Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Birds That Don't Fly and Reindeer That Do

Long time no talk! Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving...mine was everything it should have been. Thursday I went to my aunt Mary's in Springfield. My cousin came in from St. Louis, and Mary's two foster daughters were there, too. The elder one has two kids of her own now, which is slightly unsettling, given her own maturity level. The kids are adorable, but I shudder to think what sort of discipline problems their teachers will encounter in a few years. At one point, they were playing in the street! (Of course all the kids on Mary's street play in the road, so I guess they fit right in--thank God there isn't much traffic.)

After Springfield, I went back up to my other aunt and uncle's in Chillicothe (where Mom also lives). We had a nice evening and watched "Cars" on DVD (the first half anyway). You will be glad to know I washed the dishes at both dinners--and brought food--so no more cracks about men who don't help in the kitchen! :-)

I came back early (Friday afternoon) because Big Girls had a gig that night at Gallery in Wicker Park. The gig went great, and we premiered three of our original songs, which went well. I had a little trouble hearing Tracy's voice, since I'm in the back, and the monitors were turned down (to cut the feedback), but it didn't cause many problems. They asked us to play New Year's Eve...we also got another gig offer for January 6 (I'm not sure where it is yet--Tracy's the one talking with them). So, all in all, a good week, if busy.

The holidays were nice. This week we're in the theatre rehearsing for "Rudolph." Last night was our first night in the space, and it isn't as cramped as I thought it would be. We're all working with the space pretty well. My energy was way off last night, though--I've been very tired and achy lately. 'Tis the season to be sick, I guess. I had a flu shot, so I'd better not come down with that at least!

"Rudolph" opens Friday night at 10:00 PM! Tickets are only $15. It's sure to be a great time...come and see us! And come see Big Girls on New Year's Eve if you're in town...I'm sure Tracy will have some surprises ready. (I have to give her credit--she is great at getting the party going!)

Monday, November 20, 2006


This is a line from our recently closed (but possibly returning soon?) musical "Caged Dames." It also describes what today is going to be like for me, as I prepare to go out of town for a few days to see the fam'bly...

Well, "Caged Dames" closed yesterday, as I mentioned. I had a great time with this one, and I absolutely loved our musical director, Andra Velis Simon. She reminds me so much of several friends of mine and she was just such a blast to work with! She's also quite good at rearranging music in a hurry. Isn't she, David? :-)

I loved the whole cast, too. Everyone was so great, and I enjoyed working with people I'd never worked with before, like Tina Haglund (Big Lorraine), Cheryl Snodgrass (Bigger Lorraine), Earliana McLaurin (EarlJean), Adrienne Smith (Myrtle) and Annie Gloyn (Aggie the Snitch).

The "one more push" line refers to the protagonist, Mary, delivering her baby on the warden's desk in the women's prison (the "Cage" of "Caged Dames"), with the help of homemaker/murderess Betty Parker, who sports a pair of Playtex dishwashing gloves (and a necklace made of spools of thread!) throughout the play. This, and many other darkly hilarious moments, made "Caged Dames" a gem of a show. (And the music was fun, too!) There's talk of a re-mount/extension early next year, so stay tuned...

Now, I can concentrate on "Rudolph, the Red-Hosed Reindeer" and playing mean-ass Santa. This weekend I worked on projecting, and found that I can growl in a higher-register voice just as well as a low-register one. We also worked on some staging and Tim spread the blocking out a little, so we're using more space and movement, which really works well. Last night, we were without David, Ed Jones, and Mike Miller because they were storing the "Caged Dames" costumes after the show, and several others because they were out for other reasons. So Lori Lee (Yukon Cornelia) gamely read Mrs. Claus's lines as well as Herbie's. She was responding to herself a couple of times! We worked on the songs a little and sang "Christmastown" and "The Lesson Song." I was pleasantly surprised that I haven't completely lost my voice since leaving the chorus...I was actually able to hit the notes. I need to keep after it, though, or I will lose it and have to start all over!

