Monday, August 31, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday (Birthday Edition)

About a year ago I wrote an entry entitled Poetry is for Suckers. At the time I was undergoing an enormous shift in my life and had come upon a terrible notion: The sinking feeling that something we had been taught to believe in our whole lives, was a lie.

When I found out that there was no Santa Claus (my sister let it slip, simply and without fanfare. My mother had made me a Dorothy-from-the-Wizard-of-Oz dress and told me that Santa brought it. When it ripped, my sister told me that it was would fix it, you know, since she made it.) I wasn't shocked or hurt. We've mythologized the "No Santa" rude awakening into a persecution of childhood fantasy. It is pointed out as the first in the inevitable series of lies and broken trusts that will occur throughout one's life.

But it didn't bother me. I had kind of figured it out, that there was no such thing. It was a fun imagining, but it didn't make a whole lot of logical sense. And though I could not articulate it at the time, I sympathized with the adults' melancholy efforts to maintain some semblance of magic int he world.

There are other, more awful, lies to be uncovered.

A year ago, I believed I had uncovered just such a lie: There is no such thing as love.

Want? Sure.

Need. Yes.

But Love? nope.

We take it for granted that it exists. Love gets thrown around. What's the lyric from the Queen/Bowie "Under Pressure"?: Keep coming up with love but it's so slashed and torn. Over used and worn out.

When this realization hit me - the idea that there was no such thing as love - I sank into a black hole. The notion, the very concept of love was so much a part of my fabric, it was like I had discovered that my skin didn't exist. Why should love exist, anyway? We're just a sack of chemicals - it's just a trick to get us to procreate. But in the end, there is no one else who is going to know you, care for you, or even be interested? Love is just an excuse for bad poetry and deodorant commercials.

This toilet bowl of self pity swirled for several months, making this past winter one of the darkest I can remember.

And then...

There's always an "And then..."

I've known my friend Notnits for 11 years. We've written plays together. I've considered him a gifted writer and excellent collaborator. His bright evened out my dark. (While in New York for Let There Be Light...! a reporter once asked me if I thought we were the Lennon and McCartney of Chicago Playwrights. I liked that...even though I was somewhat dismayed to be Lennon. I'm more of a McCartney fan.)

I was in the dark for a long time. Notnits is not just a collaborator. He is not just a gifted writer. He is, without a doubt, one of the most solid, steadfast, surprising men I have ever known. After 11 years, it gets easy to rest on assumptions of what or who you think a person is. Since the light dawned a couple of months ago, it has been a joy to uncover all the things I had not even begun to see before. The last 11 years was just the tip of the iceberg.

The day you realize you love someone is not the end of the effort. It is the day you realize that there is work to be done. And that you are willing to do it.

Work is not a bad thing. There is good work and bad. Bad work is stultifying and soul killing. Good work is fulfilling, exciting, and gratifying.

Today is Notnits birthday. Happy Birthday.


Friday, August 28, 2009

I just don't want to be alone in my misery.

So, I'm sharing this with you.

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook and I don't think I'll ever be the same. You can beat me up in an alley later.

(And seriously, watch to the end.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. The word Awesome is awesome. But I'm sick of using it as my go to word for when I like something.

Time was, Awesome was in league with Fantastic or Magnificent. It included a level of terror in its wonderment that made it exciting. But then the Valley Girls got a hold of it for a few years and now, here we are in the over-used, dried up sea of an Awesome that merely means Cool.

Maybe I'll start using Staggering more often.

2. No matter what mood you are in, a child waving from a window as you walk away is still poignant to excess. When a child waves to you from the window, you are not going to the bus or to the car. You are headed off to war, to the gallows, to find food for the family, to bring home a beloved pet.

Nothing small is happening when a child waves to you from the window.

I've quit looking back.

I just can't take it anymore.

3. Okay. So. For real. I need the instruction manual.

I've been taking myself apart, right, as a lark, to see if I could do it, and now - as you can see - (gestures to a living room floor covered with strange looking parts - some geared and mechanical, some misshapen and inexplicably wet) I'm having some difficulty putting it back together again.

I tried just doing the reverse of what I did when I took the whole thing apart but (laughs) THAT didn't work. I mean, nobody tells you that the Heart is going to expand. They could say it on the makers label, right, that could be helpful. "Product may expand if removed." There. Done. I'd keep the heart carriage in tact.

