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It’s (almost the) Weekend Update! With Liz Joynt Sandberg!

13 Apr

Dream on, lady.

So anyway, here’s what’s been keeping me from posting around here lately:

I went on my first improvisation audition!  It was, in a word, terrifying.  Now, you need to keep in mind that I have absolutely no training whatsoever in comedy improvisation.  I’m in the writing program at Second City, and have never taken a performance class.  Ever.  I do a fair amount of performing and improvising for my art shenanigans, but I very rarely talk during these doings.  Improv comedy is mostly talking (says the lady who doesn’t really know what improv comedy is).  What possessed me?  It’s hard to say.  But I stared at an audition posted by a member of a company I swoon for (Improvised Shakespeare at iO – thou should dost get thee there at thy earliest convenience – thank me later)  for weeks and finally decided “screw it, I’m going to find out what this is all about.”  I applied, they said “uh, ok we guess…” And you know what?  It was pretty fun!  Or at least it was after I stopped feeling like I needed to explode diarrhea, and throw up and re-apply chapstick and change my outfit and get a new face.  I think the secret to succeeding in this endeavor is that I am completely fearless about looking dumb.  I’m a 6-foot-tall dancer, you know?  I spend a lot of my time looking ridiculous.  I didn’t get that job, but…

I DID get cast in a Second City Training Center show!  What the?!  Riding the high of my fearlessness, when I got an email about an audition for a show my writing teacher is directing I said “heck yes!  I’ll sign up for this!  Another chance to learn!”  A pal took some new headshots for me on the weekend, I printed ’em out along with what I will optimistically call a James-Franco-esque resume, and off I went, to goof around in a room full of other aspiring goofs.  We introduced ourselves, did some improvised two-person scenes (inspired by a one-word directive – mine was “dragon!”), read a script, did some more improvisation, and sang a little ditty of our choice (I sang the intro to Someone to Watch Over Me.  I may be an idiot, but I am classy, goddamnit!).  What I really want to know is if the kid who sang Wu-tang Clan was also cast. The next day, I was waiting for a redline train downtown with Ida after seeing a friend dance at the library.  There was a man singing Gershwin standards so loud and beautiful I thought my heart would explode when I heard snatches of a voicemail:  “offer… part… our show… you… great… yes… call me back.”   I felt like a million bucks.  I know it’s not really a big deal, but it’s kind-of huge to me.  The show runs for 5 weeks in one of the small theaters at The Second City in June and July.  My mom is so proud.

What else… keeping a 2-and-a-half year old alive.  Which, if you’ve never had the pleasure, is no fucking joke.  Ida is at turns delightful and kind, and at other times does things like (true story) comes into the kitchen while I’m cooking at the stove, punches me in the butthole as hard as she can and exclaims “POW!  There’s a hole right there” and runs away.   She’s got several imaginary friends (e-ah and grandfather – whose grandfather is still unclear), and a job at a store called Be-Toe that sells lollipops and meatballs and has, from what I can gather, limited hours.  She has developed an alter-ego, “Rope-ie” who is to blame for any misbehavior.  He/she looks exactly like Ida, so you can understand our confusion at times.  She was given a baby Rapunzel complete with flowing hair and a very frilly dress for her 2nd birthday and she has since named him/her (fluctuating) Frank.  I love that kid.  She makes me nuts.

In the mix has also been  some dance performing, some shows I helped curate around town, some other fun adventures with Ida, and many evenings starting into the fridge and thinking “why is there never stuff to make dinner?”


file under “didn’t make the fridge”

12 Jan

Oh the shame of wanting so badly to be good at something and being so…. badly at it.  See?  See what I mean?

As I’m sure you know (since, let’s face it, you’re here and are tracking the minutiae of my life in this season for whatever reason), I’m a student in the writing program at The Second City.  Big whup, right?  Right.  I completely agree – as I have made clear previously, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Oh, er, in case The Secret is reading, I’M AWESOME!  I CAN DO IT!  I’M VISUALIZING SO MUCH SWEET STUFF!  I’M WEARING GOLD UNDERPANTS  (unfortunately yes, that is the first idea my brain generated from the prompt “life of luxury and success.”  I think we’re finding some clues here, guys).  So, with that out of the way, do you want to see what I made at my first class?  I thought so.