What was the other thing I'm concentrating on? Oh, yeah, work...that thing that pays my mortgage. I've gotten a lot done today, so everyone should be in good shape while I'm out for the rest of the week. People always joke about "hoping the place doesn't fall apart" while I'm out. They're only half-joking. Not that it would fall apart really, but there are lots of things they've just gotten used to relying on me for. I should be flattered that I'm so "essential," but to be honest, it sort of pisses me off sometimes, because it heaps more responsibility on me than I should have to assume...most of the things people come crying to me about are things that are:

a.) not that big a deal; and
b.) easily solved themselves if they cared to lift a finger. (Ahh, but therein lies the rub. It's a non-profit with lots of cerebral types, so we got lots of "thinkers" here and not a whole lotta "doers.")

But for right this moment, I can live with it...

Come see "Rudolph!" We open December 1 at Bailiwick (1229 W. Belmont--same as "Caged Dames") and run through December 30.

Fridays at 7:00PM
Saturdays at 10:00PM.
Tickets $15.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Voodoo You Think You Are?

This is terrific. If you read no other news stories today, be sure to read it.

In all of the furor and uproar surrounding and following the last two presidential elections, there's one tactic that we never took into account: black magic. Think of all the painful recounts, not to mention weeks of uncertainty, we could have saved ourselves if we'd had one Ki Gendgeng Pamungkus on our side. And a niftly li'l recipe for goat/snake/crow stew to boot!

Let's not blame the Diebold machines next time. Let's just recite a few incantations. We might even score some points with the far-righties for being religious, since they might mistake us for Pentecostals...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

When "Gay" and "Family" Collide, Sometimes it Makes a Sticky Mess, Like Stepped-On Cannoli

I know this blog is called "Go Away I'm Reading," but I spend lots of time watching movies, as well.

And it's not always a happy experience. Well, I like to try new things, and that always carries risk: some you're going to like, and some are going to be like the one I saw recently: "Mambo Italiano."


This movie is (ostensibly) the story of a young Canadian-Italian named Angelo, played by Luke Kirby (is molto italiano, no?), the product of Italian immigrants to Quebec (MOVIE LESSON #1: NOT ALL ITALIANS IMMIGRATED TO BROOKLYN). He falls in love with a boyhood pal, Nino (is adorable name, no? He's played by Peter Miller--also molto italiano), who deflowers him on a camping trip. Of course, they must keep their romance a secret from their old-world Italian parents--in Angelo's case Gino and Maria (played by Paul Sorvino--thank God, a real Italian!--and Ginette Reno) and in Nino's case, man-hungry mother Lina, played by Mary Walsh (who looks remotely like Frida the redhead from ABBA--the ONLY thing that prevented me from hating her completely).

The movie opens with Angelo placing a call to a gay counseling hotline. He explains to the bemused and besotten counselor, Peter (signposting alert!), how his and Nino's relationship began in a series of flashbacks (which I've just described in the paragraph above--nice of me, no?).

As a gay man, I should be Grateful and Supportive of Any Gay-Themed Movie, but I had a hard time warming up to any of these characters (except, ironically, Angelo's parents, especially his mom). Angelo himself I found to be a strong-willed, self-centered, self-pitying priss with a head of unruly white-boy Afro hair (intended, I suppose, to represent that "thick, dark curly hair that we're all supposed to love").

The parents discover their sons are bumping nasties (come on, you KNEW they were going to find out!) and decide to stage an "intervention" (i.e., "let's fix them up with some nice Italian girls--the smell of marinara sauce will make them forget about cock"), and invite Pina (yes, "Pina"), a hard-boiled ghetto pencil-troll with as much class as Rhea Perlman in "Cheers" (only with thicker eyebrows), who was supposed to be a school friend of both boys (although the actress, Sophie Lorain, was born in 1957 and looks it).

I lost respect (such as it was) for most of the characters in this scene: Pina, because she was a coarse, hairy marital mercenary (think Michele Pfeiffer in "Married to the Mob" with a mustache) and referred to Angelo as "the fag," and Nino, because he turns against Angelo in front of both families and informs him that he doesn't want to continue their relationship. He proceeds to take up with Gina (whom he richly deserves, after all). Yep, his timing truly sucks. But then, it probably sucked in bed, too, which makes him not much of a loss, no? (MOVIE LESSON #2: IT'S OK TO BE HOMOPHOBIC IF YOUR ETHNICITY CONDONES IT. AND NOBODY'S ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE YOU FOR THAT, OR THEY'RE PREJUDICED!)

