Friday, July 31, 2009

It's Baaaaack...Or "Good Advice is Certain to be Ignored. And so is Mine!"

DEAR ABBY: I would like to make my father's final years happy ones. The problem is, Dad is a bigot. He is loud, opinionated and verbally abusive to people. Visiting him is stressful because I know the conversation will, at some point, turn to how terrible a certain person, country or political persuasion is. He is ill-informed yet convinced he is right.

My father is not willing to forgive anyone who has hurt him. He thrives on anger and hate. It saddens me that his last years are rooted in unhappiness and negativity. I don't know how to create lasting, loving memories for Dad or me. Any suggestions would be appreciated.



My suggestion is likely to land you in prison, but what the hell, here goes:

I don’t know how many “final years” your father has left, but it sounds to me like he’s devoted all his previous ones to making other people miserable. He has now come to what we refer to as his “uppance.” He has no choice but to endure the rest of the ride, so to speak, which rather puts you in the driver’s seat, now, doesn’t it?

So if I were you, I’d forget trying to make him “happy,” since it’s obvious he refuses to be. You should concentrate instead on keeping yourself and everyone else sane. Up his dosage and either keep him catatonic or “accidentally” take him peacefully and mercifully out of the world. Your call.

DEAR ELLIE: My husband has become a cycling nut and he’s gone for hours every weekend. We have a three-year-old, so I’m left at home, when I’d like to have family time since we both work. He says the exercise is vital to his energy level and good spirits.

It’s true that he’s more helpful at home, but only after he eats and has a nap (or he’s exhausted), so that’s more time for me on my own. He’s also more interested in sex, which is fine for him, but I’m tired from being alone with our daughter most of the day.

I’m finding myself whining at him about the biking, the chores, everything. How do I handle this?



Awwww, look at him being all helpful after he’s had a li’l nappie and num-nums! See? See what a good boy he’s being?! When do you get your nappie, when you’re stuck at home babysitting by yourself while he’s off discovering his inner Lance Armstrong?

Tell him that it’s equally “vital” to his well-being that he make time to pitch in around the house when it suits you, not just him. That solo “Easy Rider” shit ended when he said “I do.”

If he resists, explain exactly what lack of compliance could mean to his newfound sex drive. Hope those cycling magazines have good centerfolds


DEAR ELLIE: My neighbour’s lawn is a disaster; she’s a widow so doing all the lawn-care herself may be too much work, or maybe she can’t afford a helper.

I’m a middle-aged man who’s recently separated, but staying in the house as my ex went back to her homeland.

I’m a very good gardener so it bothers me to have an unsightly lawn bordering mine. But is it inappropriate for me, living alone, to approach this woman (attractive, my age) about her lawn, and offer to care for it?



Yes, it would. Let me guess: you had one of those “mail order brides” that didn’t work out, hence the “ex who went back to her homeland.” And if this neighbor woman wasn’t so “attractive, about your age,” would you be so interested in taking on her lawncare yourself? Or would you just call the city and complain about her yard? Creep.

Here’s a news flash for you, buddy: she’s not going to suddenly swoon at the sight of you mowing her lawn without your shirt on. So you can forget that. If her yard bothers you so damn much, put up a higher fence.

DEAR AMY: Recently, my fiance, "Timothy," and I decided mutually and amicably that we were not right for each other. However, the date of the wedding was looming, and we had arranged and paid for it entirely on our own without assistance from relatives.

We decided to go ahead with the wedding despite our feelings toward each other, but we did not tell our families or friends how we felt because we want to keep our issues private.

A week later, we got the marriage annulled. My uncle, who gave us an expensive breadmaker as a wedding gift, became very irate when we annulled the marriage.

He left long and obscene messages on my phone and on Timothy's phone, saying he wants the breadmaker back. Timothy and I already divided the gifts between us, and he has the breadmaker and does not want to relinquish it.

We feel as though we threw an expensive party for our friends and families and, even though we are not together anymore, we deserve the gifts as reparation.

This is causing a lot of tension in my family. How can I defrost the chilly atmosphere the next time I see my uncle?



Try this: contract a fatal disease, then die. I guarantee that whenever the family gathers again, they’ll have only nice things to say about you. But since you’re no great loss, they’ll quickly rebound. I’ll bet your uncle will even let your former schmuck fiancé keep the breadmaker with no hard feelings.

