Monday, December 29, 2014

"Mental Health Issue"

It is totally valid to say the amount of violence in this country is rooted in mental health issues. But that doesn't mean guns aren't ALSO an issue. Surprisingly, large societal problems can have many factors! Who knew! People say the unwell will be violent if their mind is set. Sure, but I'd still much rather meet a crazy person on the street with a knife rather than a crazy person with a gun. Also, don't tell me people will have guns illegally no matter what. That's true, but the amount of guns all over the dang place WILL decrease with stricter policies, more background checks. They just will. Decreasing is important. Decreasing matters to the person who wasn't shot.

So, anyway. I have a lot to say about this topic, but my particular soapbox for this evening is no one is doing anything about the mental health issues. The only time I even hear about the mental health problem is when someone is like "Hey, consider supporting more gun control in this election." "Will you sign this petition?" And then people opposed to gun control are like, "Yeah, no because it's a mental health issue" and then they usually proceed to do nothing to contribute to better mental health. If you don't want to help end violence by writing your congressperson, signing the documents, etc. then fine. But, come on, do SOMETHING.

You walk by someone being strangled. The victim screams, "Help me! This person is trying to stab me with a broken bottle!" You don't say, "No, I'm pretty sure you're being strangled." You don't get into a debate about it. You don't make a Facebook status about if broken bottles or strangling is worse. You solve the problem anyway you can.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

PB&J Pop-tarts!

I actually gasped when I saw these sweet babies on the shelf at Jewel! Heard a rumor about PB&J tarts months ago, but saw nada. Until tonight!

Deets: Love the design. Big fan of the continued golden wrappers for pb flavored tarts. It makes me feel like I'm going to Wonka's factory every time I open a box. (In reality the gold is probably a happy warning for allergics. HALT. NON-PEANUT EATERS STICK TO SILVER FOIL.) Tiny strawberry sprinkles--cash money. A basically satisfying and tasty snack as, let's be real, all Pop-Tarts are. However, mainly, these taste just like little pb&j sandwiches. Perhaps a wee bit crunchier. So, not sure if they're my jam. (Har har--jam!) They're in a weird middle ground of not being hearty enough for a sandwich substitute, but they're too lunchy for breakfast. I'm sure I ate my week's sugar serving, but that's beside the point. There was something too...noontime about these. Two flavors. Plain. Obvs, I'm not going to stick up my nose at at Pop-Tart. Lord, no. Ultimately, still a delightful box of sugar, ya know? I see advantages. I see disadvantages. Overall, I see a B+.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Lesson of Monopoly, Age 12

My sister was babysitting my best friend Fran and me. We decided to play Monopoly. After about an hour, I was just mopping the floor with Fran. I had so many monopolies, and hotels on hotels. Fran landed on one of my big money traps, and she just couldn't pay. Game over. But we didn't want it to be, so I, counting my fat stacks of yellow cash told her, "It's a gift." I didn't make her pay anything, and we played on. And the tide started turning for Fran. She got her own little block of homes, and eventually I even landed on them. The penalty was kinda a lot. Her investment had paid off. She, unlike me, didn't offer to let me go free. I got really defensive and a little snippy. My fee for her had been higher! And I had had such goodwill earlier! Hello!?

My sister, who was sort of lazily flopped on Fran's bed half-reading a YA novel asked me what I really expected out of the game. She pointedly asked, "Do you just expect a guaranteed win because you helped Fran out?" It sounded crazy, but I realized, yes, that was exactly what I had decided. Whoops. My sister went on to explain, "If she never makes you pay, you're just going to have to bail her out again." True. True. How come I hadn't thought of that? If you're going to be giving, you've got to be game. You've got to know good luck may come back to those you helped, but that means very little. No one owes you anything--especially if you were in a position where offering was a little thing, and for the act to be returned it would be a big thing. Even steven mindset will set you up for major disappointment in life, and it will be your own fault. Don't given what you can't afford to flat out loose. Don't harbor secret expectations of people. Just throw the excess you have to the wind, and forget, forget.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Fall Semester 2014 in 26 Snapshots

Graduated in May, but the semester life is far from over. This was probably the hardest semester of my life. Long train trips to the south side to bring a playwriting program to an underserved school, the neverending stream of late work from community college students, the lower paychecks, the higher rent, the days of inherent 4 mile walks, the beginning of the blistering cold nights. But I MADE IT. And, even, I am emerging from the swamp I felt I was drowning in back in August somewhat...victorious. Good student evals, a promotion, two new works on stage, opportunities to perform. There's gold in these hills, folks, and I am leaving the apartment everyday with my pickax and my bus pass, grammar books, and my hot pink mace.
HS boy with a high top explains how it hurts to hear men are jerks.
Screaming about soup with a vocal fry in the cabaret space.
Eating two baked potatoes across from my mom, janky steak house.
A billion cheese cubes in the VFW hall.
Droopy eyes at Bisque, Spiff dances wildly, Ogie the monster.
Bisque in the snow holding cocoa under the A. McMahon moniker.
"It could be so much better." I feel a mirror behind me.
Fall trot with Pookie to the shopletts on Broadway.
Sittin' at the southern kitchen table talkin' educational loans.
My dad takes photos of me getting the high score on Pac-Man.
The barefoot audition.
The Daily Burn, parfait, Friday Night Lights tradition.
Sneezing my face off in class. Gel making me use it.
Sitch and I are the annoying people on that Wednesday night bus.
Oopa! All the saganaki with aunt 'n' uncle.
Crying at what was to come in the New Mexico desert.
Kicking my feet in bed after opening the congrats email.
Using poofs as chairs for living room improv sets with Meat Gang.
Eatin' a ghost cookie on the hottest October (makeshift birthday) day.
The wannabe gym coach putting up his hood to read a poem in 100.
The quiet gamer pretending to flip a table in the 101 debates.
Ripping on the sweetie pies of Tuesday/Thursday.
The pros and cons of living in Saudi Arabia with my tutee at the library.
Wooden post painting where we are members.
The longest and most literal Labor Day ever.
The lightening machine at Science and Industry.

This list was so much harder to make than usual. I barely scratched the surface of things that are monumental because things are packed! Packed, I say.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Saint Over-Save

A childhood friend's mom put together a huge Easter extravaganza for all us kids. We had a fashion show of Sunday best and bonnets followed by an egg hunt where we tore through the yard like Whoopi Goldberg in the Lion Kind (read: hyenas). There was a lot of tiny plastic booty, but there was also one very special prize: a giant white chocolate rabbit. And who do you think found it? That's right, the little kid who dug through a bush in  her grandmother's old mink shawl (read: me). I was supremely proud of my win. The rabbit sat on the kitchen table for a while, but when I was prompted to eat it, I couldn't. I wanted to save it for a really special occasion. I mean, really really special. The thing was eventually moved to above the china cabinet. Then it was eventually over a year old and thrown in the trash.

This was a common habit of mine as a child. I saved. I saved money in Altoid tins and Dean's milk bottles. I saved all my best Halloween loot "in case." I owned three blank books and never wrote in them because what if I got a really good idea, better than my usual? This might be considered over-saving.

Two days ago I smelled something familiar on State street. I couldn't place it for a while, but the scent stuck with me. It was this specific Bath and Body shade! A shade I knew well because for Christmas one year my mom got me dissolvable bath bubbles with the same smell. I really looked forward to using the gel bubbles. "One day I will take the sweetest stinking bath ever," I plotted. I would open the boxed container and sniff the soapy orbs. I would do this quite often actually. I never took the bath.

But. I felt so peaceful and wistful on the street niffing that memory. I knew it so well because my hopes were so high. I've heard the happiest you are is actually right before a vacation--not during. I don't think the over-save is always a crime.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Cereals!

After Thanksgiving I was completely spent. I told Bisque, "I am having cereal for dinner tonight." He dare not stop me. At the Jewel I found not one but two cereals contending for my taste buds, so, what the hay, I got them both.
They were gone in 48 hours. I ate cereal for two days straight and I do not regret it even a little bit.

Sugar Cookie Pebbles - A+
Presentation - Delightful! Like a bunch of happy holiday twinkle lights. Bonus sparkle from the truckload of sugar involved.
Taste - Like the actually promised sugar cookie! Seriously! A heaping spoonful tasted like a dozen tiny sugar cookies. What is not to love?
Substance - Airy. Hard to make a complete meal (but not impossible, as evidenced by the fact that I did it). Did I check the nutritional chart? Oh absolutely not.