Now Lina, Nino's mother, seems to be a man-chaser who flirts with all the married men. Ah, but there's a twist a-waiting to melt our cynical hearts. You see, poor Lina's a widow, a fact which is beaten over our heads after a huge fight between her and Angelo's parents over which son is "gayer." The next scene shows poor Lina weeping over her husband's grave (as if she probably didn't drive him into it), and Angelo's mother magically developing sympathy for her, thus forging their "bond." (MOVIE LESSON #3: GRIEF OVER DEAD SPOUSES CAN MAKE UP FOR ANY PRIOR AND SUBSEQUENT SKANKINESS--IT'S THE "GET-OUT-OF-THE-VD-CLINIC-FREE" CARD.)

Angelo, experiencing a gay existential crisis, decides to volunteer for the gay hotline. During a preliminary meeting of volunteers, each person explains why he or she wants to volunteer for the hotline. One very emotional gentleman explains how the hotline helped him when he was at his lowest, and how if he can help even one other young man, it will be worth it for him. Pretty sweet, actually.

Ah, but then it's Angelo's turn to speak: he wants to help the community, but he doesn't like "fems:" "Keep the fems away from me," he says, with a pointed look at the emotional guy. (Incredibly, this dumbfuck doesn't see the irony of spurning "feminine" gay men, even as he sports Gloria Gaynor's 1978 hairstyle. )

Then, finally, it's time to take a few hotline calls. Angelo's first call is from a comically dramatic lesbian who speaks about suicide. Angelo rattles off a pithy quip about getting over herself, and hangs up. Peter, his volunteer mentor (Remember him? The one from the beginning of the film? Thought you might), basically laughs it off, and says that Angelo must learn to have compassion for himself before he can have compassion for others. At that point, I think I did a spit take: was this guy high or something?! The only person Angelo seems to have compassion for throughout this film is himself! Ah, but after all, he's the young, cute protagonist, with whom we are told to identify, which brings us to MOVIE LESSON #3: WHEN THE YOUNG, CUTE PROTAGONIST DOES SOMETHING CHILDISH AND SPITEFUL, IT'S OK BECAUSE SOME "PETER" WILL HAVE DEVELOPED THE HOTS FOR HIM, THEREBY MAKING ALL OTHER HUMAN CHARACTERS SUPERFLUOUS, SINCE ALL OTHER STORIES WILL HAVE TAKEN A BACK SEAT TO THEIR POORLY-DEVELOPED LOVE STORY.

And that's pretty much the way the rest of the movie plays out. Nino and Pina end up married with kids (are we supposed to be happy for them? They're despicable, and have now reproduced!), and Angelo ends up bringing Peter home to Mama and Papa, and it's all warm and fuzzy. What-fucking-ever.

Apparently, this movie was trying hard to be the gay "Moonstruck." It might have succeeded, too, if it had had a few of the things "Moonstruck" had: likeable characters, a plausible plot, and chemistry among ANY of its actors. As it was, it was clearly something that Paul Sorvino did because he needed the money. Badly, from the looks of it.

Thus ends Aaron's Bitter and Bitchy Film Review for November 2006. Join me again next year, when "Hairspray" is released...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm Anne Boleyn...

And after I just got the coolest haircut, too! Damnit...

Which Wife of King Henry VIII Are You?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Can we just cut Florida loose?

I'm serious...just let it drift away.

Every time they have an election, there's always some fucking voting machine drama to hang everything in suspense.

Ironic, given that 80s porn queen look-alike and Bush-administration-fellatio-performer Katherine Harris pushed so hard (as opposed to lying passively, as was her custom, I'm sure) to get these machines installed.

Most likely it wasn't the machines' fault she lost, though. Most likely, it's because people just DON'T FUCKING LIKE HER. And they don't want to look at her 1983 hair and makeup anymore.

