Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rainin' on Parades

Friday morning I took a workshop with Susan Messing (what what cool what!), and I left feeling pretty happy. It was a beautiful day, I had just gotten my improv on, the only thing standing in the way of a fun weekend with my dad was this last bus I was waiting on to take me out of the loop.

Milling about was a small gathering of folk. Like at any bus stop in the city, the crowd was diverse. One such bus-stop-waiter was an elderly man (late 70s? 80s?) with long grey hair and a grey beard. He wore an ugly shirt and khakis that were pulled far above his waist. Because he was elderly and had an elderly body, his gut pooched out awkwardly. He was zoned out.

Just then a double-decker tour bus stops on the corner. I look up at the people, and I feel immediately uneasy. A woman is literally pointing and laughing (more smirking I guess) at the odd-grey dude. She taps the teenage girl in front of her. The girl shows her dad. I don't know why this bothers me so much. I look down in a mini-pre hulk sulk, and we I look back up, the girl has her iPhone out, camera ready, as her parents excitedly grin. Next thing I know, someone is saying in a very harsh tone, "Hey. Don't do that." And then I realize it is my own voice. Oy vey.

And I continue, "That's not funny. That's a person."

The girl--who I realize is wearing a "Miss Teen--" something (I couldn't see the rest) sash puts her phone in her lap and shocked, looks to her dad. The dad gives kind of a "give me a break" eye roll--but it's covering a sincere coat of...what is it...fear? I think fear. The mom pretends she isn't even part of the family and looks away. And I've just scared to death some family who was out celebrating a pageant win.

The old man noticed none of this. The tour bus pulled away, and mine came. I felt like a hero and a villain. I turned it all over in my mind. Does it matter if we make fun of strangers? How could I have been kinder? Could I have been? What was it that gave me power over three people I didn't know? How is it I genuinely scared them? Is it because ultimately we are all most scared of being "wrong"--of being a "bad person"? It had little to do with me a lots to do with shame? Seeking answers.

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Saw the exhibit at the Art Institute.
So minimal.


"The simplest things are often the truest."--Richard Bach

“If you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.”--Annie Dillard

Friday, July 27, 2012

My Dissertation on Batman Begins

Peeps be tryna accomplish the same thing: justice. But they all be goin' 'bout it differnt ways, and that's when ish gets real and Scarecrow gases er'rybody.

Soz basically, we finna wreck some trains 'n' stuff if we don' jus' sit down. Breathe. Talk it out. Maybs hug it out? And finna form a plan against fear and inequality. UH DOY. It ain't gon' work if you think er'ryone else a jerk. Er'ryone else be jus' tryna do dere tha-ang, ya hear? An' you don't gotta agree wit that, you just gotta agree with where dey comin' from--'cos you most likely already do. Like, Batman wants peace, so he fly 'round bein' all "Stop, criminals!" And ninja dude wants peace, so he wants er'ryone to hallucinate larva 'n' go on killing sprees. AND, Valcone wants peace, so he just wants er'ryone to do what he say aight! Their motives are the same! Ya dig?

Now apply the Gotham metaphor to all social issues today. ALSTAN OUT.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Rape in Conversational Context

I think anything can be funny. The whole tragedy + time = comedy cliche is true. Like, Holocaust jokes. They happen. People laugh. That said, I don't think rape is funny. I can't think of a time when it has been.

Actually. I take that back. Sid tells a lot of rape jokes in his stand-up, and I laugh loathingly into my arm.

But, it's certainly not funny in a "throw around" kind of way. Now hold on, I think rape, like all violence can be glorified. Like, people can get all moody and be like it's the Worst Thing Ever. And, I'm not saying it's a walk in the park to be raped...although that may be how it starts (HEY-O). I'm just saying, sometimes I think the harsh seriousness with which it can be treated almost seems melodramatic and then, well, the opposite effect is achieved? Like the girls in high school Speech who did The Lovely Bones so s-l-o-w-l-y and UGH UGH UGH. Just made me make fun of them/rape with my friends after the round let out.*

Anyway, the point is, today our Level Three teacher said we should rape our scenes. It was a ham-handed way of saying A) bring intense energy and B) don't accept failure. I get that. But everyone laughed, and I stuck in the mud. Frowning. Yeah, I'm that dude.

