Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Christmas Pictorial

(Sorry this isn't a pop-up book.)

I drove down to Chillicothe, IL last Sunday night after the "Rudolph" matinee and said hi to Mom, then went over and checked into my room at the Super 8 motel. (By the way, not a bad place, the Super 8.) I went to the Kroger and did some shopping, then got a good night's sleep.

On Christmas Eve, I spent a few hours with Mom (her roommate Peggy was in the hospital with a cardiac complaint and hadn't returned yet), then went into Peoria to buy a few gifts for her to give Aunt Fay. I found a cute bracelet and a turquoise pendant. (I had gotten her and Uncle Jim each a $100 gift card for Target, so I only needed to get those few things from Mom and me.) Then I went to meet a few friends at Chili's for a quick drink and off to my Dad's house at 3:00 for Christmas with them, my Aunt Mary, my cousin Tonya, and Mary's foster daughter Lana and her two kids. Both under six years old. And WIRED.

Dad and Karen. Dad's on the left, with the mustache. He liked the Deep Purple CDs I got him, and Karen liked her 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. (She's always putting one together, so that's what I always get her--she loves them. It makes her easier to shop for too!)

My step-brother J.D. with Lana's daughters Angel and Gabrielle. Angel will be six in January and Gabrielle will be five. They have lots of energy. I don't. But J.D. does! Of course, he's only 19. Not that I'm bitter or anything...

Lana and Angel. After watching Lana as a teenager, it's somewhat amusing to watch the girls sass her. (Although Lana was never much of a sasser--she whined sometimes, but no more than most teenagers.) Her girls are adorable--but a handful!

We had a really nice dinner and then I went back to the home to spend more time with Mom. Mary and Tonya and Lana and the girls came with to spend a few minutes with Mom, and we had to stop Gabrielle from running and yelling in the halls (I had to tell them to be extra quiet since Peggy was back from the hospital and was sleeping in her bed). Aunt Fay and Uncle Jim came in right about this time, and so they got to see them too.

After the visitors were gone, Mom and I watched "It's a Wonderful Life" on TV, and ate some of the Christmas candy that Fay had left (Mom demolished two of those suckers apparently--Fay said she'd brought three during the month!) Halfway through the movie, Mom dozed off, so I went back to the hotel to drink whiskey and coke and watch the "Futurama" marathon on Cartoon Network.

On Christmas morning, I went over to Mom's room and we exchanged gifts. I already knew what she'd gotten me, because she'd told me once. Then forgot several times and told me again each time. It was a cute blue sweater. I got her a Tony Bennett "Duets" CD and DVD set.

She loved the Tony Bennett CD/DVD. She was always a big Tony Bennett fan.

Don'tcha love the hat? As it turned out, she was wearing a matching jacket, so it worked perfectly.

I had a hat, too.

Then I went to Fay and Jim's for their Christmas gathering with their kids and the grandkids. Fay loved her bracelet and necklace and she and Jim both loved their gift cards. They asked me again about taking Mom's car back with me, since Mom won't drive it anymore. I finally said yes. So the next day Fay and I went to the storage place where Mom's apartment is packed up and I rented a stall to put my car for the next two months (until I can recover the title, which I lost several years back, so I have to write to Springfield to get a new one). I cleaned most everything out of mine and locked it away. Once I get the title, I'll sell it down there. Life comes full circle for that car--I bought it 14 years ago when I lived down there. Now it will live there once more...

So it really was a bittersweet wasn't as stressful as I'd imagined it would be, but it's easy to see that Mom's really pulling away now. Ironically, even though her memory is very compromised from the cancer and the drugs, she's doing really well in physical therapy. Thursday she stood up by herself, and she can walk short distances with the walker and limited assistance. So at least she's got something to work towards--she's always happiest then. And we got to watch Christmas movies together, so we got to observe our Christmas traditions.