The hand that giveth, also taketh away...

Sad news on former "60 Minutes" correspondent.

This guy was truly a class act. He got his success the hard way--he earned it. His parents were hard-working folks who supported him and his goals--a far cry from the stereotype of "uninvolved" parents of today's inner cities. Which brings me to my preachy referendum theme of the day: why ARE inner-city families seen as being so "uninvolved?"

Of course, back in Ed Bradley's youth, there were many families who lived in the inner city and it really was more of a community. After the 1970s, when everyone fled to the uninteresting (and no safer) suburbs, those who remained in the city must have felt a vague sense of having failed and been left behind, which would perpetuate the frustration for future generations. Hopefully, the current "big urban renaissance" will not just be all about rich white people buying huge townhomes and opening Starbucks and Chipotles all over the place...maybe some of the renewal will help the working classes, too.

(Of course, maybe monkeys will fly out of my butt, too. But I can still hope...)



I was wrong about the Senate staying in the GOP's fat fingers...word comes this morning (last last night, actually, apparently) that with Jon Tester's win in Montana and Jim Webb's (NOT the same one who wrote "MacArthur Park"--damn) win in Virginia, the Senate has, indeed, contrary to my prediction of Tuesday, handed the Democrats the 51 seats necessary to gain control of the Senate.

For those who are just tuning in, that means that the Democrats now control BOTH BRANCHES OF CONGRESS, muthafucka...I hope we're better at it than they were. (We sure as hell can't be any worse--it's not 1994, after all.)



In other news, I had my second rehearsal as nasty Santa last night for "Rudolph."

Folks, this show's gonna have it all--a punk rocking reindeer girl, a cute straight transvestite boy reindeer, a drunken Mrs. Claus and a homicidal talking celebrity doll! Plus loads of hot gay elves and fun toys! You have to catch it (after you catch "Caged Dames," of course)! Opens Friday, December 1 at 10:00 PM (also at Bailiwick--1229 W. Belmont).

My own performance is "enghhh" (*wobbling hand motion*), but gets better as I get more comfortable with the material. I can recite most of my dialogue from memory now, except for the scene with Gladys Dasher. We're working that one Saturday, though, and I should have it down by then.

I'm off from "Dames" tonight, as Andy, the alternate drummer, is taking this date. But I'm back on the throne (the drummer's throne, that is, you nasty folks!) tomorrow...fun times! Catch this if you haven't already! (Did I mention it's fun??)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

180 lbs. of Ugly Fat, Gone--Just Like That!

I almost did a little "Snoopy" dance in the aisle, but then I noticed who's replacing him. Is this an improvement or not?

Rummy Hits the Road

Our Grass Roots Are Showing...

Well, it looks like those of us who are disenchanted and disgusted with the policies of the far right have made themselves heard. The Democrats have taken control of the House, and have achieved at least a narrow margin in the Senate (although I think the GOP may hang onto that one for now).

Lest the Dems start congratulating themselves too loudly, however, I would remind them of the tone that the GOP took the morning after the last presidential election. Tom Reynolds basically channelled every Old-Boy-in-the-clubhouse-locker-room when he talked about Nancy Pelosi's (and the Democrats') "big black eye."

Well, two years and countless scandals later, he might regret that choice of words. The problem is, as always, they got too big and too cocky. You could clock it in Reynolds' very words, the words of an out-of-control, spiteful bully who was itching to make problems for everyone else. They immediately began doing all the rotten things they could, and smeared it in our faces.

Our hundreds of millions of faces. Angry faces. Just biding our time until they fucked up real big.

Actually, we didn't have to wait long for the fuck-up--that came right away. The long wait was for the elections.

So now that we've had our day and made our voices heard, the question is: what are we going to do with it? Let's not waste this opportunity and become just like the GOP! Let's put our money where our mouths are and focus in putting the power back in the peoples' hands. Remember how we fought a bloody war over 200 years ago against being ruled by a machine--an absentee one, at that. Let's not be "the machine" here at home! There are lots of really inspired grass roots movements going on, and these are where we should be paying attention. As fractured as we were after the last election, let's try to be that unified now.