Oh, by the way, one question: are you seriously this delusional??? Your issues ceased to be “private” when you invited your whole family to watch a fake ceremony. And the fact that you paid for it yourself “without any help from your relatives” does not entitle you to keep gifts given in the good faith that your marriage was a real one, unless you paid for those gifts yourselves, too. Since you didn’t, you should give them back.

Hopefully, you stay single for a long time. If you ever do manage to reel in some sucker decide to tie the knot again, do everyone a favor and elope.


Several years ago, I volunteered at an elementary school and became friendly with a mother and son who both taught there. My health has since deteriorated to the point where I am in a wheelchair. I left my volunteer job and the mother and son moved on.

In the eight years since we worked together, the mother has sent me jokes and prayers through e-mail, but seldom a personal message. I have not heard from the son in at least four years. Nothing at all until I received his wedding invitation. I sent my regrets, and a note saying I would send a gift when I was out of the hospital. That day, I was cleared for surgery, and I spent three days in a hospital and four weeks in a rehab facility.

While I was unable to get my e-mail, the mother of the groom sent me four e-mails reminding me to send her son "something to honor his special day." I then received a group e-mail with a few wedding pictures, so everyone she sent it to was able to read her message that I could finally get her son a gift, and how was surgery? I could also see that she had abased another recipient.

I finally wrote her that I'd had enough. They claim to be devout Christians, yet they are hounding me for a gift. I explained that being in a wheelchair, it is difficult to get out, and I was sorry I didn't go shopping.

Then her son took over. He ignored my physical limitations and went on and on about how he gave me two months and I should have had plenty of time to buy him something. I have not heard from the man in four years, and then I receive an invitation to his wedding. Do I owe him a gift?


They wouldn’t be able to do these awful things to you if you weren’t in that chair! (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

To answer your question, no, you do not owe him a gift. Even if you had mentioned getting him one earlier, I think his behavior since your illness has canceled out your obligation.

Furthermore, I wouldn’t respond to the son of a bitch (and I mean that literally) again. You should let the restraining order do the talking for you. These people sound nuts, and you should avoid any contact at all. I'm sure they have other things to keep them busy. After all, Halloween will be here before you know it, and I'm sure they have lots of razor blades to hide in apples or something.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

More Fun Than a Body Deserves (Especially THIS Body)...

This weekend, I got to see a bunch of great musical performers in two different shows---and genres.

Since I never do anything the right way round, I'll go in reverse chronological order...

This afternoon, I went to the Village Players Theatre in Oak Park to attend the 10th Annual Season of Concern benefit, where my friend Stephen, the Executive Director of SOC, was going to be performing. It was produced by his friend Karen Bronson (who was wearing a killer stylish pair of pink and white pumps!), and consisted of two sets of songs written by William Finn and Richard Rodgers. I always liked Richard Rodgers because of the "Sound of Music" and "South Pacific," and because his daughter Mary wrote the novel and screenplay for one of my favorite all-time Disney movies EVER, Freaky Friday (it started my lifelong crush on Jodie Foster--which is improbable for many reasons, I realize, but I wanted so bad to BE Annabel Andrews it wasn't funny. She lived near the ocean, got to play field hockey, AND her mom drove a cool red VW convertible!). William Finn I only knew because of the songs of his that we used to perform when I was in Chicago Gay Men's Chorus (most of them were from "Falsettos," although we did once perform "Sailing" from "A New Brain"). But the list of performers looked impressive, so I was excited to attend.

I'd never heard Karen or Stephen sing before, but I knew they were talented. I didn't realize HOW talented until I heard Stephen sing "Stupid Things I Would Not Do" (a Finn song). The sense of timing that's required to perform the song with all of its bits of shtick would reduce a lesser performer to a slobbering mess. But he handled it so smoothly and infused every word with its full humorous power.

Karen has a beautiful and smooth voice that's just a joy to listen to, and when she sang one of the last songs in the set "When The World Stopped Turning," it cut right through me. (It seems that Finn wrote it when his mother was dying, so it hit really close to home. Especially the last few lines, where "quietly one day in late May, the world stopped turning." My mother died in late May last year, so of course I thought the song was about me. Me, me ME!! Everything is about me.)

Everyone on the stage was marvelously talented, and they obviously loved the songs they sang, and it's impossible not to watch somebody do that and not love it right along with them. Of course, they made it easy...

