Archive | Bonkers RSS feed for this section

Cinderella Re-write

13 Feb

And now for some more sharing of my homework!  Last week during my (super-fun, seriously – I cannot shut up about it) writing class at The Second City, one of our homework assignments was generated by us each choosing a well-known fairy tale and suggesting 3 peripheral characters that might have been involved but weren’t mentioned in the original story (ex. the 3 little pigs’ neighbor).  Then the class voted on which character they’d like to hear more from, and we each wrote a monologue from the perspective of that character.

I chose Cinderella.  The three characters I pitched were:

  • Cinderella’s living grandmother (why wasn’t C living with her?!)
  • The wicked stepmother’s boyfriend
  • Cinderella’s feminist best friend

My class voted overwhelmingly to hear more from the perspective of the wicked stepmother’s boyfriend (side note of sadness – the class voted overwhelmingly to hear from male characters in 7 out of 8 instances.  Sigh.  Rage.  Mandate to be part of fixing this).

Anyway, below is what I came up with.  I was trying to do a few things here in addition to just completing the assignment:

  • Give the character a specific voice that wasn’t my own (so here I tried to create a white, late 20s, washed-up frat boy).
  • Transform some aspect of the story
  • Crack some jokes that are specific to the story.
  • Write something with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Push some aspect of my own agenda/point of view

Again, admittedly not the greatest thing ever, but I think I’m learning how to do some stuff (and no matter what, I’m having so much fun in a space where I am not in charge of managing whining – my teacher does that).  So here-a we go:

 

I mean, I knew she wasn’t, like, a good person.  So, you know, I’m-a be straight about that.  But you get to be a certain age, and you’re still cleaning moats, and like, whatever, a man does what he’s gotta do.  And for me, bro, that was, like, I gotta do Karen.  You probably know her as Cinderella’s stepmother, but to me, she’s just, like, a nasty cougar with a dead rich husband that I bagged on the job to get at that cushy life.  I’m not bitter – it’s not so bad.

Now that you’re asking me though, actually Cinderella and I have some stuff in common.  I don’t want to ruin the fairy tale or whatever for you, but, like, I know a fellow hustler when I see one.  We’re both just doing what we do to keep our meal tickets happy and off our backs (in my case like, for seriously because that hag is into some weird dirty shit.  (shiver))  Life pushed us into a corner and we’re, like, scrapping like whoa to work it.  Bob and weave, baby.

She had the short end of the stick, though if I’m being real. Like, I know it’s the 17th century and everyone is all, like, “equality” and shit, but I mean, I still know on the real that stuff is easier for me because I’m-a dude.  I mean, I was basically all “buy me a fucking lute” and Karen was all (low gravely voice) “oh, here’s your lute, baby.”  But the Prince – there’s no way he would be cool with that.  Cinderella had to play it smart, er, dumb, er, fuck man, even just talking about it, –  that shit’s complex!  Cinderella was all like (wispy, space-y, girlish voice) “I’m shy, oh, my shoe fell off and I can see it, and like, I have time to longingly make sexy eyes at you but I don’t have time to bend over for my shoe, because I’m late for my pumpkin car – it has limited magic, oh, oh”  Like I don’t even understand the reasons behind her weird-ass decisions, but whatever – that girl knew exactly what she was doing.  Tough as fucking nails – wearing that insane dress that was covered in mouse poop.

She did it though – bagged her a comfortable life.  In a different, like, circumstance or whatever, we could have really been something maybe – two star-crossed hustlers selling fake tonics on a cart or whatever….  Cinderella, wherever you are, I wanna say that I hope that prince is gone a lot, and that you get some time to yourself to just, like, read magazines, or eat breast cancer research yogurt, or just, like, do whatever regular girls like to do.  And Cinderella, more than anything, I hope you don’t have to do weird sex stuff with your lute.

 

For next week, I pitched several sketches and the one that was chosen is about a rebellious Christian fundamentalist daughter trying to talk her liberal agnostic dad into throwing her a purity ball for her 16th birthday.  I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Have a great week!