I guess I just feel it wasn't necessary. Like, can't there be other ways to say it? Other ways that aren't so stark and "wrong" that people laugh? It's a cheap laugh at that. And I KNOW some people say "It's just words" but I think that's a ridiculous sentiment because we LIVE BY WORDS. I'm in an improv intensive. Take away the words, and we're next to nothing. Words are at least 60% of us. At LEAST more than half.

And other people are like if you DON'T say the word, it becomes powerful. I'm not saying don't say it. I'm saying, say it when you're actually discussing the weight of rape. People act shocked about this Colorado movie theatre shooting, but, come on. I tell people I'm going to kill them on the reg. That DOES something to our brains. That DOES something to our souls. To say you're going to rape whatever whenever just because it's a clumsy word that can generally mean anything? That DOES something.

And this is not to even consider the possibility of mentioning rape in the presence of someone who has been and then must privately wince at the thought.

*Hunny, SVC, and I STILL mimic this one girl's intro that LITERALLY began, "Have you ever been raped? Yes? No? Well, I haven't. But the character in my piece has." WHAAAAT THE WHAAAAAAAT?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Don't Be Like That

Saturday night I saw one of my improv teacher's sketch shows. It was a revue, and it was alright. Sketch is hit or miss--it's always valuable to see as a writer. It was a pretty talented group. My teacher has been performing and improvising in Chicago for over a decade with lots of creds at all the main comedy venues. Her castmates were the same. One guy I've seen perform a a few times around town. He's good, but he was more than lackluster Saturday.

"Don't be like that," I silently thought from my tiny cabaret seat. "This is a small room of people, but don't you see? You can really make them happy right now. You can really create an environment for them to learn and grow. Don't be like that." But he was like that--a little slow, a little tired, phoning it in just a little bit.

And it's easy for me to say sitting comfortably with no lights on my face. It's easy for me to say. I know that. I know that because I had food poisoning in class the other day, and I dreaded being onstage. I was like that, no matter how much my teacher might have been quietly thinking, "Don't be."

"Night Hawks" at The Art Institute

And I passed a woman in a wheelchair on the corner of Sedgewick and North last night, and I shuffled along in my flip flops, slumped over, and she might have been thinking, "Don' be like that." And I didn't go out to the bars with my classmates after the show Saturday, and the nearby high schooler was overhearing the conversation thinking, "Don't." And the ghosts hover over us when we sit staring into space on the bus ride home, and they wish they could feel a striped seat beneath them, and really see the blackblue of the Chicago river at night.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Just Having Fun

Right after a scene in which I played a French twin courting my sister's lover, in which I "broke"--AKA cracked a couple smiles despite my best efforts to keep it real--my teacher said, "Okay, Giggles McGee over there..."

And I could not even pretend to be offended because it's true. I've had a really hard time not laughing in class this week. I've just been having so much fun. This whole day has been fun. I woke up in Hunny's apartment and putzed around her book shelves before a nice long walk to class. I am genuinely enjoying this improvatunity. On my way to the el, I made eye contact with one of those street-corner-standers who want you to sponsor starving children. "Oh no!" I cried out among the flocks of Cubs fans. "Oh no! Now I've done it!"The guy handed me a photo of a hungry child. "I was having a guilt-free day!" I mock-shouted. He told me to take a couple deep breaths. Ugh. People not gettng melo-drama.

Long story short--I am now sponsoring a little girl in India.

I mean. It was really only a matter of time.

So then I showed up at Fran's apartment and we walked to the Taco Shop down the block! I got a veggie burrito and she got an octopus tostada! I mean what is up with that! But she enjoyed, and then we had a marshmallow sundae! I mean! Really! How often do you split a sundae with your best friend from elementary school!? NOT OFTEN!