But I didn't know that and now I can't get Irony (holds up what appears to be a giant ball bearing) and Sarcasm (The same, only covered with spikes) to fit back up in the in the skull. Someone said that Sense of Humor is a binder for these guys, but, I dunno. I think it rolled off under the couch or something.

Just, please, quit looking at me with the "I told you so" and check the junk drawer in the kitchen to see if the manual is there. If it's not. Fack. I uh-no what I'm gonna do.

6. So much better than the movie. And all in minute and seven seconds. (Thanks to Joe G for the tip!)

5. Favorite word this week (I discovered this through the demon program StumbleUpon. Good luck ever using it in a sentence.):


a word from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego, listed in The Guinness Book of World Records as the "most succinct word", and is considered one of the hardest words to translate.[1] It describes "a look shared by two people with each wishing that the other will initiate something that both desire but which neither one wants to start."

6. Least Favorite Word:


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Spangle of Cheerleaders

I've always been fascinated by the poetic names we give groups of animals. Terms like a School of Fish or a Herd of Cattle are pretty common, but what about a Murder of Crows? Or a Parliament of Owls? A Shrewdness of Apes?

The attachment of Shrewdness or Murder seems random, but somehow conveys a familiar quality to whatever species it describes. A Sugar of Crows or a Dalliance of Apes doesn't feel right.

Why don't we classify humans in this way - by job, or age, or social placement? I've taken the liberty of making up a few.

A Cosine of Architects
A Fickle of Actors
A Pod of Douchebags
A Thrall of Gamers
A Tyranny of Eighth Graders
A Straggle of Senators
A Fidget of Toddlers
A Crime of Lawyers
A Fuss of Bridesmaids
A Fetor of Paparazzi
A Squall Day Traders
A Canister of Garbage Men
A Guile of Advertisers
A Stew of Psychiatrists
A Thicket of Priests
A Crush of Teachers
Please feel free to use them in a sentence and spread them around. Or, if you are so inclined, make up some of your own! Add them here!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

First Tuesday after a Vacation wants to show you her Vacation pictures.

You know this because it is just the two of you in the office. The Higher Ups have gone for a long office lunch and left the Lower Downs in charge.

FTAV has stacked the photographs on the edge of her desk and every so often she will pick them up, and flip through them. The air is peppered with the occasional too-loud giggle or sigh of remembrance from down her way.

You dog paddle through your work, hoping to end the day early. Perhaps when she gets up to use the restroom you can sneak by her desk without her notice.

She must have a camel hump for a bladder.

4:45 inches closer. You decide to make a break for it.

You rustle through your belongings and slide them into your messenger bag, power down your computer, and stand. So far so good.

Just past her desk, however, is where the chain jerks you backward.

"Have a nice night." She says, with a flat musicality.


"Does Jim know you're leaving early?"

The clock says 4:50.

"Hm?" You answer, but not.

"It's only 4:50."


"You know, " her brown nail polished hand hovers over the slick stack of photos,"If you're done with your work, why don't you flip through these with me? It'll only take a minute. Jim'll never know."

But he will if I leave, is that it? You think. She's gonna tell. If you don't sit with her and look at those damn vacation photos she. will. tattle.

You turn around to face her. She's smiling up at you and you sigh. Perhaps this is a teaching moment. Perhaps if you would only show some interest in other people and what they do with their time, you might learn a thing or two. Maybe her photos ARE really interesting. What do you know? She might have spent her four days on a Navajo reservation, learning the ways of the ways of the ancients. You might find out a bit about your self if you would just open up to the experience of others.

FTAV drags a non-wheeled desk chair over next to her. You approach and sit by her as she gleefully flips through each one and describes them in excruciating detail.

Every single photo is a self taken shot of her. Outside different Super 8 Motels. There are 94 pictures in all.

A few years ago, I saw a documentary about MTV (On VH1, I believe. Has anyone stared at their navel so closely that they were devoured by it? This might be the closest case.). The documentary brought into sharp focus the dramatic shift MTV has taken from cutting edge experiment to reality shows glutted with brats thirsting for a sweet 16 that will cause such envy as to molt the new armpit hair of every pubescent BFF in the tri-county area.

It left me a little sad.

