Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Google Search

Sometimes I feel like George Costanza. These days specifically because I don’t really have steady employment, and in thinking about other jobs that I might like to have I slowly come to realize that I’m grossly unqualified. Take for example Friday night when I went to see a show at the Empty Bottle and I thought to myself, aloud, slightly to my friend Wes, “Oooh! I love these guys’ dance moves, and I really like their music, but I think maybe they might have too much going on, and they should probably work on honing their stuff into a more clear direction.” Wesley said, “That job title would be called producer.” “Of course!,” I said, and then I was going to say, “I could so totally do that!” But I stopped myself, because no, I couldn’t. I have no musical training aside from listening to it, and occasionally playing it, and going to shows and talking about it… from the business aspect I know nothing about the bleeps and bloops of today’s electronic jams, or what sells to people other than myself.

Earlier that night we watched an episode of “Southpark” and I thought, “I want to write for this show,” and then I proclaimed to the room, “One day I will work for Trey Parker and Matt Stone.” How I will do that, I have no idea, but I will – for them or SNL. Last night I googled, “how to work for Trey Parker and Matt Stone” and came up with a lot of fan pages and not much else. There goes the ability to be someone’s research assistant; I need to learn how to search again, maybe throw in a + or something. Or maybe I need to start knowing people who do things and stuff.

Then last night, before I googled employment with Trey and Matt, I went to an open mic, and let me tell you, there was some definite burgeoning talent up on that stage. Funny, theatrical, musical geniuses performing under the soft red lights. And as I sat there, taking notes about how the guy I was on a date with probably stole cars, I thought, “I could be a talent scout! I have good taste. I like things people like. I give great suggestions to people.” But again, I don’t know how to do that. Granted, I haven’t googled it yet, but I think it’s another thing where you need to know someone or have studied something pertaining to it.

Some day my job will come. Some day, I’ll find the one, and how beautiful it will be, living with health insurance and stability! (That was totally written to Snow White’s “Some Day My Prince Will Come” – duh.)

Until I find that perfect job I will stand behind bars and move through tables in the restaurants you frequent, and massage your aching body, and write in the dark shadows of shows when the inspiration strikes, and then have trouble reading said notes because sometimes it’s hard to write when you can’t see and scribble words on top of other words, and things like that.

Hey, have a good day, and send some cool job details my way. (Can I ride your coat tails?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Good People

I first noticed him during intermission of Steppenwolf’s “Good People”. He walked past my row on his way out. I backhanded my friend, Erin’s shoulder.
“Do you know who that is?” I giddily hissed.
“That guy in that cute hat.”
“No, I didn’t see him.”
“It’s Russell Edgington.” I gushed, “Well, that’s not his name. He was an actor on ‘True Blood’.”
“I don’t watch that show.”
“Oooh, he’s so good. Omigosh! I can’t believe he’s here! I want to say something to him, but I don’t want to be rude.” (And he was so good in “American Horror Story,” and he won a boat-load of awards as a stage actor. I hate to use the term, but I was totally geeking. Hard core.)
I giggled shrilly at the possibility of getting the chance to tell actor Denis O’Hare (though I couldn’t remember his name at the time, and felt like a jerk for it, because I’d read interviews with him and he seemed like a real stand up guy, more so than the fangtastic – like that? – vamp he played on TB) that I thought he was a cool cat through the rest of intermission, and then I saw him after the play trying to catch a cab with his companion. After a couple of stop-start hesitations on my part, I went gung-ho for it and strode confidently in their direction.

“I’m sorry to interrupt, and I hope I’m not intruding, but I just wanted to let you know that I think you’re very talented.”
Russell and his friend turned.
“Oh, thank you. Hi, I’m Denis.” He smiled and extended his hand.
I shook his hand, “Hi, Denis, I’m Kate.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Kate. This is my friend, Lisa. We’re in town from New York.”
Lisa and I shook hands, and exchanged hellos. I introduced Erin, because it always feels so weird to be the only one not introduced. She and Denis shook hands.
I asked how they liked the play and they said they enjoyed it very much. Erin and I nodded our heads in agreement – while I grinned like a fool, of course.
Denis, (it feels so weird writing that, I want to say Russell because that’s how I know him, but that’s not reality… I shake my fist at your box of lies, Television), held his cute barber shop quartet banned straw hat against the gusting Chicago wind, and gazed out into the yellow-lit street in search of a taxi to hail.
“I used to live here.”
“Oh, welcome back!”
“Thank you; I went to school here a very long time ago.”
Lisa waved at a taxi unsuccessfully, and inched toward the intersection in hopes of catching another. Denis caught on.
“It was nice meeting you.”
“It was nice meeting you, too.
“Ride safely,” he nodded to my bike, and he and Lisa walked down the street.

