Friday, January 30, 2009

A short break

This weekend I am moving back into the city (to the luxurious neighborhood of Lakeview where I will be steadfast in my efforts to drive property values DOWN). Over the next few days I'll be scraping together all my worldly belongings and carting them across town, so I'm on a brief hiatus until next Tuesday.

I'll see you next Tuesday. It will be crappy for sure.

Stop crying. You're just going to embarrass the both of us.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. I am 29 days Lunesta free. Also (and I think this might be connected, so bear with me), I am 29 days sleep free.

2. Things I am anxious about this week:

Moving February 1st
My laundry
Why isn't my toothbrush where I left it?
Does my old Mac that has all my backups still work?
All my pens that disappear
Being sucked into the black hole of my former self

3. The last 5 months have felt like 5 years. I have speculated that a being's awareness of time speeds up with increased consciousness (Which is why a day to a child takes forever, but us grown ups feel it like one tick of the clock.)

My amendment to this is the perception of time slows during a surge of learning, be it mental learning - like multiplication tables - or emotional learning. As the body and brain integrate this new knowledge, the experience of time increases once again.

At this moment, I sense Time picking up its petty pace and I am resisting the acceleration. While I know life is fleeting and now and now and now is slipping through our fingers, I don't want to go back to that spare recognition of my surroundings- and the people in it- that comes with the intensified momentum.

That's natural, I realize. It's not possible to live in a state of chaos and emotional tumult forever. That can make a body crazy. My feelings, heartaches, depressions, regressions, etc. etc. are starting heal over and amass scar tissue and in many ways this is a relief.


It's as if I emerged from the woods, bloody and incoherent, completely dehydrated and hallucinating. The villagers in my brain ran to my rescue. Fed me. Tried to make sense of what happened when I was out there in the dark and wilderness.

Now that I have been made whole, and the Villagers are satisfied that I am back to normal and everyone can rest easy again, I find myself taking long walks at the outskirts of town. I linger at the edge of the woods, certain I hear my name called.

It's probably just the wind. Or the gust of Time passing me by.

4. New Google words this week :

Mulab |'Moo•lab|
n. A accidentally racist comment.

And from Rebar:

n. a person who indulges in sloppy seconds

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In my bag

A few days ago, I cleaned out my bag.

The back pack I carry is especially large and heavy, stuffed with 25 lbs. worth of paper, CDs, movies, books, a shirt-maybe, my laptop, about 40 receipts for coffee and water, pens, etc. It all seems necessary. I have lengths to travel during the day, and it's impossible for me to make a quick trip home to retrieve any forgotten materials.

The unfortunate side effect is that my bag becomes a repository for any piece of refuse I can't readily find a place for (Hence the 40 receipts for coffee and water.). With clutter comes paranoia. Scraps of paper, bottles, envelopes tucked into regions unseen. What's lurking in there that I forgot about?

No matter how I might try, though, I still go through periods of insane mess when busy or tired...all the usual obstacles to enjoying a clutter free life. (That's never going to happen, is it? The Clutter Free Life? We can try and hide the clutter, organize it to stacks and boxes, toss out coupons from 4 years ago, trash treasures found on the sidewalk that we were convinced we'd "make into art". It will never go away. There will always be more coupons. More precious treasures. And we will continue to drive ourselves into a frenzy over whether or not we can contain it all. But there is healthy clutter to be had. It's when the stacks of newspapers threaten to crush you that you should call Oprah or some other celebrity make-over super hero.)

So, a couple of days ago, I took a few minutes to clear out the refuse, most of which, found its way into the garbage. Three items, however, came out, and then went right back in.

1. A set of fused-at-the-bottom fast food chopsticks. I keep these with me in case I ever want to eat Pan-Asian take out, but haven't got the utensils. (Come to think of it, it doesn't even have to be Pan-Asian at all, does it. Any take out will do, really. I wonder why we feel compelled to eat with chopsticks only when consuming Pad Thai or Lard Nar. I love chopsticks. Maybe I'll give way to using them when I get a burrito or pizza next time.)

Doesn't having the option of chopsticks make carry out more of a treat and less of a foray into unsatisfying pseudo-food?

2. A copy of The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker. This is embarrassing. I've had this book in my bag for about 6 years. Literally, 6 years. My friend NotNits loaned it to me, knowing how I'd enjoy it. He was right. I love this book. The problem is that reading it is like being trapped in my own friggin' mind. It goes off on parentheticals and footnotes, which send my inner voice into a tailspin of tangential thought and contemplation. I'd probably get through the BIBLE faster than this thing.

Oh, and it's 133 pages.

But now it's a real issue. 6 years, man. It has gone beyond a mere book, at this point, and has evolved into a Magic Feather. The Mezzanine has been with me on every flight over the last 6 years.Magical Thinking takes over my brain when faced with air travel...I KNOW the second I leave this book at home, the giant aluminum bird will come crashing down to Earth.

It has made it, dog-eared and worn with the laminant curling up at the edges of the cover, into every new bag I move on to. At one point I made the joke to NotNits that the day I give him back this book, our friendship will be over.

Now, I secretly believe that to be the case.

Sorry, NotNits. You're not getting this book back. You probably knew that already.

3. A human finger bone. When traveling on their honeymoon, my friends S. and V. went to a place that sold and displayed human bones.

They thought of me and brought one back. I was not disturbed, but delighted.

At one point, I thought I had lost it. It was gone for over a year, when - quite by accident - I found it under a bunch of towels in a trunk.

I won't ever be without it again.

To this day it is one of the best presents I have ever been given.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Dang. And I even reminded myself this morning.

Let's see how close I get to with these influences:

Goose: Led Zepplin, Tom Robbins, Robert DeNiro
Joe g: Terry Gilliam, John Cale, Alan Moore

Yee HAW!

