January 30 - Moody's Breaks the Mood

This is the first day off I've had and will have in many weeks.

I laid on the couch.
I watched the Phil Spector episode of Dominick Dunne: Power, Privilege, & Justice. In it Mr. Dunne tells a great Phil Spector urinal story.

I did 30 lbs of laundry.
I retrieved my ATM card from the Mexican restaurant.
I worked on the Rush show.

In the evening, Lauren and I walked to Moody's Pub for burgers and beer and a fireplace.
Back home we played games and listened to records.

Much needed.

Verdict: Win

January 29 - Lowku

Single digit temperatures.
Anger everywhere.
All I did was contribute to it.
In a minivan.

Being "on" is overrated.
Smiling shouldn't be mandatory.
This isn't Trader Joe's.

A lone date at a Mexican restaurant.
Read a chapter of I'm Dying Up Here, a chronicle of the 70's stand up scene.
In it a guy commits suicide because he's not good enough to make it.

I have a dream about jumping off of building.

Verdict: Loss

January 28 - Portfolios & Putrid People

Getting paid for what I like to do puts things in perspective.
It makes the daily nuisances of delivery work seem silly.

Earlier this week I had a moment with K. Harris.
She works in the mailroom of Draft-FCB, an ad agency.
For years she's been salty and unpleasant.
When I arrived to deliver 3 portfolios, she was immediately annoyed that she had to put her phone conversation on hold.
"Who are those for?" she scowled.
My hands were full. I couldn't see the name tags.
Her desk was covered in papers.
"Draft," I answered.
She raised her voice.
I plopped them on her littered desk. One of them was embroidered with a woman's name.
"Kitty," I fake guessed.
We stared at each other with contempt.
Yes, I could have checked the name tags before I walked into that room.
But she has also been in that mailroom for years.
She knows how to read a name tag, too.
She's a big girl now.
I fumbled for the name tag and read the name.
I tossed my manifest on her desk for her to sign.
"Number 2, please."
She stared at me hard.
She wanted to punch me.
I wanted to punch her.
I'm all for equality.
"What. What's that look?" I probed.
"That's what I'm trying to figure out," she snapped back.
Whatever that means.
I decided to clear the air.
"You're always in a bad mood. Good luck with your life."

I let that moment upset me for a while until it vanished in the concentration and fun of Second City rehearsal.
But today I did not have the luxury of a Second City rehearsal.
Or Bitter Tears, or Nurse Novels, or Tijuana Hercules.
Today I was a delivery driver only.

This time I was delivering four portfolios to Cramer Krasselt, another ad agency.
I parked in a space in the loading dock.
While getting the portfolios together, the dock security guard walked over and motioned for me to move my car to another spot 20 feet over. This seemed silly and I made the mistake of rolling my eyes. He gave me the "Oh no you didn't" look. I prepared myself for the awesomeness I was about to endure.

I signed the delivery log and proceeded to the security office.
"How can I help you today, sir?"
I told him I was delivering the portfolios.
"Are you making a delivery or installing equipment?"
He eyed the portfolios suspiciously like a bad actor.
I laughed at his acting, and assured him that I was delivering the portfolios.
"I need to see an ID."
I gave him my driver's license.
"You signed the wrong sheet. I'm going to have to ask you to sign in on the correct sheet."
I did not bother to point out that every other messenger had also signed "the wrong sheet" and that nobody had signed "the correct sheet." Obviously we were well into his awesome game of trying to hold me up. I laughed and happily signed the sheet.
"Are you okay?"
I told him I was great.
"Now I need to see an ID."
I pointed to the ID I had already given him.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
I told him I could do this all day.
He held me up some more regarding which floor I was going to, and I laughed and laughed some more.
Once on the elevator I wondered what his life is lacking. He must be masking some sort of pain. I wanted to ask him on my way out. But I didn't. I just smiled at him with a pinch of homosexuality and he looked annoyed while returning my ID.

Unfortunately, the smiling and laughing ended there.
I let the incident fester in mind.
The day wore on.
I felt surrounded by anger in an ugly city of assholes.
And the day wore on.
I had these hateful thoughts:

* Just because you think you're hot doesn't mean you can drink your Starbucks in the middle of the fucking street, you female asshole.
* Your shitty asshole driving is gonna to make your rear view mirror Jesus vomit
* That FCB mailroom girl needs to taste her own blood in her mouth

It can get dark and wrong in the van sometimes.

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical will not run forever.
When it ends the daily nuisances of delivery work may seem daunting.

Verdict: Loss

January 27 - Driving, Biking, and "Taxi"

This week I've been working mornings at my delivery job.
I wish every day were a half day.
It's the perfect amount of time, ending before the cancer of misery can take hold.

Afternoons have been spent rehearsing the Rush show with the cast.
Evenings spent rehearsing the Rush songs with the band.

Band rehearsals at Second City are fun.
We work on the show songs and spontaneously play lots of silly covers in between.
Playing the "Angela (Theme from Taxi)" gave me more satisfaction than I thought it would.

Also, I've been riding my bike to and from Second City.
I find the bitter cold and nasty wind to be a sort of unspoken challenge.
In a perverse way, I prefer biking in horrid weather.

It gives me a misguided sense of victory.