I’m not sure how proprietary the teaching techniques are in this course, so I’m not going to go into detail about how our instructor got us to this point.  But know that it was AWESOME.  It kind-of blew my mind.  Based on week 1 alone, I recommend that if you have some disposable income/a sugar-daddy, you should definitely take a class.  Anyway, I’m sure I can share that using two different but similar writing exercises, we created two characters and then took 5 minutes to write a 6 line dialogue between the two of them.

This is what I wrote:

Celia:  I guess more than anything, I just don’t understand why you care so much about me saying “thank you” every time the server refreshes my water.

Shannon:  Celia, it’s because I’m trying very hard to help you become a more palatable person.

Celia:  You’re saying “palatable” to me, at La Senorita.

Shannon:  Honey, if you say “thank you” at La Senorita, I promise I won’t say another goddamn word.

Celia:  Nice, mom.

Shannon:  Celia, please.  Just do this for me and stop being so awful.

Good?  Nope.  Something I’m proud of?  Not especially (other than that I did, in fact, sit there and write it despite the fact that I could feel it sucking as it happened).  But I’m starting something.  I’m learning.  And goddamnit, I’m going to get better.  I’ve been trying to write dialogue all week during snatches of free time and let me tell you, it’s hard, yo!  Another way to say that is “I’m bad at it!” but I’m trying hard to be optimistic and positive – suppressing all of my instincts is another new years resolution that I’m half-heartedly working on.

I also engaged in this dialogue today with Jack, an internet troll who likes to terrorize my friend’s (very excellent) blog.  As loyal readers may recall, Jack and I go way back.  My pal is a badass journalist, and an all-around swell human being, so I feel a sense of duty to try and irritate Jack, since he’s such a prolific dick.  I usually have a rule against meanness in my writing/jokes (I like how this implies that I write enough to necessitate policies), but Jack provides a justified exception. Again, probably not my finest work, but you know what?  They can’t all be winners.  Or productive.

If you want, any of y’all that are in Chicago (or have road-trip fever) can come see me dance to a text that I wrote that I actually do think is kind-of a winner here.

Rehearsal Today

5 Jan

This morning, Ida accompanied me to rehearsal.  I am working on a piece that I presented for the first time a few months ago called Best Wishes.  It will be presented in a couple of weeks as part of Rhino Fest in the Food and Performance Cabaret.  I get to do it on 4 consecutive Mondays in January and February.  As I planned my rehearsal schedule for this show, I decided that it would be loads easier if I just took Ida with me.  I like to work early in the mornings, often, and for short periods of time, so coordinating childcare is nightmarish.  I also decided that Ida would probably enjoy these outings, and would probably be a very nicely behaved companion.  I congratulated myself on making a well-reasoned decision, and for not putting off the planning until the last possible minute.  Being organized feels so satisfying.

We woke, I gave Ida breakfast and got her ready, and then I rushed around trying to get myself ready (abandoning breakfast and a semi-urgent shower in the fray) and gathering our supplies.  I was feeling harried and irritated that I hadn’t just arranged for someone to look after her.  I felt the injustice of living with a two-year-old’s sense of time and urgency.

  • Use toilet:  5 minutes
  • Put on shoes, coat, gloves, hat:  2 minutes
  • Negotiate and broker willing participation in the above activities:  45 + minutes

We got out the back door, me having just eaten a fist-full of cold spaghetti for fortification, and briskly hustled down the alley and to the train.  I swiped my transit card, ushered Ida through the turnstile, yanked on the stroller-handle to fold it up, and dragged us and our baggage up the two flights of stairs to the platform.  We just made it onto the train that pulled in as we rushed up the last few steps and instantly knew who in that train car has done this before (look of solidarity) and who has/will not (irritation upon getting banged in the shin with stroller – not that I really blame them, but what exactly do they suggest I do?).  We sat.  We exhaled.  We watched as neighborhoods came and went.  Ida and I both love riding the train.

We arrived and walked to the rehearsal space.  More stairs.  More schlep.  I tried to focus my attention on being grateful that my strong body could move and haul with relative ease.  It helped.

Ida was nervous to enter the rehearsal space.  She’d been there before to see me perform, but something about it made her scared this morning.  She took my hand and was, like always, very brave.  We set up our stuff.  I explained again what we were doing here.  “Mama is going to do some dance work now.  We can share this space for the next hour – you can play with your toys, eat your snacks, or you can do some dance work if you want to.  Please don’t touch the stereo or my laptop.  And please don’t yell.  There are going to be sometimes this morning when I won’t answer you if you ask me a question or need help – I’ll be able to do it in a few minutes, but sometimes I am going to be busy even though I’m right here.”