The music video used to be a lightening rod for strange art-school drop out lab tests. The other night while Notnits and I were at Leona's (don't ask me why, but I had a major hankering for a Big Meat Ball that only Leona's could fill.) we noticed a flat screen TV on the wall that played the music videos attached to the ambient tunes wafting through the restaurant. The videos played were a strange mix. I think we're caught in a grey area of of irony here, where the past has been exhausted of its kitsch value but the present is still unsure of its own identity. The result was a hodge-podge of 50's ephemera, 80's music videos, and 00's retreads of U2 and Nora Jones.

One music video played that gave the both of us pause:

I have never had an affinity for this song, nor did I particularly hate it. Notnits expressed a similar sentiment: The song itself was something of a musical wallpaper for the late 80's. Something to play when you wanted to forget what you were listening to.

But the video is some kind of art house film designed to befuddle the mind. What are these guys wearing? Who's winning the little race they appear to be having? Is the girl covered in pillows?

In my young mind these types of videos wowed me. I kind of hated the pretense of them, but still marveled at the audacity. How dare they bring the pseudo avant guarde into our living rooms?

This video brought to mind another tune that graces the airwaves a few years before. New Order's True Faith. This song I was actually haunted me as a child and the video, directed by Philippe Decouflé, did nothing to ease my sense of longing. The lyrics drone out some kind of regret, but the beat pushes forward, forcing a toe tap or dance, shoving time along. (Never mind that this song is featured in Bright Lights, Big City, the movie based on the book by Jay McInerney which was written in the Second Person...just like the Songs for a Crappy Tuesday scenarios...turing in and turing in...).

But WTFuck is going on? There is some dystopian future in which post apocalyptic Cirque de Soleil clowns slap each other, while pillowed creatures play with building blocks as the rotating deaf turtle signs out the lyrics. Whoa.

The oblique nature of these videos made my 14 year old brain go nuts.

And still does.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Monday, August 17, 2009

I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach...

In a couple of days I will be taking a trip to the beach with my family. It's a trip they take every year, but last year was the first time I joined them. Many of my first posts are from there.

I may or may not be posting this week. It's a vacation week, so I am inclined to take the time off and rejuvenate myself. But I may have some thoughts as I look out at the ocean.

If they seem queer enough, I'll pass them along.

As a matter of interest (and at times, tormenting reflection), I was looking through music that I had on repeat about a year ago. Here is a sample (Believe it or not, this is what I was jogging up an down the beach to. Very healthy.):

A year later and this is the musical padding on my cell:

Huh. All it took was a year.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This is the First Day of My Life

One year ago today, I began my blog here.

What. The. Crap. It feels like a week. It feels like ten years.

What to say when milestones like this arrive? How emotional should I get? Should I cry or something? Is anyone else crying (except Lynn. Don't count Lynn. She always cries.)? If someone (besides Lynn) cries, I'll cry too.

12 months and 253 posts later, and I'm still no closer to knowing what the hell is going on. If there is any change in me at all, that the most earth shattering. The fact that I can even say that:


is a pretty intense admission, even at this late stage.

For years, I told myself that I did. I knew what time it was. What's the score? Ask me and I'll tell you. And I'll say it with such authority that, yes, you will believe me.

I've heard lines of third rate movie dialogue and grocery line psychology to the same effect: Just when you think you know it all, you don't.


Boy effing howdy, I don't.

I wept and sputtered through this last year. I learned things I didn't want to know. I walked away from groups and projects that I never thought I would.

It has been great. It has been awful.

But I can still be surprised. For better or worse.

I have been surprised to learn that people I thought were close to me, weren't.

I have been surprised to discover that if a person is not what I want, it is fruitless to try to shape them into something that can never be.

I have been surprised that family and friends would extend their hands to me, and be patient with my bad habits. That they would care for me anyway.

I have been surprised that an old and dear friend can make an extraordinary transformation in the time it takes to brush the hair out of my eyes.

I think a lot of blogs start out as kind of a diary, and this one is no different. It has served as a catalogue of change, week in and week out. I'm going to continue in my "Post most every day" mission - thank you for reading and continuing to read. We'll see what happens next year.

I'll let you know if I figure out what the hell is going on.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

I must be feeling some intense nostalgia for 1986.  13 was a great year.