Verdict: Win

January 26 - Ed Furman

Rush Limbaugh! The Musical had a dress rehearsal in front of an invited gaggle of Second City producers and college aged adults, as well as its writer, Ed Furman.

My first impression of Ed was in October of 1997, seeing him improvise with live farm animals in Donkey Improv III, a show he conceived at the Annoyance Theater. It was the first improv show I ever saw.
Later, when I was feeling my oats at Annoyance I saw him portray Slick, the character he originated in Co-Ed Prison Sluts. Ed also played bass in a loose weeknight show whose name escapes me. Around 1998 I struck up a conversation with him while he painted a Lichtenstein inspired mural on the box office wall. I don't remember the details of the conversation, other than it wasn't about fucking improv. And that he was cool to me.

The next year he was cast on The Second City mainstage. One night my sketch comedy group Teenage Sports Parade came to watch Ed in the big lights. After the second act he came into the house to invite us to do the improv set. I got to do terrible, weirdprov in front of tourists and taste mainstream failure firsthand with future Mad TV cast members and Conan writers.

One day Ed emailed me to write a spoofy commercial for a Second City video thing. I submitted a piece about divorce-over-the-phone and got paid $50. Other than writing a funny English paper for Brian Martin in 7th grade, it was the first money I made doing comedy.

A few years later I played drums for Second City corporate gigs, many with Eddie. We played some kind of convention center in Madison, a resort in Tampa with crocodiles in the man-made swamps and post Great White fire jugglers on the stage, and opened for a Beatles tribute band at Chicago's House of Blues.

For a few months Eddie hosted a variety show at Second City with Jim Zulevic. I got to play drums and enjoy the old school dressing rooms of Black Orchid Theater, complete with shoe shine chairs and vintage photos of Ray Charles. It was a good time.

Similarly, the dress rehearsal today went very well.

I've always associated good things with Ed Furman.
It's always a nice surprise to continue working with him.

Verdict: Win

January 25 - Chicago's Worthless Mayor

Last winter the driver's side mirror on my van got smashed while parked on my street.
It was a hit and run.
I live on a narrow street with lots of traffic.
It cost $250 to replace the mirror, taking five months to save up for it.
Since then I took a cue from the other cars on my street and began parking a little bit on the curb.

This morning the van received a ticket from Officer M. Stiff:

Due Now $60.00

Chicago's mayor is Mayor Daley.
He has been mayor for a long time.
Some people call him "Mayor For Life."
Other people call him a "corrupt, worthless, outdated ham sandwich."
Some people have referred to him as a "fat mountain of blood-soaked shit."
Other people have compared him to a "cabbie's cup full of Maple Syrup Urine Disease poured onto a partially aborted fetus abandoned in a Carson's Steakhouse grease trap."

But lots of people like him because they know someone that likes him.
Or they know someone who likes someone who knows someone, multiply by twelve.
And they don't know what else to do.
So they get a city job through their connection.
And they never do more than they have to.
And they never sweat.
And they turn into a fat ham sandwich with an irritating accent.
A grating, nasal accent that knows the answers to everything it needs to know.
And nothing more.

Recently Mayor Daley quickly and quietly sold the city's parking meters to a private company for 75 years.
He took a major source of revenue for the city and gave it away for a pittance.
Like a shit-encrusted asshole.
Some might say.

So to compensate for this loss in revenue, the city has assigned a large amount of its workers, or "simple, mouth-breathing organisms," to spend the day handing out pricey parking tickets for inconsequential infractions, sometimes referred to as "fucking bullshit."

The ticket I received today made for a miserable morning.

Now, I will not stoop so low as to call our flawed mayor a "brown paper sack oozing with the fresh santorum of an N-Word-using child molester."

Nor will I go so far as to refer to our possibly dishonest, probably corrupt leader as a "a collection of Nazi memorabilia drizzled with the death shits of 9/11 victims, used as porn, with the tears of tortured, endangered species employed as a lubricant to masturbate onto the iconic picture of Phan Thi Kim Phuc."

I will simply refer to him by his first name:

Here's to you, Mayor Fucking Daley!

Verdict: Loss

January 24 - Drum and Drumber and Drumbest

Doing lots of drumming lately.

Wednesday with Second City.
Thursday with Tijuana Hercules.
Friday with Second City.
Yesterday with Tijuana Hercules.
Today with Second City.
Tonight with The Nurse Novels.
Tomorrow with Second City...

Good thing I enjoy drumming.

Verdict: Win

January 23 - Recording with Tijuana Hercules, Recording For Sad On Vacation

Any day spent recording music is a win.

Today John and I laid down basic tracks for five new Tijuana Hercules songs.
We recorded in the meat packing district.
Next door to the studio I saw a large, grey industrial waste basket filled to the brim with freshly slaughtered cow heads.
Eyes, teeth, flesh. But no skin.

On a song called "Bitter Spinsters Club" I played brushes on a metal bowl with taut aluminum foil as a drum head. It sounded pretty rad. Lauren's suggestion.

Another song called for three separate tracks of tambourine. My right hip is purple from it. John wanted me to conjure the spirit of mailroom women at church.
God's Monday Bruises.

The tracks sounded great. I'm looking forward to recording more with John.

Later on at home Lauren and I recorded some comedy jingles for our friends in Sad On Vacation. They had a wizard bit that needed jingles.