This is Mom's car. It's strange to be driving it when it's not really "mine" yet, but it was sitting undriven for a few months, and needs an oil change and new tires, and I can give it those things now. It's hard to get used to having a car with automatic transmission--I drove a stick for 20 years, and keep looking for the clutch. I'll have to adjust my way of driving. I called the City Clerk's office about getting a city sticker for it, and after going to the first office the clerk mentioned (2550 W. Addison), I was told to go to another one (5430 W. Gale) for residential stickers. There, I was told I don't need a city sticker, since the car is not registered in Chicago (and won't be until I officially own it). So--that was an hour I shan't regain. But I got to see the quaint neighborhood of Portage Park. Very old-world. Kind of like Lincoln Square, without the yuppification.

"Rudolph" closes today, and as much fun as it's been, I can't say I'll be sorry to see it end this time! I'm quite weary of Santa now--he's odious. Our Joans gig last night at Jackhammer went well. I had a few friends and neighbors in attendance and they throroughly enjoyed it. We have a rehearsal in an hour, then "Rudolph," then set strike, then a Joans show tomorrow night in Michigan.

Hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays

I'll be off-blog for the next several days, so Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone in advance. After tomorrow's "Rudolph" performance, I'm headed down to beautiful Peoria, IL to visit the family...

After tonight's performance, I had a quick drink across the street at Joey's with castmate Robert Bouwman of Corn Productions, who plays Sam the Snowman and his friend Sara, who's teaching acting right now in Iowa and is in town visiting. (Turns out she was also the director of Corn Productions' marvelous production of "The Bad Seed," in which Robert played Rhoda to hilarious perfection. The sight of him with a stack of about 10 peanut butter sandwiches was one I'll not soon forget!) Then, back over to the theatre to catch "Bare Naked Lads," featuring our own Rudolph, Corey Mills. Yes, he was naked. Yes, all the cast members were, except for the girl. And yes, Corey is definitely one of two great reasons to catch this show if you get a chance (the other is John Cardone, who does a hilarious turn as a "has-been-who-never-was" alcoholic, politically-incorrect chanteuse--rolling all over the stage while never dropping or spilling from her martini glass). They are wonderful to look at and listen to. Catch it if you can!

So tomorrow, I head back to Peoria to see my mom and the family. I bought the last of my presents tonight (a few Deep Purple CDs for my dad which I found at Groovin' High, a collector's music shop on Belmont), and finished wrapping and packing my car when I got home.

Although mom's apartment is officially open until the end of the month, my aunt tells me that they've gotten everything moved I called ahead and booked a room at the Super 8 through Wednesday (I come back Thursday afternoon). Somehow, I just couldn't face being in an empty apartment knowing that it's not ours for much longer...(also, I got a smoking room at the Super 8, which I couldn't get at mom's place!) Since it's so close to her apartment and the nursing home anyway (literally around the corner), it's perfectly located and the rooms are reasonable...

Today I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Stephen in the children's show "Lyle, Lyle Crocodile" at Lifeline Theatre. I'd never been in the space before (surprising, as it's literally across the street from my house), but it's really charming, and the set design was brilliant. Each cast member plays several roles (except for the titular Lyle) and their performances were marvelous. Such fun to watch. Since it was a children's show, I fully expected all the little rugrats to be on their worst entitled-urban-brat obnoxious behavior, but they were very respectful during the performance and really seemed to enjoy themselves. I know I did--and I'm not even a kid! And, probably out of relief for their children's good behavior, the parents had fun too! Afterwards, I came home and finished baking my cakes (lemon with amaretto-orange glaze and slivered almonds--one for the nursing home and one for Aunt Fay's house) and wrapping the presents (I bought "light" this year--no apologies)...

So now, I'm all prepared for whatever Christmas brings...this is the first one I've actually been apprehensive about, under the circumstances...but I'm determined to make it as happy as I can for Mom...thank God for supportive relatives.\

Have a great holiday, all! I'll be back on Thursday night...

"Rudolph" runs one more weekend! Get tickets now...I understand that Saturday is already sold out, but there are still tickets available for Friday and Sunday.

