Friday, November 30, 2007

The Company One Keeps

My friend and co-worker, Sara, who's on the junior board of the Aids Foundation of Chicago, appeared on WGN-TV's news last night and won a chocolate eating contest against Dean Johnson. (She's in the purple smock.)

And she came to work today with it still on her face!

(Not really. But it would have been funny, wouldn't it?)

Margo's No Kidder

This is why Margo is my favorite advice columnist. She blows her cousin outta the water...over and over again.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"The God Ate My Homework..."

I've heard of passing the buck, but this is extreme. Of course, considering it's the son of Oral Roberts, the original "God's going to call me home if I don't raise millions of dollars" king, the passing of the buck shouldn't come as a surprise. These guys have been raising them and passing them for decades.

Apparently, Mr. Roberts is unable to recall anything on his own, because in answer to the allegations, he never directly denies them. He merely cries a lot and says that it's "torn apart his family" (isn't it funny how rich crooks are constantly blubbering about their family unity after they get caught with their hands in their pants? They never seem to worry that much about other people's families, do they? Funny, that.)

He also says that God told him not to countersue, essentially saying that we live in a litigious society and people can file lawsuits whenever they feel vindictive (that must have been one hell of a brush fire for the burning bush to spell all that out at once). In passing the buck to God, however, Roberts is doing two things that we're traditionally taught God doesn't like:

a.) refusing to exert his free will (you know, that thing that God gave us? That separates us from animals? Yeah, that one)

b.) failing to meet God halfway (you know, where it says "heaven helps those who help themselves?" Yeah, that one)

I wonder if God also told him to take millions of dollars that were earmarked for university expenses and appropriate them for personal use. Hmmm...that darned burning bush is so smoky...I see where the confusion can lie.

A "Bundle" Of Nerves

The other day, I finally decided to contact my cable company and get their "bundled services" package: 5MBPS Internet, Phone Service and Digital Cable. (This was an upgrade to the cable and Internet service, and having the phone through them will come out to be about $20 per month cheaper.)

The sales rep told me at the time that I could keep my existing phone number, and they'd just switch it over from AT&T ("Don't call AT&T to cancel--we'll do that when we switch it"). Fine by me. I made the appointment and the service technician, "Andreas," arrived this morning at 10:50AM (10 minutes early, no less!). Just like all the other technicians from XYZ Cable Company, he was a walking wet dream (seriously, I think they only hire European porn models--they're all drop-dead gorgeous)--but that's neither here nor there.

While he was here, shamelessly teasing me in his tight pants and cute uniform, he informed me that the original work order was entered improperly and that my phone number would, in fact, change.

Oh hey-ull, no.

I called the company while he was here and explained that I either keep my phone number or cancel the whole enchilada, yada, yada, yada. Actually, I explained it six times, because that's how often they transferred me, with an average wait time of 10 minutes on hold between each department. (Andreas had left halfway through this debacle, after giving me his cell phone number and saying to call him within 10 days if I had trouble with any of the services. After I pointed out that this mix-up was, in fact, "trouble," he said that he meant if the Internet didn't work or the cable TV cut out. Oh. I guess we get to pick what kind of trouble we're responsible for these days.)

But what a whirlwind world tour I took over the phone! I think I talked to someone in Pennsylvania, someone in Massachusetts, someone in Texas (or was it Mexico?), and someone in India! It was sort of a telephone version of Disney's "It's A Small World." Without the cute hats and terrible food.

I ended up talking to somebody in Sales who had no discernible dialect, so she must have been in the Midwest. And she, in turn, transferred me to someone's voice mail box (perhaps expecting him to pick up instead? I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt here--because if I thought I was being fobbed off yet again, I'd give her a free chemical peel instead).

I left him my old phone number (the one I want to keep), the new one that Andreas said was now installed (that I don't want), my name and my address (explaining as I did so that I'd already given this information six times, so one more wouldn't matter). It was quite a lengthy voice mail, although certainly not the longest one I've ever left. After an hour on hold with various departments within XYZ Cable Company, I decided to hang it up for now (literally). Just for shits and giggles, I called my old phone number from my cell.