And on Saturday, went to the Lincoln Street Festival to watch my friends and favorite local band, The Handcuffs. I first saw them when we played our first public gig as The Joans at The Flesh Hungry Dog Show in May 2007, and they were on the same bill. I was taken with their retro, 1960s mod look and their eclectic musical style. Singer Chloe F. Orwell is a petite powerhouse with a silky but strong voice, and can rock a psychedelic print dress and purple go-go boots like nobody else in the world. The drummer, Brad Elvis, has a musical pedigree that's longer than the Windsor line: a member of The Elvis Brothers during the 80s and early 90s, Big Hello in the late 90s (with Chloe) and is also the touring drummer for The Romantics. (Yes, the "Talking In Your Sleep" Romantics.) Guitar/keyboardist Ellis Clark (who plays both instruments during the same song at time) and bass player Emily Togni (who also has a great set of pipes) round out the ensemble. Their music has appeared in "Gossip Girl" (if you've heard the song "I Just Wanna Be Free Man," then you've heard them), "The Hills" and on Margaret Cho's VH1 reality show.

The weather was beautiful Saturday and they played a terrific set. They played a longer set than usual, which meant more fun for us! God was truly smiling on us this weekend--even the rain stayed away until we'd had our fun! And to top it off, I got great parking spots for both events--and I didn't even get a ticket for my expired meter on Saturday. (Granted, it was only 10 minutes over, but I've seen the meter maggots swoop in like vultures the second that flag goes it's always iffy.)

The Handcuffs will be playing again next Saturday (August 1) at Halsted Market Days at 2:00 PM. Anybody want to join me?

They'll also be playing with The Joans at our CD release party on Friday, September 4 at Schuba's. (Yes, it's a holiday weekend, but you can still leave town on Saturday and have plenty of fun! And if you buy our CD the night before, you'll have something to play in the car!) More details later...

Have a great week! (I still hope to have the Unwanted Advice column back on Friday.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

*Sigh* The Dreamy Ones Are Always Married, or Straight...

Southern tennessee Slayings

...or murderers.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Staying Grounded

Wow...I did absolutely nothing this weekend. No shows, no work, no projects, no obligations. Only socializing and hanging out without the obligation of making other people look good to my own detriment. Must do this more often!

I ran out of coffee Saturday morning, but since I have a shipment of Gevalia that I forgot to bring home from work (that's where I have it sent, since UPS may not leave it at my home if I'm not there), I didn't want to buy a whole pound at the store.

So I did something I haven't done since 2002--went to a coffee house. There is a place that's just around the corner from my house that opened about two years ago, and I'd never been in it before. Can you imagine??

This may not sound so unusual, but I reflected on it this weekend, and I realized just how far towards the dark side that I've strayed. The old "1990s" me would never have allowed a coffee house to go unexplored, especially if it was that close and there were any cute hip guys visible through the windows (this was back when I had no self-awareness and didn't seem to notice that I was neither cute nor hip--oh, how some days I mourn my lost innocence and the getting of wisdom!).

As the years ensued, I realized it was more cost-effective to make my coffee at home, where I can still have a occasional cigarette with it if I want to, and not have to try keeping a straight face when I see the "laptoppers"--those wireless users who don't seem to have access or batteries at home, and only seem able to function in certain public places where literary agents might drop by for a cuppa and peek over their shoulders, marveling at what they've written and offering them a literary contract on the spot. A sort of "That Girl" fantasy for the 21st century. Back in the 1990s, we just read books or locally-produced magazines.

But today, I wanted real coffee, not the instant stuff I had in the cupboard for emergencies, so after I did my grocery shopping at the neighborhood produce market, I stopped in across the street at the cute little corner coffee house that I'd never visited before to get a large cup of strong coffee and a scone. I've never seen cute guys coming in or out of there, but it's always smelled nice the few times I've passed by, so I figured something good must be inside. And I was craving some good joe and a pastry, so in I went.

Oh, the memories that came flooding back to me as I walked in the door! The smell of strong coffee and cinnamon, the intelligent-faced barista in her knit cap and her biodegradable fabrics, the framed pieces by local artists hanging on the walls, the tip jar that they split equally among the artists, and of course, the ubiquitous hipsters on their laptops (the only two people seated in the small room both had one open and were pounding away. This place must have hella-great wireless reception).