Christmas Crunch - A
The exact same as regular Crunch Berries...except said berries are red and green. Is this a problem? As someone who would be cool eating C. Crunch as a final meal on death row, I say no. A change in presentation alone ain't bad. How can you really improve perfection, ya know?

"At this point, you're major Crunch." - Bisque

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hoku 4 Days

Writing with some humility this evening. On Friday I had a little bit of a grumble fest. I had just been featured in a real fest--a good, cool sketch one--and it was just really hard to see my work for some reason. It was so imperfect. It always is.

Hunny and her new husband plus Blake and Da had come out to see this silly thing I wrote. We went to the bar across the street. I put on a happy face (half-earned because I like those people a lot) and shouted over the music, but concern stewed in me. After moping home I let it go because otherwise the ghost of failure yet to come would eat me whole.

There are good times and okay times and times of survival lately. Yesterday I was sitting in the library. I love libraries. Especially tiny ones like the one across from my apartment. I eavesdropped on the kid's corner and sat in an oak chair. I looked objectively at my weekend and wanted to slap myself across the face. I am living a very very good life, and I have got to stop grumping when one percent of it is imperfect. I mean, let me talk about my weekend. Seriously.

Friday I was featured in a sketch festival. Supportive, cool people came. We hung out. Bisque bought me a cranberry juice. Once home I popped some popcorn and chomped on a big block of Christmas gift milk chocolate from one of the beuff's work clients.

Saturday morning we did two intense workouts, ate greek yogurt parfaits, relaxed, planned some playwriting classes, read. I went to the library. I sat on the floor. I was in no hurry. Dunt is in town with her mom. She took us out to a super delicious Mexican dinner I ordered the nachos. We got home early since they were en route to a show. Bisque and I watched The Babadook. It was totally entertaining. Afterward I walked in the not-even-that-cold December night to Walgreens for ice cream and flamin hot Cheetos, which I ate before curling up with my laptop and MTV's True Life.

I woke up to happy friend texts. I ran five miles. I had a musical improv rehearsal. The grocery shopping was full of goofs and snickerdoodle Chex Mix. Dusty took me up on my offer to join us at a super discounted magic show. We sat in the Palmer House Hotel parlor and had our minds blown. I mean, I saw a man knife himself out of a balloon and pick the audience member's card tonight! Meanwhile I have the best boyfriend ever, immediate text contact with my whole family, can do laundry in my apartment, and Poptarts exist. THINGS ARE PRETTY GOOD.

Getting rambley now, but I'm so beyond guilty of seeing my life as a bunch of progress always always yet to be made. Enjoy the trash TV, the junk food, the fact that you don't have to do anything at all and still to live is beyond explanation in that very good way.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Fate

Strange, I do
feel there is such a thing
as fate. I know there are so many loose leaf
pages, threads, turn rights versus turn lefts--
that person you met at that office building when you were only half-sure you would show up because of that one thing you googled which caused you to email that guy who invited you there
is singing an NSYNC song with you at karaoke and you're like
out of all possible universal outcomes I am in this one?

Amy Poehler says in her book
(I read it at the library. I was waiting for a parent of a child
I might tutor.) she always knew she would be on SNL.
She had toured the studio at a young age and knew.
There are a lot of ways to explain this.
Motivation is one. The fact that many people have had the same knowing
and not the same outcome
is another.
Or maybe
the fate thing.

And sometimes you know things.
And it is useless to argue them.
Like, maybe you get these flashes of someplace warm
and it feels homey
and you end up moving there.
Or maybe you just know that person will cancel.
Will I tutor this child?
Those inexplicable interviews bombed,
jobs granted. Because you knew. Or, you thought not, but
some little grainy piece of mind knew?

Ask you, "Could I be in any other city today? Could I have any other job?"
Whether I like it or not, my answers are always no.
And that makes me feel something,
like I'm in a big hammock.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Stop Talking about How Cold It Is/Will Be

OTHERWISE WINTER WINS. DON'T LET WINTER WIN. WE ARE INTELLIGENT BEINGS WITH MUCH MORE TO THINK ABOUT AND DISCUSS THAN WHAT WE CANNOT CONTROL AND LONG UNDERWEAR.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Two Piles People

Monday and Tuesday my school held department-wide exit exams. All my classes had v serious essays scheduled. I set up a pile of prompt papers on the podium and finished exams on the chair adjacent. I didn't make an announcement about the two piles as to not disturb the silence. I did write "PROMPTS" and "EXAMS" with coordinating arrows on the whiteboard. There are two types of students.

There is the type of student who sees the piles and quietly places the appropriate papers the appropriate places. But the majority of students (like by a lot) shuffled toward me eyes glazed holding out papers like they were babies and I was a doorstep. I would often (trying to keep quiet) point to the piles, and even then many people would look, turn back, "Should I...? Where should I...?" It's pretty obvious. Being empathetic, I could consider the fact that this is an important exam, and everyone wants to be double sure. But being realistic, you can figure it out. You can do it. Do it.

Friday, December 5, 2014

#DavidBowieIs

Tuesday my aunt took me on a special weekday treat! We went to the Museum of Contemporary Art to explore the David Bowie exhibit. What a morning. We wore headphones that pumped interviews and music through us for the whole two hours we enjoyed the costumes, artifacts, and music videos. No photos were allowed, but I jotted some ideas in my iPhone notes:
"Everything went into my mind as being an influence."-D.B.
Constant theme of Bowie's work is that he was forever devouring art, culture, trash, whatever and grinding it all up into what he made. Truly we all do this--we just don't always know where our influences are. Bowie on the other hand recognized the strings in his brain, and perhaps that made those strings sing.

A major influence of his early in his career was "The Happy Prince," a story I had forgotten about. I used to read it often from an Oscar Wilde treasury from my grandfather.

"The medium is the message."-Marshall McLuhan

"That's the point of contemporary pop music. It spits of the past."-D.B.

Inauthenticity made up the 70s. And here we are in the 20dimes, living in irony.

DB was maestro of his work. He worked with designers, sure, but there were sketches upon sketches for every level of his showmanship. Pages of his boyish handwriting scratching lyrics, little notes for music, clothing concepts, storyboards...He said it was better he do it all himself. I'm honestly glad there's a lot of stuff I don't trust myself to do. I trust others' opinions much more. What a terror that would be--to know you could do everything better. What a terror, and, yet, how important it must have been for DB.

A wall exclaimed, "You are an engineer."
Advice from the man himself: "Define an area as safe and use it as an anchor."
Finally: "No authors give voice, but instead a rich body of work for us to admire, ponder, and make our own."

But the film is a saddening bore
Cause I wrote in ten times or more.
It's about the be writ again.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wedding Ruminations/ Continuation of Friendship

My brain was very busy while I watched Spiff and his lady tie the knot this weekend. The talk of forever and faithful and love is sometimes just a lot, and emotions can creep up the ol' windpipe. But sometimes you're just kind of biding your time until you can get a big glass of pineapple juice.

Seeing two people in this vulnerable romance cloud made me love them. I know that's not the point of weddings, but it is what happened. And then there was a moment of grief. Like, there they go, off into the sunset, leaving all of us here who have loved them with the scorpions I guess.

Then I had coffee with Cobra who takes everything too far with "love." She can't seem to talk to a male without wondering if they will somehow become lovers. If he lusts after her. She has fantasies and stays too long in the professors office or questions her motives around coupled friends. It's exciting, but it's also highly distracting. She told me about how last year a friend's boyfriend started making moves in a hot tub. She said, "Well, what would you have done?!" I said, "My goodness, I would have said, 'Oops, you accidentally grazed my knee.'" It would not occur to me that someone was trying to cheat.

"What I could do if I were you!" she exclaimed, curly hair like a lioness mane. Leaned back, gulping for air. "I could have written so many novels in the time I've been wasting thinking about men." All of my relationships are professional. I always get to the point. I like males classmates and Bisque's friends and students and the guy ringing me up at Jewel because I don't have an interest in any of them. Really the only danger is what it can look like. Maybe it's leftover from my dinko college days when sitting alone at a booth with a new pal looked fishy and word spread like jelly.

In that sense, I have a newfound adoration for the institution of marriage. You are safe in there. You the married person and you the person who wants to love everyone. You are an innocent soul with a big heart and desire for friendship. That's all it has to be because the rings proves it to be true.

People don't die at the alter. They're under new conditions. Less vague, cut and pasted with someone, out of business in one sense and opening in another.

After I gave my speech at the college graduation a girl who had always been just on the outskirts of my friends and activities found me in the crowd. "I really liked what you said," she told me, "and I look forward to becoming friends one day." But this is over, I thought! You dodo, that was a graduation speech. Curtains! Moreover, that girl lives in Germany! Like, in what parallel land was there any chance or time for us? Still, nice thought.