It rang.

Then I called the new phone number Andreas gave me. It rang somewhere, but not in my house, and connected me to a voice mail box. I don't know whose.

Well, at least I now have digital cable and higher speed Internet. And if things don't work properly, I have Andreas' cell phone number.

And some handcuffs and baby oil...

Monday, November 26, 2007

Gathering Together...

I went down to Peoria early Wednesday morning to spend Thanksgiving with my family. As I've mentioned before, my mother is in a nursing home after suffering a stroke brought on by her chemotherapy. She's holding her own, but we've been informed that she will not be able to walk on her own again, and will most likely never leave the home. My aunt and uncle told me that night that Mom's oncologist has been very unresponsive and doesn't return phone calls (often when the patient isn't a "success story" anymore, they don't), but when they finally got the breakdown of her records for the insurance company, it said that the cancer is in her bones (which I didn't know--I did know it was in her liver, and so did she--that's why she started the chemo again).

So THAT'S why my aunt said she's terminal. Hmm. Cancer's funny that way...

My mom doesn't realize this, of course, and my aunt doesn't want to tell her, because she says it's a quality of life issue at this point. "If she has anymore chemo, it will kill her," she said. (And I have to agree that it would--she's still weakened three months after the last session.) Mom is living in a happy world where she's comfortable, people are kind and she still thinks that she's going to get out of the home and go back to work (none of which is possible at this point). And as hard as it is knowing that, especially at this time of year, and as weird as it feels starting to pack up and clear out her apartment (I was only there long enough to pack up her kitchen drawers) when she still thinks she's going back there, I feel a little bit of peace right now, too. There is some sense of closure and everyone's been so kind...I understand now how much that means to people now: to the person making the gesture, it seems so insufficient, because we'd like to do so much more. But the person receiving it is more than happy to come and meet you halfway--any kind gesture you make is magnified by 10.

We had a great Thanksgiving lunch at the nursing home Thursday. The staff did a really nice meal for the residents and the families that visited. Mom was so happy that I was there and I got to tell her many times how happy I was to be there and that I love her. It was more poignant knowing that it's probably the last one we'll shre. One of the volunteers, Judy, who was a friend of my dad and mom's from way back, was serving the meal and leaned over to tell me how proud my grandparents would be to see me there. (Wow...I didn't know eating a great meal was that special! I just couldn't think of anywhere I wanted to be more at that moment. But there are lots of folks whose families don't visit at all, I imagine.)

I'd been feeling really guilty about staying in Chicago and living my "life" while this has been going on. I had a nice talk with my aunt and uncle Wednesday night, though, and they said, "Why, do you think this wouldn't have happened if you lived here? Your mom wants you to be there, because you have to live your own life. If something happened to Jim, we wouldn't expect his daughters to come live back here (they live in SC)." It reassured me that I'm doing everything I can...I'm just glad I've saved up so much vacation time!

I'm still going down in a few weeks to help my uncle move the big pieces from mom's apartment into storage. They've also suggested that I should take her car with me, since she's been telling me to drive it and keep the battery charged and they've said that she won't drive it ever again and it will come to me anyway in the end. So I'm still investigating what needs to be done to transfer the plates, etc. It's not technically my car, and that "city sticker" thing is a bugger. But I won't deny that it'll be nicer to drive her car (a 2004 Malibu) than mine (a 1994 Cavalier that I've had since 1993--the only brand-new car I've ever bought). Hers is more dependable than mine, and there's no short in steering column that causes the turn signals not to work. But I certainly don't like the circumstances.

But I'm continuing doing the things I love the most--music, theatre, volunteering--because they are much needed at this time of year, and since I'm not married and don't have my own family, these things are my "children." (Yes, I finally realized that this is why so many gay people are artists, actors, etc.--they pour their passion into whatever gives them the most fulfillment back. Aren't you impressed? That'll be $14.95, please--hey, that's cheaper than the book once it comes out!)