Hard At Work

25 Oct

This is what I decided to do while Ida was napping today.  I’d say that I’m not proud of my behavior, but that would be a lie.  Also, you’re reading Megan’s awesome reporting on Chicago Muckrakers, right?  Okay.  Just checking.

*Hint – you’re going to want to hit up the “comments” section for my special contribution to the world.

The Scariest Halloween Ever

13 Sep

This evening, Nathan and I were discussing our plans for Halloween.  For some reason, I feel very excited about Halloween this year.  I attribute this to two key factors (in this order):  1.  My saved archives of Martha Stewart’s annual October edition of Living, and 2.  Ida and her debate among pine cone, bee, or bat as her selected halloween costume theme (she chose bat in the end).  Anyway, I have decided to go apeshit over Halloween this year (read:  I have used post-its to denote the crafts/recipes/suggested merrymaking that I plan to enact from Ms. Stewart’s catalogue, purchased $8 worth of second-hand decorations at The Brown Elephant, and……. that’s it).  It’s going to be rad.

This brings us to the matter of grown-up Halloween costumes.  As an adult, I’ve never really gotten into Halloween.  I can’t remember the last time I really dressed up (I usually just throw on some dance costume and go as a……….. dancer).  I think being a performer makes the whole thing kind-of less special.  Plus, I wear crazy clothing on a regular basis for fun already.  In discussing my plans with Nathan, I asked if he would be dressing in costume.  This began a lengthy brainstorming session.  If you’ve ever had a similar conversation with Nathan, you know that he is not interested in generating actual plausible ideas, but is instead engrossed in rapidly amassing a list of things that there is no way he’ll be, but that he finds hilarious (see Baby Name Debates of 2009 for reference – examples:  Bathsheba, Medusa, and Roxsis which I’m pretty sure he made up.  I really hope so.  No one should be named Roxsis).  It was in the middle of this fray that I suggested Aladdin.

We both cracked up for some time.  And then things got real.  Really, scarily real.

N:  “I’ll get a small rug, we’ve got a small rug that I can use, right?  In the basement?  Anyway, I’ll get the rug and I’ll stiffen it somehow.  Something light for sure.  Then I’ll cut a hole in the middle of the rug.  I’ll make paper mache legs in a cross-legged-pretzel-sitting position.  Those will go on top of the rug.  Then I’ll wear black pants on the bottom and an open purple vest on top.  Wait.  What does Aladdin wear?  Wait.  No.  I’ll make the legs out of nylons.  I’ll leave the waist on, and stuff the legs and pin them in the position on top of the rug and then I’ll pull the rug up around my waist, and I’ll make a harness and straps, and I’ll be in the middle.  That way I can wear them like a belt and I’ll wear the rug underneath.  I think I’m going to wear tight black pants underneath (ed. note:  ???).  And I’ll roll-step (ed. note:  yes, he brought marching band into this) around so it looks like I’m floating.  NO!  I’LL ROLLERBLADE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Other fragments:

“I’ll make a paper mache monkey for my shoulder.”

“I need to learn all of the dialogue so that all day, I can speak in only Aladdin lines.”  Ed. note:  I hope this also includes songs.

“I know exactly how I’m going to do this.”

“I wonder if I can wear my costume to work……..”

I think he’s going to do it.  I think my husband, who is also the father of my child, will be Aladdin for Halloween this year.  I think he intends to be Aladdin at his place of business.  I think something really incredible is about to happen.  I’m afraid, but I kind-of like it – very Halloween.

Faker

11 Jun

First of all, I want you to know that “Faker” is an incredible modern dance/performance piece by my favorite contemporary choreographer, Morgan Thorson.  This story isn’t nearly as cool as her piece.  You should prepare yourself for the letdown (and you should also check out Thorson’s amazing work).

I’ve alluded to the fact that I’ve worked a lot of shitty jobs.  A. LOT.  Short of slaughterhousing and factory work, I have accumulated a pretty impressive roster of terrible work experiences.  Administrative robot for Meryl-Streep-as-Anna-Wintour?  Check.  Waitress?  Check.  Barista?  Check.  Chief executive of cleaning (what I really hope was) children’s poop off of the bathroom walls?  Check.  “Something’s missing” you might be thinking to yourself.  You’re correct.  I haven’t yet mentioned retail.

