New Orleans has always occupied a magical place in the American mind, dark and rough and beautiful. It's one of the vast majority of cities in the world I've never been to, but I've read Tennessee Williams write about it and heard Tom Waits sing about it and man does this suck. I've got kinfolk in Mississippi, my mother the most recent immigrant there, they're without power, which sucks but not nearly as much as the idea that one of the great American cities is being devastated, possibly beyond salvaging.
On the topic of ways I've been exposed to the town, most recently I heard these amazing stories about the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival from master storyteller Rik Reppe, an event that he made sound like the epicenter of magic in the universe. His one man show about the festival was a work of evangelism, now I'm haunted by the prospect that it's become a eulogy.
I'm angry in a very selfish way because I'll never, ever get to see this place the way it was.
I'm angry that the national news media has apparently decided, in the face of the single greatest natural disaster in America since 1906, and the greatest domestic refugee crisis ever, that this is a "Negroes Run Amok" story. The Associated Press is running photos of black people wading in eight feet of water carrying bread over their heads with captions about "looting", and simultaneously running photos of white people doing the same thing with captions about "finding food in abandoned grocery stores".
Let me clue you in folks, when you break into an abandoned grocery store in the middle of a major disaster to grab as much food as you can carry that's called SURVIVING, not looting.
I don't doubt there are some bad people roaming the soggy, soggy streets of the Big Very Very Difficult right now, but you know who could have helped with that and so much else? Oh yeah, the NATIONAL FREAKING GUARD! This is why we have those guys, but they seem to be elsewhere at the moment, and so are the billions and billions of dollars we should be spending on the reconstruction of this town.
As with most events on this godforsaken planet, there's nothing I can say, nothing I can do but laugh at my own impotence until I move on to something else.
Ah, ennui. You are the enemy of most things, including blogging.
Nothing has inherent meaning. Freedom is a burden. I saw nothing but absurdity in the war.
Many a strange and noteworthy event has transpired in the last few days, dear readers, I am hardly adequate to the task of recounting them all.
But let us begin with the most recent. Iíve never had terribly keen hearing. I generally get by, but I often ask people to repeat things and always have the volume on my TV/CD player turned up pretty loud and whatnot. I suspected, correctly, that it was earwax, since I had some removed by a doctor a few years ago and I understand quite a few people have the problem without being aware of it since itís you know, inside their ears. Anyway, I had a doctor remove it yesterday, and I now have one question for the entire world:
OH MY GOD ARE YOU ALWAYS THIS LOUD? BECAUSE YOUíRE REALLY GODDAMN LOUD!
Itís possible that I now have super hearing. Cars going by are really loud, every door closing sounds like itís slamming, Iím picking up conversations on the other side of loud and crowded rooms, my roommate is now asking me to turn up the volume on the Daily Show, a reversal of the status quoÖMany people put super hearing to good use, such as Superman and Daredevil, except they can both do lots of other things. Iím not sure how useful it is on its own. Anyway, at my job, where there are lots and lots of very annoying people, I can foresee this becoming a liability.
This of course, followed my crazy road trip to Minneapolis, MN. Iím not a terribly well traveled man, (Iím no jet setting Theresa Winters) and thatís probably a good thing, because I tend to fall in love with places hard. Places Iíve fallen in love with very quickly that Iíve only visited a handful of times include Atlanta and Philadelphia, Minneapolis only took a few minutes. Itís hard to explain, itís an intangible thing, but the place has a spirit in the air. Though it is a rigorous journey through western Wisconsin (which doesnít try to play down itís ďcheeseĒ reputation at all, but hey Neil Gaiman lives there) I totally want to go back. It certainly helped that the Minnesota Fringe Festival, a giant theatre event was going on. This was the ostensible purpose of the trip, to see Rik Reppeís one man show at the festival, Glorious Noise, which Iím begging him to bring to Chicago so I can pester everyone I know to see it. Rik Reppe is a magical being. Iím re-reading the Narnia books right now and realizing that Rik reminds me of Aslan the lion. Sure, Aslan, being based on Jesus, probably doesnít have Rikís appetite for women and nicotine, but Rik has the same sonorous roar and beautiful mane. I tried to explain to Rik that I donít drive eight hours to see performance art pieces as a matter of routine by any means. But being a theatre person in Chicago I see a lot of theatre, I see the really horrible stuff and the really wonderful stuff, and Rikís shows are the really wonderful stuff. Heís the best there is at what he does.
Webmasta KT was my companion on the journey, and the guy who decided we were staying at the downtown Minneapolis Marriott, so all honors upon him, as always.
So Minneapolis. Awesome town. Iím fairly determined to return there in the near future. On the other hand, thereís no place like home, and driving into the Chicago skyline on Sunday nightÖdoesnít matter how many times I do it, and Iíve been doing it since toddlerhood, it never gets better than thatÖ
It was raining this morning when I went to work. Lots of people were carrying umbrellas. I don't get umbrellas. I've never owned one and always feel rather imposed upon when someone offers me one. I like rain. Do I find it bothersome sometimes? Sure, but never to the extent that I would feel the need to carry an umbrella. It's not that I don't like them, I just think they're out of place somehow. They're great in Victorian paintings, but not on a rain soaked, contemporary street. It's just making a bid deal out of something that is not a big deal. Water falling on you. First of all, your body is like seventy percent water, you need to drink water all the time and you shower every day. But when water starts falling from the sky, we freak out. Weird. Now a tsunami or something, that's bad news. But then an umbrella is unlikely to help.
My cable provider does irrational and hurtful things to me sometimes, like broadcasting the first half of the Daily Show mute last night, which is not, in fact the optimal way to broadcast it. For whatever reason, Jon Stewart isn't nearly as funny mute as say, Charlie Chaplin was.