That winter she went to a theatre festival with me. We were both going through strange break-ups and bonded instantly. We sang, advised, analyzed with each other for five days. She had said it could happen, and it was so.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Too Big, Too Fast

"It's okay. You were too big for it here." He told me. We touched down, and the tears started squirting. My place of dirt and stone, of mountains and prickly pear. I outgrew my own loved life like that pair of Old Navy tennies from high school, pea green and full of holes. My Japanese father picked them up and said "Gomi bako," which means trash can.

Bisque's mom made the stuffing veg. It was filled with pumpkin seeds, and I slathered on cranberry sauce. At the neighborhood holiday party Hill greeted me with a hug and news of s'mores. I didn't eat dessert for 30 days of November (!), and this weekend broke the fast in the way I imagine buildings explode--quietly and then with amazing destructive force.

On Friday Shells picked me up like a Jewish mother frequently interrupting to offer me snacks. I ate six donuts. The literal best I've ever eaten.Cherry chocolate, honey glaze. I ate them while we talked about our movie. I drank the peppermint mocha poolside. Meep dipping her legs in. The gang all together, I ate more with forks and knives, and we laughed like banshees at Cager's honesty and Kale's memory of that time four guys were trying to date her and she was taking up crocheting.

I was so tired at the wedding I drank ridiculous amounts of coffee. It was so sweet though--extra cold as I sat next to Ro in her sunglasses, like always. I can't believe it's been four months. It is so like always. Still managed to dance and dance. Sunset in Scottsdale, people and vows in a sun too bright I had to close my eyes. At the after-brunch there was light conversation and everything ending too soon. It was catch up the whole while. Wake up early to get five miles in. It's too gorgeous not to. Thighs dry and lumped as a result. Talking in advice like tickertape to Cobra, over biscuits with Lavender. So much has happened and I covered it all 80 times over. This is what I do, yes, it is cool, yes, I'm doing well, no, not THAT well, but yes, maybe one day.

And when all was said and done, after The Hunger Games tradition and new plastic cups and the 3:30 AM cab ride we were back here and shocked. I stood in the whipped cold and whined, mainly as a result of 180 minutes of sleep, but I did. The couch was too good. I made a promise to get through the day at school, buy cereal, and eat it until I fell asleep too early, which I absolutely did right after we watched the first episode of The OC.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Growing Pains

I've been writing less and less because I do a lot of things now. One of the newest things is performing musical improv on a weekly basis. Sometimes, this skillset is very natural to me. I sing a lot. A lot a lot. But I am very new at the whole actual musical improv performance shebang! Our first show was tonight. Bombs away! I'm experiencing things I haven't even thought about since, like, my first improv class. The total freeze-up. The complete poof, nothingness in dialogue. Sometimes knowing, "Wow, I really didn't kill it. I didn't even remotely injure it. I think I bored it." The shaky trust in a stranger who is now your husband and you're at a made-up party together and now there's a backstory about the party and your job at Bath and Body Works and also the piano is riffing so YOU ARE ABOUT TO SING. MAYDAY MAYDAY. I mean, really, many times it's fine, but it's...I don't know, almost exciting to be at the bottom again. I feel myself stretching and growing at an extreme rate. Most of the things I do take such time and slow sprouting. Writing plays is not, like, something you improve at in a two hour rehearsal. But musical improv IS. Trying new things helps us remember how scary the stuff we're used to can be for other people AND how incredible the feeling of rapid progress is. How sweet it is to be somewhere steps are miles instead of inches of nuance. Learning the basics in big sloppy bounds. Mud piles of newness flying!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tragedy in Drama

Just! Had! A! Veggie! Ranch! Burrito! With! Shine! (An grad school peer of mine who's in the city for a conference!) I dunno. I liked him in school, but I loved seeing his face. I'm missing AZ fiercely in this nineteen degree ice hole.

It occurred to me for a moment that he should read my new play. But then I  remembered he's in school and a full time teacher. He doesn't have time for that. I thought about offering to read his stuff, but I know I can't. I'm a writer, which means I write and have a full time career. Major art trap. All the talented muses I've ever met are too busy to quietly read each other's work. I bless those sweethearts who do.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Apology, Apology, Apology

In high school Ty used to come over to my house on Sundays at 7 PM when his parents thought he was attending Catholic night mass. It became our thing. Once we went ice skating, once bowling, sometimes he'd help me with physics homework, and one night we just sat on the floor of my bedroom shedding our biggest fears and explaining why we thought we were the way we were. There was something personal I said, something about how I viewed the world, about what scared me, and he made fun of it. Like, pretty quickly. On one hand it was almost refreshing because my concerns were just a joke to him. On the other hand I felt my safe space had been abruptly broken. I told him so, and he kind of scratched his head and the night wound down, and he went home. He called me there apologizing. "I just realized really how much of a jerk I was. I was asking you all these personal questions and then I made fun of you." Yeah, it was true. I said it was okay.

AZ State Fair, 2011. I miss it.
The next day at school I was attacked. All out mutual friends found me during the day." Ty says sorry," they all explained. Sometimes people were sincere--mostly flippant. He hadn't said why he was apologizing. He just sent everyone he could to say sorry. A girl I didn't know stopped me in the hall and asked if I was Alice. She said sorry on behalf of Ty. I even got a few calls after school. This was before social media, so he must have just announced before his classes, at lunch, etc. "Hey, if you know Alice, tell her I'm sorry." Ty called at night and asked if I had gotten the message. Yeah, I had. I didn't really know how to process the day. I mean, it's not like quantity matters in apologies, but it was such a creative way for him to know he meant it? Maybe? I still don't know for sure I guess. But I held nothing against him. That was that. He went on to ask me to prom, go to college, and we lost track of each other.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Memories of Girl Scout Day Camp, 1997

The summer after third grade a bunch of my friends went to a Girl Scout day camp together. I have very few memories of this experience, which is very strange since I remember most things entirely. I did not make any new friends, nor did I forge stronger, better friendships with my troupemates. When I think back on the one or two weeks it's a haze of popsicle sticks, one very obnoxious multiple-verse song that was eerily satanic, and standing inside a lodge while it rained. I told Peppermint, "At least the mosquitos will be dead now," and she explained it was actually just the opposite.

Two things though. One is that on some afternoon our counselor told us there was going to be a talent show, so our group would sing some lame song in front of everyone soon. Once we arrived at the talent show it was painfully clear that other groups had spent all morning preparing and had funny skits and choreographed pieces. Our counselor had, instead, decided we would do a craft with egg cartons, which we didn't have, and spent the AM shift lying on a picnic table while we, in a big pod, walked from campsite to campsite begging for craft materials like some weirdo forest urchins. During the talent show I was absolutely horrified to follow a group of girls who did a cool interpretive dance with hula hoops. We stood in one line screaming that terrible devil song because it was the only one we all knew. I saw we would be awful and tried to hustle everyone to find a different common tune even moments before we "performed." "What about Phantom of the Opera? Don't we all know Phantom of the Opera? Look, it's not hard. I can teach you." I was murmuring to everyone in line. My cousins were visiting that week, and when I got home I recounted the whole disaster to one of them who grew extremely agitated to be listening to my patter. It was the first time I realized that not everything about me is interesting by a very very long shot.

My friend Ick and I became completely obsessed with the friendliest and prettiest counselor who went by "Star." "If only we had Star as a counselor," we'd pine while watching her group run around giggling. We'd turn back to our counselor who was still trying to get her cd to work so we could "listen to it and be quiet." We wrote Star fan letters and stalked her during all-camp festivities. During the Friday luau she was nowhere to be found. I noticed another counselor, Froggy--a fat white guy with an ever sweaty red face--looking suspicious. He entered a telephone booth sideways. I darted over. An exhausted Star was in there too! I watched through the glass. She would make some tired motion, he would say a couple things, she would laugh hysterically--nearly crying. Her eyes sparkled like her namesake. I finally knocked on the glass. Star turned around and recognized me as one of those psychotic children who chased her down every day. She just put her finger to her lips, so I walked away. I still don't know what that meant--the sign she gave me. Don't tell I'm not doing my job? Don't tell I might be in love with Froggy of all people? Just don't say anything, you whacko? I think of them every couple of years and hope they are married.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

But Sometimes It's the Time to Win

On Monday my newest play was performed at The Goodman. I won the competition very unexpectedly. That night I left school en route to the taco shop Bisque and I happened upon this summer. I can't believe I was sweating through my shorts that day. It has only been three months. He met me for celebratory breakfast burritos. The service was terrible, but the green sauce was grand. I don't remember what we talked about. The things.