As I walked home, with my canvas reusable shopping bags, holding my cup of takeout coffee in its biodegradable-made-of-recycled-materials cup, I beheld the weekend sights I'd so often missed, since I normally walk down Glenwood and not Greenview: the young man in his backwards baseball cap, teaching his puppy to fetch; the husband and wife pushing the designer stroller that carried their future-schoolteacher's-nightmare of an indulged infant; two new condo buildings going up across the street from one another (because apparently, the developers bought the land and got the permits before the housing market tanked, and will only be able to hope now that they can sell the units at cost to out-of-town lawyers who will no doubt rent it for a large monthly profit); the young GUPpies walking home from brunch in groups; the young artistic types with their frizzy hair, earth-tone tanktops and unlaced Chuck Jackson shoes with the tongues flopping out (as though the shoes can't stand their own odor and are gasping for breath), walking their dogs. Yes, of course, the social common denominator of urban hipness: dogs, dogs, dogs. (Because to be socially acceptable, you have to have a dog. People will not talk to you if you do not have a dog, because that must mean that you don't love dogs, and they've all been to see that mediocre movie "Must Love Dogs," and decided that it was more than a clunky chick flick that Diane Lane and John Cusack did because they needed the money--it was a mantra, a way of life.)

And I realized: if only I hadn't become such a bitter and spiteful old man, I could belong!! Yes, I, too, could number myself among these glitterati, the shiny happy people! All I need are an enormous dog that I can scarcely control and a disinterested boyfriend! And I've already had the latter...several times, even!

Hmmmmm...perhaps it's time to revive my dream of becoming "mainstream" again.

Oh, screw that. I'd have to watch "Project Runway." And my life is full enough of egocentric drama queens who can't hold it together. Do I really want to bite THAT capsule every week?

Instant coffee, anyone?

(All kidding aside, I will be back to visit the coffee house--they have good scones! I can always order them "to go.")

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Maybe That Nun in Grade School Was Right--I Really AM The Most Evil Person on Earth. So Please Forgive Me For This...

Joan and Mike

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Pleeeeeaaasse God, Make it Stooooooooopppp!!!!


Friday, July 03, 2009

I'll Bet You Thought I Was Dead!!

Joans background

Well, sorry to disappoint you...I assure you, though, there was a good reason for my absence from this screen.

Well, on reflection, it's probably not THAT great a reason, but I'm sticking with it because it works for me.

So, when I last talked to you all, I was headed to Milwaukee to open the first night's Pridefest show with The Joans on June 12. I left work at 3:00 and got on the road--the wrong road, as luck would have it. I started out fine on I-90/94 West, but somehow when I got up past Skokie, I made a wrong turn (or rather, I kept going straight when I should have taken a fork in the road) and ended up going north on US 41.

A regular highway.

With stoplights.

And construction.

I stayed on 41 and joined back up to I-94 when I got just past the Wisconsin border. Needless to say, however, my dreams of getting to the festival park by 5:30 were shot to hell.

I got there around 6:30, though, and after hearing the directions to the free parking the event organizers had provided us (which were at least 3/4 mile away), said "fuck it" and just paid $10 to park in the lot across from the backstage area. (Please--I live in Chicago. $10 parking is almost free for me!)

The reason I'm telling you all this is that it's really the most interesting part of the whole evening. The gig went fine, we had a huge crowd (who were all there to see Cyndi Lauper, but so what? We had them for 40 minutes to ourselves!), and there was no tornado chasing off the stage this year, like we had last year. But we didn't get to meet Cyndi, we couldn't even stay in the backstage area or even the back lot once we were finished, and I was damned if I was going to drag my cymbal bag, pedal bag, knapsack and garment bag out to the audience area where everyone could trip over them, and then pick them up and drag them back out to the car at close to midnight. Plus, it was already getting late (9:30) and I was going to Peoria the day after the next, and had stuff I wanted to do, so I drove back to Chicago.

So on Sunday (June 14), I went down to my Aunt Fay and Uncle Jim's to spend the week helping them put on their new roof. Monday was pretty good--not too hot or humid, and we got a lot of the old roof scraped off the back of the house.


Vacation 2009 shitty 006

Tuesday it rained, so we couldn't get anything done. Wednesday was the first day of The Mighty Inferno (the first day over 90 degrees that I think we've had all year--and it came just in time, didn't it?), but we got more old roof scraped off and tarpaper put down in preparation for the shingles, which arrived at about 4:30. We unloaded the pallets onto the roof. (85 bundles of shingles at 80 pounds each--you do the math. We were tired.)

