Saturday, February 28, 2015

February, You Can Eat A Rock

Good riddance to a despicable month. March is traditionally my least favorite part of the year, but I have faith it can be better than the trash pile that was February 1-28 in 2015. I hate you, February 2015. I hate all the stressful emails, I hate the whipping winds, I hate the uncomfortable notes, I have hated being sick for four weeks straight. I hate the greasy white board hands, the freshmen who never stop snapchatting, the sharp word, losing the will to keep my phone close, the interrupted dinner stories, and my hair wiley uggo hair.

Of course, there was a lot of good this month. Let's not forget that. Let's just commemorate those times.

Benny the Bull blimpin'.

Karaoke night with cohort. This was "It's All Coming Back to Me."

Galentines Party Apps.

My Valentine.

My music improv team in a finale pose.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Orange Line (Alt Title: Am I Racist?)

The orange line is the most interesting line. It heads south to many average joe southside parts. Many latino areas, many semi-deserted black areas. It crosses paths with the green line (the most south). But also it goes to the airport. So on the el platform at any time there are like a bunch of Mexican high school girls and an uncomfortable white couple holding suitcases and a little old black woman and a few guys rapping. These are important demographics to consider in the context of the story.

So I was waiting for the train to get to the class I teach out yonder and noticing this extremely well-dressed guy near me. He was wearing a grey suit with matching earmuffs. He had blond, clean-cut hair. He was white. Then I got distracted because I realized a dude was talking to me since he didn't see the headphones in my hood. I took them off, and he was trying to pick me up by asking, "You pigeon-toed?" He asked if I had a boyfriend, and when I told him he did, he said, "Yeah, but can you have friends?" I said yes. He asked for my number, and I said no. He said, "So how are we gonna be friends!?" I said we were train friends. He said, "Find me when your boyfriend messes up." I texted this to Bisque who responded, "Do you have your mace?"

The train arrived and a few minutes into the journey someone tapped me on the shoulder. It was that metro arian guy. He told me his phone died and asked if he could call his ride with mine. Without even a second of hesitation I said, "Sure" and handed it over. It felt normal because I had been studying him so much my brain probably accidentally thought we were friends. I don't know. Or, I am racist? As soon as I gave him the cell I immediately was aware how blase I was. It was a quiet car, and the crowd of minorities all saw. I suddenly became very stiff and worried I had been way too unconcerned with this stranger stealing from me. I started to think of other things I should have done to be kind but careful. I should have asked to hold his out of battery phone as ransom? Get his driver's license number? Call for him? Hold him in a headlock until he was finished? I settled for looking extremely worried and pointy. I stared at him and readied my body to pounce as if this powderpuff could burst out of the train window and sky dive to a getaway car. Nothing happened, and I put on a show of being kinda gruff to take back my phone and stuff it into my pocket. The old white man next to me fished for a tissue and bumped my side. I aggressively checked my pockets to be sure he didn't secretly mug me.

A. I don't think I was actually racist. I think I was prejudice based on his very nice attire. I think any color of person with the same attire I would have treated the same. Still prejudice, but at least not racism.
B. Worrying about seeming racist made me mean.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Goodbye, Radio Shack

Walked into the Radio Shack on State Street. The siren song of 50% off. I'm looking for a new iPhone case because I hate mine, or rather, I just don't love it, and I've decided I don't really want to have things around I don't love. There are no cute 5c options, so that's about it. The store is busy, but no one is buying things. They are like me--slowly pacing the tiny aisles with hands behind my back. Cords, cords, sub-par headphones, cords, blank DVDs, burner phones. One employee stands behind a pathetic shelter of importance--the register--and cares zero percent what is happening inside the store. I'm not even sure he was wearing a uniform. An old TV on display was playing Breaking Bad. I strongly doubt that's just "what was on." It was an older episode. The one where Skyler disappears and leaves her cell on the kitchen counter.

I remember the Radio Shack by the Cal Sag. I would go there with my dad on errands. There were always toys that I didn't want like a robot dog or helicopters.