I picked up my comps and saw Tone at the box office. My sister had told him. DB was there too. Tall and jolly as always. The actresses were excellent--a major privilege. I had made my peace with losing this thing. I winced at some parts, mentally revised others, let out my breath when yes, the crowd laughed and when yes, it was finally over. Tone gave me a tiny clap and DB offered one meaty comment. We all took the red line home talking mostly about summer camp. Once we were on our block I told Bisque, "Yeah, so it's not my best work." He patted my back, "That's what you always say." Stretched my legs like I remember doing in Ballet I, cracked open a Diet Cherry 7UP, nearly fell asleep watching Kathy Bates as the bearded lady.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wait for the Light

I spend a lot of time waiting for the little white walk sign to blink these days. I left sketch rehearsal Thursday with pals, and beelined for the cross walk even though the bar was directly across the street. "Wait, really?" the guys asked. "I have this weird thing about me," I said. "I don't want to get hit by a car." Jay-walking is the way here. We have necks, we can see when vehicles are coming, when they're not, when technology has impeded our freedom and given us a red hand despite ghost roads. I really just prefer to wait. I make a lot of decisions each day, and mostly I don't care for it. It's nice a tall box makes this one for me. Sometimes it's weird, sure, when nothing's coming and someone jay-walks right at me like, "You dummy, we're safe." But if you always wait for the light, you're really safe. You did all right. No tickets, no mistakes. It's not that I don't want to think, it's that I'd rather keep thinking about other things than the minute to minute gamble of something unimportant.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Now Is not Always the Time to Win

Can you imagine how terrible life would be if you were successful at everything? Whatever you were interested in at five years old would be your career right now. I would be a world class grocery store toy aisle designer.

I stretched myself too thin this weekend. I got stuck in bus after bus jam after the informational meeting for a new play festival. I showed up later than I wanted to be for an ensemble audition. 12th on the waitlist. I spent most of the day hovering around the theatre, and when suddenly a slot opened and yes, actually, we were all the way to my number, I was barely prepared. I scuttled in, performed my monologue, left relieved--but much too tired to work on the play contest until this morning. If I had just picked one thing to do I might have done that one thing well.

This morning at 7 AM that's how I felt. I wrote in quiet Sunday sunbeams. I finished the piece hastily and sent it in 2 minutes shy of the 9 AM deadline. Not my best work. But every submission gets a pair of comp tickets to an upcoming preview show. Might as well.

I didn't feel bad though. Ultimately I'm glad I did both because each one gave me a personal victory. Just finishing things is, like, the best you can feel. I've said that before. Honestly, I think I was happier when I sent off my glad school apps than when I got accepted, certainly than when I graduated.

My friend Heart says "Failure is information," which is just peachy. I think of an interview from Jenna Fischer. She explained how she worked in Hollywood for eight years before landing anything tangible. How she had to learn victory for herself just by playing outside her box in an audition--even when she didn't land the gig. My victory was just doing the thing with no more than a minute's notice.  There's something pure and honey-like about knowing the opportunities we don't get go to someone else who needs them more.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Newborns

All the pieces of writing.
They resurge over time. My mid-term from Poetry II in 2009, my word.
The new play. The old revised. Like baby bunnies
crammed in the nest.
Can't possibly mother them all.
Reproduce, reproduce, reproduce.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

End of the World

Outside the children leave the school.
There's simply nothing left to learn.
Inside the bakery the bread is warm for those without concern.

Everybody's got a care to throw.
The end is coming but we already know.
Moving bodies turning into gold.
The sky is falling and we're watching it go.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Andrew to the Ninth Power

Halloween was the first day it snowed in Chicago and I saw Andrew McMahon for the 9th time in concert. It was, like always, a sturdy, clean set. Some SoCo, some new record, sending us off with the Jack's of pulling friends through. The Vic buzzed. A scarecrow next to me, a deer wandering near the bar, Severus Snape in the back row. Andrew himself was in full astronaut garb. He crowdsurfed his helmet. A Pikachu riffed guitar. The openers ran onto the stage in skin-tight Power Rangers 'tumes.

It was Bisque's first Andrew concert. He arrived right before doors opened toting cups of cocoa for my waiting-in-line fingers. Little stories about the commuting back to Echo Park. Mentions of the recovery, a few old tracks from People and Things, almost forgotten. Of course, "Astronaut"--thanks to attire.
The final finale was "Synesthesia." Our star crouched down to the front rows (where we were) and serenaded us. "So I never made a gold record," he sang. It was true when he recorded that song, but since his 2005 single went gold. I pointed to him and said, "But you do have a gold record!" He nodded and mouthed, "I do!" He joked with the hecklers, jumped off the piano, ended his show early enough for us to wait in coat-check, make the windy walk home, and watch Amityville Horror until we fell asleep. You're a good man, Andrew Mc.
The stars are out tonight,
One million fires burning.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Last Full Year of Your Life

"What would you do if you only had a year left to live?" A solid question. A hearty question. I asked Bisque the other night. He told me he would travel to all seven continents with friends and family. That's a good answer.

It's strange that an answer doesn't come obviously to me. All the possibilities. Little time. What to do? It surprises me which things I have on my life plans that get knocked off immediately. International travel doesn't appeal to me without more years following to soak in the culture comparisons. Oddly enough the place I would most want to is probably Disney World. I just want to be happy and feel magic. I would visit important people in my life to enjoy some fond farewells. Would I see art and theatre? I don't think so. I MIGHT see something especially excellent, but for some reason final nights even in a Broadway theatre don't appeal to me. Movies certainly don't. I would write. A lot. I would probably write one or two books and a finish my screenplay and play I'm poking at lately. Writing would be my main squeeze.

I would definitely get fat. I would eat everything all the time. It would be actually ridiculous. I would probably make a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls every morning. And that's only the beginning.

I finally chose grad school my recognizing living abroad might be a stalling point (albeit a cool one) to get on the track I actually was hungry for. I asked myself the same question when I was accepted into The Program. "If I were to die in a year, would I be please with a year of teaching and waiting?" Probably not. I would have wished I just jumped and shipped myself off to Chicago.

We should not live like we're dying. I like my savings account and my health and my sturdy relationships. But, if you did die in a year, would you be pleased with how you spent this final one?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Last Chicago Weekend

Every tree screams orange and the couples are OUT on the Lake path. I'm running. Frisbees fly, boats wade happily. "The last weekend," everything sings. My credit card is in my sports bra for the spinach I will pick up on my way home. The streets are packed in daytime ways--strollers and pedal pushers, candy corn icicle lights, the pop-up farmers market. I chose a patch of kale and a sweet potato for Bisque. A gust of wind takes the tiny yellows by surprise and they gust into the sky like confetti. Windows open. Fire and maple. I buy one signed copy of Lena Dunham's book, digest one ghost sugar cookie, trot the square with my sister the birthday girl. Today we sat in the woody loft with her laptop and laughed the afternoon away trying to compartmentalizations our relationship and selves as if we had been comissioned to. My theatre company opened its show. My new friend Marble hugged me greedily, my new team won the Sunday night jam in the land of Poe birds. It is time to be, but we know it's change. We move forward. We crinkle up and turn brown in the gutter.

Friday, October 24, 2014

TV for Women

1. It's very easy to be critical of women-created/based TV shows. I was very critical of Girls for a second because it was such a bad example of women I thought the show was trying to represent. But, then I took a step back and had to realize this was just a gang of gals like any other gang on TV, and why I was ACTUALLY upset was because I wasn't being represented. It's not Lena Dunham's job to represent me on TV. It's her job to tell an interesting and entertaining story.

2. It's TV corporations' job to include equal male and female voices so that those stories start to show more diversity and thus represent more of our world so viewers who identify can feel as though they belong and viewers who don't can feel as though they understand others better.

3. I like Mindy Kaling a lot a lot, and I love her show. It's fun and quirky, and her character is sort of an idiot. "It sets women back." But also, again, it's not that one show's fault there are not other "setting women forward" shows.

4. In a recent interview she mentioned how she didn't intend to name the lead character after her true first name, but the producers wanted it. I wonder why that is? Is it because part of the show's appeal is that people love Mindy Kaling and they wouldn't be interested unless they thought it was her they'd be watching?