Also, after Saturday night's performance, The Joans are playing at the Flesh Hungry Dog show at Jackhammer. This month's show is called "Christmas With The Crawfords." We'll be playing with The Pussy Pirates. Show starts at 8:00, $8 cover. 6406 N. Clark Street (at Devon).

Friday, December 21, 2007

The "Seven Deadly" Survey

I was tagged by Stephen from Are Your There Blog? It's Me Stephen. This should be interesting--I've never really though about these questions (for a protracted period of time, anyway), so this'll be sort of "fumbling in the dark" (just like my sex life--THERE! I beat ya to it! :-)), but let's give it a whirl...

1. If you could kill someone (or injure them egregiously) who would it be and why? Bonus points for ‘how’.

I tend to steer clear of questions like this, usually. I believe too much that what we wish on others comes back to us--"what goes around, comes around" and all that.

I am karma's bitch.

However, if it's possible to injure someone egregiously without leaving a mark on them (and don't suggest a bag of oranges, I've tried that), I'm all over it. I don't worry so much about karma in that case--one can be injured egregiously and survive. Believe me, I know.

Who would it be? I honestly can't say anymore...all the people from back home that I used to hate when I was younger have passed into the mists of nostalgia now, and when I DO come across them--at a reunion, church social or book-burning--I actually feel quite kindly towards them. Lame answer, I know. Sorry!

2. You have been given 25 Million dollars, and you have to spend it all (no donations to charity or investing). What do you spend it on?

I'd have to go with Stephen's answer first off, and say property. I'd buy a nice-sized townhome in Andersonville (on Ashland, NOT Clark, to keep the traffic noise down), but not TOO big. Property taxes would otherwise soon eat that $25 million right up. I'd also buy a house for myself down in my hometown so that I could go visit whenever I want and not worry about inconveniencing anyone or being at the mercy of Super 8.

I'd also get myself a nice dependable new car. I tend to be pretty frugal with those, too, since I hate paying lots of insurance. My dream car du jour is the Scion xB.

It's short enough to fit in any parking space and the back seat folds up and gives plenty of room to fit the drums--without the cramming and swearing usually endured in getting them into my Cavalier.

I'd still have money left over, so I'd scout out places in Europe--especially the Alpine region--I love me some snow-covered mountains!

3. You have the opportunity to steal anything in the world without getting caught. What is it and why?

Like, Stephen, I too would choose a painting. But mine's BEEN stolen a few times, so I don't have much hope of not getting caught. I've always been fascinated with Edvard Munch's "The Scream."
I loved the swirling brush technique, and the red sky. (I read somewhere recently that the red sky was NOT symbolic. At the time it was painted in the 1890s, the sky in Norway WOULD have appeared red because of the eruption of Krakatoa.)

4. You have the opportunity to pawn off one facet of your life to someone else forever. What is it and why?

My weight issues. Dear God, when they start as young as mine did (7 years), they really become part of you. You begin to identify with it so much that you almost can't imagine life without it and you begin to sabotage yourself in order to preserve "the devil you know." The trouble with that is, it's still the goddamned devil. And then you just end up fighting it your whole life. Add catastrophic family events, an overindulgence in alcohol and stir. You can see the results.

Maybe I wouldn't pawn this off on someone else. Unless I met them at a book-burning...

5. If you could have sex with anyone (or anything) throughout the history of the world without repercussions, who or what would it be and why?

Oh, Lord--where, oh where would I start?? I like Stephen's choice of Sean Connery. Oh yes indeedy. My big crush on him started not with the Bond films, but with the re-release of Darby O'Gill And The Little People. (My town theatre went through a phase in the mid- to late-70s where they showed a lot of animated Disney re-releases, too. What a perfect way to spend Sunday afternoon!)

I'd also pick Van Johnson. I just always thought he was the CUTEST fucker.

And Gregory Peck.

Wow. Just...WOW.