I'll still call Mom every few days and go down to visit every few weeks, making the most of the time we have left. When the time comes, I'll be glad that I did.

And I'm SOO glad I didn't move to New York instead of Chicago! (Not that I ever had the balls to try NYC anyway, but works out for the best this time!)

Monday, November 19, 2007

"Nature's Taking Care of That Faster Than You Could!"

I always loved that particular line (extra credit goes to anyone who can tell me what film it's from), but I always WANTED to "take care of it myself." Especially if the person was really awful! Karmic justice aside (and what else can you count on but watching people go through their natural decay when they elude the punishment of the law for so long), it's nice to see that that they WILL, in fact, be called to account.

They can run, but they can't hide. At least not forever.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What A "Hose-"er!

Today, we had two runthroughs of "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer."

Two REALLY strong runthroughs. (Well, OK, except for ME--but everyone ELSE...)

The timing just keeps getting better and better, and I'm getting more and more comfortable with the new blocking and character quirks. Santa's an even bigger perv than he was last year, if that's possible...and as it turns out, yes. Yes it is.

We have lots of new cast members this year, including our titular Rudolph (Corey Mills). (See photo of him in previous post. The one where I'm choking him with a scarf.) Everyone is really strong, but there are a few stand-outs for me personally, just because of my interaction with them onstage.

Besides, Corey, who just keeps getting better and better, I think I've developed an opposite-sex crush (for the first time since Ms. Lynda Carter) on my "wife," Elizabeth Lesinski, who plays Mrs. Claus and Dolly, the misfit toy. Watching her during rehearsal today, I just marvelled anew at how good she is at physical comedy, and what a terrific dancer and singer she is. She nails every fucking note. She's also deliciously evil when Santa gets his "comeuppance" (and you know with a character as loathsome as he is, there's got to be one). I'm just afraid that she's going to make me keep cracking up during the end scene when she mutters insults to me. Thank heavens it's a pretty brief scene, and we're standing near the back during most of it.

Also Eve Orient-Bernfield, who plays "Christmastown's biggest celebrity and local gossip Gladys Dasher," deserves kudos. Eve, a cute, petite, intelligent-looking girl, is filling the massive pumps formerly worn-out--er, I mean, worn--by David Cerda, which is no small feat (no pun intended). But her Gladys is delightfully catty and prissy and repressed, and she works the stage like Broadway's answer to Xaviera Hollander (and I mean that in a good way). She and her partner Brian, who's also our stage manager (and a damned good one) also live in my neighborhood, which makes me like them all the more. (People are always surprised to discover that they live near each other in Rogers Park--RP is still sort of the "bastard cousin" of Chicago neighborhoods, being the furthest from the Loop outside Austin.)

I think we're in a really good place right now, and it's largely due to Brian and Justin Kirkeberg, the director, who started us rehearsing a full month ago. At first I thought I'd never make it through this schedule, but I think it's really going to pay off come tech week--having things already blocked (with stage measurements and everything) is going to make it SO much easier when the inevitable changes happen that first night in the actual theatre space.

Also, Rachel Boller (who played Connie, Gladys' right-hand bitch last year and is playing Rudolph's mother this year) did some superb choreography which is looking pretty snappy.

Maybe Christmas WON'T be so crappy this year after all...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

You Better Watch Out...

Fascist Pig Santa threatens gay elf Score (Peter Mavrik) to work faster or else in Hell in a Handbag Productions' "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer." Photo by Rick Aguilar.

We're getting closer to our final week of rehearsals for "Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer" (we're off next week because of the holiday, and because a few cast members are going out of town). This is my second year playing Santa, and I'm once again looking forward to it. I'm a little more ambivalent than last year, just because of everything that's been going on, and I feel like I've got half my brain on that while I'm doing everything else, but they've very kindly gotten me an understudy for the show in case something happens. Said understudy (Sam Brown) can currently be seen (at least for the next few nights) in HIAH's "The Birds" at Berger Park, playing Mike the stage manager. I've been enjoying house managing for "The Birds" since I've gotten to know some of the cast members, including Sam, and they're all very talented. The show's hella-fun, too! They've gotten rave reviews, and were even mentioned in Camille Paglia's column this week.

