So the week that began with my harrowing adventure aboard the Death Train is now at a close. I forgot to tell you about the next day, because man, that was worse. I took the day off work to sort out my bank account's depletion by my rascally rental agency. As I explained in the last episode, I had mistakenly sent two checks for the same month's rent, informed them and the bastards cashed both checks, temporarily destroying my bank account. I managed to get a refund check but only after lowering myself to engage in an actual business transaction with that vile creature known as the Lincoln Park Trixie, which made its utter disdain for dealing with the problems of a lowly commoner like myself quite clear. I plan to take revenge by poisoning Lincoln Park's alcohol supply with laxatives or something. That's what Delta House would do.
The new president of Iran is a very, very good villain. I'm not saying he's in Khomeni territory, nobody will ever have a beard that terrifying, but he's cool. For that reason, I'm very happy that idiotic Bush administration saber rattling helped put him in office. We need kickass villains. If only we could pronounce his name.
Last night, my friend Marc informed me that George Takei is gay, recently confirmed by CNN. I believe this will do great things for the gay community. Supposedly other celebrities coming out has made being gay "cool". But literally no one in the world is cooler than Star Trek's Mister Sulu. I can only imagine how many men's hearts he's plotted his course into.
Marc also sent me a link to a Daily Show slash fiction website. My brain is still trying to get clean.
I was greatly disappointed when I didn't get the chance to riot following the Sox World Series victory the other night. One of the most brilliant nights of my life was June, 1997, after the Bulls had won their fifth NBA championship, immediately taking to the streets with three friends and reveling in the anarchic joy of what we saw, affirming the supremacy of our savior Jor-Dan and wrathfully proclaiming that the false god Malone had been cast down.
With the Sox on the other hand, I had been too busy to notice they had won until about half an hour after the fact, you always have to seize these things early. Plus my current neighborhood is not the best rioting neighborhood. But there were a lot of horns being honked. I did my best impression of Kenneth Branagh's enunciation and said "Yes, my chariots/sound your trumpets!" Then went back inside.
I have a terrifying Halloween costume. I wish you could see it. It would freeze your blood.
Some of you may be wondering about the cryptic post "Death Train". I'd almost rather leave you in the dark, to imagine what you may. That would doubtless be more entertaining than the mere "factual" account I'm about to provide. But I am a journalist, so I must be a Fleshy Vessel for Incandescent Truth. Sunday evening 'round 11pm I was coming home from Evanston on a Metra train. It had already been a rather bad day since I'd discovered my bank account several hundred dollars in the red due to a screwup with my landlord. They hadn't cashed my rent check, so I called them and asked if they wanted me to send it again. They said yes. Then they cashed both checks. "Rascally" is the word that comes most prominently to mind. Rascally in its most malicious possible connotation. Rascally in a way that Bugs Bunny never was. He just wanted to live...Like me...God damn it, I just want to live...
Anyway, back to Sunday at 11, just as the automatic voice said "Now approaching Ravenswood" (my stop) The train skidded to a halt and I heard a crunching sound. The conductor immediately announced that a man had just committed suicide by throwing himself in front of the train.
What a foolish thing to do. People whack themselves all the time, it's not an unusual thing and yet, it's very odd to be close to it. To be a passenger on a vehicle that killed someone. A rider on a Death Train. Suicide is baffling. I get depression. I get it on many levels. I handle it through, among other things, the companionship of a small plush baby gorilla named Mike, but I don't get suicide. Sure I've thought about it but never truly seriously. I mean, one of the things that depresses me in the first place is impending mortality, so suicide really is fairly counterproductive if that's the quandary you want to solve.
No matter how miserable their state, and I know people in some thoroughly miserable states, trust me, just about everyone I know has a pretty strong sense of mammalian self preservation. I know people who despise life and themselves, utterly, but by omission they all say "Yes, I want more." What is capable of making anyone say otherwise? What's capable of overriding that biological hunger?
The authorities weren't going to let anyone off the train until their investigation was complete, ("We can rule out natural causes") so we had to sit motionless for over two hours. I suspected briefly that I was trapped in a fairly trite one act play about death and peoples various reactions to it. You know, nice cross section of the population: backpacking, bearded college student. woman with baby, rowdy teens, couple of middle aged guys. Awkwardly, we would all use the incident as a trigger to start talking about our own lives and form an unlikely collective bond. That didn't happen to any noticeable extent.