Like I said earlier...

Verdict: Win

January 22 - Firkin Friday

Unpasteurized beer.
At the foofyish wine bar they sell it in firkins.
On an empty stomach it gets you furckin' loaded.

It was Conan's last night.
We were so moved that we passed out during Tom Hanks.
Good thing we DVR'ed it.
That way I could later appreciate the Neil Young vs. Lynryd Skynyrd nods to Conan vs. Leno, down to Will Ferrell wearing a Neil Young T-shirt during Conan and company's performance of "Freebird."

They say Ronnie Van Zandt was wearing a Neil Young T-shirt when he perished in the plane that ended Lynyrd Skynyrd. He wore Neil Young T-shirts on stage. Without irony.
Despite rumors to the contrary, Van Zandt and Young were friends and admired each other's work.

I suppose that is why Will Ferrell was not wearing a Jay Leno T-shirt.

Verdict: Win

January 21 - Funny Girls

Tonight I practiced with John from Tijuana Hercules. He had a guitar, and I had a snare, and used its case as a bass drum. We're going into the studio on Saturday to record basic tracks for an upcoming 7" and the next full length.

I admire John's loose approach to everything. Over some throwback Pepsi we tossed stories around like a Nerf boomerang, and played with the songs here and there. Most of the songs we had never played live.

The last time we played live was in Lafayette, Indiana around Thanksgiving. The crowd was a strange blend of college kids and their parents, both of whom wanted to get drunk. On stage, we gave away an Asian gonzo porno on VHS. Hoots and hollers followed. Then John attempted to give awaya DVD of Funny Girl starring Barbara Streisand. The hoots and hollers stopped. A lone woman, sounding like an unkissed frog with Vegas throat finally spoke.

"Go fuck yourself."

Since then, John has been trying to rid himself of that DVD to no avail. Oddly, Funny Girl has been sitting unseen on our DVR queue, gathering video cobwebs. So I decided to help John and surprise Lauren with a little giftie gift.

One woman's "go fuck yourself" is another woman's "I love you."

Verict: Win

January 20 - A Self-Absorbed Rodent, A Horse...Perspective

Between the horrors in Haiti, the endless bloodshed in the Middle East, and the cold, social civil war in this country manifesting itself through things like Team Conan and Team Leno, doing a daily blog about me and my silly life feels rodential.
The computer says I made that word up.

What I mean is:
Sometimes I feel like a dopey rodent with a tiny keyboard writing about how enormous cheese is to me.

So perspective and context and shit.

On the way to the Rush rehearsal I saw this sad, cold, dirty stable in the city.
Life is good.
I could be that horse.
Or that earthquake victim or suicide bombing victim.
Or that Team Leno member.
Verdict: Win

January 19 - Groggy Recollection Of A Day

I woke up.
It was dark.
Where was I?
A flurry of muffled cars shook my cradle.
I was on the floor of the van.
Its back window showed The Merchandise Mart staring down at me.
Okay, so I was downtown.
I looked at my cellphone.
Time to go home.

So what did I do today?
I took Lauren to her audition at Northwestern Hospital.
She had to pretend to be someone sick, like in the Seinfeld episode.
While waiting I practiced making Seinfeld music with my mouth.
Lauren then joined me for a run to beautiful Rosemont.
For a restroom visit we chose the Ogilvy Train Station.
Lauren had to wait because someone had OD'ed in the women's room.
Then I had a run to Deerfield.
Then a pick up in New Lenox.
Then I passed out in the back of the van.

At home I drank cheap white wine and worked on a new song called "Unbreakable Pocket Comb"

He kissed her
In the front seat
Hunched over like a vulture
She let him

Her seat belt
Isn't very neat
Tangled up in knots
On her shoulder
Sits his venom

Now she's driving herself home
When she notices his comb
An unbreakable pocket comb

Smoke signals
Off of the interstate
Whispering gently
She listens

"How long have you been in the Golden State?"
It sinks in

She drives through the foothills in a sedan
Her mind clogged with a man
A man she doesn't know
Or care to

So burn
Burn little pocket comb
Burn until he's gone
Burn into the wind

Verdict: Win

January 18 - Sunday II

The fog we experienced yesterday in Iowa had moseyed its way to Illinois, extending the feeling of Sunday into Monday.

I don't mind working on holidays. It's like improvising about working.

There's no hurry.
The roads are open.
There's usually special programming on the radio.

I brought an envelope to Elgin.
I brought an envelope to Oak Brook.
I got off early and taught an improv class at The Annoyance.

Now I'm having a beer.
Soon Lauren will be home.

Verdict: Win

January 17 - Less Fog, More Rock

Lauren and I woke up cozily in a trailer. It looks like a house, but people like to call it a trailer.

The Iowa air was thick with fog, the roads slick with ice.
We were a bit foggy as well, but not icy.
Through the fog we talked about the future, and how to make it less foggy. I resigned myself to pursuing journalism when the next lull in activity hits. And being okay with that.
By the time we reached home it had cleared up.

TJ (keyboards), Trey (bass) and I (percussion) enjoyed the first music rehearsal for the upcoming Rush Limbaugh musical at Second City. It looks to be a hoot, and one that's already getting some opposition from the devoted.

Then it was off to Nurse Novels practice. With a six pack we played the songs with a fresh, loose confidence. I feel it's coming together well. Looking forward to the first show with this new band.