The better thing that happened last night was the first read through of Gods of the Earth. A first read through for me is always a mix of incredible fun and a fair amount of cringing, as hearing your own words read aloud for the first time can be pretty embarrassing, but last night was pretty much just incredible fun. My director CraigRosenPHD, is awesome, and I'm having a wonderful time. I've almost always directed my own work, this is really the first time I've sat back and just been a playwright, not counting the time a play of mine was done in Champaign while I was in Chicago. I've had great assistant directors (who may be reading the website) but I've never had a solid, collaborative relationship with an actual director, and it's working out beautifully. So that's September 16 to October 16, Friday and Saturday nights at 8, and Sundays sometime at Chase Park, 4701 N. Ashland, Chicago, IL. It will be rocking.
There's a guy who started at my job a month or two ago named "Roy". This is a problem. I get his faxes and his phone calls. The bastard should be aware of the fact that he is on my turf. Though it is a barren, fetid clump of soil, this turf is still mine. It's not quite as bad as going to high school with a girl named "Rory", but it's close, and it's made worse by the fact that, unlike Rory, I have no intention of making out with this guy ever.
It's one thing that I have to deal with a bunch of belligerent monkeys at my job, but to deal with a completely different group of belligerent monkeys from a different project is simply beyond the pale. These are the words of a belligerent monkey from the Exelon power company:
I have still not received reimbursement of my tuition. I will be generating an issue to identify this process or the people involved as inadequate and adverse to quality. Please respond with current status. A year will be rolling around soon. This is unacceptable!!!!
This man is in charge of my electricity, and not only does he demand tuition money without remotely understanding the procedures for how one acquires said money, he thinks generating issues to identify processes or people is a sensible thing to do, when we all know that it is not. At least those of us who were properly raised.
Oh yeah, the guy's job title is "Operational Chemistry Supervisor, Nuclear Power Station".
I sing the song of Peter Jennings, the trumpeting bard from whom more Americans got their news than any other trumpeting bard.
This was a good weekend for playwriting, barbecues, dinner with people named "Fritz", testy dogs named after testy American presidents (Truman) and three year old girls breakdancing to Madonna.
What weekend isn't a good weekend for those things?
The City of Chicago has an annual summer event where movies are projected in Grant Park. Last night was the first time I attended, because they were showing ET, a childhood favorite of much of my generation, I hadnít seen it many, many years. Itís not really the ideal environment to see in a movie in because youíre sitting in a park with thousands of people, many of whom, statistically, are assholes. People immediately behind us bore out the statistics. So itís really more about picnicking with friends, which is a great thing to do, especially when there are high quality babies around. I was also curious as to why Spielberg chose to frame so many shots of random people walking in front of the main characters during pivotal moments. What kind of statement was he trying to make? He doesnít have a reputation for being that avant garde. But anyway, the movie still made me cry a bit, which makes it art. This definitively proves that all the film critics who believe Spielberg to be a talentless hack are talentless hacks themselves (not that it needed much proving) and I must advise them to suck it. For their own good.
Iíve got lots and lots of writing to do tonight and the next couple of nights. I have until September 1 to finish the new draft of Activision, which is theoretically being produced by my friend Eric and his theatre company. I also have to finish the rewrite of Gods of the Earth, the dark and scary play thatís going up in mid-September. Rewrites and deadlines are awesome, they help me indulge the fantasy that Iím a real writer. Maybe someday Iíll be able to make people cryÖ
I havenít been following the news about the space shuttle program more than casually. I know itís been very troubled in the wake of the Columbia disaster a couple of years ago and that there was a problem with liftoff with the Discoveryís current mission. Something involving foam. Foam? Clearly Iím not a fancy physicist or engineer. But a couple of days ago, reading the elevator news service in my office building, I stumbled upon the obvious source of all the shuttle programís difficulties, a problem so simple yet horrifying I canít believe no other commentator has noticed it. The news story said something like this: The commander of the Discovery says she was surprised by the foam problem during the launch but is confident that the crew will safely complete its mission.Ē
Okay, read that again.
She? Thatís right, not a typo. She.
My God. MY GOD. The fools! The damned fools! Theyíre doomed, those poor devils are doomed. What were they thinking? What could they possibly have been thinking? These countercultural perversions have turned our world upside down. Apparently the one thing those fancy physicists and engineers down at NASA failed to take into account was a little thing called GODíS WRATH.
Every now and then, whenever my mind drifts towards the subject, I realize that my mind is completely blown by parrots. Is anybody elseís mind completely blown by parrots? They can talk! Theyíre birds who can motherfucking talk! And everybody just sort of blithely accepts it because theyíre parrots. That is, birds that talk. Holy shit! Every animal communicates somehow or other, but only humans and parrots talk. Oh sure, weíre told, theyíre just mimicking sounds, they donít really comprehend what theyíre saying. Says you, Mr. White Lab Coat. I think parrots are beings from another dimension where cats are constantly holding cell phones in their paws and dogs wearing tweed jackets are professors of literature, and theyíve bewitched us all into taking for granted that they belong in our world. Jesus! One of my party guests last week was talking about Koko, the world famous sign language proficient gorilla. Apparently Koko has never had a baby, and she recently signed that she wanted one. Because she wants to pass sign language on to it. She has hopes and dreams for her offspring to be smart like her. Thatís a bloody evolutionary step is what that is. If this is the beginning of Planet of the Apes, Iím all for it. They canít do a worse job of things than us. If Koko doesnít get to have a baby, I will be very sad, as will anyone with feelings.