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

When the heart is broken, musical taste takes a nosedive. At first, all the great songs of longing and passion may suffice, but after the dust settles, and feelings are still raw, and there seems to be no end in sight, it's far too exhausting to rifle through complex poetry and rhythm to get just the right feeling. I want something on the nose and I want it now.

Because of this, you might awaken from a Riunite soaked night to discover your iTunes account scabbed over with the likes of Nickleback or Avril Lavigne (and your recommendations will never be the same, trust me. I purchased an Amy Grant song a few years back for a show and it has been nothing but Jars of Clay and Creed ever since.). What's worse, is that you will listen to it. On Repeat. For Days.

Do you even know yourself? No. You don't. No one else knows you either which is why, when Daughtrey belts out "It's Not Over", you don't stop yourself from the shame of swaying to and fro. All that Pre-Punk and Math Rock lies dormant while you fill your head with Akon and Pink. "Who Knew?"

In the throes of remantling the the heart, no one wants to do any musical work. They want something, that in no uncertain terms, announces how they feel like a ball peen hammer. Sure, Tom Waits' "Closing Time" might send you through every delicate sensation love can bring and The Magnetic Fields are no strangers to heartache. However, they are too smart, too contemplative for the broken heart. The Broken Heart wants "SO WHAT?! I AM A ROCK STAR. I GOT MY ROCK MOVES. AND I DON'T NEED YOU." not "Looking for Somebody With Whom to Dance."

The more thoughtful stuff is for later. When the ache is milder, and the rational mind can comfort the dumb little heart with poetry. Then it's not so afraid of reflection.

In the film, Magnolia, Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) is a desperate former child genius, trying to get the attention of a bar tender in a local dive. At one point (actually, I think several points) he is playing "Dreams" by Gabrielle in his little beater car. This song is not great. As far as hopeful songs about love go, it's pretty basic. But you can tell this guy has it on over and over again in his car to pump himself up. It's on the nose, slightly catchy, and free from reflection. (And in the hands of Macy and PT Anderson, totally heartbreaking)

It has a pretty high play count on my iTunes.

Monday, January 26, 2009


I wonder.

This woman shares my name:

Seriously, I am BLOWN AWAY by how similar we are. Look...just a dab of red hair and glasses and...

Staggering, isn't it?

A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but if you want the rose to be smokin' hot you should name it -j-j-.

**American Splendor, by the way, is an exceptional film if you haven't seen it. It is simple, beautiful and elegantly written. I get giddy watching it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

AUGH! What is that crawling through my MIND?!'s human emotion...I get it.

When they are born, children have three starter emotions:


That is not to say that more complex feelings don't exist in the under-5 set, but those are the three that kids can point to first: I am smiling, I must be happy. I am crying, I must be sad. I want to run away, I must be afraid. They are the ones a child can lay claim to and try to explain to the other, bigger versions of itself - the parents. Later on, they develop a broader vocabulary for emotion. Happy might give way to Joy, Sad might evolve into Lonely, and so on. Until those words and delineations grow, however, Happy, Sad and Afraid are what kids have to work with.

And what a terrible position that is. No grey area, just black and white. When the two cross streams what on earth do you say? Does a four-year-old know how two express the strange internal conflict that might accompany a blend of Happy and Afraid? Or Sad and Happy?

It is because of this that I think most of the initial physical sensations arising from emotional response are attributed by children to fear. Why not? With no real words to categorize Fascination or Yearning or Elation, the pounding heart or the trembling hands (both possible side effects of all three of these) must be fear, mustn't they? Now add in the desire to return to the very thing which seemed to induce panic before and we have a real a quagmire.

This is how we grow emotionally, I suppose (or at least evolve enough to try to communicate those feelings to others in a more specific way.).

(ALSO: Feelings are a pain in the ass. I like being happy or content - everyone does. Longing, despair, confusion...even anticipation, love, etc. Christ. The clinical part of me is curious and always taking down notes about my physical response to such things, but being over taken by intense emotion makes me feel crazed and out of control. Scads of self-help books are full of encouraging notions to "Let the innermost self be free to express the beautiful colors of emotion!" and in many regards, I agree. Sure. Let fly the international color guard of agony and exultation. But honestly...can I get some sleep while we do it? Can I just quit shaking so much when I'm angry or amorous? I'd be much obliged.)

A while back, I was trying to explain to a friend the absolute FEAR I felt upon seeing Freddie Mercury for the first time.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" (Queen, in my opinion, being the second greatest band ever.) In 1979, when it hit the airwaves, I was 5 years old and it was just about the most amazing thing I had ever heard (and still is. It is among my ten Unruinable Songs.). A few weeks later, on a television show called Night Flights - this was pre-MTV- they aired the video for "Crazy Little Thing Called Love". Before this I had never seen so much as a photograph of Freddie Mercury:

I stood, motionless and barely breathing. What was that feeling?

Fear. I attributed it to fear. It must have been, right? My heart was pounding.

Freddie Mercury was a strange looking fella. Especially to a 5-year-old who hadn't the faintest ideas about quirky sexuality. What the crap was that?

Years later, when talking about a "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" I mentioned that Freddie Mercury scared the hell out of me.


Yeah, I was terrified.

Scared, really?

Well, you know...confused, attracted, repulsed, fascinated...

So not scared.

Oh. Well, no. I guess not.

Since then I have been revising my general list of childhood fears. Was I really afraid or simply unable to parse the bundle of emotional responses in a complex way because I didn't have the vocabulary?