This is what I'm doing today.
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(And by Taking the Skinheads Bowling, I mean I am taking my nephews to Brookfield Zoo.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Goodbye, Shermer Illinois

If you were born between 1966 and 1975, you were influenced by his work.

John Hughes, in just a few short films, shaped our soundtracks, our senses of humor, and launched a level of post-modern self consciousness that has its fingers in almost every aspect of pop culture. He is a cornerstone of our shared childhood.

Love his films, hate his films? Indifferent? Doesn't matter. Sort of like the God of Abraham, you can refute his existence, worship his legacy, or feign ignorance - but the entity still permeates our concept of what it means to be a teenager.

The God of our Adolescence has made his mark.

And of course, the original:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Song for a Birthday Thursday

In winter of 1994, I propositioned a young man in my class to join him on a road trip to Montana. I barely knew him in any real way - except that he had a loud spoken wanderlust - and I was in a mood to shock my friends.

We left at dawn on the first day of spring break, meeting at a mutual friend's apartment to scamper off to Big Sky Country like a couple of 16-year-old elopers. I left a note for my roommate.

(The trip itself is probably worth a blog post on its own. There was a lot of drinking, drinking and driving, drinking and bowling, drinking and car wrecking, drinking and walking ten miles in the snow. Very wholesome.)

When I returned, I was in some trouble with everyone. Once they had figured out where I had gone, and with whom, there was a talking to.

The talking to came from my friend, Jan. You see, it was her ex-boyfriend who was my companion on the trip, and while he and Jan weren't together at this time...there are just some things you don't do. This I learned, as Jan pointed her brand new red acrylic nails in my direction.

To me, our friendship began here.

Before, we were acquaintances, circling each other's core friends but never really connecting. My reckless vacation cast us into the Thunderdome and we emerged comrades.

Jan is one of the women of L.A. The ones that I count as part of my extended family. There is a very short list of people I will call when I am in need. Jan is close to the top.

A couple of years ago, while Tina was off in Egypt. (Seriously. She was in Egypt.) Jan and I spent the night in her apartment. We drank four (4) bottles of wine, and proceeded to tell each other the "Truth". Neither of us remember much of that night. We ate breakfast in a haze of potential public barfing. But it was a blast.

Jan has talked me off the ledge over bad break ups, she has given me makeovers, driven me down Lake Shore Drive in a rented convertible, and endured untold amounts of performance art. She has told me in the same breath what a moron and genius she believes me to be. I think sometimes we look at each other and think: Wow. We're friends. And probably will be for, like, ever.

Happy Birthday, Jan. I love you like blood. Please don't let your mom tell my mom about my blog.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

If I put a dollar in your Treble Clef will you leave me alone?

Maybe, I'm getting old.

Isn't that what you're supposed to say when faced with a troubling cultural shift? Usually one involving sex?

Last night, while driving my sister's car after a frustrating and time gouging mistake, I took the opportunity to flip through the radio. I've mentioned before my love of radio, even as it lays dying at the feet of iTunes and XM. ( There's a weird level of responsibility with the new fangled music players. You and you alone are the arbiter of what goes into your ears. Fatigue sets in after a while - all the songs you KNOW pop up, cycling through the Merry-Go-Round of the same euphonic scenery, over and over. Once I've heard "Somebody to Love" 84 times, my heart just doesn't burst with passion the way it used to. With radio, I am not responsible for my play list. I can stumble across any old thing. And who cares if it's Roxette. I'm not responsible. I can belt "She's Got the Look" and never have to answer to my iTunes recommendations for having purchased it.)

Last night at around 1:30am, however, the radio was not my friend. In fact, it wasn't even an acquaintance. The radio, it turns out, was a hooker who hopped into my car at the intersection of Pulaski and Irving Park.

I have offered several iterations to the fact that I am not a sexual prude. If it rings your bell and nobody's getting hurt (without their consent), then full speed ahead, I say.

But do we have to be so, I don't know, On-The-Nose about it?

My friend E. has an unapologetic love for "Booty Music": sexually charged hip-hop that is at once exploitative and playful. Kinda angry, Kinda hungry. Usually, somebody done somebody wrong, but god knows, they can't help but want each other, up in the club or in the hot tub.

I have no problem with this. I'm not hot to listen to it all the time, but when I'm in the mood for pretending I have the wherewithal to head to the dance floor, it hits the spot.