Verdict: Win

January 16 - Chicago Lechon In An Iowa Trailer

For three days, Lauren and I have been preparing Cuban black beans and lechon asado, a tender Cuban pork dish. Since Wednesday we have toasted coriander, roasted whole cumin, chopped onions, minced garlic, minced peppers, cooked orange juice, squeezed limes, and massaged pork.

We drove the food plus ourselves to Iowa City, where my Uncle Jose lives. In my cousin Michelle's trailer my family celebrated Jose's birthday. My mom made guava empanadas and my uncle made tuna croquetas and chichachirritas. Lauren and I received many compliments on our dishes, and I was told that the black beans tasted just like my grandmother's.
I didn't know I could do that.

We drank margaritas and played dominoes, AC/DC Guitar Hero, Buzzword, and a game I did not enjoy called Fact or Crap? For a nightcap, Michelle, Lauren and I fell asleep on the couch while the original Friday the 13th blared on the flat screen TV.

Verdict: Win

January 15 - Nelson Algren Makes Being A Loser Okay

I yawned.
My brain took a look at the schedule coming up:

*Rush Limbaugh rehearsals
*Teaching at Annoyance
*Nurse Novels practice
*Bitter Tears practice
*Tijuana Hercules practice
*Tijuana Hercules recording
*Bitter Tears recording
*Nurse Novels recording
*Rush Limbaugh shows
*Nurse Novels shows
*Bitter Tears European Tour

...what else am I leaving out?
Oh yeah...

*Miserable delivery job - Daily

When am I going to pursue freelance writing? Journalism classes?

The insight I gained from Christy last night had become a hangover of defeatism.
Knowledge is power, but ignorance is bliss.
I yawned and got bummed out.

On the roads it was a koo koo fest. A woman cut me off on South Cicero only to slam on her brakes and scream or sing at me using her rear view mirror. This upset an obese pick up truck, who later cut me off on the Stevenson. Then he swerved into the angry or singing woman and attempted to run her off the road.
More similar party-style driving occurred throughout the day. It looked like fun so I joined in.
Yelling, honking, screaming and singing.
These words were used the most by me:


I realized that as long as music is my main thing, I would be using these words during most days.
I rubbed my eyes, yawned, and got more bummed out.
I felt like crying.

While waiting in the lobby of the Goldblatt building I noticed a gallery of Art Shay photographs of Nelson Algren. Circa 1940, Nelson rode his tank of a bike through the familiar near north alleys, worked on his typewritten manuscripts within earshot of a watering hole, and played poker with a drug dealer. He lived in an efficiency apartment. His hair was thinning.
It gave me hope.

So instead of crying, I lied down in the back of the van and took a two-hour nap, letting a journalism study period go to waste.

My hair isn't thinning yet.

Verdict: Loss

January 14 - Leads Out Of The Weeds In A Dead End

For everyone except assholes, November and December of last year were slow, lean, sullen months. Over here, delivery work could barely cover the cost of gas. For three consecutive pay periods I needed advances from my boss to make rent. Like many folks I could not afford to go out. When I went home, I stayed there. I made my own lunch. I sold back records. I sold my bike.
Wow, I even cut out drinking for a whole week!

The actual dead end of my dead end job was staring right at me. Kind of checking me out in a rapisty kind of way. Faced with this reality, for the first time in my adult life I considered going back to school. So I decided to pursue journalism: The Other Dying Industry!

For years I have been told that as a writer I have some talent, and a voice, and this sort of thing. In fact, last summer I freelanced for one of the few growing companies in the country. I had an opportunity for a full time position with benefits. However it conflicted with a tour of Europe with The Bitter Tears, and who would say no to touring Europe?
With more tours in the works, that opportunity has since vanished. So I thought freelance writing might enable me to do both.

I met with my friend Christy. She has been freelancing for ten years now. It is how she makes a living. Christy lent me books, answered my questions, and gave it to me straight. Her insight opened my mind, and cleaned out all the naive cobwebs.
Sitting on her couch I had this epiphany:

* What you like to write doesn't pay
* What you don't really want to write but can, does

Ohhhhhhhh...so this is just like everything else.

The good news is that I can do this.

Verdict: Win

January 13 - Behind The Wheel of A Misused Minivan

A sad man behind the wheel of a misused minivan.
Feeling new flab jiggle on every new pothole.
Screaming at the city like a sad man behind the wheel of a misused minivan.

Verdict: Loss

January 12 - Comedy Friends

My friend Mick directed the main stage show at Second City. It's called Taming Of The Flu.
With Lauren, who had understudied the show in its previews, I finally got to see the final product. It made laughs come out of our faces.
My friend Emily is in the show as she is tops. Also, our friends Andy and Brad gave us the chuckles.
We opted not to do the improv set afterward. We would have been two of six or seven other friends doing it. Forget it.
Instead we went across the street to celebrate our friend Sam's birthday. He played Roland Burris in the Rod Blagojevich Superstar show at Second City. At the bar we saw many of our friends.