Here are some other things that I used to be "Afraid of " but now I realize that it probably wasn't fear at all. Included is what I consider the actual emotion today:

  1. The painting of a lone man on a dock in my parent's den (Actual feeling: Curiosity, Loneliness)
  2. The Logical Song by Super Tramp (Actual feeling: Dread, Apprehension, Resentment, Urge to dance)
  3. Richard Chamberlain (Actual feeling: Confusion)
  4. The animated Watership Down (Actual feeling: Helplessness, Burgeoning realization of own mortality)
  5. Previews from the movie Somewhere in Time* (Actual feelings: Why is Superman in this movie?)
  6. The cover of Billy Joel's Album The Stranger (Actual feelings: Anticipation, Secrecy, Fascination)
  7. Vintage cover art of a giant robot with a man in its palm. On the finger of his other hand, was a bloody red spot. The man in his palm was dead. The Robot looked confused. This was in a book of vintage comic covers my parents had. If I can find it, I'll post it here. (Actual feeling: Remorse, regret)

I'm sure there are plenty more irrational attributions to fear. Perhaps I'll add more later on.

*Which I still did not see until I was 33.

UPDATE: As Joe g points out in the comments section, a version of the picture I was referring to in item 7, was used as the cover art for Queen's album News of the World:
The original painting was first used on a magazine cover for Astounding Science Fiction in 1953. This is the one that was in that book at my parents house. The look on the robot's face is the part that captured my imagination, so to speak. Even looking at it now makes me uneasy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Below is the opening video we shot for Kerpatty!'s show at Sketchfest.

(Unfortunately, YouTube is not caring so much for my videos it's a little fuzzy...but still. These guys make me laugh 'til I blow a gasket.)

UPDATE: I discovered the play in high quality option...if it doesn't translate to high quality here you can always go here and click the "Watch in High Quality" link in the lower right corner under the video.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Traitor and villain, what wouldst thou?

We all think of ourselves as the heroes of our own stories. It is only through our own valiant efforts that the prize will be won, that the princess or prince will be saved (and thus married or actualized or whatever). We, the protagonists, are bringers or order, justice, and the restoration of peace.

And what good would any story be if other archetypes did not arise: Oracles, Benefactors, True Loves, False Prophets and, of course, Villains.

In fantasy and super hero genres the villain is pretty easy to spot. We like it like that. The center from which evil emanates is plainly marked with a handlebar mustache or giant lava filled mountain of Doom, it's tough to fight, but, as the sun sets our hero (that would be you) is cloaked in triumph.

(I think this is partly why Americans fetishize Hitler the way we do. A portrait of total and awesome tyranny, with a hot black and red logo that announced to the world "I AM EVIL". He even had a mustache. I worry, though, with our definition of evil using Hitler as the cartoon exemplar of villainy, that we might miss smaller, dowdier atrocities in our own back yards. Evil is not a Tyrant. It is the clock that got the tyrant to rally on time.)

As we get older ideas of villainy give way to greyer instances of persecution: a Jock who pushes you in the hall, a teacher who just doesn't get you, a co-worker consumed with jealousy. The punishments for these characters in our plays become more suited to the crimes against us: The Jock is punished with a beer gut and a longing that won't go away, the teacher is fired, the co-worker is found out for sabotaging your work and is openly reprimanded.

These are the satisfying fruits of our labor. Vengeance is meted out, we can rest easy now that our work is done. Cue indie love song. Roll credits.

But wait...

Lately I've been wondering...uhhhh...what if I'm not the hero? What if that's not the movie I'm in? Recently, past action has reared its ugly head in strange and unexpected ways. I keep having "learning moments" that bounce off me like a bucket of super pinky balls. What if I'm the villain...

I don't think I am. I don't sit around thinking about how I can stick it to anyone else. I don't shove the little guy in a trash can...but Villains don't think they're evil do they?

Can someone do me a favor? Tell me if I'm your villain. Maybe your feeling a little out of sorts yourself. We can work something out, I bet. Fisticuffs in the bathroom, pistols at dawn, intergalactic battle. I think we'll both feel a lot better.

If not, at least then I'll know upon whom to unleash my malfeasance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Song for an Inauguration Tuesday

I don't know how, Tuesday, but you did it. I must admit that the Guidance Counselors here at Putesco High School - myself included - didn't think you'd make much of yourself. To be honest, we figured you were destined to be towards the bottom of your class.

But look at you now. All dressed up, looking smart. Ready to usher in a new era.

I have to say, Tuesday, we're proud of you.

Don't fuck it up.

I'm glad this day is here.

I hope we can keep the vultures of our own cynicism at bay. At least for a while.

This presidential shift means more than policy. More that race. It means possibility. It means change is not some awful trick of the future. It means adventure.

This Tuesday I am proud to be a citizen of the United States.

Good luck, Mr. President.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Don't Be Evil. Be Ubiquitous.

One of the ways traditional colonization works is through the systematic restructuring of a culture's religion, rituals and language. While, Google does not appear to be forcing us to bow to a giant statue of Steve Jobs, I sense its loving imperialism every time I try to make a comment on a friend's blog.

Those confirmation words seem awfully close to actual language, don't they? I wonder if they are prepping us for their final nurturing takeover, capitalizing on our nostalgia for the Sniglet, by injecting a little vocab lesson with every snarky remark made on Blogger.

Below is a sampling. Memorize them. They are the SAT words of tomorrow.

(These are not in alphabetical order for two reasons. 1) You know how hard that is for me and 2) In the future the Alphabet will be considered classist.)

Lamplawk |‘lamp•lawk|
v. To lurk from one room to the next, without aim or purpose, over a three day weekend. –esp. in one’s own home. -What did you do over Memorial Day? -Just lamplawked around the house, mostly.

Enflanst |en•’flanst|
v. (often to be enflanst) Past tense of the verb-Enflanse. Filled with wonder and excitement while sweating copious amounts from any area of the body that normally remains dry. Occurs only in the presence of another. (Enflanse. v. To cause such a reaction) Darling, I was so enflanst by you that my chin was soaking wet.

Fragity |’fragi•tee|
adj. Exhausted to the point of telling the unspeakable truth to co-workers and authority figures.