The next morning at 5:00am, I woke to hear a steady drone on the roof, and realized it was raining. Damn, I thought. We won't be able to work this morning until it passes over. Then I became aware of frantic activity outside my door. I heard small snatches of conversation--just a word here and there. I could make out the words "Jim," "bucket's overflowing," and "fuck!" I went to get up, turned out the bedroom light, and saw water dripping into the room, onto the outlet where our cell phones were charging. Those were unplugged immediately and I went out to try to help.

Vacation 2009 shitty 020

We had every towel in the house mopping the floors, plus two of my dirty shirts that hadn't gone in the laundry yet. We also had every bucket, pan and kettle set out to catch the water that was coming in.

We didn't catch all of it, of course.

What had happened was that, even though we'd tacked down the tar paper over the seam in the roof, the storm was so strong that it had torn it loose and blown heavy rain underneath it, so it was essentially raining inside the house.

About 7:30, my uncle and I drove into Peoria to buy some big tarps and Menard's. When we got there, we saw that their emergency generator lights were on, and they had water on THEIR floor in the back, too! It really was a hell of a storm.

Friday was clear in the morning. It was my birthday, so I said a special prayer that we'd have clear weather all day long. We did have nice weather all through the morning, and got a lot more done until about 4:00, when the storm came again. (I figure that was God's way of saying, "You made it to 41, even with your lousy habits--don't push it, lush.") So we tarped up the roof and came down.

And watched the rain come in the house again.

We climbed back onto the roof to see what the deal was and realized that because of the way we'd laid the tarps, the rain was running underneath one of them and back into the unfinished part, which was right over the seam in the roof. But it was too late to worry about it, so we went back down and emptied the buckets and waited for it to stop.

Saturday was sunny and bright. We got old roof removed from the whole front of the house, and then I was off to my Dad's for our get-together with my other aunt, my cousin Tonya, my foster-cousin Lana and her two girls. We had a really nice time (and I DID get some video of that, which I will post sometime next week, along with the small bit of Milwaukee video I took--all backstage stuff), and I went back to Fay and Jim's about 6:30, where they had just wrapped up for the day. Shingles were on the front part of the house and it was looking nice!


Apparently, Jim fell while he was on the roof and sprained his ankle, so he couldn't move around too fast. Once he got up and moved for a few steps, he did a little better, but he wasn't going on the roof again THAT day! (Fortunately, he didn't break it. The ankle, I mean...)

The next day was Sunday, the day I had to come home. It's always depressing leaving my family to come back, even though I love Chicago (most of the time, anyway). I'm glad I only live 2 1/2 hours from them, so I can go back whenever I want or need to...

Well, we didn't get the roof all the way finished while I was there, but the bad part (scraping the old roof off) was done, and Jim says shingling is much easier and faster (and it's true--to do an entire portion of a roof only takes a little over an hour). The insurance adjustor came out that following Monday (the 22nd) to look at the water damage from the leaks, so those repairs should be covered.

And I was just glad I was able to go and help them. After all they did for my mom when I couldn't be there to do it, and just because they're great folks, I was glad to do it. It wasn't "restful," but it gave me peace of mind being there and away from the office for a week. Does that make sense?

After I got back, it was time to pack and move our offices to a new building a few blocks south. So I've spent the last few weeks in that drama, too, but we've been in the new space since Monday and it's REALLY NICE. We're on the 43rd floor, too, so we have a hella-great view. We're off today in observance of Independence Day (since it falls on a day when we don't have work).

So, anyway, now I'm back. Sorry there's no fake advice column today, but you'll understand what with packing, moving, and roofing, I haven't had time to think of mean things to say to stupid people who ask for stupid advice.

Next week, though.


Happy Belated Birthday to the ever-fabulous Debbie Harry, who turned 64 yesterday.

Debbie 2006

(I swiped the photo from David Cerda's/aka Davy Joans' Flickr page. I hope he'll understand.)

And by the way, if you're in Chicago, you have to go see POSEIDON! An Upside-Down Musical, which our theatre company, Hell in a Handbag Productions, is mounting again after its initial, fabulously successful 2002 run. I've seen it twice now (managing box office on Thursdays) and it's really a gas! (Love that new Mike Rogo...and Ed Jones as the dippy Nonnie is just a hoot.)