Julie, who just returned from a two year stint in Amsterdam with Boom Chicago
Cody, who traveled the world with Lauren and I while performing on a cruise ship with Second City
Katie, who I hadn't seen since we took an acting class together in 2005
Mark, whose sketch show did very well at the Chicago Sketchfest
Lori, whose spot we keep seeing during Mad Men reruns, and who is now engaged
Jesse, who's touring as a music director with Second City
Brooke, who just filmed a weeklong commercial shoot in LA, and is also engaged
Christie, who is helping me pursue writing
Vanessa, who is doing the new sketch at The Annoyance directed by my friend Mick

It was good to catch up with friends.

Verdict: Win

January 11 - Peanuts and Wroth

One of my fellow drivers is an old man. His name is not Peanuts, but that is how I will refer to him.
Peanuts wears his hair tight, salty and old school. He walks slowly and won't do any heavy work. For the last couple of years, the company has kept Peanuts around to do weekly routes in the suburbs that don't pay much. But Peanuts doesn't need to make much.

Sometimes Peanuts gets lost. This leads to angry clients calling my boss. My boss is not named Wroth, but that is how I will refer to him. When deliveries are late, clients feel entitled to talk to Wroth like he is an idiot. This upsets Wroth, who then feels entitled to talk to Peanuts like he is an idiot. It is lovely and similar to the Reaganomics' trickle-down effect.

Yesterday, Peanuts got lost during a round trip pick up and delivery between Western Springs and Tinley Park. He had been driving around for two hours looking for the pick up. Peanuts had been there before and often, usually once a week. But dementia isn't concerned with facts.

Wroth had me go down to Tinley Park to do the second half of Peanut's work. I don't mind getting the hell out of town for work. Even if it doesn't pay that well, I enjoy the illusion of a two hour vacation from the angry, sludgy city.

From Tinley Park I decided to take a different way up to Western Springs. I got lost in the woods and snow-covered sloughs, and I liked it. It reminded me of rural Iowa where my grandfather built a home and went crazy. His name was not Clunker, but that's how everyone referred to him.

Eventually I dropped off the package and headed back to the office, where I tried to prepare for the class I was to teach that night. But I couldn't concentrate.
Wroth was on the phone screaming at Peanuts.
Apparently, Peanuts was still lost. Wroth was losing his mind.
The conservation ended abruptly, with Wroth turning to me.
The phone kept ringing.
It went on and on.
Peanuts drove around yesterday for five hours, but never picked up the documents.
The screaming.
The berating.
I pictured Clunker trying to do Peanuts' job. Driving through the snowy, faceless suburbs in confused somnambulism. Something tells me Clunker would have eventually found the office and punched Wroth in the face.

Unless I do something rash like that, I will soon be one of two drivers at this miserable, dead end job in a dying profession under a hot-headed boss.

Verdict: Loss

*83 does not end at Ogden

January 10 - The Nurse Novels Are Official

After seven months of discussion, my new post-Sandwich Shop band finally has a name.

The Nurse Novels

Thea Lux - guitar, vocals
Tom Vale - guitar, keyboards, vocals
Nicole Vitale - bass and hopefully vocals
Tony Mendoza - drums, vocals

The first practice of the new year contained rust but was healthy overall. We practiced indoors.

Afterwards we consumed drinks and a bite indoors at The Black Beetle. I enjoy when a band can go to a location and have laughters.

With ten stage-ready songs, look for Nurse Novels records and shows to come.

Verdict: Win

January 9 - Thrifty & Nifty & Shifty

The Unique thrift store on Western and Howard did not have any wigs. What they lacked cheap fake hair, they made up for in floral sweater vests, winter caps resembling puffy Hostess products, and a Chicago 2012 Olympics shirt.

As an introvert I find shopping for women’s clothing to give me more frowns than smiles. I tend to let the Saturday afternoon shoppers’ judgment bother me. With the cashier I have to initiate the “hello”s and “thank you”s.

But I got a new costume for The Bitter Tears show at The Hideout.

We opened with two new songs, “The Passion of St. Matthew’s Passion” and “The Fire Messiah.” Alan’s monologue in “Moline” got a rousing response. Many friends from all walks of life were in attendance, and because it was the record release show for pals My Gold Mask, the show sold out.

Afterward Lauren and our comedy friend Allison and I went to The Village Tap in Roscoe Village. There a man in a pro-Jesus baseball cap hijacked our conservation with pro-marijuana talk.

“There is nothing in the Bible that says you can’t smoke marijuana!”

I should have stayed in my Bitter Tears costume. When he dropped the n-word I made a face. He distinguished that he loved black women.

“A beautiful woman’s a beautiful woman,” I said. He agreed and began talking to Lauren and Allison. Last call saved what could have become an even uglier nightcap.

Verdict: Win

January 8 - Goodbye Dorito Sandwich Road

My friend Dave is in town. For six years we shared the first floor of a 2 flat in St. Ben's. In that time I watched him graduate from substitute teacher to high school English teacher to frustrated to grad student applicant. Last summer he moved to Amherst to augment his teaching degree at U-Mass.

A potluck was organized for Friday night. In an email he wrote:

I know your culinary skills well, and I am not sure there will be a high demand for boiled hot dogs, Doritos and cheap beer. While I love them, especially when eaten during reruns of Curb, I am not sure others will.

I wrote back:

FYI I made some good garlic shrimp pasta the other night. Lauren has taught me a few things. I'll bring an app and some beer.