Erin laughed as I rambled my excitement and did a little dance. Maybe you can call it my “Celebrity Sighting Dance” or perhaps it was because I only got 5.5 hours of sleep last night and had sugary pie and coffee for breakfast and a ½ of a ‘5 Hour Energy’ later in the day, and I was on a slow crash... but yes, let's say it was a CSD, because I like that better.

I didn’t get as warm as when I saw Tim Meadows because this time I had a little more time to prepare, and there was a cool breeze in the night air, and Denis was so awesome – for lack of a better word. I was going to write “humble,” as he was, but no, he was a guy with a good heart, and a strong handshake. A Midwestern man, or just good people, let’s say that.

(The play, by the way, written by David Lindsay-Abaire and directed by K. Todd Freeman, was incredibly uncomfortable. Now, that’s not to say that it wasn’t good – it definitely was, and it evoked a lot emotion from the crowd – it’s just that some scenes were more difficult to digest than others. Definitely thought-provoking in that it had two people who started out in the same place and ended up on different sides of the tracks. It also had a lot of bits sprinkled in it that I think will continue bloom in my brain as life goes on. “Good People” was good stuff.)

Friday, March 9, 2012


Excerpt from “Palm Sunday,” Kurt Vonnegut, 1981. (First used in a pamphlet to support the use of paper for the International Paper Company; he discussed literary style.)

“Newspaper reporters and technical writers are trained to reveal almost nothing about themselves in their writings. This makes them freaks in the world of writers, since almost all of the other ink-stained wretches in that world reveal a lot about themselves to readers. We call these revelations, accidental and intentional, elements of our literary style.
These revelations are fascinating to us as readers. They tell us what sort of person it is with whom we are spending time. Does the writer sound ignorant or informed, crazy or sane, stupid or bright, crooked or honest, humorless and playful -? And on and on.
When you yourself put words on paper, remember that the most damning revelation you can make about yourself is that you do not know what is interesting and what is not. Don’t you yourself like or dislike writers mainly for what they choose to show you or make you think about? Did you ever admire an empty-headed writer for his or her mastery of the language? No.
So your own winning literary style must begin with interesting ideas in your head. Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way – although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.
Do not ramble, though.
As for your use of language: Remember that two great masters of our language, William Shakespeare and James Joyce, wrote sentences which were almost childlike when their subjects were most profound. “To be or not to be?” asks Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The longest word is three letters long. Joyce, when he was frisky, could put together a sentence as intricate and glittering as a necklace for Cleopatra, but my favorite sentence in his short story “Eveline” is this one: “She was tired.” At that point in the story, no other words could break the heart of a reader as those words do.
Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred. The Bible opens with a sentence well within the writing skills of a lively fourteen-year-old: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
It may be that you, too, are capable of making necklaces for Cleopatra, so to speak. But your eloquence should be the servant of ideas in your head. Your rule must be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate my subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out. Here is the same rule paraphrased to apply to storytelling, to fiction: Never include a sentence which does not either remark on character or advance the action.
The writing style which is most unnatural for you is bound to echo speech you heard when a child. English was the novelist Joseph Conrad’s third language, and much that seems piquant in his use of English was no doubt colored by his first language, which was Polish. And lucky indeed is the writer who has grown up in Ireland, for the English spoken there is so amusing and musical. I myself grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, where common speech sounds like a band saw cutting galvanized tin, and employs a vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench.
In some of the more remote hollows of Appalachia, children still grow up hearing songs and locutions of Elizabethan times. Yes, and many Americans grow up hearing a language other than English, or an English dialect a majority of Americans cannot understand.
All these varieties of speech are beautiful, just as the varieties of butterflies are beautiful. No matter what your first language, you should treasure it all your life. If it happens not to be standard English, and if it shows itself when you write standard English, the result is usually delightful, like a very pretty girl with one eye that is green and one eye that is blue.
I myself find that I trust my own writing most, and others seem to trust it most, too, when I sound most like a person from Indianapolis, which is what I am. What alternatives do I have? The one most vehemently recommended by teachers has no doubt been pressed on you, as well: that I write like cultivated Englishmen of a century or more ago.
I used to be exasperated by such teachers, but am no more. I understand now that all those antique essays and stories with which I was to compare my own work were not magnificent for their datedness or foreignness, but for saying precisely what their authors meant to say. My teachers wished me to write accurately, always selecting the most effective words, and relating the words to one another unambiguously, rigidly, like parts of a machine. The teachers did not want to turn me into an Englishman after all. They hoped that I would become understandable – and therefore understood.
And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.
If it were only teachers who insisted that modern writers stay close to literary styles of the past, we might reasonably ignore them. But readers insist on the very same thing. They want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before.
Why? It is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us. They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people do not really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school – for twelve long years.
So this discussion, like all discussions of literary styles, must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient teachers, ever willing to simplify and clarify – whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.
That is the bad news. The good news is that we American are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is unlimited.
Also: we are members of an egalitarian society, so there is no reason for us to write, in case we are not classically educated aristocrats, as though we were classically trained aristocrats.
For a discussion of literary style in a narrower sense, in a more technical sense, I commend to your attention The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White (Macmillan, 1979). It contains such rules as this: “A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject,” and so on. E.B. White is, of course, one of the most admirable literary stylists this country has so far produced.
You should realize, too, that no one would care how well or badly Mr. White expressed himself, if he did not have perfectly enchanting things to say.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Update: 12312