Compare with such accolades, my turn as Santa seems like paltry potatoes--no celebrity endorsements yet (but who gives the official stamp of approval to such things? Wilford Brimley?). But I still enjoy doing playing him. He's not your typical garden-variety-kindly-drunken shopping mall Santa. This Santa is a misogynistic, homophobic, capitalist pig. As David Cerda said to me last year, "it's not really acting."

Thanks. I feel the warmth.

"Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer" opens November 30 and runs Fridays at 10:00PM, Saturdays at 7:00PM and Sundays at 3:30PM through December 30 at the Bailiwick Repertory (1232 W. Belmont). For ticket information, visit Hell In A Handbag's web site. In the meantime, here's one more photo to entice you:

Santa loses patience with the flamboyant Rudolph (Corey Mills) as a horrified Score looks on in Hell In A Handbag Production's "Rudolph The Red-Hosed Reindeer." Photo by Rick Aguilar.

Isn't your mouth watering now? (Or just your eyes?)

More of The Joans: "Joan Crawford Goes To Hell" on YouTube

One of my friends from college, Aimee, very kindly recorded some of our Red Line gig this past Friday, and she posted a few clips on YouTube. This was one of our most manic moments:

Joan Crawford Goes To Hell

But by no means the fastest....

The Writing's Off The Wall...

Just a few thoughts...

It appears that Fox TV isn't going to let a bunch of pesky writers/voice-over actors tell them what to do, and it's decided to proceed with creation of three new episodes of "Family Guy" without the participation of creator (and voice of three main characters) Seth MacFarlane. I don't know the titles of those episodes, but I'm sure in posterity they will be easily identifiable by the cheesy writing and bad voices.

Mercifully, however, we're told that Project Runway isn't suffering as a result of the writers' strike. (But then, do people really watch that show for the writing? Personally, on the VERY rare occasions I've caught it, I usually watch just to see if Heidi will bang her head on a door frame. Aww, that was mean, wasn't it? Tough shit. GOD, she gets on my nerves...)

Ellen DeGeneres has caught so much flak for continuing her show without writers that she's cancelled a scheduled taping in New York next week. I'm sorry people are pissed at Ellen and all, but I gotta say, in her prime, she wrote better stuff than most of the sanitized-for-TV dreck the writers are handing us on talk shows nowadays, anyway. But I think that whole "dog" thing really did for her, and now she'll have to wear the TV equivalent of a hair shirt until the talk-show-viewing public is ready to open their hearts and their trailers to her again. And oh, won't that be a cause for celebration? (Yes, that was sarcasm--wanna make something of it?)

Those are my pre-coffee thoughts on this lovely Wednesday. I just have to add one more thing: at least those writers HAVE a union. I'm an administrator who ends up pinch-hitting and doing EVERYONE'S job when they're gone, and I don't have anybody watching my back. Where's MY fucking union?

I'm going to get coffee now.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Is Anyone Really Surprised By...


Seriously, what a waste of oxygen he is. He SO has his nose buried up the ass of the war machine. They must really have his balls in a sling (such as they are). Do they have pictures of him with a goat or something??

Monday, November 12, 2007

Doing The Trog

For all of you lame-o's who couldn't make it out to see The Joans this past Friday, here's a clip of us performing "Do The Trog," courtesy of Peter Mavrik. Thanks Peter!

Friday, November 09, 2007

From Winehouse to the Doghouse

The husband of British retro-soul singer Amy Winehouse appears to be in some rather deep shit.

"No, no, no," you say? Yes, yes, yes. In addition to his upcoming trial for allegedly beating up a bartender, he's now accused of attempted "trial-fixing."