Though, Dave had a point. I was raised on cold hot dogs, cake frosting, and Dorito sandwiches. As an adult I learned to not buy cake frosting, and to cook the hot dogs while rewatching Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes over and over again and again.

But I'm not a ding dong anymore. To prove it, I went to the French Market downtown and picked up some asparagus and imported prosciutto. Yes, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus: an incredibly simple appetizer that says, "I no longer eat Dorito sandwiches."

The potluck had a spread of hummus, homemade falafel, homemade pad thai, homemade chili. There was also plenty of wine, beer, and the event's prefix. The turnout was 95% inner city teachers, 5% me. They were having fun dishing and hashing and laughing.
A Mendoza Malbec in hand, I presented my twelve spears of Italian perfection.
"Mmm, these are good!"
I forced Dave to try one. He nodded his head.
"Congratulations, you have graduated."

Relieved, I went out on the back porch and snuck a few bites from my Dorito sandwich.

Verdict: Win

January 7 - Embryo-yo

Clean white snow blanketed the morning commute.
Traffic moved woozily, liked a clogged artery.
The city was having a mellow heart attack.
I parked the van in the soft parking lot of a reproductive genetics facility. A Russian man in scrubs and booties presented me with a cryogenically frozen tank. I was to deliver this to a reproductive center in the suburbs.

As I pulled out, The Russian chased after me in his booties, knocking on the back of the van. I stopped, and he popped open the case for the tank, pulled out some paperwork, and sent me on my way.

While parallel parking in the Loop, I heard a thud in the back of the van. It was the cryogenically frozen tank. I had upset it.
I quickly ran back and placed the exposed tank upright.
A queer burning sensation surprised my left palm.
That tank was cold!
Cryofucking cold!!
As in -136 to -196 degrees Celsius!!!
The Russian in booties had not secured the fasteners on the case when he retrieved the paperwork.
Frozen tank.
I didn't know what I was delivering, but I feared that it was dying.

Freezerburn stained the sleeping bag on the van floor. The tank squealed quietly, crying tiny shards of frozen air. I fastened the case, put it in a seat belt, and raced carefully through the aging, greying snow.

At the reproductive center, a woman got on the horn.
"The driver just arrived with the embryos."
Of course.
Human life was in my cryogenically burned hands.

I kept telling myself that it was The Russian's fault that the case had been left open. If anything I was a hero for closing it back up!
But I didn't believe it.
It was my fault because I am lower status than The Russian.
What's the expression...kill the messenger?

I followed a doctor to a small room where he opened the tank.
He took it to a room marked ANDROLOGY and closed the door.
Suffice it to say I was anxious.
I noticed a bathroom, and thought it a good time to use one of those.
I spoke to the door.
"Is it okay if I use the bathroom?"
Some hesitation from the other side.
I repeated the question.
"Umm. Yes."

The bathroom door was marked DEPOSIT ROOM.
It was dimly lit, carpeted, and featured a comfy, earth-tone couch.
Above the couch was a framed print of four nude models. They sprawled strategically over their own nudie bits like a sloppy chorus line.
I don't recall ever having masturbated to a framed print.
And while I could have used the stress reduction, this was not the time.
It was the place, just not the time.
I finished my normal business quickly so as not to give anyone any ideas.

The tank was ready to be returned to The Russian and His Booties.
I asked, "Is there anything I should know?"
No was the response.

I hauled it back through the black snow of the city.
No news is good news.
Verdict: Win

January 6 - Jonesing For January

I am now one of three drivers for a messenger company.
There used to be ten of us.
Just the ten of us.
The messenger industry has slipped on a hilarious banana peel called The Internet.
Gone are the days of delivering scores of documents to important accountants.
Gone are the days of delivering Beta tapes, CDs, DVDs to hunky ad men.
Long gone are the days of delivering phone numbers on slips of paper to douchebags in restaurants.
These days we deliver whatever can't be sent online.
Yesterday I messengered cat shit.
That pretty much sums it up.

One of our drivers quit this week.
He found higher financial security working at Subway.
Subway is a fast food sandwich shop that pays its workers close to minimum wage.
They have a sandwich there called The Feast.

The decent thing about this drought is not having to leave the house until there's work.
This morning Lauren and I watched two episodes of Mad Men before I had to do some low paying mail runs.

I think I made about $57 today.
The upside: Mad Men

After "work," I rode my bike seven miles to band practice. The Bitter Tears have some new songs to play this Saturday at The Hideout. I have to get a new costume. I lost my wig at the last show. Maybe I'll go as January Jones.

A harried, winter ride home between hostile and oblivious kooks-in-kars brought me home to the hearty scent of home-cooked kielbasa, pork tenderloin, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. Polish excellence courtesy of Lauren. With a bottle of gift wine, we finished Season 2 of Mad Men.

Verdict: Win

January 5 - Cold Beach, Cold People, Cold Beer, Warm Friends

Slow winter at work.
North Avenue Beach has become my hang out spot.
Empty parking lot.
Cold, grey waves.
Dirty snow paths.
Leafless trees like varicose veins.
The bar and grill, closed.
The apocalyptic nature of winter seems to appeal to me.
Using the van keyboard I worked on a song about a has-been who haunts a frozen beach wearing a proud, tattered cape.
Then a park district crew circled and gave me suspicious looks.
Then a tourist knocked on my driver's side window to pay me for parking.
Why didn't I take his money?
Then the Hi Guy navigated the lakefront gusts on his tenty tank of a bike.
I waved Hi, Guy!
No I didn't.