I had only stopped in on Sunday because it was on the way to Barnes and Nobles. I have heard it will likely be going out of business this year, and I had a gift card.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The "Not Sorry"

I really feel in love with this writer from the last sketch show I was in. She was not a comedy person--doing the writing program at SC to get some creativity pumped into her very serious professional scientist life. She's a spritely single mom from Texas who showed up to every rehearsal smiling, bearing gluten-free snacks, and ready to learn--even well into the rehearsals when truly nothing was funny anymore.

When she found out I teach community college she told me about her stint as an adjunct. One of her rules was that ladies in her class couldn't say "sorry" to preface a question. No apologies for questions! She'd repeat. She eventually made a rule that if you said "sorry" she would just keep teaching and ignore your hand. This is just wonderful. We really do say sorry too much when we mean, I'm not sure, "I come in peace" or "I might be stupid"?

So this ad happened:
I like this ad. This ad resonates with me. I assert myself fairly well for a woman, but some of these scenes really stung.

This week I tried to be conscious of my apologies. Here's what happened:

1. I went to the department meeting at school. I went, despite not being full-time faculty, because I had some questions about a new policy in place. I sat quietly, sometimes getting confused looks and sometimes feeling funny because I was the only adjunct and started questioning if I wasn't actually invited (but I had gotten all the emails about it, so?) After a little discussion about the policy, I decided to ask my questions. I played a few opening lines to launch into the meeting. Many were apologies: ("I am an adjunct, so I'm sorry--" "Maybe I should know this, but") I thought about assertiveness and said strongly, "Could I have a clarification about the new policy? I am an adjunct. The exam is no longer pass/fail?" The chair (another woman) fluttered her eyes and said, "I sent out emails at the beginning of the term to all the adjuncts explaining this." She sighed, "But..." and proceeded to answer my questions. I had read both of her explanation emails. Several times. They were confusing, and this whole place is new to me still. I had sent her my questions in an email she had never responded to. I made the point to make the commute on the coldest day in February to the meeting even though I had no classes to teach that day. I couldn't help but feel pretty lowly. I couldn't help but feel presenting myself as a poor, weakling would have harnessed a better reaction. "I'm sorry. I just can't seem to figure out exactly what's happening with the new policy."

2. In one of my improv classes my teacher mentioned offhand a show we were doing. This was news to me. As he discussed it I interjected, "What show is this?" He paused and explained he mentioned it the first day of class. Again, I missed my "sorry"--although I really shouldn't be? Right? If I am surprised by news, why do I have to be sorry about that?

I appreciate this sentiment about taking control and not being apologetic for living. But I'm not sold yet.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Night Work

AT RISE ALICE, 20s in oversized tee and gym shorts, is in bed writing with her laptop open. Soft folk music is drifting out of the speakers. BISQUE, 20s and lovable, like a big chinchilla is next to her. He is laying down with his eyes closed. A lamp is on on the nightstand.

ALICE: Want me to turn off my music?
BISQUE: That's at the bottom of the list of things to turn off.
       (ALICE looks at the lamp, at the computer.)
ALICE: Want me to go into the living room?
BISQUE: (Beat.) No.
       (ALICE gives a self-satisfied, "Humph.")
ALICE: Okay then.
       (BISQUE narrows his eyes.)
BISQUE: Well, at the top of the list of things to turn off IS THE ATTITUDE.

END OF PLAY.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Surreal Life

There's this big poster that hangs by the box office at The Theatre. It's pictures of the greats with some cheesy line like, "If you had taken class in 1990, these would have been your classmates!" It's a ploy for the suburban audiences to sign up for a level A Saturday morning class, but it's something that circulates around The Program.

A-Ro and I have fresh-squeezed orange juice brunch at the French bakery around the corner before her class on a Sunday. We were in an ensemble this August, and we'll probably know each other forever. I saw her sketch show a couple weeks ago, and she mine. We discuss, we question, we dream, and at some point we say, "It could be you on those posters."

I had an almond croissant.
Last night the cohort had a performance at the long theatre on top of the building. It was actually a great show. They can tend to be stiff and accidentally competitive. Last night was fun. My gang took the stage by dancing in a train into the spotlight. We played diamond salespeople who had an affinity for coal and hormone-crazed teens. The entire Program went out together--a first.