Yikes! No wonder his father is telling everyone to quit buying her records and supporting their habits. It's a real shame--she's so very talented. I wonder if part of the "spark" of her creativity and passion includes an element of self-destructiveness. Or if he's just a crummy influence, a la Bobby Brown. Or they're both just two crazy, self-destructive folks who were drawn together as kindred battered spirits.

I just hope we don't have to see the reality show anytime soon.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It (Possibly) Comes From Outer Space

U.S. lawmakers are raising hell with NASA's Near Earth Object (NEO) tracking program for their planned cost-cutting, thereby leaving us vulnerable to an asteroid attack.

My favorite quote was from Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who said that the expense of such a program was small "compared to the cost of absorbing these kinds of damages...after all, it could be the whole planet that's destroyed!"

The cynic in me twisted his ugly mouth into a wry smile at that one. And thought, "how typically Republican reasoning." Isn't it JUST like them to worry about the threat from the OUTside--foreigners, terrorists, asteroids, Martians, gay people, French people and Chinese imports--and do all they can to distract us from the threats we face from the INside--loss of freedom, tyranny, over-taxation, divisive politics and ignorance.

I can't wait for the RNC-sponsored remake of "War Of The Worlds." Somehow George Bush's voice will carry less cache than Orson Welles'. But then, we can't have the earth, can we?

At least not for long.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Joans On The Daily Purge! With A NEW SONG!

David Cerda (a/k/a Davy Joans) recently appeared on The Daily Purge, a local podcast hosted by J. Michael Haas and Rob Lindley. On this episode, David talks about The Birds, Hell In A Handbag's current production which runs through November 17, and also about the history of The Joans! Be sure to listen to the end to hear our new song "Faye Dunaway."

Have a listen to the show here.

And if you're in town this Friday night (November 9), be sure to come see The Joans live at The Cake Show at the Red Line Tap (7006 N. Glenwood, next door to the Heartland). Show starts at 9:00PM and features the following lineup:

Sweet Hello - 9:00PM
Bad Nurse - 10:00PM
The Joans - 11:00PM

$5 cover

Hope to see you there!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along??

From conversations I've had with my aunt, it looks like Mom's starting to decline and won't get any better. She's not strong enough to have any more chemo, and she seems like she's gotten used to the idea of staying in the nursing home (although she's not said as much). We don't talk to her directly about that (and we've instructed everyone else not to bring it up, either), we just try to keep her as cheerful as possible. As my aunt said this morning, "she has good days and not-good days, and the not-good days are going to start coming closer together."

The worst part of all of it is the friction that it seems to have caused among some of her work friends. My aunt and uncle imposed a 2-visitor-at-a-time, 30-minute time limit on visits from her workplace friends, because she was so exhausted Sunday after they'd been there all day. One of her friends, Pat, sent a companywide e-mail to the place Mom works on Tuesday, letting them know about the visitation limit and that her condition is terminal. She BCC'd me on the e-mail also, so I could see it. Then today, she BCC'd me on another e-mail she'd sent to one of the other girls, Carolyn, who she felt had been less than honest after she'd (apparently) overstayed a visit time (I'm not sure exactly what it was--it was between the two of them, so they must know). Pat felt that Carolyn led my uncle to believe that Pat was subverting the nursing staff and deliberately disobeying the time constraint, which she hadn't. She told Carolyn that she had jeopardized Pat's relationship with my aunt and uncle and her visits with my mom and "for that, I cannot forgive you...from now on, please keep all questions work-related." She also said she's not going to visit Mom anymore, to avoid problems.

Wow--these gals have been friends since before I even worked there (and I started in 1993, leaving in 1997). And now the relationship is falling apart because of Mom's illness.

Mom would be appalled.

So of course I'm not going to tell her! I'm going down to see her tomorrow (there's also a Bradley University reunion thing) and spend some's strange, because I always wondered how I'd handle it when this time came. I figured I would fall apart (and who knows? I may yet), but with all the up and down/hope, then no hope we've had, I'm a little relieved just to have an answer. I can deal with the rest of it later.

I just wish we could all be friends, for God's sakes!