5. I realized many women on TV have had to take on their own similar to themselves personalities. Whitney Cummings, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Dunham, Zoe De. This is true for men as well at times (Seinfeld, Mullaney, Raymond). BUT, there are also a LOT of other men who have nothing to do with their true selves: John Hamm, Bryan Cranston, Steve Carell, etc.

6. Mindy's show almost never passes the Bechdel test. Yes, the protag is a 30something avergae-built Indian woman (yay diversity) but the next main supporting characters are four white men. Mindy had a bestie at the beginning of the show, and she was written out extremely quickly. Now it's just her and dudes basically.

7. Bisque went on a business trip last week. He came home and I said, "But it was kind of nice to be apart for a couple days, right?" He said, "Uh, no!" And I was like, "Yeah, but I took up a ton of bed space and watched whatever I wanted on TV!" He thought and said, "That's every night for me." And it's true. I don't really watch TV, so he controls the remote for the evening and I grade papers half looking on at what the case is this episode of Criminal Minds.

8. Today I did my usual Daily Burn workout and watched The Mindy Project. When Bisque is home I don't watch that show because I don't think it would interest him.

9. Sometimes I have watched Sex and the City with him nearby, and he sort of chuckles at the stupid drama happening. He has a point. It can be stupid. And then I feel kind of ashamed to be watching trash. But SATC is the closest thing I have to female Sopranos! Sometimes it's really good in a way I don't think Bisque will ever really understand...but I'm still embarrassed.

10. So. Why is there such a lack of TV shows featuring women and womens' interests? I think we are all part of the problem.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Right Now

You are where you're supposed to be.

What a cultured weekend. Auditions and teaching residency meeting at the specifically non-chain coffee shop. Birthday celebration at a Rick Bayless hotspot. Underground site-specific seance theatre. I was almost late, so I sprinted the half mile from the train. Rainbow sweater ripped over my head along the graveyard. I ate leftover ice cream cake for dinner and next was the new play inspired by Moby Dick in Wicker Park.

And then there are groceries to buy and college classes to plan and finally, finally a taste-testing pizza gathering. I have never felt more exhausted yet excited than when looking at my weekend calendar now that I am a tried and true Chicagoan. The most fun, the best of the best, but huffing and puffing, the hours the the minutes the moments.
And the seasons, they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Alive!

Last night I could not get to sleep. Was up for hours getting bonus lesson planning done and suddenly this spec of an idea I had about a play completely took shape and completely consumed my half-dreaming thoughts. I journaled for pages: lines of dialogue, stage directions, climactic images. It spilled out of me like black ink in those old timey pots tipped over.

This morning I began. Here it comes, speeding out of me. I didn't want to stop. I prolonged the workout until I was cutting it close. I thought about these people walking to the train. I have never wanted to cancel class due to creative flow before. A first. They hung with me all day. I have a new pile of essay revisions to grade, but not tonight. Not, at least, right now. I have people to see.

Very early into grad school I recognized I was loathing the hunt of playwriting. I would stay up all night finishing an act, get it ripped up the next day, and keep the document closed until it was my turn for workshop four weeks later. Not a healthy cycle. Not a successful cycle. I wondered if I would ever feel excited again.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Moving Meeting

That's strange. My 3:40 conference student never showed up. He's a good egg. A quiet egg, but a good one who is in community college to get cheap gen-eds before med school. Smart egg. But he's still a little guy. Eighteen I think. I packed up and headed home. Right as I'm about to hop the train, he jumps off! "You missed your meeting!" I said sort of joyfully because he was! (Out of all the trains I could have taken.)

He explained he had forgotten his ID, so he had to go home to get it! I asked if he wanted to meet right there in the underground with the do-wop men chiming near. He asked, "Are you going somewhere?" I told him just home, and he pointed to the closing doors. "I can just get on the train," he said.

I stuck my hand out and we jumped in. We stood holding different rails, swaying, and I asked him to tell me what revisions he is thinking of. He did over the short woman with a blue kerchief. I hassled my notebook out of my tote. "You have a low B for participation since you never speak up in class," but you have an A in the course on the whole. A thin-haired man watched on. "Well that's it then." I said after two stops, "Are you staying on?" No. He got off to catch the train in the opposite direction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ought

Every day is Birdy on my mind, Skinny Love. The rains come in patches of mist. Purple hood up. It's the time of three paper ghosts on my front door. Squash in the oven Sunday after church. Beauty in the day, whip brisk by night. Take the train down south to the blufftop. Run to the old house, wood porch, Mississippi river boat. Murder stories and that golden hour on the shoe box casino. New season of American Horror Story, and this time maybe Ryan Murphy won't ruin the kit 'n' kaboodle. It's everyone's birthday. It's audition season. No, it's audition town. In any season. Fire up the Keurig.


Sullen load is full, so slow on the spit.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Day in the Life, October 9

Turning the keys before 7 AM. The apartment is quiet, Bisque still sleeping. Wake up, wake up. Walk to the train in breaking light, One-D my soundtrack. Wake up, wake up. No seat on the el, so I stand with feet far apart and strong squatted thighs holding Ghosts by Chuck P. The train gets fuller and fuller, downtown emptier and emptier. It's just me and three other ladies by the time I'm at the end of the line.

First meeting at my new teaching residency. Google the neighborhood. Police officer shot and killed 17 hours before I arrive. I have a new hot pink Mace, and I tuck it into my seafoam scarf. Packed bus, everyone sighs when the wheelchaired person has to get off. Bless wheelchaired folk on buses. Bless them.

My new boss is a happy man who keeps his wrist limp. He brings six donuts to this kickoff meeting. Me and this happy sweetie and this fresh-faced creative writing ginger. The box is opened. "I got three of my favorite kind to make sure even if you both wanted that kind I would get one." I like this style. I have the favorite old fashioned. It is thick with hardened sour glaze. We walk to the train and men yell at me. We ignore them, but it isn't easy. "What is that smell?" my boss politely asks. "Oh, weed." I say. "Ah," he adds.

And then we're back to the rest of the world with skyscrapers. I stop in the Claire's and debate buying corn dog earrings. I don't because I don't have money for corn dog earrings. This shouldn't even be a consideration. People who don't have money for corn dog earrings should not even hold corn dog earrings to their faces. In my office adjuncts come and go. Sometimes the conversation is like grad school and real and potentially useful and sometimes its like, "Ohmygod how many times do people have to discuss music videos being terrible to women?" I guess they still are, so.

The students got into partners, and the students from the country south and the student from the country east were paired. They made up analogies. Some work too hard on these classroom exercises, and that is good. Grading papers, grading papers, grading papers. Scheduling classes, making plans, Next semester, money, lesson plans.

I collapse at home. "I'm sorry," I tell my man. "I need two minutes. What I ate today: a donut." I fall asleep sideways on the couch, and he wakes me up with a tiny pot of beans. I feel gooped. Brain whack. Like a confused baby being fed. Go to the theatre, have an audition for some little show. It's exercise like anything else. Audition, audition, write, write, write. I'm home grading papers again, always, forever and ever, in my grave, underground, so many student emails, "Can you tell me everything I missed today?"

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

More City Colleges Notes

I've been writing less here because I am beyond buzzing every day. I've bitten off more than I can chew and that is only my own fault. It's a curse. The curse of believing there's more to be gained in this life and it won't happen unless you fill every crack with sand and soot.

Every day has its pleasures. The saganaki in Greek town! The new improv couple playing Bananagrams on our floor just shy of midnight. Yes, even my new cardio ball and especially the yellow leave like tiny Chaquitas. (Too many bananas lately I guess.)

I'm going to share something I notice about school. Again. Which just goes to show I am thinking about it too much--more than my writing, which is the whole point of being here. I'll get it. I'll get it. The experience is young yet.

Something I've noticed is my students' avoidance of asking for help. Many students are cautious to ask question in class, but the students I have now ask for basically nothing even when it is warranted. My students at the ol state school were grabby little freshman who were quick to ask for extra credit because they got sick and missed an assignment. I mean, get ahead however you can right? I always have the right to say now, so it was worth a try.

These kids just don't do that. They miss a huge exam and I hear nothing. They don't ask to make it up, they don't tell me when they're sick, they just do what they can and suffer the grade dips. It's refreshing but also not what I prefer. I'm here to help. It's my literal job. One girl didn't have her book for weeks and fell behind. I told her she needed to have told me much sooner. She says, "I was taught to never bother anyone with my problems. They're mine."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Passions

My students are writing out-of-class argumentation papers. I let them choose their own topics, and I have been meeting and emailing with them all week helping them shape their arguments. One of my students asked if she had to write an argumentation paper at all because she "hates arguing." I explained it's not necessarily fighting--it's about seeing a change that should be made in the world and trying to get others to see your point of view. She grimaced and stalked away. A couple days later I get an email full of exclamation points because she picked! Her! Topic! Abortion should be illegal! And here! Is! Why!