I started warming up.  Ida watched for a few minutes and then joined me – walking around the room, rolling her head, moving her arms.  It was beautiful and so much fun.  For the rest of the rehearsal, she would alternate between snacking/playing in a spot in the folding chairs set up in the back, and dancing with/near me.  It was peaceful, and easy, and even better than I imagined it.  It worked.  More than that, I loved it.  I really like being alone, but sometimes being alone in rehearsal feels endless in the bad way – empty and cold.  Ida provided warmth and accountability.  She would know if I just sat there staring off into space rather than dancing like I said I would.

Later in the hour, it was time for me to do a run-through of the piece I’m working on.  I explained this to Ida and asked if she might like to draw.  She said yes.  I started and had a (predictably) rough and frustrating go of it – this piece has been sitting unattended for a long time and I knew it would be tough to get back in, having had this same experience the last time I worked on it.  “This is why I’m rehearsing” I reminded myself.  Although, that makes having to perform shitty run-throughs only marginally more palatable.  Improvisation is no joke – the idea of “making it up as you go” seems so care-free and easy, and it can be, but, in my experience, it only becomes easy and fun after you’ve worked really hard at it – turning the possibilities inside and out, tearing out seams, adjusting, calibrating feelings/presence – basically just being tenaciously bad at it until you start being good.  Showing up.  Laying your self out for it.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these things, and slogging through this run-through that just will not end, and doesn’t seem to ever be going well, and suddenly Ida is standing in front of me.  She’s holding up a granola bar and she says “Please open this Mama.”  I know what I said, and I’m a big believer in consistency, but it was exactly what I needed, so I did it selfishly.  My own recorded voice was reading this overly emotional thing about baking bread and then my daughter was right there and I was already so far tangled in the weeds, so I reached out and opened the granola bar.  I did it improvisationally.  I did it with my full attention.  Ida took a bite and then offered me some.  I took it and the moment deepened and became even more perfect.  And I finished the run-through – breezed through it – coming to the end feeling grateful to have been in it rather than grateful that it was over.  More than anything, I finished feeling grateful for Ida.

In a minute after I finished, and before I needed to start hustling Ida into her winter gear and out the door so that the next artist could get into the space on time, I wrote this about our morning:


Ida with me at rehearsal.  She walks in circles, rolling her head – just like i walk in circles, rolling my head.  We’re warming up.  This is a huge success.  She is engaged, interested, and free – sometimes participating as a mover with me, sometimes as a watcher.  She claps.  I realize, at one point, that I’m sick of working on this, and she offers me a peeled clementine – the first time she’s done this without help.  I start the run-through – the thing we – I – came here to do.  She watches for a while, and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  She’s entered the dance space, left her folding chair surrounded with notebook, pencils, charlie brown and her dustpan and broom.  She is bringing me a granola bar as I hear my own voice recite a slick/sweet thing about baking bread.  And all of a sudden, a shift -we share the granola bar, performing, eating, blurring even more the lines between us, our work, our roles.  Wednesday morning.  We are learning.


3 Jan

And now, without further delay (since I have already been a few days late in sharing this breaking news) I present my 2012 New Years Resolution in two parts:

1.  Become ever more obnoxious

2.  Find new ways to communicate these developments

You might be thinking “Wow.  These are lofty goals!  Liz is already so obnoxious!  And with an ample (if poorly spelled) vocabulary!  And a blog for sporadic communication to tens of readers!  What could she possibly do to satisfy not just one, but BOTH of these ambitions?”

Well, dear readers, prepare for a truly elegant solution:  I have recently matriculated as a student in (so far) good standing at The Second City!  I have a shiny new notebook, and a Pilot V-ball pen and I’m already planning my back to school outfit.  Okay, well, no.  That’s not totally true.  But “notebook” and “good pen” are listed along with tampons, batteries, and a candy thermometer on a list entitled “Go to Target Today, You Lazy Jerk.”  These items are, in case you were wondering, for separate projects.