But during a commercial free hour on B96, my ears were given an unwanted lap dance. From songs like "Birthday Sex" (You say you want passion/ I think you found it/ Get ready for action / Don't be astounded/ We switchin' positions/ You feel surrounded/ Tell me where you want your gift, girl Birthday Sex, Birthday Sex) to "Love Game" (Let's have some fun/ this beat is sick/ I want to take a ride on your disco stick.) to the elegant "Hotel Room Service" (oh, you're the healthy type/ Well, here goes some egg whites/ Now gimme that sweet, that nasty gushy stuff/ let me tell you what we gon' do.)

There's sexy and playful, and then there's unlicensed gynecological.

Remember when Madonna scandalized the public by humping a bridal veil on MTV?

Ha. Tepid. Tame. Downright puritanical.

I've puzzled over why I'm so grossed out by this. I'm about as liberal as you can get. Why do my eyebrows crinkle thus?

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was propositioned while using the computer in study hall.

"Go out with me." he said in a tinny, southern accent.

I scoffed and rolled my eyes.

"You make my nut hairs curl."

Yes. This is exactly what he said.

I think it took a week for my fallopian tubes to untangle.

The thing is, I've no objections to a man (or woman, sure) expressing urgent sexual interest. Terrific. But might you finesse it a little?

The conventional wisdom seems to veer towards "dispense with the games and just be honest" and how "we're all just animals anyway." The "just be honest" part I support in full. But aren't games (not the head ones) a little fun? Who out there, regardless of social status or education, couldn't use a good wooing every so often?

We can still go at it like the animals we are later on.

I may be getting old - that is certain sure for all of us. I'm not standing on any moral high ground and wagging my finger at this generation's "Egg Whites".

But the B96-ers are missing out.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Song for a Crappy Tuesday

"Nice day out, right?"

You plop down at the dining room table right across from a shirtless First Tuesday in August. He has been manufacturing silence, broken only by occasional sniffs, for about twenty minutes.

Your jocund observation causes his shoulders to wince. He presses his head further into his palms.

"It's not being nice to me," He says.

The two of you are quiet for a couple of minutes. You know that he is tired and ready to bite whatever hand that tries to feed him. You slurp your coffee with some caution.

After a moment, he reaches over and pats you on the forearm and pries himself from the chair. He pads off to the bathroom, and moments later you hear the spike of the shower turning on.

This is probably not the end of it, but at least he's abluting himself.

1989 was a strange, unsettled year for popular music. I always feel a little bad for the 9's of any decade - we crane our necks to see the dawn of a new era while the 9's dog paddle through weird musical stew.

In a way it can be a great thing. 1969 brought us Proud Mary, Build Me Up Buttercup, and Everyday People. 1979 introduced Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough, Heart of Glass, and The Logical Song (It also brought us the likes of MacArthur Park and Music Box Dancer, which I think serves to illustrate my point that in the decade ending musical grab bag, you get some fly KISS tee shirts, but you'll still get a some expired Sea Monkeys in the bargain.)

1989 was still trying to hose off the musk of Disco as it embraced the Bubble Gum Blitzkrieg of Debbie Gibson, Milli Vanilli & NKOTB. Hip Hop was just starting to make a break for the Top 40 with Tone Loc and Young M.C., while white hot hair bands like Warrant, Bon Jovi, and White Lion rocked the loins of juniors and seniors everywhere. And for about 20 minutes we O.D.-ed on Batdance.

In 1989, no one saw the Nirvana revolution coming. Alternative was still alternative and rarely did it touch the Billboard Hot 100.

There were a few gateway bands drifting about the perimeter. Bands like XTC or The Stone Roses offered up Alternative Pop Rock to a pre-Grunge audience who had grown weary of Enuff Z'Nuff.

In 1989, the Smithereens released the album 11 (yes...named for the Spinal Tap speakers). I was a sophomore in high school, and while I was an Angry Young Woman...I still wanted my rock to give me a love song or two. The Smithereens were more than happy to oblige. Most of their albums brimmed with hooky guitar based tunes of love lost and won. 11 was no different.

In 1989, A Girl Like You was released, offering the band its highest charting on the Hot 100, with 38. It's a fun song and it takes me back to the days when I wore hats for pleasure and dreamed of dating some brooding writer/actor/artist/lead-singer-of-a-band type.

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