I didn't have anything to read, just an out of power laptop on which I'd been doing a bit of playwritin'. So I did something I often do, serial phone calls to friends, any of whom I thought might be awake. In the course of that, I once again discovered that I have some extraordinarily loyal and loving friends, which is something I find very odd, as I am in large part, a surly and unpleasant person. The first call I made was to my friend Tom which went like this:
ME: I'm in a rather odd situation...
TOM: (Urgently) You need to sleep on my couch!
ME: No, nothing like that, in fact right now I would have a hard time getting to your couch...
TOM: You need me to come pick you up!
What a great guy, just one among many that I know. As I said, I'm unclear as to how this happened. But it may help explain why my own sense of self preservation is working at full capacity.
My short play "Gods of the Earth" ended its reign of terror this last weekend, lots of people came to see it, including my friend Fritz and our long lost high school friend Patrick Wilmot, so that was cool. Fritz said, in a subsequent e-mail that it's impossible not to associate fall with theatre in one way or another, because that's when we used to do plays in high school. There's a lot of truth in that, in general I associate fall with the warm rush of "new school year", which of course, the last few years have not brought, but it's so deeply conditioned that it's almost a biological trigger. I remember well the feeling I first had in 2002, Summer's over, I should be going back to school... But you can't go home again, eh? I've never accepted that actually. Home is where you're free. And you're free whenever you can find the strength to be. One of the things I don't like about this "real world" jazz is how the significance of the passing of the seasons, the significance of the moment, is in no way marked. Everything just bleeds together...I've always laughed at that "real world" phrase, "Someday when you're out in the real world, and you have to work for a living..." as if a world consisting of office buildings is somehow less an artificial construct than a university campus. What would you do if "reality" ever caught up to you, my pompous interlocutor? What will you do when it does? You'll gasp, I'll smile. Blood and mud and bone are real motherfucker, everything else is just the Dance.
Hm, that seemed to take a darker and more abstract turn than I planned.
Much ado has been made in recent days of the Chicagotown White Stockings and their recent victory in the base-ball matches. I would prefer to see these impressive physical specimens engaged in more practical labor in the stockyards, but I suppose I am pleased that the resultant revelry is apparently keeping the working classes drunk and distracted while honest businessmen such as myself are allowed to pursue our endeavors relatively free of molestation.
And so huzzah!
Most of the time I really only need to pay cursory attention to current events to get me to the point where I throw up my arms and ask the heavens "Why does everything suck so goddamn much?" The latest thing to make me ask that question is the dozens of killings in Russia, a place which has probably long stopped asking the question of why things suck and just accepted the facts that things suck. Is Chechnya *really* so important to hold on to Vlad? I don't want Chechnya, what are you going to do with Chechnya? Make stew? See the thing about terrorism is that I feel it works. Really it does. I mean why are we killing and being killed over some of the least attractive real estate on the planet? I look at all these violent Muslim separatist movements and I think someone really ought to start violent secular humanist separatist movements. If we ever get organized, I'm convinced we can kick the collective asses of the crazy Christians, Muslims and Jews (and I don't like that shifty look the Hindus get sometimes, I'm watching you New Delhi!) we'll obviously win, not through our overwhelming numbers and excess of military experience but through our passionate and eloquent appeals to reason and fundamental decency. Yes sir, I'm drawing up the plans for conquest this very moment.
The job is fairly pointless this week, the job alternates between ridiculously busy and ridiculously not. When it's ridiculously not, I'm held accountable for my sloth. More than a little irritating.
They'll never catch me because I'm fucking innocent.
I apparently have a scary, crazy neighbor who gets drunk or otherwise chemically impaired and proceeds to do destructive things. I saw the guy's face and he's apparently been beaten up pretty badly in the recent past, most likely by himself. He is also evidently wont to shout out things like "I am not a psycho! I am not a psycho!" which is the sort of statement that often has an immediately self-discrediting effect, particularly when shouted.
Sidebar: Douglas Adams posited in one of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, can't remember which one, that the most disturbing thing you can do to a human being you don't know is to walk up to them and repeat the words "Blood. Blood. Blood." over and over. Other really disturbing things (for some reason I can't quite explain) include getting spam e-mail with the header "Can you please assist your mother?"
My neighbors, including my roommate are very worried about living near a guy like this. I kind of shrug it off as one of the realities of urban life. Once a man has spent several years living with my uncle Gerald, there's not much that can shock him. A scenario that repeated itself several times:
ME OR MY DAD: Gerald, you're lying in a pool of your own blood.