6. Describe the time in your life when you were the most bitterly jealous.

THE time?? Only one?? I'll have to pass on that one...there's too much to choose from.

7. If you could have free, no-death, GOOD plastic surgery on anything and everything that you want, what would you alter and why?

This is probably TMI, but as the weight comes off, I will at some point most likely end up getting bracheoplasty (taking the excess skin from the upper arms--at my age, the skin just don't snap back like it used to). But I won't do it until they find a way not to leave a scar from the upper arm to the elbow. (That sort of defeats the whole purpose of cosmetic surgery, doesn't it?) You may scoff, but there are several burn patients in Santa Monica who would be grateful for the skin. I can apologize to them later for the stretch marks.

I can't think of anyone I want to be my bitch on this one. The ones I would normally pick picked ME, and I understand there are no backsies on this. (Besides, they've already answered the questions!)

Happy Friday all!

Come see Rudolph!!

Even Though "The Birds" Have Flown...'s nice to have a little remembrance of it. Here's a musical number, "Impossible," sung by Cheryl Snodgrass as Mrs. Bundy (the old lesbian ornithologist). Check out her voice!

This was shot and edited by our friend Richard Bluestein.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

As Wrong As Sin on Sunday...

Sometimes, all you can do is sit slackjawed and watch the train wreck unfold...

(Why is it we can never find rotten tomatoes when we need them?)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another Passing...

I was stunned to read this today. Although I shouldn't have been, considering the rough life he led--he lasted longer than most people would have in his situation! I certainly had no great admiration for him, but that was mostly because of the way he treated his wife (we pretty much only had her side of it, but the fact that she had to have her nose and jaw surgically fixed at one point pretty much says it all).

To give him his due, though, he was a musical genius and there would have been no Tina Turner--at least as we've known her--if it weren't for Ike. With her talent, she certainly would have gone places, but the unique blend of circumstances that shaped her life and her career from the late 70s onwards were largely due to him. I'm not in any way excusing, or trying to excuse, his behavior (as if that would be for me to do anyway), but in the end it worked out the best for her. As strange as it sounds to say, would she have felt the need to move to England if it hadn't been for the way he had her blackballed here? Would she have met and worked with Rod Stewart? David Bowie? Played the Acid Queen in "Tommy?" (Yes, I know that was the year before she left Ike, but the writing was on the wall even then.) Would she have had the creative impetus to start over all by herself as she did? When she came back, she came back hard. And she did it all by herself, from the ground up, and showed everybody what it was all about. And all this while raising four kids.

So in a strange way, Ike Turner gave us Tina Turner as a gift twice. And the second time, he never even knew he did it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer, Week 2

We finally have some reviews! So far, this one's my favorite.

It brings a tear of gladness to my eye to be designated a "true sleaze."

The Volunteer Bitch (or, I Don't Have Anything Else to Write About Today)

I've seen this little survey (I refuse to call it a "meme"--"meme," to me, is one of those new made-up words that some kid from the popular clique made up and forced everyone to use--I hope he's like all the other popular kids in high school and goes bald and sells insurance, cheats on his wife and she takes him to the cleaners. Where was I? Oh yeah, the meme) on several different blogs lately and although nobody's "tagged" me as their "bitch" (you couldn't sell ME for a pack of cigarettes--they're too expensive), I'll go ahead and answer them anyway...

1. When you were born, how much did you weigh?

About 7 1/2 pounds. Which is really weird, because I was about seven weeks overdue.

2. What's your sugar poison?

It's a seasonal thing--it changes with the time of year. For instance, right now, those Archway holiday sugar cookies, shaped like bells, trees and stars? Those are REAL good to me right about now. Also, any kind of cookie that has almond frosting. That's Christmas to me. Dee-liteful!

3. If you had to choose between meat and cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose? Then be specific.

I can only have one? Not the other? I'll have to go with the meat. I can substitute the cheese with something else, but I can't live without at least some chicken once in a while.