One summer, I decided that since I had a light teaching schedule at the dance studio and few administrative responsibilities, I should get a part-time job to make money beyond my wildest dreams.  Attracted as I am to bad ideas and general destruction of the world around me, I naturally applied at the newly opened Old Navy in town.  I’m a tremendous phony, so the interview was a breeze.  Did you know that I am passionate about folding t-shirts?  That I am very interested in learning more about selling tankinis to coeds?  Okay, well, you can’t see my smiley face right now (except for Megan, who I know is picturing exactly how I look when I’m pro-lying), but rest assured, you’d hire me.  I’m great at getting the job but not so good at navigating the part where I quit or get fired several months later when it becomes clear to all parties that “this is not a good fit.”

Anyway, a couple of months in to my exciting career in retail, it started to feel like my brain was melting when I was at work.  One day, three things happened that caused the melted material upstairs to harden and snap, setting into motion a series of events in my imagination and culminating in my quitting and stealing my name tag (which is now a magnet on my refrigerator currently holding up an anti-planned parenthood propaganda pamphlet which Nate brought me as a present – I collect them.  More on this later, perhaps).

Thing one:  I was assigned to “snag O.N.C.s”.  Obviously, this is terrible.  In my experience, in a retail environment, anything denoted by an acronym is bad news.  “O.N.C.s” stand for “Old Navy Cards” and that day, my assigned task was to stand directly in the path of customers as they entered the store and ask them if they would like to sign up for the exclusive, exciting and infinitely rewarding Old Navy Credit Card.  Also?  I was covered in 30 stickers proclaiming the glamour of this opportunity (the manager gathered employees and invited them to “sticker me” – I was kind-of thinking I was being initiated into some kind of involuntary sorority – having only participated in the Philosophy Honors Fraternity in college, I obviously had no prior experience to work with here – we just mostly ate pie and stroked our beards.  That is no kind of euphemism).  After my bosses and coworkers majorly freaked me out and crossed boundaries both personal and societal, I was stationed at my post.

Apart from the “stickering” this probably doesn’t sound so bad.  But the thing is (there is always a thing), I was tasked with asking each customer three times if they would like a shitty credit card.  Let it be known that “no” does not mean “no” at Old Navy.  From what I could gather, according to Old Navy, a customer’s “no” was their way of indicating that they didn’t understand the truly remarkable offer that was before them – to clarify, my job was to reiterate the perks of the Old Navy card in a new and somehow more enticing way – making me sound like I was just dense, friendly, and in love with the sound of my own voice.  Obviously, this was pretty challenging work because the Old Navy credit card is a credit card and not anything anyone wants to get involved with.  This bullshit and my role in advancing it made me pretty upset, but nowhere near as upset as I felt when I saw how often it worked.  I was feeling pretty blue about the general state of the world.  Making generalizations about the universe from the vantage point of Old Navy is not recommended.

These blues were in no way helped by the fact that I worked the closing shift the night before and had a very disheartening experience during the hour after the store is closed to customers, but the employees are still mandatorily working.  Once all of the necessary tasks had been completed, each employee was given a “job” to do for the duration of her/his shift.  Mine, I kid you not, was to “count how many pink things there are in the store.”  So you can see why I was not feeling alive with the pulse of human being-ness.  I just kept wondering why we couldn’t just go home once all of the work was done.  This?  Right here?  Is why I have a terribly tough time working for really anyone, but especially for corporations.  My brain is just not able to get on board with counting the number of pink things, and will find other ways to occupy itself and it’s vessel….. Uh oh….

This brings us to part three.  A plot began to occur to me.  I thought about how all I really wanted to do was get the hell out of Old Navy at any given time.  This led me to thinking about what kinds of things I could do that would allow me to leave

  • (a) immediately
  • (b) without having to explain anything to anyone
  • (c) with my supervisor’s blessing
  • (d) with a flourish

Let me say here and now, that if I ever “pass out” somewhere that you happen to be, I probably faked it (with the notable exceptions of that time I danced to “Livin on a Prayer” at that outdoor wedding when it was 104 degrees and the time I blacked out at Hancock Fabrics when I was pregnant – those times were real).  Passing out seems like the easiest way to get out of a jam.  See?  This is why I’m no good at stuff, because I really believe that sentence to be true.