It was so very hard for me to accept her supporting points. We met after class Tuesday and we went over her outline and research piece by piece. "Here's how you can explain a woman's right to choice is secondary to keeping a fetus alive," I had to say. I DID NOT LIKE IT. But this student was completely lit up. She kept saying over and over again how good it feels to really care about her homework. She wants to include a poem from an aborted baby's perspective. "It would add a few pages to the paper though," she said. "Maybe you could include one line," I reasoned.
Venice. 2014.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Painting, a Whale, Spillage of Water

Three souvenirs from Italy: some salmon shorts, a pizza magnet, and a little painting from a street vendor in Florence. I have been very troubled in the past couple weeks because the painting is missing. I have no clue where it went. It was wrapped in brown paper. I am fairly certain I took it home from Europe, but then I schlepped things across the country, around the midwest, made trash piles, etc. I kept thinking the painting would pop up in some box, but now I've gone through everything in the apartment, and it's not here. I think it's a goner.

The painting was 20ish euros, which isn't a huge sum, but also isn't money I feel good about throwing away. I don't remember what the image was--just that I really loved it (enough to say "let me hang this in my new home!"). I'm not sure why this is making me so sad. Sometimes I go through my shoe boxes one more time in a frenzy. Eventually I make some kind of reasonable speech to myself about how I have a lot of lovely art in my home, and I really didn't NEED that painting. The pizza magnet is on the fridge. Am I being serious right now? I went to Italy, and I mourn some tiny art that is of basically no value to anyone else.

I'm sure you (whoever you are) can't really commiserate with me. There are far worse problems. More importantly, there are far better, more wonderful things to think about. I'm a person who tries to keep my possessions limited, and I still have a lot of things. Things I love a lot. Things I would be sad to lose. Although, eventually I will lose them all because you can't take it with you. Just as energy is transferred at lower and lower rates from grains to cows to humans, so is sentimentality. I could give that painting away, but it will never mean half as much to that soul as it did to me. So actually I'm just cutting to the chase. Nothing you can own is ever that important. The less stuff that is running your emotions, the better. I know this. I know this.

I am reminded of a small purple polka-dotted whale I lost as a child. I had brought it down to a hotel swimming pool on some trip. I left it by the edge of the water. The next morning I went to retrieve it, and it was gone. I really liked that whale, and I think I cried about losing it. I had earned it with tickets at Chuckie Cheese's. I missed Jelly (his name) for days. My mom told me she heard some people in the hotel were staying there because their house had been in a fire. Maybe the children who ended up with my whale had recently lost their toys. This didn't really comfort me because I still considered grabbing an abandoned whale theft. If someone had stolen the whale from my hands, I doubt the experience would have stuck with me. It is the burden of guilt that stays so permanent in my mind. If I had just taken better care of what I care for, it could be with me now. This painting experience smacks of the same melancholy.

I told Bisque this morning I hate that stupid painting for ever even entering my life. He thoughtfully pulled up a photo of us from Florence. That was comforting. Even if the photos were destroyed, nothing could erase my memory of those tan roofs.

The spring musical my freshman year of college opened right around my birthday. The cast celebrated by all wishing me a happy day during mic checks. One of my new pals secretly had the entire cast sign a card for me. 40 names and messages in that card! I was so touched. That night I knocked the vase holding flowers off my desk. The card was drenched. I was crushed. And then! The friend who had been with me when I ruined my gift called every person in the cast individually and got them to resign a new card. It is still one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, and it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so clumsy.

Some days I really think I could get rid of everything. I really think so. Others days I am not so sure.

Monday, September 29, 2014

PUSH AND PULL

DO
NOT
BE
PUSHED
FORWARD
BY
YOUR
PROBLEMS.
BE
LED
FORWARD
BY
YOUR
DREAMS.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Extra Mile

Tonight we finished the Costco tub of peanut butter filled pretzels. I already miss them. It was a quiet night of grading. At about nine Bisque started lacing his sneaks for a run and asked if I wanted to join. It is particularly perfect fall evening, so I did. I mentioned as we passed the harbor how nice it is that I can run three miles just because. That's not something I could always do. In fact, until about five years ago, running three miles would be a pretty sizable challenge for me. It is really hard to understand how that was ever possible because it's just a half hour activity! Why did I ever think jogging for half an hour is something to fear? There are 48 half hours in a day. I do so many things for half an hour. Why didn't I see running could easily be one of them?

I am obviously a big proponent of exercise. I think it improves basically every aspect of one's life. Duh: physical health, mental health, time to relax, whate'r. But since moving to the city I have been very conscious of how my exercise regimen allows me to go the extra mile in a literal sense. When the bus is coming, I can run to catch it. When it's time to pick a dinner place, I don't feel like I have to stay on on block. I'll walk and walk and walk to get what I want. It wouldn't occur to me to stay in because I am tired of climbing stairs--even though by going out I am guaranteeing I'll have to do the three flights yet again. I'm down.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Back There, In the Place We Used to Start

Third Eye Blind is on my work-out mix right now. The first time I heard the doot doot doot dootdodootdoot it was squeaking out of a boombox in the multi-purpose room of my middle school. I was 10 and attending a summer pom camp. The eighth grade girl leading my dance class jumped onto the radiator to turn up the radio. "This reminds me of camp!" she pouted to her co-counselor before kicking off with her white cheer shoes.

We had just stopped for pizza puffs. We were halfway to the state school for cheer and pom camp. It was 2001, and there was little better than traveling in a mini-van stuffed with my friends. I think Peppermint's mom drove us. Third Eye Blind came on the radio, and I realized that I was that girl on the radiator now.

Poms camp was so special. We screamed out school fight song every time we entered the gym with all the other teams. We learned dances to Aaron Carter on the corner of the soccer field. The grass was yellowed and dry. The watter bottles were piled high. It was a week, but what did we do every night? We practiced I remember. We imagined how cool it would be to live in the old olive dorm rooms. There were mini-fridges and I took a strawberry from the cafeteria to see what would happen to it in the freezer box.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Private Room Syndrome

One of my students hums when she writes. I don't think it is conscious, and it is just quiet enough that it would feel strange to make a fuss about it...but not so quiet that it's not annoying. I am contemplating how to approach the issue because this student is autistic and has confided in me that certain things can really fluster her. What if she can't stop?

I am reminded of a very bubbly student I often worked with at my old post in the disability center. She was talkative and happy, but when she was alone with a test suddenly she would let out the most aggressive strings of curses, tell herself she was stupid, scream, pound on tables. We put her in a one-person study room for exams. The one-person study rooms were highly coveted. No door opening like in the ADD room. No scratching of others' pens. Lots of space to stretch. Students who had mild anxiety would often try to weasel their way into those rooms. "They are reserved," we would explain. We didn't allow anyone in even if they weren't going to be used all day so no one would get used to the treatment.

But I would show this girl to her room and she would say, "Oh, no thank you. I would like to be in the bigger room." I would explain she was placed in the private room. "No, I don't want it." We would explain she was a distraction to others and she just couldn't believe it. She fought us basically every time.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Workouts for the Modern Woman

Just finished a week of Daily Burn. It's a great program--catered to you, different every day, fab and fun trainers...but I still get the sense I'm not quite the right audience for these videos. These are smiley little ladies who live to squat. If they mention their personal lives, it's like, "Aww, she's a newlywed or a dancer!" So, here are some workouts I'd like to see added to Daily Burn:

1. Workouts in which the "models" just come home from being lawyers or professors and sort of slump along with the workout. During breaks instead of the instructor making small talk about their glutes, they explain how the judge was being a real tool today or how many papers she has to grade.

2. Workouts in which the models' boyfriends are sitting nearby half-watching them do everything. This is the type of situation women at home are often in. I'd like to see the models deal with it. Maybe every few minutes the model boyfriends could ask when the workout is over so he can watch TV.

3. Instead of the canned cardio music playing, maybe a soft undercurrent of speeches Eleanor Roosevelt has given?

4. All Beyonce.

5. The trainer translates the exercises into real life scenarios. In spinning classes the trainer will talk the group through hills and valleys they pretend to ride through. In this workout if you're lunging for instance it's like, "Reach back behind the pile of clothes in your closet! That sweater you can't find is there somewhere!"

6. Book club workout. You read a chapter of a classic novel and during the workout your trainer asks you critical thinking questions about it.

