Friday, August 11, 2017

It Is the End of Days and I Have Chosen to Write

We could be nuke dust any day. I have no pretenses about avoiding desserts in this vacation wonderland. If I die, it will be with a cinnamon roll in my belly.

As things collapse and teeter I imagine myself dirty in a roving commune. My last job won't matter, but the skills I learned at it will.

Looking ahead I wonder what I will finish. What are the last words I want to speak on a stage or send to a reader? I thought about canning my book until I feel more than 50% certain I will see October, but once I have journaled, read a chapter of Ghost Story, drank my amaretto coffee, watched Big Brother, and even fallen down the Twitter void, my computer shines like a Zelda treasure chest. I sit at the desk and kick it open. A four note victory plays.

Monday, August 7, 2017

On Offense

We opened the show with "Option" last night. It's essentially a typical short form improv scene that morphs into genre switching at the audience's whim. I played a girl on a date and then at the suggestion of "horror" a cast member said he had slipped a serum into our blood. I did the first thing I could think of (pretend my face was melting off) and then the audience had us switch genres to rom-com. I kept my face distorted and said, "I look like this, but I know you love me for what's on the inside." (Laugh, laugh.)

As soon as I said it I had a little shiver up my spine. Some people really do have distorted voices. I wasn't aiming to make fun of them. I was just...acting like I was in a horror movie. As the game ended and I sat on the sidelines during the next piece, I really thought hard about how someone in the audience with a disfigured cousin might have taken that twenty seconds. Then I tried very hard to think of other options I had in the moment. I could have pretended to be a horror-trope ditz, which would have been satire (or problematic?). Or maybe I could have been the killer. I shook it off and sang a mini-musical about a purple alligator (lol comedy).

When we returned from intermission I started an intro for the next game and for the first time looked into the front row. Dead center. Staring up at me. A burn victim with missing fingers and a disfigured face. I flubbed a word. Ultimate universal irony. Then I made a point to finish my speech and give a winning smile to the dude. I creeped on him for the rest of the show. He was having an excellent time, clapping and hooting.

Earlier this summer I taught a "song parody" camp to middle schoolers. I played Weird Al's parody of "Complicated" "Constipated." The song ended and I asked the group why it was funny. A blonde 12 yo's practically screamed, "It's not! It's not FUNNY." CoMeDy Iz HaRd, u gUyz!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Girls Need More Secrets

After two weeks devising work with young women attending summer camp in Maine in 2017, I have some new thoughts on girlhood. The 4th and 5th graders fought to the death for single solo lines and the high schoolers refused to perform. I want to know what happens to girls in middle school. I want to know why one girl started most scenes with "I should have listened to my mother. I hate you." I want to know if she thought that was funny, or if it's all she could think of. I want to know if that's still a joke in her mediasphere or if her family is old school and watches black and white TV. Or if her mother really should have listened to her mother. I want to know why the 2nd graders wanted to do all their own original choreography and the 9th graders wanted to be set like china for dinner.
I want to know what it is about a secret, whispered between two teens, that makes even me want to know the juice. And I want to always remember what it feels like to be the third girl they beckon in and the fourth girl they don't.

Smidge and I were in a corner of the gym before Poms practice vowing to tell each other our crushes. We each spoke a boy's name (same boy) and screamlaughed, intoxicated in our good taste. We skipped around the three-point line singing The Sound of Music. It didn't matter we were in "competition." We weren't. We were in 8th grade. When "going out" didn't mean going anywhere. It was how we showed our loyalty and our love, these private passings.

It had been this way a long time. I didn't fully trust my best friend because she would never admit to loving her obvious affection-target. She was my favorite person, but I watched her carefully. In fourth grade someone said she didn't have any crushes. "But you have to," we pressed. "But I don't," she insisted. I can't remember if I really didn't believe her or if I just didn't want to, but we pushed until she practically yelled, "OKAY FINE IF I HAVE TO, I LIKE ____ HAMPSTER!" There was a boy in our class named _____ Hampson. In her total distress she had misspoke.

Later, once we had boyfriends, the new secrets were about us. Who said what about who to who and who retold. We ate our own tails in gossip and serious nods. I see a past of closed mouths and deep deep treasures of family darkness. I see wives of important men with tight lips. I see a future where a lack of bragging saves our butts. Where female generals refuse to disclose and never lose. But to prepare, first, girls need better secrets.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why I Am Here

When I started grad school some dude asked me on a date, and I truthfully told him, "I didn't move here to date you. I moved here to write."

Those All-In educational years were necessary for me. I couldn't live another way. I moved to Chicago to do comedy. Bonus: I got to experiment with different avenues of teaching, loved deeper, interrogated the self, and experienced things from cool to moving to incredible.