4. What, is your opinion, is the worst song ever?

It's quite a toss-up. But I'm going to have to go with "Run Joey Run" by David Geddes. It was from the 70s--'nuff said. Close runner-up is "Billy Don't Be A Hero" by Bo Donaldson. Christ, I grew to hate that song when I was six. (The other one I grew to hate when I was seven. Because that's when it came out.)

5. Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?

I had several that I really liked, in different phases of my life. In first grade, it was Mrs. Barrett--she was really tall and pretty and looked sort of like Lynda Carter (even though I didn't know who that was at the time, and that version of Wonder Woman wouldn't even be out for two more years). Then, in sixth grade it was Mrs. Lasco--she was short-tempered and a screamer, but she reminded me of Carole King and she played the guitar. And I just loved those "earth mother" types back then. In high school, it was Miss Barr--she was my English teacher and I always liked English best. Also Mr. Shaffer, because he was the band director, and I loved music.

6. What personal activity, when performed in public, bothers you the most?

Cell phone shouting--without a doubt. Everyone has answered this, but it's my pet-fucking-peeve. People always have those goddamned things glued to their ears, as if they CAN'T pass a single second without talking to their girlfriend, partner, BFF, whatever. How sick and co-dependent is that? Try living in the world around you--AROUND YOU (*Aaron makes circling motion in the air to demonstrate*). Oh, and by the way, if you stand still while you're talking and I'm walking behind you on the street, I WILL knock your ass down. Sorry. Got places to go, things to do. Even if you don't.

7. Ok, there's a $50 bill lying on the ground. You pick it up. Dumbfounded by your incredible luck, what do you selfishly purchase?

I run to Marshall's and buy two ties, a new button down long sleeve dress-shirt and some new underwear and socks (I'm a practical shopper, not a whimsical one, sadly. Yeah, my life is exciting).

8. Do you have a recurring nightmare? If so, explain.

I've had the whole "I'm falling" thing, but that's usually just before I drop off to sleep. My dreams tend to be strange ones where a certain problem I'm having disappears. I have a few hours of peace before I wake up and realize the problem's still there AND I'm nuts.

9. Name one place on Earth you've never been, but vow to visit at least once.


10. You notice that question #9 wasn't really a question. You feel smart for catching such a small detail. What else can you do really well that reminds you how smart you are?

Actually, I didn't catch that detail. In much the same way as the self-appointed "cool kids" get to make up words like "meme," they can also phrase questions without using the interrogative voice. They get to make up new rules. Reality TV told them so.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Amazing Mary Jane Meatballs...

The only problem is, you can't stop eating them. The more you eat, the more you want...!

"She Has a Certain--ZEST For Living..."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Still Dancing Along The Party Line...

President Bush is still convinced that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons...given a crazy guy like Ahmadinejad, it certainly makes sense, but when his own intelligence report shows that they abandoned the nuke program in 2003, he should have enough sense to accept their findings. Otherwise, why did he commission them in the first place? What does that say about his ability to select staff for important tasks? Guess he's only good at hiring when the first line on an applicant's resume is "Arabian horse breeder" or "Daddy says hi."

But never say the Administration can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit: Condi Rice is quoted as saying that the President's "transparency" in releasing this report demonstrates his commitment to democracy...and she hopes that the people of Iran will someday live in democracy, too.

Yeah, I hope the same thing for the U.S., too--clearly, we'll have to wait until this naked emperor drags his crank back to Hooterville. And how much does this "transparency" mean if the Prez then turns around and denigrates the report? That's not transparency, that's an attempt to discredit something you disagree with--and this administration's been doing a lot of that over the last seven years.

Show us something new, please....NEXT!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Carrying Old Grudges In A Suitcase--Full of Unmarked Bills

Sheldon Saltman wants a piece of Evel Knievel's estate--a big piece. Seems that Evel broke his arm with a baseball bat in 1977 because he was angry about a book Saltman had written about him. Salty sued and won $12.5 million. However, Knievel apparently never paid up and now Salty wants the full amount plus interest.