Drefle |’dre•fl |
n. A thing of minor importance, but considered worth mentioning (-esp. to divert attention from the lack of one’s own knowledge on a subject of discussion)
v. To speak with intense gravity or weight over such a thing Did you hear Tom drefle on and on about why Charles Dickens faced North while sleeping?

Buryocle |bur•ee•’oh•kl|
n. A distant Aunt or Uncle who behaves inappropriately at a funeral. Also, a dirty limerick or song sung by such a relative.

Subvi |’sub•vee |
v. To partially undermine by doing nothing

Squacil |’skwasil|
n. An amendment to a will in which all potential heirs lose their claims to the decedent’s estate should a fight break out among them.

Bedull |be•’dull|
v. To remove all reference or evidence of former glory.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chekhov Meets The Wiggles

Or L'il John Meets Lazytown...

Brought to you courtesy of a rehearsal (Rehearsal is a loose term. Mostly we just watch YouTube and laugh our heads off) with Kerpatty!, the two man nuthouse I look after. They are performing tonight at Sketchfest at 10pm (at the Theatre Building).

(If you are planning on checking it out, buy tickets now. It will sell out.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

On Purpose

There is a fellow who lives on our street. He is in his mid-fifties. Since the day I met him, he knew my name and he's always very warm.

He's had some troubles and there has been some speculation as to how he deals with it.

But I don't care about that. What I do notice, is that whenever he sees me on the street, he makes the effort to say, "Hello, -j-j-." It's never with an expectation that I will enter into a conversation, just a quick hello and on his way. Every time I see him, I get a little nervous, persnickety as I am about talking to people I don't know, but our exchanges have always been brief and friendly.

The other day, while snoozing in my own world on the bus, I caught a glimpse of him sitting down a few rows ahead. He saw me as well.

The way my head was turned, I'm sure it looked as though I could see him the whole time. Truth was, I wasn't paying attention at all. But I'm sure it appeared to him that I was gawking at him, unsmiling, unfriendly.

As soon as my brain woke up and pieced together might have happened, I felt ashamed. The whole ride home, and after I got off the bus, I hoped to catch his glance, to smile in his direction, but the opportunity never arose. Had he known me better he could have shrugged it off or I could have explained. I didn't want to hurt his feelings.

This has happened plenty of times in my life, when I have become the accidental asshole, sometimes ignoring someone right next to me. Perhaps, I wasn't paying enough attention. It's not intentional, and as soon as I realize what has transpired, I try to rectify the situation.

Yesterday, someone got the bright idea to intentionally cause pain. It may not have been meant directly for me, but that doesn't matter.

What matters is this: They sat down with the aim and purpose of writing something hurtful. They used my name and tried to make comment on a situation about which they know nothing.
And to make matters worse, this person chose to keep themselves anonymous, relieving themselves of any responsibility.

Look, people hurt people. That's what we do. Christ,we can't help ourselves. I want something. You want something. Fuck you, I want mine more.

I have hurt many people in my life. Most without intention, but the deed was done nonetheless. In other cases, I regret to admit, I have done so on purpose, either in response to a perceived wrong, or my own insecurities.

But I'm still befuddled. Why set yourself to the task of typing a sentence that can have no other purpose but to cause injury? Every component of this points to the intention: to hurt.

The thing is, I'm not really that mad about it. I mean, I am a little, but more so, I am confused. What on earth could have happened in your day to make that sort of thing an appropriate response to ANYTHING.(You may try to shake the devil's hand and say "It was just a joke." I have about as dark a sense of humor as anyone and even I didn't think it was funny.)

I don't mean this to be a screed on "How to get along with the other neanderthals in your tribe" (Though tickets for my seminar are nearly sold out...get 'em while they last!) but c'mon, seriously?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. Every so often, a phantom buzz will vibrate on some part of my body. It could be anywhere, the shoulder, the forearm, the solar plexus. The sensation is exactly like receiving a phone call when my cell is on vibrate.

But on my abdomen? Or my kneecap?

Other people have noted the same sensation. A buzz, an urgent search for the phone, someone is trying to get a hold of me, the discovery that the cell is nowhere near the ribcage.

Would this occur if cell phones had no vibrate function? Is this an outgrowth of our increasing reachability? Perhaps the body is reacting with a dormant fight or flight mechanism. Phones evoke tremendous anxiety and yet are endemic to our culture. As we adapt to higher and higher levels of observation, with cameras and GPS trackers sewn into the hems of our jeans, is our body alerting us to the virtual eyes and ears everywhere?

Or perhaps this phantom buzz has existed since the dawn of humankind. Cavemen felt it and could not attach it to anything external, so it went unnoticed. When Goody Hawthorne of old Salem told the minister about "dragonfly wings beating beneath the skin of my thigh", he probably had her burned at the stake. In World War II, when PFC Garrett complained of a buzzing sensation in his armpit, perhaps he was sent to the psych ward for battle fatigue.

I wonder what other modern inventions have caused or illuminated strange bodily reactions?

2. I am curious and nervous at the prospect of living alone. I'm not worried about loneliness or safety (though I think those are wise areas of concern) but I suspect that certain heretofore uncultivated eccentricities will finally be allowed to unfurl their great wings.

I'm not thinking I'm going to go all Marquis de Sade and write on the walls in my own filth (however, I suppose I shouldn't damn myself with brazen pronouncements like that.). I have always considered myself a tiny bit alien, and I wonder that I might lose, incrementally, the parts of myself that make me human.

Admitting to such a tenuous grasp on my own humanity should send up red flags, I guess. Time will tell. Hopefully, the great experiment will begin at the beginning of February.

3. Holy Fucking Shit. It is cold outside.

Every year it's a new shock. I've been living here for 16 years and when Winter shoves me up against the lockers season in and season out, I respond like its the first time, every time: I cry, give it my lunch money and run and tell the principal...who does nothing.

