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


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


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.