Evel should have really paid up back then. Maintaining a spoiled person's lifestyle so that they don't have to work anymore? Cost a lot less back then than it does now, what with inflation and all...

I think I love this quote best, where he describes hearing about Knievel's death:

"My first thought was that I do hope the poor man is finally at peace."

Yes, I could tell by my SECOND-FAVORITE quote:

"We are going hot and heavy after his estate."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Large Openings And Other Delights

Today is a slap-dash day for me--lots to catch up on at work, plus I'm feeling a little under the weather--but I have a few minutes to kill before I call my mom again (I called a while ago and she asked me to call back in an hour, because she's playing bingo right now), so I'll just give a quick digest of this weekend's happenin's:

Friday night we opened Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer at the Bailiwick. We had a great opening night crowd, and they were in the mood to laugh! Saturday night, they were more subdued (due in part, I'm sure, to the hideous weather), but we still had a good turnout. Yesterday's audience was surprisingly big and lively for a matinee audience--they got every joke and even a few we didn't know we'd made! The cast of the show is really great, too. Special thanks to Robert "Sam the Snowman" Bouwman for letting me use his white greasepaint on my eyebrows and beard. I promise I'm getting my own this week! (I should be grateful that I still HAVE to use anything in my hair to make it look grey. The beard is already turning on its own--I almost don't need anything.)

Also on Friday night, we had a getting-to-know-each-other social for Season of Concern. It was the 20th anniversary of the first World AIDS Day, and we all introduced ourselves and talked about what drew us to the organization. Everyone there was really passionate about the organization's goals and mission, and it was really inspiring to be around other passionate people. I'm trying to come up with a project/program that benefits both the performing arts community in Chicago and also teenage artists. (Our workplace is devoted to a "communities and children" message and this would be an ideal way to benefit both, while I do something I love. Now, if I could just get some inspiration...ideas?) "Rudolph" has been making good collections in benefit of SOC, too. Thanks to our audiences for their generosity!

Saturday night, we attended Hell In A Handbag's first Camp Midnight movie showing of "Xanadu" at the Music Box Theatre. Despite the long lines of nerds waiting for an autograph from Crispin Glover (who, I have to say, looked remarkably refreshed and composed even when we emerged at nearly 2:30AM), it was a fun time, and we had a great crowd. Dick O'Day hosted and some of our lovely Handbaggers were on hand to perform "muse" duty. (There are photos, but they turned out rather dark--I need to see if I can brighten them up a little before I post them.) Also attending were Stephen, the two Tims, Phillip, and BC, who was doing hair and makeup for the muses. We had scads of fun yelling lines at the screen and singing (or in my case, howling) along with the songs. (I was punch-drunk after too much Santa and too many beers--live with it.) I never saw "Xanadu" when I was a kid (although I had the soundtrack and wore it out from repeated playing)--and now I'm sort of glad. Even as a 12-year-old, I couldn't have kept a straight face! ONJ complained that much of the script was written as it was being filmed, and it really showed. The art direction, however, was great for its time...albeit dated.

Last night, I was at a friend's house and we watched "Hairspray" in its entirety. I won't say anything bad about John Travolta ever again. Ever. I think he probably took the movie because it was a chance to dance again without the rigors of being a lead dancer, such as in "Saturday Night Fever," or "Stayin' Alive." But that was basically his start--being a dancer--and there aren't too many roles that allow a 53-year-old actor to have a dance number anymore. I give him kudos for taking such a leap to play the part. (His Edna is somehow more pathetic than Divine's--somehow, you KNEW that Divine's Edna was going to whup ass--John's is more awkward and downtrodden, and somehow that makes it all the more endearing.) Also, I love Queen Latifah as Motormouth Maybelle and Seaweed is even hotter than the one in the original Waters film. However, I woke up with "Miss Baltimore Crabs" stuck in my head this morning, and that simply won't do. No, it won't...

More later....