Today, I wont be such a weenie. Today, I'm prepared. Today, My lunch money is all. in. pennies.

Take THAT.

4. I swear, the worst place to drop or knock over anything is the bathroom.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sleep Thinking

I am too sleepy to write.

I have been hovering over this keyboard, my eyes at half mast, taking in soft, steady breaths.

I swear I just snored out loud.

Jeez. My office is really warm. Like the womb.

I have been off the Lunesta for 10 days now, but I can't tell much of a difference. It must be because I've got some sleep deprivation issues. Two or three projects come to fruition this weekend and getting to bed before 3am is a challenge.

While sleep deprived, decision making skills are harder to grab hold of, like trying to get a piece of errant fuzz out of your mouth. And with the motor skills taking a dive too, getting the fuzz out of your mouth is even trying to grab hold of a decision making skills while sleep deprived.


I found myself half listening to Eric and Cathy on the mix this morning (while I drove, half blind, in snow. It was still really beautiful, though, with big clots of flakes raining down, even as people - I'm afraid myself included - drove like morons trying to get to work. The snowflakes didn't melt immediately so you could see the lingering shapes of the flakes before they turned to water and dripped away. I'm still fascinated by that. The first time I ever saw a snow flake - for real, with the crystals and everything - was when I came to Chicago. Until then I believed the shapes to be a product of an animator's fantasy. They exist on a microscopic level, I thought, you can't see them with the naked eye. I'm sure everyone was all "what evs" when they saw me flipping out over ...)

Wait...where was I? Oh, right Eric and Cathy.

I was going to say I don't like Eric and Cathy on the Radio. Which is why I was surprised to find that I was listening to them. I could have turned the dial but instead, I must have faded off mid-switch. (That happens to me a lot. I am riding in my sister's car and become irritable. Then i discover I've left the radio on a half-received Spanish station...)

It's really warm in here...
I'm too sleepy to write....
(Soft half lucid Snore)

juuugoi8ry84jndfo290u3p92-p9999 0888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888888

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

Today is my friend Tina's birthday.

Tina was my roommate for three years of college, back in the days of yore. For anyone who has ever lived through the arranged marriage of college roommates, you know that your chances of of happiness with that person are largely a roll of the dice. I was lucky.

We lived for a while on Sheffield and then migrated to Webster, in a giant, oddly shaped apartment with burnt orange carpet and stuccoed walls. After almost two years of living together, taking classes and attending to parties in one another's company, Tina looked over at me and said, "We're kind of a package deal, aren't we?"

I was tickled by her use of the phrase "package deal". It was true.

This is not to say that our friendship was all puppies and sunshine, lollipops and never melting ice cream. We had our ups and downs, our "Please JEsus, just get away from me for five MINUTES." We fought. We had a keen awareness of each others deep flaws (and I might add, we, on occasion, would spring to point them out.)...but it was sort of gleeful.

Tina and I fought for three hours one night over whether or not Hitler was in hell. We debated whether or not should have cheese and meat delivered to our house on a weekly basis. She and I would spend our weekends in the apartment, along with the other members of our little family- CP and Jan, listening to Tom Waits on a cheap white Craig CD player, drinking beer, and watching each other play an involved two deck version of solitaire (Yeah, buddy, we were the party house.) We'd stay up for hours talking in the hallway, long after one of us said we were going to bed. Never consider it a small thing to simply and fully enjoy another person's company.

She endured a lot of my college insanity. I endured hers. And right after college, we parted ways...for a number of reasons, both rational and illogical. For seven years we barely spoke, at first, in little fits and starts. Then not at all.

In 2003, I was flown to LA to perform in a friend's art piece. Circumstances, pushed me into staying at her place. I was nervous. Over the past seven years, water had flown freely under the bridge. Much had happened. I had ignored a lot of things.

But once the initial freak out and sizing up was over, it was as if not a day had passed and I am pleased to say that she and I are still friends, though I can't see her as much as I'd like. I haven't been able to see the little cub she and the DR have recently spawned. Soon, I hope.


Today's song is my Birthday Present to Tina. "Total Eclipse of the Heart", off of Bonnie Tyler's Faster than the Speed of Night, was one of Tina's favorites, and while I won't completely embarrass you, here...I will only note that performance art has never reached such heights as when this song played on our little Cheap Craig. Seriously, Tina, we should have sold tickets.

You will always be King of Monster Island. Happy Half of Seventy!

**I also want to make clear to both CP and Jan, that your tributes are coming in good time.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Huff me. I will make you high and more stupiderer.

While agonizing over an entry, I realized I couldn't put a thought together in any sort of meaningful way.

It happens to everyone. Yesterday's manifestos of growth and inner peace seem pale compared today's reality that the linolium in the break room couldn't get any more beige if it tried. Days in which all cumulative progress (mental, physical, emotional) seems to dissolve..voluntarily. We watch it happen. Like watching butter melt with bored fascination.

These days, hours, minutes exist - tick after indifferent tock - regardless of how unwanted they are. Struggling only tightens the grip.

So do attempts at making up metaphors.

Today, I am rubber cement.

I have an interesting smell. Things kind of stick to me and then fall off. I'm no good for permanent fixtures. If you get enough of me on your hands you can roll me into a rubber-ish ball. I won't bounce very well.

Today, I am Fruit Stripe Gum.

I taste really good at first and then call up fond childhood memories. In 15 seconds, my flavor will vanish.

Today, I am like a old bag of marshmallows in the pantry.

I am white, and hard, and forgotten except at Thanksgiving.

Today, I am a Word a Day Calendar.

You haven't turned me in 6 days. You'll rip out the last week in a stack and toss the the sheets into the garbage. You'll never know what Callipygean means, now. And I don't care. I am a Word a Day Calendar, not your AP English Teacher.