I have signed up for Writing 1!  And as I’m sure you can gather from all of the exclaiming, I’m feeling pretty excited.  I attended New Student Orientation on Saturday, where I met the former (current?) dungeon masters, and the over-40 pre-discovered starlets who will be my fellows.  I think we might safely be able to add comedy to the list of things we don’t want to see being made (this is not including the prerequisite messed up childhood part, which, if the Lifetime network has taught us anything, is pretty compelling if a little disturbing viewing material).  I mostly sat there deciding which camp I fall under, and eating up all of the high-energy gospel of The Second City.  I think I might be joining a cult.  But still, excitement!

We were gently-t0-ardently urged to abandon all hopes of professional success in comedy (done, and done!).  I can’t quite figure out why they did this, though, considering that this sort of talk is like a speed-protein shake to kids who grew up with any sort of theater experience.  Can other formerly fabulous theater/dance/music kids back me up here?  Is this specific to my time under various dance masochists/motivators?  In any case, for those of you not familiar with this feeling it goes like this:

Respected Mentor With Boundary Issues:  “You’re never going to Make It, ______!  Dancers/musicians/actors/carneys are a dime-a-dozen.  You will work as hard as you possibly can for your whole life and still never Make It.  Wanting it is not enough.  Not by a long shot.  I’m telling you, if there is any other thing that could possibly make you even fractionally as happy as this thing, do that thing instead.”  (there might also be some kind of unpleasantness like “You’re going to end up a whore/waitress just like your mother!  Slap!  Now get back to shelving those cans!” – though nothing like that ever happened to me.  My mom taught Jr. High).  “Making It” is never, ever, under any circumstances, defined.

Aspiring Whatever:  no words.  We watch as steely resolve begins to radiate from ______’s eye-holes.  We know, for certain, that ____ is going to become a (insert whatever thing she wants to become against-all-odds here) or die trying.  We’re excited to watch either way.  This is usually followed by a montage, which, just to slide a feminist nudge in here, is usually fitness themed when a lady is the protagonist.  Hmm……  Even when Elle Woods wanted to become a lawyer, her first instinct was to hit the treadmill to the dulcet tones of a pop-licious song.  I digress.  The point is, the hopelessness only seems to make the aspiring grow stronger in her resolve while also making her feel so goddamn special because she KNOWS she’s going to Make It (still unclear, probably even to her) while so many others aren’t!  She’s high as a kite!  She’s mere steps from taking over the world!

So, basically, I sat in a room with a couple hundred people, many of whom were visibly experiencing the above summarized surge of mania.  I had a little bit of a contact-high, but otherwise, managed to maintain my usual pessimistic, 30-year-old-directionless-mother-of-a-two-year-old outlook.  I did, however, get pretty excited about the prospect of 3 weekly hours of adult (?) time (NOT including the bus/train ride!  Score!) where I’ll get to work on something I’m interested in.  I’ll be sure to share any especially great happenings along the way.


Best Wishes – Advice About Food

26 Oct

I was recently invited to participate in one of the Chicago dance community’s very coolest events, Poonie’s Cabaret.  Poonie’s is a dance and performance variety show curated by the truly hip Jyl Ferhenkamp and held at one of my favorite venues for dance, Links Hall.  As an audience member, I love Poonie’s because I get to see lots of really great artists in an evening, often showing new works, works in progress and pieces that are amazing, but that don’t fit within the rigid format of an evening-length dance concert.  I also get to see up and coming artists who might not otherwise have the resources to produce their own work.   Jyl is up-to-the-minute on top of what’s happening in the dance scene and is a really gifted curator.  And all of this is in addition to saying the word “Poonie’s” over and over again.

I have been attending Poonie’s performances since before I lived in Chicago and remember very distinctly thinking to myself “Man.  If I ever got invited to participate in Poonie’s, I’d really feel like I was part of things here (cue cloying day-dreamy look).”

Anyway, here’s what I made.  The piece is called Best Wishes – it’s improvised movement (me), improvised music (Matthew Joynt and Nathan Sandberg), and a text I wrote that is advice about food culled from my considerable musings on the subject.  All of the advice is directly related to things I have witnessed/experienced/imagined.  Nathan generously donated his time and skillz to record my god-awful voice reading the “advice” and I sometimes spoke them aloud live along with the pre-recorded audio.  I hope I get the chance to re-work this piece and perform it again sometime as I had a really great time working on it and performing it.


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.

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.