I picked up a small package for delivery to an Animal Hospital.
A 3-pack of white out.
Why would I be delivering white out to an Animal Hospital?
At the delivery, a young woman in purple scrubs cheered,
"Oh yay! The stool sample!!"

After work Lauren and I went to the supermarket. There, a woman in her miserable twilight was yelling in the cereal aisle at a mother and son, accusing them of stealing with foreign accents. The son had used his foreign accent to open a can of pop before they purchased it and was drinking it.
The mother used her foreign accent, "MIND YOUR BUSINESS!"
The woman would not relent.
Lauren and I grabbed the Special K on sale and moved along. In the liquor aisle we found a six-pack for the evening's festivities: a dinner date at an Ethiopian restaurant with my old, good friend Laura.
While in the checkout line we saw the curmudgeoness reporting the theft to customer service. The woman behind the counter didn't seem too concerned. When approached, Lauren admitted that she, too, had consumed products in the store and had paid for them later at the checkout.
The woman hobbled away muttering, "...a couple of dumb bitches..."
You know, it's people like her...

My friend Laura and I have known each other for twenty years. In that time our lives have splintered off into two very different directions, but we've always kept in touch. Laura has moved back to The United States after having spent the last five years working in Africa. Over affordable doro tibs, awaze tibs, shuro, yesimir wot, injera and beer we caught up. She is excited to start a new life in Chapel Hill, and I am looking forward to visiting that town some time this year.

Verdict: Win

January 4 - Floral Decay

I bought flowers for Lauren today.
Whatta guy, right?
No, pal.

I bought flowers for Lauren today.
Because I fucked up.

A communication gaffe on my part had me feeling like a heel all day.

I felt like a heel while eating the mini donut the dock lady gave me.
I felt like a heel while delivering 52 banker's boxes.
I felt like a heel while spilling a load of 6 boxes on a guy's foot.*
I felt like a heel while eating lunch in the van.
I felt like a heel while delivering a used office chair.
I felt like a heel while stepping in pungent, black, loading dock water.
I felt like a heel while eating a Remy Martin mini chocolate.
I felt like a heel while purchasing flowers for Lauren.

*the guy's foot was already in a cast

Verdict: Loss

January 3 - To Don't List

Things To Do:
Install knife rack
Prepare improv class curriculum
Put drums in closet
Put Netflix in mailbox
Take out garbage
Make place look nice for Lauren's arrival

Things Accomplished:
Watched creepy TV (Forensic Files, The Investigators)
Watched Miami Dolphins QB Pat White's concussion
Worked on new song, failed to choose key
Ate leftover quiche
Ate packaged ravioli
Ate Triscuits and salami
Gained weight
Masturbated, minimal weight lost
Watched quality TV on DVD (Freaks and Geeks)
Watched disturbing junk TV (Disorder In The Court)
Realized nothing on to do list accomplished
Realized majority of day spent on the couch

Verdict: Loss

January 2 - The House That Partial Nudity Built

For the last two and a half years I've had the wonderful opportunity to host a burlesque show at The Annoyance Theater. Originally titled Late Night Tit-Bits, I played Nick Divencenzo, a well-meaning, out of touch Jersey Boy (by way of Danzig) who owns The House That Partial Nudity Built. Nick lives in the mocktail cathouse with the lovely and strange girls in the non-fictional town of Calumet, Illinois.

The facts of Nick:

*He has big hair and chest hair, and peppers his speeches with "fuckin"'s.

*He and the girls subsist on a diet of his homemade, authentic, secret chili.

*He often abuses his audiences verbally, because he cares about them. So he offers time-saving kitchen tips ("To heat something up for a minute in your microwave, instead of pressing 1-0-0, just hit 6-0"), or money-saving holiday gifts (pubic hair broach).

*He owns many random modes of transportation (old busses, snowmobiles, rafts) and houses animals (cats, horses, corn weevils) that come and go or get trapped in the freight elevator.

*He seems to be in a never-ending war with the Church's Chicken down the street.

*There was a time in his life he likes to refer to as "his early twenties."

*In the 80's he was a contestant on Star Search (Category: Spokesmodel) but was beaten out by singer Doug Schwander after one of the judges called Nick "a poor man's Frank Stallone."

*He tried to do a version of the burlesque house on the internet called cyberlesque.tv. He bought all the girls virtual reality helmets, but when you "tuned in to the internet show," it just looked like a bunch of drunk, sexy welders bumping into each other. So he pulled the plug on that, declaring, "There's no way to make money on the internet using sex."

*When they are not playing the game "Chase Me, Chase Me," or having tickle feather fights or shaving cream balloon races, Nick and the girls encounter problems they must solve.

*He likes old school burlesque and does not like tribute burlesques about September 11th, Hurricane Katrina, The Twin Cities Freeway Collapse, The Great White Rhode Island Fire Disaster, or The Brown's Chicken Murders.

*Sometimes the girls will drive him crazy, and he'll have to let off some steam. Originally he rode a wooden pogo stick (the "Go-Go Stick") to soothe his nerves, but sometime during the run it became kindlewood. So he employs a drum kit which he purchased off of "craigsface."