Today, I am one half of your favorite pair of earrings.

You keep forgetting that you lost one of me. You pull me out on special occasions, and the night is nearly ruined when you recall dropping it down the drain in the bathroom a year and half ago. For an instant, you think maybe you'll dig it out. But time is running short and you pick up another pair or earrings, swearing that you'll return to with a wire hanger to dredge out my mate.

This will go unremembered until your brother-in-law's wedding in three months when the exact same set of thoughts will occur to you.

Today, I am a subcutaneous lump.

You felt me on the soft of your underarm on Tuesday. By day's end, your feverish mind-that had nothing better to do-had built me up into cancer of the rarest and deadliest kind. You will lose sleep for tonight...but tonight only.

What you don't realize is that I have been there for years. I am a tiny piece of bone left behind the day Chris Decker hit you in the arm with a baseball bat in the second grade.

Today, I am the letter E.

I'm in several places at once.

Today, I am a person typing on a computer.

I type words and string them together. Students keep interrupting me to pick up their papers from last quarter. Suddenly, I run out of things to type.


Friday, January 9, 2009

"Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are."

-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825

The suggestion for the our scenes was to have Food as a central part of the proceedings. Food is such a fraught subject, and the other writers certainly didn't disappoint.

Here was my offering:

MORGAN, female – 20’s
TIM, male – 20’s
HENRY, male - 74

(Dining room of an upper middle class suburban home, probably on the North Shore, Summer, mid-day. The cherry wood dining table is laid with three settings for lunch – a bright yellow plate atop a light blue gingham place mat. Iced tea and bowls with mayonnaise-based salads are arranged here and there. All over the dark green walls are paintings and photos of a smiling woman in various stages of aging. One photo might be of her with a puppy, another might be of that same woman several years later. The color of the walls can barely be seen through the blanket of pictures. MORGAN and TIM, mid-twenties, sit across from each other at two of the table settings. They are dressed for warm weather. MORGAN looks strikingy similar to the woman in the pictures. They look at each other, holding hands across the table, MORGAN’s brow is furrowed.)

I said your dad was old.

He is old.

But I said it. Out loud.

Morgan, he’s 74 years old. Nothing you said came as any news.

Right. Maybe if I hadn’t just hollered out about how white his hair was. Sometimes you can cover that stuff up, but I really just…y’know, yelped it out.


I practically screamed it.

If you keep obsessing over it, you’ll say something else stupid.

MORGAN (Pulling her hand away)

I didn’t mean to say that.

I’ll say something else stupid.

I meant stupid to you, sweetie. He didn’t even think two seconds about it.


(She lets out a sigh and reaches over to take a spoonful of potato salad. TIM watches her as she dumps the white lump on her plate.)

What are you doing?

Getting some potato salad.


(He reaches over, grabs the spoon and scoops the potato salad back into the serving bowl.)

What’er you-

Were you raised in a barn? Jesus.


Dad’s not even at the table yet. For Pete’s sake. Wipe your plate off.

(She lifts her napkin and hesitates)

Are you serious?

(A Beat. Before he can answer, a whistling approaches from the kitchen. HENRY, an imposing man with white Brylcreemed hair enters. He is wearing a little kitchen apron with daisies on it and he carries a plate full of sandwiches stacked into a pyramid.)

Here we GO, kids…

MORGAN (Dropping her napkin back into her lap)
Thank you, Mr. Tripp.

Not a problem…not a bit of a problem. You kids’er probably hungry, sitting out here waiting on an old-timer like me.

(He and TIM laugh. MORGAN does not. HENRY leans far over the table, reaching across MORGAN to set the sandwiches down.)

You kids drive all the way up from Indiana, least I can do is whip up some of my bologna sandwiches (he pronounces it Buh-lon-uh).

Thanks, Dad. We really appreciate it.

(HENRY, sits at the head of the table, unties the apron and flings it down to the opposite end.)

Sure, sure. (He spies the white residue on MORGAN’s plate) Couldn’t wait, could you?

(Pause. MORGAN looks at TIM)

I guess not. I was really, um…hungry. I mean, we drove so far.

Uh-huh. We should say grace.

Yes. We should.

(HENRY holds out two enormous hands to and they all join in a circle. A beat. HENRY looks at MORGAN.)

Maybe our guest can say grace.

Oh! I….um…..

(Her eyes plead with TIM)

Go ahead, sweetie.

Oh okay….(She bows her head, totally unprepared for this) Dear Lord….(long pause. Breathing) Thank you for this food….and we hope that we will….(Long pause) be healthy….and thank you for the company…..(Long pause) and please forgive-




Prayer’s so long I thought the bologna (Buh-lon-uh) sandwiches sandwiches were gonna get cold!

(He and TIM laugh. HENRY reaches over and scoops out a heaping portion of the potato salad and glops it onto MORGAN’s plate.)

Fill’er up.


(TIM takes a bologna sandwich from the plate and bites into it.)

I love a bologna (Buh-lon-uh) sandwich.

(Silence. HENRY reaches over to grab a sandwich. MORGAN looks at both men and then turns to look at the picture behind her. After a beat, she turns back.)

Those are beautiful pictures of your wife.

HENRY (Not looking at her, his face engaged in resolute chewing.)
S’not my wife.


(She looks at TIM, he stares down at his plate, also chewing)

I thought- okay….

I love a bologna (Buh-lon-uh) sandwich. Nothing says Summer to me like a bologna (Buh-lon-uh) sandwich.

Me neither.


You mean, Bolo-NEE.

(TIM and HENRY stop chewing)



No, no….what did you say?

It’s bolo-nee. Not Bolo-nuh, the way you’ve been saying it.

What do you mean it’s not Bolo-nuh. That’s how you spell it. There’s an A at the end.