But hobby must move to home and so few can make it happen. "Nobody owes you anything," I do know. Sometimes it makes me sad. Sometimes it feels right. There is power in alone.

I have to pat myself on the back sometimes though. Like yesterday I did six hours of improv. I mean, hey, that's what I moved here to do, wasn't it? An audition, a callback, a musical, and a two-act show. It's not enough to live. The most I've ever made in a year in my entire life is 26K. But I am, for now, doing what I came here to do.

Today I head east for some strange artistic work, and I hope to come back with something new.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Destiny/Coincidence

If you had asked me a year ago, or ten years ago, or twenty if I believed in predetermination, I would tell you no. I vividly remember learning about Calvinism in history class and wondering who would ever adhere to such a philosophy.

But this year I have come to realize I used to unconsciously believe in destiny. I only know now because I no longer do. I have felt blessed for much of my adult life. Things seemed to work out for me. I came against life-changing forks in the road every other year, and it seemed that not only did I feel peace after I made a choice, I was almost comically reassured by the universe later. I turned down tempting jobs and the company folded. I backed out of a delicious program and heard from peers they dropped because it was horrible. I went on tricky adventures and soared. If something did feel off, inevitably, some new thing would bloom and I would say, "Good thing I was here at this moment." A less romantic version of that Rascal Flatts song. I didn't realize it, but when I was making decisions, I was imagining there were already two completely written lives for me, and I just had to pick one. Of course, there were ways I could have wandered off the paths if I did something truly out of character (committed a crime, bailed), but those things were so unlikely that my fate was essentially sealed.

I didn't mind hard or poor times because I had a Golden Thing in my future. I couldn't say what it was, but since I had taken all the "right" steps so far at any given time, each challenge was meant to be. Two years ago a comedy teacher of mine said, "You have to keep working if you're going to become the artist you're meant to be--well, no one is meant to be anything--but if you're going to become the artist you can be." I was jarred. Of course he was right, but that wasn't what my secret mind thought.

Things feel random now. I see how I arbitrarily make a meeting and get an opportunity or don't. How I have a million dollar idea but can't write it. How selfish people get ahead, how true people don't. I've felt murdered by doors opening while I'm in the middle of other commitments I have made. I don't remember that ever happening before. I always understood what FOMO was but never dealt with it. I feel like a ladybug on a fall leaf. I was stuck to a branch, but now winter is coming, and I'm floating haphazardly down.

My friend expressed this same confusion the other night. It was strange to hear someone else in the exact same mental boat. She guessed it was the election. I think I agree. I know there were horrible things in the world, but it seemed like good was winning and everything was happening in some grand calculated way. November 8th felt insane and purposeless. The fight since has felt like chucking powdered sugar at a tank.

I wish I could go back to my old train of thought. Even if I was wrong.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Timing

I have always been very good at planning ahead. I have had a savings account (that I borrow from, but still, it is there) since I was 17. I have iced people out who have hurt me more than once because I want to protect my future self. I always have two deodorants so I don't run out on left pit and can't make it to CVS for right pit. I never don't read restaurant menus online. Puhg pokes fun at how I plan if we will take a Lyft or the train home from the social event several hours before we go.

The positive to my preparedness is that I have always paid my bills, I have been open to receive many unique opportunities, I keep up with friends extremely well, I don't have bad meals, and my life has been exceptionally full. There are downsides though. For example, if I have a plan and it is derailed, I assume I am a bit more anxious than most.

If a month without a gig appears in my planner, I fill that space. I take a trip or I hustle for some sickly little paycheck. This summer I cobbled together six jobs to make my world function. I saw it coming from months away, so I emailed acquaintances like it was my job (it kind of is), sweat over flight calculators, and made visual charts--just to stay barely afloat. By the beginning of April it had all snapped into place. And then a month later there was a new opportunity. And then another. And then possibly one more. But I have already signed away my life. I can't think too much about which options would have been better or worse. It's not so clear in this line of work.

Yesterday the camp I was teaching ended at noon and then I had a dinner date at 4. Both in Evanston. 45 minutes back home. It seemed silly not to stay. I ate my leftovers lunch, went to a pet store to touch some bunnies, took care of a return...and it was only 1 PM. I still had three hours to kill and my phone battery was very low. I had a book. A very good book I love reading. But I did the math on the pages and decided I would finish before dinner. And then what? I had my journal. I wrote a bit. I sat in the library and read, and then would stop and wait. I looked at the clock. It moved so slowly. As if being in the library with nothing to read would have been the worst fate of all time. I got to the restaurant early. I had not finished the book, not by a lot.