My life's changed in a lot of ways since meeting Tim Meadows. Alright, meeting is a loose term, maybe "oogled" Tim Meadows in person would be more apt. Regardless, I currently find myself sitting on my bed munching down some Cinnamon Toast Crunch's (milk soggs the cereal too quickly and I'm not in a rush) for a fun-filled sugar-fueled writing before I dive into my dextrose dreams.

I was really struggling there for a while, especially at the end of last year. 2011. Keeping busy but barely scraping by, curious and confused as to what I intended to do with all of my activities. I wouldn't say much has changed in that aspect except now I have paid jobs in which I'm establishing myself as awesome, and I'm going to school two days a week to become a clinical massage therapist. It doesn't seem that I'm going to be offered a full-time writing job anytime soon and having other skills is a good thing, especially in a field that I'm interested in writing about - writing around the world about it, in fact. I could be the 'Traveling Touch' -- the name needs some work, but you get the jist of me working and writing abroad.

Teaching.** Where did that go? On the back burner it looks like. And I'm okay with that because it means that writing just got moved to the front. Which is scary, but I'm doing it already: in this, my two other blogs, the songstack, freelancing AP blurbs across the nation, writing trivia questions and occasionally my own personal stuff. Massage will help me keep my financial feet on the ground while my head is in the clouds and my arms are reaching for the stars. It's a growing field.

I'm still very much in the learning process (as I hope to always be, though with different things), but as nervous as I am about hunkering down into America for at least another year, scraping by as I do it, I'm excited for the challenge and to see where all of this takes me. Riding the wave. Or riding the storm out, and there was one last night. (AND A MIGHTY WIND TODAY!!! Riding my bike home up Milwaukee felt like I was in a wind tunnel, a ridiculous, wind from all angles, wind tunnel. Then I thought, oh, I need to get this squeak checked out, so I Uey-ed it to my bike shop. I'm riding west down Division, approaching the monolith of St. Mary's Resurrection (?) hospital, and something happened under that walkway pass - the wind stopped me. I kept pedaling and it kept pushing. A fierce battle that resigned me off my seat. But it didn't stop there. The wind started to push me, straddling my bike, off the side of the road. I had to get off and walk about 25 feet before I could remount. It was wild!! The internet said there were 40 mph winds. 40!! Motor vehicles can drive that fast.

Time. Where did that go? January 23, already. 

**In mid-December I was invited to interview with the Chicago Teaching Fellows, and while it's a great program and I would be lucky to be a part of it, I think I was more excited about the invitation that the actual program, as if I go back into the education field I would like to work with elementary students. Also, I tend to get really excited about everything and then I find myself at the buffet of life with my plate overflowing, but I don't want to be that greedy waster who takes more than they can eat and so I attempt to savor everything, but then the flavors touch and taint one another, and it's better sometimes to say, "Hey, I know I got the shrimp, veggie lo mein, chocolate cake, cornbread stuffing, black bean burger, applesauce and chili, but I think all of that will make me throw up and I'm going to have to scrape some of this into the garbage, or better yet! I'll box it up and give it to a homeless person." I know I can't give my interviews to homeless people, but it'd be great if I could. One for one. People that is. I have a home. It's drafty, but I rent (and now am a proud owner of a Snuggie).

Friday, December 2, 2011


My friend Libby and I saw Tim Meadows today!! In real life. Standing on the street corner, waiting to cross. He was looking out into the world. I looked at him as I look at most people standing on street corners with me, and I thought, Hey, I like that guy's leather jacket, and that's an awesome Chicago flag patch on his shoulder. Then it hit me. I turned to Libby.

"Hey, is that Tim Meadows? I think that's Tim Meadows."