I conducted a survey of the various locations in Old Navy and determined that the t-shirt station in “denim” was the optimal place to “fass out” (just replace the first letter with an “f” and it’s the fake version of that thing).  I practiced fassing out in my apartment the night before.  Shout out here to Sam Williams, who taught me how to fall down believably but without hurting myself for my 7th grade dance performance to Thriller.  The arts are vitally important.  Anyway, I decided that I would move my walkie-talkie to the other pocket because I didn’t want to break it.  I’m a faker, but I’m not cavalier.  I thought I’d pull a stack of t-shirts down with me (see above letter d – flourish) and then remain still on the floor covered in the tee shirts until someone found me.

It became the thing I did at work.  Well, one of the things.  I would also sit and eat a granola bar in the bathroom from time to time.  I would decide “this is the moment!”  I’d make my way over to the t-shirt station, I’d nonchalantly move my “walkie” (ugh) to the other pocket.  I’d do a quick check to make sure someone would see me gracefully (yet believably) swoon to the floor.  I’d causally put my arm around a stack of shirts.  My heart would race…

And then I’d walk away.  I’d finish my shift.  I’d get in my car.  I’d go home.

I can’t say why I never did it.  It certainly sounds like something I’d do.  I ended up quitting a week or so after I started the fass out fantasy when my supervisor told me I couldn’t have the night of my best friend’s rehearsal dinner off.  Because my contribution to the important work at Old Navy was so vital.  I stole my name tag, and have since brought it with me on several shopping trips to Old Navy, thinking that I might like to infiltrate the ranks of that ‘el ole’ (Corky Sinclair?  No?) once more.  I never use it though…

I guess more than anything, I just like the possibility.

Easter Inspirations

21 Apr

Remember college?  Man, I sure do.  I loved college.  College was my favorite (except for right now, which is also my favorite).  I found out that I wasn’t stupid!  Readers who spent their youths perfecting dazzling jazz dance routines and singing soprano can understand what this revelation meant to me, and why it came as such a surprise.  Well, a more accurate description might be that I discovered that I was arm’s length from this particular kind of smart with the ability to generate pensive looks and a tolerance for silence that made up the difference.  In other words, I am one hell of a faker, which is almost better if you want to know the truth (turns out that jazz dancing and singing soprano have paid off after all).  Less burdensome.   I quit singing seriously.  I underlined.  I highlighted.  I spent a lot of time sitting still and wondering if anyone was looking at me.  I wrote furiously scribbled essays on both Old and New Testaments of The Holy Bible in cursive (because one of my religion profs. was apparently a member of The Church of Cursive Penmanship – seriously, I’ve not experienced such zeal since).  Speaking of religion and college, I remembered a college story while I was making dinner tonight and since it made me laugh out loud and splash daal on my shirt, I thought you might enjoy it too.

I was fortunate enough to take lots of fun and interesting classes while I was diddling around in the world of higher education, but a stand out is definitely a religion class I took on the topic of Adam and Eve.  This class was taught by a very cool and hip professor and was populated by several of my friends, two ex-boyfriends (Hey!  I was a GIRL in the philosophy department!  What do you want from me?), and my future spouse.  Good times all around.  Plus, you know, lots of interesting discussions and assignments and stuff.

One member of our class was a stalwart college archetype – the stoner/thinker/bathrobe-as-outerwear-trendsetter.  Sam.  I had a few classes with Sam and always found him to be a delight.  He made some particularly show-stopping/train-wreck arguments during a small seminar of the works of David Hume.  I seem to remember something about zombies…  Sam had a strict “no reading, no writing” policy when it came to his college education.  He also had a flexible understanding of “attendance.”