7. Routines that guarantee you don't need to wear a bra. If there is any bouncy cardio, the models will incorporate wrapping their arms around their chests.

8. There is at least one model who just plain has no idea what she is doing.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Writer He

For some stupid reason it has been very hard for me to find good persuasive essay examples to share with my classes. Most persuasive writing available in media and online doesn't follow the five-paragraph-essay formula believe it or not, and that's where my classes are right now. I pick some reading from the textbook, okay, but solid, legit, simple persuasive essays about, you know, why we should be allowed to burn the flag or not just aren't easy to find apparently. So, I decided to write a sample essay myself. I used the school's writing rubric to write an essay about the benefits of school uniforms.

I shared this example with my students, and we had a discussion about why the piece deserved a high score on the rubric. I felt weird saying I had written the essay because a. it's kind of weird/sad(?)  I spent an hour of my Sunday writing a five-paragraph essay and b. I didn't want our discussion of why the essay achieved rubric success to look like a veiled attempt at me making my class an ego-boost activity. I didn't mention anything about the author, and no one asked. So, during the discussion the author became "he." Everyone kept saying, "This guy used examples really well," etc. At first I would correct statements by saying, "Yes, he or she did use good examples, like the one about the cost of fashion." But eventually that was cumbersome, so without my even knowing it, I also just started calling myself "he."

And that is how patriarchy is a thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Be Somebody!


The first assignment I gave all my beginning writing students was a brief essay answering these four questions: How do you feel about writing? Why are you in school? What do you hope to accomplish with your life? Is there anything else I should know?

These questions help me get to know my students (as much as they want to be known) and get a feel for the mindset of the class. Are these people who enjoy this subject or not, you know? Anyway, I've asked these questions to basically every class I have ever instructed. This semester a patterned answer has cropped up in the "Why are you in school? What do you want to do with your life?" sections. A large percent of students at some point used the phrase "be somebody." I have never gotten this response before, but now, teaching community college in downtown Chicago it's all over the place. "I am in college so I can be somebody." "After I graduate I want to get a good job and be somebody." "People have told me I won't ever be somebody."

The phrase is so foreign to me first because it is so vague. What does that even mean? I couldn't tell anyone how to be somebody. Aren't we all somebody? How can we be it more? I had to realize not everyone feels like they are a somebody. I mean, they are. If you breathe, you're a body, and you are a body--a somebody. I am excited by the drive of these students who felt less than and are taking active steps to be more than. At the same time I want to tell them it's a fruitless road--the one where a diploma means being. Sort of a Dorothy was wearing the ruby slippers the whole time thing. Considering this helps me keep in check what my version of "be somebody" is and just how stupid it is.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunday in the City

Breezy and clear, soft sunshine. Too dim for sweat. I planned my lesson on compound sentences at the Picasso statue. Children ran up the sloped based and slid down on their butts. A tour guide next to me explained about the courthouse nearby to a small group of tourists and said the statue is said to be a woman although I have always seen an ape. A Chinese guy kept accidentally/on purpose getting in the way of my photos. Finally he sat next to me and explained he didn't know how to get to Van Buren. I looked up his train stop and showed him the map on my iPhone.

One of my adult students designed sound for a play at the fringe festival way up there in Jefferson Park. I've never been. "People on the red line can't be friends with people on the blue line. It's just too hard," Belle joked this morning. We were on the corner of the Chicago River. It's sort of true. You'll have to take at least one randito bus. But I was downtown so no worries. I waited in the belly of the stop. The train was late and ran express all the way up there. I don't see these parts of the city. The 20s homes and cars on not packed side-streets.

It was such a nice stroll. A Thomas J in bronze. The play was 50 minutes, which is good on a Sunday afternoon. It was in a church basement and the two-weekend run was ending, so everyone was happy as peaches in cream. It's a huge city here and there are a lot of smiles. I stopped at the CVS to buy 99 cent Halloween cards with my coupon and on the bus ride home I read the novel with bowler cap on the front and thought about Communism.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Unwanted

1. I saw an ant on my windowsill. I crushed it with the corner of tissue that was sitting nearby. Suddenly, five ants. I banished them all from this world. Later I left a handkerchief on the sill. Not more than ten minutes later: antpalooza. Bisque brought the Windex, I shook the hankie over the sink and drowned the survivors. I Googled it. Apparently some ants are more concerned with protein than sugar. Snot is yummy organic food to them.

2. If you were designing a perfect human, you would probably leave out earwax. Because who likes earwax? But actually earwax is your lil ear protection. A lil drum saver, if you will.

Friday, August 29, 2014

You Should Be Happy

On paper I am living the dream. Like, literally. I dreamed of performing at the _______ theatre since I was twelve years old. And yesterday, I did.

You should be happy. This is what it is all about. But I couldn't have known when I was coming back from that summer mainstage on a school bus fulla kids who got most of the jokes but not all of the jokes that when it happened, when it really happened, it would be at the end of the longest week ever. The week I was sick to the bone. All my parts heaving and mucus, a clogged ear and too much lost lunch. I don't get paid enough to lose that much lunch, I thought while I was yakking in the bathroom on the floor above my classroom. I didn't want one of my students to see me wipe the slop off my face. It has been a shut-down week. Too tired to even respond to text messages week, certainly too tired to write, half-functioning just enough to sludge to the bus stop and cradle the stacks of copy-machine minted syllabi up the escalator.

You should be happy to have this job even though you need another if you want to do anything besides pay your rent this semester. You have to buy your own dry erase markers. Adjuncts are only administered two per semester, and yours haven't arrived yet anyway. Meanwhile there are all these new papers with all these moldy sentences and all these fresh faces who deserve a good education.

The show was okay. Just okay. We've all done so much better. But it was late and actually stunningly non-magic considering dreams and such were coming true. I walk out the doors of the best comedy theatre in the world, get in the car, snatch a chunk of toilet paper, blow my nose. This is the way it ends.

This is what dreams are for? To arrive at. To see the next mile post down the highway. "Maybe once I am there," you think.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Reminders, Basic

1. The amount of people you are severely disappointed in is way way fewer than the amount of people who are severely disappointed in themselves.
2. Everyone else's disasters always appear redeemable. Sometimes even "for the best."
The night Muffy and I got two v different cups of froyo and they weighed the EXACT SAME.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Logically But

Logically we all know there are literally millions of people in the world who wish wish wish they had what we have. Logically this is true, but, oh, it is so hard for that fact to make a difference when the days are a little too rainy and the pizza is a little too abundant in your diet.

I wonder why that logic doesn't help almost ever. Like, you can say the words, "I should be happy," but it never sinks in. But keep making the list. Fake the gratitude til you make the gratitude.

Maybe your mom will make you her famous cheesy chicken, or maybe you will get to dance to BSB at your high school best friend's wedding, your boyfriend will hug you in the bread aisle, and you can fall asleep on your dad's couch for however long it takes.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bad Things Olympics

There's no need to be offended that someone thinks one bad thing is worse than another bad thing. As far as I am concerned, it's all the same bad. Pick a bad thing, and do a good thing about it. But CERTAINLY don't hear about a bad thing, argue there are worse things, and do zero good things about any of aforementioned on varying levels of bad things!
Flowers in the park. Just bein' happy.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All Stories Are Valid Part Two: An Unfortunate Story


The new Murakami book Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimmage came out this week. I haven’t read it. Full disclosure.

I have already seen multiple people on the internet disgusted by this novel because the main character is a man who was falsely accused of rape by a crazy woman. While I obviously have major suspicion about any rape case involving a woman people dismiss on the vague and usually sexist grounds of “crazy,” it does happen. From time to time. It’s obviously the worst thing ever because even one instance of a false accusation is all anyone can remember every time someone is legitimately asking Help. Please.

Perhaps we don’t need more stories about evil-rape-fiction people. They permeate bigoted brains. Why add fuel to the fire? Well, maybe if it’s a good story. Or an important story to the author. Writers have responsibilities to their audience and culture as a whole, yeah, but they are still artists and get to do what they want.

Hey, I for one think it would be really really hard to be a man falsely accused of rape. Just because many men lie about a woman lying doesn’t leave the truthful ones in any less pain. Metaphorically, be wary. In considering what the world has already heard, use care.  ALL STORIES ARE VALID.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

All Stories Are Valid, Part One: Genius Resting

Spent most of yesterday feeling "So it goes" about Robin Williams. I, like every oxygen-breathing human on this earth, respected and loved him greatly. How many people can say they were given an okay doofy family comedy script about a cross-dressing old woman/dad and made it a beloved cultural artifact? The genie, the "stole my line" line. But it is what it is. Then last night I was just scrolling through Twitter and seeing how many people are deeply affected by this loss. I don't entirely feel allowed to really care about celebrity death because it's not like I have a personal connection with these people. And, yet, a sadness did lay its dark weight on my chest as I scrolled through all the tiny tweeted stories of a great man.