We went to this particular bar that is cash only and is decorated with a lot of lewd paintings. Aidy Bryant was in Chicago a month ago and Instagrammed from that bar. I recognized it instantly. It's a staple of comedy students. That SNL40 bonanza was on as we all mixed and milled and dissected our shows. We couldn't hear it, but we saw those people. Sandler, Wiig, Fallon, on and on. Half of the people so far away in NYC had sat where we all sat in the same grubby ale house. It was too surreal, and we all felt it. We took a group picture that was so unwieldy, the rest of the patrons watched us. Someone started the bit of congratulating each other on the shot, so we all seriously shook hands and nodded as if someone had just won the Nobel Prize. One day that picture will mean something. We just don't know for who.
Hilarious bit by Pinker: accidentally drinking a candle.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Friday February 13th

Just got home. It's 3:15. Our comedy cohort had a workshop tonight. It ended at 8 and we gleefully gathered by the escalators. Together we made our way to Lincoln Square where a reserved table and karaoke awaited us.

The drinks started flowing. Star is in AA, so she said she was interested in ordering the lemon pie or a fried Snickers. I suggested we split both. Crooks and I sang "No Scrubs," our gang danced so good you'd think it was planned, and several nearby drunkees tries to become our best friends. While the too confident business men butchered "Sweet Caroline" the Texan Queen said, "The DJ should really be playing our request more since we're the ones who are kinda making tonight HAPPEN."

Pinker showed up late from another gig, but I had faith he would be there. "Summer Lovin" was already in the queue. We harshly judged the braceface couple mumbling "Kryptonite" by Three Doors Down. It got later and later, but I was wide awake. I only drank half my ginger beer, so the caffeine shouldn't have been that bad. At the very end of the night I inspected the can to find 49 grams of sugar on the label. Ah ha.

There were too many bits. But eventually, as all things, the evening ended. Crooks and I headed out for the brown line. We were gabbing so intently, we forgot it was cold. And then after about a mile of what was supposed to be a half mile trot, we realized we had gone the wrong way. Our train was in 8 minutes. We sprinted.

My feet were on fire from my Uggs. My core, a furnace. Sweat beaded down my face. We sprinted a mile and a half and saw the last train of the night pull onto the platform just beyond our stride. We kept running just in case, but no, that was it. The station guy told us.

We started looking up Uber rates. We started watching for cab lights. But everyone was leaving the bar now. A man on the curb garbled something about hitchhiking. He had glasses, a furry cap, and was holding a pile of papers.Then we noticed he wasn't trying to hail a cab at all. He was darting up to passing cars with his middle fingers raised. I started looking up how long I would have to wait for a bus to avoid the hiked fares. Then the stranger guy walked up to us and said, "People don't like that." He was very close and his zipper was wide open. No underwear. Definitely not going to wait for a bus. And then--

Pinker and Finn showed up! "Hey!" they said very casually. "You guys left so long ago! What happened?" They were going to walk a half mile to the red line, still running. "Great!" We said and showed them our sweat and vamoosed away. A long frigid trek is pretty doable when the alternative was a creep curb. We laughed too much and took in the bricks and graffiti. We passed the huge northside cemetery. "It's Friday the 13th!" I squealed. "We have to go in," Pinker said. We sized up the fence. It was too high to jump, so we just took turns tells scary stories. And when that was over we took turns thinking of horrifying things that might happen on the way home--maybe someone lives in that little nook beneath the tracks. Maybe we'd see a man with a knife in a window reflection. It was nice.

We of course waited twenty minutes for a train, but it did arrive. It did, and we got on, and Finn and I got off, and he lives just down the block from me, so I was never alone. These are the nights of 2015. There are only 365 of them, and many are already gone.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Politically Correct Comedy

Last night my comedy cohort had a show. We all go there an hour early to watch the cohort behind us perform. Ah, there's nothing like shoddy little Sunday night improv sets. It was a goofy time. There are good scenes, there are far more mediocre scenes, and there are rare stupid stupid stupid scenes that are honestly more enjoyable than a fully-perfected Pulitzer stage play.