And he looked over as one usually does when hearing their name called out multiple times, and I star-struckingly stuttered, "I've always admired your work, Mr. Meadows. You're a really talented guy. Thank you." (I think that's what I said. I remember "admire," "talented," and I probably said "thank you." Because I believe all of those things; I think the guy's a great comedian and I grew up on SNL.) To which he replied with gratitude and a smile.

It completely made my day; made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, which made me immediately start sweating. And then I told a guy at the bus stop across the street, "Hey, Tim Meadows is over there." To which he replied, "You don't say?" I do, sir. I do.

While sitting at Sultan's Market over a falafel, I confessed to Libby how I wished I would've thought to talk to Tim in my incredibly awesome Ladies' Man voice. She said it was probably for the best that I hadn't.

He's looking good(!), in case you were wondering. Hints of gray sprinkled in his scruff, but that stuff's normal when you're 50, I guess.

Where he is now, or was a year or so ago.

The Guy Who Played Mr. Belvedere's Fan Club -- totally not good as a clip, but I couldn't find a full one.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


To put my thoughts into the words of someone else.

Purposely he walked. Without a plan he lived. Mimicking others seen. He thought, if only I could do like they do. He dreamed of living the only dream worth dreaming: recognition. Sometimes he convinced himself he was already dead. Scarce interactions, or none. No one any longer called him son, and so he wandered wondering why.

As he walked he passed a black man in a white suit, flawless, long white coat, and a white heart painted on the back of each hand. Curtis immediately envisioned him with a hat and a cane to match the white loafers - everything - as he passed.

“Life is blessed. Love is blind.” Directed at no one in particular, though they were the only two on the street.

“Excuse me, sir. Why are you dressed this way?”

“What way? This is my way. I wear this everyday.”

“Where are you going?”

The man in hearts kept walking and turned into the park. “My way. I walked this route everyday.”

“Why the white?”

“You sayin’ it ain’t right?” But it wasn’t a question, and he kept on walking. Curtis followed.

“Am I alive? Because sometimes I feel like I’m dying side. It doesn’t hurt, but everything is fading. My organs grow numb. Sometimes when I want to snap I can’t find my thumb. There are days where I speed up the process by drinking and smoking and fighting with unfriendly types, but I keep coming back. I don’t know what to do, mister, sometimes living doesn’t seem worth what they say.”

Hearts on hand, the man continued on.

“Excuse me. Do you have the answer?”

“It depends on the question and the quantity.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I thought the problem was that you didn’t. Your life is worth whatever sum you make it, and there are people out there who will take it if you let them. A life is a blink in the history of the world. It doesn’t matter much regardless of your presence in it, life will bowl over you after you’re dead. But now, here you are, and here I am. If you ever need any help, I’m your man. Just look for the hearts in the near east of the park.”

And with that the man walked into a thick set of bushes.

As dusk was beginning to settle, Curtis felt uneasy and back on his path to nowhere, even more confused to it this life he seemed to be living was even real. Befuddled he turned on his heel and retreated to the sounds of cars busying themselves into night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Squash Every Week into a Day

Life's moving fast. And in which direction we're going, I'm not really sure.

I was fired from my restaurant job on Monday. Fired. That's never happened before, and let me just say, it kind of sucks. More a lot than not. Yeah, I brought it up, but I'd rather not go into details... more like, I can't go into details because not being put on this week's schedule was the first sign I got, so I sent an email (because it was too late to call), and the next day a call from a manager came letting me know that they were "no longer in need of my service" regrettably, so they said. When asked why, all I was told was that I didn't live up to expectations. No one ever asked me to do anything differently. How do you improve when you don't know what to improve? That was frustrating. Is frustrating. There's a first time for everything, so they say.

Everything happens for a reason,
When one door closes another door opens.

At least I only cry when I'm alone have trivia... yeah, I'm a two-night a week trivia host. That's not going to pay the bills, though. And so I've been applying/interviewing for jobs like mad. Scheming and dreaming and thinking up new things. I'm not giving up on 'merica. I made the plan to stay here at least a year, and by jove! I'm going to make something of myself while I'm here! Ideally that would encompass teaching and writing. There's a part of me that doesn't feel right teaching in another country because education builds the foundation of a country's success, and we all know that America needs success right now.

There are no rainbows without the rain.
Day by day.
Baby steps.

These are things I tell myself when I think of the position that I'm currently in and I feel the panic begin to rise in my chest. Or, as my late and [am told] great Great Grandpa Fonce said: From the time that you're born, 'til you ride in a hearse, there's nothing so bad that it couldn't be worse.

If there's one thing my family's taught me, it's resiliency, and I will pick myself up from the fall, brush off the dirt and walk on. Repeating as necessary when life knocks me down.