I’ve heard it…um…well there’s no G sound either. You don’t pronounce the G.

What G? What’s she talking about Timmy?

I don’t know Dad.

There’s no G.

But. there is a G.

Bolo-NEE, huh?

That’s right.

Two different words.

What? What are you-

Two. Different. Words.

They’re the same-

No. NO. Bolo-NUH, is a delicious lunch meat that I am eating right now on a sandwich. Bolo-NEE, is a pack of lies. Bolo-NEE, is bullshit. Does it look like I’m eating a shit sandwich, is that what you’re saying?



No. NO…right. TWO. DIFFERENT. WORDS. And no G in there…ANYWHERE.

(A beat)


Come in here and insult my cooking….were you raised in a barn?

No, sir.

No, SIR.

(A long silence. HENRY looks at her plate.)

You haven’t touched your potato salad.

(MORGAN reaches over to take a fork, only to realize that there isn’t one.)


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. The following foods are divisive:


Barring allergy, people can get talked into eating pretty much anything but these foods. Not a fan of fish? You might be gently coerced into trying a bite or two of some exotic dish. Perhaps you even enjoy it and chalk it up to the exception that proves the rule.

But try to talk someone into eating olives if they are not so inclined to like them and you will get disgust. (I have a suspicion that this aversion comes from a sense of betrayal. The other night I handed my nephew J. a whole kalamata olive to which he grinned and said "Ooh...gape! (grape)" He put it in his mouth and was terribly hurt at the savory for sweet bait and switch. I'll report back here in 16 years and tell you if my findings are correct.)

It's funny, though, that this disgust might lead those of us who happen to enjoy a good olive now and then, to behave so cruelly as to shove the little purple/brown/green nugget right up into their faces, even as they frown or go so far as to shove our offending hands away. Why do we do this?

2. My mother gave J. a pretend cell phone for Christmas. It has Elmo's head on top of it and, it turns out, it's Elmo J. is talking to when he plays with it. (Elmo being the little red monster on Sesame Street who refers to himself in the third person.) With a press of a button, Elmo giggles and calls J. by name, and is one of the most self centered conversationalists I've ever heard. ALL ELMO TALKS ABOUT IS EFFING ELMO.

Did you see Elmo on the TV today?
Elmo is having so much fun!
Elmo wants to have a party for Elmo's birthday!
Elmo bought a new pair of pants from the Gap. Does Elmo look fat in Elmo's new pants?
Elmo's new flame is totes crazy but Elmo just can't help Elmo's self.
Elmo is so happy you called J.!

Yeah, I bet you are. The kid can't get a word in edgewise.

3. Unanswered questions this week:

Why do we feel like we have to be understood?
Why do I seem to hate a movie so much weeks after I've seen it?
When does the "Go back to Start" card get shuffled out of the deck?
Why is it $2 rather than $1 to browse in Frenchy's Adult Bookstore after midnight?

These may or may not continue unanswered.

4. Favorite word this week:

an⋅o⋅dyne[an-uh-dahyn] –noun

1. a medicine that relieves or allays pain.
2. anything that relieves distress or pain: The music was an anodyne to his grief.
3. relieving pain.
4. soothing to the mind or feelings.

Least favorite word this week:


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

There is no gentle way.

The work phone rings and I pick it up. At the end of my welcome spiel, the cheerful voice on the other end tells me why he called.

"Hi, this is Jim from --- Marketing. We're around the corner from you guys."

"Oh, hi," I say, "What can I do for you?"

"Is L. there?"

I hesitate. "No. I'm just filling in. Is there something I can help you with? Or maybe J.? He can help you, too if you like...if he's more familiar-"

"No, no...that's fine. What was your name?" His voice has a practiced warm quality most salesmen possess. There is a smile in it.

"-j-j-" I say.

"Hi, -j-j-, my company usually does these labels with you guys..."

He wants to place an order. I pull a square multicolored pad from beside the phone and start taking down his specs. During our conversation his voice becomes increasingly bright and a little flirty. He comments about the snow over Christmas. I tell him I was lucky I didn't have to travel.

The banter winds downs and he says:

"So, is L. gonna be back later today or...?"

I take a breath and for a millisecond I consider a misleading one-word answer. But I don't want to be unfair.

I exhale with a little too much force into phone.

"Uhhhhmmm...I-this is so...I can't believe I'm the one who has to tell you this. Um...L. is not coming back. I'm afraid she passed away on Christmas morning."

There is a pause.

L., the woman for whom was filling in during the month of December, was far more ill than any of us had imagined. The cancer was aggressive and no one knew.

"Are you k- really?"

"Yes. I'm sorry...I know this is strange to hear from me. You and I have only just me- not even met really..."

"I know...oh, my god. I just...I just talked to her like three weeks ago."

"Yes, I know. She was very sick...they didn't catch it in time."

He lets out an awkward laugh of disbelief.

"She was so nice...will you tell everyone there how nice she was? And very professional. Will you tell- I just can't believe it."

"I know." Christ, I want this conversation to end.

"Okay...well, Iyuh, I'll email this order over L.'s email address?"

"That's right." My voice rolls its eyes with weary. How utterly perplexing this must be for him.


"I'm sorry."

"Okay...well...look for that email and I'm truly sorry. Will you tell everyone?"

"Of course. Thank you."

"Okay. Uh...have a good day."

"You, too."

We hang up and I push my head into my hands, agonized.

I knew who this woman was. I trained her two years ago as my replacement. I saw her when I stopped in to say hi. And even though her absence is everywhere in the office, her passing is distant to me.

But for the few uncomfortable moments I speak to Jim from --- Marketing around the corner, we are both forced to share a moment of singular loss. It's not usually a moment that one shares with a hapless customer over the phone, but there it is.