(Oh, yeah--but let's still try to prosecute Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. They're useless human beings.)


In other news, I had my first "Rudolph" rehearsal last night, and I'm much less insecure now! It turns out I have a few old friends in the cast that I didn't know about, so it should be a hella fun show...

More later! Don't forget those grass roots...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Did You Vote Today??!!

If not, be sure to get your ass out there after work and do it! Polls stay open until 7:00...this is the last chance we have for the next two years to make our voices heard.

For Christ's sake, scream!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Twilight-Underwear-Zone and The Creepy Ex-Coworker

I went to the laundromat today and it was much more peaceful this time. The owner, a very nice Mexican lady who always chats with me when I come in, said, "So much nicer today. Not so much children!" I agreed fervently.

As I was unloading my whites/lights from the washer (I use warm instead of hot, so it's OK to wash beige stuff with the whites), I noticed that a pair of my undershorts (*blush*) was a strange light/washed out/faded color. They had been heather grey when they went in. I recognized the look of something that had been directly bleached. But--*cue suspenseful music*--I had not put any bleach in the washer. I smelled my other clothes from the load, and sure enough, they all smelled like bleach. Nothing else was really affected, not even my beige Dockers, although there is a tiny patch on the leg that looks like it might have faded a tiny bit (but it's barely noticeable).

It was a strange and haunting puzzle, and worthy of Rod Serling's narration. Maybe I'll write a script about it, and hire an all-star cast. Too bad Maureen Stapleton's gone now--she'd have been a great laundromat owner. As I made my dreaded discovery, she could have peeked in a sinister fashion around the Pepsi machine, or given me dark looks as she sold laundry detergent and handed out the restroom key...

After the laundromat, since I had my car with me (having come straight from the "Rudolph" audition), I had some extra time, so I ran to what we far Northsiders have come to refer to as the "new Target," over on Peterson Ave. They always have better prices on a few things I get at the grocery store, like cat food and shampoo. There are always a lot of cute security guards there, too (it IS Chicago).

As I was at the jewelry counter, searching for some cheap gold hoop earrings (I used to have some bigger ones, but they've all disappeared), I felt a sudden wave of nausea. After first panicking that I was suffering a delayed reaction to the flu shot, I realized that it was caused by a nearby voice that was familiar. But I couldn't think why. Then it dawned on me. It was a former co-worker from my first "city" job, years ago when I first moved here, at a small marketing agency (well, it was a big agency, but we were a small office).

I won't use this person's real name (since he DOES have a right to privacy, although he basically waived that right while I worked with him by moonlighting as some kind of stripper or something), but I will instead call him by his Native American name, Smells Like Sulphur. OK, it's not a real Native American name, and he's not really Native American, but I thought maybe a longer name would give him some of the nobility and class he never really earned.

This guy disliked me on sight when I worked there. And I never figured out why. I sure as hell wasn't going to ask him, since it didn't really matter, but a mutual work friend told me that she guessed he might resent me because I was openly gay while he was more "in the closet." He was?? He could have fooled me--whenever he opened his mouth, sequins spewed forth. In fact, that was the thing that tipped me off today that he was nearby, when I heard his breathy, rushed diction (glad he wasn't an actor instead of a stripper).

Anyway, I never figured out why he didn't like me (although I'd guessed that he was one of those vain, shallow people who don't like overweight guys, which I certainly was, and am even more so now). But I lost that job after about a year anyway (which was just as well, because I hated the fucking place. Rotten company. Lousy pay. Sour grapes.), and have only had the misfortune of seeing him in public three times in the last eight years. Today was the fourth. The nice thing about being as big as I am right now is that it makes me invisible to people like him, so I had no danger of being noticed, and I doubt he even recognized or remembered me. But needless to say, I abandoned my search for cheap gold earrings and went straight to the catfood aisle. The whole experience left me feeling unsettled and vaguely doomed, like the British reporter in "The Omen II," who fled Damian's soccer practice only to have her late-model Oldsmobile Cutlass break down outside Chicago and suffer a terrible death (hers and the car's). I fully expected to find a large black bird on top of my car when I got to the parking lot, ready to peck my eyes out.