GERALD: (Looking up, slurring) Yeah?
But it is troubling to be sure. Apparently this guy is of Irish/Scottish descent, which explains everything. By coincidence, and I'm not sure she's realized how serendipitous this is, my roommate's English boyfriend has come to stay with us for the next week and a half or so. Having an Englishman around is the perfect, because we'll just get him to colonize the Irish/Scottish guy's apartment. My roommate has protested that her man is not an oppressor, but I believe that even if he has never colonized anyone, it will come naturally to him.
Last chance to see the wacky serial killer play this weekend. Although I'm now much more excited about the romantic comedy set in an apartment play I'm writing right now.
I saw my dark and scary play on Saturday, accompanied by the good Stacey Ballmes, a friend from U of I who still lives in Champaign and drove all the way up to see it, then slept on my couch. It was great to have a guest's perspective on my neighborhood, Lincoln Square. She pointed out the abundance of high quality babies that are constantly being strolled and carried around the place. One of them was reading some of Barbara Ehrenreich's passionate writings on the growing inequities among America's middle class, so that was clearly a sharp witted baby. I have to say I'm proud to live in proximity to so many high quality infants. We just may have a future after all.
My play is good, better than the last time I saw it, which is saying something. CraigRosenPHD did a fine job with it, but I've got to say that writing a short play and handing it over to someone else is methadone to the heroin of directing my own full length work, or at least being heavily involved in its production. I don't just want a maintenance high, I want a high. The big project, Activision is er, still bogged down in negotiations. Having a full length play and not being able to produce it is frustrating but it also kind of makes me feel like a literary superstar since literary superstars are always talking about various things that they can't get done. So paradoxical but cool in a way.
The big, crazy dream of the moment is putting on a play in my apartment. (We've had some cutbacks in the Chicago field office of "Big, Crazy Dream" Inc. please bear with us) It started out as a joke or rather series of jokes between my roommate and myself, this week I actually started writing in earnest, so we'll see where that goes.
Using the word "issues" as a synonym for "problems" or worse, "issue" singular as a synonym for "problem" as in "We had a slight issue with vampire bats attacking our livestock but they migrated away because of climate change issues" is a terrible thing to do. I mean it, it's really awful. It's as bad as murdering someone. If you do it, you should stop. If you continue to do it, you are a monster. And monsters should be slain. With flaming swords.
Correction: Apparently I was reacting to a hypothetical flu outbreak yesterday, not the real thing. Sorry for the confusion.
I would like to take this opportunity to rescind my previous calls to welcome our new avian overlords and reaffirm my loyalty to this country and its human president.
Well you know, loyalty to a point.
Still reeling from Geek Christmas (the premieres of Joss Whedon’s Serenity and Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean’s Mirrormask) this last weekend. Oh my God. I mean, oh my God.
Serenity, as my co-worker Beth put it, made my toes curl. What an exciting, funny, scary, moving piece of mythmaking. And also a subtler, smarter, more powerful critique of our republic’s present governance than anything Michael Moore could come up with on his best day. It’s the kind of movie I just want to see over and over. It's not doing as well at the box office as it should, so please see it as a favor to me.
Mirrormask was also a piece of greatness, though not quite on the same level. Gaiman and McKean were commissioned to make a fantasy film in the vein of Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, like those films, both of which I love, it lies maddeningly on the cusp of true greatness, while…something, I’m not sure what, is missing. The mainstream critical rap, like with most fantasy movies, is that its beautiful to look at but the story is completely boring etc. Rubbish. Neil’s script is full of the brilliant verbal wit and wise, compassionate characterization that makes Neil Neil, but they do have a point that the narrative isn’t quite what it could be. The main conflict seems a bit rushed and anticlimactic, I wonder if some of that’s due to the film’s very low budget, which despite allowing them to depict wondrous visual images, probably limited the amount of “real world” filming they were able to do in some ways.
My play runs for two more weekends, I’m seeing it with a friend on Saturday. The Chicago Tribune reviewed it and said that it didn’t “have much to say”. Wasn’t overly bothered by that, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the wildly inaccurate ad hominem review Lysistrata 3000 got from the Chicago Reader. I would, however like to write something that gets a good review someday…from someone other than my friends. One review I would be content to receive: Not as good as Mirrormask or Serenity because hardly anything is.
A quick trip to the cable TV equipped cafeteria in the basement of my office building reveals that there has apparently been an Avian Flu outbreak. The day is here.
WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!
Been nice knowing you.