And as soon as it arrived, it was gone.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

"First Tuesday of the New Year" stands at the kitchen sink, staring out the window, the coffee pot handle clasped in its hand as it fills with water. The carafe overflows, but FTotNY doesn't move to turn off the faucet. It just stands there, pajamaed, hair askew, gazing out over the blueish terrain of the backyard.

You stand in the kitchen doorway and watch FTotNY for a moment. Is something wrong? It's only a few days after the New FTotNY so defeated already? Does the prospect of heading out into the frostbitten morning, waiting for public transportation that may or may not come, into a world where all the hope of 2009 evaporated with the first ring of your cubicle phone, paralyze FTotNY? Is FTotNY trying to recall that loving thing you said? That inane thing you said? That terrible thing you whispered under your breath while its mother was still in town?

You make an audible sniff and "First Tuesday of the New Year" jerks out of its vertical slumber.

"Hey, What's up?" you ask.

"Huh?" FTotNY half smiles and turns off the water,"Nuthin'. Jus' makin' coffee."

"Oh...okay." Relieved, you shuffle on with your day.

Shopping at Borders is a wholly unremarkable experience. People must like it that way - losing themselves in a deluge of books and point of purchase displays. No hardbacks in odd categorizations here. It's either non-fiction or literature. And while the staff knows far less about Robert Lowell than you do, they don't stand behind the counter of their independent (and rapidly deteriorating) book store and dare you to ask.

Borders fills a need for Americans to purchase "Twilight" in judgment free anonymity.

The Borders on the knot of Clark, Broadway, and Diversey here in Chicago is no different from any other Borders anywhere else. The selection is pretty much the same - displays of new fiction and relationship guides clog the entryways. Chocolates and tiny tarot cards line the checkout counter. The ony major distinction it has is its music and movie section, located in the basement.

The idea that physical CDs are purchased seems archaic, yet Borders (and other mega outlet stores) clings to this dying business that will soon go the way of the 8 Track. More and more the selection appears random and desperate, topped with Hannah Montana, James Blunt, and a freak copy of Southern Culture on the Skids. The selection in the basement of the Borders on Clark is no exception. It's the fellas that work this department.

I think there are three of them, two bespectacled, iridescent fleshed geeks and a long haired heavy metal dude. I don't see them often...perhaps they aren't even the same guys from one visit to the next. But whoever they are, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that they work in a Borders. It might as well be Dead Wax.

Amid the multiple copies of Michael Buble' and DVDs of Notting Hill, they blast Serj Tankian, The New York Dolls, and Minor Threat - thrusting their fists against the post of Borders corporate indifference.

I have never been to their basement lair when Norah Jones was playing. The other day I was shopping for a gift and was pleased to hear Jello Biafra's tortured voice through the climate controlled ducts.

Today's song is for them. A tribute from a tribute album to the Dead Kennedys. "Forward to Death" is a terrific pounding anthem. In the hands of Nomeansno, it suddenly becomes a strange amalgam - like the two geeks and a dude in their Borders Hideout. Like Manhattan Transfer took the brown acid.

(No video here, just the song. And note, it's not really work friendly unless you want to further honor our fallen comrades, yoked by menial corporate drudgery. If this is the case, blast it.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Facebook thinks I'm gay.

In those first heady days of signing up for Facebook, when the friend land grab begins and barely remembered high school acquaintances show up at your virtual door with a "Wow! What are YOU up to???", the construction of the profile is very important. One even might say an obsession. Hours are spent hunched over a keyboard cataloging personal information: likes and dislikes, bands loved, television shows hated, quotes that reveal the totality of your humanity in the most nonchalant but alluring way.

Attention must also be paid to the Basic Information segment of the profile. It's an area that can be a foregone in favor of sexier information like music or movies, but in order to keep things clear it's a good idea to get the essentials taken care of:

Networks: Chicago, IL
Sex: Female
Birthday: November 25, 1973
Hometown: Redacted
Interested In: Women, Men
Looking For: Friendship, Networking
Nothing in this portion of my profile is untrue, but I think one field in particular is confusing. When I first joined Facebook, I wasn't single, so I was only interested in Friends and Networking (and this is still the case). When it asked me who I was interested in, of COURSE I was going to say "Women, Men"...who doesn't want to network and be friends with "Women, Men"?

It wasn't until a few months later that my friend Tina offered her impression of my profile. Apparently, I am bi-sexual.



That's exotic.

The level of my own bisexuality has always been a subject of some discussion between me and my friends (especially since I made the somewhat blithe announcement that I was bisexual in college. It turns out that I am not. At least, not in the strict "I pursue sexual relationships with both men and women" sense. I had one girl kiss me and because "nothing moved" - as they say - I have been hetero as Wonder Bread ever after.). I tend to exist on that androgynous plane of wearing men's clothes on a semi-regular basis. I am not above noting when a woman is attractive and if I were ever to meet the right person - male or female - I don't suppose I would turn away.

(And I have my requisite list of "go-gay-fors" [or, if one is on the other side of it "go-straight-fors"]...I think we all do - that conversation filler we break out after two or three beers. The list includes Kate Winslet and Rachel Maddow which I fear is sort of a bore. Whaddaya know, talent and brains are attractive.)

Regardless of these grey areas of sexual preference, Facebook has taken it upon itself to help me out. No doubt, if you are a regular Facebooker, you have noticed the advertisements along the sides of the screen. The ones that seem strangely apt no matter how often you hit the refresh button.

This is the new wave of advertising. The "Ad Generator-bot", searches your page for words to match to an appropriate product or service. In my case, these:

It took me a while to figure out why this was happening. Oh, right. Because I said I am interested in "Women, Men".

And you know what? I AM still interested in "Women, Men" for "Networking, Friends", so why change it? If Facebook wants to waste its ad dollars on telling me about vacations with friendly girl-next-door lesbians, then so be it.

I could use a tan.
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