*But he always respects the girls.
"It's one big, happy, sexy family," he likes to say.

I could go on and on and I just did. But it is a role that I originated and have much love for. So it is with a bit of regret that I must retire. This year looks to be filling up with musical endeavors that will prevent me from sharing the stage on Saturday nights with beautiful women as they disrobe in a humorous and therefore genuinely sexy way.

So good night Burlesque Is More:
Luna Shotz, the angry New York astronaut
Cookie Crewneck, the tabloid absorbed Gap salesgirl
Christie Claws, the abusive Salvation Army Santa
Geri Atrixx, whose routine involved a walker and Werther's Original hard candy
Samoa Maimuff, the Nuge-blaring lesbo girl scout
Wolforia, her lover was a wolf
Eugena Fertileson, the country bumpkin science nerd in step with today's freshest dance moves

You will be missed by this Nick.
Maybe there'll be a chance to understudy again...

Verdict: Win

Burlesque Is More continues its run on Saturday nights at 10pm at The Annoyance Theater, 4830 N Broadway, Chicago

January 1 - Yes I Can't

It’s a new year. A new decade it turns out. For me the event arrived in my mother’s living room with my family and I holding candles. Apparently my mom prefers creepiness to champagne.

The TV was solicited for the glorious count down to 2010, spearheaded by local sportscaster Mark Giangreco. The impatient, counting, televised crowd got ahead of the clock. It seems every one wanted 2009 over with in a hurry.


I rang in the new decade pointing at the TV and laughing at the incompetent mob. Meanwhile my family clanged candles and my mom blasted a James Taylor song, creating a cacophony with the TV’s new year’s dance mix. 23 seconds of dancing occurred, and I thought this a good time to grab a second beer. Before I made it to the fridge it was announced that the night was over. It was four minutes after midnight. Already in their pajamas my vanishing family retreated upstairs like a woozy pit crew. My Mom took the couch, indicating that I would be on the living room floor. Lights out. New Year’s was over before it began. Sort of.

At 5am my Mom was five feet away in the kitchen. She was preparing breakfast by candlelight. It smelled delicious and later I would appreciate the weirdness, but at the moment I had a rigid hunger for sleep. By 6 o’clock the alluring scent of bacon had summoned the rest of the family downstairs. Sleep was a lost cause. So I went to the bathroom and then weighed myself, to ensure maximum self-esteem. The scale put me thirteen pounds over my driver’s license weight. Fuck you, me.

My adoring family would say I was grumpy or crabby. The rest of the planet would say I was a shitty asshole. It took me several minutes to comprehend putting fruits, sausage and bacon on a plate and plopping down at the table, barely managing a “good morning.” Jeez, man. My aunt asked the curmudgeon or lump if it was still doing delivery work.


My aunt has a very cute Minnesota accent. It’s even cuter when she asks if you’re still riding a bike during the winter.

“No. Now I just sit in a van and gain weight.”

I couldn’t tell if I was conveying how miserable I let my day job make me. We talked about my dead end vocation some more. I got bleak.

After breakfast I packed my bag for the night I would inevitably be having back home alone. It looked as though the year would start off on a loss.

While some of the family attended an unnecessary church service, and the rest watched the Rose Bowl parade, I quarantined myself upstairs and read Paul Shaffer’s new memoir. It’s a fun, scattered tale that reads like Yes I Can Lite. I gained insight into Phil Spector’s devotion to mono recording (Cliff Notes: control) and absorbed a Sammy Davis-inspired line that struck a chord with me: “The great players never rush.”

So I decided not to rush and keep the verdict for the day open.

The first call of 2010 to my girlfriend proved fun. Lauren is in Pittsburgh visiting her family and we humorously commiserated with each other over our goofy family trifles. With a little perspective things got better.

During a game of Scrabble, my Mom played the word “vagina.” Later my cousin tacked an L at the end of it for a double word score. I tried to use the word “entrailforks,” but it was rejected. When a ghoulish fiend invents entrailforks, I’ll want those 42 points.

After a delicious pork tenderloin I introduced the family to my favorite game: Celebrity. Celebrity is the last of the great parlour games. Basically, you write down celebrity names on slips of paper, pair up into partners, and in one-minute rounds give Password-style clues to your partner, who has to guess the celebrity. It’s fun, and loud, and wonderful to see how people’s minds work or don’t.

Some celebrities of note on this night included: Cat Cora, J.R. Ewing, The Sullivan Brothers, Susan Boyle, Capt. Sully Sullenberger, The Octomom, and Red Green. No one challenged my submission of Rona Barrett, but when I got it, I couldn’t get my mom to say barrette. But she got it when I inferred “grin and bear it.”

Eerily, in the first game my cousin and I both put in The San Diego Chicken. And in the third game my aunt and I both submitted Bartles & James. That’s some spooky kookiness.

My family took to Celebrity. We all had big fun, especially when Mom dropped the F-bomb during an unsuccessful turn at Derek Jeter. Or when I misunderstood during Octomom that the celebrity in question actually ate children. But she and I ended up being very good Celebrity partners, winning all three games.

By the time the games concluded, it was late (not really) and I’d had a few beers (well, two…over the course of four hours). So I decided to stay another night. Because I wanted to.

Verdict: Win