Fran & da ice cream.

Giggles McGee over here. Over and out for now.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chicago Fire

It is hot.
I know I live in Arizona now, but I SWEAR it is much. Worse. Here.

The Red Line was broiling. BROILING. I couldn't even get out my iPod I was so hot. I just slumped into the seat and melted, peeping all the unhappy people around me. WE ARE NOT MEANT TO LIVE THIS WAY! Before catching the bus, I bopped into Walgreens for nail polish remover, and the blast of AC was so icy I really did not want to leave. Cut to me marveling at the FROYO STATION. That's right. FROYO IN WALGREENS. And in the snack station little honey greek yogurt parfaits or organic hummus wraps. I whimpered, "If there is a God, He will lock all the doors from the inside out, and I will never leave this place. Everyone inside will form our own micro-community, and we shall repopulate as 'Greeners' for all infinity inside this one blissfully cold and swanky drugstore."

So, officially. There is no God. BLAZING BUS RIDE HOME.

Die, summer. Die in a fire!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Five Things (7.16.12)

1. A family who all supports me when I am sicko blicko all weekend. This is big. This is huge.
2. HBOGO for proudly bringing me It Takes Two, Girls reruns, Newsroom, and Veep. (See also "sicko all weekend")
3. Due's pizza. Chicago's finest.
4. My improv ensemble and instructors. I am entertained and educated every day!
5. Progress is the law.

Bonus Thing: Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind--always--but especially with George. The lights go out. I think, "I REALLY liked that play." Lights up. She leans over. She says, "Hey, I really liked that one."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012

Ant Lion

Sunset, Fourth of July. I was on the beach with the little tots. Bonfire and what have you. "LOOK AT THE ANT LION," two girls ran up to me, one holding out her palm. She was holding an ugly bug with odd pinchers. "And ant lion because they bite the heads off ants!" I did not doubt it. "And look how it burrows!"

I faked a "Wooow," but then I watched and it was actually pretty cool. The bug sort of scooted its butt backwards into the sand. And then it was gone. They two chicadees dug it back up and re-watched its digging several times. Finally, they left it in a gnome home in the dune grass.

I'm not one to idolize children. I don't particularly enjoy the "Be like a child!" mantras because I think children are wholly more selfish and myopic than most humans. However, it is refreshing and wonderful to see the newness, to get amped about bugs, to make up names and insist their validity.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Camp Is Over

My (almost) five-week stint at summer camp has ended. I drove down the road past the barn, the farmhouse, past the sign with the horse head on it, past the small cemetery behind the chain-link fence. I drove away listening to "Sunshine" since it was on the Staff Summer Jams Mix I popped right in.

I am free from my sandy sheets, the nights of mice skimpering feet, the squeaky whines of chillins' from the porch. But also free of the lighthouse's soft siren, and the view of multi-green pines as I stand on the Great House deck, laughing so hard with Kath--big faces and no sound since the campers have been asleep for hours. Our Crocs squeaking as we come up from a late night dip.

This was a good day. I'm currently in Slou's family's rental unit. It feels divine to be inside. REAL inside. And to have a day of driving ahead of me. Music--not itty voices singing/screaming. A couple hours ago Slou and I went for ice cream. I bumped into a child getting ready for camp arrival tomorrow. Kid has a lot in store for her. But I'm a goner. They messed up my order and gave me a sugar cone for my two scoops. It was too flimsy to hold. I grabbed the ice cream with my bare palm and patted it down. The top scoop still popped off in the car and rolled around the mat. Slou laughed forever as I performed the melodrama of hate for my dessert.

Facemasks whilst doing paperwork with Kath! (Keeping sanity in 2012.)

Last night was the First Half Final Banquet. Our Exec Director asked anyone who's life was changed by camp to please stand. I was already standing, but I would have. I would have. The room was a giant shuffle. We all stood. It's an important thing this thing I have done.

Just tell me something new,
forget about the sunshine when its gone.