But I made it back home uneventfully (although my car is making a loud knocking noise in the front occasionally--do I detect the sound of money getting ready to leave my wallet again?), and now I'm writing to you, dear reader(s?).

In other news, the "Rudolph" audition went reasonably well. It was a cold reading (although I did see the play, as I mentioned, two years ago), and I fucked up one line when I was reading it (I panicked when I thought for a moment that I was reading Mrs. Claus's line). Other than that, it wasn't too bad (not as good as I would have like to do, but is it ever on the first try?). I'd forgotten how funny some of the lines were, especially for poor Mrs. Claus, whose nasty husband drives her to drink. I always wanted to drive people to drink, but my mother was made of sterner stuff...

Now I've gotta run. I have to go for a walk and get ready for the "Caged Dames" performance at 7:00 tonight. Blessings to you all, each and every one...!

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Whirlwind Week

Oh, how I wish I could say a "whirlwind romance" instead, but even I dare not hope for the almost laughably impossible...

So much going on this week...to start with, one of our grantmaking areas here is hosting a conference of some of the other funders in the field. A few of the attendees are also grantees of ours.

Can I just say one thing? A pack of ungracious, badly-dressed bitches! No other grantees that I've ever worked with have been such high-maintenance, low-class, socially backwards cows. Ever. They complain vocally about everything. They get free meals out of this deal and they complain about that! During other people's presentations, rather than pay attention, they will catch up on paperwork, pass notes, and actually KNIT. You read correctly--KNIT. Great. Even more clothes that look like they were knocked out from a Butterick pattern circa 1974.

These participants are almost exclusively women. It just happens to be that way. If it seems as though I'm being misogynistic in making these observations, well, tough titty--no pun intended. I calls 'em as I sees 'em. Even the co-workers in my office (also female) were shocked at their behavior. Perhaps someone ought to play "the hand that taketh away" with these swamp witches when it's time to consider funding for the next year. A year or so of macaroni and cheese might teach them some manners (it always did for me!), and then we can start over after that.


In other news, I got my first flu shot the other day. I've had boosters at the doctor before, but I've always been wary of the flu shot, because they say you can get moderately to deathly ill from it (though the latter is very rare). But I thought, I'd rather have a day or so of discomfort than several days of intestinal distress in January or February (when I usually get hit), so I took the plunge(r). It didn't hurt at all, and took only a second. So far it's been fine. My arm, surprisingly, is a tiny bit more sore around the injection site today than it was yesterday (I got the shot Wednesday), but it's barely noticeable, and I haven't developed low-grade fever or scratchy throat (any more than usual).


"Caged Dames" continues to go well. The houses haven't been as big as they could be, but they're certainly bigger than the ones we got for "Scarrie" last year, which was an awesome show. "Dames" has gotten great reviews, though, which "Scarrie" didn't, so that might account for some of it. There are still three weeks go get out and see it--get your tickets now! (Special thanks to Dirk, who came and saw us last night. It was great having you there!)


Speaking of Handbag, I was asked to read for the part of mean Santa for their upcoming production of "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer," which will run every weekend in December. I'm auditioning tomorrow, and will let you know how it goes. This show is also a great one! I organized a group outing two years ago for Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (when I was the social committee chair and used to give a shit), and we had a great time! It's a take-off on the Rankin Bass production from the '60s that I'm sure many of us of a certain--*ahem*--age will fondly remember (actually, they still show it at Christmas sometimes). David Cerda is a masterful writer of parody, and the show is both funny and touching. Go see it! (Whether or not I'm in it.)


My band is tentatively scheduled to play at the Gallery Cabaret (2020 N. Oakley) in Wicker Park on November 24--the day after Thanksgiving. It's a really late slot (we start at midnight I think), so sleep off your turkey feast and try to catch the show! :-) Easy parking near the club.

That's all for today. Join us tomorrow, when Erica tells Opal--oh, sorry, wrong show.