Like marshmallow peeps, or light red kidney beans – nobody was ever clear on Sam’s function or purpose, but that didn’t seem like the point anyway.  One day we were discussing the origins of the names “Adam” and “Eve” and we were asked to speculate (after some instruction on the language, history, and yada yada) as to what significance these names might suggest.  No doubt hyped up on talk of linguistic origins and the deep meaning of it all (and, I’m pretty sure, aided by some fantastic substances), Sam suggested that the name “Adam” was probably a reference to – and I remember this so precisely – “man’s infinite smallness.  Like, you know, atoms?”  Sam was so pleased.  His mind working at a mean clip, he was putting all of the pieces together.

I’m sure you’ve had this opportunity at least once, but I’m here to recommend that you should always relish it when it comes along.  It’s not often that you get to see a professional person deal with madness on this level, and it’s especially rare to get this sort of action in a public forum (such as a large class).  I find that I can learn almost everything I care to know about a person if I’m lucky enough to witness them in confrontation with bat-shit-craziness like this.  So many things to say.  Like, maybe that the words “Adam” and “atom” probably aren’t as similar sounding in hebrew.  Or that atoms weren’t so much understood in the author’s time and so the relationship, even just conceptually, is probably a non-starter.  Or that you’re wearing a bathrobe to a planned engagement for christsakes.

I don’t respect a person who talks right away.  If they have a plan in place to deal with this sort of thing, I feel uneasy about what else they might be incubating upstairs.  I like what my professor did.  He waited for a respectful time – letting the class enjoy the possibility of this radical and hilarious idea – letting Sam experience the flawless feeling of having an idea and knowing that it is awesome.  Then he just said, without any meanness or despair, “I don’t…………… no/know.”  And then he shut it down and took Sam to school utilizing a satisfying combination of the socratic method and naked sarcasm.

I always wondered what he was thinking in the space between “don’t” and “no/know.”  I still think and wonder about which no/know he meant.  Sam, as you may have suspected, was completely undeterred by this lack of confirmation for his theory, and made it clear that he was pretty sure he was right about all of this.  Sam’s chops were bust-resistant and the more he thought about it, the more evidence he discovered to support his theory.  We were not privy to this information, but that was largely irrelevant as it had become clear that we were participating only insofar as witnesses.

While this story cracks me up, it also inspires me.  What must it feel like to go through life like Sam did/does?  Sure at the instant you form a thought that it’s right – that it’s perfect – so perfect in fact that no amount of reasoned criticism can remind you that you’re not an expert.  Free from the feeling that you have no right to trust your ideas.  In my life as a dance improviser, this is always the lofty (and sometimes seemingly impossible) goal that I aspire to.  The ability to always say “yes.”  The suspension of judgement.  The willingness to go, totally alone, into new space.  It’s more than just saying “who cares?”  It’s the forgetting that there is even a “who” in the first place.  It’s ordering something that’s not on the menu with full confidence that it will arrive steaming hot before you.  It’s very Easter-y in a way.

So here’s to Sam, and Adam and Eve, and to the luxury of a deeply pleasurable education followed by a degenerate life in the arts.  Cheers.

Raindrops on Roses and Blah Blah Blah

4 Mar

That’s right!  It’s time to share our favorite things!  Here, I’ll go first.  I can’t remember how I was introduced to this gem, but it remains one of the very best, most hilarious things I’ve ever seen on the interwebs.

A genus named Brad Neely wrote and recorded this amazing audio designed to accompany the film Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  There is a great story behind this work, and you can read all about it here.  I’ve watched this masterpiece all the way through at least a half-dozen times, pretty much always because I NEEDED to show it to someone who I thought would love it.  And now, I NEED to show you.  I think you’ll love it.

