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Who watches the Watchmen?

I do.

At 5:30am I woke up, headed to the IMAX and saw the 7am movie, accompanied by Dianna (and Sara), Joe G, and D.

I'm not sure how I feel about it at the moment. I can barely type what with the creeping, sleepy numbness drawing me back into my bedroom.

It's worth seeing...if only to watch Jackie Earle Haley bring Rorschach to violent and beautiful life.

Now...back to bed for coupla hours.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Lost Shakespeare Play

Tomorrow night, a show I directed, The Lost Shakespeare Play will be opening at EP Theatre in Pilsen (This is partially to blame for the volume of video clips on my blog this week, as we are in tech.).

The show is written by the excellent Notnits (a dear friend and frequent collaborator) and has been in development for some time. I am thrilled to see it hit the stage this weekend. (And many thanks to Abbie for making this possible!)

I am a huge fan of Notnits writing. His piece from last year's RAW series, Gesundheit, still makes me shriek with laughter.

(Beware: Language here is not work friendly.)

(There are a lot fewer '"efs" in The Lost Shakespeare Play, by the way...like you guys care.)

Come join us for the run!

The Lost Shakespeare Play
by Notnits
directed by -j-j-

At EP Theatre
1820 S. Halsted (Behind the bank!)
March 6 - March 22
Thursday @ 7pm
Friday - Saturday @ 8pm
Sundays @ 2pm

Tickets $20
$15 for students w/ valid ID
$10 for Columbia College Students w/ valid ID
Discounts for groups of 10 or more!

Call 773-895-9935 for reservations

Featuring the storied talents of:

Nick Vidal, Kevin Gladish, Sean Patrick Leonard, Jack McCabe, Kerry Cahill, Adam Weiler, Clayton Faits, & Roxanne Saylor

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Lexicon

Ever since I uncovered Google's plot to reshape our language through word verification, readers have come to the fore with new definitions. Some of you have been quite prolific.

Below is a sampling of the new vocabulary...pay attention. You will be quizzed on this at the end of the semester and it will constitute half your grade. No online college will accept you with anything less than a 1.25 GPA.

n. a person who indulges in sloppy seconds (Rebar)

alpacke |al•'pak•uh|
n. an alpaca with a degenerative spinal column disease (Jan)

ingrab |'in•grab|
n. an non-verbal inside joke between two or more people that involves the touching of one or more body parts. (Rebar)

bahstitc |'bah•stitk|
adj. inspiring violent contempt in others. (Notnits)

scromopo |'scrom•o•po|
v. to eat popcorn or other snack foods in large handfuls rather than one at a time. esp. in movie theaters. (-j-j-)

saging |'say•jing|
adj. the quality of being casually wise (Jan)

rehedu |re•'he•doo|
v. when you have to re-redu something. (Erica)

paeact |pay•akt|
v. When you get paid for acting. (Dianna)

euntions |'yoon•shuns|
pl. n. supplies for the upkeep of eunuchs. "If you forget to buy Fun-Size Snickers and other euntions, Kassim will not have the energy to guard the harem doors. (Notnits)

bu-lar |'byoo•lar|
n. a midget stripper. (D. Hall)

misin |'miss•in|
v. slang for being aware of the lack of someone's presence. (Dianna)

dencoman |'den•co•man|
n. person, neither friend nor relative, with whom one must share living space out of economic necessity. Ex. “Yeah, Josh is cool, but Leonard's only here because he answered the ad so he's really just a dencoman." (My Sister)

reshazi |re•'shaht•zee|
abbrv. n. (short for "Reshaped Nazi,") a WWII German soldier who has undergone extensive body modifications, possibly in order to confront Indiana Jones in a future sequel. (Joe G.)

pilstr |'pil•ster|
n. Slang. American slang for that guy that can hook you up with any type of prescription painkiller or antidepressant. (D. Hall)

admis |'add•miss|
n. A print ad or commerical that ends up on failblog.org; an advertisment that has spelling errors commonly known as "engrish"; a poorly thought out name for a company or product (Rebar)

deriatio |de•'ray•she•oh|
n. the ratio of negative versus positive stereotypes in a persons library of stereotypes. (Henri)

pricys |'pri•sees|
pl. n. (informal) extravagantly expensive small item, usually owned by children: I see all them la-dee-da kids leaving school with their cell phones and pricys. Org. Northern England (Uncertain origin…is it Jerry or “Not Jerrry”)

Undest |'un•dest|
adj. (Superlative) Even more under than under. (-j-j-)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

In High School, I would go to parties with friends.

These parties were held while parents were away. A lie was a key ingredient to the evening.

Most of the time, I didn't know the kids who were throwing the party.

Those who invited me did.

The houses were situated atop wooded hills with steep and perilous driveways.

We would arrive and knock on the door.

Door answered. Explosion of Hellos.

Not knowing anyone, I would be left alone.

The house always smelled new. Sometimes with an undercurrent of bacon.

I edged around the house looking at everything. Never touching. Sid Vicious Posters. Earrings. Cigarettes.

These kids seemed cool. Distant.

I'd return to the pack before I was discovered.

During my explorations, this song always seemed to play in the background.

Monday, March 2, 2009


I can no longer listen to the following:

Devil's Haircut, Beck
The Walk, Imogene Heap
Turtledove, Trip Shakespeare
In Your Wildest Dreams, Reverend Horton Heat
Let's Stay Together, Al Green

All perfectly good songs. All ruined by a tanked relationship, embarrassing memory or, on occasion, the stark realization that it's not that great a song (Which is almost worse than the pains of heart break. I used to love Jonas & Ezekiel by the Indigo Girls...until one lyric hit me the wrong way. It's a ham-fisted line and in one fell swoop, ruined the entire song for me. I tried to muscle through, ignore the final stanza, but to no avail.)

It's a loss when this happens.

But for every post-trauma cast off, there are plenty more that remain untarnished. The following five songs are in the "Unruinable" category. Sure, they have been used to express love or thrall (or some untold reach of my personality), but despite all failed or humiliating outcomes (and bumbling usage in a commercial or movie), they are still, happily, a part of my regular soundtrack.

I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love With You is the one here...but No One Knows I'm Gone is great too...

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