So this scene was happening on stage with an American man and a thick-accented German woman. She was explaining how her parents are "retarded now" (audience went "eee" like one might do upon opening a moldy tub of Cool Whip). Then she went on to explain, "They just hang around and need entertainment." Oh. Okay. She's playing a character whose English is a little off and confused retired with retarded. Okay. Unbelievable because German people are language-learning robots, but okay. We all let out sighs of relief...until two other people on this gal's team show up PORTRAYING RETARDED PARENTS. The missed the subtext. "No," I audibly whispered. But it was too late. Two improvisers were impersonating senior citizen retarded Germans. Lord save us all.

So, it was our turn. Our teach corralled us backstage. Several people were horrified by the audacity of the previous team. Others got it was a big misunderstanding. We were clumped in the greenroom. I said, "Let's make a pact right here, right now, as a group, to never impersonate retarded people onstage." We all put our hands in the middle of the circle." But Wolf shook his head. "I can't make that promise," he said. "You never know."Then Pinker recoiled in agreement, "I mean, what if the scene calls for it?" Another guy: "Honestly, I think I'd play a really good retarded character if the scene called for it." The scene will never necessitate mocking the mentally handicapped! I shouted. "Okay, hands in." Pinker sighed. Then quickly he yelped, "Always play retarded people on three! One, two, th--" and luckily our coach came back in the room and started a warm-up exercise.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

These Cold Twilights

The last time I was this cold at twilight was when I was 15. So now I feel all these newold feelings each night I'm outside. Everything gets dimmer and you can almost feel the city starting to settle down. Let's go home to the burrow, put on the TV, wait for these branches to bare.

Ten years ago I had long bangless hair and braces. I wore tight American Eagle tees, and I spent the winter doing a lot of math problems and figuring out what was funny about me. Winter twilights were spent on Speech buses. So many cafeterias and auditoriums. I had a pea coat from Old Navy. It was usually covered in cat fur. I go back there when it's night and the planning meeting had ended. I take the 36 home and watch the older crowd navigate the way to Blue Man Group.

I wrote this to get a handle on what it is that I'm feeling. I feel so connected to those times--the winter has snapped me back there. Is there something important back there? Am I supposed to know something? Am I a time traveler with a message? What would it be?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Identity

I am not a very fun person. This is a disappointing surprise to many people. On paper I should be a hoot. I do comedy, I wear bright colors, and I have a variety of fun interests (hamsters, Pop-Tarts, musical theatre).

But I'm actually typically thoughtful, uninterested in milling around, and industrious. I just want to get things done, and think about problems, and write about solving them. So, up until a few years ago I was a lot more hyper and willing to be a goofball, so I never had issues fitting into groups. I don't know when the change happened from bonkers lil sweetie to quiet winter monster happened, but, whatevs, it did. My current philosophy is I had too many leadership positions in college and the gender stereotypes wore me down to a mean nub. I DON'T KNOW. I think I am enjoyable one-on-one. I am a good listened and even-keeled. I am adventurous and optimistic. But in groups of improvisers? In groups of improvisers I can seem a little stuffy. The point is, how does one be better at being fun?

I was sort of bemoaning this to a friend recently, and, of course, he said "Well, would you rather not be you?" So, yeah, got me. No, I want to be me. I just want to be me and smile more with strangers I guess? Anyway, this is a new project for myself. Here I go.

"Well, sometimes we have to deal with the gifts God gives us, Alice. Some us are normal, some of us have to be giant technicolor moths." - Dusty giving me very confusing advice using Mothra as a metaphor for not fitting in

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Blizzard Flu

Fat lymph nodes call for tea,
sucking on Werthers slowly.
Brown washcloth across foreheard,
wake up in sweat-soaked bed.
Pale face, no makeup on.
Will to move completely gone.
Eyes droop, curl in ball.
Make yourself tiny, make it all small.
Baked potato on snowy night.
Soak in the bath. It will be alright.