I can’t recommend watching the whole thing strongly enough, but here are a couple of clips – a preview if you will:

 

I’d run right into hell and back

20 Feb

So at this point, I’m either going to have to do some fancy substitutions, or violate the confidentiality agreement that Maxwell had me read over and sign after the yelling and disclosure of imaginary film school portions of the interview.  It’s just too good.  I’m going to throw caution to the wind here on the off-chance that Maxwell is too busy interviewing other unsuspecting innocents to prosecute.  Also – can we all just take a moment and celebrate the fact that a man with a barely lucid mental state had a sheaf of confidentiality agreements that were mimeographed?  Yes, you read that right – MIMEOGRAPHED.  I’ve thought about this particular detail almost constantly since I escaped my interview ended, and I have come to the conclusion that he must have a mimeograph machine in his place of residence.  I mean, you can’t just breeze into Kinko’s and ask to have something duplicated via mimeograph.  Although, I do think that the Vietnamese place that I used to frequent down the street from our old apartment had one….. Maybe….. I’m not sure what that thing was and frankly, just getting my copies made was sort-of challenging, so I never enquired.

So, on to the part where Maxwell cried.  In sharing more with me about the concept for his project, a truly amazing plot line was revealed.  At one point, Maxwell was telling me that the characters in the show would all go to hell.  He said that this would take place at a Jr. High dance.  He spent a good deal of time right after that reveal cracking up at his own funny (“Get it?  They’re in hell!  And it’s Jr. High!  And it’s a DANCE!!!!!!!!! AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!  It’s so funny!”).  Then the camera pans over to a long line of chairs.  Panning…….panning……panning.  Man!  Such a long line of chairs!  BAM!  Out of nowhere, Anne Frank!  Sitting in a chair!  In hell!  I’m just going to wait for a minute to let that sink in.

Anne Frank.  In hell.

So, just blowing by that awesome choice and it’s inherent comedic perfection, we pan some more and come upon Adolf Hitler in repose.  Naturally.  Now, reading this secondhand account is one thing, but imagine that someone is telling you this story live and in person.  Imagine the kind of cheek-biting, sip-taking, fake-coughing manuevers that you would have to employ to just get through this – to just make it to the end without laughing in poor Maxwell’s face!  I am available for hire, ladies and gentleman, and am obviously capable of some pretty incredible feats.  Skills:  determination, kindness, on-demand coughing.  The list goes on.

Anyway, there sit Hitler and Anne, and slowly, Anne looks over at Hitler, gets up, and offers him her hand (so as to ask him to dance).  This is the moment my friends.  A single tear escapes Maxwell’s eye, slides poetically down his cheek and it’s the beginning of the end.  The tears just keep coming.  And coming.  Through Maxwell’s emotional monsoon, he wales that Hitler and Anne are slow dancing to November Rain.  He’s sobbing “It’s so funny!  But ultimately it’s about forgiveness.  At the root of everything we do – it’s forgiveness.”

Maxwell doesn’t succumb to the social pressure.  He does not buy the hype.  He feels no shame bawling at a cafe while softly singing November Rain to himself/at me.  I was floored, obviously.  I mean, it’s not often that you see someone completely lose control in public, and to see it on so many levels?  For such a sustained duration?  I knew I was having a really remarkable experience.  One that probably (are you there God?  It’s me, Liz) won’t come around but once in a lifetime.  Well, actually in my case, I’ve had several experiences like this – remind me to tell you about the time I transcribed a letter for a non-english-speaker that ended up being a letter to his/her lover regarding a gender reassignment surgery and the potential future of the relationship going forward.  So many gestures.

There is so much more to tell.  So many more tiny details that made this experience truly mind-boggling.  There is the story of how Maxwell got hit by a taxi while riding his bike and got “a very generous settlement”.  There is the incredible tale of his completely unmedicated spinal surgery (“the doctors didn’t want to do it – they were like:  It’s never been done!  but I convinced them.  I mean, look at me!  I can take it, you know?”).  There was the part where he asked me to guess his daily pain level on a scale of 1-10.  Guess what?  It’s a 10.  He yelled, he cried, he made a lot of shit up.  And at the end of the day, I’m pretty much in the same boat.  So here’s to Maxwell – the best, most insane interview in my experience to date.

I didn’t take the job (he did offer me a position, but it was never made entirely clear to me what I would be doing), but I think it was a totally worthwhile adventure.  That – right there – is my life in a nutshell:  A series of totally worthwhile adventures that never lead to gainful employment.  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand scene.