Bisque and I were driving into the bits of city sparkle. I mentioned how I wished it weren't physically possible to commit suicide without a letter. I am aware that a lot of the time (especially in these national headlines) there might be letters, but they are private. Bisque's response was, "I have trouble demanding something from someone who is in so much pain." That's why he's a better person than I am.

I just can't imagine why you wouldn't at least leave some questions answered, some clues for prevention in the future. Maybe some nasty, ugly viewpoints that people could digest and refute for themselves. People don't want to be remembered that way, okay. But what do they care? They will be dead. Yes, it's a different legacy than expected, but I just don't think there's anything but good from honesty.

No one would dismiss the man's greatness from his scared, sick confessions. It would give us something solid to build on. People say, "Don't glamorize suicide," but then what do we do? We gloss over the crusty parts of the human condition, cut to montages of the person at best, and how is that not glamour? Do not leave. Speak.

Carpe diem. Carpe diem. Carpe diem.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Let's Assume

1. I begin all my writing courses with this: Let's assume everyone is talented. Let's assume there's something special in everything brought to this class. Find that. Seek out the shiny penny, perhaps even the diamond, in what may first appear as a dirt clod. Do not assume your peers are down in the garbage. Maybe they are in a dumpster, but who knows? There could be some real fine freegan Trader Joe's ginger snaps down there.

2. I'm trying very hard to do this thing now. When people show that nashing spitty side of themselves, I am trying to flip the image. This person looked like a Fannie May trinidad. I tasted the chocolate coconut shell! But the centre was roach eggs. They fooled me good, they did. No. Flip it. The inside is always the nougat. The outside might have a mold problem. Scrape it off. Choose to see what's real. Don't let the worst part of someone be the, "Ah ha. Now I have seen their true nature!" moment. Let it be the brightest whitest star.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Qualms at Steppenwolf

Saw Bruce Norris's new play The Qualms at Steppenwolf on Wednesday. Much enjoyed the production while I was watching it. It kept me thoroughly entertained on a philosophical and comedic level. The acting was superb. The design appropriate. (Side: It might be my ignorance to what goes into design that makes me think this, but doesn't it kind of seem "appropriate" the only compliment for design 99% of the time? The 1% is for The Lion King and, like, reboots of Shakespeare done underwater.) Anyway, I was happy to be seated, not at all willing this play about swingers to be over before it had run its 90 minute course. Nor after really. And yet, what I left with was very little.

Norris's most famous work Clybourne Park is still nestled in my ribs when I consider the city of Chicago, gentrification, and the times that are generally a changin'. I left the theatre after Park with new opinions and questions, an open brain, and a lot of respect for the script itself. This summer night it was all too easy to pass the Crate and Barrel with Bisque and spend the entire walk from theatre to red line gabbing about how much we covet the blocky parsons table we pretended to be interested in there when we were really just trying to use the bathroom but then actually fell in love with the dang thing. It wasn't until we were downtown about to make our connection I was like, "Oh yeah, what did you think of the play?"

Here's what I thought of it: P. lazy. Keep in mind, there were parts that were masterful, and who am I to talk, right? I know "everybody's a critic" but everybody's also in the audience, and can't help having opinions.

Some characters were truly charming, yes, but what did it all add up to? I'm a champion for plays that are a lot of talking and not much of getting somewhere, but this was a lot of talking that wasn't particularly new. Maybe that's my bias as a 20something who knows a bunch of polyamourous people/couples. I've thought about it all before. I've asked the questions, shared my qualms (har) and nodded carefully. There was not a single viewpoint brought up in TQ that I hadn't heard at least a few dozen times before.

To be fair, in the program interview, Norris mentions how kind of dumb it is people think of this play as "dirty" when all other art forms have launched so much farther down the contemporary sordid path. Theatre is being left in the dust of what is taboo relevant. So, maybe I'm tapped into other comedy pipes that make this play's themes snoozy for me alone. Everyone around us was 30s and up--mainly 50s/60s. (WHICH leads me to a whole other question: when will my demographic being represented in mainstream theatre? Is it always going to be a waiting game? Actually I am okay with this? Like maybe there SHOULD be an art form where middle-age is the median for writers to offset Twitter?)

More re: lazy.

There could have been such better choices. So much was so petty, which, on one hand is part of the life of rich Californians, but, come on, make me care. A huge hinge of the play is an itty bitty lie. While representative of true life's complications (maybe), it was just so inconsequential. The climax was an outburst of huge ignorance...by the most (up until that point) correct person on stage. I don't buy it. It was too simple. Make a better choice.

There's a lot more I could say. But I will leave with this. In the talkback a woman noted that the play didn't take a bold stance. (See: much talking, not much getting anywhere). On the surface, perhaps. However, the arithmetic of the piece was completely lopsided. A room full of people on one side, one man on the other. That's fine. That's most drama. Except the one man was so terribly small-minded and ugly. So, like, the only person on team monogamy was utterly gross. In writing this I suppose you could argue the literature shows the lilliest-white attitudes can still be hateful--and which is worse? But in playing that game, you still accidentally call anyone who doesn't want to swing stupid. Funny because Norris says he wrote this play in response to being uncomfortable with "the lifestyle." Perhaps in an attempt to provide a fair fight, he fell much too hard on one side. NOT that I think falling too hard on the swinger side is wrong, it's just done, I think, accidentally, and rather clunkily.

Well this was boring, wasn't it? But it's nice and terrifying to know the greatest Pulitzer winners add lame mugging-gags and half-baked beginnings of dramatic choices to their new work with dynamite resources. Writing is hard, you know.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Gone With The

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The entire world was before her. A partner beside, a glowing family shoving her along with promises of cherry cookies and perhaps a golden dollar or two from the bookshelf treasure chest.

And yet for every sun-doppled lake walk there was a cranky little landlord (bald) who lied about an application fee. Or a calendar whose pages kept flipping and falling faster than she could pick them up. I moved here to write, which I have been, but not more than I worry about the tab. I moved here to do improv, which I have been, but not more than I consider what the steps to Belmont will be like caked in ice.

And people have been just ugh so ugh deceptive and tough. But others have been giving and fowarding of helpful emails. That's not an adjective, but, yeah. It seems the first group sucks up most of our brains. The second kind of evaporate like cotton candy in rain--just the sugar stuck to surface remaining. That's the important part anyway, but it takes long embittered speeches at the 24-hour cafe to scrub the filth of the uggos off this life. And meanwhile I blink away the cotton folk.

Put on your long curtain-made dress, Scarlett. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Cheecahgo

It's been just over a month since I returned from the land of cacti, and I must admit, I really do believe Chicago is the best city in the country. For a little sunbug like me, it's still not MY place because omg winter. But in general...I truly don't know how you could argue.

1. Dopest skyline. I took this for granted growing up. I had heard of other cities and I assumed they were all like mine. But every time I go to a new place my question is frequently, "Where's downtown?" Chicago's heart is prominent and breathtaking.

2. It's a city and people act like it, and also crime, but in general it's not dog-eat-dog. Chicago is known for it's bang in creative work environments and generally helpful city employees, yo.

3. Culture not to be topped. Art Institute, Science and Industry, Field Museum. Okay. Bias here. Obvs NY is giving it a run for its money. But would you rather have the sparkle of Broadway or the development of Steppenwolf? You know? It's a different vibe.

4. Similarly, comedy. This is the comedy capitol of the world. So. Whattup.

5. Lake Michigan. Honestly, it's as majestic as the ocean with no sharks or salt. Plus it's PART of the city. You're got gonna walk on the beach in the middle of your LA day. But here. Yup. Go for it.

6. Pizza.

7. Get going. Middle of the country. Go anywhere! All destinations are basically the same. Inside the city, best public transit IMO.

8. Is cool enough to have tourists and tourist destinations but not too cool that everyone you meet is a transplant. There's a way of life here actually largely informed by our creature comforts. I am the way I am not parallel to the fact that hot dogs are a diet staple and the huge population of Irish Catholics mean constant wakes and parties to soften them, I'm who I am because of it.

I'm writing this in Millenium Park, waiting to meet a friend. A jazz band is playing, a traffic cop's whistle compliments the tunes, the fountain spits.